Athletes have trainers who prepare weight-training regimens and stretching exercises, coaches who observe and correct their every movement, and physicians who check them for injuries. So do they really need one more way to train? The answer is yes, at least for athletes who want an extra advantage when it comes to balance, flexibility, breath, and mental sharpness.
Yoga for Athletes (Human Kinetics, December 2016), yoga can bring a special edge to the performance of everyone from amateurs striving to improve their lives to professionals competing against elite athletes. Cunningham operates Flow Yoga Studio in Green Bay, Wisconsin, where she has instructed former Packers players B.J. Raji, Andy Mulumba, Tramon Williams, Mike Neal, and Jarrett Bush, as well as current Packer Randall Cobb and athletes from many other sports.
“Athletic careers are characterized by a chase for a better time, a stronger body, better split-second decisions, the ability to take a harder hit, and other ways of advancing,” Cunningham says. “Each athlete has unique needs, and a yoga practice benefits everyone in a special way.” She pinpoints six benefits of yoga for athletic performance:
1. Aid in muscle recovery. The deep breathing in yoga helps bring much-needed oxygen to muscles, helping them create energy to burn. The goal of recovery is to clear the muscles of the waste products resulting from muscle contraction, including lactic acid, to allow the fibers to fire again. While proper hydration helps by flushing those waste products out of the body, proper stretching of muscles more rapidly restores function. And yoga practitioners have always known the best way to stretch. “The more quickly your muscles bounce back, the sooner you can get back to training so that you will gain a competitive edge,” Cunningham explains.
2. Prevent injuries. The five main causes of sports injuries are lack of a careful warm-up, quick motions and twisting motions that stress joints, imbalance that trains one part of the body over others, tightness of highly trained muscles that lose flexibility, and overuse of the muscles. Yoga practice can help prevent injuries from the first four causes since yoga poses emphasize strengthening, stretching, and balance among all parts of the body. In sports like tennis, golf, and baseball pitching, imbalanced training is a serious problem. But yoga can bring the parts of the body back into balance, reducing the probability of injuries. It can also restore and preserve the flexibility that is often sacrificed by strength-building exercises by allowing the connective tissue to be restored through its emphasis on lengthening the muscles.
3. Reduce stress, increase focus, and relieve tension. When working out is a major part of training, exercise can actually create stress instead of alleviating it. Yoga can help athletes work through those stresses. During taxing times the stress hormone cortisol is carried in the body. Practicing a series of movements, poses, and deep breathing as part of a yoga sequence, however, decreases the levels of cortisol, helping an athlete feel more relaxed. “Another way yoga can help an athlete reduce stress is to require focusing on the pose, which means staying in the present instead of thinking about the past or the future,” Cunningham points out. Yoga can also help athletes practice living in the moment through concentrated breathing, creating a calming, quiet moment of meditation.
4. Strengthen underused muscles. It’s easy for athletes to fall into a training routine to strengthen areas that are most important for their sports. But they must remember that neglecting one area of the body can create weakness and imbalance, triggering discomfort and leading to more serious injuries. Yoga teaches poses that focus on all areas of the body, including small muscles like those in the wrist that actually take most of the weight and do most of the work.
5. Build your core. Yoga has always emphasized the central muscles that are the foundation of the entire trunk, helping protect the lower back and reducing injuries. Cunningham says a full yoga practice builds all the core muscles because the balance needed for holding the poses and stretches involves the deepest muscles of the body. All three layers of the core must be strong and work together to provide a balanced, effective yoga practice.
6. Improve sleep. Finally, yoga can train the body to relax. “While sleepless nights can be troubling to everyone, they are particularly damaging to athletes who are preparing to perform,” Cunningham stresses. “Relaxing is as much a skill as exerting your muscles.” Yoga helps athletes learn to relax by teaching them to concentrate on poses, which leads to the mind and body learning to understand the difference between effort and relaxation. Later, when focusing on relaxation, the muscles will be able to respond to the command to relax, translating to the bed for restful sleep. Yoga improves sleep with breathing since athletes consciously use breath to help them get into poses and then calm down at the end of practice, which also works before sleep as well.
Featuring sequences for popular team and individuals, Yoga for Athletes will help athletes learn the most useful poses for each body region. It also contains stories from successful professional and competitive athletes about how yoga helps them improve performance and gain an edge on the field, court, or road. For more information on Yoga for Athletes or other yoga books and resources, visit HumanKinetics.com.
On U.S. Veterans Day, November 11, 2016, the Yoga Service Council (YSC) and Omega Institute for Holistic Studies announced the publication of more than 100 best practice guidelines for teaching yoga to veterans. Best Practices for Yoga with Veterans is a vital new resource written for a general audience, with particular interest to veterans and veteran family members, VA administrators and veterans organizations, and yoga teachers and yoga service providers dedicated to serving this population.
“The effects of military trauma and post-traumatic stress are vast, and reintegration can be overwhelming for veterans and their families,” said Robert “Skip” Backus, chief executive officer at Omega. “Yoga holds tremendous potential for helping veterans heal and build resilience. At a time when resources are limited, we are honored to help bring best practices forward so that more veterans can experience the proven benefits.”
Best Practices for Yoga with Veterans is the second white book in the Yoga Service Best Practices series, which launched in 2016 with the publication of Best Practices for Yoga in Schools.
Medically retired veteran and YSC operations director Kathryn Thomas shares that after sustaining an injury while on deployment as a naval pilot “my physical therapist recommended yoga, and I’m so grateful that he did. While on my mat, my worries and fears about my physical disability stayed in the back of my mind. Instead, I focused on what I could still achieve. Based on my own experience, I believe that yoga can be a life-changing, and even life-saving resource for veterans.”
Yoga Service Council president Jennifer Cohen Harper explains, this work “is unique in that it shares the knowledge of over 30 experts in the field. Collectively, the team that co-created this book has expertise not only in yoga, but also in veterans affairs, military culture, integrative medicine, clinical psychology, trauma therapy, social work, and more.”
Best Practices for Yoga with Veterans synthesizes this wealth of knowledge on teaching yoga to veterans in ways that are responsive to the particularities of the military experience. Key topics include: 1) Culture and Communications, 2) Staffing and Training, 3) Working with Trauma, 4) Curriculum and Instruction, 5) Gender Considerations, 6) Relationship Building, 7) Working in the VA, 8) Teaching Incarcerated Veterans, and 9) Teaching Families of Veterans.
The partnership of the Yoga Service Council and Omega Institute began in 2009, when Omega offered space for a group of yoga teachers to come together and talk about ways to support those who worked with vulnerable and underserved populations. The YSC emerged from this initial gathering and offered the first annual Yoga Service Conference at Omega in 2012. As a result of the shared commitment to yoga and service, the YSC and Omega decided to formally partner in 2014 to bring yoga and mindfulness practices into the lives of more individuals and communities who have limited access to these vital teachings.
The intention of each of the Best Practices Guides in the series is to be a resource for those who wish to share yoga practices in a way that is safe, effective, and positioned in a broader social context, as well as being in touch with the relevant research and respectful of the many intersecting realities found in any social setting, including the need for skillful relationship building within institutions.
The first book in the series, Best Practices for Yoga in Schools, was the work of 27 of the nation’s leaders on yoga in schools and is also available on Amazon.com. The third Yoga Service Best Practices Guide will address yoga in the criminal justice system and is expected to be published in 2018.
About Yoga Service Council (YSC)
The Yoga Service Council is a collaborative community that welcomes yoga and mindfulness teachers, therapists, social service providers, educators, health professionals, researchers, and all others who share our mission and vision. We are a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, dedicated to maximizing the effectiveness, sustainability, and impact of individuals and organizations working to make yoga and mindfulness practices equally accessible to all.
Yoga Service Council contact: Jennifer Cohen Harper, Jenn(at)YogaServiceCouncil(dot)org
About Omega Institute for Holistic Studies
Founded in 1977, Omega Institute for Holistic Studies is the nation’s most trusted source for wellness and personal growth. As a nonprofit organization, Omega offers diverse and innovative educational experiences that inspire an integrated approach to personal and social change. Located on 250 acres in the beautiful Hudson Valley, Omega welcomes more than 23,000 people to its workshops, conferences, and retreats in Rhinebeck, New York, and at exceptional locations around the world. eOmega.org
by Vera Kaur
The human body is a latticework of energies, vibrating at different frequencies, encompassing the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual aspects. It has been perfectly created to function optimally, providing we observe the laws of nature.
Traditional Indian energy healers believe that the root cause of anxiety and stress disorders lie within the endocrine and exocrine glands.
The endocrine and exocrine glands have a profound effect on our entire being as they regulate the functions of our systems, organs, tissues and cells by secreting the numerous vital hormones essential for our physical, mental, and emotional well-being.
Our endocrine and exocrine glands act as buffers to absorb the negative impact of physical, mental, and emotional stress including toxic chemicals from our diet and environment. If our glands are exposed to excessive amounts of negative stress, energy imbalances result, and our glands become impaired, leading to dis-ease.
Re-connecting with the ancient Indian wisdom of nature’s self-healing practices, allows us to cleanse, calm and empower our energies, to release stress, fear and anxiety, restoring balance, harmony and well-being.
Self-healing practices include:
The ancient Indian holistic practice of diagnosing and treating the root cause of dis-ease, by applying intermittent pressure on areas of the hands and feet that correspond to specific organs, glands, nerves etc. This regulates the vital energy within the body part, empowering it to function optimally.
A simple acupressure practice to check the degree of stress within the body is to press the base of the middle toes. The degree of pain on this area, when pressed, directly relates to the severity of the imbalance.
To release temporary stress, intermittently press the base of the middle toes, using the thumb and the index finger, for one minute each, three times a day, until any pain has been alleviated.
To release accumulated deep-rooted stress, grasp the little toes with the thumbs and the index fingers. Rotate the little toes to the left and right, pull and bend them backwards, allowing the tips to face upwards and hold in this position for fifteen seconds. Release and repeat with the remaining toes. Next bend the ten toes backwards, all at once, using the palms of the hands and hold for one minute. Apply the same technique to the fingers. Practice two times a day for fourteen days.
To relieve anxiety, clasp the hands and interlock the fingers as tightly as possible. Press the fingers deeply into the back of the opposite hand and hold for ten seconds. Release and repeat five times. Practice three times a day. The nerve acupressure points begin in the webs between the fingers and the nervous system acupressure points are located on the back of the hands. The regular practice of this simple technique calms the nerves and strengthens the entire nervous system.
To relieve emotional anxiety, gently massage the centre of the chest, using small circular clockwise motions, for five minutes, two times a day.
To relieve mental stress, place the fingers on the forehead and thumbs on the temples, for five minutes. Breathe slowly and deeply.
To empower the nervous system and strengthen the body’s stress response, firmly massage the back of the hands and the top of the feet, for two minutes, two times a day. These areas correspond to the nervous system.
The ancient Indian holistic practice of walking on the natural earth barefoot. Within the earth there lies a powerful and unique energy source which we can draw upon. The earth is composed of minerals and our body is mineral in essence, therefore our body’s energy resonates perfectly with that of the earth. The earth’s energy is greater and this allows it to be absorbed naturally through the soles of our feet.
To re-balance the body’s energies and dis-charge the accumulation of harmful free radicals and electro-magnetic pollution to relieve stress and anxiety, practice walking barefoot on bare earth, grass or sand for fifteen minutes in the evening.
The ancient Indian holistic practice of physical postures known as asanas, each of which has specific physical, mental, emotional and spiritual benefits, to unite the body, mind and soul. It is believed that as our physical body becomes more relaxed, flexible and open, this promotes a similar effect on our mental and emotional body.
Practice at sunrise and sunset.
Yoga asanas to strengthen the body’s stress response:
The Virabhadrasana II invigorates the physical body, instilling a sense of inner confidence and empowerment to dispel stress, fear and anxiety.
Stand with your legs wide apart and your arms stretched out to the sides, with your palms facing the floor.
Turn your left foot out to a 90-degree angle and your right foot in at a 15-degree angle.
Bend your left knee, allowing your left thigh to be parallel to the floor.
Ensure your left knee is directly above your left ankle.
Distribute your weight evenly on both feet and turn your head to the left.
Bring your awareness to your breathing.
Allow any stressful emotions to be released with each exhalation.
Relax in the posture for five minutes.
Release and repeat on the other side.
The Urdhva Dhanurasana activates the endocrine and exocrine glands, with its deep spinal stretch, instilling balance and harmony to the body and mind.
Lie on your back with your knees bent and your heels at your buttocks.
Place your hands on the floor at the sides of your head, with your fingers pointing towards your feet.
Keep your feet and hands pushed firmly against the floor and lift your body to form an arch shape.
Straighten your arms and feel the deep stretch on the front of your body.
Bring your awareness to your breathing.
Allow any painful emotions to be released with each exhalation.
Relax in the posture for up to five minutes.
The Viparita Karani Asana gently calms the nervous system to alleviate stress and anxiety and encourage positive thoughts and emotions.
Lie on your back with your right hip close to the wall.
Raise both legs vertically against the wall.
Loosen your shoulders and place your hands overhead.
Bring your awareness to your breathing.
Allow any fearful emotions to be released with each exhalation.
Relax in the posture for up to twenty minutes.
The ancient Indian holistic practice of controlling the breath by a number of different techniques to increase the vital energy in the body. The regular practice of breath exercises can influence our physical, mental, and emotional state in the most positive of ways to initiate the body’s innate healing capacity.
The Expansive Breath Exercise assists in opening the heart chakra to release deep-seated fears and encourage emotional balance.
Sit comfortably with your eyes closed.
Place your hands on your chest, one on top of the other.
Bring your awareness to your heart chakra and your emotions.
Inhale slowly and deeply through your nose whilst stretching your arms out to the sides, parallel to the floor.
Retain your breath for as long as you are comfortable.
During the retention of your breath, visualize your heart opening, releasing any emotional pain or trauma.
Exhale slowly and deeply, bringing your arms back to your chest.
Repeat eleven times.
The ancient Indian holistic practice of joining different combinations of the fingers and thumbs, which balances the vital energy throughout the body and mind, to regain equilibrium and alleviate stress, fear and anxiety. It is believed that the human structure is a miniature form of the universe, composed of the five elements, each of which corresponds to a specific finger or thumb.
Mudras can be practiced whilst sitting, walking or lying down.
Mudras to alleviate stress and anxiety:
Place the tip of your thumb and the tip of your index finger together.
Relax and extend your middle, ring and little finger.
Practice two times a day for twenty minutes in total.
The Shakti Mudra assists in releasing accumulated stress by deeply calming the nervous system.
Bend your index fingers and place them over your thumbs.
Bend your middle fingers and place them over your thumbs.
Place the tips of your ring fingers together.
Place the tips of your little fingers together.
Relax and breathe slowly and deeply.
Practice three times a day for thirty minutes in total.
The Prithvi Mudra assists in strengthening the root chakra to instil stability and promote peace of mind.
Relax and extend your index, middle, and little finger.
Practice two times a day for twenty minutes in total.
Chromotherapy Healing Visualizations
The ancient Indian holistic practice of using colour to create positive images of healing within the mental body, which allows the emotional body to respond, by becoming receptive to healing, which subsequently initiates the healing process in the physical body.
Each colour has its individual vibration and carries its own healing properties. Our body and mind are intricately connected, which allows our thoughts to have a direct influence on our physical body.
Visualizations can be memorized, recorded or recited by a partner.
The Empowerment Healing Visualization relieves stress, anxiety, fear and panic.
Practice two times a day.
Sit outdoors in nature, with your feet in direct contact with the bare earth, grass or sand.
Close your eyes and visualize the colour green.
See the colour green as a dense vortex of deep green healing energy.
Sense the dense vortex of deep green healing energy spiralling in the earth, beneath your feet.
Feel its magnetic force gently drawing your energies downwards, through the soles of your feet.
Visualize yourself being rooted into the earth below.
Allow your entire being to feel at one with nature.
Bring your awareness to your body.
Your body feels safe and grounded by the deep green healing energy.
Bring your awareness to your mind.
Your mind feels still and centred by the deep green healing energy.
Bring your awareness to your emotions.
Your emotions feel balanced and peaceful by the deep green healing energy.
Bring your awareness to your breath.
Visualize the dense vortex of deep green healing energy attracting your inhalations, pulling them deeper within your body.
As your breathing becomes deeper, your body becomes relaxed, your mind becomes calm, and your emotions become balanced.
You feel grounded, centred and in control.
Observe this feeling of empowerment within your body, mind and emotions.
Create a positive image of this feeling of empowerment within your body, your mind and your emotions.
Draw upon it during times of stress, anxiety, fear and panic.
Open your eyes gently and repeat aloud,
‘I trust in the power of my breath to instil strength, stability and harmony throughout my entire being’.
As we strive to meet the demands of our busy lifestyles, we can easily become detached from nature, leading us to search for inner balance and harmony through our external world. However, by re-connecting with ancient Indian wisdom, we can care for ourselves from within, holistically, to heal our dis-eases, by empowering our energies and releasing our imbalances to instil physical, mental, and emotional well-being.
About the author:
Vera Kaur is from Sikh Indian origin and currently lives in the Forest of Dean, England. Holistic healthcare was part of her upbringing and in her twenties she visited and lived in ashrams in India, where she observed the remarkable results of the self-healing practices used by the traditional energy healers.
Vera would like us all to be empowered with this ancient Indian wisdom, to take responsibility for our own health and well-being.
Through her dreams and meditations she was guided to write her book,
To mark its 10th year in the running, BaliSpirit Festival, a global celebration of Yoga, Dance and World Music, has introduced a range of improvements and extensions to its programme to make the experience at the Festival even more special and life-changing.
BaliSpirit Festival is a global celebration of Yoga, Dance and World Music offering rejuvenation and inspiration to all participants and providing over 200 daily classes in yoga, meditation, healing, dance and music along with seminars focusing on healing, health, spirituality and personal development.
The new extended programme includes five days of group wellness classes, an extra community day and seven nights of music programme which now makes BaliSpirit Festival the longest yoga festival in South East Asia. In addition to the main programme the festival will also offer a range of extra Special Events at stunning venues around Ubud.
In order to allow for even more people to come and join the celebration, new types of festival passes have been introduced for 2017 in addition to the usual ones:
- Abundance Pass: comfort at both festival venues, priority shuttle, full inclusion of everything on offer, priority booking for Special Events
- Teenager Pass: enjoy the benefits of the full pass offered at significant discount for teenagers (only $250); perfect for families.
- 5-Day Community Pass: gives access to Dharma Fair at daytime, some community classes, daytime and night time music stage. Perfect for those who don’t wish to participate in yoga classes but want to enjoy the music and the overall festival vibe.
Taking place at the beautiful new venue introduced last year, Bhanuswari resort and spa, the place offers a spectacular backdrop for your spiritual practices and festival entertainment, surrounded by rice fields, beautiful t river view and lush tropical vegetation.
The festival brings together dozens of top international performers and world-class musicians, attracting a truly global audience to the annual event.
The 2016 BaliSpirit Festival was a huge success with up to 2,000 festival-goers every day from over 40 countries, uniting together in a global celebration of dance, music, yoga and healing.
The year 2017 sees another sensational line up of Yoga instructors, Healers, Dancers and Musicians (full line-up to be announced).
Along with the myriad of workshops offered, the daytime event features a Dharma Fair for those who want to indulge in a little conscious shopping! Featuring the Healing Huts area, Kids Zone, healthy, local organic food stalls and the Coco-Love Stage showcasing World music throughout the daytime festival, you’ll love the truly dynamic and engaging festival vibe.
Additionally, BaliSpirit Festival’s devotional Bhakti Nights and its vibrant ‘One World One Stage’ night concerts, provide a vast diversity of performers across 2 stages over 5 nights, featuring over 100 extraordinary international performers committed to delivering inspiring messages through their music.
Participants have described BaliSpirit Festival as a ‘life changing experience’, ‘inspirational’ and having ‘being positively impacted by the festival’s blend of energy, passion, personal awakening, social consciousness and high quality entertainment’.
To purchase your ticket, please visit: http://www.balispiritfestival.com/tickets
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