Saturday, December 13, 2014

Christmas Yoga with Toulouse LeTrek

Toulouse LeTrek enjoys Ontario snow...
Well, it's that time of the year again... Time sure flies when you're ... well ... flying--all over the world, that is...

Here is my 8-pose Christmas Yoga Exercise to help you gear up for all that Christmas cheer. It’s just the thing for a body bloated on Christmas pudding, turkey and baking.

Did you know that the word yoga means “union”. Yoga creates harmony by controlling your breath and holding your body in steady poses called “asanas”. Five key elements include proper breathing, proper exercise, proper relaxation, proper diet, and positive thinking and meditation. Yoga should be supervised by a qualified teacher. Don’t worry. That’s me.
Toulouse stretches

So, first off, choose a pleasant, peaceful and spacious setting for your exercises. You might like to turn the lights down and light some candles and put on your favorite Christmas music (so long as it isn’t “I am Santa Claus” by Bob Rivers or “Takin’ Care of Christmas” by Randy Bachman). You can use a mat for extra comfort and give yourself lots of room. Then you need to do some stretching exercises …

Toulouse doing headstand
The purpose of the Headstand is to rest the heart, which usually has to work against gravity and will likely do some extra laps this Christmas with all the cholesterol coursing through you from figgy pudding, turkey stuffing and eggnog. Some people think headstands heal everything. Well, it sure gives you a different perspective on things! And that’s gotta be good for you.

The Dolphin pose strengthens the arms and
Toulouse does the dolphin
shoulders. It kind of prepares you for the headstand. I’m doing a great job, aren’t I? Did you know that this pose calms the brain and helps relieve stress and mild depression? It also improves digestion and relieves headache, insomnia, back pain and fatigue. Lastly, it's therapeutic for high blood pressure. Of course, it's called the dolphin pose because of the sinewy wave-like nature of the pose and the fusiform streamlined dolphin body and movements. 

Dolphins are one of Earth's smartest life forms. They are also known for their pure altruistic behaviour, practicing not just reciprocal kin-related acts, but selfless acts for all life. Methinks these two go together... :-3   

Plow pose
The Plow pose (halasana) increases overall flexibility, but it’s particularly effective for relieving tension in the upper back and shoulders; especially after you’ve been with the relatives for over two days... 

The pose gets its name from the plow, used to prepare the soil for sowing crops. Like the plow, the pose prepares the body and the mind for deep rejuvenation. Besides strengthening and opening the neck, shoulders, abs and back muscles, the plow helps calm the nervous system and reduces stress and fatigue. It stimulates the thyroid gland and strengthens the immune system. 

Toulouse does the Cobra pose
Here's the Cobra, one of my favourite positions. This asana resembles a serpent with its hood raised; hence the name of the pose. The cobra pose does tons of good things like toning and strengthening the superficial and deep muscles of the back and abdominal regions. The pose reduces stress and fatigue and is a useful pose for people with respiratory disorders like asthma (don't practice the pose during an attack, though!). 

The cobra also increases backward bending flexibility--something a cat like me does lots--and it relieves tension, especially in the lower back. Good for after you've been shovelling the driveway...     

Toulouse does the Locust pose
The Locust (Salabhasana) is a backward bending exercise that increases flexibility of the upper back and strengthens the lower back  and upper leg muscles. 

Holding the pose also massages the internal organs and makes them frisky—which you will be too; good for combating the “big meal” doldrums. The pose relieves fatigue, flatulence, constipation, indigestion and lower-back pain.

The locust, or grasshopper, is a springy kind of creature, so the pose is well named for the "springy" energy it provides. 

Toulouse doing the Camel pose

The Camel pose (Ustrasana) I’m doing here…well, I might have gotten carried away… lets you exercise all your back muscles and extends your spinal column by bending your back fully. It’s useful for increasing spinal and hip flexibility. The camel pose helps relieve respiratory ailments, mild backache, fatigue and anxiety. 

Doing this pose also helps improve your posture! Just in time for all those Christmas pictures with family and friends... 

Toulouse does the Spinal Twist
Here I am doing the Spinal Twist, which stretches the spine and helps the vertebrae regain their mobility. The roots of the spinal nerves and the nervous system get toned and provided with increased blood supply.

This pose will make your back feel sensational! It relieves tension and elongates the spine, which also improves posture (for all those pictures!) and improves breathing. Lastly, the spinal twist helps you digest that huge Christmas dinner, dessert and midnight snack by helping ... well ... move things along. It'll have you twisting and shouting with the joy of the season. Meow! :-3

You need a lot of strength, flexibility and concentration to
Toulouse does the Peacock ... well, sort of...
do the Peacock (mayurasana). As you can see, I have a lot of it! When the pose is held, your elbows press into the abdominal region, drawing fresh blood to the area and nourishing your internal organs. If you watched the movie, The Edge of Tomorrow, this is the pose that the Tom Cruise character finds soldier Rita Vrataski (played by Emily Blunt) performing. It's not unlike flying; there you are, balancing on your hands with legs stretched out, head and body lifted, defying gravity. The peacock pose not only resembles the peacock; it also invokes the peacock's special powers.  

Toulouse does the Final Relaxation
Did you know that in Hindu lore, the peacock symbolizes immortality and love?

Last but certainly not least, is the Final Relaxation, my favorite part and I do it well, as you can see… Relaxation is important because it leaves you with a calm mind and relaxed muscles. It allows the body to absorb the energy released by the asanas. You need to relax this way for at least five minutes. I’m so good at it that I do it for … well, hours.

Have a safe, joyous and meaningful “giving season”

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Peace on Earth, good will to all Life.

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