Between the holidays and the start of a new year, there's a lot going on (what else is new?). That makes taking a moment to stop and relax sometimes challenging. Instead of tossing down a ton of cash for a day at the spa, treat yourself to a bit of free zen. You might be surprised at how easy it is to turn your frown upside down without spending any cash. Click through for a collection of savvy ways to treat yourself to some much-needed relaxation.
If you're trying to block out sounds at work and don't have soothing songs on your music player, there are plenty of super-zen YouTube videos that will relax you in a heartbeat. What's awesome about these videos is that some of them are more than an hour long and there are no interruptions — it's just one continuous track.
To look for these videos, simply search "relaxing music" or "study music" in YouTube and you'll immediately see a number of videos that will suit your taste. There are even videos that go for over eight hours!
The relaxing videos include chill beachy-type songs, nature sounds, and classical music. Some even have really soothing graphics you can gaze into like the ripples of an ocean wave. Perfect for watching and listening when you're stressed out at work and need a break.
One of my favorites is this zen-themed video below:
While the end of a yoga class should be the pinnacle of relaxation, sometimes getting into Savasana (Corpse pose) can be a bigger stretch for your mind than any pretzel-like shape for your body. I'm a big believer that no matter what, you should stay quiet on your mat and not leave the room, but I know firsthand how tricky getting your mind to simply hang out can be in the beginning. Whether you have a consistent practice or you're a newbie to the final relaxation pose, here are four tips to take to your heart before you lie down and sink into Savasana.
- Be comfortable: No need to rush into the pose — setting up properly is half the battle of Savasana. Pay attention to where your body needs a little extra love or attention. Let your feet fall to the sides of your mat. Let your chin slightly roll into your chest. Grab a blanket or a bolster to put under your knees if you want to take some pressure off your lower back. This is your time. Whatever feels good and relaxing for you, make it happen.
- Focus on the spot between your eyes: In the beginning of my yoga journey, I knew that Savasana was supposed to be relaxing and fun, but I could not understand how everyone was just chilling out in a way that seemed so simple and easy. Focusing on your third eye may sound a little hippie-dippie for your taste, but if you're having a difficult time getting cozy, it's definitely worth a try! It wasn't until I made the simultaneous connection between my inhale and focusing on the spot in between my eyes that I was able to sink deep for the first time. It's my go-to move whenever my mind is racing.
Keep reading for two more ways to chill out completely in Savasana.
Quiet the mind. Slow down your breath. Awaken your chakras. It's time to meditate! I'll be the first one to admit that I used to be like Ms. Paltrow, in that I didn't have the slightest idea how to meditate. I would dim the lights, make sure the apartment was quiet, and try to focus on my breath. Problem was, I was so focused on "conquering meditation" that my mind couldn't relax and just "be." After hearing about all the health perks associated with meditation — including stress reduction, a heightened self awareness, and being able to tune out distractions — I knew I couldn't give up. The good news is, I realized that there are many different types of meditation. This is key, because once you explore the various meditation styles, you can choose one that suits you best.
That's right, more than 70 of these kinds of stress-reducing drinks — including Be Happy, Unwind, and iChill — have debuted in the past three years. Active ingredients include everything from melatonin, a sleep inducing hormone, to amino acids, which is thought to reduce stress. But the effects of the drinks are highly subjective and not thoroughly researched.
One international food and drink consulting firm projected the growth rate for this new group of drinks in 2011 alone is a staggering 38 percent. I'll be sticking to my herbal teas and deep breathing techniques to reduce my stress levels. What about you?
I already knew that regular meditation has been shown to have significant therapeutic effects on people at high risk for heart attacks, but these new findings are really profound because they are applicable to everyone!
According to researcher Fadel Zeidan, PhD, who is a postdoctoral fellow at Wake Forest University School of Medicine and also worked on the study, meditation may be useful for the management of postoperative pain since it distracts the mind and reduces the emotional response to pain. Zeidan says a wandering mind is normal at first and that you simply have to bring your consciousness back to your breathing.
After two minutes (there's a countdown), you're rewarded with a "well done" message. It's a simple site with a simple purpose, but a welcome moment of relaxation in an otherwise hectic day. I've been listening to the wave sounds for the last hour, and even that helps — give it a try!
I call this exercise the Phone Cord (before the cell phone and cordless phone). It promotes calmness and relaxation and relieves inner tension. It also helps improve balance and coordination.
Learn how to do this easy exercise when you read more
Last night I had a nearly orgasmic moment on the train ride home when the breeze coming through the hot subway carriage's window made the China gel my yoga instructor had massaged into my neck during Savasana feel a-mazing. The menthol cooled my neck and I breathed in the essential oils deeply, which was totally and utterly relaxing. Even after I showered, a bit of the gel remained in my neck and shoulders, making me drift off into the most peaceful sleep ever.
I can't lie — having a mini neck massage after a particularly challenging Vinyasa flow class is like heaven. Upon relating this to my best friend, she confessed that the reason why she returned to a certain instructor's class again and again is because he stood on his students' feet (I guess the soles of their feet were on the floor, with bent knees, so he stepped on the tops of the feet) for about ten seconds each during Savasana, which was insanely relaxing.
Some instructors guide their students through a meditation, light candles, play music or come by each student's mat to gently press their shoulders or hips into the floor. What's your favorite part of Savasana and what does your instructor do during that time?
If yoga is one of your obsessions, then you'll want to check out the Yoga Stretch and Tell community group.