Living with Harmony ~ A Blog for your Mind & Body

Pain in the Neck? Roll a Blanket

Posted in How-To,Yoga,Yoga Blanket by Harmony on November 30, 2010

Here’s a quick fix to get that kink out of your neck.  All you’ll need is a yoga blanket.  We offer several for you to choose from:

Crick Fixes Asana Sequence – Yoga Journal

By Barbara Benagh

Neck Blanket Stretch

Roll a blanket into a firm, even cylinder large enough to wedge between the base of your skull and the tops of your shoulder blades. Lie back over the roll so it gently stretches your neck; the roll should wedge just under the occipital ridge at the back of your skull and support your neck and your first few upper back vertebrae. Keeping your knees bent, place both palms on your forehead, fingers pointing toward the crown of your head, and bring your elbows close to each other. Close your eyes and tune in to your breath, feeling how its rhythm creates subtle movement. Notice areas in your neck, shoulders, and upper back that seem dense, dull, and resistant to the breath’s wavelike action, and invite them to relax against the blanket roll. As your muscles begin to release, slide your shoulder blades away from your skull; you may want to repeat this movement several times as your muscles continue to relax. Remain on the roll for up to five minutes, then remove it and continue to lie on your back for a few breaths, tuning in to the sensations in your neck, shoulders, and upper back.

For nine more poses to practice to reduce neck tension, see the entire sequence from Yoga Journal’s website.


Zafus by Bean Products : Buying Guide

Posted in Company News,How-To,Meditation,Zafus/Zabutons by Harmony on November 29, 2010

We currently carry a large selection of Zafus by Bean Products. Each Zafu is customizable as to what type of shape, cover, and stuffing you would like. These Zafus are then made upon your order and shipped directly to you. Because they are customized for you, they can take a little longer to receive then pre-made meditation cushions.

First, consider the shape you would like. Zafus are available in Round or Crescent shapes. The choice is a personal decision, but some may find that the short crescent shape offers some extra support to the upper thighs. I consider Bean’s Crescent Zafus a “short Crescent”, because there are other zafus on the market that are more of a longer V-shape design. We will be adding some of these in the near future, so please check back again soon.

Crescent Zafus by Bean

Crescent Zafus by Bean

Second, you can choose which stuffing you’d like. Bean offers Buckwheat Hulls or Kapok.  Both will shape to your body.  Since Kapok is a very light fibrous material the Zafu stuffed with Kapok is noticeably lighter than the Zafu stuffed with the Buckwheat hulls.  This could be important to those who will be carrying their Zafu to different locations.

All of the Zafus offer a convenient hidden zipper.  The zipper offers two benefits:

  • You can adjust the height and density by removing/adding more stuffing to suit your liking.  Our recommendation is to store any stuffing removed in case you wish to add it back in at a future time.
  • You can remove the stuffing in order to wash the outer cover.  There is no inner liner, so the stuffing will need to be poured into a bucket or container (as in the Buckwheat), or you’ll need to pull out the Kapok (which is a very fine and light fiber, so it’ll need to be carefully bagged).  After washing the cover, just pour or stuff the contents back into the Zafu.
Buckwheat Zafu

Buckwheat Zafu

Kapok Zafu

Kapok Zafu

And finally, you can choose your cover. You can choose from regular cotton, organic cotton, or hemp. Color selections vary, too.

So no more need to shop around looking for that “perfect” zafu – customize your own! Visit our Meditation Section to start creating your personal Zafu.

Balance & Stability Exercise – Side Step

Posted in Balance Board/Wobble Board,Balance Discs,Core/Fitness,How-To by Harmony on November 26, 2010

Develop your balance and stability skills by using a balance board or balance disc in your workout.  Learn how to do the Side Step by watching the following video – it’s just a few seconds long, so you can start practicing right away!

Here’s a quick summary comparing the balance board and balance discs:

Our round balance board is constructed of Birch wood and offers a 16″ diameter surface. The flat wood top is perched on a round base that allows for a 14-degree angle of difficulty to your workouts. A sandpaper surface makes it easy to stand on without slipping.

We offer two inflatable balance discs. Both are 13″ diameter. One balance disc is by JFit and is textured on both sides – one is knobby, and the other slightly textured to reduce slippage. Our Natural Fitness balance disc is smooth on one side, knobby on the other, but this balance disc is made with a non-toxic, eco-friendly, phthalate-free PVC elasticizer. The soft, inflatable balance discs are also a great tool to use to improve your posture. Place on the seat of your office chair and get the same benefits of using a stability ball without the bulk.

Deep Hip Openers with Pilates Ball

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

The second in two posts teaching us how to use a Stability Ball/Pilates ball to open our hips and stretch our legs.  Check out our selection of Pilates Balls and be sure to select the right size for your height.

Deep Hip Openings with the Stability Ball

Created Feb 3 2009 – 14:20

What It Is:
In my last post, we explored some leg and hip openings using the stability ball. Today we are going to delve into the hips a bit deeper. You want to be warm before going into these so take a brisk walk, for example, and start with some of the lighter stretches from the last article—hamstring, inner thigh and IT band stretch, PSOAS stretch and quadricep stretch. Also remember the following precautions when going into your stretches:

  • Stretching under your limit is much better than over your limit. Make each stretch fit your body type and limit. In other words, DO NOT ever force a stretch!
  • Never bounce into a stretch or jerk out of a stretch.
  • Be aware of your alignment as you stretch.
  • Always use tension free, full breaths to keep tension out of other parts of the body and to help you ease deeper into the pose.

Exercise: Frog Stretch
This pose stretches into the hips and helps to lengthen and open the groin muscles. The muscles of the groin pull the upper inner thighs together. These muscles are often tight and sometimes torn if not warmed up or properly stretched.

  • Lie on the mat on your back with the stability ball at your feet.
  • Bring the feet onto the stability ball.
  • Place the soles of the feet together and allow them to rest on the ball.
  • Let the knees open to the sides of the room in a frog position.
  • You may place the hands on the inner thighs to encourage the downward direction but do not force the knees and legs down.
  • Using your breath, time in the pose and gravity will encourage the legs to soften and open.
  • To go deeper you may inch the feet a bit closer to the groin area, closing the diamond shape a bit.
  • Remember, you can stay in the stretch as log as you like. Just make sure everything is staying relaxed and the breath is flowing.

Exercise: Pigeon with the Ball
Ease into this stretch carefully. If you feel this stretch in the kneecap come out of it.

  • Start on all fours on your mat with the stability ball in front of you.
  • Bring the right shin forward so it is parallel to the front of your mat. Now most of us will not be able to hold this parallel position. This is very advanced and indicates that you have very open hips. If you are not able to hold this scoot the foot towards the groin area.
  • The back left leg should be long and the front of the hip should be facing the floor.
  • You can also place a folded towel or blanket under the right buttock to help square the hips and ease the tension.
  • Place the hands on the stability ball and lift the eyes and sternum upwards as the ball comes into you.
  • Hold here and cycle the breath.
  • Push the ball out and allow the forehead to rest on the ball.
  • Hold here and cycle the breath.
  • Again, pull the ball back into you, arch the back and lift the eyes and sternum to the ceiling.
  • Hold here and cycle the breath.
  • Push the ball out so the arms are long.
  • Allow the head to go in between the arms and (if possible) for the forehead to rest on the mat. This will help to open the chest and underarm area.
  • Hold here and cycle the breath.
  • Keep the left hand on the ball, rotate the torso as you reach the right arm back.
  • Look towards the right hand.
  • Try to keep the pelvis square to the front wall.
  • Hold here and cycle the breath.
  • Change sides.

Exercise: Backbend Into a Squat
Squatting is one of the best poses we can do to open the hips, strengthen and open the pelvic floor and create an overall flexibility in the lower body. Squatting also helps to reverse the tightness acquired from to much sitting in chairs and driving. If you have any neck issues or injuries do not attempt the backbend part of this exercise.

  • Start seated on your stability ball with a mat under you and the ball.
  • Slowly, walk your feet out one at a time until your head and shoulders are supported on the stability ball and the knees are aligned over the ankles.
  • If you have neck issues, hold this position.
  • If you wish to go further into the pose, stretch the legs long, reach the arms behind you and extend the head back.
  • Hold here for a few moments enjoying the opening in the front of the body. Let the breath flow freely while you hold this pose.
  • To come into the squat position, slide forward on the ball bending the knees, planting the feet and bringing the torso into an upright position.
  • Your hands can be by your side helping you to balance or in prayer position in front of the chest.
  • Make sure the sticky mat (yoga mat) is underneath the ball and your feet for safety.
  • Hold the squat for 10 to 20 seconds and then push back into the backbend over the ball.
  • You can alternate between the squat and the backbend a few times.
  • When you are ready to come out of it, go into the backbend pose, roll the chin to the chest and start to walk the feet in towards the ball one at a time until you are sitting on top of your ball.

Shoulder Stand with a Yoga Blanket

Posted in How-To,Yoga,Yoga Blanket by Harmony on November 23, 2010

In the following 5-minute long video you’ll learn how to do a supported shoulder stand using a wall and the full pose. In both poses, she’ll show us how to do the shoulder stand using a yoga blanket under the shoulders.

You may wish to practice this by also wrapping your yoga mat over the top of the blanket as well. By doing this, your elbows will be on a non-slip surface and it may make it a little easier to hold your pose without your elbows sliding away from one another.

We offer several yoga blankets. The Classic Mexican Yoga blanket offers a looser weave, is a little lighter weight, and a few inches smaller then the Premiums. The Premium Mexican Yoga blanket and the Thunderbird blanket are a tighter weave, offering a slightly firmer support, in addition to be larger than the Classic. And, finally, the Mat Size Yoga blanket is the size of a standard yoga mat, which is great for someone who is looking for a little support or cushioning and a blanket that is easy to fit in a mat bag and carry to class.

A Guided Meditation with an Anusara Yogi

Posted in How-To,Meditation,Yoga,Yoga Blanket,Zafus/Zabutons by Harmony on November 22, 2010

Before listening and watching the following 8+ minute video, find a quiet spot to sit comfortably with an erect spine. This video is by an English Anusara yogi and would be a beautiful Savasana meditation to do as well at the end of your yoga practice.

If you will be sitting cross-legged on the floor or earth, and if your knees are higher than your hips, Bridget suggests tucking a blanket under both of your knees to allow you to fully and deeply relax your inner thighs during this meditation practice. Another option would be to sit higher. How high would depend on how high your knees are – you may just need to sit on a yoga blanket, or your may prefer to sit on a Zafu. We offer a large selection of Zafus: round or crescent-shaped; regular cotton covers or organic; and cotton, buckwheat or kapok stuffing.

Balance & Stability : Plank w/ Crunch

Posted in Balance Board/Wobble Board,Balance Discs,Core/Fitness,How-To by Harmony on November 19, 2010

In seconds you can quickly learn how to use a balance board or a balance disc to increase the difficulty level of doing a Plank pose with a Crunch. Adding an unstable base to any exercise or pose will force you to incorporate additional muscles and will also train your proprioceptors to reduce the risk of injury.

Gift Certificates at Rolling Sands Harmony

Posted in Company News by Harmony on November 18, 2010
Gift Certificates Available in Four Dollar Amounts

Gift Certificates in Four Dollar Amounts

Holiday Gift Certificates are now available! And in four different dollar amounts: $25, $50, $75, and $100 certificates. Give the gift of good health and wellness this holiday season, or throughout the year. Gift certificates make the perfect gift when you don’t know what specific item your friend or family member is needing, but know that they’d enjoy something from our large selection of yoga mats & props; Pilates and fitness products; or meditation cushions and supplies.  These Gift Certificates (or Gift Cards) are reusable until fully redeemed and are not restricted to certain items.  See our Gift Certificate Features.  Gift Certificates are emailed to the recipient one day after purchase for a quick delivery of your gift.

Legs & Hips with the Pilates Ball

Posted in How-To,Pilates,Stability Ball / Yoga Ball by Harmony on November 18, 2010

The first of two series on using the Stability Ball or Pilates Ball to open those hips and stretch out those legs.  A Pilates Ball is also known as a Stability Ball, Exercise Ball, Yoga Ball, and by so many other names.  Basically it’s a large, inflatable vinyl ball that comes in several sizes to accomodate your height.  Please visit our Yoga Ball page to see out entire selection which includes burst-resistant balls and eco-friendly balls.

Pilates Stability Ball Exercises to Lengthen Legs & Open Hips

Created Jan 27 2009 – 15:27

What It Is:
With its pliability, roundness and fluidity of movement, the Stability ball lends itself perfectly to supporting and encouraging stretching and opening poses. The next few exercises help to bring awareness and suppleness to our legs and hips that are often over used and in need of this much deserved TLC! Remember these following precautions when going into any stretches. Stretching under your limit is much better than over your limit. Make each stretch fit your body type and limit. In other words: Do NOT ever force a stretch.

This one is derived from the old aerobics days where injuries ran wild. Never bounce into a stretch or jerk out of a stretch. Be aware of your alignment as you stretch. Always use tension-free, full breath to keep tension out of other parts of the body and to help you ease deeper into the pose.

Exercise: Hamstring, inner thigh and IT band stretch
This is a simple but effective and thorough stretch for the legs. If you have only time for one stretch sequence for the legs, then this is it. The opposite leg (the one you are not stretching) rests on the ball. Because of the height of the ball this eases the lower back but because of the wobbliness of the ball you have to pay more attention to where you are in space as you stretch. This will help you build your proprioceptive skills in a very safe pose.

  • You can use a strap or towel around the foot or hold onto the leg behind the calf or at the big toe if you can reach comfortably.
  • Lie supine on a mat with the ball at your feet.
  • Make sure the ball is on the mat for greater stability.
  • Drape the left leg over the ball.
  • Stretch the right leg to the ceiling to target the hamstring muscles.
  • Be sure that the back of the pelvis stays on the floor and the tip of the tailbone keeps reaching towards the mat.
  • For the beginner keep the head down but be sure the shoulders stay away from the ears.
  • For more seasoned stretchers, the head and shoulders can roll towards the knee if you can keep the shoulders down.
  • Hold the stretch for 20 to 30 seconds breathing deeply.


  • If you have a strap around the foot bring the strap into the right hand.
  • Let the right / straight leg move to the side targeting the adductor (inner thigh) muscles.
  • Make sure that the left side of the back of the pelvis does not leave the floor.
  • You might have to not drop the leg down so far in order to keep both sides of the back of the pelvis anchored.
  • Hold for 20 to 30 seconds breathing deeply.
  • Next, slowly bring the leg back to center, bring the strap into the left hand and slowly cross the right leg over the body but try to keep the right hip on the floor. In this way you will target and stretch the Iliotibial band (IT band) on the outside of the leg.
  • Be sure the shoulders are staying away from the ears.
  • Hold for 20 to 30 seconds breathing deeply.
  • Switch sides.

Exercise: PSOAS Stretch

  • Because of all the sitting and driving we do in our culture the front of our hips get very tight. Opening the front of the hips helps to keep the stress out of the lower back and keeps us moving more fluidly.
  • For more stability you can place your mat and ball close to the wall.
  • With the ball in front of you, slide the left leg back behind you with the knee on the floor.
  • If you have sensitive knees place a blanket underneath this left knee.
  • Bring the right leg to the front with the knee bent and the foot by the ball.
  • Imagine you could bring the tailbone between the legs as you lift the belly up towards the face.
  • Breath deeply.
  • If you want to ease into it a little more, allow the ball to roll slightly forward.
  • Hold for 20 to 30 seconds.
  • For an even deeper stretch, curl the toes of the back leg and straighten the leg without lifting the hips too high.
  • Keep imagining the tailbone going between the legs as the belly lifts towards the face.
  • With either the knee down or the leg extended you can add a side bend that will deepen the opening in the left front of the hip.
  • Keeping the right hand on the ball, lift the left hand to the ceiling and straighten the arm.
  • Exhale and side bend to the right , fanning the left ribcage open.
  • Be sure the hips stay square to the front as you side bend.
  • Switch sides.

Exercise: Quadriceps Stretch

  • Start seated on your ball at the end of your mat facing towards your mat.
  • Gently walk the feet out one at a time until the head and shoulders are resting on your ball and the knee is right over the ankle.
  • In this position, press the hips to the ceiling.
  • The eye focus should stay to the ceiling.
  • Keeping the hips lifted and the head and shoulders on the ball , move one foot closer into the ball and allow that knee to point towards the floor. To get into this position, you may need to put your fingertips on the floor.
  • You will be on the ball of the foot with the heel lifted in order to point the knee towards the floor and target the quadriceps.
  • Hold for 20 seconds and then switch sides.
  • To go further into the stretch , bring the legs back to the tabletop position.
  • From there, walk the legs out to a long position, extend the back and head and arms (if comfortable) over the ball.
  • This long stretch is a full body stretch and allows the front of the hips to fully open.
  • To come out of this long stretch , gently bring the chin to the chest as you walk one foot at a time into the ball, slowly sitting up.

Join us next time as we delve into some deep hip openings using the Pilates Stability Ball.

Yoga Reduces Anxiety

Posted in Company News,Yoga by Harmony on November 17, 2010

Why should you practice yoga?  Here’s just one more reason…

Yoga may be better at reducing anxiety and lifting mood than other forms of exercise, study finds

By Jeannine Stein, Los Angeles Times

3:07 PM PST, November 11, 2010


Yoga has many proven health benefits, but does it stand up to other forms of exercise? Researchers pitted it against a walking routine and found that those who practiced yoga showed greater improvements in mood and anxiety.

Researchers randomly assigned 19 people to an Iyengar yoga program and 15 to a metabolically matched regular walking regimen.

Both groups took part in the programs for an hour three times a week for 12 weeks. Study participants were tested several times to measure mood and anxiety. They were also given magnetic resonance spectroscopy scans to measure levels of the brain chemical gamma-Aminobutyric acid (GABA), a neurotransmitter that quiets brain activity, reducing anxiety and producing a state of calm. The scans were done at the beginning and end of the study and immediately following a yoga or walking session.

Those in the yoga group saw better changes in mood and less anxiety than those in the walking group. The yoga group also saw increases in GABA levels linked with improvements in mood.

The study was published recently in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine.

Copyright © 2010, Los Angeles Times

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