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Mindful Monday: Yoga and Your Immune System

Good morning, mindful, healthy ones!

Although the crux of cold and flu season is behind us, we may still be susceptible to some of those pesky viruses. What’s the best prescription for a healthy immune system?

A consistent yoga practice partnered with a clean, well-balanced diet filled with tons of fruits and veggies, staying hydrated and getting plenty of sleep are exactly what the body needs to thrive and stay healthy!

When we are stressed and anxious and tired, our immune system is compromised. Yoga helps lower stress hormones that suppress the immune system, while also conditioning the lungs and respiratory tract, stimulating the lymphatic system to oust toxins from the body, and bringing oxygenated blood to the various organs to ensure their optimal function.

I often claim that yogis rarely get sick and even boast that I never get sick!

Well. I did recently come down with a nasty cough! What makes us sick is when the immune system is compromised and we are unable to fight off all of the daily viruses and bacteria that we normally encounter.

As a full-time yoga teacher, I come in contact with hundreds of students each week; and I practice in several different studios with dozens of different people as well. My goodness, I even step in people’s sweat and touch sweaty bodies on the daily!

So it is very easy for me to trace back and see where my immune system became compromised!

First of all, I never claim to be “sick.” I am a very healthy and strong. But my immune system was compromised and I caught a bug. See the distinction?! 🤪

I know it is from all of the external activities happening in my life: my son graduating from high school and turning 18 on May 24, which is also the week I am moving! Those additional responsibilities coupled with eating a less than ideal diet and not getting enough sleep were all that it took. My self-care routine was relegated to the backseat in my life, and my body and my mind rebelled!

Which raises an important question: should I practice hot yoga when I am sick?

It stands to reason that taking a heated vinyasa class will sweat out the toxins and quicken the immune system’s ability to fight off the body’s invaders.

But we should also consider the possibility of infecting those around us! And how important it is to rest, hydrate and rest some more while under the weather.

Ultimately, only you know your body; and if you listen carefully, it will tell you exactly what it needs.

Some guidelines:

If you have a runny nose and head congestion, you can probably practice. If you have a fever, aches and pains, or anything that originates in your lungs, your body will do best with rest, liquids and healing foods that soothe and nourish rather than tax your body.

Basically, if you have a cold and you’re not contagious, get back to your mat!

But if it’s something bigger like the flu, your best bet is to rest!

Remember it’s OK to be exposed to germs; in fact we simple can’t escape it! This gives the immune system the opportunity to do it’s job. But we must support our immune system by taking good care of the body and mind. Releasing stress is an immediate boost for your immune system!

What are some of your self-care rituals to staying healthy? Does it include essential oils or other natural remedies? I’d love to hear from you!

Enjoy this beautiful, rainy day, friends! Mother nature is giving you an opportunity to slow down and take care of yourself today.

Have a great week and I’m back to my regular schedule this week! See you on your mat!

April 2019 Pose of the Month: Parivrtta Hasta Padangusthasana: Revolved Extended Hand to Big Toe Pose

Our lovely student Zoe Justh embodies our pose of the month

Happy, happy April, dearest yogis!

Our April pose of the month is a big one! Parivrtta hasta padangusthasana or revolved extended hand to big toe pose.

Here’s how!

1 Start Revolved Hand to Big Toe pose from Mountain pose at the front end of your mat. Shift your weight into your right leg, finding all four corners of the foot and lifting energetically up through the sole. Begin drawing the left foot away from the floor while finding your balance.

2 Once you’re balancing on your right foot, draw your left knee into your chest. Take your time to breathe here, lengthening the spine and strengthening your standing leg. Use your index and middle fingers of your right hand to hold the big toe of your left foot. Continue rooting down through your tailbone as you start to extend out your left leg. The left thigh should be parallel to the floor and your spine should be perpendicular.

3 Reach through your heart and broaden across the collarbones to counter the tendency to slouch forward when extending the left leg. Take your left hand to your hip, level your pelvis, then begin to reach the hand toward the back of your mat. Deepen the twist by rooting the femur of your left leg into the hip joint as you draw your right ribs forward.

4 If you can remain balanced, slowly start to move your gaze back towards your left hand. Do this movement slowly and intentionally to avoid losing balance. Hold this pose for five to ten breaths before untwisting and slowly lowering the lifted leg down to the floor. Stay in Tadasana for a few breaths before repeating on the other side.

Mindful Monday: Look Within

Happy Monday, mindful ones!

Have you ever wished things were different? Your relationships or perhaps work situations? Financial or social status? Or even your yoga practice?

Spending time lamenting is a colossal waste of your precious and valuable time! It certainly won’t change anything – in fact the more we focus on a certain feeling or circumstance, we are actually reinforcing the very thing we wish to change.

Where your mind goes is where your energy flows.

You would be much better served focusing on the present moment with acceptance, forgiveness and allowing. Releasing resistance to the circumstance and shifting awareness to your body.

When you think these thoughts, how does it feel in the body? Where specifically do you feel fear in your body? Anger? Sadness? Grief? How does your body react and process? Where does it clench and resist? How do you create tension and dis-ease in your physical body and correspondingly in your mind?

Allow yourself to feel and observe. As you make space for awareness, watch with interest but without attachment.

Life is giving you an opportunity: understand that this disturbance is an opportunity to heal and transform. You are not a victim! You are a powerful co-creator with Life.

What is showing up in your life is a meaningful disturbance designed to awaken you and give you an opportunity to elevate your soul’s growth.

We don’t have to love the circumstance or the person/teacher triggering the resistance, but with non-attachment we can practice releasing the resistance and creating a higher more powerful energy to transcend.

On some level, you have attracted and even created the very situation that is now causing dissatisfaction or discomfort. So that you can heal and grow.

But if we keep looking outside of ourselves for the answers, we will continue on blindly, stumbling and repeating the same Karma over and over.

He who looks outside, sleeps.

She who looks within awakens.

Today you have an opportunity to continue to sleepwalk or look within yourself and awaken. It’s your life and your choice.

I hope you choose yourself!

Make it a great week, yogis!

March 2019 Pose of the Month: Grasshopper

Happy March and Happy almost Spring! But we are here in the Midwest, so most likely there’s snow on the ground right now as you are reading this. 🤣

Our March 2019 pose of the month is Grasshopper pose! Here you can see this lovely arm balance in various expressions.

And here are five simple (not easy) steps to nail it, young grasshopper. < see what I just did?

1. Start out in Chair Pose, Utkatasana. Bring your feet together, zipper from your ankles all the way to your inner thighs as you bend your knees. Press weight towards your heels and lift your belly off of your lap.

2. Figure four pose. Shift weight to your right foot, lift your left knee towards your chest and place your left heel on top of your right thigh externally rotating left hip while flexing left toes towards left knee.

3. Prayer twist. Draw your palms together at heart center, rotate from your left obliques and twist to the right. Place your left elbow into the middle of your left foot, using your elbow as leverage to twist more deeply.

4. Lower to the ground. Keeping your deep twist, lower both of your palms to the right side of the mat bringing them down on the floor. Your left hip will rotate up so that your left knee is pointing towards the ceiling.

5. Fly. Find Chaturanga arms and slowly start to tip your weight into your hands. Engage your shoulders by pressing through your knuckles into the mat. As your weight transitions to your hands, lift your right foot off of the mat, eventually straightening your right leg and pressing through your right heel. Press your left foot into your left tricep for more engagement.

Mindful Monday: Wind

Happy Monday, mindful ones!

Wow, those huge winds yesterday were magnificent, weren’t they?

Such a reminder that Mother Nature is all powerful and unstoppable. With all of our innovation, intelligence and ingenuity, there is not much we can do to stop Mother Nature when she’s on a rampage. We merely protect ourselves and move mindfully until it passes.

The element of wind or air is an excellent representation of spiritual faith. Air reminds us that there is so much more to this world than what we can physically see, touch and hold , and that we must grow and change as life and the world around us is constantly shifting.

In yoga and Ayurveda, the wind element is known as Vata energy.

Vata governs all movement in the mind and body. It controls blood flow, elimination of wastes, breathing and the movement of thoughts across the mind.

Qualities of Vata:

• Cold

• Light

• Dry

• Irregular

• Rough

• Moving

• Quick

• Changeable

When strong winds come into our lives, we must adjust our sails and capitalize on the swift movement. It can help carry you quickly to your next destination!

A huge gust of wind can come in and literally change everything! Be prepared for anything and learn to go with the flow.

Have a great week yogis!

Mindful Monday: Cultivating Equanimity

Good morning, mindful ones!

We are quite familiar with the concept of mindfulness by now, right?

The dictionary defines mindfulness as:

1 the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something.

2 a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.

When we practice mindfulness, we are re-wiring our brains to seek a state of calmness and presence rather than be deeply affected by external circumstances.

Equanimity is defined as:

1 mental calmness, composure, and evenness of temper, especially in a difficult situation.

2 even-minded mental state or dispositional tendency toward all experiences or objects, regardless of their origin or their affective valence (pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral)

While the two practices are strongly intertwined, there are certainly distinctions to be made.

Mindfulness corresponds to our higher-level awareness of present-moment sensory, affective, and cognitive experiences. In other words, mindfulness can be described as the ability or process of maintaining an object of attention in working memory, whether this object corresponds to an external sensory stimulus, an internal sensation from inside the body, a chain of rambling thoughts going through the mind, or even a memory from the past.

In the yogic tradition, the term equanimity (or upeksha in Sanskrit) means leading a balanced life, removing intolerance and caring for all equally.

Upeksha teaches the practice of non-attachment, such an important element in our yoga practice both on and off the mat.

Equanimity means staying so calm within oneself that life is experienced fully without judgment or attachment. As life throws us its ups and downs, we are able to experience appropriate emotions and reactions without attaching to them, reacting to them and without judgment.

I always love to use the example of road rage, mainly because I struggle with it quite frequently!

Imagine that you are leaving a yoga class (preferably one of mine 😊), and you are feeling so calm and open and centered and happy! As you are driving home peacefully, with the gentle flow of traffic, some car speeds up, cuts in front of you and slows down quickly. Your reaction is immediate and physical. Your amygdala is stimulated in your brain triggering your fight-or-flight response. Your heart starts pounding, your brain becomes hyper alert and focused, adrenaline and cortisol is dumped into your bloodstream. You quickly slam your brakes on gripping the steering wheel.

Equanimity is how quickly you can bounce back from that jolting experience. How quickly you return to your equanimous mental and physical state.

Equanimity is not attaching or judging what just happened, but accepting that it happened. Allowing the surge of anger and panic to slowly dissipate without judging or blaming the other driver. Without dwelling on what just happened. How rapidly can you return to the cultivation of your equanimous mind?

This week, think of everything that happens as a test of your equanimity. As you’re moving peacefully through your day, how quickly will you bounce back from that person slamming their mat down next to you in as you are meditating before class or your loud obnoxious co-worker chewing or speaking loudly? Can you observe those around you speaking negative thoughts, venting and gossiping without judging their behavior and most importantly without being drawn into their negativity?

Life gives us so many opportunities to grow and transform. Remember every moment every experience is the teacher.

Anicca! Anicca! Anicca! Be happy! Be happy! Be happy!

Mindful Monday: Mindful and Conscious Living

Good morning, my beautiful, dearest mindful ones.

Happy Monday!

How you spend your days is ultimately how you spend your LIFE.

You have been given a precious, priceless gift today: this day.

It cannot be purchased.

Or inherited.

Or borrowed from tomorrow.

It cannot be gifted from a loved one.

It is a precious and finite commodity.

1,440 minutes

86,400 seconds

During this time, experts estimate you’ll think between 50,000 to 70,000 thoughts.

That’s between 35 to 50 thoughts each minute.

And when unchecked, 98% are the same thoughts that you had yesterday and are predominantly negative.

With all of these thoughts swirling around in our heads, it’s no wonder that we constantly feel disconnected, anxious, stressed, annoyed and overwhelmed.

This is why yoga and meditation are so critical to not only physical but also our mental health and well-being. Through these practices for short periods of time throughout the day, the mind becomes more calm and serene. When we are thinking less, our awareness of the present moment is sharpened and focused. We are more conscious of breathing. Or physical senses are heightened. We are able to truly connect with one another.

Your conditioned, repetitive thoughts have created your current reality. It’s time to raise your vibration!

Don’t allow your mind to wander undisciplined and randomly. Focus on your breath and on your five senses. Train yourself to be grounded in reality and in the present.

Watch your habits! If you have time to bitch about how cold it is, peruse social media mindlessly, binge watch Netflix, or sit at a bar for an entire afternoon; you have time to meditate, journal, practice yoga and plan nutritious meals for yourself!

Everything is a CHOICE. Being mindless and going through life on auto-pilot is a choice!

Here are some quick and easy choices that we can all make together to raise our vibrations and frequencies.

Drink lots of water

Sweat everyday

Fuel your body with foods that support your body’s natural ability to detox and de-stress

Get enough sleep

Avoid loud, obnoxious people and situations

Speak less, listen more

Don’t interrupt or talk over people when they’re talking to you

Remember that you can learn something from everyone, even if it’s just patience

Be conscious of every thought and every word that you speak

Harness your energy by thinking and speaking much less than you normally do

Spend time in silence and solitude each day

Read more, Watch TV less

Travel!

Take a different route to work

Get upside down every day!

Celebrate the simple things

Declutter your home and your heart

Hey friends, let me know if you have other mindfulness practices that you’d like to share!

Have a mindful week!

February 2019 Pose of the Month: Backbends!

February is the time for ❤️ love. All kinds of love! But personally I’m celebrating sisterly love this month!

And YOU, my lovely friend, get a bonus pose of the month!

Pose One: Urdhva Dhanurasana or Upward Facing Bow (Wheel) Pose:

Step 1

Lie supine on the floor. Bend your knees and set your feet on the floor, heels as close to the sitting bones as possible. Bend your elbows and spread your palms on the floor beside your head, forearms relatively perpendicular to the floor, fingers pointing toward your shoulders.

Step 2

Pressing your inner feet actively into the floor, exhale and push your tailbone up toward the pubis, firming (but not hardening) your buttocks, and lift your buttocks off the floor. Keep your thighs and inner feet parallel. Take 2 or 3 breaths. Then firmly press the inner hands into the floor and your shoulder blades against your back and lift up onto the crown of your head. Keep your arms parallel. Take 2 or 3 breaths.

Step 3

Press your feet and hands into the floor, tailbone and shoulder blades against your back, and with an exhalation, lift your head off the floor and straighten your arms. Turn the upper thighs slightly inward and firm the outer thighs. Narrow the hip points and lengthen the tailbone toward the backs of the knees, lifting the pubis toward the navel.

Step 4

Turn your upper arms outward but keep the weight on the bases of the index fingers. Spread your shoulder blades across your back and let your head hang, or lift it slightly to look down at the floor.

Step 5

Stay in the pose anywhere from 5 to 10 seconds or more, breathing easily. Repeat anywhere from 3 to 10 times.

Pose Two: Bhujangasana or Cobra Pose

Step 1

Lie prone on the floor. Stretch your legs back, tops of the feet on the floor. Spread your hands on the floor under your shoulders. Hug the elbows back into your body.

Step 2

Press the tops of your feet and thighs firmly into the floor.

Step 3

On an inhalation, begin to straighten your arms to lift your chest off the floor, going only to the height at which you can maintain a connection through your pubis to your legs. Press your tailbone toward your pubis and lift your pubis toward your navel. Narrow your hip points. Firm but don’t harden the buttocks.

Step 4

Firm your shoulder blades against your back, puffing your side ribs forward. Lift through the top of your sternum but avoid pushing your front ribs forward, which only hardens the lower back. Distribute the backbend evenly throughout the entire spine.

Step 5

Hold the pose anywhere from 15 to 30 seconds, breathing easily. Release back to the floor with an exhalation. Option to bend your knees and lift your chest hire.

January 2019 Pose of the Month: Utkatasana

It’s 2019!! Our very first pose of the month this year is Utkatasana or Chair Pose.

Utkatasana or chair pose featured on the right

Here’s how:
Stand with your feet together, with your big toes touching. Beginners can stand with their feet hip-distance apart.

Inhale and raise your arms above your head, perpendicular to the floor.

Exhale as you bend your knees, bringing your thighs as parallel to the floor as they can get. Your knees will project out slightly over your feet and your torso will form approximately a right angle over your thighs.

Draw your shoulder blades into your upper back ribs as you reach your elbows back towards your ears. Do not puff your ribcage forward. Draw your tailbone down to the floor, keeping your lower back long.

Bring your hips down even lower and lift through your heart. There will be a slight bend in your upper back.

Shift your weight into your heels. Enough weight — approximately 80 percent — should be transferred to your heels so that you could lift your toes off the mat if you wanted to.

Keep your breath smooth, even, and deep. If your breath becomes shallow or strained, back off a bit in the pose until breathing becomes easier.

Spread your shoulder blades apart. Spin your pinky fingers toward each other so your palms face each other, rotating your arms outward through your thumbs.

Gaze directly forward. For a deeper pose, tilt your head slightly and gaze at a point between your hands.

Hold for up to one minute. Then, inhale as you straighten your legs, lifting through your arms.

Exhale and release back.

Happy new year, friends!

November 2018 Pose of the Month: Virasana

For our November 2018 pose of the month, we are featuring Virasana or Hero Pose to honor all of the veterans that sacrifice so much personally so that we can enjoy the freedoms and opportunities of our wonderful nation.

Hero pose can be quite challenging for many, so we will offer several suitable variations.

There are numerous benefits in practicing this pose:

▪ Stretches the hips, thighs, knees, ankles and feet

▪ Improves circulation and relieves tired legs

▪ Strengthens foot arches, relieving flat feet

▪ Improves digestion and relieves gas

▪ Helps relieve the symptoms of menopause

▪ Improves posture

▪ Therapeutic for asthma and high blood pressure

▪ Great alternative to lotus or easy seated pose during mediation.

▪ During pregnancy it helps to reduce swelling of the legs (through second trimester).

▪ Useful in Asthma and high blood pressure.

To get into Virasana:

Start from a tabletop position; bring your knees together and splay your heels apart.

Begin to ease your sitting bones back, trying to keep your knees together.

When you’re about halfway down to seated, reach back and externally rotate the fleshy part of your calves.

Ease back and down into a seated and upright position.

Straighten your spine: stack head over shoulders, shoulders over hips with a lift through the crown of your head. Puff through your chest, drawing shoulder blades down your back away from your ears.

You can always place a block between your feet and sit on the block.

Close your eyes and breathe deeply anywhere from 30 seconds to five minutes. You can gradually build up the time.

If you’re not feeling much sensation, and only if you’re not sitting on a block, you can start to ease onto your elbows, keeping chest uplifted and shoulder blades down your back.

For a deep expression, lower all the way onto your back and extend your arms overhead catching opposite elbows for Supta Virasana or reclined hero pose.

Your full expression is an advanced posture requiring very open quadriceps and flexibility in knees and ankles. This final expression is entered through bridge pose or setu bandha sarvangasana.

From bridge pose, walk your heels in closer to your back and tuck your toes underneath you lifting your heels. From here, gently ease your knees to the floor gently rolling to the crown of your head. Energetically extend your arms overhead and breathe deeply into chest and throat chakras!