Living with Harmony ~ A Blog for your Mind & Body

East Meets West – Yoga and a Foam Roller

Posted in Foam Roller,How-To,Yoga by Harmony on March 30, 2010

Peggy warns us that she moves fast through these poses, and she does. In just under 5 minutes, she’ll give you lots of ways to use a foam roller with yoga poses. This is not a video to follow along with, but to watch and learn from. She does not explain how to get into the yoga poses themselves, so I would not recommend this to someone who is not already familiar with yoga. Other than that, have fun!

In this video she is using a 36″ foam roller. We offer two different 36″ long high-density foam rollers at our store. A Hi-Density Foam Roller and a Textured Hi-Density Foam Roller.  High density foam rollers will hold their shape for a longer time.  They’ll also offer more support and resistance during use versus the single-construction white foam rollers.  The textured surface of the Textured Roller will grip hard flooring better so the roller won’t slide out from underneath you (versus “roll”), making it great for those working out on wood floors.


Gayatri Mantra – Meditation

Posted in How-To,Meditate,Meditation by Harmony on March 29, 2010

Just the other day I was talking with my Yoga Teacher about Mantras and how hard it is for me to remember the rhythm of the various mantras.  We ended up discussing the idea of putting them on tape to make practicing easier for me.  So I just thought it was perfect timing when I found Anmol Mehta’s website.  You can download a free MP3 clip of him or his wife chanting different mantras.  Set it on repeat and use it as the background for your meditation while you learn to repeat the mantra on your own…

Gayatri Mantra Meditation for Opening Third Eye Chakra by Anmol Mehta

The Gayatri Mantra is considered the most powerful Hindu mantra.  It comes from the Vedas, which are the ancient Hindu scriptures, and is the most revered of all Vedic mantras.  Although, this mantra is used for different meditations and prayers, in this article, I am going to teach you how to use the Gayatri Mantra to open the all important Third Eye Chakra.

The Third Eye, or Ajna Chakra, is part of the Kundalini Yoga Seven Chakra system.  This system postulates that there are seven energy vortexes that lie along the spine, which help to transmute energy between the physical and subtle bodies.  Each of these chakras are responsible for the health of the organs in the region where they lie, and are also responsible for certain mental and emotional traits and characteristics.  Of these seven chakras, the Third Eye is one of the most important.

The Third Eye Chakra is located in the center of the forehead and is responsible for one’s power of intuition and ability to see the unseen.  The Third Eye is also responsible for Psychic Powers and it’s activation often leads to the attainment of such powers.  Although the seed mantra for the Ajna Chakra is the AUM mantra, the Gayatri Mantra is also a powerful tool to help open this center.

Below I will first provide the Sanskrit text of the Gayatri Manra and it’s English translation.  Following that I will teach you how to use this powerful mantra to open the Third Eye Chakra.

Highest Hindu Vedic Mantra: The Gayatri Mantra

Om Bhur Buvaha Svaha Tat Savitur Varenyam Bhargo Devasya Dheemahi Dhiyo Yonaha Prachodayath

Although there are several interpretations of this mantra, in my view, the one below is the best.

Gayatri Mantra English Translation

O Supreme Creator, Thou art the giver of life, the remover of pain and sorrow and the bestower of happiness; O Creator of the Universe, may we receive Thy supreme sin-destroying light; may Thou guide our intellect in the right direction.

Gayatri Mantra Third Eye Chakra Meditation:

This particular technique of using the Gayatri Mantra, also involves using the power of mudras.  Mudras are eye, hand and body positions that activate certain subtle energy flows in the body, and create favorable states of consciousness as well.  They are very useful for going deeper into meditation or changing the energy flows in the body.  The mudra used in this Third Eye meditation is the Shambhavi Mudra.

To apply Shambhavi Mudra you will close your eyes, and then turn the eyeballs up and look through the center of the forehead.  This position helps open the Third Eye and will enhance the affects of the mantra.  For more details on mudras, you can visit my free website at AnmolMehta.Com.

So to practice Gayatri Mantra meditation to open the Third Eye Chakra you would sit up comfortably, close your eyes and turn them upwards to look through your forehead.   Only hold this eye position as long as comfortable.  Then chant the Gayatri Mantra while visualizing it emanating from the center of the forehead.  Continue this meditation for 5 minutes initially, and it can be slowly build up to 20 minutes or more over time.

Gayatri Mantra Meditation Summary:

There are many benefits to this meditation, and you will find that, in addition to opening the Third Eye, chanting the Gayatri Mantra will give you a great deal of peace and tranquility as well.  One important note is that please don’t over do this potent meditation.  Make sure start slowly and build up your capacity over time.  The Gayatri Mantra is a great gift and used wisely, it can be a great tool for inner transformation and transcendence.

Anmol Mehta is a modern Yoga & Meditation master. His website, Free Chakra Meditations, offers a free Gayatri Mantra MP3 Download, and the largest collection of Free Mantra MP3 Downloads.

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Exercises with an Exercise Ball and Exercise Bands

Posted in Core/Fitness,How-To,Pilates Bands,Stability Ball / Yoga Ball by Harmony on March 26, 2010

When purchasing a stability exercise ball, remember that they come in different sizes.  Sizing charts are on every page where we sell these exercise balls.  You’ll find several different kinds in our store:  stability balls, burst-resistant exercise balls, and balls manufactured with an eco-friendly vinyl.  To size yourself at the gym, sit on the ball – you’d like your knees to be bent at a 90-degree angle with your quads parallel to the floor.

These exercises can be performed with exercise/Pilates bands or resistance tubes.  A great way to get a core and upper body workout:

Using an Exercise Ball With an Exercise Band


An exercise ball and exercise band are two of the best tools for strength training. They work best for building lean muscle, core strength and improving balance. However, someone working out will need to sit on the ball and keep the hands free to hold the ends of the exercise band, which limits options. Although an exercise ball and band can be used independently to train all the major muscle groups, they are best used together to do upper body exercises.

Step 1

Wrap the looped end of a band around a pole or stationary object. Sit on an exercise ball facing away from the object. Raise the arms to shoulder height with the elbows bent. Hold an end of the band in each hand with the palms facing down and the arms parallel to the floor.

Step 2

Pull the shoulder blades together. Roll the ball forward or backward by walking the feet until you get to a distance where you feel a mild tension in the exercise band.

Step 3

Squeeze the abs and check that your feet are flat on the floor and pointing straight ahead. Breathe out and press the arms straight forward and together so that the hands touch. This is a chest press. You should feel the effort in the pecs and triceps.

Step 4

Inhale and bend the elbows as you bring your arms back to the starting position. Do as many reps as you can until you reach muscle fatigue. Use a lighter cable if you cannot do at least 10 reps.

Step 5

Turn around on the ball and extend the arms forward with the palms facing inwards at sternum height. Adjust the distance of the ball until you feel mild tension in the band. Check that the feet are pointing forward, the abs are squeezed, and the back is straight.

Step 6

Exhale and bend the arms as you pull your arms and shoulders back in a rowing motion. Contract the muscles of the back. This is where you should feel the effort of the row, though your bicep muscles will get some work too. Keep practicing if you do not feel it right away.

Step 7

Inhale and straighten the arms forward again. Do as many reps as you can until you become tired.

Step 8

Raise the arms to shoulder height with the palms together and facing the floor. Keep the arms straight and pull them out to the sides all the way back to the shoulders. Use a lighter weight cable if you cannot pull the cable all the way back to the sides. Exhale as you pull the arms back and the shoulder blades together. You should feel this in your rear shoulders, called your deltoids, and the upper back.

Step 9

Bring the arms forward again and inhale. Do as many reps of this rear deltoid exercise as you can before you reach fatigue. Do not bend the elbows, raise the shoulders toward the ears, or stick the head forward.

Tips and Warnings

  • The exercise band and ball are not the best for strong people hoping to build larger muscles because the smaller stabilizer and core muscles needed to use a ball and bands together cannot handle heavy weight loads. Exercise bands often come in three different “weights.” Buy a set of three and switch them out so that you can do three sets of 10 to 20 reps with good form and to reach fatigue by your last repetition on each set.
  • Balancing on the ball while pulling a band can be difficult to do if the core is not strong. Have a friend kneel behind you and hold the ball until you are confident in your ability to maintain your balance.

Pilates: Waterfall with Stability Ball

Posted in How-To,Pilates,Stability Ball / Yoga Ball by Harmony on March 25, 2010

Add some variety to your ab workout. Follow Susan as she performs the Waterfall floor exercise with a 45cm Stability Ball.

Stability Balls come in a variety of sizes.  Usually you’d choose your size depending on your height, so when you sit on the ball, your legs would be at 90-degrees.  In this exercise, she is choosing a smaller-sized ball to manage easily between her hands as she rolls it up and down her legs.

Restorative Yoga – Reclining Hero Pose

Posted in How-To,Yoga,Yoga Blanket,Yoga Block,Yoga Bolster,Yoga Pose by Harmony on March 23, 2010

Hero Pose by Yoga JournalHero Pose can be a real challenge for some of us. Especially if you are an athlete with tight quads (like a cyclist). But I’ve found, that if something is a challenging pose for me that it’s probably the one I should practice more to help balance me out physically.

You can click on this image to visit Yoga Journal’s page on how to do Hero Pose if you’d like.

So, if you are challenged in Hero Pose, the idea of reclining or lying back in this pose can be awfully intimidating. This is where yoga props will be your best friend.

Follow the video to see how you can set up bolsters, blankets, blocks and more to get comfortable in this pose and enjoy it’s benefits.  This is our fourth, and last, video in our Restorative Yoga session.  Well, at least for this month…maybe we’ll add more in the future since props will almost always be used in restorative postures.

So Hum Meditation

Posted in How-To,Meditate,Meditation by Harmony on March 22, 2010

Learn a little about the benefits of meditation, and guided instructions on how to perform the So Hum meditation, by reading this article below.

If you’re new to meditating, but currently do yoga at home, you might already have some props to help you sit in meditation more comfortably.  You could fold up your yoga mat for cushioning, use your yoga blanket, or even a yoga bolster.   But, if you are doing daily meditations, it would be recommended to get comfortable with a zafu, zabuton, or meditation bench.  By sitting in the same space, and on the same meditation cushion or bench, your positive energy will build there.

Best Free Guided Meditation Technique for Peace by Anmol Mehta

Although one of the best meditation techniques on the planet today is Zazen, or Zen Meditation, not far behind is So Hum Mantra Meditation Technique. Zen Meditation comes from the great school of Zen Buddhism and is the technique of Lord Buddha, and So Hum Mantra Meditation comes from the Hindu schools of meditation and yoga. Both techniques are excellent for daily practice and in this article I will give guide you on how to practice So Hum Mantra Meditation Technique.

As the name implies So Hum is a mantra repetition technique, in which you sit still and then focus on the mantra indicated. Such meditation has been scientifically proven to help you with your personal and spiritual growth and below I will go over these benefits with you. In addition, I will give you detailed step-by-step instructions on how to correctly practice this technique so you can extract the maximum benefits possible.

Benefits of Daily Meditation Practice:

A great deal of scientific research has been done on Mantra Meditations and below are some highlights of these findings. One important note though with regard to meditation and it’s many benefits, is that it needs to be done regularly in order to bestow it’s benefits. So plan your practice for the long term and enjoy all that such a practice has to offer.

– Significant reduction in anxiety and stress which has been verified by changes in brain activity centers.

– 200% increase in blood flow to the brain region along with significant reduction in blood pressure and cholesterol.

– 50% less doctor visits and 55% fewer tumors.

– Significant reduction in infectious diseases.

– Reduction in Chronic Pain.”

– 75% improvement with insomnia and Increased Intelligence, Awareness and Concentration.

There are many more wonderful benefits of meditation and you can find those on my website – Free Guided Meditation and Yoga Techniques.

Guided Mantra Meditation Practice:

– Sit with your legs crossed if you can. If you cannot, you may also sit on a chair or lie on your back to practice this meditation.

– Set your alarm for 10 to 20 minutes. If using a traditional 108 bead meditation necklace (mala). Do 1 full cycle.

– Now sit up straight and elongate your spine upwards.

– Place your hands in Gyan Mudra (hand position of knowledge). Which is thumb and index finger lightly meeting, wrists resting gently on the knees and palms facing upward. The other 3 fingers are extended.

– Take 5 deep, slow breaths though the nose to relax you and help you focus. Also, for the duration of the meditation try to remain as still as possible.”

– Now inhale slowly while mentally intoning the sound “Soooooo” and then exhale slowly, again mentally saying the sound “Hummmm”.

– Just allow all your worries, thoughts and anxieties to dissolve into the mantra and let go of every problem you have. Feel your consciousness expanding and growing with every breath. Feel more and more peace and joy coming from within as you practice this technique.

– Continue in this way for the duration of the meditation.

Mantra Meditation Technique for Daily Practice:

Remember the most important aspect of meditation practice is consistency. So set up your life style in such a way that you can find at least 20 minutes every day to practice this technique. Ideally you will want to increase this practice to 20 minutes 2 times per day, and finally to being able to sit and meditate for up to 1 hour at a stretch.

The benefits of meditation come gently as you continue your sincere practice, so don’t focus on that aspect at all. Instead just concern yourself with doing your daily meditation and leave the results in the capable hands of God and Life. You will be surprised at how generous they are. Just trust them and they will guide, inspire and protect you.

Anmol Mehta is a modern Meditation, Zen and Yoga Master. He is author of the Best Meditation Book and Training Manual and founder of the largest Free Guided Meditation Techniques web site and blog.

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Strength Training with Toning Balls – for the Lower Body

Posted in Core/Fitness,How-To,Toning Balls by Harmony on March 19, 2010

Following are just two lower body strength training exercises that you can do with Soft-Weighted Toning Balls.  If you’d feel more comfortable doing lunges on a non-slip surface, consider using a Yoga Mat as your base.

Squats & Lunges with Toning Balls

Squats & Lunges with Toning Balls

Squats with Toning Balls

Begin standing with feet parallel, shoulder-width apart.  Hold a Soft Weighted Ball in each hand down to your sides.  Keep abdominals tight while you bed hips and knees to perform a squat.  Repeat.

Lunges with Toning Balls

Stand with feet shoulder-width apart.  Hold a Soft Weighted Ball in each hand down to your sides.  Lift right knee high and take a large step forward.  Bend right knee to ninety degrees without the left knee touching the floor.  Step back into starting position.  Repeat by alternating legs.

If you are interested in reading more exercises using Toning Balls, just look to the right-side column on your screen and click on “Toning Balls” under our How-To Section.  This is the fifth article provided by Natural Fitness.  The product shown is an eco-friendly, phthalate-free Toning Ball.  These soft-weighted exercise balls are also called Pilates Balls, because you can incorporate them into your Pilates floor routines just as easily.

Pilates: Lower and Lift with a Small Exercise Ball

Posted in How-To,Mini Exercise Ball,Pilates by Harmony on March 18, 2010

In this video, you’ll learn how to use a small, inflatable exercise ball in the Pilates exercise called Lower and Lift.

We have two different sizes of these small exercise balls:  a 7″ Mini Exercise Ball and a 9″ Mini Exercise Ball for you to choose from.  You’ll see in this video that they perform this exercise with the ball somewhat deflated.  This is recommended when using these mini-balls during exercises.  If you want to use the ball for massage therapy or myofacial release, inflating them more will work better.  These Mini Exercise Therapy Balls have many uses.

Restorative Yoga – Legs up the Wall Pose

Posted in How-To,Yoga,Yoga Blanket,Yoga Bolster,Yoga Pose by Harmony on March 16, 2010

Legs up the Wall Pose is also known as Viparita Kirani in Sanskrit. I’ve mentioned this pose before in another blog post, but for some of us, watching a video is easier than reading step-by-step instructions.  This actress also incorporates a yoga blanket under the spine, which is nice for someone who wants the softness under their spine, wants to use the blanket to open their heart center more, or someone who wants to reduce the backbend in this pose.

The yoga props used in this video are a Yoga Bolster, a Mexican Yoga Blanket, and a wall (or a chair as a substitute – but most of us should have an open wall in our house that could accommodate us in this pose).

This is our third of four Restorative Yoga videos.  Please check last week’s video on how to fold a yoga blanket if you missed it.

Exercises to do on a Balance Board

Posted in Balance Board/Wobble Board,Core/Fitness,How-To by Harmony on March 12, 2010

Following are some exercises that you can perform on the Balance Board (or also known as a wobble board). These exercises are listed from easiest (#1) to hardest (#10). We’d strongly recommend that beginners start with #1 and progress down the list as their strength, balance, and reaction times improve. Doing so with a chair or wall near by is helpful too. As you improve, you’ll use these props less and less, but it’s nice to have them near you if you need the extra support!  Once you feel strong enough and comfortable enough, then challenge yourself without a wall or chair…starting from the beginning.

We carry a wood Balance Board by TKO. They look simple enough, but can be quite challenging (especially for beginners). They are great for athletes who depend on agility and need to perform quick turns on their feet (basketball players and soccer players, for example). Balance boards will strengthen the ankles and lower legs in addition to training proprioceptors, which are sensors in our bodies that warn us that our ankles are turning over. This is why they are also used in rehab therapy for people who have twisted or injured their ankles.  It’s a good tool for anyone looking to improve strength and balance.

Exercises to do on a Balance Board:

1.  Sitting on the floor, place the balance board under the feet and slowly rotate it a number of times in each direction.

2.  Stand on the balance board, feet shoulder-width apart.  Hold on to a chair for support if needed and rock the board forwards and backwards, then side to side.  Do this for 2 to 3 minutes.

3.  Stand on the balance board, feet shoulder-width apart.  Rotate the balance board round so that the edge of the board is in contact with the floor at all times.  Do this for 2 to 3 minutes.

4.  Stand on the balance board, feet shoulder-width apart.  Rock the board front to back for one minute then side to side for one minute.

5.  Balance on the balance board for as long as you can without the edges touching the floor.  Aim for over 2 minutes without touching the floor.

6.  Rotate the balance board in a circle, but do not allow the edge of the board to touch the floor.  Aim for 2 minutes.

7.  Stand on the balance board with one leg.  Rock the board from front to back for 1 minute and then side to side for 1 minute.

8.  Stand on the balance board with one leg.  Rotate the board in a circular motion in one direction for 1 minute then repeat in the other direction.

9.  Stand on the balance board with one leg.  Try to stay balanced.  How long can you hold it?

10.  When you have mastered all of the above you should have strong, stable ankles and be an expert.   Want to challenge yourself further?  Try these exercises with your eyes closed!

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