The 7 health benefits of the Downward Facing Dog

Category: Article or Blog
Published: Thursday, 08 October 2015
Written by Sarah PJ White

The Downward Facing Dog pose is known as the ‘anchoring’ posture. It is one of the master positions, taught in most styles of yoga. Traditionally known as ‘Adho Mukha Svanasana’, the Downward Facing Dog is great for experienced and novice yoga fans alike. There are a number of health benefits you gain from practising this yoga move – the main 7 are listed below.

When practising the Downward Facing Dog it’s important to engage your core muscles. Your body should form an inverted V – without allowing your shoulders to sink or your upper body to collapse down. You’re aiming for long, lean and stretched. It’s also important to make sure you don’t hyperextend your knees – so draw up through your quads.

Digestion

To take full advantage of this pose, aim to pull your navel into your spine as you stretch into this pose. This encourages your digestive organs (liver, spleen and kidneys) to function better.

Energising

When it comes to increasing your energy and feeling alive, the Downward Dog is one of the best poses to include in your routine. Spend at least 1 minute in the pose, to ensure maximum benefit – this is especially welcome, if you’ve had a hard day at the office!

Circulation

Like any other pose that puts your heart above your head, the Downward Facing Dog encourages the blood flow throughout your body. This not only helps regulate your blood pressure, it can also help flush out toxins and keep your immune system in good order.

Muscle toning (upper and core)

Practicing the Downward Facing Dog pose will help you maintain the flexibility and tone in your upper muscles. It also helps you tone your core muscles, as pulling in your navel encourages your abdominals to engage and support your spine. Remember to also push down through your heels, to maximise the stretch in your quads.

Release tension and stress

The Downward Facing Dog pose is especially beneficial to those who suffer from shoulder and/or upper back pain. We hold so much tension in these areas and, they in turn, can cause our neck muscle to tighten and result in tension headaches or migraines.

Bone density

This pose is an especially important one to use as we grow older, as it can help minimise our risk for osteoporosis. The upper body muscle take the weight of your body, causing them to shake and giving your bones a bit of a rest!

Taking a much-needed pause

Whether you need to stretch out the aches and pains in your body or give yourself a mental timeout – the Downward Facing Dog pose enables you to take a much-needed pause. This makes is the perfect pose to add to your daily routine – whether you prefer evening or morning yoga routines.

 

If you are looking for a way to get into a regular yoga practice but aren't sure how to start, my Yoga For Beginners DVD is a perfect place to start.

The benefits of meditation

Category: Article or Blog
Published: Wednesday, 07 October 2015
Written by Sarah PJ White

Mediation is something often branded around as essential for a balanced, happy life. Those of us who practice it are well aware of the huge benefits that can be gleaned from it – but those who haven’t yet discovered it, often discount it as being ‘new age’ or something they simply can’t do.

So what are the perceived benefits of mediation and why do so many people think they can’t do it?

Mediation, in its various forms, has been around for thousands of years. The exact origins are unclear, however most of us immediate associate it to Tibet, India, China, Buddhism and Taoism, to name a few.

This brings to mind an image of sitting still, for hours and days, whilst you work at the art of clearing your mind of any thoughts it may have, forcing them to go away so you can empty your mind. But in reality, most of us are really busy – and the idea of trying to clear your mind, seems too much like hard work!

In reality however, you don’t force thoughts from your mind – you acknowledge them and let them gently go. And, you can benefit from meditation, in as little as a few minutes every day. (If you think you can’t meditate, why not check out our recent article, showing how mediation really is easier than you think!)

We mentioned benefits – so what are they exactly?

Meditation truly DOES have lots of benefits attached to it, from improving your overall physical health, to helping your emotional and mental wellbeing too. Here are a few of those benefits to get you started:

  • Clears your head
  • You feel more connected
  • Improves social connections and relationships
  • Lowers stress, worry and anxiety levels
  • Increases your attention span
  • Improves brain function
  • Increases happiness
  • Builds on your gratitude and appreciation
  • Reduces ageing
  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Helps you sleep better
  • Decreases tension and relaxes muscles
  • Increases creativity and intuition
  • Improves your immune system
  • Increases serotonin levels – so better moods and behaviour
  • Increase your energy levels
  • Gives you the time and space to get to know YOU

With so many benefits, meditation isn’t just a ‘new age’ thing, nor is it something you try once and then give up on – it’s something that you can easily fit into the busiest of schedules and for any age group – so why not give it a chance and see how quickly you can reap the rewards!

Want to know more? My Find Yourself Day Retreats are great places to start - check out the Meditation and Relaxation ones. 

Image © SolisImages/Dollar Photo Club

The power behind visualisation

Category: Article or Blog
Published: Friday, 25 September 2015
Written by Sarah PJ White

Visualisation is often seen, by those who don’t regularly use it, as just daydreaming and idle wishing. When used correctly, visualisation has the power to change your life, improve your health and increase your wealth and prosperity.

However visualisation has so many hidden benefits and if often used by coaches to ramp up a client’s intention and motivation. So what is the power (or powers) behind visualisation?

Power of focus

Visualisation enables you to get a laser-like focus on what you want, instead of just wishful thinking. You’re actually focusing on a specific sequence of events, whereas a daydream is often just letting your mind wander. It is the difference between concentrated thoughts and focus, versus generalised unconscious thoughts and subconscious habits.

Power of conviction

There’s a reason coaches use visualisation exercises on their clients – it powers up their conviction and motivation. Visualisation ensures you get really clear on what you want AND enables you to imagine what your life will be like once you have what you’re aiming for. This, in turn, will ramp up your conviction around achieving it.

Power of emotion

If you add emotion into your visualisation, you’ll be doing two things. Number one, you’ll be further increasing your motivation and conviction, as you’ll be visualising both what you want AND what it feels like to have it and to live with that desired end result.

But also, number two – you’ll be fooling your brain about already having your desired end result. You see, your brain doesn’t know the difference between a consistent vividly imagined image and something you’ve actually done. What does this mean? Well, it makes it EASIER for you to achieve what you want, as your brain thinks you’ve already achieved it before!

The secret of visualisation

Consistency is the real secret behind visualisation, as touched on in the section above. It isn’t enough to just think about what you want. You have to REGULARLY think about it and REGULARLY imagine what it would feel like to have it. By ramping up the emotions, the colours and the sounds, you’re on track to making your brain believe you have it already – and the Law of Attraction will be activated, to ensure you have what you wish.

And that is the driving force behind visualisation. Visualisation is a way for you to change your thoughts and your mental images, to replace them with better ones, ones that vibrate at a higher level. This in turn, raises your expectation and motivation, along with your emotions and your senses – and you believe you CAN and WILL have what you’re visualising in your mind’s eye.

If you are ready to visualise a new life for yourself and want some support along the way The Joy Journey is my 4 week online course

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

10 ways to feel happy now

Category: Article or Blog
Published: Wednesday, 30 September 2015
Written by Sarah PJ White

We all experience different moods. When we’re happy, we feel great – but when we experience lower moods or general ‘down’ days – it can be difficult to pick yourself back up again.

Bringing more happiness into your daily life doesn’t have to be difficult or time consuming, you just need to create a list of happy things to do and/or experience! So here’s a list of ten different ways to kick-start your own happiness list – and to help you start feeling happier now.

#1: Exercise

When you exercise you release endorphins that make you feel happier. So aim to exercise for at least 7 minutes every day – to get both happier and healthier!

#2: Get enough sleep

Sleep – it’s something we all need to function at our best – but we often don’t get enough of it. Learn to sleep when you need it, either by having a nap during the day and/or go to bed 30 minutes earlier than you currently do, in order to feel happier. (By the way, being happier will also help you sleep better!)

#3: Spend time with those who make you happy

Whether it’s your friends and/or family, start building on the time you spend with those people who make you feel joyful – and start spending less time with those who don’t.

#4: Get outside

Make it your daily goal to get outside for at least five minutes a day – several times a day, ideally. Not only does the warmth of the sun make us feel happier and alive, it also tops up essential vitamin D levels, meaning an increase in serotonin levels – meaning better (and happier) moods.

#5: Look to help others

Helping others, and seeing the results of your efforts, will make you feel happier and a better human being. It changes your perspective from you to others and you feel good when they appreciate you and in yourself for helping - double happy boost!

#6: Smile!

Even if you have to initially start by faking it, a smile exercises your facial muscles and helps lift your mood. Your brain can't tell the difference and gives you the boost of happy endorphins each time you smile, real or fake.

#7: Mediate

Meditation gives you the time and space to connect with yourself and learn to listen to your intuition and inner guidance – and who wouldn’t feel happier, if they knew they were trusting themselves more? Taking the time out to let the thoughts stop gives you extra space, perspective and clarity in your own mind.

#8: Practice gratitude

Being grateful for what you have, who you are and the life you have, ensures you are keeping your focus on the positive – and what you focus on becomes a reality – so also be grateful for the positive things that are currently heading towards you. Each day find three things to be grateful for, sometimes the small things are the best to be grateful for like tea being made in your favourite mug.

#9: Pass out the hugs

Hugging someone not only passes on a warm feeling, it also builds trust and opens communication, as well as boosts oxytocin levels – healing feelings of loneliness, isolation and anger. Length of hugs can be increased with people you know, so you feel that oxytocin flowing.

#10: Make a change

Sometimes, happiness comes to us when we simply make a decision to change something. So, if what you’re doing isn’t making you happy – look to make a change. When you are ready to make a change, get in touch or sign up for Finding Your Joy Formula

Image © JorgeAlejandro/Dollar Photo Club

The health benefits of the Lotus pose

Category: Article or Blog
Published: Tuesday, 15 September 2015
Written by Sarah PJ White

When it comes to yoga poses, the Lotus pose looks quite simple. Appearances however, can be deceptive, as ‘padmasana’ (the Lotus pose) is not as simple as it looks!

How to get into the Lotus pose

Before you attempt the Lotus pose, if you have any ankle or knee injuries or problems, check with a doctor and only attempt it with an experienced teacher.

  • Start by sitting on a mat with both legs in front of you, spine straight.
  • Bend your right knee and place right foot on left thigh, with your heel close to your abdomen (ensure the sole of your foot is pointed upwards).
  • Repeat with the other leg.
  • Place your relaxed, open hands on your knees (palms facing upwards).
  • Ensure you keep your head straight and your spine erect.
  • Ensure you alternate which leg is on top, every time you do this pose.
  • Watch your breathing – gentle long breaths in and out.

If you struggle to complete the full Lotus pose, you can place just one leg on the other thigh, again alternating every time you do the pose, until you are able to complete the whole pose.

The importance of the Lotus plant

Hindu texts describe the Lotus plant as being able to heal all, as well as awakening the dormant ‘kundalini’ energy at the base of your spine. In Buddhism, the Lotus plant is not only one of the most easily recognised motifs, it’s also seen as a really sacred aquatic plant.

Look at every Buddhist deity and they’re either sat on a Lotus plant or holding one – even Buddha himself is seen with each foot on a Lotus plant. The importance of both the Padmasana position and the Lotus plant in both Buddhist and Hindu life is seen more easily, once you break down the meaning of ‘padmasana’; it comprises of the Sanskrit words ‘padma’ (lotus) and ‘sana’ (meaning seat or throne).

The benefits it has on your physical body

The Lotus pose helps you improve your overall posture, as it helps strengthen your back. It works the lower body particularly well, stretching your ankles, knees and ligaments, whilst also maintaining flexibility in both your back and your knees. It also ensures your spine is stretched and straight, indirectly helping prevent a myriad of problems, including stomach and intestinal discomfort, constipation, lower back and lower joint aches and pains.

Your hips also benefit from the Lotus pose, as it opens up your hips – enabling the ligaments and muscles to be stretched. This also has the added advantage of making painful periods less painful and sciatica

The Lotus pose and pregnancy go together quite well to, with the Lotus pose ensuring both pregnancy and childbirth are less painful and stressful on your hip joints.

The benefits it has on your wellbeing and health

But it isn’t just your physical body that benefits from the Lotus position – your inner health and wellbeing are improved too. Consistently using the Lotus pose will increase your attention span and general awareness, whilst calming the monkey chatter in your brain.

Stretching and moving your muscles and ligaments will also naturally restore your energy levels safely – unlike the ‘false’ energy you get from fast food and chocolate – making it a perfect pose for not just strength, but also meditation, relaxation and stress relief.

 

If you are a beginner to yoga and can't quite get into the Lotus pose yet, why not check out my Yoga for Beginners DVD?

Image courtesy of sepy/Dollar Photo Club