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The Yoga File

Building confidence through yoga

Most people think of yoga as just a physical thing…a lot of stretching, twisting, bending and perhaps some agonizing pain. However many are unaware that regular physical yoga practice is the starting point for a deeper understanding of individual potential.

The basis of physical yoga is to tone the nervous system, since the state of our nervous system, the body’s information gatherer and control system, is what inevitably determines our psychological and physical well-being. It collects information about external conditions and, in relation to the body’s internal state, decides how to react.

The brain and the spinal cord make up the central nervous system. The brain is the powerhouse of the body, even though it only makes up two percent of the body’s weight. This soft, jelly-like organ has billions of neural cross-connections and oversees the workings of the body, its higher functions giving us consciousness and our personalities.

The smooth operation of the Peripheral Nervous System (responsible for receiving, interpreting and sending information throughout our body) is accomplished by controlling how much energy we expend and how much energy we conserve. These opposing actions constitute our body’s internal system of “checks and balances.”

However, it is through the development of our consciousness and personality that we really start to see what potential we have in our lives. When we start achieving what we set out to do, our confidence level goes up. Most yoga practitioners find confidence is built through a calm and steady approach to practice and life choices, and this confidence builds over time and then sustains an appropriate level throughout a lifetime.

Life Hints 人生に幸運を呼ぶヒント
By Hikaru Brundtland

Hot, Pure Sayu!

It’s often said that people eat too much these days. This is particularly true in Japan during the bonenkai (year-end parties) season and New Year’s when people eat a lot of mochi (rice cakes). Do you feel your belly bulging during the holidays? Perhaps you could use some ayurveda in your diet.

The world’s oldest known systematic way of healthy living comes from India and is called ayurveda, meaning “life science.” This approach has been passed down through the generations for more than 5,000 years. When we eat too much we leave indigestible material in our organs and cells. According to ayurveda, these “in-digestibles,” or ama, get stuck in the wrong organs, causing sickness and weakening the immune system.

To lessen the amount of ama in our bodies, and move it swiftly through the system, it helps to drink plenty of sayu (boiled water). Drinking sayu throughout the day pushes the ama out of our bodies and cleanses the blood stream. A bit of sayu during a meal is also a great way to aid the stomach’s digestive process.

So how does one get the most from their sayu? Begin by bringing water to a boil over a gas stove, allowing the water to boil for at least two minutes, thus taking in prana (life energy) from the surrounding air. Drinking from ceramic ware allows the process to include all four elements—water, fire, wind and earth—and perfectly prepared piping-hot sayu is now yours for the drinking.

I would recommend at least four glasses per day and, although bottled water is a close second, just a little extra effort in making sayu goes a long way. Sayu helps relieve stress and frustration at work and is handy as a warm, quick fix when you’re not feeling so hot.

OUTDOOR YOGA
By Neil Hartmann

Side Stretch Pose

This pose focuses on a part of the body that many people over look when stretching. From the ankle to the tips of your fingers, the whole side of the body is stretched during this pose. With practice you will also start to feel your hips and back twist and open as well! Get to it!

Start by spreading your legs almost as wide as possible, and make sure your weight is balanced evenly across both feet. Bend your right knee to 90 degrees. Focus on sinking down into the pose rather than just bending your knee. Place your right elbow on your knee and let your chest turn skyward; this brings a slight twist to the pose. From there, for a deeper stretch, extend your left arm out over your head following the same line from your left leg. Don’t forget your breath! Make sure to breath slowly and deeply try to stay in the pose for 30 seconds to a minute, then repeat on the other side.

Having a good laugh
By Lisa Booth and Katherine Pham Do

Feeling run down? Try laughing more. The old saying, “Laughter is the best medicine,” seems to have merit. After extensive research on the positive effects of laughing, Dr. Madan Kataria from Mumbai, India, developed Laughter Yoga. Laughter Yoga is a blend of yogic deep breathing, stretching, free movement, playful laughter exercises and meditation. It is based on the spirituality of joy that seems to be humanity’s number one pursuit these days.

Laughter Yoga involves laughing for no reason – except that it feels great and does our health a huge amount of good. No props, jokes or comedy routines are used to aid laughing; scientists have found that laughter is a form of internal jogging that exercises the body and stimulates the release of beneficial brain neurotransmitters and hormones. It has been scientifically proven that your body cannot tell the difference between simulated laughter and spontaneous laughter.

Simulated laughter becomes genuine through eye contact and the contagious nature of laughter, which is why Laughter Yoga clubs work so well. They help in overcoming inhibitions, releasing negative emotions in a positive way, building a sense of community and having some good, clean fun.

As a social movement that is non-religious and non-political, along with the goal of promoting health, harmony and peace through people meeting and laughing together, Laughter Yoga is a worldwide phenomenon that, since 1995, has rapidly spread with more than 5,000 laughter clubs in more than 40 countries.

Laughter Yoga clubs are conducted by trained and experienced instructors. You do not have to be agile or a yoga expert to join a club. All you need to benefit from a session is an open mind, enthusiasm and a willingness to laugh out loud.

Laughter Yoga Club Tokyo meets the first Saturday of every month near Yoyogi-Koen. For more information contact tokyolaughterclub@gmail.com or visit www.laughteryoga.org.

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