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Postures Influence the Mind

Postures Influence the Mind

Psychological research suggests simple actions and postures can project power, persuade others, increase empathy, boost cognitive performance and more.

We tend to think of body language as something that expresses our internal states to the outside world. But it also works the other way around: the position of our body also influences our mind.

As the following psychological research shows, how we move can drive both thoughts and feelings and this can boost performance.


Simple Postures That Boost Performance

1. Pose for Power
If you want to feel more powerful then adopt a powerful posture. Carney et al. (2010) found that when people stood or sat in powerful poses for one minute—those involving open limbs and expansive gestures—they not only felt more powerful but had increased levels of testosterone flooding their systems. Powerful poses take up more space, so spread your body and open up the arms or legs. When you dominate the space, your mind gets the message.
2. Tense up for Willpower
Tensing up your muscles can help increase your willpower. In a series of 5 studies Hung and Labroo (2011) found that when people firmed up their muscles they were better able to withstand pain, resist tempting food, take an unpleasant medicine and pay attention to disturbing information. So, if you need to increase your willpower, tense your muscles. It should help.
3. Cross Arms for Persistence
If you’re stuck on a problem which needs persistence then try crossing your arms. Friedman and Elliot (2008) had participants do just that and found they worked longer at a set of difficult anagrams. In fact about twice as long. Their persistence led to more correct solutions.
4. Lie Down for Insight
If crossing your arms doesn’t work then try lying down. When Lipnicki and Byrne (2005) had anagram solvers lying down, they solved them faster. Since anagrams are a type of insight problem, lying down may help you reach creative solutions.
5. Nap for Cognitive Performance
While you’re lying down, why not have a nap? Napping is an art-form though. Nap too long and you’ll suffer from sleep inertia: the feeling of being drowsy for an extended period. Nap too little and there’s no point. Where’s the sweet spot?

Brooks & Lack (2005) compared 5, 10, 20 and 30 minute naps to find the best length. For increased cognitive performance, vigour and wakefulness, the best naps were 10 minutes long. Benefits were seen immediately after 10 minute naps but after longer naps it took longer to wake up. Five minute naps only provided half the benefit, but were better than nothing.
6. Gesture for Persuasion
The way people’s hands cut through the air while they talk is fascinating. But it’s more than just a by-product of communication. Maricchiolo et al. (2008) found that hand-gestures help increase the power of a persuasive message when compared to no use of gesture. Most effective are gestures which make what you are saying more understandable. For example, when referring to the past, point behind you.
7. … and Gesture for Understanding
Gestures aren’t only helpful for persuading others, they also help us think. In a study of children, Cook et al. (2007) found that children who were encouraged to gesture while learning, retained more of what they learnt. Moving our hands may help us learn; more generally we actually seem to think with our hands.
8. Smile for Happiness
The very act of smiling can make you feel happy, whether it’s justified or not. Strack et al. (1988) had participants holding pens in their mouths either so that it activated the muscles responsible for smiling, or not. Those whose smiling muscles were activated rated cartoons as funnier than others whose smiling muscles weren’t activated by the pen in their mouth. So, forcing a smile really does make us see the world in a better light.
9. Mimic to Empathize
If you want to get inside someone’s head, you can try copying their behaviour. Those who are good at empathising do it automatically: copying accent, posture, expressions and so on. If you can copy it, you will feel it yourself and then you’ll get a hint of what others are feeling. It’s what actors have known for years: mimicry is a great way of simulating others’ emotional states.
10. Imitate to Comprehend
The idea that copying helps us understand others works for thought as well as emotion. In an experiment by Adank (2010), participants found it easier to decipher an unfamiliar accent if they tried to imitate it themselves. Some psychologists go further, claiming that imitating others helps us predict what they are going to do (e.g. Pickering & Garrod, 2007).

Embodied Cognition

Many of these studies support a theory about human life (and indeed all life) called ‘embodied cognition’. The idea is that we don’t just think with our minds, we also think with our bodies. Our mind isn’t a brain in a jar, it is connected to a body which moves around in an environment.

As life becomes increasingly virtual, played out on screens of varying sizes, we need reminding that the connection between mind and body is two-way. Human intelligence is more than abstract processing power; it’s about the interaction between mind, body and the world around us.




For Wake Up World

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10 Easy Modifications

Sometimes we show up to class and we’re just plain tired. Other times, we want the stretch, but we’re injured. Should we just stay home? Maybe, as in the ‘extreme’ case of being sick, but in many cases, there are ways to modify your yoga practice so that you’ll still reap the rewards of deep breathing and investing time in yourself.

Of course, if you have a specific ailment or condition that needs to be considered, it’s helpful to work with a yoga teacher one-on-one, so you can create a custom sequence that takes your needs into account. Also, it’s best to check with your doctor before starting or continuing a yoga practice.

Having said that, here are my suggestions for 10 easy modifications you can try in your own practice, as you need them:


1. Bend your knees in Downward Facing Dog and any forward fold.

Let’s say you’ve been running a lot and your hamstrings are really tight. While you know the stretch that Downward Dog would provide would be great, it hurts when you actually do it. If that’s the case, keep your knees bent while in the pose.

This doesn’t mean bend them first and then straighten them; it means to keep them slightly bent the whole time. This will relieve some of the stretch on the hamstrings and calves. Apply the same action to forward folds from standing or seated.


2. Drop your knee down in Lunges.

When coming into a Runner’s or Crescent Lunge, drop the knee of the back leg. You’ll still get the hip flexor (Psoas muscle) stretch without all the effort. On a related note, drop your knee in Side Plank to decrease pressure on the supporting arm. This also works if you can’t put full support on your wrists.


3. Use blocks under your hands in Downward Facing Dog.

Sometimes people with wrist tenderness find that using a block (low foam block or high cork block) can decrease the discomfort. This can vary – depending on the person – so if this is something you experience, try it and see if it helps.


4. Skip Low Push Up (In Sun Salutations) and Move directly to Downward Dog from Plank

Just as using blocks can help decrease wrist tenderness, so can eliminating Low Push Up from your practice. When moving through Sun Salutations and coming into High Push Up, move directly to Downward Dog. This also works well if you have a shoulder injury.


5. Skip Upward Dog and replace with Low Cobra instead.

From an overall effort perspective, Upward Dog is a bit more effortful than Low Cobra. It can act as an accessible backbend for someone with sore wrists, a de-conditioned upper body or lower back tenderness.


6. Skip moving to the ground in Sun Salutations and stay on the feet for Warrior Pose

I’ve worked with some students that get dizzy when moving up and down in Sun Salutations. For students with this symptom, staying upright is better. Stay on your feet and hold Warrior 1 a bit longer as the class is moving through High to Low Push Up. If you’re practicing solo, skip moving to the ground and hold Warrior 1 on each side for 5-8 breaths.


7. Use a block for any twisting pose, like Twisting Crescent Lunge and Twisting Triangle

Blocks create steadiness and with increased foundation, we can feel stronger and supported. Use a block on the inside of the foot of the front leg for any twisting pose, like the ones noted above.


8. Use a strap for any bind

Tight shoulders and the constant rounding of the back can create inflexibility around the shoulders and weak upper back muscles. To help strengthen the muscles that draw the shoulder blades together (Rhomboids), and stretch the external rotator muscles of the shoulder (Teres Minor and Infraspinatus), use a strap in any “hands-behind-the-back” bind.


9. Rest in Child’s Pose as much as you want

How many times have you heard this in class and pushed yourself through the class anyway? When you’re coming back from injury or just starting out, or just generally tired, it’s healthy to balance the effort of the practice with rest in between.

As you build up your overall conditioning (and even while you’re doing that), you’ll find moments of rest in the practice. That forward fold in-between poses, or as you come to floor and proceed with floor work, can be moments to catch your breath.


10. Practice 50% physical effort (or anything less than all out pushing yourself)

I was at a teacher training once and about 3 days into it, I had an all-out, full-on breakdown. I was exhausted on all levels and just felt like going home. I called home and my mother said, “Why don’t you practice with less than full out effort and see if you can get through at least the next day?” I had never thought of this.

I tried it…and it worked! I felt better as that next day progressed, and actually felt stronger by the end of the week. We often approach things with an “all or nothing” perspective, and think we’re missing out on the benefits of what we’re doing. But we know that the benefits of yoga practice are plentiful, and many have little do with what poses we’re doing, the pace we’re keeping, if it’s heated or not, and other factors.

The “doing” aspect of yoga is about more than just the poses. Showing up, carving out time for ourselves, being in silence, taking deep breaths — these are all the benefits of the practice. They can be experienced by anyone, regardless of experience level, physical capabilities and knowledge of the practice.

Sometimes, the most illuminating practices happen when we show up with no expectations other than to take care of ourselves. This is, of course, the magic of yoga.

The post 10 Easy Modifications You Can Make to Your Yoga Practice appeared first on by Karen Fabian.

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Surya Namaskar

Surya Namaskar is the famous Sun Salutation exercise of yoga. Traditional Surya Namaskar is a combination of movement and stretching asanas, combined with breathing pranayama, yoga bija mantras, chakra concentration, and bhakti devotion. Surya Namaskar was developed as a complete spiritual practice that integrates every major system of yoga. Surya Namaskar is considered by many experts to be the most complete exercise in the world.


Surya Namaskar sequence

The term Surya Namaskaara means ‘salutation to Sun’. Surya Namaskaara is an exercise sequence, which has both the physical and the spiritual aspects. On the physical side, it involves a series of aasanas or yogic postures, which provide the body with a most complete exercise. Virtually all the parts of the body, including the thoracic and abdominal organs, are exercised and rejuvenated with vitality. Spiritually, the Surya Namaskaara is method of propitiating the Sun-god and enjoying his blessings. These include faster progress in meditation, a sharp intellect, a sound health, and acquisition of spiritual wisdom.

Surya Namaskaara consists of three important elements each of which needs to be carefully attended to for maximum possible benefits. If proper attention is not given to detail, the results may not be attained in full.

1. Asanas or bodily postures : Surya Namaskaara is an exercise sequence involving twelve different body postures, as if to signify the twelve signs of the zodiac through which passage of the Sun results in the formation of twelve months of a year. This exercise involves six postures, which proceed in one direction, and another six, which mark the return to the original position. It is virtually equivalent to the Sun traversing six signs of the zodiac to give rise to one ‘ayana’ of six months and returning through another six signs to give rise to another ayana, thus constituting the Uttaraayana (the northerly course ) and the Dakshinaayana ( the southerly course). The completion of a cycle of Uttaraayana and Dakshinaayana brings the Sun back to its original position from where the next solar cycle starts. Even as the apparent movement of the Sun through the zodiac is of importance to astrologers, so also is the practice of the Surya Namaskaara to them.

2. Breathing : Yogic practices lay great stress on regulation of breathing which helps the yogi to gain control over the life force within the body as well as outside. Synchronisation of breathing with physical postures is thus an important constituent of the practice of Hatha yoga. In Surya Namaskaara the different postures when correctly practised appear rhythmical, one naturally leading to the other. The sequence of breathing, consisting of inhalation, exhalation or retension, has also been advocated as it would most naturally be during the various postures. It requires some extra attention in the beginning to be able to synchronise the breathing with the physical posture. With practice, the sequence of posture and breathing would get integrated and appear natural. Obviously, the best results from the practice of Surya Namaskaara can only be expected when the posture and the breath proceed in harmony.

3. Incantations or Mantras : Surya Namaskaara is not undertaken merely as a physical exercise though it is eminently qualified to be levelled as the most effective bodily exercise. It is practised with a religio-spiritual intent as well. The propitiation of the Sun is one intent, and the consequent spiritual benefit accuring from a benevolent Sun the other. Each of the twelve postures of this exercise sequence is associated with a mantra or potentiated incantation.

A specific mantra has to be chanted as a specific posture in the sequence is attained. it is thus a synchronisation of posture, breath and mantra, all together proceeding in a sequence. Each of the mantras literally is an affirmation salutation to the Sun. But those who know about the mantras are also aware that the literal meaning of a mantra is of little consequence. It is the energy hidden in the structure of the mantra that is of significance. It produces a tremendous impact, often in a highly subtle manner, when uttered in the prescribed manner and sequence. Since the mantras here involve a form of worship of the Sun, the element of devotion becomes important. The Surya Namaskaara is thus a physical exercise (body postures) integrated with praanaayaama (controlled breathing) and devotioned worship (chanting of mantra).

The Sequence of Postures

It is appropriate now to describe the various postures that constitute the different steps of the Surya Namaskaara.

Stand erect facing east, feet together. The feet, buttocks, back, neck and head should lie in the same vertical plane. Fold the two hands together in front of the chest, eyes closed and body relaxed.

Breathe naturally.

The starting shloka : (The prayer.) Dhynam

Dheyah sada savitru mandala madhyawarti Narayanah sarasijasana sannivistahaKeyurawan makara kundalawan kiriti Hari hiranya-maya-vapur-dhruta shankha chakrah.

|| Meaning
Oh! Surya Narayana YOU are the crown glory, carrying shankha chakra in your hands.
YOU are the creator of joy and destroyer of sorrows.
YOU cover the entire universe with the golden twilight.
YOU are the Master, the Provider of the entire universe.
Oh! Sun God make all my efforts as bright and brilliant as the sun in the solar system.

Surya Namaskar sequence

Oordhva Namaskaaraasana ( the prayer with raised arms ) :
Raise both arms above the head, hands folded together. Carry the arms as far back as possible,
extending the spine at the same time.

Inhale the breath while raising the arms.

Hastapaadaasana ( the forward Bending):
Bend forwards, withdraw the stomach and place the palms of both hands on the ground on either side of the of the feet. Keep the legs straight at the knees.

This posture should be attained gently without exerting too much. It may not be possible in the beginning to attain the final position as described here. Exhale while bending forward.

Ashwa Sanchaalanaasana (the horse) :
Retaining the hands where they are ( on the ground on either side of feet), stretch the right leg backwards as far as it goes, bending the left leg at the same time, without altering the position of the left foot Inhale deeply while this posture is being attained.

Parvataasana (the mountain) :
Move the right foot forward and the left foot backwards so that the two feet lie side by side.
Lower the head, left the buttocks as high up as possible. The legs and arms must be straight and the soles of the two feet must be on the ground, the heels also touching the ground.

Ashtanga Namaskaaraasana ( salutation with eight points) :
This posture is so called because eight body points ( two hands, two knees, two feet, chest and forehead) are made to touch the ground. Lower the body and let the feet and the knees touch the ground. Pull the abdomen in while lowering the chest and the forehead to the ground even as the hands remain on the ground close to the chest. The hips and the abdomen have to be pulled up to keep them off the ground. Hold the breath outside.

Sarpaasana ( the cobra ) :
Straighten the arms while arching the head and the spine backwards. Lower the hips. Only the hands and feet should
touch the ground while the rest of the body remains of the ground. Inhale deeply, filling the chest with air.

Parvataasana ( the mountain ) :
Regain the position as shown in fig. 5
Exhale while attaining this position.

Ashwa Sanchaalanaasana ( the horse ) :
Attain the position shown in fig. 4. The right leg must be extended backwards and the left leg brought forwards.
Inhale deeply.

Hastapaadaasana ( the forward bending ) :
Come back to the position shown in fig. 3.
Exhale deeply.

Oordhva Namaskaaraasana ( the prayer with raised arms ) :
Attain the position shown in Fig. 2.
Inhale while the body and the arms are lifted up.

Namaskaaraasana ( the prayer ) :
Return to the same position as Fig. 1.
Breathe normally.





next page next page close Master the breath of fire and it is the key to higher consciousness."
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Yamas & Niyamas

Yamas & Niyamas, #1-2 of 8 rungs (Yoga Sutras 2.30-2.34)

2.30 Non-injury or non-harming (ahimsa), truthfulness (satya), abstention from stealing (asteya), walking in awareness of the highest reality (brahmacharya), and non-possessiveness or non-grasping with the senses (aparigraha) are the five yamas, or codes of self-regulation or restraint, and are the first of the eight steps of Yoga.

2.31 These codes of self-regulation or restraint become a great vow when they become universal and are not restricted by any consideration of the nature of the kind of living being to whom one is related, nor in any place, time or situation.

2.32 Cleanliness and purity of body and mind (shaucha), an attitude of contentment (santosha), ascesis or training of the senses (tapas), self-study and reflection on sacred words (svadhyaya), and an attitude of letting go into one’s source (ishvarapranidhana) are the observances or practices of self-training (niyamas), and are the second rung on the ladder of Yoga.

2.33 When these codes of self-regulation or restraint (yamas) and observances or practices of self-training (niyamas) are inhibited from being practiced due to perverse, unwholesome, troublesome, or deviant thoughts, principles in the opposite direction, or contrary thought should be cultivated.

2.34 Actions arising out of such negative thoughts are performed directly by oneself, caused to be done through others, or approved of when done by others. All of these may be preceded by, or performed through anger, greed or delusion, and can be mild, moderate or intense in nature. To remind oneself that these negative thoughts and actions are the causes of unending misery and ignorance is the contrary thought, or principle in the opposite direction that was recommended in the previous sutra.

Benefits from Yamas & Niyamas (Yoga Sutras 2.35-2.45)

2.35 As a Yogi becomes firmly grounded in non-injury (ahimsa), other people who come near will naturally lose any feelings of hostility.

2.36 As truthfulness (satya) is achieved, the fruits of actions naturally result according to the will of the Yogi.

2.37 When non-stealing (asteya) is established, all jewels, or treasures present themselves, or are available to the Yogi.

2.38 When walking in the awareness of the highest reality (brahmacharya) is firmly established, then a great strength, capacity, or vitality (virya) is acquired.

2.39 When one is steadfast in non-possessiveness or non-grasping with the senses (aparigraha), there arises knowledge of the why and wherefore of past and future incarnations.

2.40 Through cleanliness and purity of body and mind (shaucha), one develops an attitude of distancing, or disinterest towards one’s own body, and becomes disinclined towards contacting the bodies of others.

2.41 Also through cleanliness and purity of body and mind (shaucha) comes a purification of the subtle mental essence (sattva), a pleasantness, goodness and gladness of feeling, a one-pointedness with intentness, the conquest or mastery over the senses, and a fitness, qualification, or capability for self-realization.

2.42 From an attitude of contentment (santosha), unexcelled happiness, mental comfort, joy, and satisfaction is obtained.

2.43 Through ascesis or training of the senses (tapas), there comes a destruction of mental impurities, and an ensuing mastery or perfection over the body and the mental organs of senses and actions (indriyas).

2.44 From self-study and reflection on sacred words (svadhyaya), one attains contact, communion, or concert with that underlying natural reality or force.

2.45 From an attitude of letting go into one’s source (ishvarapranidhana), the state of perfected concentration (samadhi) is attained.

Source: SwamiJ

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Yoga Classes For Beginners

Whether you are new to yoga or have a couple dozen classes under your belt, this is the best place for you to start. We have a wide variety of beginner yoga classes and tutorials for you to choose from. Yoga has a unique way of strengthening and toning your body, improving flexibility and enhancing your sense of well being. Hopefully, this will be the beginning of that great journey for you!

Beginner’s Studio via Do Yoga With Me

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Yoga Breathing Exercises

Yoga Breathing or Pranayama, is the foundation of your yoga practice. It begins with deepening your breathing with the 3-part breath, then moves into more advanced breathing exercises such as Kapalabhati and the Alternate Nostril Breath. Pranayama also goes hand in hand with the Asanas. These two Yogic Principles together are considered as the highest form of purification and self-discipline, covering both mind and body. Our Pranayama videos will guide you through the steps that you need to understand in order to do the breathing excercises effortlessly and effectively.

A collection of yoga breathing exercises with video instruction from Do Yoga With Me

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Yoga Meditations

A collection of yoga meditations with audio instruction from Do Yoga With Me

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Yoga Poses

A collection of yoga poses with video instruction from Do Yoga With Me

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Kundalini Class Yoga for Beginners

Dawn’s lovely energy is perfect for this beginner kundalini yoga class. She introduces basic concepts that will help you for all kundalini classes that you do, then guides you effortlessly through a kriya that is easy to follow and will induce a deep sense of clarity, calm and focus.

View the Kundalini Yoga Beginners Class

Postures Influence the Mind

Psychological research suggests simple actions and postures can project power, persuade...
article post

10 Easy Modifications

Sometimes we show up to class and we’re just plain tired. Other times, we want the...
article post

Surya Namaskar

Surya Namaskar is the famous Sun Salutation exercise of yoga. Traditional Surya Namaskar...
article post
"Master the breath of fire and it is the key to higher consciousness."
article post

Yamas & Niyamas

Yamas & Niyamas, #1-2 of 8 rungs (Yoga Sutras 2.30-2.34) 2.30 Non-injury or...
article post

Yoga Classes For Beginners

Whether you are new to yoga or have a couple dozen classes under your belt, this is the...
article post

Yoga Breathing Exercises

Yoga Breathing or Pranayama, is the foundation of your yoga practice. It begins with...
article post

Yoga Meditations

A collection of yoga meditations with audio instruction from Do Yoga With...
article post

Yoga Poses

A collection of yoga poses with video instruction from Do Yoga With...
article post

Kundalini Class Yoga for Beginners

Dawn’s lovely energy is perfect for this beginner kundalini yoga class. She...
article post