3 simple yoga poses to relax you

The mind is powerful. While we can do a lot by just sitting an focusing on the breath, sometimes getting the body involved can exponentially influence the experience. Here are 3 gentle yoga poses that you can add on to the meditation techniques that you learned.

Pose #1: Balasana, Childs Pose

Childs pose is very calming and can bring you physical, emotional, and mental relief! If this pose is uncomfortable for you, try lifting your hips with a folded up blanket and put a block or a sandbag under your forehead (see below). If your ankles hurt on the ground try rolling up a blanket under your ankles (not shown).

Pose#2: Viparita Karani, Legs up the wall pose

Legs up the wall pose is one of my favorite postures. It is so deeply restorative for your body and I often do this posture if I have trouble falling asleep, accompanied by slow breathing and focusing the mind (just like counting sheep!). You can practice this posture with your legs up a wall or if you dont have wall space you can put a block/sandbag/firm cushion underneath your hips so that your legs easily stay upright.

Pose #3: Paschimottanasana, Seated Forward Fold

Folding forward is very therapeutic. It stretches out the entire back side, the western side, of your body. If you have tight hamstrings or lower back pain, roll up a blanket under your knees and you can even prop your arms and head on a chair. This allows you to relax into the pose without strain.

3 Ways to Quickly Relieve Stress, Find Peace and Let Go of Anxiety

Pivotal Living Blog

Yes, we all know that stress has a way of popping up from time to time despite our best efforts to keep it at bay; we exercise regularly, eat healthy and maintain a healthy balance between work and play, and yet it seems like we still feel anxious or uneasy, especially during bad days or stressful situations. We all need a few smart tricks up our sleeves and tools in our proverbial ‘self-help’ toolbox to help combat stress and create a sense of peacefulness. As Lana explains, meditation and yoga are excellent stress relievers and should be incorporated often (alongside healthy food, sleep and exercise of course).

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3 Mindfulness Tips for Stress Relief

3 Mindfulness Meditation tips for stress relief by Lana Heintjes

A little while ago I sent out a survey to figure out what the top issues in relationships are. The number one issue that came up was stress. Before I began my yoga and meditation practice, my life was filled with stress and anxiety. What calmed me down was my yoga and meditation practice. Please understand that ridding yourself of stress does not happen overnight. It takes consistent practice to find lasting progress, although you may find some relief in the moment as well.  Here are 3 very simple, easy-to-do tips to get you started.

Tip #1: Slow your breath down for 3 minutes. Some people find it helpful to inhale and exhale for 4 counts each, to set the tempo. If you have taken my yoga or meditation class before, you have probably heard me say “Now I’m breathing in, now I’m breathing out.” That phrase is inspired by Thich Naht Hahn, an outstanding spiritual leader. I recommend going easy on yourself when your mind does wander, which it will. Allow yourself to notice your thoughts as they pass, then, turn the volume of your thoughts down and feel the soothing sensation of your breath entering and leaving your body. You can set a timer for yourself so that you don’t need to pay attention to the time.

Remember… “Now I’m breathing in, now I’m breathing out.”

Tip #2: Take “six second pauses” to temporarily suspend activity, disengage from auto-pilot and drop into the present moment. It can be whenever you happen to think of it or you can set cues for yourself. For example, take a pause before you start washing dishes or the moment you get home. When you remember it, just pause and be aware of your body as well as your breath for 6 seconds. You can say a calming phrase to yourself, like “calm mind, relaxed body.” Inhale a slow breath and when you exhale let your body soften. This repetitive practice from Marsha Lucas’ Rewire Your Brain for Love, re-patterns your brain to ground you and strengthen the mind-body connection. What I love about this tip, is you can do it almost anywhere, anytime.

Tip #3: When you are first starting out, I recommend practicing these tips when you are not super stressed out. If you practice these tips before they are really needed for stress relief, you will have a powerful toolbox in the future. After establishing these tips into your daily life your brain will know exactly what to do when you encounter stress again.

Upcoming Show!

This friday! Live Aerial silks performance!

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This Friday Night (3/27), Alisha Mai McNamara and I are performing live aerial silk to the Alexis P Suter band at the Falcon in Marlboro, NY!

Show starts at 7

For more details, check out liveatthefalcon.com

 

Also, stay tuned for Yoga for Couple retreats and Yoga Rockclimbing adventures in the Hudson Valley and Puerto Rico!

 

Stepping into my Potential

This new year brings new opportunities for growth! My new year’s resolution is to live my life to my highest potential, while still maintaining self-care and sanity. What that means for me, is to imagine myself achieving a goal that seems completely impossible or out of reach and then saying to myself: I can.

What is interesting about that, is what seemed impossible to me a year ago, feels completely doable now. Imagine a goal that you achieved in the past, and how daunting it seemed at first. Then, remember what it felt like when you finally achieved that goal (possibly relieved or joyful) , and now what it feels like after maybe years of having already achieved it (like a piece of cake, right?). One example that is relevant to my life, is when I was training to become a yoga teacher.

The idea of getting up there and doing a good job teaching yoga, felt completely impossible. It felt like the scariest thing anyone had ever asked me to do. I was petrified. I would write in my journal, “Lana, you need to believe in yourself.” That wasn’t convincing enough. After attempting to teach my first class, I had a complete break down, where I cried hysterically and told my mentor that I didn’t think I could do it.  After some reassurance from my mentors and my fellow classmates, I gave it another try.

Now, I have been teaching yoga for almost 6 years. I look back on those days and realize that I was the only one that didn’t believe in myself. Everyone else around me knew I could do it. Why couldn’t I see it?

So, when I continue to hit road blocks and tell myself something like, “leading yoga retreats all over the world is too scary”, I remember that I felt that same way before I stepped into my potential as a teacher. I know that I have the potential to do whatever I set my mind to.

If there is something in your life that you want to achieve but feel is impossible, see if you can step forward into your potential with the feeling of “I can”… Because you can.

As I fulfill my dream and create yoga retreats and classes around the world, stay in the loop! If you want to be on my email list, email me at LHeintjes@gmail.com

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Me in Puerto Rico… being silky.

Photo by Joy Salvo @ Barefoot Yoga in Rincon, PR

Embody the Yoga

A JOURNEY OF MINDFULNESS

Today while I was laying in Savasana, I felt the deepest sensation of inner calm all over my body. I did NOT want to get up for anything in the world.

But then, I thought to myself, what if I could choose to carry this feeling with me as I step off my mat? With that, I got motivated to try this. So, I slowly sat up and took a breath.

I still felt calm.

Then I rolled up my mat and slowly walked out of the room. I had some small conversations with the people around me and the whole time, I still felt calm.

Then, as I was putting on my socks, I noticed myself start to rush and feel impatient to finish the act of putting on my socks. But why? What would getting my socks on any faster really do for me? So, I paused. I took another breath, found that inner calm again, and slowly continued. This time, I really started to enjoy the simple act of just… putting on my socks!

 

This concept of mindfulness was first introduced to me when reading a little Pocket Thich Naht Hahn book that I happened to pick up several years ago from the little Tibetan store at Water Street Market in New Paltz. He has a whole chapter devoted to taking what he calls “A day of mindfulness”. He suggested picking a day of the week where you don’t have much going on, a day “during which you are completely the master.”

During that day, be completely aware of the fact that you are doing everything that you are doing. Every dish that you wash, every step that you take, you watch yourself do it and maintain a half smile.

One thing that I love about Thich Naht Hanh, is that his teachings are so simple and they really help me sink into a spiritual place, without getting too serious about it. While I am reading his teachings, just when I am starting to furrow my brow in concentration, he will suggest a smile. Then, my entire energy shifts to a light, peaceful, pleasant sort of mindfulness.

Even if you don’t have an entire day off to practice your mindfulness, see if you can take one hour a week to just be, to watch yourself move through life. When you are getting too serious, break out a smile and see what happens.

After practicing that one hour week for a little while, mindfulness will start to leak into all of the other aspects of your life, maybe without you even noticing it at first. Maybe your friends will start to notice that you are little bit calmer and more grounded. Maybe you generally feel happier or more patient. I mean, what a difference… going from impatience and urgency to peace and enjoyment just in that little moment of putting my socks on today. Give it a try and let me know what happens!

My hot yoga journey

When I first started doing hot yoga several years ago, I was convinced that I did not like it. I would glance at whoever the teacher happened to be and think to myself, “How do they do this all the time?” It seemed inconceivable to me that anyone would continue to do that class often enough to become a hot yoga teacher.

After a few years of being a hot-yoga-hater, I realized that it wasn’t necessarily the class itself that was challenging… it was my thought patterns that made the class such a miserable experience. While practicing, I would say things like “why can’t I kick as high as that person in front of me” or “I wonder what time it is.” But those thoughts did not serve me.

Then, something shifted. I started to treat the class like a moving meditation. I started to get it.

Whenever I caught one of those thoughts that brought me down, I would think, instead: “Everything is ok, just breathe in and breathe out. That’s all that matters.” This mindset started to leak into my daily life and when I encountered a stressful situation, I would take a moment to smooth out my breath and give myself a moment to put things into perspective.

I started to realized how powerful the concept of changing your thoughts can be. Marsha Lucas, neuropsychologist and psychotherapist says that “Thoughts are just thoughts. They are not who you are. Thoughts are just momentary neuro-events that happen in your brain.” Your brain is a giant, intellegent muscle that can be exercised and toned. So if you change your thoughts, you can rewire your brain.

So, the next time you have a negative thought, follow it with a positive thought. Try to not to be hard on yourself for that initial negative thought, because then you will be wiring your brain to be harsh on yourself.

As I say in the hot class all the time, you have more control over your internal experience than you think you do. Here’s another quote that has inspired me to think this way even since my first teacher training at Yoga to the People:

I am the decisive element

“I have come to the frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element. It is my personal approach that creates the climate. It is my daily mood that makes the weather. I possess tremendous power to make life miserable or joyous. I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration, I can humiliate or humor, hurt or heal. In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a crisis is escalated or de-escalated, and a person is humanized or de-humanized. If we treat people as they are, we make them worse. If we treat people as they ought to be, we help them become what they are capable of becoming.”