Category Archives for "yoga"

Yoga During Health Education Week: Solutions for Mesothelioma Patients

Between October 15th and 19th, the nation is focusing on Health Education Week 2018. Our minds and bodies are linked in many ways that are still being defined. Every person can have a pathway to better health through yoga, including mesothelioma patients. Because this rare cancer of the lung lining can be incredibly debilitating, yoga offers several answers for a better quality of life. The following practices are shared with mesothelioma in mind. However, these are great practices for anyone dealing with a challenging illness, like cancer.

Putting You in the Moment

The human mind tends to ruminate on the past and future. Thinking about the present isn’t always a priority. Yoga helps patients with terminal cancer by putting them in the present. Feeling their bodies stretch and relax is important for both mental and physiological improvements.

There’s nothing to truly worry about in the present. The focus is on moving the body into certain positions. Mesothelioma patients need this reprieve so that they can deal with life after the yoga session.

Encouraging Deep Breathing

One of the most basic moves in the yoga world is breathing deeply. Most people, including cancer patients, breathe with a shallow inhalation. Bringing more air into the lungs allows extra oxygen to reach the tissues. Cancer patients need as many nutrients as possible in their bodies. Therefore, transporting oxygen and other nutrients to tissues can make a difference in prognoses and outlook on life.

Fighting Fatigue and Creating Quality Rest

According to the Oncology Nursing News, yoga encourages rest in the evening and fewer worries during the day. No other medicine or activity can boast both of these benefits together.

Yoga stimulates the entire body. Patients feel elated after the workout. Additionally, patients enjoy good feelings and an energetic mind the rest of the day. As this sensation declines, the body feels tired. Patients typically enjoy a deep rest so they can tackle tomorrow’s challenges with more energy.

Increasing Flexibility

Patients dealing with mesothelioma have a tightness in their chest. This can translate into limited movements among the limbs. Yoga classes with teachers who are experts in their field can help patients with their flexibility issues, states the Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health. These professionals know how to move the body so that no detrimental effects occur as a result of the movements. Flexibility returns to the body after only a few sessions.

Supporting the Mental Side of Life

Feeling down during a fight with cancer is understandable. Participants can fly with their minds and bodies through yoga, however. When participants move their bodies into achievable positions, they feel good on a mental level. The body naturally releases good hormones, which leads to happier times.

When the mind isn’t supported by a positive outlook, both physical and mental decline are possible.

Finally, fighting off negative emotions, including depression, is an important facet of yoga training, reports Psychology Today. This activity has dozens of benefits that should be explored by mesothelioma patients. As patients look for alternative ways to improve their lives, keep Health Education Week in mind. A better tomorrow is in store for everyone who tries something different.

What is “good posture” anyway?

How’s your posture right now? Are you sitting or standing nice a tall? Or slumped over your desk or phone? This is a topic that goes back to the good ol’ days. If you’re like me, your mama said on more than one occasion, “Stand up straight!” And I don’t know about you, but for me, it only lasted as long as she was looking!

It turns out that Mom was right!

Posture does more than make you taller and look more educated. It actually DIRECTLY affects everything from your mood to the inner workings of your body’s deepest systems! And for so many people, poor spinal alignment leads to “garden-variety” low back pain, too. So, figuring out how to “straighten up” can have some IMMEDIATE benefits!

But, do you even know what “good posture” is?

Well, in this short video I teach about the main elements that create a posture that even your Mom would be proud of! Check it out:

 

It’s really not complicated, or even difficult to create a strong and functional alignment. In fact, there are two very simple things you can do RIGHT NOW to create strength and stability in your body!

Start with your feet!

  • point toes straight ahead
  • feet under hip points (about two-fists wide)

Check the hips!

  • are hips tilting forward or backward?
  • find the even place between the two – hips parallel to the floor

 

Did you try it? Let me know in the comments your favorite tip!

#metoo? Yoga may help*

#metoo

#metoo: It’s been all over social media and the news for months now.

You may be among the millions who posted #metoo on your social media page. In fact, it’s very likely that you are. A recent study found that nationwide, 81% of women and 43% of men reported experiencing some form of sexual harassment and/or assault in their lifetime.

So to say sexual harassment and assault are prevalent would be a ridiculous understatement. These experiences are wide-spread and affect many more of us than we ever knew before.

Here’s what I’m most concerned with at this point: Can yoga help? And if so, how?

Throughout my studies for Yoga Therapy, I have learned so much about all kinds of trauma – from childhood experiences to military situations, to natural disasters, to – yes – sexual harassment/assault.

Depending on a whole host of factors, each person experiences trauma differently. Even the SAME trauma. Even a #metoo trauma. One person in an auto accident may go into fight mode and do everything possible to escape an overturned car, while the other person in the same car may freeze and be unresponsive until well after help has arrived.

What’s fascinating to me about the different responses is that we have little to no choice over how we will respond in any given situation that we perceive as potentially life-threatening. Our body, through a truly amazing chemical process, has decided for us the “best” response before our rational mind has even gotten the full download of what’s happening.

Crazy, huh?

So there’s really no benefit in going back over what happened to figure out WHY we didn’t act differently. Because honestly, it’s not really up to us in the first place.

Regardless of what happened exactly, something important to note is that very often in life- or safety-threatening situations, our frontal lobe (or thinking part of our brain) goes off-line while our limbic brain (survival part of our brain) takes charge. This is important because we process trauma in the pre-language part of our brain. This can be true in any type of trauma, even a #metoo trauma.

But, why is this important?

It’s important because it’s very difficult (or even impossible) to process trauma through talk-based therapy when our language center was checked-out for the event in question. Makes sense, doesn’t it?

So, what to do?

Our limbic brain is all about fight/flight/freeze and the ACTION that needs to be taken to avoid the threat. So, we can address the trauma through – action. Movement-based therapies have been found to be extremely effective in supporting the healing process. What’s super cool is that we can support healing and movement through past traumas (that we haven’t even been able to talk about yet) through movement therapies like yoga.

Trauma-Sensitive yoga can help in a variety of ways*:

(summarized from Yoga and PTSD: A Primer on Symptoms and Potential Mechanisms of Change, Yoga Therapy Today Winter 2018):

  • Less re-experiencing of memories. Through the mindful practice of poses, we can develop the ability to better control the fluctuations of our mind. Basically, we get better at choosing what we think about.
  • Improvement in Psychological Flexibility. This means we improve our ability to stick with it even when we are challenged. We do this in yoga poses, but it helps us to manage our inner sensations when we are in a crowded place or other situation where we may feel anxious.
  • Reduction of irritability. Yogic breathing and meditation help us learn how to soften our internal experiences. Study participants still had emotional/mental triggers come up, but found them to be less troubling and experienced less symptoms.
  • Improved thoughts and mood. Through acceptance of each individual’s experience, participants learn how to accept their own thoughts, emotions, and moods without judgment. This allows participants to feel freely without “holding back.”

All in all, the research and preliminary studies are very positive in showing that yoga can be an excellent support to primary care options*. Trauma-sensitive Yoga Classes are available in many cities. If you think you’d like to try it, check with local studios, gyms, and community centers.

*I am a Yoga Therapist, not a Doctor or Licensed Therapist. The statements made here are my opinions supported by my experiences and research, and are not intended to be prescriptions or medical advice. Yoga Therapy is meant to support the work of Licensed Healthcare Professionals. Please check with your Healthcare Professional to see if yoga therapy is right for you.

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!

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?

It’s not over yet! 6 Ways to celebrate the rest of 2016.

It’s not over, ’til it’s over!

I don’t know about you, but I’ve had so many people already asking me what my word for 2017 will be, what my New Year’s Resolution is going to be, etc., etc. And the thought that keeps going through my head is:

WAIT! 2016 isn’t over yet!

Why are we in such a hurry to get to the next year? What’s wrong with the 30 glorious days we have left in THIS year?

So I, for one, am waiting. And while I wait, I will enjoy this month as much as I possibly can!

How will I do it?

Well, the answer is pretty simple. Although, it won’t be easy every day. I will enjoy. On purpose. I will continue to work through each day as though it matters.

Because it does.

Here’s my game plan:

See? Super simple. While some days, it won’t be so easy – I may have a busy schedule, or not feel well, or something. Truth be told, I’ll probably miss some of these on any given day. But I’m committed anyway. Because I know it works. Making a plan, doing my absolute best to stick with it, and getting back on the wagon if I fall off.

There’s still 30 wonderful days! Let’s LIVE them!

I’d love to hear from you – how do YOU live your days on purpose? Leave a comment below:

Well grounded and flying high. Start your day off right!

One of my favorite things to do in yoga class is inversions and arm balances. I love the feeling of strength and balance and the playfulness of being upside down! I know, I know. Some of you are probably thinking about how much you HATE arm balances and inversions, right? They don’t seem grounded or they seem scary, or wobbly, or disorienting. Guess what?

I used to feel that way too.

Seriously.

But I kept at it. At first I kept at it mostly because my friends in yoga class liked them and so I thought I might as well try. And so I did. And I failed.

Over. And over. And over.

And then I went to an Anatomy and Alignment for Yoga class and it changed everything.

See, up until that class, I thought that one day these poses would just magically work out for me. Also, I didn’t really get how important it was to build the poses and work with my body to set it up for success. These poses had taken me to a place of insanity – you know, trying the same thing over and over while hoping for a different result. I wasn’t thinking ahead at all.

I didn’t understand how important my planning was to my success.

Once I understood how vital it is to make sure each pose is grounded well and then move from a strong and focused core – I could do it! As a result, these previously inaccessible poses were instantly at my disposal! I’m not saying I was perfect at them the next day. Not at all.

What changed is that now I had a PLAN!

I knew how to build my strength and balance so that it was possible for me to do the poses. I knew that if I continued to practice with this new knowledge, that it wouldn’t be long until I could do these poses. Finally, it worked! Now I can do any arm balance or inversion at any time. I can do them in yoga clothes! I can do them in jeans or shorts! I can do them at the yoga studio! I can do them at the gym or in my house or at the park! (I do feel a bit like Dr. Suess, right now! Green Eggs and Ham, anyone?)

(Also, if you want more info on arm balances, Check out this article I wrote for the YogaFit blog on Crow Pose.)

And, as happens with most of the things I learn on the mat, this lesson transfers well off the mat.

When I am frustrated with something and it feels like I am not improving or can’t figure out how to get something “off the ground,” I am reminded of this realization from yoga. For a pose to “fly,” it must be well-grounded and there must be a plan! The two things go hand in hand.

Does this sound dreamy to you?

And maybe a tiny bit impossible?

Well, it’s not impossible at all! Start with the center and core of the goal you want to accomplish. Once you start there and create a plan – you can do it!

How’s your schedule?

Ahhh, summer. How I love thee. The endless days of sunshine, the radiant heat that warms all the way to my bones, the lemonade, the pool, the release of the school-year schedule. So relaxing. So wonderful.

I do love summer.

You see, I have the amazing privilege of being able to relax my schedule a bit in the summer. A little less work, more time with the kids, a little sleeping in from time to time. And it’s such a nice break from the super early busy-ness of the school year and all the after-school activities, etc.

But even breaks can have their downside when they last a long time.

As I look at my planner and see that school starts again next week, I find myself feeling like I am ready. Ready for the excitement and a new schedule. Ready for increased productivity. Even ready for the change of the weather! Although I LOVE the ridiculously hot summers here in the desert, I know that the variation in the weather keep me appreciating my favorite times of the year.

I also love having my daily routines and more things to do on my schedule. I enjoy that I get more things done during the school year. The change in the air also leans into a change in me.

I must admit…

For the last couple of weeks I have been kinda hard on myself. Feeling like it has been way too long since I have gotten much done. Too long since I spent a few hours doing the work that I love to do. As I was telling my friend about this, she helped me to re-evaluate. She showed me that while the outward productivity has been down, I have spent a good deal of time and energy doing some internal work and also laying foundations for projects I am working on launching in the fall. So, while there’s not a lot to show on the outside, yet…. I am doing valuable work nonetheless. And even if I all I had done for the past few weeks was rest and enjoy summer, that’s great too! We all need times to pull back, take our minds off of work and do something different. When we do, we come back to our work with a new creativity and refreshed love for our work.

Now for the good part!

With my new schedule starting up next week, I am in preparation mode. You know, dusting off my calendar, getting my pens and pencils all in order and thinking about how I want to spend my days. Because the nature of my work ebbs and flows with the school year, I have a built-in opportunity to re-evaluate and re-construct my daily routines if I so desire. And I usually do change things up a bit.

Here’s how I do it:

I start with the things that are important to me – daily meditation, exercise, business goals, reading, etc. And time with family, rest and time with friends DEFINITELY makes that list! We all need things in our weekly routine that give us joy and a chance to connect with our loved ones.

Need meditation_Then, I look at the things that are beyond my control (school start times, class times for the yoga classes I teach at the local country club, family time, etc.) and then begin to put things by most important first. So, I start with meditation. I know I am the best me when I start (and usually end) the day with meditation. It’s super easy for me to hit the ground running in the morning. But when I stop for 20 minutes to center myself and connect with the Divine, I handle my day in an entirely different way. Need a meditation? Grab this one – it’s on me!

flight of the birdNext up is exercise. Also too easy to let it slide through the cracks if it’s not on the schedule. I also make a point to tell my friends and family what I plan to do and when I plan to do it. If I don’t, then I will push it aside if someone wants to plan a get-together. Telling them helps me keep it a priority. How about some yoga? Check out this simple practice.

You get the idea, right? I know I’m not telling you anything new. I just know when I’m ready to start fresh, this is my process and it helps to review it! Start with the big things – what’s MOST important to your health (spiritual, mental, physical, AND emotional)? And then go from there. That way, if you find yourself running out of time blocks before you have all the activities on the calendar, then the things that don’t make the cut are the LEAST important things instead of the MOST important things!

Do you like this, but wish there was MORE? I will be doing a series of webinars this month where we will unravel the mysteries of relieving mid-day stress, creating mindful daily plans, and designing a restful sleep strategy! Click here to get the updates so you don’t miss a thing!

What to do when. . .Tips for nurturing

I know it’s happened to you. And it happened to me just last week. Let me take you there:

The week has been kinda busy, but not too bad. I am heading out for a yoga training, and truly excited to be going. I gather all my stuff and a good friend arrives to take me to the airport. As we open the door to take my luggage out, my dog Finley, who is typically very well-behaved, decides this is the best possible time to run out the front door! Seriously?!?! She’s off like a shot and we can’t find her anywhere. We walk down the street, we drive around the neighborhood. No dog. And it’s time to go! I can’t spend anymore time looking for her, so I call my husband who’s at work and THANKFULLY someone has already found her and just called him to let him know. Whew. We make it to the airport in time and I get on my flight. I arrive at my connecting airport, have a fantastic dinner and get on flight number two. Once I arrive at my destination, I get my rental car. I can’t locate my phone charger right away, so I opt to use the car GPS instead. This creates the first snafu (that I’m aware of). The darn thing doesn’t work very well and I end up getting lost three times. Ugh. It’s late and I need to get to bed! I (finally) arrive at my hotel. As is my common practice, I get all my materials ready before calling it a night only to realize that I have left MULTIPLE items on one flight or the other! Including my phone charger (brand new, of course) and other items that I could really use this weekend. Sigh. I won’t bore you with the rest of the weekend, but suffice it to say that this first evening on the way to my hotel was only the TIP of the iceberg!

So what did I do? How did I survive the craziness (mostly caused by myself)? It took all my efforts and, honestly, it has taken me a few days to recover. I took out all the stops and went immediately into nurturing mode!

If you have felt this way, and wondered what to do, perhaps some of these ideas will help as you develop a nurturing environment:

  • Snuggle on the couch with a soft blanket.
  • Use a grounding essential oil. I love Balance Blend from doTERRA, but any of the woody or resin-y oils work really well here. White Fir, Frankincense, Sandalwood, etc.
  • Take a bath with Epsom Salts and/or add your essential oil.
  • Eat heavier, soothing, unctuous foods. Think soups, root veggies, etc. Earthy foods!
  • Rest when you can. Even a 10 minute rest can work wonders.
  • Allow more than enough time between appointments. Hurrying will only make things worse!
  • Give yourself the same grace and compassion you would give your child or best friend. Sometimes we are simply too hard on ourselves and our expectations are too high.
  • Stay away from those cravings! Sugar, Caffeine, Alcohol – all those things will exacerbate the issue. Show yourself love with real food and nurturing care. Drink plenty of water.
  • Meditate. Maybe a few times a day! If this is new or you have a hard time with it, I highly recommend getting a Meditation App on your phone. There are so many to choose from. A few of my favorites: Headspace, Mindful, Calm, Meditation Studio.
  • Carry a favorite crystal or wear a favorite piece of jewelry. Sentimental things can really help us feel nurturing through yogacalm, connected and relaxed. Grounding stones include: Bloodstone, Hematite, Smoky Quartz, Black Tourmaline, Black Kyanite, Garnet, Tiger’s Eye.
  • Use a mantra or affirmation. The most important aspect of a mantra of affirmation is that you state what you WANT, not what you don’t want! So, instead of, “I am getting over being so tired all the time,” it would be much more effective to say, “I am giving my body the rest it needs and enjoying the energy I have!”
  • Get a massage or have some energy work done. Is there anything more nurturing than this?
  • Go to yoga class! For releasing stress and regaining focus I recommend a Gentle or Restorative Class. There are plenty of other days to do Power Yoga. This time is for ultimate care!

I know this list isn’t exhaustive, but hopefully you found at least one tool you can use to help you get over “one of those days!” It has taken concentrated effort, but I am definitely on the mend and I am feeling very nurtured by my steps towards this level of loving care.

I’d love to hear from you! What’s your favorite way to care for yourself in the middle of a crazy day, week, or time of life? We have all discovered ways to work through difficult times. Let’s share them together!

Yoga, football, earthquakes and you.

I was at a yoga training recently (the one where I learned about PTSD) and our trainer mentioned that, in our culture, while we obsessively work to strengthen our core, the truth of the matter is that our core is most likely too strong! This really got me to thinking because pretty much every one of my private clients and loads of my class-based students, if given the chance, will pick a core emphasis. I must admit, I really like to talk about the core and emphasize it, too. So, I’m kinda thinking her observation is probably right on target.
After hearing this, I decided to try an experiment with my Monday/Wednesday class. For two weeks, we explored the concept of “enough” in our practice. We would find the basic support needed for each pose and then spend the next few breaths releasing all the muscular effort that wasn’t absolutely necessary to hold the pose. It was a fascinating experiment! While we did not walk away from those two weeks feeling like we could scale the Grand Canyon or complete a 100-Mile Ultra-Marathon, we discovered an entirely different type of strength.
We noticed that we became more internally-focused. We felt deeper sensations in each pose. We began to breathe more deeply. We started to understand what “enough” in a pose feels like. And we became more philosophical. Well, at least I became more philosophical.

As I recognized patterns in my own body that had me clutching my quads and toes in every pose, I wondered what my body could be telling me. Here are some of the things I wondered about:

  • Could it be that true strength comes from allowing movement and flexibility rather than rigid support? I thought about high-rise buildings constructed in earthquake zones. The buildings that are rigid topple over when the stress of the earthquake comes. The buildings that survive are the ones with the ability to sway and move with the shifting of the earth.
  • Football players and other professional athletes who practice yoga and/or ballet (or any activity thatyoga football earthquakes and youcounter-balances all the hard strength work on the field) seem to have more resilience and less injuries than their counterparts who only pump iron and continually push harder and longer. When we balance strength work with flexibility work, does this create a deeper, truer strength that is more functional and keeps us more injury-free? The answer to this one is yes and is actually pretty well-documented and accepted. I just felt it and realized in my own body to a much deeper degree during this practice.
  • When I was able to come to the place in each pose where I had truly released all the unnecessary work in my body, I noticed something very intriguing. My body would start to gently sway from side to side or forward and backward. Sometimes they swaying would go pretty far, far enough that I wondered if I might actually fall out of the pose. But, I never did. My deeper core muscles seem to be quite responsive and as the swaying would get to the place where I thought I would certainly come out of the pose, it would gently begin to sway the other direction. This sensation actually became very comforting as I allowed it to happen.
I’m not saying that we should only meander through life and never strive for anything at all. But what I do wonder is if there are areas in our lives where it would do us some good to release the unnecessary effort and explore what “enough” effort is. What can I let go of that isn’t really needed? Can I allow the movement in a situation to happen freely and trust that my deeper core will know when it’s time to sway the other direction?
What do you think about this? Have you experienced anything like this before? I would love to hear your thoughts!