Corner Office Anatomy – Why Your Work Gets On Your Nerves

OfficeviewIn this segment of Corner Office Anatomy, I want to talk about one of the most vital parts of your body, but one that you might not think about so often while you are in the office (or at any other time for that matter).

It’s a part of your body that could hold the key to your success or failure as a professional in this modern urban era. Still, you probably power through day after day of your career without giving it a single thought. What could be so important yet so easily ignored?

Your autonomic nervous system, of course.

Unless you are an anatomy buff, you are probably wondering what in the world is that, and what does it have to do with your workaday experiences?

The autonomic nervous system is extremely complex, and it is impossible for me to explain it you entirely in this post. To put it very simply, it’s a system of neurons, nerves, plexuses, neurotransmitters, etc. that is responsible for regulating the involuntary (a/k/a unconscious) functions of your body, you know, things like your heart rate, blood circulation, sweat glands, digestion, and the basic rhythm of respiration. Basically anything in your body that carries on without your needing to think about it.

There are two parts of the autonomic nervous system that are constantly interacting with each other to react to your environment and maintain your body’s essential functioning. One part, the sympathetic nervous system, prepares the body for emergencies—it’s the famous “fight or flight” system. 

The other part, the parasympathetic nervous system, is known as the “rest and digest” system because it supports the day-to-day functioning of your internal organs. The parasympathetic system always working, it’s just that when the sympathetic system kicks in, certain of the parasympathetic functions (like digestion, elimination, basic rhythmic breathing) are altered while the body prepares to deal with a threat.


So, what does this all have to do with you and the office?

Well, the sympathetic nervous systems gets triggered when you perceive stress (for example, a tiger is chasing you or your home is on fire). In response, your body does a number of things, like increasing your heart and respiration rate, releasing bunches of adrenaline, and slowing down the other bodily functions (like digestion) that are not absolutely necessary to deal with a threat to your survival.

Obviously, this kind of reaction has been hugely effective for us humans as we have evolved through extremely dangerous environments. But even though our modern urban living is (usually) far safer than it has ever been in our evolutionary past, our day-to-day lives are still full of the kind of stress that triggers our sympathetic nervous system.

Especially in the workplace.

Things like difficult bosses, office politicking, deadlines, incessantly beeping electronic devices, and overwhelming task lists frequently create a “fight or flight” response in our bodies. Basically, our bodies can’t process the difference between fighting a woolly mammoth or running away from a spear wielding enemy, and a constantly buzzing phone or preparing for a career-breaking presentation.


The physiological experience of the sympathetic nervous system being triggered—increased heart rate, dilated pupils, sweating, out of control breathing—is the same no matter where the stress comes from.

Our bodies were not designed to withstand the near constant triggering of the sympathetic nervous system, which is such a common occurrence in the modern world of work (and, thanks to technology that allows you to be connected to your work 24/7, the modern world of rest).

The more the sympathetic nervous system is triggered, the less the rest of your body is able to maintain its regular, peaceful functioning—and the more wear on your nerves. Over time, your overall health will suffer and your ability to handle stress will decline. I know I don’t need to tell you what a breakdown of your nervous system will do to your effectiveness at work, or your ability to handle all the other aspects of your life.

So, in order to counteract the effects of stress, it is vital to learn how to calm the sympathetic nervous system. This is exactly what many of the yoga, meditation, and mindfulness techniques are designed to do. 

There are numerous techniques I could teach you, but in this post I’m going to give you just 3 mini-practices that you can use to calm your sympathetic nervous system particularly while you’re in the office. You don’t even need to leave your chair for these techniques to work!

Seated forward fold

Forward folds are hugely calming (for a variety of anatomical reasons that I won’t get into here). You can certainly stand up, or sit on the floor, and fold over your legs, but that’s not always possible in the office so try this one right from your chair.

Forward Bend_BlueSit about half way between the back and front edge of your chair with your feet flat on the ground and set widely apart (about as wide as the two sides of the chair seat). Take a deep breath in as you sit up tall with your hands resting lightly on your lap. Then, exhale as you  drop your arms in between your legs and roll yourself forward until your fingers or hands touch the floor. If your fingers/hands don’t reach the floor, you can let them dangle, or if that is uncomfortable, then just rest them on your thighs. Stay here and breathe deeply for at least 5 breaths—or as long as you need to feel calm and stable.

Double exhale breathing

Yogic breathing techniques (which are broadly called “pranayama”) have long been known to calm the sympathetic nervous system by slowing the heartbeat, reducing blood pressure, and producing a sense of calm and stability. How it happens is not entirely clear, but it has to do with our ability to consciously control a function–respiration–that is affected by all the other involuntary functions. 

One of the most effective, simple breathing techniques is the double exhale.

Practice like this. Sit comfortably in your chair, with your feet on the ground and your hands resting lightly in your lap. Inhale for a count of 3 (or 4 or 5, depending on your lung capacity and state of mind); exhale for a count of 6 (or 4 or 10 etc.). Continue like this for at least 5 minutes. 

Breathwork - Yogic Full Breath_Blue

Pause meditation

It’s now well-known that meditation (especially mindfulness meditation) lowers your stress levels and calms your sympathetic nervous system. But it’s also well-known how hard it is to spare any time for a dedicated meditation practice.

Worry not—there is a way to incorporate some mindfulness meditation into your very busy day. Just practice this “pause meditation.”

To do it is simple: at different moments in your day, such as before you make a difficult phone call, respond to an email, or go into an important meeting, pause and take 3-5 deep inhales and exhales (take more if you have the time or are feeling particularly stressed out).

You are sure to feel more calm and stable, even after just a few breaths. Remembering to pause is as much part of the practice as the breathing, so the more you train your mind to take the pause, the more you will experience the mental clarity that comes with a focused practice.

Will you try one or more of these this week? Tell me if you do, I want to know how it feels for you.

Of course, there are many, many more techniques that you can practice both in the office and at home—and I am happy to share them with you if you would like (contact me here to set up a class). In the meantime, start practicing what I’ve shown you in this post and you will get a good start on calming your overworked sympathetic nervous system.

As always, if you are interested in learning more about how yogic breathing techniques (pranayama), mindful movement (asana), meditation, and work-life balance can help your life in the office run smoothly then inquire here.

And if you know someone who will benefit from these teachings then don’t be shy and share this post with them!

Want more great tips on how to live a healthy and balanced urban life? Get the next Urban Practice post direct to your Inbox by clicking “Follow Urban Practice” or join me for daily tips and musings on Facebook or Twitter (@MyUrbanPractice)—lots of choices, lots of buttons. Click all the ones you want.


14 Thoughts to End the Year


I started this year with an optimistic post about how good life will get if you stick to a practice of yoga, meditation, and mindfulness.

But as this year comes to a close, I’m feeling a bit more sober. Not that I am pessimistic – my optimistic nature is just too strong and I know more than ever how good yoga, meditation and mindfulness makes one’s life. Maybe I’m just a bit overwhelmed by all that is going on in the world. And, on a personal level, I’m experiencing some uncertainty in my life, my practices and the directions I am going.

I’ve tried, but I’m feeling uninspired by the usual let’s-make-the-next-year-the-best-one-yet mantras that are ricochet-ing across the internet and social media right now. That attitude feels a bit forced at the moment, and my mind is swirling with more than just what-I-will-do-in-2015.

So to end 2014, I’m going to make a different kind of list: 14 thoughts that are on my mind as the year comes to a close. The list is part reflection of the past year, part musing about the coming year, and part just making a list to put my thoughts in some kind of order (as is my habit, being a lawyer and a hyper-organized Virgo).

1. Learning about the human body is endless. After 12 years of yoga practice, I’m still having insights every other week. This year I learned a ton about anatomy (and I’ve started sharing what I’ve learned with you too!)

2. One year is not enough time to master an advanced yoga posture. At least for me. Although I’m close, I didn’t quite make it to full Natarajasana…(I’ll be working on this one again in 2015).

3. Everybody’s talking about mindfulness. But it’s starting to sound like an over-hyped diet fad. The mind’s version of paleo (which I’m mostly unimpressed by). I still advocate joining the mindfulness bandwagon, but I also advise being mindful (ha!) of what you’re trying. And don’t try to do it alone, find a teacher.

4. Even with great discipline and teachers, mind/body practice is bound to be boring at times. Boredom is a huge distraction. Because it makes me want to skip my practice.

5. Despite the distraction, I keep coming back to try again. That is the practice.  

6. Learning about the world is endless. Like the Rastas say, “traveling is the ultimate education.” This year I learned from India again.


7. Integrating what I learn from yoga, meditation and mindfulness practice into the rest of my life is no easy task. A practice unto itself.

8. Especially when I ponder life’s unavoidable injustices. Like our society’s latent racism. Or planes falling out of the sky (or simply disappearing altogether). Is suffering really all that optional?

9. On the flip emotional side, I am deeply moved by the union we experience with each other, alternately, through our anger, our fear, our inspiration, our hope. We are all in this together. We all can’t breathe.

10. These times are what they are. But times were different once. I am wondering lately about truth, what it is, why it seems so dispensable in our modern times. Wasn’t there a time when it was unbecoming to tell a lie (you know, like the days of the gentleman’s or lady’s honor)? When personal integrity was more valuable than getting whatever you want when you want it? I will explore this thought more in 2015…

11. Maybe that’s why simple silliness was so popular this year. You know, the ice bucket challenge…what a marvelous phenomenon seeing my FB news feed flow from outrageous allegations by politicians to race riots and bombings to ordinary folks dumping freezing water on their heads.

12. I’m not judging anyone though. I also like silliness relief. That’s why I like yoga selfies. Sooo not what yoga is all about, but so much fun anyway.

2014-02-28 13.02.15

13. The deeper I go into the yoga, meditation, and mindfulness teachings, I’m encountering more and more uncertainty. But this is a good thing. A famous Tibetan Buddhist master, Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, once put it like this: the bad news is you are falling through space and have nothing to grab onto; the good news is that there’s no ground. We’re all falling through space whether we like it or not. But we’re not going to crash, so we just practice letting go into the falling experience.

14. One thing I am certain of – always – is the great pleasure I get from watching my students learn and progress. And I watched a lot of that this past year! So hats off to all my students: I appreciate you enormously.

Tell me, what’s on your mind as the year closes? Share it with me, below, or send an email here.

Plus, stay tuned for more posts relating to yoga, meditation, mindfulness and how it relates to your urban professional life. You can get the next Urban Practice post direct to your Inbox – just click the “Follow Urban Practice” button below.

In the meantime, join me for daily yoga/meditation/mindfulness tips and musings on Facebook (“Like” my page here) or on Twitter by following @MyUrbanPractice.


10 Places To Start Your Home Yoga Practice (A Top 10 Review of Online Classes)

One of my dearest wishes for all of my students is that they start to incorporate the yoga practice into their daily lives. The best way to do that is to practice more often. And the best way to practice more often is to practice at home.

Okay, I know, there are mountain-sized mental and practical roadblocks to getting into a steady home practice. I wrote about this issue in a previous post, and I have often suggested tips on how to get your home practice started. Now I’m going to give you some more help by directing you to 10 places online (in my opinion, the top 10 places) where you can explore your yoga practice from the comfort of your home. Now there is no excuse!

Before I get into my list, I want to say a word about practicing yoga with online classes. There are pros and there are cons. 

The pros are that you can practice anytime and anywhere, you can stop in the middle of a class if it is too hard or too boring (no worry about offending a teacher or other students), and you can pause a class and rewind it to repeat confusing instructions or to try a posture again.

The biggest con (the one I notice the most myself and that I hear others talk about) is that you don’t get any personal attention from the teacher – and apart from one of the sites I reviewed, this is an element that is consistent across all online classes. Nothing will replace your live-in-class experience, so don’t think about giving those up. Live classes are special and even though I have a consistent more-or-less daily yoga practice I try to take a live class several times a month. These online classes are meant to get you into a home practice routine, not to replace live class learning.

Online classes also many times lack a certain energetic vibe that you get in live classes, especially when they feel staged or like the teacher is performing (I call this the DVD style teaching). And it’s easy to get distracted and stop a class because you are bored – which is not always a good idea, not least because boredom is one of the emotions that often comes up in a yoga practice, and one that we should learn to sit still with rather than always running away.

Anyway, I reviewed many of the sites offering online yoga classes with these “con” elements in mind so that I could suggest to you the most engaging and useful places. Many of these sites offer free trial periods so you can try them out and decide if you want to sign up. I’m listing them in order of my liking, starting with my favorite first. Click on the name listed and you’ll go straight to the site.

Here we go:

1. YogaAnytime

YogaAnytime’s classes are also mostly filmed DVD style so the teachers are demonstrating while instructing. Still, this one comes in as my all time favorite site for a few reasons (that outweigh the con of performance teaching).

The view from their studio is spectacular and there is a gentle vibe in their videos that I can’t quite put my finger on – but I love it. Unlike any other site I reviewed for this post, they also group series of classes together in “shows” so that you progress through a topic by taking classes in order. For example, the show called Welcome to Yoga is for new yogis and teaches the foundational postures, breath, and concepts of yoga. There are also plenty of philosophy and meditation classes offered.

∞ how much is it? $18/month

∞ free trial? 15 days

∞ what classes to try? Alana Mitnick’s Good Morning Yoga; Welcome to Yoga Show; Anuradha Choudry’s Mother Tongue (a class about Sanskrit – the language of yoga)

2. Yogis Anonymous

Yogis Anonymous is a real life studio in Santa Monica, California, so the classes have a more authentic feel than most other sites. They also have a great selection of many different yoga styles and levels (with a good beginners series of classes) and, uniquely, a choice of pricing plans. And most of the classes play music, which helps to keeps the engagement level up.

∞ how much is it? a choice of $15/month, $10/week, or $7/day; one time payments for the week and day passes, and monthly recurring for the month pass, but you can cancel anytime

∞ free trial? no free trials offered, but the day and week passes are a good deal, and enough time to look around

∞ what classes to try? Charlie Samos’ Hatha; Leslie Kazadie’s Chair Yoga; Laruen Peterson’s Vinyasa (warning: Lauren’s classes are a bit advanced, so don’t start with her if you are still beginning yoga)

3.  Yogaglo

Yogaglo is unique all around. They have a unique format for filming the classes, which are live and viewed from behind with students on either visual side, so there is more of a live-class experience than in other sites. And they have some unique features on their website, like letting you schedule classes in a “queue” and suggesting classes to you based on your previously viewed classes (like Netflix!).

∞ how much is it? $18/month

∞ free trial? 15 days

∞ what classes to try? Kathryn Budig’s Vinyasa; Richard Freeman’s Astanga (some of his classes are beginner level so you can try Astanga for the first time if you are new  to yoga and/or nervous about it); Sally Kempton’s Meditation


4. GaiamTV

The reason I have GaiamTV so high up on my list is because the monthly (or annual) membership gives you access to not only all the yoga class videos, but also to their entire video library, which includes documentaries, short films and other programming with yoga/holistic/health/healing/spirituality themes. So you can take a class and then watch a video about the origins of yoga. Very cool. The classes themselves are okay; many of them are DVD style, meaning, the teachers either demonstrate themselves while instructing or instruct over someone else demonstrating.

∞ how much is it? $9.95/month or $95.40 for a year

∞ free trial? 10 days

∞ what classes to try? Mark Whitwell’s Yoga for Everyone; Seane Corne’s Uniting Movement and Breath (both of these classes are good for all levels)

5. Yoga Vibes

This site features classes from well-known and popular teachers from all over the country. Many of the classes are filmed live at the teachers’ home studios, so the class vibe is good. Other classes are DVD style performances. There are many shorter videos that break down more complicated postures, and teach pranayama (aka yoga breathing techniques) and meditation.

∞ how much is it? $20/month; $200 for a year

∞ free trial? 15 days; plus there are many free videos offered on the site that you can check out before signing up

∞ what classes to try? Dharma Mittra’s classes (there are ones for beginners and more advanced, check before you dive in); Kino MacGregor’s Astanga (her classes are advanced, so be careful)


6. Muuyu

Muuyu is trying to capture the biggest missing piece of online yoga classes: interaction with the teacher. They do it by hooking up teacher and students via webcam and mic, limiting the number of students in each class, and having you fill out a profile so the teacher can learn a little about you beforehand. The mechanics of setting up your computer or tablet in a way that allows the teacher to see you and give you feedback are a little tedious, and there is less flexibility because you have to schedule a particular time for a class, but it’s worth a shot to see if this is the place that will work for you.

∞ how much is it? pay by class, ranging $7-10

∞ free trial? first class is free to try

∞ what classes to try? Try to stay within your level honestly; if you are a beginner stick to the Hatha classes

7. My Yoga Works

Yoga Works is a popular, national chain yoga studio, and this is their online studio. The classes are filmed with the teacher and a few “model” students. I’m not the biggest fan of Yoga Works style, it’s a bit slow and hyper technical for my taste. But others love it so you should try it if you like to learn about postures from the inside out without so much in the way of breathing technique or philosophy. They also have a wonderful beginners series.

∞ how much is it? $15/month

∞ free trial? 14 days; plus there are free sample videos offered on the site that you can check out before signing up

∞ what classes to try? Any class by David Kim or Jesse Schein

8. Yoga Download

There are a variety of classes on this site, from DVD style, to classes with “model” students, to live regular classes filmed at a teacher’s studio. The idea is for you to have access to a wide selection of different kinds of classes. A bonus on this site is that each class is labeled by level (beginner,  intermediate, advanced, etc.) and intensity (calming, slow flow, vigorous, etc.) so you know what you are getting into before taking the class. Each class can be downloaded and comes with a pdf containing pictures and instructions of each of the postures.

∞ how much is it? complex pricing structure: $10/month for 4 downloads; $18/month for unlimited downloads; multi month plans for unlimited downloads; individual classes for $5-9

∞ free trial? none

∞ what classes to try? Casey Freight’s Beginner Jivamukti Yoga; Alanna Kaivalya’s Foundations of the Practice (also good for beginners)


9. Yoga International

Another vast library of yoga classes and yoga related videos. The classes are mostly DVD style with the teacher instructing while demonstrating or teaching one or two students. There are many other resources here as well, such as articles on health, food, and yoga philosophy.

∞ how much is it? free up to 10 classes or blog post views; $8/month unlimited access

∞ free trial? none

∞ what classes to try? the audio guided meditations

10. Power Yoga

This one is for those who are NOT new to yoga or who are already quite athletic. I have mixed feelings about Power Yoga in general, but I have experienced the great-cardio-workout feeling after a class. The classes are all filmed live in the Power Yoga studio in California.

∞ how much is it? $15.95/month; $71.95 for 6 months; $119.95 for a year

∞ free trial? no free trial but you get two weeks free if you sign up for one month; also, you can get a day pass (for limited video access) for $5

∞ what classes to try? Bryan Kest’s classes – he is the founder of Power Yoga, so you will get it from the source


So there you have it!

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.

In the meantime, join me for daily yoga/meditation/mindfulness tips and musings on Facebook (“Like” my page here), on Twitter by following @MyUrbanPractice and Instagram by following @zarayoga.


Corner Office Anatomy – Keep Your Knees Healthy

munity8In this segment of my Corner Office Anatomy series I’m focusing on a part of the body that endures a lot from your desk sitting work lifestyle: the knees.

It’s not that your knees are being overworked by sitting in your chair all day (and we all know that putting too much work on the knees can lead to uncomfortable pain and – sometimes – ugly injuries), it’s just that, shall we say, your knees are being underworked.

To understand what I mean, let’s think a bit about your knees. Unlike your shoulders and  hips, which are known as “ball and socket” joints because of their wide-ranging-motion capacity, your knees are called “condylar” joints. I don’t know why there isn’t an easier to understand term for the knee joints, but the point is that the knees are joints that move only three ways: bending (a/k/a flexion), straightening (a/k/a extension) and slight rotation to either side (when the knee is partially bent).

To make its three motions, your knees are connected to large muscle groups, both above and below the joint, through numerous tendons and ligaments (Note: I’m simplifying A LOT because I’m guessing you have better things to do than to fully dissect the intricate anatomy of your knees).

Now, there are a lot of things that can go wrong with your knees, such as bending them in the wrong way, putting an inappropriate amount of pressure that strains or tears connective tissue, or, as happens over time as we age, degeneration of the muscles surrounding the joint. 

For purposes of this post, though, I’m more concerned about the fact that you likely sit in your chair for 8 hours or more a day.

Why does that matter?

The thing about sitting in your chair throughout a work day is that your knees remain in the exact same position – about halfway between fully bent and fully straightened – for hours at a time. Although I don’t hear so many people talk about this, I don’t see how it is any different from the uncomfortable consequences of sitting on a plane for 8-10 hours straight, and plenty of people agree that long plane rides are bad for your knees.

So I’m here to say that long days at the office are bad for your knees. (click here to Tweet that point). And after a full career of sitting at your desk chair, your knees are going to have a lot to complain about.

But, as always, the tools and teachings in yoga can help

Before I get to some simple poses that you can use to keep your knees healthy throughout your professional urban life, a word about yoga and knees. You may have heard that yoga can hurt your knees – and you heard right. I’m not going to get into the myriad ways you can ensure your knees are safe while you practice yoga (if you want to know more about that topic, comment below or send me an email), but here is one fundamental point that you should keep in mind when doing anything with your knees: no pain, no pain.

What I mean is, whether you are practicing in a yoga class or trying out the poses I suggest to you in my posts, do not tolerate any pain from your knees. If you feel pain, back off.

Great, now that we have that sorted, here are a few poses that you can use to make your knees healthier (and, in the long-term, happier). 

Warrior II

One of the most important ways to keep your knees healthy is by strengthening the muscles and connective tissue surrounding the joint. And one of the best ways to strengthen the muscles and connective tissue surrounding the knees is by practicing one of yoga’s quintessential poses: Warrior II.

If you are relatively new to this pose, I recommend using the chair a few times to practice getting your bent-knee leg into the right position.

Here’s how: start by sitting in the chair as you regularly would; then open the legs and bring your right leg to the outside of the right side of the chair; place your right foot down with your toes facing to the right (and parallel to the front edge of the chair); make sure your right knee is directly above your right ankle; then stretch your left leg all the way back, straightening that knee all the way to the left side of the chair until you can get the outside of the left foot on (or close to) the floor; take 5 deep breaths; then repeat on the other side.

When you have practiced this chair variation numerous times, then try the pose without the chair but don’t lose that focused alignment of your bent-knee directly over your ankle and your back leg stretched out with the outside of the foot touching the ground. Make sure you take 5 deep breaths (at least) on each side.

Kneeling (a/k/a Virasana)

This pose is a great way to stretch all of the muscles and connective tissues surrounding the knee. It’s also one of the only poses that fully flexes (a/k/a bends) the knee-joint. Because some of the degeneration that your knees will experience in your lifetime will be from lack of use (as opposed to wear and tear), making sure the deeper parts of the knee-joint get their fair share of movement is an important element in overall knee health. This is true because when you move your joints through their full range of motion it increases circulation and lubrication. Good stuff. 

Before you try this one, remember my word of warning: no pain, no pain. Most people don’t bend their knees this deeply ever, and different parts of your body (like the hips, ankles, shins) might object to you trying it for the first few times.

Be careful, go slowly, and don’t forget to breathe.

Test out this pose by using your chair seat as support for your hands as you lower your toosh to your heels. If you can’t lower all the way down, roll up a blanket or pillow and place it directly under your toosh with your feet on either side. You can also use a thick book, or any other prop you can come up with; the idea is to lift your hips and create more space between the upper and lower part of your legs (so that the stretch around the knees is not as intense). Also make sure that your knees are close together and that your toes are in line with your ankles – don’t let them splay out or in.

Stay in the this pose for short amounts of time at first – just 5 deep breaths. Then, as you feel more comfortable, you can sit for longer periods, building up eventually to 1 minute.

Knee Swirls

This pose is one of my favorite ways to strengthen the knees because it involves the lesser used movement of the knees – a slight rotation to either side. But because the knees cannot fully rotate to the sides, you have to be very careful to engage the upper leg muscles to keep them safe.

Start by bringing your feet parallel and bending your knees slightly. Then place your hands lightly on your thighs and gently “swirl” your knees in one direction 5-10 times.

DO NOT press your hands into your thighs; instead contract the muscles in the front and back of your thighs, and pull your lower abdomen muscles in and up. That way you will use the strength of your legs (and core) to make the motion safely.

Come back to the center and straighten the knees letting your hands fall by your sides (in the pose known as “tadasana” or “mountain”). Take a few breaths there to rest. Then repeat on the other side. 

Again – don’t forget to breathe. Yoga benefits us, not because of magic (well, it does feel like magic sometimes), but because we are learning to move our body in sync with our breath. In order to do that we have to first notice where we are tense and holding our breath, and then start to release the tension with deep exhales in order to complete the movements.

Supported kneeling (a/k/a child’s pose variation)

This one will relax your back and shoulders at the same time as deep bending your knees.

You’ve probably tried some variation of this pose, either with the forehead on the floor in a fetal-like posture or with the forehead on the chair but with the legs open like I showed you in a prior post.

Practice this variation anytime you need a bit of comforting repose – while you are relaxing you will also get the wonderful benefits of fully bending the knees.

Don’t forget to use a blanket or thick book like in the kneeling/virasana pose above. And start with short amounts of time and gradually build up as your knees get used to this pose.

There are, of course, many more yoga poses that will build strength and flexibility in your knees, and I can share those with you another time. If you are needing some immediate and more extensive attention to your knees, send me an inquiry here.

In the meantime, start practicing what I’ve shown you in this post and you will get a good start on creating a healthy lifestyle for your knees – even if you spend large parts of the day sitting at a desk chair.

If you are interested in learning more generally about how yogic breathing techniques (pranayama), mindful movement (asana), meditation and work-life balance can help you lead a healthier urban life then inquire here. And if you know someone who will benefit from these teachings then don’t be shy and share this post with them!  

Want more great tips on how to live a healthy and balanced urban life?  Get the next Urban Practice post direct to your Inbox by clicking “Follow Urban Practice” (button on the right). You can also join me for daily tips and musings on Facebook here or on Twitter @MyUrbanPractice.

The Union of Inspiration and Fear

My last couple of months have been busy settling down into the rhythm of fall. Lots of long over due projects and harvest holidays have kept me from sharing my thoughts with you. But there’s been a lot on my mind.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about unity, and how all us humans are united in some (and probably many) ways. Years of yoga practice have influenced a habit that I have to notice both obvious and non obvious connections all around me.

You may not know this yet, but “yoga” is a Sanskrit word that comes from the ancient root “yuj” which means “to join.” The “yuj” root is the same as the root in our word “yoke” that means to tie something together (usually an oxen to a cart or some old school scenario like that). So yoga is most often translated literally as “union.”

Union with what? Well, traditionally, yoga was practiced to bring about union with “God” (whatever that means). But the interpretations have varied over the years and the practice can seek to bring about union with others, union with the divine, union with nature, union with your inner wisdom, etc.

Either way, if you dive deep enough into the study and practice of yoga you will end up hearing about union. And for me, that has made me view the world totally differently than I did many years ago before I started learning all this stuff.

I now look around and, instead of focusing on so many differences, I can often see the ways we are all connected. Even when that’s not the most obvious view to have.

I’ve noticed this union in two drastically different yet similar situations over the last couple of months.

The first was the New York City Climate March (that took place on September 21, 2014). Official estimates are that nearly 400,000 people showed up to march through the streets of Manhattan voicing their concern for what appears to be painfully drastic climate change taking place all over our planet.

I was one of the 400,000 there that day. The numbers included people from all walks of life, all ages, all political leanings and all kinds of personal activist agendas. But we were all united in one thing: our love for our home, this planet.

Such unity is inspiring and so we were also united in our inspiration: to do better by the earth, to be better humans.

The second was (and is) the growing panic and fear around Ebola, which has been building since the first reports of the current outbreak started making headlines here in the U.S.

I have been saying since August that Ebola is the one world problem that I am truly worried about (the rest – political shenanigans and military aggressiveness – I have no doubt will all work out for the best in the end). Ebola doesn’t care if we are black or white, rich or poor, liberal or conservative; all those things fall away in the face of a virus that does its (malign) work inside the human body.

I think we know on a deep level that in front of Ebola we are all the same. That is why many of us – like me – are filled with fear (but not to be confused with panic, which is fear run amok). Interesting thing, though, is that the whole Ebola situation is showing us how we are inextricably united: we all have to work together in order to keep this one under control.

In other words, we are all in this together.

There’s a certain beauty in seeing “union” where ever you look, even in the places where you would rather look away. And yoga teaches you to see the world that way.

If you want to know more about how yoga, meditation and mindfulness shed light on our the unity of our human experiences send an inquiry here.

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