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      • Nature and History in Shonai

        One of Tohoku’s six prefectures is Yamagata, located just north of Niigata Prefecture along the coast. It's a hidden gem for travelers in search of authentic cultural experiences and outdoor activities.

Strength and Endurance Training

Yoga is often categorized as “relaxing” or “calming.” Indeed these aspects do surface with regular training, but one thing that can be missed is this: physical yoga practice not only increases flexibility, but also tones muscles, increases stamina and physical strength and amplifies physical endurance.

As yoga helps develop and increase the capacity of your respiratory system, your heart and lungs are able to supply more oxygen to your body. Yoga breathing techniques aid and assist in learning how to use your heart and lungs effectively and efficiently.

In this sense, yoga makes for an attractive alternative to pounding your body into the ground running. The huffing and puffing dynamic in running can push the body to a point of being out of control. If you struggle with your breathing, your body is all over the place. Yoga can help athletes maintain focus and control.
   
When done consistently, yoga can also increase strength. Stretching elongates the fascia, a protective layer of connective tissue covering all muscles and muscle cells. On the molecular level, fascia tissue is actually stronger than steel!

When the fascia is stretched, the muscle underneath is given greater room to grow, giving the muscle a greater shape so muscle separation improves as well. Combined with proper nutrition, stretching can even alter bone structures, making an incredible difference in basic posture and muscle efficiency.

I have been an athlete my entire life, but since I integrated yoga into my daily living, I have become fitter than ever with a better understanding of my body and physical capacity at any given time.

It is important to remember optimum physical fitness does not mean being indestructible. It’s more about being aware of your body. In fact, the word “yoga” actually means "union,” and it is this union of the mind and body, which is at the core of yoga practice and improving physical endurance.

Life Hints
By Hikaru Brundtland

Hot Meditation

There’s a tendency to think of yoga simply as a way of holding on to your health and beauty while stretching and holding some odd poses. But yoga is also a great way to shape up and find the “inner peace” within us all.

The progression from poses and breathing to controlling the five senses, followed by concentration and meditation, covers the natural flow of yoga. Yet what exactly does “meditation” bring to the table?

Our hearts and minds are constantly consumed with things of the past and worries about the future. “Meditation” allows a person to visualize their situation in the “here and now.”

By focusing on one point within ourselves and putting a stop to the waves of thought, we are able to come to grips with the moment and have a better understanding of the actual essence surrounding us. Within this moment we find an expanding wisdom and “inner peace” residing in ourselves.

A perfect way to relax the mind and body on wind-whipped winter days is bathtub meditation. The stress of the day tends to build up and the body aches from the chill in the air.

Imagine taking a dip in a nice hot bath. Feel the heat from the water on your toes, then your waist, followed by your shoulders and neck as you slip further into the deep heat of the water. As you fold yourself even deeper, you concentrate on how the stress seems to unravel away.

Check your breathing. Your belly and chest begin to relax and slowly the breathing fills your lungs completely. Enjoy the deep relaxation coming from warming your body and soul this winter with meditation in the bath.
 

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