ASK NOT IF YOU CAN DO YOGA, BUT WHAT YOGA CAN DO FOR YOU

When I was a kid I could do just about anything with my body, I could do flips, back bends, any kind of split, and tricks that all of the other kids were doing. We moved and ran and jumped all day. As an adult I watch my kids do those same things and I’m certain in saying these once-simple activities would put me in my grave. Not only do I not have the energy to keep up, but my body just doesn’t move, stretch, and bend like that anymore.

I can’t help but wonder what happened.

There is no question that kids move more (and have more energy) than their adult counterparts. The fact is that we were once kids too.  But throughout the years we became adults, and in the process we stopped moving and wriggling and squirming from Point A to Point B. Jumping on the trampoline for hours isn’t deemed a worthwhile activity for college students, and I have never seen a group of adults challenging their friends to try a trick they just learned. Like me, you may be thinking, “yeah, because we would break every bone in our bodies, and our joints can’t handle it anymore!” High impact acrobatics may induce winces and groans the older we get, but there are things that we can do to maintain strength, flexibility, and boost our energy as adults without beating our bodies up.

One of my favorite low-impact activities is yoga.

THE PHYSICAL BENEFITS OF YOGA

Yoga has many physical benefits that you might not even know about. Yoga improves your flexibility and muscle strength, helps with bones and joints, and it helps your circulatory system.

Have you ever observed the frame of the typical yogi (a person who practices yoga)? They are generally thin, but have noticeable muscle strength. That’s the difference between other strength training exercises and Yoga: when a person does yoga they don’t trade in their flexibility for muscle strength; they work on both at the same time. Yoga allows you to build muscle while you also stretch, giving you that coveted ‘long and lean’ look.

Yoga also gets your heart pumping and your blood flowing more freely, which helps circulation, especially in your hands and feet. As blood starts to flow freely, the oxygenated blood allows all of your systems to function better overall.

But for me, yoga carries an even more exciting benefit. While you are changing positions and stretching your body in ways you otherwise wouldn’t move, your organs are moving and being stretched as well, a process that has been shown to drain your lymphatic system! This system is primarily responsible for fighting infection and destroying cancerous cells by flushing out the toxic waste stored in the lymph nodes. That benefit alone should make yoga appealing to anybody!

P.S. You can learn some of the lymph draining stretches in this video:

MENTAL AND EMOTIONAL BENEFITS OF YOGA

As if the many physical benefits of yoga aren’t enough, there are some incredible mental benefits as well!

Three major victories yogis experience include improved focus; long-lasting stress relief; and deeper, more fulfilling sleep. As you work through each individual exercise and movement transition, yoga naturally strengthens your brain’s ability to slip into deep focus. Yoga offers you a short but powerful opportunity to withdraw from the stress in day to day life, relaxing your nervous system and allowing your mind and body to go into a deeper more comfortable sleep.

PRACTICE YOGA AS
YOU MEDITATE TO
INCREDIBLE VIEWS
OF EARTH.

Calming Aerial Videos

Download Sky Tripping today and experience the peace and tranquility of immersive aerial videos in nature.  DOWNLOAD TODAY»

Like any healthy, positive trend you adopt, yoga offers you a way to develop coping skills and form a more positive outlook on life. Regular yoga practice creates mental clarity and calmness, increases body awareness, relieves chronic stress patterns, relaxes the mind, centers attention, and sharpens concentration.

If yoga isn’t something you do regularly already, you can start by adding some basic stretches (like the ones in the above video) a couple times a week. As you do, be sure to pay attention to the changes you experience, and ask yourself if you notice increased balance in body, mind, or both.

Have you thought about taking up yoga? Are you a seasoned yogi already? Share your thoughts, questions, and tips with us in the comments!

3 TIPS TO INSTANTLY IMPROVE MENTAL FOCUS

Imagine this: You wake up early on a Saturday morning so you can accomplish those really important tasks you’ve been putting off for months.  You zip through your morning routine like a champ, and you’re feeling optimistic — today is the day you conquer the world.

You’re clothed, fed, and ready to squash those projects that have been nagging at the back of your brain when suddenly you get broadsided by the unexpected, and before you know it your plan is unraveling like a cheap rug.

First you’re interrupted by your youngest child who’s up early demanding an order of your world-famous Dino Pancake Special™. While mixing up her favorite flapjacks, you look out the window and notice the sprinkler head has exploded.  Before you can rush outside, your nose guides you to the sloppy surprise that little Fluffy has left for you on the couch.  In a matter of minutes your plans have been obliterated and your productivity has been decimated. If you’re a human, you can probably relate.

Daily distractions, workplace stress, lack of sleep; there are countless things that can dull our focus. Sure, there are pharmaceuticals or even natural remedies you can purchase to help you focus, and it can seem daunting when trying to find an effective method to increase daily focus. But there’s good news: the science shows that the simplest, most natural, and most accessible options are best. Keep reading for some quick tips to maximize your effectiveness on a daily basis.

MEDITATE, OR JUST TAKE A QUIET BREAK

Before you start a new project (or if you are struggling to focus on the current task) stop what you are doing and take a 5-minute break. It may seem counter-productive to stop working when you’re in a hurry, but a short “reset period” has actually been shown to improve focus and increase productivity.

This is an ideal time to clear your mind, meditate, and regain your focus. Meditation can seem like a daunting or complex concept, but as Eckhart Tolle said, “One conscious breath in and out is a meditation”. You don’t have to wear a monastic robe or go by the name of Gandhi to enjoy the tremendous benefits mediation has to offer.  Concentrate on your body and mind. Simply controlling your breathing and listening as you slowly inhale and exhale can help you remove mental distractions and bring your focus back.

GET MENTALLY AND PHYSICALLY COMFORTABLE

Get organized. If you are like me, it can take more than a few moments to get back to my same thoughts after I do something small like taking a call or answering an email or text. Our brains struggle when they don’t have a clear idea what we need to work on. Consciously deciding to postpone many of these smaller, common tasks may be difficult at first, but you can experience massive productivity gains by momentarily saying no to the outside distractions.

Notice anything that is calling your attention, mentally or physically, and clear these distractions out of your way. Put the loudly-ticking clock in a drawer or an adjacent room.  Remove the restrictive suit coat.  Power off your phone (the world won’t end if you’re off the grid for a few minutes). Listen to your body and remove things that are distracting to you.

Many beginner and veteran meditators alike report that listening to music, nature sounds, or white noise is a helpful meditation tool. I’ve even learned that these audio tools not only improve my personal meditation, but they help me stay focused and reduce outside distractions while I’m working as well.

Even the simplest meditations offer tremendous benefits to your daily focus, but you probably wouldn’t be reading this if you were perfect at controlling your attention. Soon you’ll be a master at shutting out distractions and commanding immersive focus at-will, but in the meantime you may find yourself yearning to empty your proverbial plate before feeling like you can sit quietly long enough to meditate. If you have some papers to shuffle, a pending phone call, or a few odds & ends that will bring big relief and can be done quickly, do those first.

 Getting as those pesky little distractions off your to do list is a great way to clear your mind and focus on what is in front of you — just be sure you don’t forget what you’re working toward.  Set a time limit if you have to, and be sure to follow through on your quiet time.

EXERCISE MIND AND BODY

Exercise and nature can drastically improve your focus. If you can go for a quick walk outside or just do some stretches in your office it will help to wake up your body and brain and get them working together.

Don’t let your mind or body be idle. Sometimes just going dormant can seem like a good idea when you are under a lot of stress but that is like feeding your body junk food to prepare to run a marathon. Instead of brainlessly surfing social media in-between projects or letting your mind and body sit idle while waiting for a meeting, try instead using that time to do some light exercise or even a crossword puzzle to keep your body and mind ready and engaged.

SEE STUNNING
VIEWS OF EARTH
FROM THE COMFORT
OF YOUR COUCH.

Calming Aerial Videos

Download Sky Tripping today and experience the peace and tranquility of immersive aerial videos in nature.  DOWNLOAD TODAY»

MY PERSONAL TAKEAWAYS

Getting focused and staying there can be a challenge for any of us. There are many ways that you can keep distractions from derailing your plans, but the area where I can get the most gains right now is taking a couple extra minutes to focus on me. In the long run, taking time out to re-center myself saves me from time I would have spent stressed or distracted, and I’m always more productive in the end.

What do you do to stay focused and sharp?  Leave your thoughts in the comments!

2 THINGS YOU SHOULD TRY RIGHT NOW TO REDUCE STRESS AND IMPROVE WELLNESS

NATURE — WHAT IS IT GOOD FOR?

reduce stress and improve wellness by spending time in nature

As a modern society, we have experienced incredible advancements in our daily lives. Many of the advancements we enjoy today are nothing if not miraculous, and it’s not hard to see how we are better off and happier for our contemporary lifestyles. However, not all of these changes come without a cost. For example, according to a recent study by the National Academy of Sciences, the average person has experienced a 25% reduction in “nature-based recreation” over the last 50 years. This can have significant impacts on our short-term mental and physical health, which can in turn have serious effects on our quality of life in the long-run. But the good news is that with a few simple hacks (which you’ll be reading about within the next five minutes), you can negate these ill-effects and greatly increase your daily sense of peacefulness.

YOU’RE NOT CRAZY, YOU’RE JUST HUMAN.

We have long winters where I come from. This isn’t just your regular three months off-and-on, snowy, crisp-aired, stock-photography weather that makes you want to snuggle up in a sweater and drink cocoa. I could handle that.

The Farmers Almanac says that the winter season starts December 21st and goes to march 20th. I am not exactly sure where that farmer lives, but around here our winters go from October to May; the temperature regularly bottoms out at -20°F and rarely (if ever) goes above 30°F.

Sure, that first snow is lovely, but for me it leaves a pit in my stomach — almost as if I just found myself stranded on a desert island — because I know what is to come.

I don’t do well inside for months on end, and I loathe being cold. My body looks forward to that first warm day as winter wanes, when I can go outside and feel the sun. This is not a want, mind you — it’s a need. If you’re nodding your head in agreement, you’ve no doubt had the same yearning. But even if you have a higher tolerance for being continually cooped up, you might be missing out on the benefits that come with immersing yourself in nature every now and again.

BUT WHAT CAN WE DO ABOUT IT?

Countless studies exploring the effect of nature on health have been performed, and the results are striking. Whether it’s a boost in vitamin D from a little sunlight or the chance to improve lung health from a dose of fresh air, the combination of “all things nature” has measurable, positive effects. And there are dozens or more measured outcomes, too.

We’ve all heard the term ‘cabin fever’, and I can tell you it is a real thing. But there’s something about just getting outside or enjoying nature that helps so much with my personal overall wellness.

And Dr. Daphne Miller agrees with me. A professor of family and community medicine, Dr. Miller calls the all-too-common ailments of hypertension, anxiety, depression, and diabetes the diseases of indoor living.

reduce stress and improve wellness by spending time in nature

Many other studies have proven that being outside helps in a wide range of areas including improved attention spans, emotional stability, empathy, love, and even your immune system. Spending time in nature has even been shown as a powerful way to reduce stress.  The Tokyo’s Nippon medical School found that men and women who spent just a few hours in the woods over the span of two days had an increase in virus- and tumor-fighting white blood cells. The boost even lasted at least seven days after they returned from their visit to the woods. This is incredible!

Bonus! You can still reap many of the benefits of spending time in nature even if you can’t get outside today. According to a study in the Korean Journal of Radiology, pictures of scenic, natural landscapes activate the same area of the brain that get activated when someone remembers a happy memory.

MY PERSONAL TAKEAWAY

Whether it’s a long, cold winter or just a couple mid-summer days working indoors, it doesn’t take long for the cravings for the outdoors to creep up on me. Working in the garden, going for a walk, or just sitting outside and meditating — I’ve learned that being outside (or at minimum finding some calming videos or sounds of nature) on a regular basis is a pre-requisite for my well-being.

WHAT YOU SHOULD DO ABOUT IT

Get out, go for a walk, enjoy nature, meditate, and strengthen you body and mind! Do it today! But what if a short love-affair with nature is incompatible with your schedule or location? No need to get blue about it. Pull up some outdoor pictures on your phone or play nature sounds in your office and relax as your reconnection with nature elevates your mind and calms your body. But don’t take our word for it. Give it a try now and see for yourself!

SEE STUNNING
VIEWS OF EARTH
FROM THE COMFORT
OF YOUR COUCH.

Calming Aerial Videos

Download Sky Tripping today and experience the peace and tranquility of immersive aerial videos in nature.  DOWNLOAD TODAY»

WHO WOULD I RECOMMEND THIS BLOG POST TO?

We all know someone that’s stressing out a little (or a lot). But how often do we take stock of our emotional state and identify our own need to step away, take a breath, and re-center ourselves? If you’re a regular meditator, an avid outdoorsman or woman, or one who enjoys abundant moments alone in your own thoughts, then this post probably isn’t going to be an epiphany. However, if you find yourself regularly feeling the effects of stress or overwhelm, then you’re bound to benefit from adding some nature to your day. And if you know someone who could make time to consciously seek peacefulness in their life, then remember to share this post with them!