The Incredible Importance of Play (and some pictures from my recent Central American adventure)

This is my favorite time of year! Winter has finally gone, Spring flowers are starting to bloom, and I am feeling recharged, rejuvenated, and renewed.

My great mood at this time of year is not just because the season is changing (even though I am FILLED with Spring Fever at the moment). It’s primarily because, as I’ve had the blessed fortune to do over the last several years, I just returned from a rollicking month-long adventure abroad.

As you know, last year I was in India learning up on yoga, meditation, and all things spiritual. This year I went to Central America and while it wasn’t as earth movingly intense as India, it was so much fun.

I literally felt like a child at times, having an unbridled play session doing yoga on the beach, surfing the waves, hiking forests filled with cute monkeys. 

One afternoon, after I had spent nearly the whole day frolicking in the waves, I remembered a news story from last year that talked about lots of research showing adults (in America at least) need to play far more frequently in order to stay physically and mentally healthy. 

Well, I definitely got my yearly recommended dose of play while I was in Central America.

And this is essentially the reason why I structure my work and my life to make sure I have enough time each year to get out and play. The research I’ve read just confirms what I have known from my own experience: keeping play a priority in my life makes the rest of my life so much better. 

Seriously. I sleep better, work better, and generally feel better when I make the time to have rip-roaring fun-filled play.

I’ve talked before about the importance of making time for vacation in your life (no matter how supercharged your work-life is), and the importance of play is one of the reasons why I push it so much.

Because vacation is a time to let loose and play. Like a child: curious, carefree, cheerful. I certainly did. I hope you will too. 

For some inspiration, here are some photos of my trip. (I’m a closet travel advisor so if you have any questions about these places, I’m happy to tell you more–ask me in the comment section below).

Now I want to hear from you…when is the last time you had rip-roaring playful fun? Share it in the comment section, and post your pictures if you have some. And if you haven’t had any play in a while, then tell me what you are hoping to do soon.

With all my playful, post-vacation energy, I’ve got some great posts planned for you in the coming months–so stay tuned.

In the meantime, if you have any questions about any of these places, or about yoga, meditation, and mindfulness in general, then comment below or send an inquiry here.

Plus, more posts relating to yoga and your urban professional life are coming soon and you can get the next Urban Practice post direct to your Inbox – just click the “Follow Urban Practice” button below.

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One Thing You Should Try This Spring

Spring is here!  For me this is the best time of year, when everyone springs out of winter hibernation mode and gets their minds and bodies moving again.  Compared to my winter self, I have so much more energy to work, socialize and pursue new hobbies.

Spring!But I also notice that my mood and emotions are all over the place during Spring, and even though I’m not anxious by nature, my anxiety levels shoot up like the arugula seedlings sprouting in my kitchen right now.  

I get all the tell-tale symptoms of Spring Fever: hyper active energy, restlessness, shortness of breath, rapid heart beat.  On the one hand Spring Fever is simply the mind/body’s reaction to the changing weather; on the other hand, it can be quite distracting and stressful.

Over the years I have discovered the BEST way to ease myself through Spring Fever (or through anxiety and restlessness at any other time) is through practicing yogic breathing techniques.

I could swear it’s magic, but actually what is happening in yogic breathing techniques is stimulation of the parasympathetic nervous system (the opposite of your “fight or flight” system) so through practice you end up calm and relaxed.

My all time favorite technique for calming my body and mind is the Double Exhale.  It’s as simple as picking a daffodil, but it has an enormous effect on your complex nervous system.  After a few minutes of practicing you will feel as calm as the glassy surface of a pond.  Here’s how to do it:

  • Inhale and exhale a few times through your nostrils without thinking about it
  • Then, on an inhale (through your nostrils), count silently to yourself as you fill all the way up with air; the final number can be anything at all, but my students commonly count to 4, 5 or 6
  • As you exhale (through your nostrils), count silently to yourself double the number that you counted on the inhale
  • Repeat for as long as you need, but at least 5 mins

RelaxAs you get used to lengthening your exhales, you can gradually increase the count on your inhale and the double count on your exhale.  If you like, you can add a brief pause at the top and bottom of each breath, letting yourself be aware of the still moment that transitions your in and out breath.  

And if you are having a particularly hectic day, do Double Exhale lying on your back for an extra calming treat.

Another relaxing breath is the Bumble Bee Breath, known in the yoga world as Bhramaree breathing.  

The technique is to inhale through the nostrils then exhale through the nostrils while at the same time making a humming sound like a bumble bee.  The vibration created in Bhramaree soothes the nerves and muscles in the face, throat, neck and chest and so it is a sweet antidote to tension, anxiety and restlessness.

To try it, begin by inhaling through the nostrils for a count of 5 and then exhaling though the nostrils while humming for a count of 10 (like the technique above, make the length of the exhale double the length of the inhale).

Now I want to hear from you, do you have trouble breathing during Spring or any other time of year?  Tell me about it in the Comment section below.

As always, if you are interested in learning more about breathing techniques, mindful movement/asana, meditation and work-life balance, email me at zara@yoginizara(dot)com.

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