Category Archives for "self care"

Shake it Off? Wisdom from Taylor

shake it off

Shake it Off?

Ah, Taylor Swift! You are a sage of this age. Your peppy tunes and thoughtful lyrics speak to our culture. And not just the kids. I’ve seen many an adult know every – single – word to your catchy songs. It’s possible that I may be among those who know all the words to entire albums. One song in particular caught my attention the very first day it released. Which one, you may ask? Shake It Off! I love simplicity behind taking all the things people say and just “shaking them off.” I find myself wondering though – can it be that easy?

I actually think it can.

This may seem like a HUGE switch in train-of-thought, but stick with me.

For the past few years I have been exploring how Yoga Therapists are using yoga to heal. Not just things like stress and anxiety, even though these are two very powerful things to overcome, but also deeper things. Much deeper things. Things like trauma (physical and emotional) and PTSD and serious injuries and even chronic illness.

Well, one of the techniques used to help people move through these deeply-held traumas is to, quite literally, shake it off.

Let me explain.

We hold some of our deepest emotions, especially those related to traumatic events in the muscles of our bodies. Most specifically, the psoas, or hip flexors. Without getting too deeply into anatomy – these muscle resides deep in our body – starting on either side of our low back, running straight through our mid-section, crossing over the front of each hip, and attaching to our femurs in our inner thigh.

Whew. That got technical in a hurry!

Here’s where Tay-Tay comes into the picture. When, with the guidance of a Yoga Therapist, we purposely and systematically fatigue the psoas, we are then able to put our bodies into postures that cause the psoas to shake. And I mean SHAKE! The tremors exude throughout your body and can feel intense and funny and liberating and so much more. After experiencing this practice, many people find that old triggers don’t set them off as intensely as before, or that deeply-held fears of the past seem softer. Over time and practice, the intense anxiety or sleepless nights start to subside. Our body literally takes those old traumas and “shakes them off!”

Here’s the magic…

When we move through this practice with our Yoga Therapist, we are able to let our body process things that our mind may not remember or understand or be able to process in other methods of therapy. Therapy through movement is showing itself to be a powerful way to move through some difficult experiences that haven’t been very responsive to other treatments.

If this sort of work sounds interesting or appealing to you, please contact me. We can explore if this is a good fit for your specific concerns.

Now, I know you can’t get that song out of your head – so go ahead – listen to it!

Spring into Balance! Tips to feel your best.

While it was quite chilly when I woke up this Spring morning (30-something!), it has gotten quite beautiful this afternoon. We’ve had fair amounts of rain over the last weeks, and the flowers are blooming and the grass is growing. Believe it or not, even the cacti look “fluffy” from all the rain!

While it’s officially still a couple weeks away, when Spring really gets going, we often notice changes in our bodies as well. You may feel energized to clean out the garage, or start up your favorite outdoor activities. Or, you may feel the onset of dreaded allergies and congestion. Have you noticed yourself clearing your throat a lot lately? And if that’s the case, oh for some relief!

Ayurveda.

Wait.

What?

Ayur-what-uh?

Ayurveda, the sister science to yoga, has lots to say about Spring (and all the seasons) and how to structure your day and diet to feel our best. And that is great news! I’ve found that when I establish and follow my daily routines and best nutrition practices, I feel SO MUCH BETTER!

If you’re looking to make some changes so that you can really enjoy Spring, I highly recommend trying just one or two to start off. After you have successfully implemented those, try adding one or two more. Taking things a step or two at a time is more likely to stick than trying to do 10-15 at a time!

Spring Morning Routine

Starting the morning off right is a fantastic way to set up your day. Try one of these morning routine options:

  • Get up before 6:00am! This is especially important in the Spring. You want to get up before 6:00am so that you don’t wake up feeling all sluggish and tired. Here’s a little video on the topic.
  • Meditate. Ayurveda says that meditation is the simplest was to find balance for all body types in all seasons. Even 5-10 minutes can truly alter the projection of your day. Try this meditation.
  • Use a tongue scraper. You can find these easily on Amazon. I use this one. First thing (before eating or drinking anything), scrape your tongue a few times. That filmy coating that comes off is called ama, or toxins. Eww. Get that stuff off of there! And then brush.
  • Sun Salutations, or any type of moving exercise. Get your body going within the first hour of being awake. You will ultimately feel energized, even if it seems like the last thing you want to do.
  • Drink warm water with lemon. Maybe add some honey. Maybe some fresh sliced ginger. Maybe some cracked black pepper. Soooo good for your digestion! Here’s how I make mine.

During the day, work with your body’s natural rhythms

  • Work your task list from 6:00a – 10:00a. This is the time to set your mind to the task and just do it! If allergies are making you crazy try 1-2 drops each of Lavender, Lemon and Peppermint in a diffuser. It works wonders!
  • Do the big projects from 10:00a – 2:00p. The middle of the day is best for the projects that take the most energy and effort. Also, this is the best time for a large meal. Eat up!
  • Let your creativity flow from 2:00p – 6:00p. Mid-late afternoon is when our creativity is the highest. Make the most of it by setting aside an hour or two to brainstorm or write, or whatever type of creativity moves you. This is also a nice time for a workout if that fits your schedule.
  • Slow it down from 6:00p – 10:00p. Eat a dinner that is lighter than lunch if at all possible. Take a walk after dinner. Relax. Enjoy time with family or friends. Plan time to get ready for bed. And plan to turn out the lights by 10:00p so you are well-rested for tomorrow.

Spring Evening Routine

  • Be sure to turn off all screens at least an hour before bed. This will allow your eyes to rest and brain to relax from the strain of screen-time.
  • Give yourself a foot massage. Include your favorite essential oil. Try Lavender or Balance Blend.
  • Meditate. You don’t have to meditate twice a day, but you can if you enjoy it! I find meditation is a wonderful bridge from day to night and night to day, so I like to spend a few minutes in meditation in the morning and the evening. This one is good for nighttime.
  • Turn off the lights by 10:00p. The hours of sleep before midnight are considered to be the most restful, so make the most of it!

Many of these routines are great all year long, so establishing your patterns now will set you up for season after season of feeling great!

Tell me, which of these resonates the most with you? Which one(s) will you implement?

Give yourself the gift of a bedtime

Do you have a bedtime? Like a time when you know you will actually turn out the lights (and not have the tv on in the background)?

Last week I was talking with my son and he was feeling under the weather and asking what he could do boost his immune system. Like most college kids, he burns the candle at both ends – going to classes all day, working through the afternoon and evening and then staying up studying (or playing video games, or whatever) really late into the night. Anyway, as we talked about how important rest is I said, “give yourself the gift of a bedtime.” To which he promptly rolled his eyes at me. “The gift of a bedtime? Seriously, mom?”

Ok. I admit it. It was a cheesy thing to say. Especially to my 18 year old son. But it IS true. One of the best things we can do for ourselves is to establish a bedtime and wake-up routine. When our bodies got to sleep and get up at the same time everyday, everything works better. And not only that, it makes a difference HOW we go to bed. For example, there’s a big difference between tumbling into bed with our clothes still on and teeth feeling all furry OR taking care of our personal hygiene and changing into pjs before we turn out the lights. Right?

How we prepare ourselves for bed really does matter. We are creatures of habit. Those habits can help us improve our lives when we choose them wisely! When we work all day and fill our evenings with activities, it can be hard to rest well. We need a bridge between the busy-ness of the day and the restfulness of the night.

Introducing: The Bedtime Routine!

Ok. So it doesn’t sound fancy or even exciting. But if you haven’t tried a bedtime routine, I highly encourage you to give it a go for a couple weeks and see what you think. You may be pleasantly surprised! It can be whatever you like. Not everyone will enjoy the same routine.  And that’s ok!

Here are some ideas to try:

  • set an alarm for 1 hour before your bedtime so that you know when it’s time to start winding down whatever you have going on
  • play some relaxing music
  • light candles
  • do a foot massage
  • meditate
  • read something light and enjoyable for a few minutes
  • have a nice conversation with a family member or friend
  • have a warm drink – herbal tea or warm milk
  • turn off the screens for an hour before bed

I’d love to hear from you. What are some of your favorite bedtime routines? What helps you get ready for a restful night’s sleep? Let me know in the comments below!

I may or may not have rolled my eyes at her

I may or may not have rolled my eyes at her

A few weeks ago I went to a YogaFit Mind, Body, Fitness Conference and took another Ayurevda* training. Oh how I love learning in general, and about Ayurvedic routines and recipes more specifically!

*In case this is new to you, Ayurveda is the 5000 year old sister-science to yoga. It’s all about choosing routines and recipes that take your specific body type into consideration, along with the seasons. It’s pretty cool, I have to say.

Anyway, one of the recommendations that the trainer mentioned was to get up earlier. Like BEFORE 6am.

Crazy woman.

I don’t like to get up early. I get grumpy when I have to be up early. I will set my alarm for the last possible moment so I can stay in the cozy covers.

Can I get a witness?

Well, she could see the resistance on my face, and said (oh-so-kindly), “Just TRY it. Set your alarm for 5:55am tomorrow.”

I may or may not have rolled my eyes at her (sorry Tracy!).

 

Begrudgingly, I did it. 5:55am. Ugh.

HOWEVER, would you believe it? Instead of feeling MORE tired getting up 30 minutes earlier, I felt more AWAKE! How did THAT happen???

Well, it turns out Ayurveda knows what it’s talking about! When we get up before 6:00am (even if it’s just 5 minutes), we wake up during the time of day when we are most able to get going for the day. We have more energy and are able to jump into the day with enthusiasm instead of drudgery.

Seriously!

I felt so much better when I got up that extra few minutes early, I have been doing it every day since (well minus a couple sleep-in days). It’s truly changed how I feel about getting up in the morning. Since I am choosing to get up early, I don’t hate it! I get up, smile at my choice, and start my morning routine. And I even get all the things done I want to get done because I’m not hitting the snooze button two or three times.

Here’s my new morning routine timeline:

5:55am – wake up!
6:00am – tongue scraping, brushing teeth (and you know, going to the bathroom)
6:10am – meditation time
6:30am – Sun Salutations
6:40am – start getting ready for the day

 

I’d love to hear from you.

What new choices are you making to feel your best and improve your life? Please tell me in the comments!

 

Resolution Advice: Get your yoga pants on and go to class!

It’s January, people!

You know what that means. Yep, lots of people are making New Year’s Resolutions. Resolutions range from productivity goals, to weight loss goals, to new-and-improved bedtimes. Other people are wholeheartedly against the whole Resolution business.

And honestly, I don’t feel too strongly about it one way or another.

Here’s what I do think about it all though. Any time we feel the trigger to make changes that affect us in a positive way, good things can happen! It doesn’t matter to me if you make these changes and commitments to yourself because it’s January, or because your doctor said so, or for the simple reason that you got a super-cute pair of yoga pants as a gift and you simply MUST find a class so you can wear them! What matters is that you are doing something for yourself.

So, get your yoga pants on and go to class!

Or whatever the equivalent is for you. Maybe your new Resolution or goal is something more like:

  • Setting your alarm 20 minutes earlier so you can start the day in meditation
  • Choosing veggies over desserts
  • Finding a good task list or planning calendar
  • Creating a couple hours a week for rest and relaxation
  • Downloading one of those apps that locks you out of social media during times you want to focus on work

Most of the time our biggest hurdles are in our head. If that rings true for you, put your new goal in your calendar and treat it as important as a meeting with your boss. Then, when the time comes, get your yoga pants on (or whatever is appropriate), and make it happen!

And, just in case you really do want to go to yoga class, check out this little video I made with some nice things to know before you walk into your first class.

Let’s make this actionable! Tell me what you are working to implement right now in the comments below. Why are you excited to do it? What’s the hardest (or scariest) thing about getting started?

When did “rest” become “lazy”?

I’ve been hearing this a lot lately, “I was so lazy this weekend, I just laid around in my pjs and didn’t do anything!”

Wait…am I wrong? I thought that’s what weekends were for? To rest.

Right?

For reasons I don’t completely understand, resting has become taboo. To “not do anything” is something to be ashamed of, to be confessed in a whisper to your best friend.

But why?

Have we forgotten that we actually NEED rest? I mean, we really do. Our bodies were never meant to run 24/7. Our minds and bodies need rest everyday, and every week. Am I talking about sleep? Sure. We definitely need sleep, but I’m talking about more than that. I mean REST. Not “doing” anything at all. Or engaging an activity that rejuvenates your mind, body and soul. This is no luxury – this is a necessity!

I get it, it seems there is never enough time to get everything done. And you’re right. There’s not. We will never get it ALL done.

And guess what?

It’s totally fine.

Let that sink in for a minute.

It’s OK if all your to-dos don’t get done today. The world will NOT fall off its axis. Promise!

I was listening to one of my favorite podcasts this morning, The Robcast, and Rob was talking about this same thing. About the need for rest. You can check it out here.

This is a concept I really grasped when I first started studying ayurveda a few years ago. In fact, I was so inspired a wrote a little poem about it! (Yes, I know that’s insanely cheesy, but what can I say?) I began to truly understand that the earth has a rhythm to it’s life and cycles, and so do we.

Even the most simple thing – breath – has a distinct rhythm to it. We know we NEED oxygen. We can’t live very many minutes without it. No one would argue with me on this one!

However…

We can’t inhale ALL the time. Nope. If we did, we’d just explode. We also have to exhale. We have to release the old air to make room for the new air. It’s a beautiful relationship, this thing we call breathing. We need the oxygen, we must inhale. But we must also be expert exhalers to make room for the air we need. Equal time: inhale and exhale.

See the correlation? If we are busy all the time and never rest, we become like a bomb – eventually one of two things happens: either we explode, or we implode. Either we unleash a fire-breathing dragon of anger on everyone around us, or we fall into a heap of exhaustion. And frankly, neither are good options. I’ve tried both personally, so I can tell you firsthand!

So, why not forego the drama and make a different choice?turn-off-your-phone-for-awhile

A choice to rest. On purpose. In whatever way you like. It could be sitting around in your pjs all day, or turning off your phone for a day, or scheduling a massage, or taking time to enjoy lunch with a friend, or planning a family movie night.

Whatever activity you choose, I would love to ask you to do one thing – please re-frame your perspective on rest. See it as the good, necessary, and beautiful thing that it is! Rest can be celebrated and enjoyed and loved! And just imagine how much more restful our rest will be when we stop looking at it as something to be ashamed of and start seeing it as the amazing gift that it is!

So tell me, what will you do to rest this week? I’d love for you to share in the comments so we can all get good ideas from each other!

When rain on your parade is the best thing ever!

My fam and I just went on a mini vacation. Five fast days. We went from Phoenix to San Francisco (by plane). Next, we went on to Yosemite and Sequoia National Park. We then finished up the trip in Los Angeles before heading home.

It was awesome!

largest tree in the world, in the rainOur vacation, which was originally scheduled for August got bumped a couple times due to circumstances beyond our control. So, by the end of October, we were MORE than ready to get out of town for a few days.

You know how it gets. After too many months of the daily grind, you really need to take some time to be away from the demands of life and spend time with family, or even by yourself. I’m sure my family and friends would testify if I asked them to – over the last few weeks, I’ve been more tired and perhaps a little cranky too.

Anyway, we were off on our adventure and the first two days had perfect weather. Cool enough to pull out something besides tank tops and flip flops (we are desert dwellers, you know), but not so cold that we were miserable. I was thinking that the entire trip was going to be smooth sailing weather-wise.

But no.

general-sherman-treeOn day three, it started to rain. A lot. Lots of rain. We were driving in to the Sequoia National Park to see those indescribably huge trees, and we could barely see far enough in front of the car to drive safely in! I was concerned that the day was a bust. No one was going to have fun. I love our kids, but if Thing One gets wet feet or Thing Two gets too cold, it’s all over. I was understandably concerned.

Well, bless the people who order merchandise at the Museum Shop, because THEY HAD RAIN PONCHOS! Even if those things had been $20 a piece, it wouldn’t have mattered – we would have been buying them to ensure fun was had by all! We bought four of those little ponchos and put them on as soon as we got to the car.

The thought did cross my mind that someone among us might not have been too happy about the color or bulkiness or SOMETHING. But, against all odds, EVERYONE in the car was happy about these bright blue blobs of awesomeness!

We may have somewhat resembled huge blueberries…

my family in rain ponchosBut, what can we say? We were the cutest family of blueberries you’ve ever seen!blueberry-family

Want to know what’s even better?

A simple, small act of caring for ourselves made all the difference. We would have survived if we hadn’t gotten the ponchos. We all had dry clothes to change into. But we would have been miserable. We probably would have been shivering from the cold. And, guaranteed we wouldn’t have lingered long enough to truly enjoy the beauty of these trees that are thousands of years old. Did it cost us a few extra dollars? Sure. But the comfort we experienced and the memories we made were priceless!

And that’s how it is with self-care.

Does it cost us something up front? Sure. Sometimes the cost is in dollars and sometimes the cost is in time. But no matter what it is, almost every single time, it IS worth it! When we take the time to really care for ourselves and make that investment, not only do we gain the benefit of the investment, we also send a super strong message to ourselves that we are WORTH that investment. And that message, my friends, goes a long, long way!

How did you sleep last night?

Isn’t it the best when you wake up from a wonderful night’s sleep? Those mornings when the alarm doesn’t go off too early, and you wake up with a smile on your face. You hear the birds chirping and can’t wait to get going with your day. Ahhhh….

If Amazing-Sleep days happen less often than Why-Is-It-Morning Already days, read on!

It happens to all of us at some point. We wake up feeling less than stellar and spend all day looking for the next cup of coffee or try to sneak in a quick nap between appointments because we’re so exhausted. And unfortunately, sometimes we get in a rut of these days that lasts weeks or months or years.

Yawn…

What to do? How can our sleep (and consequently our sanity) be rescued from the downward spiral?

While no single solution will work for everyone, and sometimes we really do need professional help to get our sleep-groove back on, I do have a couple of suggestions for you!

Meditation

If you find that your mind just will not let all those thoughts from the day go, this is where I would start! It doesn’t have to be all fancy-schmancy, but 10-20 minutes of quiet meditation can change EVERYTHING! Our brains respond really well to this planned quiet time and are able to turn down the volume on the barrage of thoughts when we take the time to be still and quiet. Not sure where to start? Try this meditation for Letting Go.

Gratitude

Yes to gratitude! Oftentimes the things we mull over in our mind focus on what we don’t have or how things are going wrong. If you ever get caught in this hamster-wheel that goes nowhere fast – JUMP OFF! Let go of those thoughts that center around lack and start thinking of every single thing that went right today and then actually say, “I am so grateful for _____.” After 3-10 of these awesome gratitude thoughts, you will be AMAZED at how much better you feel!

Want to know more?

I hope so, because I have more great ideas I want to share with you! Join me for a FREE webinar on Wednesday, October 12th @ 1:00pm Pacific where I will share my Top 5 Sleep Strategies for Resting Easy!

Until we chat again, sweet dreams!

Make a map of it

make a map of it

Maps are helpful. They get us from Point A to Point B. The live, interactive ones even tell us when we need to change our route to get around a traffic delay. Truly remarkable!

Last week we talked about feeling all alone and then realizing that we’re really not. But what to do when you truly FEEL that way? When it feels like you don’t know up from down, left from right, in from out. When all the regular landmarks are missing and you don’t know which way to go.

What do you do then???

Our tendency is to push the feelings away. To pretend they aren’t there. Or to do whatever it takes to get rid of them as soon as possible. We’ll over-fill our schedules, self-medicate, and enlist outside help from friends or counselors* – ANYTHING to get rid of the feelings of disillusionment as quickly as possible, right?

I have a suggestion.

Instead of fighting as hard as you can, try this: make a map of it.

lean into the experienceInstead of running away as fast as possible, what if we sat with the discomfort and took stock of the surroundings? Instead of trying to get rid of the “bad” feelings, what if we leaned into them and explored them? Instead of incessant resistance, what if we met our feelings with a sense of curiosity?

I’ve tried this a few times, and I have to tell you, after getting over the initial discomfort, the experience is AMAZING. When diving into the depth of the feelings and emotions and really leaning into all they are, I begin to realize that most of the time, they aren’t “bad” at all. They’re just intense. Sometimes, REALLY intense, but not necessarily “bad.” Sometimes feelings that I previously avoided turn out to be kind of cool in their own way.

I’ve noticed that anger feels hot and spicy and explosive. The map of my surroundings in anger looks dark, and red, and billowy and desolate. Sadness feels salty, like tears to me. And the landscape is kind of yellow-green until the sadness starts to subside and then everything becomes a soothing shade of soft blue. It’s also a place of alone-ness. I call it alone-ness because it doesn’t really feel lonely, just alone. Which is actually kind of nice sometimes.

So what do you say? Would you be willing to sit with an intense feeling with a sense of curiosity and make a map of what you see?

*please know that I am not a licensed mental health practitioner and am in NO WAY encouraging anyone to stop seeing a counselor. I believe strongly in the work counselors do and am grateful for them. I am also NOT saying anyone should discontinue or refuse a medication they need and are using under the care of their medical or mental health care provider. These decisions are very personal and should not be taken or refused lightly. I am simply sharing from my own experience and observations. Please check with your chosen health care team if you have specific questions regarding your health care needs.

What’s the most important item on your schedule today?

What’s the most important item on your schedule today?

I hope it’s YOU.

Yep.

You.

You know that feeling when your schedule is too busy and you feel like you’re running all over the place and there’s no time for yourself?

Guess what?

The only person who has control over the busy-ness of your schedule is….yep…YOU!

So, whataya say? Are you willing to make yourself a priority? It really isn’t that hard, it just takes a little planning. If you haven’t already, how about trying one of these today:

  • 10 minute walk by yourself
  • mindfully make a cup of tea and enjoy it while simply noticing the beauty around you
  • make a gratitude list – thoughtfully write down 3-5 things you are truly grateful for

These things are so simple, but can absolutely change the trajectory of your whole day!

Have you seen Kung Fu Panda? It’s amazing to me the life lessons that you can learn in a cartoon movie! In the movie, the wise teacher is a turtle named Oogway. In a critical moment of the movie, one of the cahracters, Shifu tells Oogway that he has “very bad news!”

Shifu: Master! I have… it’s very bad news!
Oogway: Ah, Shifu. There is just news. There is no good or bad.

I love this moment in the movie! I recall it often when I want to jump to conclusions and immediately assign the label of “good” or “bad” to a situation. How can I truly know if something is good or bad? Some things that I thought were just awful in the moment have turned out to be the biggest blessings of my life, while other situations that seemed grand at the outset have nearly sunk me in the end. When we receive news, let’s pause for a moment and realize that it is only news. It is not good news or bad news. We have the choice of how we will respond.

It’s most important to take care of ourselves.

Even in the middle of an intense situation, we can choose to care for ourselves. I have seen this in action and it is POWERFUL! Even when the situations of  life are not what you had hoped or planned, and it seems like “very bad news,” we can make the conscious choice to take care of ourselves and make that care our top priority of the day. We all “know” it’s true, but we simply MUST take care of ourselves if we are to take care of anyone else.

So, Dragonfly, please share. What will you do to take care of YOU today?