Posts Tagged ‘yoga’

4 Suprising Benefits of Yoga

Yoga is a powerful fitness tool comprised of meditation and exercise. So it’s no surpise there are so many health and physical benefits that come with regular yoga practice like: more flexibility, increased strength, better posture, and  lower blood pressure. Since we’ll enjoy some Sunrise Beach Yoga with Dr. Romila “Dr. Romie” Fushtaq tomorrow, today we want to spotlight some suprising yoga benefits that can have a huge impact on your day-to-day behaviors.

yoga, yoga benefits

Yoga can even help you move towards the healthy lifestyle you always wanted to achieve:

  1. More Mental Clarity: When we focus completely on holding our balance in a yoga pose or the movements in a yoga sequence, like sun salutation for example, our minds are sharpened. All other thoughts are cleared and we can be totally present in that moment. Even better news, this trait can slowly trickle into other facets of your life with continued yoga practice.
  2. You Sleep like a Baby: No need for warm milk. Meditation, or shavasana as they say in the yoga world, increases Alpha wave production in the brain. These neural impulses help the brain and the body relax which helps you sleep better.
  3. Improve your Golf Game: Okay. We know this might sound like a stretch but we’re serious. With increased core strength, better balance, more mental clarity and focus from taking regular yoga classes, you’ll be impoving your golf swing in no time!
  4. Stress Relief: The seemingly endless breathing exercises in yoga actually reduces stress. It’s not just hot air, the deep, rhythmic breathing in yoga promotes relaxation by increasing the flow of blood and oxygen to each part of the body. With continued practice, this sense of relaxation can appear throughout your life; not just in your yoga class.

If you practice yoga, what is the biggest benefit you’ve seen since you started? If you don’t practice yoga, what benefit would you like to see from it?




Aqua Yoga

As February temperatures (on the island) invite the bloom of spring like activities, yoga in the pool has re-surfaced. Thus, after a brief “winter” slumber, H3 is happy to place pool yoga back on the weekly schedule! Today for Fitness Friday, I thought it appropriate to inspire and share five common pool yoga postures that will help you increase your flexibility, ROM (range of motion) and QOL (quality of life).  So open your yoga mind- no mat necessary- plunge IN, and stretch ON!

#1 Mountain Pose

Standing in the shallow end of the pool, stand with your feet pelvic distance apart and or together- keeping your big toes parallel to one another. Spread your toes, and begin to ground/establish your foundation. Engage your ankles, shins, calves, simply bring awareness to “zipping them up”. Engage the upper leg (quadriceps) and internally rotate them toward one another without bowing the knees. Tuck your tail bone under and pull your low belly in.  Be mindful to keep your pelvic bowl neutral.  Broaden across your collar bone, creating a little uplift in your heart. Lift your chin parallel with the pool floor beneath you.  Allow your hand to drop by your sides, palms facing outward (creating space and openness in your shoulders). Shoulder up back and down, close your eyes. Acknowledge the strength, the connectedness of standing still, strong, and healthy. Hold this posture for 6-8 breaths.

#2 H2O Cobra Pose

As we eagerly invite the water element into our yoga practice, cobra in the pool encourages and allows us to stretch further without the floor beneath us hindering our range of motion. To perform cobra, stand with your feet about 2 feet from the pool wall. Place your hands and forearms flat against the wall/side ledge. Look up, keep your abdominals engaged but allow the natural curative of your spine to sway slightly back. Broaden across your collar bone as you drop your shoulders back and down.  If done correctly, this posture will help to stretch your abs. To increase the intensity of the stretch, consider rising up onto your toes. Hold cobra for 6-8 breathes.

 #3 Chair Pose

Stand with your feet together, big toes mounds touching. Inhale, reach your arms up to the sky- exhale sink your bum back and down as if you were sitting in an imaginary chair. Keep your arms outstretched and reaching up. Tuck your tail bone under, pull your low belly in, hug your thighs and knees together, and place your weight back in your heels. Be mindful that your knees do not come over your toes. If this seems to be an issue, think about shifting your bum down and back more- keeping the weight in the heels.
This posture will help to strength your knees and the supporting muscles and joints. Hold chair pose for 6-8 breaths.

#4 H2O Stork Pose

When performing stork pose in the pool, the water makes it easier to hold the posture as well as balance, resultantly you get a deeper stretch. To engage in stork pose, stand tall- lift up your right leg with your knee bent. Lift the knee/leg until the thigh is parallel to the pool bottom.  Press your left heel into the pool floor to create a solid foundation for the posture. Be mindful to not hyperextend the supporting leg. Stand firm, but hold a slight bend.  To deepen the posture, grab your right big toe with your right hand, than attempt to straighten your right leg out in front of you. If current flexibility does not permit extension- use the side of the pool/railing/bar and rest your foot. Keep dorsiflexion in the outstretched foot, meaning flex your foot (toes to your shin), reaching out through the heel to increase the stretch and length in the hamstrings. Hold for 6-8 breaths.

#5 H2O Triangle Pose

Triangle pose helps to liberate the side body. To engage in triangle pose in the pool, stand an arm’s length distance away from the wall. With your right arm straight and your right fingers touching the wall. Spread your legs 3 feet apart and bring your left arm up, bending to your right. Try to reach your left hand up and over to touch the wall. Be mindful of keeping your left foot down. Open your chest to the sky to promote a better stretch in the side body.  Hold for 6-8 breaths.

Note: Holding the pool wall lets you stretch without having to hold yourself up.

#6 Corpse Pose

Simply float on your back. Arms down by your side and palms facing up. If you need to place a floatation device (noodle, float, etc.) under you to help you stay afloat and restful.




Friday Fitness: Guys, The Things You Need To Know Before Attending A Yoga Class

Guys, Listen Up! 

So, I made a pact with the missus a few weeks ago that I would give yoga a shot for one full month.  I’m two weeks into the journey and think there are a few things you guys should know.

Gentlemen, here’s what they don’t tell you…

  • Apparently, the thermostat is broken!

Be prepared, you’re going to sweat your @$$ off!  Drink plenty of water before you go and be sure to have a full bottle within arm’s reach during the class.  Drape a beach towel over your mat to absorb the ridiculous amount of melting body butter or else risk a reenactment of slip and slide. 

  • You’ve got to get there at least 10 minutes early.

Real estate is limited in most yoga studios.  So, get there early to stake your claim.  When you arrive take your shoes off and go straight to the room to put down your mat.

  • You’ll need two blocks and a strap.

Most studios provide these free of charge.  The blocks are used to bring the ground up to you and the strap can assist during those poses where reaching your feet seems nearly impossible.

  • Dress for the occasion

Wear a shirt that’s long enough to tuck in and tight enough that it won’t ride up and affect your breathing during Downward Dog.  Consider wearing compression shorts under your baggy shorts, as you’ll be upside down and downside up in poses that could…ahem…expose some skin.  The ladies will appreciate if you keep it PG-rated. 

  • Choose the right class for you.

There are a dozen different types of yoga classes that you’ll struggle to pronounce.  But, I’ve figured out there are a few basic categories. 

1) Power Yoga – These combine a series of exercises to help tone muscles.  This class is great for the ex-athlete. The poses look similar to lunges, squats and pushups, with the obvious yoga-flare. 

2) Hot Yoga – They’ll advertise that it’s 95 degrees in the room, but with twenty other steaming bodies the heat index is surely over 100. 

3) Restorative/Gentle/Deep Stretch Yoga – If you’re looking to unglue your knotted hips and back then this is the class for you.  Be prepared to hold a stretch for what feels like a lifetime.

4) Flow Yoga –In these classes be prepared to move with each breath. This is probably the closest to cardio you can get with yoga.

  • Know the basics.

If you don’t know the difference between upward and downward dog or chaturanga and chair, then you better get to Googling or take a beginner’s class.  Know the basic sun salutation and the variations of the warrior pose before you go.

  • BREATH!!!

Sure, they’ll tell you this time and again, but it’s worth reiterating.



Friday Fitness: Connecting the Elements with Four Basic Yoga Asanas

As many of you may know, our (H3’s) annual spring Yoga Retreat is just around the corner. In efforts to engage and encourage more yoga into your daily routine, I have decided to make yoga this Fitness Friday’s theme. As the weather begins to shape up, and spring begins to bloom, let’s take our yoga outside and re-connect with the four classical elements.

There are four basic outdoor asanas (postures) that yoga practitioners can easily integrate into their outdoor practice. Each posture and the elements of nature they represent have a corresponding impact on the physical as well as the spiritual body.
For example, earth exercises help to provide a grounding effect on our physical and spiritual body. These postures/exercises help to add more stability. Meanwhile, wind postures/exercises represent the ability to achieve freedom and self expression. These will help to nourish your body. Fire exercises present strength, power and zest. These postures represent the continual effort to meet and achieve goals. And lastly, water postures/exercises are the closing postures in your outdoor asana practice. The element of water represents rejuvenation and calm. As you practice your water asana outdoors, feel the elements of nature like a tide washing through your body. Let the water flood your body with soothing energy. As the water asana helps to calm and sooth, it resulting exceeds past your physical body and into your spiritual body.


(Descriptions below)

Read the rest of this entry.



In Response to: “Can Yoga Wreck Your Body?”

As many of you may know, I recently, as of April 2010, obtained my 200hr RYT (Registered Yoga Teacher) certification. Earlier this week I came across an article that hit rather close to home. The article was entitled “Can yoga wreck your body?” This article published recently in the New York Times, argued that it can. Essentially the article declared that the increase in yoga-related injuries, “in recent years”, has direct correlation with the heightened increase in yoga practitioners. According to Yoga Journal, about 14.3 million people in theUnited States practiced yoga in 2010, which is significantly up from 4.3 million in 2001. As yoginis’ and yoginas’ around the world begin to find daily yoga practice more and more essential, the need for yoga practioners indeed increases. However, the blame should not be wrongly placed on just the instructors. One cannot point fingers at just us. The fingers rationally should be pointed at the individuals whom are practicing yoga—those who should become more mindful. The focus must shift away from the trend and more toward individual self-care, compassion and safety.


How to protect yourself from injury:

Yoga students should highly consider the instructor’s training and expertise, but they must deem more important, their individual ability to listen to their own bodies. When simply stated, any type of physical activity that challenges the body should be practiced with individual awareness and caution. Therefore, I feel I am not exaggerating when I utter that body awareness is a major component in fitness, yoga, functionality and overall wellbeing.


I sincerely feel this article’s tag line “Can Yoga Wreck Your Body” is disheartening, misleading and will more than likely hinder the general population from trying yoga, which is such a dishonor. Realistically, it is not the yoga that wrecks the body; it’s the individual and his or her lack of understanding of one’s own limitations, capabilities, body alignment/awareness and most importantly one’s own perception of self- care and physical compassion.


Thus, in light of helping YOU develop YOUR safest possible yoga practice, please read the tips below:

1. Adopt a beginner’s mind. You would not attend an advanced ballet class without having prior knowledge and or experience. Yoga may look comparatively simple, but it’s not. Start with a series of yoga classes targeting the beginner. Beginner classes will help to introduce you to the basics. You must, MUST…MUST build a solid foundation of knowledge, of alignment, body awareness and of comfort before you leap in to a more challenging class like a Vinyasa or hot yoga class.

2. Learn to listen to your body. In any yoga class, your body, not the teacher, is the real guide for what is best for you. Listening to your body and honoring its signals are key to a safe practice. If something doesn’t feel right, ease out of the posture. If something feels like a strain, you’re pushing too hard. If your body feels like it needs a break, listen to it. Remember, yoga is about self-care. If you need to rest, you can always relax in child’s pose.

3. Do your own pose, not your neighbor’s. Yoga is not a competition. For most of us, the mind is apt to overrule the body. So if the person next to you gets her feet behind her head, “holy stretch”, you best believe you are going to do the same! NO. NO. NO. Yoga at its essence is about getting in tune with the body. The only right way to practice a pose is to practice it in the way that honors where your body is at that particular moment. Tune in, and most importantly stay present.

4. Look for gratitude. Look for gratitude and value in every pose. This is where you are challenging your body, but still staying completely within your comfort zone—all balance between letting go and bringing in. Your grateful place is that place in the posture where you are feeling a soothing stretch and your muscles are working (a certain feeling of heat, gratitude and compassion) but there is no pain, strain or extreme fatigue.

5. Pick the right teacher and approach. When it comes to practicing and teaching yoga, it is not a one size fits all. As you read above, there is a continued need for yoga teachers. Every teacher will vary in approach, style, experience and training. Know your style and/or goals and then pick the one that best suits you. In regards to injuries and/or physical limitations, the number one rule of thumb is to not be shy. Inform your teacher prior to class. Then, simply ask if the class is suitable for you. Growth does not take place without inquiry. If the teacher isn’t able to offer specific feedback related to your injury and or question, that’s an indication that the teacher might not be a good fit for you.



Salute the Full Moon with a Yoga Moon Salutation

With the Full Moon passing this Fitness Friday, I encourage you all to take a moment and salute the moon. The Moon Salutation series in yoga, also known as “Chandra Namaskara,” is a series of interconnected postures that pay tribute to the power of the moon and its particular influence on the earth and our lives. A full moon completes the cycle, at most it represents change. Symbolically, it represents the end of a chapter- the promise of shedding light on the things we may no longer need to hold on to (i.e. inactivity, stress, etc.). Thus, performing the moon salutation series will encourage many things. For some, it will encourage something new, a new light- a yoga practice. For others, it will honor light toward better flexibility, improved balance, strength, creativity, fitness and overall health.

The moon salutation is characteristically practiced in the afternoon, evening and or night, when the moon is in ascendancy. But, the sequence can be practiced anytime as it generously offers a full body workout.

1. Begin in Mountain (or standing) pose. Take a deep breath in. On your inhalation bring your awareness to your stability. The strength in your legs; the power in your core; the openness and acceptance in your heart; as well as the expansion and growth from your roots to the crown of your head. Experience the stillness, the calmness and the ease of your mountain pose. Exhale completely. Follow with yet another deep inhalation, and on the exhalation this time simply open your practice by saying the term “Namaste” (na-ma-stay). A term we generally close the class with however, today- in efforts to honor the light of the moon as well as our own, “namaste” is light-fully appropriate! Simply take a moment now to acknowledge and bless the light within.

2-6. Breathe in and bring the arms up- into a skyward extension. Meet the hands together as you reach up into the sky. On the exhale, reach to the left to transform yourself into the crescent moon.

Inhale into the upward extension again, and on the exhale reach to the right. This time re-forming the crescent moon and balancing the left and right hemispheres of the brain. Inhale back to center. Exhale to set.

7. Breathe in and step wide. Point your toes out, keeping your knees bent and your back straight (sumo-squat). Bring your arms into right angles with the palms facing the ears. Exhale as you form the upward facing crescent: the sacred chalice of life.

8. Inhale to straighten the legs and extend the arms out into a “T.” Exhale as you experience a sense of infinity.

9. Inhale to reach into triangle posture. Reach for the right ankle or the floor. Reach the left arm to the sky. Exhale as you reach higher- lengthening and reaching towards your highest aspiration.

10. Inhale as you square your hips and turn downward over the right leg. Bring your left arm down and grasp both hands above the right ankle. Extend the spine forward while gazing slightly upward. Exhale as you shine your light forward.

11. Inhale as you carefully guide the left knee down to the mat (remember to use a pillow or blanket if you need extra support). The right knee shall remain bent, in a deep lunge (weight remaining in heel). Balance and lift both arms skyward, straight up as if you were hugging your ears and reaching for the sky. Exhale as you become the peaceful warrior.

12. Inhale as you drop your hands to the floor. Extend the back leg straight spinning the back heel to a 45 degree angle. Place your right hand on the inside of the foot, palm aligning with heel. Reach your left arm over your head, palm facing down. Embrace the full side angle as you open your heart and shine it to the sky. Exhale as you create a side angle line with your left leg and left arm.

13. On your next inhalation, using your abdominal strength, windmill up to your five pointed star.

14-25…Simply repeat the sequence in reverse order and on opposing sides.



Good Posture, Good Health, Good Life

beach yoga

“The view is always better from above”, thus I encourage you to plant your roots and grow- literally grow taller! As we approach our annual September Yoga Retreat here at H3, I encourage your focus to shift alongside ours. If we begin to focus our attention more on our posture and the integrity of our spine, our overall wellbeing will flourish. Our sights, smells, attitudes and potentially even self efficacy may prosper.

The definition of posture is the position in which you hold your body upright against gravity while standing, sitting or lying down. Good posture involves training your body to stand, walk, sit and lie in positions where during the movement or weight bearing fraction, the least amount of strain is placed on the supporting muscles and ligaments. So, keeping your spine tall throughout the day is totally worthy of ponder and practice. Many components can help to maximize improvements in one’s posture. Simply including strengthing and stretching exercises for the legs (specifically hamstrings), as well as back and abdominal muscles will help make it easier to reside in an ideal posture without any additional fatigue or strain- purely, yet another reminder as to why Yoga is so important!

Please note: The spine’s natural curvatures: the cervical’s inward, the thoracic’s outward and the lumbar’s inward curves are not to be confused with poor posture. “Poor” posture is often a byproduct of tight hips and legs, hunched shoulders, as well as improper neck positions. Simply keeping your head centered over your shoulders, rather than inching it forward will help you to generate better posture. Proper posture helps keep bones and joints in the correct alignment so you can utilize your muscles properly. Remember as I have repetitively stated, “all movements originate from the spine.” Proper spinal alignment can help to decrease abnormal wearing of joint surfaces that could result in arthritis; decrease the stress on the ligaments holding the joints of the spine together; prevent the spine from becoming fixed in an abnormal position, prevent fatigue (because muscles are being used more efficiently, therefore allowing the body to use less energy); prevent strains and/or overuse problems; prevent backache and muscular pain; as well as contribute to a good appearance, healthier attitudes, and elevated quality of life.

In closing, I encourage all of you blog readers and H3 Alum, to par take in the postural yoga exercise below provided by “Yoga Journal”. You will greater height, stability, health and happier poise. Namaste.

tada = mountain

  1. Stand with the bases of your big toes touching, heels slightly apart (so that your second toes are parallel). Lift and spread your toes and the balls of your feet, then lay them softly down on the floor. Rock back and forth and side to side. Gradually reduce this swaying to a standstill, with your weight balanced evenly on the feet.
  2. Firm your thigh muscles and lift the knee caps, without hardening your lower belly. Lift the inner ankles to strengthen the inner arches, then imagine a line of energy all the way up along your inner thighs to your groins, and from there through the core of your torso, neck, and head, and out through the crown of your head. Turn the upper thighs slightly inward. Lengthen your tailbone toward the floor and lift the pubis toward the navel.
  3. Press your shoulder blades into your back, then widen them across and release them down your back. Without pushing your lower front ribs forward, lift the top of your sternum straight toward the ceiling. Widen your collarbones. Hang your arms beside the torso.
  4. Balance the crown of your head directly over the center of your pelvis, with the underside of your chin parallel to the floor, throat soft, and the tongue wide and flat on the floor of your mouth. Soften your eyes.
    Tadasana is usually the starting position for all the standing poses. But it’s useful to practice Tadasana as a pose in itself. Stay in the pose for 30 seconds to 1 minute, breathing easily.


Friday Fitness: Starting the day with a Sun Salutation

Every morning I like to climb to the roof of my house overlooking the beach, where I can find peace and quiet to complete my Sun Salutation. A Sun Salutation is a series of steps that incorporates both resistance and cardio training. It’s good for the body and the mind. Physically, daily practice of a Sun Salutaion can stretch and tone muscles, increase flexibility and rid the body of toxins. Some of the mental benefits of a Sun Salutaion include reducing stress and anviety, and increasing concentration and focus. I find Sun Salutations a great way to start the morning, however they can be done at anytime of day whether you are feeling stressed to meet a deadline, planning for a big event, or just want to unwind.

This 10 minute exercise can be easily done anywhere! See this handout for step-by-step instructions or watch the video below!



OM Your Way to Better Health

beach yoga 2

Because of its impact on the circulatory system, stress is linked to cardiovascular disease. Emotional stress can contribute to a wider spectrum of physical stress, i.e. muscle tension and constricted breathing. Efforts to alleviate these physical and emotional stressors will help you in reducing your risk of heart disease as well as other risky illnesses. Yoga, like many forms of physical activity, can help relieve stress. Yoga reduces stress by encouraging deep, rhythmic breathing. It physically increases the flow of blood and oxygen to each part of the body, which in return promotes decreased muscle tension, and overall relaxation.

Emotionally, obstacles with weight management can sometimes bring with them a great deal of unkind self-judgment. In conjunction with physical stress alleviation, yoga also has many psychological benefits. Through yoga we can create a safe, positive environment to reconnect with our bodies. As we connect with our bodies our minds begin to quiet those counterproductive messages. With a committed practice we can re-gain balance and serenity, thus opening our best pathways for improved health.

FYI: H3’s upcoming three-day “Yoga Retreat” workshop held March 24-26th will help immerse you into your journey to less stress and better health. So what are you waiting for? Book now and join us for this refreshing, balancing and rejuvenating retreat!

beach yoga



National Yoga Month

Beach Yoga at Hilton Head Health

Yoga is much more than just a workout.  Yoga positions, asanas, are just as good for the body as for the mind (neurological system) as well as the metabolism (endocrine system).  

If you did not already know, September marks the first official National Yoga Month designated by the Department of Health & Human Services. We helped to celebrate National Yoga Month by hosting a three day yoga workshop here at H3.  As we close our three day enlightenment, we wanted to share some light on some basic yoga terms.

Yoga:  The word yoga comes from the same root that gave us the word “yoke.”  It means union.  You will hear “union” described in many ways within the yoga community.  Union as the unity of mind and body, as the kinship with others or with all of humanity and, or as the sense of oneness with the planet.  Yoga is literally the joining together of the finite self and the infinite selfThe finite self is defined as the actual physical body and the experiences that we have physically.  Everyone can relate to the physical body because it is a real entity that can be seen and touched.  The infinite self however, is the inner self.  The higher self: the spiritual self.

Om: Aum (or OM) is a mantra or vibration that is traditionally chanted at the beginning and end of a yoga practice.  It is made up of three Sanskrit letters, aa, au and ma which, when combined together, make the sound Aum or Om.  It is believed to be the basic sound of the world, as it contains all other sounds.  Om is thought to be the sound of the universe.  So, what exactly does that mean?  The ancient yogis knew that the entire universe is moving.  Nothing is ever solid or still.  Everything that exists pulsates creating a rhythmic vibration.  The ancient yogis acknowledged this rhythmic vibration with the sound of Om.  We may not always be aware of this sound in our daily lives, but we can hear it in the rustling of the autumn leaves, the waves on the shore, or in the inside of a seashell.  Chanting Om allows us to recognize our experience as a reflection of how the whole universe moves; the setting sun, the rising moon, the ebb and flow of the tides, the beating of our hearts.  As we chant the mantra it takes us for a ride on this vast universal movement.  A movement through our breath, our awareness, and our physical energy, and we begin to sense a bigger connection, a connection that is both uplifting and soothing.

Namaste: “I honor the Spirit in you which is also in me” (Deepok Chopra).  Ideally Namaste should be done both at the beginning and at the end of class.  The gesture Namaste is an acknowledgement of the soul in one by the soul in another.  “Nama” means bow, “as” means I, and “te” means you.  Thus, namaste literally means “bow me you” or “I bow to you”.

You don’t have to be a yogi to practice yoga – just head over to our You Tube channel where you will find five Yoga videos taking you through the basics and ending with a Sun Salutation. 




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