Yoga for Women (and everyone really)

March hosts International Women’s Day. In order to honor this, I thought I’d write about how yoga can benefit women and female identifying persons.

It seems fairly clear and straightforward, to be honest. Why do we think there are usually so many more women than men in yoga classes? Because women get it! They get the power of yoga. Maybe it’s because women are generally more in tune with their feelings (physically and mentally), but it seems like the power of yoga is felt right away. And since women are generally the ones taking care of children and the household, it makes sense that their self-care involves yoga, an activity that helps us deal with the madness that life can bring.

So let’s lay it out…why is yoga so amazing for women?

Well, here are just a few reasons:

  1. It reduces stress.
  2. It helps combat anxiety and depression.
  3. It increases positive endorphins.
  4. It eases pain and makes the body physically stronger.
  5. It empowers us to try new things and take risks.
  6. It allows us to remain calm in stressful situations.

So these are great things about yoga and guess what, they aren’t just benefits for women. Spoiler alert!!!!! Yoga is for everybody. AND YES – YOGA IS GOOD FOR EVERYBODY TOO!

So while March is all about empowering and expressing gratitude to the women in your life…yoga doesn’t have to be for women only.

February – Let’s Promote Self-Care

Often, during the month of February, we find ourselves surrounded by messages of romantic love. We see candies and cards meant to express how we love our romantic partners. Sometimes we can find the candies and cards to express non-romantic love for others…family and friends. But what about ourselves?

Where are the candies and cards that we are allowed to give ourselves to say thank you, I love you.

Often we forget that the most important person in our lives is us. Me…I…these are important too. It’s not selfish to say “I love myself”. It’s not selfish to want to spend time by yourself doing what you want to do instead of making room to do whatever your partner, friends, or family wants. It’s not selfish to take care of YOU!

 

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Many people work in fields of service. From nursing, teaching, to therapy and social work…these are all fields where we give a little bit of ourselves to the people, communities we serve. How can we do this if we are not taking care of ourselves first? We are like buckets, if you will. We are happy when we are full energetically. So if we keep taking a cup here, a cup there…all these cups for others…we end up emptying out our own energy store. We need to replenish. That’s where self-care comes in.

Here are a few good self-care items that might help you replenish that energy you might be losing:

  1. Take a bubble bath.
  2. Meditate.
  3. Do some yoga.
  4. Go for a walk outside.
  5. Read a book.
  6. Take a nap.
  7. Watch your favorite movie alone.
  8. Make yourself your favorite meal.
  9. Ask for help or space.

These are just a few tips. Generally self-care is doing something you like that’s good for you. So it’s not eating an entire cake or bag of candy. It’s not ignoring things that are piling up on your to-do list. It’s doing something that you love that helps you replenish your own energy store so that you can go out and tackle that class of rowdy teens or that huge to-do list.

New Year – Let’s Dedicate!

A new year is always a good time to restart. It’s often a time of renewal, recommitment, and rededication. Many of us make resolutions to start working out more, eating healthier, maybe even drinking less alcohol. All these are great! It’s always great to dedicate yourself to YOU!

My resolution is simple. New year, same me. I am dedicating 2019 to ME!

One way I’m doing this is renewing my dedication to yoga. I am continuing my intention to practice yoga on a daily basis. That can be quite a daunting task. Most of the time when I wake up, I don’t want to get on the mat. I want to stay in bed and be lazy…especially on the weekends. I often need motivation to participate in a daily practice. That’s where YouTube and my favorite YouTube Yogi comes in.

Every January Adriene from Yoga with Adriene puts out a month long practice to rejuvenate a daily yoga practice. This year, it’s called Dedicate. What a perfect name for 2019??

Some of the videos are long, some aren’t. So far I’ve been able to find time to do all of them. I have to say, this has been a great way for me to keep myself accountable. After 20+ days, it will once again become a habit.

I wish you all the best of luck keeping your resolutions this year. I know I will do my best to keep mine. Here’s to another year, another 365 pages to fill in the book of life!

 

 

 

Yoga for Travel

When we travel, whether its domestic or international, often we feel fatigued and our bodies just want to rest. While rest is important, it is also important to move the body a little so that you can stretch out stiff areas and flex out tight muscles.

On long flights, its important to get up an move around. Sometimes we don’t have the luxury of doing a full yoga routine, especially on a 10 hour flight overseas. Here are a few things you can do in small areas, on the plane or off, to help you reduce stiffness and hopefully help alleviate fatigue.

  1. Walking meditation (up and down aisles of the airplane)
  2. Forward Fold/Standing wide legged forward fold
  3. Standing cat/cow
  4. Standing side stretches
  5. Malasana squat
  6. Crescent lunges
  7. Standing upper body twists

When you land at your destination, here are some yoga moves you can do to help reduce fatigue so that you can get right to the fun!

  1. Sun salutation A
  2. Standing side stretches
  3. Warrior series
  4. Chair pose
  5. Boat pose
  6. Headstand/handstand
  7. Supine twist

Hopefully these help you as much as they have helped me in my travels! Enjoy the holiday season and happy new year!

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A Month of Gratitude

When you think of November, what comes to mind? Fall colors, great food, maybe even family? Another thing that usually comes to mind is gratitude. Many folks use this month as a jumpstart to express their gratitude for the past year. Towards the end of each year we often find ourselves reflecting on the past year and thinking of all the good times as well as the bad. Setting yourself up with a 30 day gratitude challenge is a great way to focus on the good.

It doesn’t matter when you start, doing a 30 day gratitude challenge is great for any time of year.

Here are some great tips on expressing gratitude:

  • Be an active listener
  • Give out compliments
  • Write positive affirmations for yourself
  • Be thoughtful
  • Volunteer
  • Give a hug
  • Share praise
  • Journal on gratitude
  • Donate
  • Say thank you
  • Smile

Remember, expressing gratitude for yourself is just as important as expressing gratitude to others. Loving yourself is often more important too!

Have fun with this gratitude challenge and happy holidays!

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National Yoga Month

September was National Yoga Month! What did that mean? Well hopefully you saw more yoga pop up and community classes being made available to you and your community. If not, that’s fairly understandable. It can be hard to just start a yoga program from scratch. It can be ever harder to start your own yoga practice at home.

Here are a few tips to help you start your own yoga practice at home:

  1. Find short yoga videos – there are so many FREE yoga videos available on YouTube. Some are long and daunting…BUT some are really short and sweet. Use those short practices to jump start your yoga practice.
  2. Create a yoga space – even if it’s just a small space in your bedroom or office, create a special place for you to do yoga. Put some paintings on the wall, leave your mat in the corner. Do something special to that space to denote it from the rest of your home.
  3. Set your alarm – this is probably the most important step. Set an alarm to do yoga. Whether it’s in the morning or at night, use the technology that you already have to support your drive to create a yoga practice.
  4. Find a yoga community you connect with – use Facebook or Instagram to inspire you to try to do yoga on the reg
  5. Get friends involved – use your friends!!! Let them hold you accountable if you can’t.

Yoga is a great method to stay healthy, both physically and mentally. It is definitely one of the best things I’ve done for myself. Trust me, you won’t regret a daily home practice…even if it doesn’t mean waking up at 5 am like me.

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Yoga Retreats

This past July, I had the opportunity to attend Adriene Mishler’s first yoga retreat at the 1440 Multiversity in Scotts Valley, CA. The site was absolutely beautiful, nestled right in the redwood forests. The location alone would win me over, but add Adriene in the mix? I’m completely sold.

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The retreat was over the course of a weekend. It was full of yoga, reflection, and relaxation. I definitely chose the right yoga retreat as my first. I waited until I found the right retreat for me. I have been wanting to go on a retreat for a while now, however I didn’t seem to find one within my budget that was also a theme that worked for me.

It’s important, when choosing a yoga retreat, that you find one that is right for you. Like Adriene’s manta, find what feels good, its important to find a retreat that makes sense for you. I wouldn’t recommend basing your decision solely on location, but look at the theme of the weekend and the activities offered. Also, make sure the yoga retreat is at your level of practice. You don’t want to get to the retreat and find that the level of yoga practice is above your capabilities. Often, yoga retreats are an expensive investment. You really want to be sure that you are going to get something out of the retreat if you’re going to spend so much money.

There are many places to find yoga retreats. You can find a specific location and search for retreats that way OR you can look for specific yoga leaders and see if they are offering retreats.

Ultimately, the yoga retreat is for you. It’s a great way to get out of your comfort zone and learn more about yourself. You are going to get out of the retreat what you put into it. Know that retreats can really be life changing experiences.

 

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Month of Meditation

May is the National month of meditation. If you have never meditated, starting a meditation practice may seem the furthest from your mind. For those of us who have been practicing meditation, we like to prescribe is as a panacea. To those who have never tried it, however, it may seem the hardest concept.

Styles and lineages of meditation can be overwhelming. Do we sit still and focus on the breath? Do we find a mantra to focus on? Should we start with guided meditations?

Yes, to all of the above.

There is no cookie cutter answer. There is no solution that works for everyone. Like yoga, each person has to find the meditation that works for them. Trying different meditation styles, from guided to silent, each person can find what works for them and really allow the meditation to unfold naturally.

Meditation is our natural state, our calmest state. Society has not allowed us to embrace this, so we have to retrain our minds and bodies to allow ourselves to return to that state. By taking just a few minutes a day to try to retrain ourselves, we can really move towards a more peaceful and accepting life.

For apps to help start your meditation path, see my previous post on meditation.

 

Yoga as Therapy

Medicine is full of options for treatments. Medications, physical therapy, talk therapy, and many others…these are all used to assist in resolving ailments of all varieties. Some of these therapies come with many side effects, leading to more therapeutic interventions.

Yoga seems an unlikely option to many. Yoga as therapy is often thought of as a supplement to physical therapy, but it is so much more. Yoga therapy does more that provide physical benefits. It combines the mental health benefits with the physical, allowing individuals to heal in a more complete manner.

Yoga can help with the following ailments:

-Chronic Pain

-PTSD

-Physical Injury Rehabilitation

-Anxiety

-Stress

-Depression

Yoga Therapy is now a certified program, resulting in a certification allowing practitioners to provide therapeutic yoga in various settings. From hospitals to rehabilitation centers, many medical companies are now looking to yoga therapy for long term healing and benefits. Yoga therapy has the power to reduce readmission in hospitals as well as reduce relapse in addiction treatment. Yoga therapy can be catered to any ailment, physical or otherwise. Ultimately, yoga therapy is a great addition to any treatment plan.

Yoga for Mental Health

While yoga is becoming popular on all fronts, one area in which its popularity is taking a slow, yet steady rise is in the healthcare field. Mental health is an area getting much attention in the media. With mass shootings and suicides on the rise, mental healthcare is a field which is getting more research and more funding. Yoga, in the same respect, is getting more attention in terms of research and funding.

Studies are coming out showing how yoga can benefit overall mental health. Yoga has proven to help individuals with anxiety, depression, stress, and PTSD. More and more research is validating what more yogis already know, that yoga can not only help treat these issues, but they can help prevent them as well.

Yoga has the power to modulate the stress response, reducing its physical manifestation in the body. Yoga also provides a coping mechanism, allowing individuals to use the breath to regulate the physical response of anxiety. By focusing on the present, yoga can help reduce some symptoms of depression and anxiety, as they may be related with focusing on future/past events which are out of our control.

Ultimately, yoga is one of my personal favorite self-care techniques. While it may not solve or prevent all our problems, it can help us by teaching us to focus on being present and mindful. These techniques can help us handle stressful situations as they are presented to us, as they inevitably will be.