15 Things You Can Do To Make Earth Day EVERYDAY

  1. Turn off the water while brushing you teeth, shaving, or another time-consuming task.
  2. Bring your own grocery bags to shop for food and other items.
  3. Ditch plastic water bottles, disposable coffee cups, and straws.
  4. When making a purchase choose items with little or no packaging.
  5. Reduce the amount of take out food you consume. Even one less meal per week makes a difference in the trash you make.
  6. Refill containers of laundry soap, dish soap, etc at a place like Rainbow Grocery or Green 11.
  7. If you live where there is a place that carries bulk items, commit to filling bottles rather than buying new. In the Bay Area you can get cooking oils, vinegars, syrup, honey, nut butters, dry foods, and much more.
  8. Use cloth napkins instead of paper.
  9. Bring your own cutlery instead of using disposable. To-Go Ware is a great option.
  10. Buy local and close to home whenever possible to reduce your carbon footprint.
  11. Switch all of your bills and statements paperless and pay your bills online.
  12. Compost your food scraps.
  13. Recycle paper and packaging.
  14. Make your own cleaning supplies. Vinegar, tea tree oil, baking soda, and essential oils are great cleaners.
  15. If you drive bundle your errands and carpool whenever possible.

Please share your additional ideas in the comments below. Thank you!

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Radiant Wellness Speaker Series

Four Keys To Living Better In Your Body
with Stacey Rosenberg

I recently spoke with my friend Patricia Becker on her speaker series, Radiant Wellness for Men and Women Who Want to Feel Better and Develop New Habits. It was the first time I have talked about one of my new passions – the respiratory diaphragm. And it was so much fun!

The diaphragm, your primary breathing muscle, has a powerful impact on your health and well-being. Click the play button below to listen to my talk for FREE. Find out how this muscle and your ability to breathe efficiently impacts your posture and your ability to relax. You will learn tools and techniques you can use instantly to release tightness, breath better, and relax.

If you are interested in the whole series you can purchase all 13 talks here. Don’t forget to let her know I sent you!

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Four Keys to Well-Being

In teaching yoga my goal is to help you to to be your best self. That means educating you about your body, helping you to listen more deeply, and empowering you to make choices for your body and your life that are healing and promote well-being.

This is achieved through some basic physical things that all my classes, workshops, and other programming are planned around. Here are four things that I have come to believe are the most important to your health and what I hope you gain from your regular yoga practice:

1. Better, more effective breathing.
Breath is life. Many of us live with dis-functional breathing patterns because of tight muscles, poor posture, and stress. Releasing the muscles of respiration and creating better breathing habits are crucial to the body’s overall health.

2. The ability to shift from states of stress to states of relaxation.
There is no doubt that life is busy. But how effective is your ability to turn off the switch? Being able to down regulate your nervous system to a rest and recovery state is a key to quality sleep and improved health. It also reduces anxiety, improves concentration, slows the aging process, and much more.

3. Improved posture
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Your posture follows you into everything you do. Most people don’t pay much attention to how they are standing, sitting, waiting in line, sleeping etc. But your form impacts how you breathe and is a baseline for all of your movement. ​ Bringing mindfulness to your posture and learning to hold yourself in a more beneficial position affects all aspects of your life.

4. More efficient movement patterns.
Conscious movement is the fastest way to get out of pain. Restricted range of motion (ROM) is usually caused by weakness, instability, and tight muscles. Learning to move with good biomechanics results in less pain, more range of motion, and improved performance in everything you do such as carrying your child, playing a sport or an instrument, or practicing yoga.

How would you rate your ability in each of these four areas?  Join me for any of my offerings to expand these capacities and live more vibrantly.

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Yoga, Stress, and the Vagus Nerve

I have a confession to make. When I hear science confirming what yogis have known for a long time, or at least what I know to be true from my experience, I get really happy inside!

Fortunately, this happens a lot these days since much more research is being done about the benefits of yoga. And that science shows that yoga practice works in ways other kinds of exercise does not.

Things we do in every yoga class such as asana, pranayama, and chanting soothe and tone an important nerve in the body called the Vagus Nerve. Scientists are beginning to understand this fascinating cranial nerve which travels throughout the body and responsible for the relaxation response.

When you are in constant stress your sympathetic nervous system never has a chance to switch off. This creates low vagal tone and brings depletion to your body making it feel like life is more difficult to manage. But healthy vagal tone stimulates the relaxation response, regulates the nervous system, and ultimately allows our bodies and mind to be more resilient under stress.

When the vagus nerve is functioning properly, your digestion improves, your heart functions better, and your moods stabilize. You get better at managing the constant changes that life brings. And, it is even believed that strong vagus function can prevent chronic disease. With a greater sense of ease and increased energy you are more likely to live a happier and more fulfilling life.

Here are three ways to tone the vagus nerve that you can do on your own:

1. Ujjayi breath or sound of the ocean breathing.

2. Chant the sound AUM ॐ out loud  or simply hum.

3. Reset Your Breath with this video.

And, for even more vagal toning, join me on the mat, or on the Yoga Tune Up® Therapy Balls and Coregeous® Ball soon!

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Vagus Nerve: The Wandering Nerve

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

References:
http://drarielleschwartz.com/natural-vagus-nerve-stimulation-dr-arielle-schwartz/#.V9bYy5MrLCN
https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-athletes-way/201302/the-neurobiology-grace-under-pressure

Yoga Is “Sensational”

I have been using the word “sensational” in class a lot lately. Not in the traditional meaning of “very good or great” – well that is partly true. When I say “sensational” I mean “lots of sensation” which IS actually great. Even when you perceive the sensation as uncomfortable.

Let me explain. The body can have sensory motor amnesia. That means that some muscles forget how to work. This often results in using another muscle too much or inefficiently. In many cases this bio-mechanic disfunction is the cause of chronic pain.

Pain is actually a great tool. Its purpose is to help you and let you know that something is not right. As a yoga practitioner it’s helpful to learn to discern injurious pain, which your don’t want, from the beneficial pain of strengthening, stretching, or waking something up from this amnesia.

I dislike the word “pain” for that beneficial sensation you get from your yoga practice. So now you can call the intensity from an exercise or posture “sensational!”

Truth be told, there is no way around sensation in yoga. I like to put it on a scale of 1-10. One being not much sensation and ten being a lot of sensation. When you can breathe, relax, and work in an aligned way, while holding a posture for 30-45 seconds, at a sensation level of 7-8, you will make a lasting change in your body. This is how you snuggle up to your boundary with respect and grow.

Please throw out the meme “no pain no gain.” If you are experiencing a 10+ it’s just too much, back off. That much sensation only creates more binding and new compensatory patterns that are NOT helpful.

New science suggests that yoga practice increases the gray matter in your brain and helps reduce chronic pain. Yoga also helps increase proprioception which is a fancy word for mapping your body or turning on your internal GPS. Proprioception is the ability to feel your parts and know where they are in space.

I am especially excited about the work I have been doing with the Yoga Tune Up® therapy balls to reduce pain and increase proprioception. Check out my upcoming workshops, Unglue Your Stuck Spots, to experience this sensational work.

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Yoga, Your Brain, and Stress

The research keeps pouring in about yoga and why it has such profound benefits on your health. Here are the cliff notes about yoga, your brain, and stress.


You have two parts of your brain that deal with stress. There is the emotional part and the cognitive part. The emotional brain triggers stress and turns on the fight or flight response. But the cognitive brain has the capacity to turn off the stress switch.


When you hold a yoga posture you are busy concentrating and trying to balance. This turns on the cognitive brain and switches off the stress response. Some postures naturally activate the cognitive brain and turn on relaxation. While other postures actually turn on the stress response, you know the one’s that are difficult and leave you feeling anxious.


Because you are focused on practice the difficult postures simply provide a challenge for your cognitive brain to work extra hard to overcome the stress signal. Like a muscle the cognitive brain gets stronger over time and it gets better at turning off stress. Remember the poses that were once a challenge but you can find more ease in now?


You can see from this short explanation that a yoga practice is not just a workout for your body but also for your brain. Over time you actually rewire your brain! This new circuitry helps you to channel the feelings you want and not dwell in feelings of stress and anxiety. Pretty cool, huh?


Take 3-minutes to “Turn Stress to Rest” with this video. And please watch for my new offerings to help you step up your self-care.



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Slower Is Stronger

I was ecstatic last week when the blog post, “The Slow Yoga Revolution” went viral in the yoga community. Ecstatic because it made a point I’ve felt for a long time.

Modern life has an unsustainable fast pace. Busy schedules, the constant pinging of email and social media, commuting, and other demands all put immense stress on the body. This stress provokes a fight or flight response, as if you are always running away from the tiger that is chasing you.

So it has always baffled me why one would want to rush through their yoga practice. Fast-paced yoga, with the music blaring and the heat on has become the norm in Western yoga culture. And while this type of practice might have benefits, I believe yoga should be a counterbalance to the fast-paced, outwardly focused life we live.

Yoga can offer you a much-needed reprieve from a hectic lifestyle and help your nervous system rest and recover. Practice is an opportunity to bring your body, mind, and spirit into greater harmony.

Whether you are working on strength or flexibility, there are many benefits to moving slow. To increase the length of a muscle you must maintain a stretch, even if it is slightly uncomfortable, for 30-60 seconds. For better results, contract the muscle while stretching it. And increase the contraction at the end range. That will make a lasting change.

Also, since yoga is an integrated practice, strength is important too. Engagement of the muscles protects the joints and the ligaments from over stretching. Sometimes lack of flexibility is caused by a lack of strength somewhere else. For example, tight hamstrings may be a result of core instability. When you practice slower there is time to nuance the alignment, notice your weak spots, and become aware of the places you bypass. Slow yoga is more vigorous, will give you access to your deep power, and create a more sustainable practice.

A disciplined and focused practice is something ‘you do with yourself not to yourself’ as the author of the blog wisely noted. A slower yoga practice will:
1. Teach you how your body works, because lets face it, we don’t come with an owner’s manual.
2. Help you sit with discomfort, because the truth is sometimes life is uncomfortable.
3. Refine the way you work to open and strengthen your body because that is what it takes to live in balance.
When I practice, my goal is to become my best self. Each day I seek to become better at being me!

I consider myself an educator. Each time you come to my class my intention is to educate and inspire you. To offer you the tools you need to empower you to transform your life. It is my hope that you walk away with a gem you can take into everything else you do.

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The Yoga of Life – Five Steps to Being In the Flow

Do you believe that everything you do is infused with the energy you do it with? If you are frantic and stressed in your life then your life will be frantic and stressful. If you are peaceful and calm you will have more peace and ease in your life. This DOES NOT mean that difficult things won’t happen to you or that you won’t be challenged. But, there is evidence that your internal state determines your external state.

Yoga holds the potential for you to approach everything in your life with peace and calm in your heart. The physical practice on the mat is just the beginning. There is more to learning how to confront fear and step past limitation besides doing a fancy arm balance, a graceful backbend, or a crazy contortion.

Do your efforts on the mat support you in your open eyed Sadhana – that thing we call life? Especially when things get tough? The physical practice has the capacity to wake up your body and increase your awareness. But what you do with that awareness is up to you. How do you act/react when discomfort arises, when things don’t go your way, or when you get bad news? This is the real proof of yoga. It takes practice to sit with things like emotional pain, physical discomfort, uncertainty… These are the most difficult asanas in life.

Finding the opportunity in the face of a challenge is a high yoga. It is possible to use our difficulties to cultivate mental strength, emotional balance, and spiritual fortitude for your life off the mat. That sounds great right, but how? Being present with what is, relaxing and accepting it, and allowing it to shift you are all like building a muscle, increasing flexibility, or trying to nail a posture. It takes practice.

At Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health  a process called BRFWA is taught to practice being in the flow of what is happening. These five steps will help you develop a relationship with yourself and with your life. After all you cannot choose, force, or control what happens to you only how you respond to it.

Breathe. Take several breaths inhaling into your belly and exhaling slowly until the breath is extinguished. This turns on your parasympathetic nervous system.

Relax. Scan your body to find where you are holding tension. Invite it to release by bringing the breath there and softening. Increase tension in the places that are most challenging to let go of and then soften. The contrast often helps.

Feel. This is an emotional body scan. Notice feelings, sensations, and be present with the experience without trying to change it, ignore it, or stuff it down. Let yourself feel fully.

Watch. Be the witness of the experience. Observe it, create spaciousness around it, and offer it compassion.

Allow. Continue to be present with the experience and cultivate acceptance. Relax into what is.

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You may find that you will need to go back to step one and start again. Some situations you will move through quickly while others may take some time. Keep this tool with you and use it faithfully. Let me know how it goes.

* For more explanation on BRFWA read here, here, and here!

Get To Know Your Diaphragm

Modern life seems to move more quickly than our biology can handle. Between media, traffic, and the pressures of work and life responsibilities, most of us spend a lot of time in ‘fight or flight’ stress response. This activates your sympathetic nervous system which dumps adrenaline into your blood stream. The result inhibits cortisol production, weakens the immune system, and sets the body up for dis-ease. Argh, I am getting stressed out just thinking about it!

Take a deep breath into your belly… exhale… ahhh, that’s better! Belly breathing activates the parasympathetic nervous system which is sedating and calming. It releases growth hormone to repair injured tissue, regulates cortisol, and brings the body back to a balanced and soothed state.

Breathing is an unconscious process. Many of us breathe in a stress response pattern that eliminates the belly and diaphragm. This shallow breathing pattern which recruits the chest and upper shoulder muscles: (pectoralis minor, upper trapezius, levator scapulae, sternocleidomastoid, scalene, and subclavicular) keeps us in a panic. Belly breathing can reduce stress, induce sleep, and help create a new normal for the body.

Courtesy of bandhayoga.com

Courtesy of bandhayoga.com

Get To Know Your Diaphragm
Your respiratory diaphragm is a central and essential to healthy breathing.  The diaphragm is located in the bottom of the rib cage separates and the abdominal and chest cavities. It is a dome shaped muscle that flattens toward the abdomen when you inhale and expands back up toward your heart when you exhale.

When your diaphragm is tight and restricted it can limit a healthy breathing pattern. Like other muscles in your body the diaphragm benefits from being strengthened and stretched. Also, it’s intimately connected to your psoas muscle so it can even be part of the culprit of lower back pain. By releasing your diaphragm your can align your rib cage over your pelvis and soften the pull of the deep hip flexors and tight abdominal organs and muscles. You may even free your lower back!

The benefits of a healthy diaphragm are numerous. A more easeful breathing pattern brings nourishment to your whole body, increases your energy, and regulates your stress hormones.

Try This Breathing ExerciseFullSizeRender
Lay on your back with your sacrum flat on the floor and a small natural curve in your lower back. Bend your knees with your feet flat on the floor. Let’s call this Ardha Savasana.

Place a soft, pliable weight such as a bag of rice or a sand bag over your belly button. As you inhale into your belly meet the weight. As you exhale let the weight drop into you. Your diaphragm has to work harder to move toward your abdomen because of the weight. When you exhale the weight helps it to release and restore.

Breathe here for about 5 minutes then remove the weight and rest another 2 minutes. Notice the effects.

Note
You may need to start with less weight. A yoga prop sandbag is 10 pounds. You can find a bag of rice that weighs 2 pounds. If you experience pain or discomfort remove the weight.

Let me know about your experience in the comments below.

 

Alkalize Your Body

Acidity is the cause of chronic inflammation and the root of most disease. Here is an easy way to reduce inflammation and acidity in your body and improve your overall health.

When you wake up brush your teeth first thing. The organs release toxins while you sleep that end up in your mouth and are harmful to swallow. Some of you might already do a practice called “oil pulling” and/or use a tongue scraper first.

After your mouth is clean, squeeze the juice of one lemon into a 16oz. glass of warm water and drink. Stay hydrated with warm or room temperature water throughout the day and add lemon when you feel like it!

Here are some of the benefits of lemon water:

Balances pH
Lemons are one of the most alkalizing foods for the body. Lemons contain both citric and ascorbic acid, weak acids easily metabolized by the body allowing the mineral content of lemons to alkalize the blood. Disease states only occur when the body pH is acidic. Drinking lemon water regularly can help to remove the overall acidity in the body, including uric acid in the joints, which is one of the primary causes of pain and inflammation.

Boosts Immune System
Lemons are high in vitamin C, which is great for fighting off cold, recovering from stress, sickness, and injury, and reduces the amount of phlegm produced by the body. They are high in potassium, which stimulates brain and nerve function and controls blood pressure. The ascorbic acid (vitamin C) found in lemons is anti-inflammatory and is used to support asthma and other respiratory symptoms. Lemons also contain saponins, which show antimicrobial properties that may help keep cold, flu, and other viral infections at bay. The ascorbic acid found in lemons also enhances iron absorption in the body and iron plays an important role in immune function. This essential nutrient aids in the recovery from stress.

Clears Skin
The vitamin C in lemons helps decrease wrinkles and blemishes and helps to combat free radical damage. Lemons water purges toxins from the blood, kills bacteria known to cause acne and rejuvenates your skin from inside out! You can even apply it topically to age spots and scars to reduce their appearance.

Lemon water also aids digestion, helps with weight loss, freshens breath, and gives you an energy boost.

When life gives you lemons, drink lemon water. Cheers!

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P.S. When you drink alcohol have a glass of lemon water before you go to sleep.