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Sunday, December 14, 2014

Yoga Sparks (recommended book)
“Despite the common misconception that yoga is primarily a form of physical exercise, this ancient discipline is actually a practice of awareness designed to quiet your mind and help you connect with your true self.”

Yoga Sparks, by experienced yoga instructor and health writer Carol Krucoff, brings together 108 “micropractices” that focus on the four main aspects of yoga:

Posture Sparks, or asanas, are what we commonly think of as “yoga.” Beginners will particularly appreciate: 

  • Gentle, modified versions of Mountain Pose, Back Bends, and Downward-Facing Dog, and 
  • Stretches and self-massage to release tension in the shoulders, neck, hands, and feet

There are also several different types of breathing exercises (pranayama) to calm down or become more alert, including:
  • Extended Exhalation
  • Alternate Nostril Breathing, and 
  • “Shower Om”

Brief meditations are designed to help with typical everyday challenges, like:

  • "Boot Up, Download, or On Hold Meditation," and 
  • Coping with difficult people by looking for a positive quality (or by imagining them sleeping peacefully in polka-dot pajamas)

Finally, "Principle Sparks" are guidelines for ethical behavior, including Nonstealing and Nonharming. Of course, we all assume we don’t do these things, but as Ms. Krucoff points out: 

If you’ve ever… felt drained after listening to a chronic complainer, or heard that someone else took credit for your work, you know that it’s possible to steal more than material goods.
And while most of us don’t engage in physical violence, 
Practicing ahimsa also invites us to abstain from other forms of violence that may be less obvious yet all too common in daily life, such as starting or listening to gossip, aggressive driving, … or being sarcastic at others’ expense.

It can be hard to fit a mindfulness practice into an already-packed schedule. But even at the busiest times, we all have at least a minute to stretch, take a deep breath, calm down, and remember our priorities. Trying just one or two "Yoga Sparks" every day can lead to significant benefits.

You can start with this sample activity: 
Relaxed Abdominal Breath: Stress Reduction Through Mindful Breathing