Monday, August 1, 2011

Wake up the Brain with Yoga

As some of you may know, I’m an avid Bikram yoga practitioner. It’s my primary form of exercise and I love that it’s a constant journey with no destination. There’s always room for improvement (for me anyway : ) Bikram stresses that the series of twenty-six postures is organized in a specific order because each posture prepares the body for the next pose, which prepares the body for the next pose, etc.

There is one posture that Bikram agrees can be performed outside of the series and even at ambient temperatures–Ardha-Kurmasana, or Half Tortoise Pose. I wanted to share it with you because there are some real benefits to this pose, particularly if you’ve had a bad night’s sleep or if you find yourself dozing off during the day.

The posture begins by sitting Japanese style, with the legs bent, knees on the floor, and the buttocks on the heels. While sitting up straight, raise your arms over your head, lock your elbows, keeping your arms touching your ears, and bring the palms of your hands together with the thumbs crossed.

While taking a deep breath, raise your arms up high, then exhale as you slowly bend forward, keeping your arms straight and reaching forward and your bottom on your heels. Bring your body down until the sides of your hands and your forehead touch the floor (see the picture above). Continue to look forward and stretch forward with each inhalation and rest further on your heels with each exhalation so that each breath cycle acts like human traction. Continue this for 30 seconds. If you can lie down on the floor for 30 seconds and then repeat the pose, even better.

The benefits of this posture are many and include relaxation, relief for indigestion, firming of the abdomen and thighs, and increased flexibility of the hips scapula, deltoids, triceps, and latissimus dorsi muscles.

The posture also stretches the lower part of the lungs, which increase blood circulation to the brain. Bikram claims that this, together with the compression in the neck/shoulders results in better delivery of blood to the brain, which is the equivalent of getting eight hours of sleep. So if you're feeling that afternoon slump, if you can find a quiet spot, try this posture. You may even eliminate that craving for coffee…

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