Tag Archives: mind-body

15-Minute Energizing and Balancing Yoga Sequence to Jumpstart Your Day!

I love starting my day with yoga, and can tell a big shift in my day, and my ability to handle the challenges of my day, when I do. For me, it doesn’t have to be an asana practice, on my mat, with peace and quiet. That’s not realistic in my life, and I’m okay with that! Sometimes my morning yoga practice is a 2-minute meditation during my shower, or a few deep breaths as I’m waking. And on those rare days that I wake before the kids do and have time to pull out my mat, it’s breathing, asana, and meditation. This 15-Minute Energizing and Balancing Yoga Sequence is a favorite of mine to flow through when I need a little extra boost in the morning. If you don’t have 15 minutes you can shorten the number of sun salutations, and on the flip side if you have more time, add more! With each posture, take 5-10 deep breaths before moving on to the next.

By the way, here are some of my favorite yoga props and mats to help you explore the poses a little more, and with a little more ease and fun:


15-Minute Energizing and Balancing Yoga Sequence to Jumpstart Your Day!

  1.  5 Sun Salutations A (Surya Namaskara A). When ready, begin gently flowing through your Sun Salutations. Remember to modify or take breaks as needed. Here is a video of Suzanne demonstrating a basic Sun Salute A:

 

2. Warrior 1 (Virabhadrasana I).  From your last Downward Dog, bring the right foot forward and step it in between your hands. Spin the back heel down to the floor, toes pointing slightly forward. Bend the front knee and you reach the arms up toward the ceiling and lift your gaze. Move to Warrior 3, right side.

 

 

3. Warrior 3 (Virabhadrasana III).  From Warrior 1, Firmly root front foot into the ground and begin shifting your balance onto the front foot, lifting the back leg so that it is parallel to the mat, while simultaneously tilting torso forward, until parallel with mat also (for modified version, only lift leg and lower torso partway). Activate back leg by lengthening leg and flexing the foot, toes pointing down. Try to even the hips so one is not higher than the other. Reach arms to the side for this flying version. Repeat Warrior 1 and Warrior 3 on the other side.

 

4. Warrior 2 (Virabhadrasana II).  From Downward Dog, step right foot in between your hands, spin back heel down, and bend the front knee as you cartwheel the arms up, reaching hands to opposite sides of the room. Root down through both feet evenly, and breathe into the pose as you gently feel the hips and shoulders softening. Move into Half Moon, right side.

 

 

5. Half Moon (Ardha Candrasana). From Warrior 2 right side, plant right hand about 6 inches in front of right foot (use a block to place hand on if the floor seems too far). Begin shifting your weight onto the front hand and foot as you gently lift the back leg, raising it parallel to the floor, and stacking the hips. Activate back leg. Left arm reaches straight toward the ceiling, creating a strong line from the left hand all the way down through the right hand, grounded. Gaze toward the ground or up toward top hand. *Modification: Keep both hands down in front of front foot foot, until you feel stable enough to begin lifting one arm.

 

6. Boat (Navasana). From Downward Dog, step through to seated. Lift legs in front of you, keeping them together, so that you make a “V” with your body. Sit up tall on your sitz bones, lengthening through the spine as you breathe. Reach the arms forward, fingers extended. Legs can be straight, bent, or you can hold the backs of your legs if needed.

 

 

7. Forward Fold (Paschimottanasana). From seated, stretch your legs out onto the mat straight in front of you. Root down into the ground as you lengthen your spine, lifting crown of the head up toward the ceiling. Activate the legs by flexing the feet, toes pointed up and pulling back toward you. Inhale lengthen, exhale fold forward, reaching for the sides of the feet or the backs of the leg. (If hamstrings are tight here, you can use a strap around your feet to assist in the fold!). Continue extending through the spine with each inhale, and melting into the fold on each exhale.

 

8. Butterfly (Badhakonasana). From seated, bend knees and bring soles of the feet together, knees out to the sides. Draw the heels in close and open up the feet like opening a book. Inhale and lengthen the spine, lifting crown of the head toward the ceiling. Exhale, hinge at the hips and fold over feet. With each in breath continue to elongate spine, folding a little deeper with each out breath.

 

 

9. Bridge (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana). From your back, bend knees and plant feet hip distance apart, bringing the heels in close (ideally brushing heels with your fingertips). Rooting down into your feet and big toes, lift hips toward ceiling, tucking shoulders under you slightly to open through the chest and collarbone. Keep knees parallel, activating inner thighs as if squeezing a block between them (use a block if you have one, and notice the difference!). Hold for several breaths and then repeat. When done, keep knees bent, step feet a little wider, and windshield-wiper knees from side to side.

 

10. Corpse (Savasana). Lie on your back and take a little rest! Let feet fall open, arms relax by your sides, palms up. Make any little adjustments you need to make yourself comfortable. Close your eyes, bring awareness to the breath and relax here for several breaths. Thank your body for all of the amazing things that it does!

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This website may, from time to time, endorse various products and/or services that we believe will benefit you in your quest for improving your life and health. It may be true that this website and its owner will receive compensation for these endorsements should you choose to purchase said products or services. In fact, in such cases, you should assume that we are an affiliate and will be compensated. Having said that, this website and its owner will only endorse products and/or services in which we strongly believe, or which we have used ourselves. By using this website, you hereby consent to the disclaimer and agree to all terms, policies, and conditions.

 

 

Yoga and the Mind-Body-Spirit Connection

Yoga and the Mind-Body-Spirit Connection

Yoga is everywhere. Celebrities credit yoga for their svelte physiques, yoga studios are popping up on every corner, and yoga pants are the new jeans. I don’t even wear jeans anymore. “Yoga” is a buzzword for sure, and most often – in our culture – used to reference yoga postures, or asanas. I find that even seasoned yoga students sometimes have difficulty answering the “What is Yoga” question, and many students come to a yoga class originally for the physical benefits: flexibility, coordination, balance, etc. That’s what originally drew me to the practice, in fact. But, like many, I soon discovered that yoga encompasses so much more, and I haven’t stopped practicing since. So what IS yoga, what does it have to do with the mind and spirit, and what is the mind-body-spirit connection?

What is Yoga?

The word “yoga” means “to yoke” or “to unite”, as in to unite the body, mind and spirit. Yoga originated in ancient India as physical, mental and spiritual practices. Later, yoga was introduced to, and quickly gained popularity in, the western part of the world as primarily a physical practice. While yoga history and philosophy are becoming more known in our culture, the stigma of yoga being simply another form of physical exercise remains. However, growing bodies of research related to meditation and asana credit yoga with significant stress reduction, improving cardiovascular health, controlling diabetes, promoting healthy mood and self-concept, and even longevity. Students of mine have touted the benefits of yoga, ranging from healing hip and back pain, to making pregnancy and labor smooth and relaxed, to diminishing significant body tremors, to improving overall stress management. You may be wondering how yoga does all of this. The answer: through mind-body-spirit connection!

The Mind-Body-Spirit Connection

As yoga teaches us, the mind, body and spirit are all connected; what we think effects our bodies and what our bodies do effects our minds. Yoga postures are just as important as other aspects of yoga, such as meditation, breathing, truth, or compassion, and all of these things lead to a deeper interconnection and unification the mind, body and spirit. To say it simply, a relaxed and healthy mind and spirit leads to a relaxed and healthy body, and vice versa.

Practicing the Mind-Body-Spirit Connection
Once you begin a yoga practice, you will pretty quickly begin to notice the benefits. Maybe physically at first, but if you are observant you will soon notice other aspects of your mind, your body, your life, starting to shift. Here are some examples of how the mind-body-spirit connection comes into play:

  • Physical Goals. When struggling physically, observe what the mind is doing. For example, if your goal is to improve physical balance, and you find that even holding tree pose for more than 5 seconds is challenging, you may want to observe what the mind is doing when you’re practicing tree pose. Maybe you feel anxious because you know balance is challenging for you, or frustrated with your body, or maybe you’re thinking about something else. Come out of the pose, take a few deep breaths to calm and quiet the mind, and then come back to the pose. Observe, without judgment, how your tree pose feels now.
  • Mental Health. When focusing on mental goals, pay attention to what the body is needing. For example, if stress-management is an issue for you, as it is for most, and you find it difficult to sit quietly to calm the mind, your body may need more. Try this: When feeling stressed or overwhelmed, stop, move through 5 or more sun salutations (adding in other poses if you like). Don’t forget to connect the breath to your movements. Then you may be ready to return to what you were doing, with a renewed energy and perspective.
  • Fulfillment. Check in with the spirit. For example, yoga teaches us to be kind and compassionate toward ourself, toward others, and toward our environment. If you feel disconnected somehow, or feel unfulfilled in some way, find a way to give back or to follow a passion. It can be something as simple as bringing a cup of coffee to your dry cleaner, shoveling snow for a neighbor, or enrolling in art classes. Or maybe a bigger project within the community, or sharing yoga with a local group. Fulfilling the spirit will lead to a healthy state of mind and body.
  • Lifestyle. Healthy lifestyle choices lead to healthy mind, body and spirit. Are you sleeping enough? Are you exercising? Are you eating real, whole foods, and eating mindfully? Have you eliminated most toxins from your environment? Being good and kind to your body will deepen your mind-body-spirit connection, and optimize your overall health.

At Water and Rock Studio, our private yoga sessions and small group classes help strengthen this mind-body-spirit connection through movement, meditation, breathing techniques, and other yoga teachings. Yoga is an integral part of our overall philosophy of integrating mind and body to optimize health, heal disease, and reach wellness goals. Contact us to try our online private yoga sessions or yoga classes, or if local to Philadelphia, a class or private session.
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Affiliate Notice
This website may, from time to time, endorse various products and/or services that we believe will benefit you in your quest for improving your life and health. It may be true that this website and its owner will receive compensation for these endorsements should you choose to purchase said products or services. In fact, in such cases, you should assume that we are an affiliate and will be compensated. Having said that, this website and its owner will only endorse products and/or services in which we strongly believe, or which we have used ourselves. By using this website, you hereby consent to the disclaimer and agree to all terms, policies, and conditions.

Reduce Stress with Deep Breaths

Reduce Stress with Deep Breaths

Anyone who frequents a yoga class has heard the words “deep breaths” probably multiple times. Most yogis and non-yogis alike have heard the phrase “take a deep breath” at some point in their lives. And deep breathing is all over self help books and google searches as a major way to cope with stress. So what’s all the hype about deep breaths? Is it just a cliche or can it really make a difference? Here we explore how deep breathing can reduce stress in the body, and how to know if you’re doing it correctly (yes, there actually is a method to proper breathing!).

Deep Breaths and Stress
Deep breathing can have small, large, and profound effects on health and the body. Research shows that breathing deeply can reduce anxiety and depression, lower blood pressure, improve lung function, and improve sleep. Not to mention reducing stress and calming the body. How?Deep breaths, when done correctly, can move the body from its stress response, otherwise known as “fight or flight”, to a relaxed response, “rest and digest”. They actually engage the parasympathetic nervous system, reversing the stress response in your body, triggered by the body’s sympathetic nervous system. As you may hear in yoga classes, this can not only have positive physiological effects, but emotional effects as well. Deep breathing helps to quiet the mind, easing emotional turmoil and chatter.

How to Breathe Deeply and Reduce Stress
It sounds so easy right? Just take deep breaths. However, breathing properly is actually not intuitive to most adults. Unlike babies and small children, adults are influenced by learned behavior and often have a tendency to tense up the abdominal muscles when breathing, making the breaths shallower and more strained. To benefit fully from deep breathing, you first want to make sure you are relaxing the diaphragm and abdominal muscles, and sitting, standing, or lying in a way that provides space in the upper body for the breath to flow unobstructed and with ease. Place a hand on your belly and slowly inhale, filling the belly, the ribcage, the chest. As you exhale, release the air from top to bottom, fully contracting at the end of the exhale, hugging the belly button in toward the spine. This may feel counterintuitive to you, and you may feel muscles working that you don’t typically feel throughout the day.

We typically recommend to our clients to bring awareness to their breathing throughout the day. Some people respond well to numbers, and for those people we recommend trying to work up to taking about 100 deep breaths a day. For those of you who already have a meditation or other yoga practice, this may come naturally and easily. For many others, this may be something new and even intimidating. Relax, enjoy it! Breathe deeply as you walk down the hall, in between sips of water, during your kid’s soccer game, while you’re sitting in traffic, and as you drift off to sleep at night (the breathing will actually cause you to fall asleep faster!). Maybe you’ll start to notice differences in your response to stressful situations, your ability to manage daily tasks and social interactions, your energy, and your sleep.

Start today – start now! – practicing deep breaths to reduce stress. Contact us at Water and Rock Studio for help with stress relief, lifestyle goals, and to learn various breathing techniques!

Yoga On and Off the Mat

Yoga On and Off the Mat

I have three main jobs in my life right now. I am a police officer, I am a father and husband, and I am also a part-time yoga teacher. These are three very different jobs, but my yoga background ties them all together.

I started my police job seven years ago I had great co-workers and was getting a ton of experience, but I was still teaching yoga part-time and was having trouble finding balance between the two. They were very separate, when I was at home I was an off duty police officer. When I was in the yoga studio I was a yoga instructor. I never considered myself a police officer who taught yoga.

It wasn’t until I started to observe a couple of veteran officers who worked in that area for a while handle stressful scenes that I realized how useful my yoga background is to my job and how it helps me be a better officer. The officers’ voices would increase a couple of octaves and their speech speed up. It dawned on me that “monkey mind” (as my yoga teacher always called it) was rearing its ugly head at my job with men and women who are used to being exposed to stress.

Now don’t get me wrong, I am not saying they are ill-equipped for dealing with stress, everyone deals with stress differently. However, with my experience practicing yoga I handled stress a little differently than most of my coworkers. I had experience dealing with monkey mind from all the work I did on my mat and while some scenes seemed to get stressful I was able to slow things down and pay attention. The ability to slow things down also helped me deescalate situations.

Two years ago I became a field training officer and the biggest lesson I would teach the new officers that I would get was to breathe and slow down once life started to speed up. This is when I really started to realize that I was taking my practice off my mat and out of the studio and using the practice yoga in life, and I am so glad I made this realization because I found I really needed it for my next adventure…fatherhood!

In November 2015, I embarked on one of the hardest (but best) journeys with my wife, raising a child! As of this post my son is 10-months-old and it has been a wild ride so far. The stress of trying to help a little baby human whose only communication method is crying is unreal! I thought I knew what it felt like to be sleep deprived because of my police job, but raising a child has taken it to a new level. I am so glad to have my yoga training.

Talk about monkey mind, I find that I am constantly thinking about what I need to do – or forgot to do. Time is different too, when you sit in easy seated position for 5 minutes it might feel like 15 minutes. I remember in the early days trying to get my crying baby to sleep seemed like 3 hours, but was really only 30 minutes. I learned how to take these moments and turn them into mediation. I would sit there with my son swaddled, rocking him in the rocking chair, bouncing him, patting his butt, and trying to produce calming shushes. Once I learned the rhythm of this baby meditation and started to pay attention to my son and the little nonverbal cues he would give me, it started to make all of our lives easier!

What this comes down to is that the lessons learned on the mat in yoga class can be used as tools to find more balance in life. The physical therapy that yoga gives your body is absolutely beautiful and something everyone should experience. Once you start paying attention to the work you are doing on your mat, then you can pay attention to how that work can transition to your everyday life too!


About me

Hello, my name is Dan Castan and I have been teaching Yoga in the Northern Virginia area for the last 8 years. I am also a police officer. Yoga came into my life in college while I was studying for my Criminal Justice degree. I picked up Yoga class when I was short on credits one semester. Little did I know it would change my life. I found a way to take yoga for each semester until I graduated then took my 200 hour teacher training course. Now, I use yoga in my everyday life for as many situations as possible and try to help others find that they can do the same. Find out more about me and what I’m up to here