Breathe deeply and excitedly because today you get to hear from qualified yoga teacher, holistic wellbeing expert, midlifer herself, Randi Ragan. And she’s so cute to boot, don’t you think?! Get blissed out reading her guest post below. Then PUH-LEEZE breezy breathe over to visit her site, RandiRagan.com.
By Randi Ragan
Yoga has gone mainstream, as you’ve no doubt noticed. And for good reason. More people than ever before (some 20 million of us) are enjoying the countless benefits a regular yoga practice confers. This number continues to grow as our culture continues to integrate more and more technology into our lives, up the pace of our work days, and wrestle with a changing world that frankly, on some days, seems beyond our comprehension. When polled, most yoga practitioners generally cite “stress reduction” as the main reason they’ve investigated yoga in the first place. Reducing stress is why they keep coming back, during all ages and phases of their lives.
(To lower your stress even more, check out Randi’s two part series, Stress Be Gone, Part One and Part Two).
In particular, women over fifty would seem to be ideal candidates for realizing the stress reducing benefits of yoga. Between parenting their children, taking care of aging parents, and figuring out how to save for retirement, midlife women have major changes happening in their lives and bodies, including:
- disrupted sleep
- slowed metabolism
- less peace of mind
If you haven’t taken the opportunity to try yoga for yourself, here are five great reasons you may want to check it out.
- Yogic breathing techniques flood the brain with oxygen. This type of breathing immediately lowers blood pressure and confers a relaxed and harmonious state on the mind. Try the 4-7-8 method: Inhale through the nose for 4 counts, hold the breath for 7, and exhale through the mouth for 8.
- Yoga postures known as “twists,” create a gentle “squeeze and soak” action on the spine and spinal fluid. During a twist, the spine is compressed slightly. This compression squeezes out blood and spinal fluid filled with metabolic by-products and toxins. When we release from a twist, fresh blood flows in, carrying oxygen which repairs, heals, and settles the nervous system. A healthy nervous system allows us to adapt to, and live more efficaciously, in our environment.
- Balancing postures focus a racing and distracted mind (known as “monkey mind”) which is a primary instigator for stress. Worrying about the future, rehashing the past – these are states of mind that predictably cause anxiety. When you have to focus on keeping your balance, your mind has to quiet, and you come into the present moment, the perfect antidote to stress.
- Have you ever felt suddenly dizzy or nauseous, and the people around you helped you sit in a chair, and then advised you to bend over and hang your head toward the floor? And didn’t this work marvelously at suddenly calming your upset systems? In yoga, we call postures that mimic this same effect “inversions.” They are considered the primary stress-relieving, mind-calming poses. When the brain is situated lower than the heart, oxygen rushes to it, and the central nervous system is soothed and nourished. Inversions are also metaphorically used to help us see things in a different way (upside down). Sometimes all that’s needed to help us release stress over a situation is to see it from a new perspective.
- The hip area has lots of deep muscles that can be difficult to access, so it’s where large pockets of stress and tension are often stored in our bodies. This comes about from sitting too much, previous injuries (knee and back weaknesses are the main culprits for locked down hips), and unresolved emotional issues which are stored here. Additionally, the pelvic region is where the reproductive organs are located, so women in general have a lot going on in this area. Yogic hip openers gently release this blockage and break through accumulated tension, immediately giving a sense of uplift and release – both emotionally and physically.
Yoga originally was designed to subtly affect the body for the purpose of insight or self-knowledge. With regular practice, yoga confers a calm fluidity from its baseline cultivation of internal grace. Yoga also breaks up the patterns that bind us, transforming our energy. Through the practice of the physical postures, our mental, emotional and spiritual postures begin to change as well. They become more balanced, calm, and focused, giving us a new way of coping with life’s inevitable ups and downs.
Holistic Wellbeing expert Randi Ragan is the author of A Year Of Living Mindfully: Seasonal Practices to Nurture Body, Mind and Spirit, to be published in 2016 by Quest Books. She can be found at randiragan.com, her mindful living almanac and blog, and @randiragan on Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook, with daily inspiration for vibrant seasonal living. She is also the founder and owner of the award-winning GreenBliss EcoSpa, named one of Los Angeles’s Top 10 Holistic Spas its very first year in business (2006). Prior to being a business owner, Randi was a yoga and meditation teacher for 12 years. During that time she led yoga and spiritual retreats in California, Mexico and Hawaii, and formed The Blessing Works, which specialized in the creation of customized healing ceremonies and rituals for its clients. Randi lives in Los Angeles with her husband and 13 year old daughter.
Readers: Help Randi feel welcome by commenting below. What do you do to reduce stress? Have you tried yoga? How did your body respond?