Yoga lifestyle and healthy living can be rather simple, returning to harmonious living with your bodies, animals, humans and the world around us.
Have you ever been at the airport, on a plane or a bus and felt like you really needed to stretch? You start wishing you could just get where you’re going to do some yoga to ease that stiff back or those tight shoulders. Well, there’s good news: you don’t have to wait! With some creativity and modifications you can always practice yoga. “If you can breathe you can do yoga,” says the yoga master Krishnamacharya.
Here are some “chair yoga” ideas you can use on a plane, train, or bus (or at your desk, in a wheelchair…):
Sitting Mountain Meditation
1. As a starting point, sitting tall yet relaxed is the key to many meditation postures and breathing exercises (pranayama). Then simply become aware of your body sitting, allowing a natural stretch in your spine and feeling your lower body release downward and as your spine lengthens upwards.
2. Next, begin to simply observe your breath just as it is, without any effort or strain. This may take a little while, but the result is naturally calming. Keep bringing your focus back to your breath.
3. You can then add a basic breathing exercise: inhale slowly for 3 counts, then exhale slowly for 3 counts. Continue for a few rounds, possibly adding a stress-free 1-3 count pause in between each inhale and exhale. As you settle in, you can try 4 counts, then 5. The important thing is not to force anything.
4. You can also add a mantra, such as “so hum,” (meaning “I am”) or simply OM. Add the mantra silently inside yourself as you inhale and again as you exhale. Mantras calm and help focus the mind adding benefit to your breathing exercise.
Upward Hand Pose
Wherever you are sitting right now, try this re-energizing 1-minute yoga break.
1. Inhale and lift your arms up overhead. Exhale as you lower your arms. Stay aware of your lower body’s connection with the seat and move slowly.
2. Repeat 5-10 times or hold the arms overhead for 3-5 slow, deep breaths, then exhale as you lower them.
3. Sit and relax for a few moments after.
Benefits: This energizes the body, stretches the spine and waist, and increases mobility to the shoulder joint.
Seated Spinal Twist (Ardha Matsyendrasana)
1. Sit tall and away from the back of your chair or seat on the plane. Cross your legs fully or just the ankles.
2. Inhale slowly. Exhale as you twist to one side. Keep the head centered over your spine and twist gently and evenly throughout the entire spine.
3. Hold for 1-3 slow, deep breaths or as long as comfortable.
Benefits: Twists release back tension, help the digestive organs, and calm the nervous system. They also increase spinal flexibility.
Precautions: If pregnant, for all twists, do not twist through the torso (belly). Twist only from the area above the ribcage (all trimesters). For whiplash or neck pain, keep the head facing forward or as comfortable.
Arrival Recuperation/Legs Up on a Chair
1. Sit down on the floor with the side of your body facing the chair front. Lower yourself down to your elbows then onto your back, using your hands and arms to support you.
2. Then bring the legs up on the chair. Place the hands about one foot from the hips with the palms facing up towards the sky. Keep the head centered over the spine.
3. Close your eyes and enjoy some slow, deep breathing. Relax your body and mind, settle in, and let go. Stay in the posture for 3 to 5 minutes, or longer if you are comfortable.
4. To come out lower the knees to the chest and pause. Then roll to one side and pause again. Use your arms to come up to sitting. (You can use the support of the chair if you need as well.) Slowly let the head come up last and sit quiet for a few movements and meditate on the breath. Observe the calm that this posture creates.
Benefits: This posture eases the low back, balances the body’s energy, and is said to help alleviate jetlag and insomnia.
Remember, yoga IS for everyone! So go ahead: stay seated and do some yoga today. Inhale, sit tall, exhale, relax.
By Stacie Dooreck, Author of SunLight Chair Yoga: yoga for everyone! books, Stress Manamgement Specialist for the Ornish Heart Disease Reversal Program and Cetified Yoga Instructor for Bay Area companies and the SunLight Chair Yoga teacher training. www.sunlightyoga.com
I found an old article "How to Meditate", that I wrote for a women's health club I was teaching for in Albuquerque, New Mexico. This was in the 1990's! I am still meditating daily in 2019 and can't express enough the power and peace as well as inner transformation daily meditation can bring. Words will not express it exactly, so you must try it and experience for yourself the benefits.
I have my father to thank, who would tell me to "meditate, meditate, meditate" when I was in high school. I waited a few years later to start (as a freshman in college), because as teens we don't always listen to our parents. Once I started, I see why he have such simple yet powerful advice. My daily practiced deepened during a month living at the Sivananda Yoga Ashram in Canada, during my first yoga teacher training in 1995. The Sivanadna ashrams worldwide have 6am and 8pm daily 30 minute meditations every day.
I can offer the same directions now, in 2019, as I wrote in the 1996 article "How to Meditate". Some simple steps to meditation are below. There are many ways to meditate. This is just one. Try it! After 2-3 weeks of daily practice, even just 5-10 minutes a day, reflect on how this has changed your life, or perhaps just your ability to manage stress and feel more peace.
Here are some basic steps to meditation:
Meditation brings inner peace, mental calm, clarity and even creativity. A daily routine to meditate is best. But any amount will help.
Om shanti, Om peace.
By Stacie Dooreck, author of SunLight Chair Yoga: yoga for everyone! and Yoga for everyone books and online teacher trainings/courses, Stress Management Specialist for the Ornish Heart Disease Reversal Program in N. CA and Bay Area, CA "office yoga" instructor. www.sunlightyoga.com
Photo below: Sunrise at the Ganges River, Rishikesh India at Divine Life Society Ashram, on Swami Sivananda's porch. 2016
Meditation is an effective and simple tool for stress reduction, calming the mind, gaining clarity, increasing intuition, and concentration.
However, it only works when you do it!
Thinking of meditation, intending to practice, and learning it’s philosophy is helpful. But that alone will not give you the fruits of the practice.
Try it now with these 10 simple steps:
1. Find a quiet place.
2. Sit in a comfortable position, with spine tall but not tense. If a chair is more comfortable, you can sit tall with feet on the floor. Support the low back with a pillow if needed.
3. Close your eyes.
4. Bring yourself into the present moment. Become aware of your body and surroundings.
5. Take a few deep breaths and then sigh them out.
6. Inhale through the nose. Exhale through the mouth or nose. Start to regulate the breath. Begin slow, rhythmic, deep breathing.
7. Start to observe the breath.
8. Allow the mind to wander at first. It may jump around, but will eventually become quiet.
9. Focus on a point between the eyebrows or the heart area where the mind can rest.
10. When the mind drifts, bring it back to the moment and become aware of the breath.
Start with one minute a day and increase as time goes on. Practice, practice, practice.
There will be days where you don’t want to meditate. I find that keeping a consistent practice, even if you meditate for only five minutes, will keep the momentum going. Try not to miss more than one day a week.
Be patient with yourself—the practice takes time to develop.
If you meditate daily, you will be able to face life with more peace and inner strength. The benefits are worth it.
Article by Stacie Dooreck, author of SunLight Chair YOga and Yoga for everyone books and online courses. Photo taken at the the Rishikesh, India Divine Life Society Sivananda Yoga Ashram
In modern society there is not only a push to do more and achieve more, but a constant bombardment from media to consume more. This is taught by media images and advertisements that try to convince us that the external consumption of material things will give us greater happiness and peace of mind.
However, the truth that the yogis teach is that the way to true inner peace has nothing to do with things on the outside, nor what we accomplish, achieve and obtain — or even from what we do. Instead, the yogis teach us that being in touch with the essence of who we really are, the innermost Self, is the key to inner and lasting peace. This can be realized with a few simple steps a day, practicing some simple yogic tools to connect us with our true nature. It is in this connection with the deepest part of us of that we can experience the simplicity and joy of just “being.”
Swami Vishnudevananda, who founded the Sivananda Yoga centers and ashrams in the U.S., said, “It is impossible to find peace outside. If you want to find peace, you have to look for peace where it is. If you want to find peace, you must first of all find it within. If you find this peace within, you will also find it outside. So if you want to have external peace, find, first of all, the peace within.”
His guru, Sivananda, said, “To achieve that state of lasting happiness and absolute peace, we must first know how to calm the mind, to concentrate and go beyond the mind. By turning the mind’s concentration inward, upon the self, we can deepen that experience of perfect concentration. This is the state of Meditation.”
To sit and do nothing but observe the breath, perhaps a sound (mantra) or other tools to calm the mind, brings so many benefits. It is so simple that many people overlook it and seek external ways to find peace. When we start to meditate, and sit still, for even a few minutes a day, we may see that truly “less is more,” as joy and peace is obtained not in the “doing” but by the “being” of your true nature.
To make our lives more simple and create a few more minutes a day to meditate and “be” with our innermost Self, we can follow some basic ideas from the yogic way of living.
Yoga, or “union,” is an ancient science to help us reach a greater connection with ourselves and the world around us. Yoga includes postures (asanas), breathing exercises (pranayama), chanting, relaxation, meditation, nonviolent actions and diet (vegetarian) and healthy, balanced eating and living. Even trying small steps from the yogic ideas brings greater health and balance and can impact our life in beneficial ways.
Everyone can benefit from yoga, because yoga can be modified to suit your needs. The benefits are numerous, ranging from pain relief to peace of mind.
A simple way to think of it is that yoga can be summarized as a full lifestyle. Swami Vishnudevananda condensed the essence of the yoga teachings into five principles for physical and mental health, as well as spiritual growth:
Using these five principals for a holistic yogic lifestyle for inner peace, outer health and harmony with animals and the earth, plus some additional ideas suggested here, can contribute more simplicity, more peace and greater harmony to our day.
10 Ideas to Simplify Our Lives:
Eat a little, drink a little,
Talk a little, sleep a little,
Mix a little, move a little,
Serve a little, rest a little
Work a little, relax a little,
Study a little, worship a little,
Do Asanas (yoga postures) a little, Pranayamas (yogic breathing exercises) a little,
Reflect a little, Meditate a little,
Do Japa (mantra repetition) a little, do Kirtan (devotional chanting) a little,
Write Mantra a little, have Satsanga (gathering of spiritually like minded people) a little.
Serve, Love, Give, Purify, Meditate, Realize.
Be Good, Do good; Be kind, Be compassionate.
Enquire “Who am I?” Know the Self and be Free.
Stacie Dooreck has been teaching yoga for 20 years, teaches Chair yoga at California assisted living homes, leads the SunLight Chair Yoga Teacher Trainings and wrote the book SunLight Chair Yoga: Yoga for Everyone! Visit www.sunlightchairyoga.com.
*This article was also published in the Edge Magazine, 2015.
Stacie Dooreck is the author SunLight Chair Yoga: yoga for everyone !and Yoga for Everyone! books and ebook. Stacie is a Stress Management Specialist for the Ornish Heart Disease Reversal Program in N. CA and wellness instructor of companies. Stacie is a based in Marin/Bay Area CA and is a certified Sivanadna Yoga instructor since 1995, a Kundalini Yoga and Gentle Integral Yoga Certified instructor.