Fitness Magazine

Opening Your Yoga Toolbox

By Ninazolotow @Yoga4HealthyAge
by Nina

Opening Your Yoga Toolbox

by Van Gogh

Did you know you have a your own personal box of yoga tools in your yoga room, your yoga corner, or that empty strip between the TV and the couch? And that when you’ve experiencing some physical or emotional difficulty, or if you just want to work on your overall wellbeing, you can open up that toolbox, select a few tools and get to work?
Yes, it’s kind of like Christmas, so let’s open up the box and see what’s inside! Ooh, it’s very well organized. We’ve got three basic types of tools:
1. Physical health tools for body and brain
2. Stress management tools
3. Equanimity tools
Yes, your toolbox is very full! And before we can talk about how to use all those tools—we’ll be getting to that in future posts—it’s good idea to learn a little more about each of them. So let’s take a closer look….
Physical Health Tools
Although people tend to think of yoga poses as “just stretching,” the full asana practice is much more comprehensive. Weight-bearing poses strengthen muscles and bones, including those in upper and lower body, keeping us fit and help to prevent osteoarthritis and osteoporosis. Balancing poses and flow yoga train us to be steady and agile on our feet, preventing falls and allowing us to move through the world with ease and self-confidence. Inverted poses lower blood pressure and improve circulation, benefitting physical as well as brain health. The stretching poses are invaluable as well, because being able to bend and reach and twist are essential for staying active and independent.
Since our toolbox is very organized, we’re going to divide the physical health tools into five categories:
Strength Poses and Practices. Maintaining muscle strength helps combat sarcopenia and maintains joint health. Maintaining bone strength helps combat osteopenia and osteoporosis. In general, maintaining strength allows you to be physically active and independent.  Classic examples include Warrior 2 and Downward-Facing Dog poses.
Flexibility Poses and Practices. Maintaining flexibility of both muscles and fascia preserves range of motion in the joints, fostering joint health and improving arthritis symptoms, and allows you to participate in a wide range of physical activities. Classic examples include Reclined Leg Stretch pose and Cow-Face pose.

Balance Poses and Practices.
Maintaining the ability to balance is crucial for preventing falls, and enabling you to be physically active and independent. Classic examples include all wide-legged standing poses as well as balancing poses like Tree pose and Half Moon pose.

Agility Poses and Practices
Maintaining agility increases your reaction time in the real world, preventing injuries and allowing you to keep up with a wide range of physical activities. Classic examples include moving in and out of poses with your breath, as well as linked sequences of poses.

Circulation Poses and Practices.
Improving circulation returns venous and lymphatic fluids to the heart, lowering blood pressure and improving heart health. Classic examples include inversions, such as Legs Up the Wall pose, and moving in and out of poses with the breath.
Baxter will be writing about these five different categories in the weeks to come so you can learn more about the essential poses in each category and how you can use them.

Stress Management Tools

Reducing stress can help prevent major age-related diseases, including heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes. It helps prevent depression, anxiety, insomnia, obesity and digestive problems. Stress reduction also bolsters your immune system and reduces inflammation, which help promote overall health. Yoga’s stress management tools all provide you, in different ways, with the ability to switch your nervous system from Stress response (Fight or Flight mode) to Relaxation mode (Rest and Digest mode), thereby reducing your overall stress levels and allowing you to experience the benefits of conscious relaxation. In this category, we have six basic tools:

This practice triggers the relaxation response through your focus on an object of meditation. Options include both seated and reclined meditation, with a mental focus of the breath or other physical sensations, mantra or sound, and visual imagery.

Breath Practices.
These practices trigger the relaxation response either through providing a mental focus, or by slowing the breath or extending the exhalation. Breath practices can be performed either seated or reclined.

Restorative Yoga.
These poses provide deep physical relaxation by supporting and relaxing your body, and can trigger the relaxation response if you practice them with a mental focus. Classic examples are Reclined Cobbler’s pose and Supported Child’s pose.

Supported Inversions.
These poses use gravity to trigger the relaxation response through the mechanisms that control your blood pressure. Classic examples are Legs Up the Wall pose and Supported Bridge pose.
Savasana. This pose, in both plain and supported forms, provides deep physical relaxation for your body and can trigger the relaxation response if you practice it with a mental focus.
Guided Relaxation. Allows you to achieve both physical relaxation and reduce stress levels by guiding you through a deep physical relaxation experiencing and providing mental imagery that harnesses you to the present. 
Equanimity Tools
Physical poses and stress management practices help us to remain grounded, staving off anxiety and depression. And the wisdom of yoga teaches us to cultivate equanimity in the face of life’s challenges. Contentment—and even happiness—naturally arises when we make peace with what we cannot control and appreciate what we already have. 

Poses for Emotional Wellbeing
. Yoga poses can affect the emotional body as profoundly as the physical body, and you can use them to move toward balance. Classic examples are backbends and moving with the breath for depression, active poses and forward bends for anxiety, inverted poses for general feelings of stress.

Besides quieting your mind, these practices allow you to study your mind and slowly gain more control over it.

Mindfulness Practice
s. These practices harness you to present moment, allowing you to let go regrets about the past and worries about the future. Classic examples are using the asana practice as a moving meditation.
Yoga Philosophy. Studying yoga philosophy provides an alternative way of thinking about your life, allowing you to aim for equanimity rather constantly striving for “success.” Classic examples are The Bhagavad Gita and The Yoga Sutras. 

Opening Your Yoga Toolbox

by Van Gogh

Want to Hammer a Nail?
Well, that covers the basics! And if you want to, you can put your toolbox away now for another time. But in my mind as I’ve been writing this, I have the image of showing a small child a box of household tools and explaining the name and purpose of each one. He or she would hardly be satisfied if you didn’t let them try at least hammering one nail! So if you’d like to try out one of these tools, well, just go ahead and do one pose or practice that we listed and observe what it’s doing for you.

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