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 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.

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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Pose Breakdown: Badha Konasana (Cobbler Pose)

Towards the end of a yoga sequence, relaxation poses are incorporated to help the body start to cool down, allowing the muscles to begin to let go of any tension caused by some of the more active poses. Badha Konasana (literally meaning “bound angle pose) is a relaxation pose often incorporated towards the end of yoga sequences. This pose is most often called cobbler pose or butterfly pose.

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Pose Breakdown:
-Begin seated with your legs straight out on the mat or ground, keeping your back straight.
-Bend your knees and slowly drop your knees out to the sides, like a book, bringing the soles of your feet to touch.
-Take both hands and wrap them around the feet.
-Sit straight and tall, focusing on the posture and breath. You can also slowing pull your upper body towards the feet, incorporating a forward fold.
Modification:
-Supta Badha Konasana is a modification where you are laying on your back with your legs/feet in the same position.
-Start laying on your back with both legs straight out in front of you.
-Follow the same directions with the legs as seated badha konasana.
-Take your feet further forward, away from your body, to ease any discomfort in your knees or hips. Using support items, such as blocks or blankets, under the knees can also assist with discomfort.
-Take one hand to the chest and one to the belly.
-Lay still, focusing on the breath.
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Benefits:
-Relieves menstrual cramps.
-Reduces symptoms of depression.
-Improve energy levels.
-Reduce symptoms of anxiety.
Enjoy this wonderfully relaxing posture!