Increase your focus and help improve brain power

Yoga poses to help stimulate your mind

There are so many distractions nowadays that it's so hard just to take your mind off everything and focus on one thing. I want you to try this. Really try to take a few minutes out of your day to try these four poses. Even if it is just the first one, tadasana or Prayer pose (it is harder than you think) but try it. You will be thankful to get a minute of peace, to rest your mind and focus. Considering I am still in a pretty rookie position with yoga, I brought in yoga expert Nathalie Kosman for help! For your viewing, she is doing each position pretty solid in the bottom right hand corner, as you can see I am wobblier than a poorly assembled IKEA coffee table.

1) Prayer pose or Tadasana

Tadasana is the foundational pose for all standing yoga postures and full inversions, such as headstands, handstands, etc. The purpose of the pose is to get grounded. You want to feel the ground below you, close eyes, and take a deep breath. Even though this is a beginner pose, this is a restorative and balance pose. So open your palms, rib cage, and mind. Prayer pose is considered a base pose, since prayer pose variations can be derived from this pose. Prayer pose is considered a warm up yoga pose to prepare the body for more intense yoga poses/ yoga flow.

2) Eagle Pose

You will want to watch Nathalie below in the right-hand corner for this one, as I struggled here. This posture resembles the shape of an eagle taking flight. This pose strengthens the lower body, opens the shoulders, and improves balance and concentration. Start off by setting your gaze and remember to breath and focus. Stay for 30 seconds, then unwind the legs and arms and repeat on the other side (legs and arms reversed).

3) Warrior III

Warrior III improves balance, memory and concentration, and tones and invigorates the whole body. From Mountain pose, step the right foot a foot length forward and shift all of your weight onto this leg. Inhale the arms over your head and interlace the fingers, pointing the index finger up. As you exhale, lift the left leg up and out, hinging at the hips to lower the arms and torso down towards the floor. Look down at the floor and stare at a point for balance. Reach out through the left toes and the crown and fingers making one straight line. Breathe and hold for 2-6 breaths. To release: inhale the arms up to lower the leg back to the floor and step both feet together back into Mountain pose. Hold on each side for 30 seconds to challenge your balance, and then repeat on other side

4) Supported Headstand

Finish your practice with Supported Headstand (Salamba Sirsasana) to calm your brain. For beginners, I would suggest using a wall behind, so you can practice with your feet on the wall. Come on to all fours with your heels at the wall, make sure you keep your shoulders directly over your wrists and lift up in to a shortened dog pose. Then bring one leg up at a time so your foot is in line with your hips keeping your knees bent. When you feel comfortable in position straighten both legs (think strong warrior 3 legs) to bring yourself in to the pose. Press through your feet, lengthen through your sides, engage your abdominals and lift your shoulders up away from your ears.

Check out Nathalie at The Preserve, Fit Athletic Club, and Equinox for individual or groups classes.

Float away to rest and relaxation

New float spas can help you relax and unwind

Heard about the "float" craze? It has been slowly growing over the past few years, and one local float spa in Houston was featured on Shark Tank last year. "Floating" has actually been around since about the mid 1950's. Floatation therapy is based on a scientific approach to a deep relaxation called Restricted Environmental Stimulation Technique, or R.E.S.T. Dr. John Lily originally created floatation therapy tanks and called them "sensory deprivation tanks, or isolation tanks."

These sensory deprivation tanks became more popular between the 60's and 70's but lost popularity after it became publicly known that Dr. Lily used a lot of psychedelic drugs. Well, they are back, in a unique form. Most sensory deprivation/relaxation spa's are now using giant white pods, more futuristic like. And inside there is plenty of room for you and even a few others (not recommended). But to give you an idea there is plenty of room between you, the water, and the ceiling; and over 8 ft. from head to toe. So what is it, people ask? The general idea is marketed as a way for people to relax and unwind. Floating in a flotation tank triggers a deep relaxation response, much deeper than normal sleep. It enables people to drift into an elusive theta state, which normally is hard to achieve. I received a gift card for my birthday to "Urban Float," a new float place in Heights, and decided to check it out!

During floating, the idea is to relax your brain, body, and soul. Since you are typically in about a 1000 lbs. of Epsom salt (dissolved into water), you will float to the top and won't have to expend any physical energy to float. You're changing your stimuli by releasing everything, every piece of energy your body would normally put out (even just sitting down). In the tank your mind will start to wonder off. Some will problem solve, learn, or swirl into creative paths; while others will meditate, rest, or even fall asleep.

The float sessions I have seen range anywhere from 60-90 minutes. I did a 60-minute session and fell asleep both times. The experience of coming out of a float is supposed to sharpen you senses, have a refreshed mind, and the world may appear more vibrant. Now, I am a glass full type of girl, however I am not sure it sharpened my senses or the world appeared with rainbows and unicorns. However, I did feel much more at peace, and was relaxed and calm for the rest of the day. I have also read it may take a float or 2, to really start reaping the benefits. At this point I have done 2 floats, so I'm sure if I were to continue, maybe then it would sharpen my senses, or I would maybe be seeing unicorns pooping rainbows.

For first time floaters or anyone on the fence about trying it out (which I do recommend) here are a few tips. For starters, remember you are in a ton of Epsom salt infused water. So, if you've knicked yourself shaving prior to floating… well, it will sting. However, they do provide petroleum jelly for any small knicks or cuts, and when applied the jelly will act as a band aid in the salt water. They do recommend for any bigger cuts or burns, to wait to float, (or tough it out, your choice). When you first arrive, the float spa had me watch about a 5 minutes video on "how to float". Really, it's just information on pre/post showers, where the panic button is, etc. You also get to choose some fancy relaxation music, or you can choose none.

I chose music the whole time. I didn't want my brain to start wondering about my "to-do" list I didn't finish at work, or all the errands I still had to run and when I was going to run them. It is quiet, the rooms are sound proof, and they provide you with ear plugs. You have an option to turn off the light inside, I tried this, and it got a little creepy. However, everyone is different. I am the type of person that can sleep with lights on, some people cannot. My biggest concern was if the water was going to be cold. Thankfully it was not, and did not change the entire hour. Float spas typically keep the water between 90-95 degrees in temperature, and you are pretty much in a savasana yoga pose the whole time. Initially I felt my head hanging a little heavy, so I used the neck float both times. The neck float is provided for you in the pod. Also, in the pod is a spray bottle with fresh water, for when you get salt in your eye, and more than likely you will. But just spray the fresh water and you'll be fine, or if you are not panic button it is.

They say that the effects of floating lasts for hours to days afterwards and have the potential to last much longer. However, I believe I felt it for the rest of the day, then the next day when I went back to work, I had no idea where that relaxation went. Interesting enough, as I left I spoke to someone who goes every day (unlimited package). He explained it as much more than just going to float, but more so of as his daily meditation practice. In the end it was a great experience both times, I wish I could go everyday to practice meditation, but 24 hours in a day is against me. I would definitely recommend everyone to try it at least once.


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