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.

Yoga for Kids – A revisit

About a year ago, I wrote a post about how yoga can benefit kids (Yoga for Kids). I have since taken formal trainings in kids yoga and have gained a greater appreciation for the impact that yoga and meditation can have on kids.

Through my Next Generation Yoga teacher training, I have learned that yoga can have so many more benefits for children, including:

  • Assist in body development and flexibility
  • Improve concentration, body awareness, and balance
  • Improve self-image
  • Increase levels of self-esteem and confidence
  • Learn tools for coping with stress and frustration
  • Learn different modes of expression and creativity

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This training really taught me to teach from my heart. When teaching yoga, or anything really, be true to your own heart and what you are passionate about. Kids will see that passion.

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Also know that kids won’t enjoy everything. Yoga may not be for them, like many other things.

New Year – Opportunity to Restart

Another new year, another new year’s resolution…right?

Maybe not so much! We don’t have to wait until the new year to restart our dedication to our yoga practice. Each day is a new day and a new opportunity to restart your daily yoga practice.

This year, I began the new year with a 30 day yoga journey created by Yoga with Adriene! Each year a new year’s restart is offered up, allowing us all to start the new year on a new track. It’s important to note, however, that we are not restricted to January to start a new year. Adriene offers monthly calendars on her website, allowing each month to become a restart.

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So get out there – find the calendar for you and restart your life! You’ll only have yourself to thank.

Pose Breakdown: Natarajasana (Dancer Pose)

Natarajasana, translated to dancer or lord of the dance pose, is a beautiful and challenging pose. Usually incorporated towards the end of a yoga flow, this pose is a great way to stretch out the body, focus the mind, and really challenge your sense of balance. It is a fun pose to play with, attempting to bring the back leg higher or reach the front arm further. Dancer pose is also a great pose for kids. It gives them a fun, challenging pose to try out.

Steps to get into pose:

  • Start in tadasana (mountain pose)
  • Shift weight to right leg/foot
  • Bend left after at the elbow bringing it out to the left side
  • Slowly bend left leg at the knee, bringing left foot into the left hand
  • Lift right arm straight up towards the sky
  • Holding the inside of the left foot, slowly kick the leg out behind out
  • While kicking the left leg out, slowly hinge at the hips reaching right arm ahead of you
  • Repeat steps for opposite leg

 

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Benefits:

  • Stretches the shoulders and chest
  • Stretches the thighs, groins, and abdomen
  • Strengthens the legs and ankles
  • Improves balance

 

 

 

Yoga for Flying

As the holidays approach, many of us will be taking trips to see family and friends. Whether long or short, flying can be rough on the body. Sitting for long spans of time can put strain on certain joints and muscles.

Here are some poses that can be done fairly easily during that long flight to see grandma (or whoever it may be).

  1. Seated cat/cow with eagle arms
    • Sit with your feet grounded and your back slightly away from the back of the chair
    • Cross your left arm under your right, clasping hands
    • Inhale, reach the elbows up, opening the chest
    • Exhale, bring the elbows down, folding forward
    • Repeat with right arm under left
  2. Forward fold
    • Bring your hands to your knees
    • Inhale lift your chest up
    • Exhale slowing fold your chest towards your lap
    • Repeat
  3. Seated spinal twists
    • Sit with your feet flat on your ground
    • Take one hand to arm rest
    • Slow pivot upper body towards that side, twisting at the hips
    • Repeat on opposite side
  4. Leg lifts
    • Slowly raise one leg at a time, holding in raised position for a 2 breath count
    • Inhale lift leg
    • Exhale release leg
  5. Ankle rolls
    • Slowly lift the foot off the ground and roll in one direct, repeat in opposite
    • Repeat for opposite foot
  6. Neck rolls
    • Sit with your back straight
    • Slowly roll neck in one direction
    • Repeat in opposite direction
  7. Mountain pose
    • Find a space to stand
    • Engage abs, legs, and arms
    • Feel the strength in your stance, closing the eyes
    • Inhale, exhale for 2-3 breath count
  8. Lunges
    • Using the aisles, do small lunges up and down the aisle
  9. Seated meditation
    • Sit with your feet flat on the ground
    • Close your eyes
    • Notice your breath
    • Inhale/Exhale deeply

 

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Yoga as Pain Treatment

Opioids are all over the news these days. Whether talking about them in an addiction context or as a form of pain treatment, medications are constantly being discussed and debated. Should we be using opioids for pain? What is the risk of addiction? How can we stop addiction from happening? Are there alternatives to drugs for pain?

While I’m not a medical physician, I have a great deal of personal¬†experience with pain and know for a fact that yoga has helped me not only deal with the pain, but even alleviate it.

The first step, for me, was becoming aware of the pain and exactly where it was located. Simply taking a deep breath and focusing on where I was feeling the pain, what kind of pain it was, and determining whether I had to deal with it or if I could live with it. From there, I found yoga poses that targeted that specific spot, for me it was the lower back. After a few months, I noticed my pain steadily decrease. After a few more months, I even noticed I rarely felt the pain at all.

It takes some time and effort, but yoga does work. Recent studies and articles have shown that yoga can not only supplement a tradition pain treatment regimen which involved medications, but in some cases it can actually replace that regimen.

For specific poses, see a previous post: Yoga for Chronic Pain

*Please see a medical physician before starting any regimen for pain treatment.

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