Relieve Stress Daily For Optimal Health

It’s impossible to completely escape stress in your daily life. You may not know this, but not all stress is conscious. Your autonomic nervous system (ANS) controls all of your bodily functions. And it is constantly running under some level of stress.
 
To achieve optimal health your body, mind, and nervous system need to dump stress every day. If you don’t download your stress, it accumulates and causes more complex issues over time.
 
Stress can manifest in a variety of ways. It’s common to show up as tension and tightness in your body. Do you wake up tired or feeling sore and stiff? Maybe you think it’s caused by your busy schedule, your yoga practice, or another workout.
 
It may be true that you are sore from exercise and that your  job is stressful. You have deadlines, responsibilities, and spend long hours sitting at the computer. But I have good news for you, you don’t have to feel this way. You can shift this pattern without spending a month on a deserted island or in a cabin in the woods! You can learn to bring yourself relief.
 
Become a Roll Model® and learn self-massage with the Yoga Tune Up® therapy balls.
 
These body friendly rubber balls are grippy and pliable. Not only do they help you treat your tight muscles, they are also tools that reduce stress. The therapy balls are designed to stick to your skin so they traction and shear the tissue. Rolling stimulates the nerve endings in your fascia that turn off the pain signals in your body. Activating these sensory receptors induces relaxation and allows for tension to subside. Over time this creates lasting change in your ANS.
 
You may be saying, “I don’t have time for another thing!”
 
I know your time is valuable. All you need is 10 minutes a day. Each day target a different area in your body where you hold stress and tension. Every so often treat yourself to a longer session. After rolling you are sure feel better in your body. Your posture improves, stiffness decreases, and you move more optimally.
 
Like anything else in life, it requires regularity. Taking time to unwind your body, mind, and nervous system each day will train your system to unwelcome stress and tension from sticking. In the time it may take you to wind down and fall asleep you can roll your way to a sound slumber and wake up feeling refreshed.
 
To get started, learn the Yoga Tune Up® and Roll Model Method® Techniques with me, or another certified practitioner.
 
And for those of you who already roll, When is the last time you spent 2-hours treating yourself? Join me for my next guided self-massage. I am always creating new sequences and sharing different moves.
 
ROLL-ief: Guided Self-Massage
with Yoga Tune Up® Therapy Balls
Sundays:
May 7, Sept 10, Nov 5
1:30-3:30
Yoga Tree Hayes
 
Yoga Tune Up® Self-Care
Every Monday, 4:45-6:00pm
Yoga Tree Hayes
 
Explore Your Core: Three Part Series
Sundays, Sept 24, Oct 22, Nov 19
1:15-4:15
Yoga Tree Hayes

Your Spine & Backbends

A healthy spine is the key to a vibrant life. Yogis, Osteopaths, Chiropractors, and many doctors agree that you are as young as your spine is flexible. Unfortunately, back pain has become an epidemic in our culture. This is mainly due to poor posture, weak back musculature, and limited movement in the spine.

The spine has a few critical functions. First, it is your central column of support. It stabilizes your body and holds you up against gravity. Building strength in the muscles that sleeve your spine is important to support good posture, keep you powerful during life’s activities, and prevent injury.

Your spine also houses your spinal cord. Think of it this way – your brain is not just in your head. You have so much brain that it flows all the way down your spine. Nerve endings exit from every one of your spinal bones called vertebras. This system, called your central nervous system, is the highway that carries information to every cell, muscle fiber, and organ in your body. A fluid spine is key for a clear road of communication throughout your body – an open pathway for oxygen and nutrients to flow.

But these days, many people’s spines are rigid, posture is rounded forward, and core is weak. I have good news for you – backbends are one of the antidotes! When you have back pain, it seems counterintuitive to do a backbend. But in reality, it is backbends that will help you strengthen your back muscles, improve the mobility of the bones of your spine, and promote the health of the discs that lie between each spinal vertebra. It is the opposite of the way you spend most of your day. Of course, like anything else, backbends need to be done correctly to be beneficial.

Let’s take a look at your spine. You may notice that you have the most mobility in your lower back (lumbar spine) and your neck (cervical spine). Interestingly enough these are the places you may commonly experience pain. Pain is often a symptom of lack of stability.

Your lumbar spine is meant to be stable and 
carry the load of your body as you move through the world. In general we move too much in the lower back simply because we have more access to it. It doesn’t have all those ribs attached to it! The lumbar spine relies on support from deeper postural core muscles like transverse abdominis and multifidus to create stability. These crucial postural muscles tend to be weak.

Your middle back, called the thoracic spine, is meant to move in many directions: forward, backwards, laterally, and it rotates. Unfortunately it is often locked down and doesn’t move enough. A rounded upper back and forward head position is common because life happens in front of you: sitting in front of a computer, behind the wheel, cooking, caring for children, you name it, most things in life are a culprit.

BENEFITS OF BACKBENDS:

  • Improves posture
  • Strengthens back muscles
  • Opens chest and shoulders
  • Stretches respiratory diaphragm
  • Helps you breathe better
  • Stimulates digestion
  • Counters depression
  • Clears mind and opens heart
  • Boosts energy
  • Alleviates fear
  • Aids in overcoming emotional challenges

Please consider joining me for my next workshop, Build A Healthy and Strong Backbend.

Backbends are empowering! All backbends are rooted in Bhujangasana, Cobra Pose. Learning to skillfully perform a deeper cobra, with strength and support first, is the key to bending evenly and feeling better in your backbends. This is where the fancier poses begin.

If you are intimidated by backbends, this will be a great opportunity for you to focus on your spine and improve your posture. It’s more about YOU and less about any of the poses! If you already backbend with ease, this workshop will help you refine your backbends. You will learn to stabilize your spine where you move too much, and mobilize the places where you don’t move enough.

For everyone, this will help you create a sustainable practice to last throughout your lifetime. And who knows, once you learn the basics, you may just get into that advanced backbend you have been struggling with. 

 

 

 

 

 

Manage Your Stress

The word on the street is that yoga can help to reduce stress in your life. But stress is a complex topic, and there are a lot of different kinds of yoga out there. So you may wonder, how does it all work? 
 
Stress is caused by the release of a hormone in your body called cortisol. 
 
When life circumstances become difficult to manage, the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) kicks in and releases cortisol to heighten your awareness, pump blood to your limbs, and focus your brain to get the task done. Later your parasympathetic nervous system (PSN) is supposed to help you recover by bringing you back to a state a relaxation. If you spend a lot of time in a state of stress, it is common for the PNS not switch on, and when you don’t fully recover stress is compounded.
 
To find the most effective tool to manage stress and triumph in your life you don’t have to look any further than your breath. Each inhalation is inherently up-regulating while each exhalation is down-regulating. When your heart-rate differs on inhalation vs. exhalation it shows you have a more flexible nervous system that can more easily go from an energized state to a relaxed state.
 
Some people are overwhelmed by stress and have the tendency to shut down and disconnect when life gets stressful. Disengagement and avoidance can lead to depression. For someone like this to combat stress, they need to develop the energy to tackle the situation and the mental stamina to stay present with it. 
 
Other people get stuck in an activated state which can lead to anxiety, headaches, insomnia, and other difficulties. This person needs to train their PSN to put the brakes on stress. They can learn how to down-regulate by relaxing, letting go, and quieting the mind to bring balance back.
 
Do you know which is your tendency?
 
Your respiratory diaphragm is the muscle that controls your breathing. It works automatically, but you also have control over it and can regulate it. Yoga practices that work with the breath are called Pranayama, which has to do with regulating and expanding your life force energy.
 

I am a big advocate of stretching and strengthening your diaphragm, just like you would any other muscle in your yoga practice. This gives you access to a healthy breathing pattern. You can start by resetting your breath. It is your first tool to manage stress. I have created a 3-minute video to help do just that.

In addition, a regular yoga practice can help you manage stress further. Here’s how it works.

When you perform an asana (yoga pose), it is meant to take you out of your comfort zone. It becomes the stressor. You can’t ignore or escape it; you have to be with it, breathe in it. And with your breath mechanism working properly, over time the uncomfortable spot becomes more bearable, until maybe you actually even enjoy the pose! 

It’s important to realize that I am not just talking about twisted pretzel shapes here. You may find laying still in Savasana (relaxation pose) is the most uncomfortable pose! Either way a regular yoga practice prepares you to meet any stressor your day may unexpectedly bring, with skill and grace.

So here’s what you do: Study yourself. Pay attention to which poses bring on the most discomfort. Then, don’t try to fight yourself there, find your edge. Focus and use your breath to both expand your boundaries and learn to let go. Before long you will see an increase in your ability to manage stress.
 

Fall Equinox Sequence for Balance

Happy Equinox. The transition between summer and autumn can be the most challenging time to maintain balance. As we head in to the final quarter of the year, it’s a great time to slow down, check in with your goals and intentions for the year, and nurture your well-being.

This week I have put together a little practice for you to stay healthy and grounded. I know you can’t always make it to class, but you if can find 10-30 minutes in your day to come to your yoga mat I am confident you will be able to maintain vibrant health as we transition to the darker half of the year.

 

Use this as a springboard for practice by either practicing the whole sequence or portions of it as time allows.


childspose Balasana / Child’s Pose

Come to your mat and take 5-10 breaths in child’s pose to prepare for your practice.

dog Adho Mukha Svanasana / Downward Dog

Ground your hands and stretch long through all the limbs of your body, including your spine. Hold the pose for 5-10 breaths.

uttanasana Uttanasana / Standing Forward Bend

Step forward into standing forward bend. Engage the muscles of your legs and lift your belly.  Let gravity release your spine, neck, and head toward the floor. Take 5-10 long deep breaths.

crescent Indudalasana / Standing Crescent

Stand up with an inhalation and stretch your arms overhead. Catch hold of your right wrist and exhale side bend to your left. Take a few breaths here then inhale to center and repeat on the second side.

utkatasana Utkatasana /  Chair Pose

Sit back into Utkatasana/Chair pose. Widen your sitting bones, ground your heels, and lift your lower belly while lengthening up through your spine. Breath evenly.

plank Phalankasana / Plank Pose

Step back to plank pose and hold for a few breaths toning all the muscles in your body. Resist lowering down as you bend your elbows and lower to the earth.

cobra

 

Bhujangasana / Cobra Pose

Lift your spine into a little backbend. Move each part of your spine from the lowest part up. Don’t let your head move faster than everything else.

Stretch back to downward dog for a few breaths then step forward into Uttanasana.

CRW_0277 Vrksasana / Tree Pose

Stand balancing on one leg with the other foot pressing against the inner standing leg. Stretch your arms up or keep them in prayer.

Challenge your balance by looking to the right and back to center. Then to the left and back to center.

Can you hold this pose for 60 seconds?

v2 Virabhadrasana Two / Warrior Two

Step back into warrior two for 5 breaths. Straighten the front leg to move into the next pose, Trikonasana.

trikonasana Trikonasana / Triangle Pose

From warrior two straighten the front leg and take your hand to a block or the floor.

Repeat the two standing poses on the second side.

 v3prep Warrior Three Preparation

 From Uttanasana stretch your right leg behind you. Square your hips and stretch your legs straight and strong. Use blocks to touch the floor if you can’t reach.

Move directly into the next pose, half moon.

ardhachandrasana Ardha Chandrasana / Half Moon Pose

From warrior 3 prep open your top hip and your top arm for half moon pose. Make sure to keep your standing foot steady and the hip wrapping underneath you. Lengthen in all directions.

dolphin Dolphin Pose

Put your elbows on the floor and clasp your hands. Reach the outer edges of your lower arms and hands into the floor. Press your chest toward your thighs. Keep your knees bent if you need to.

This pose is a great way to open your chest and upper back.

malasanaforward Malasana / Squat

If your heels come up place a rolled up mat or blanket underneath them. Keep your arches lifted and your knees and your toes pointing in the same direction.

navasana Navasana / Boat Pose

Find the support of all of your muscles while balancing in this pose. You can use your fingertips on the floor or work with bent knees while you are learning.

supinechilds Ananda Balasana / Supine Child’s Pose

Lay on your back and hug your knees in as wide as your torso. Keep a curve in your lumbar spine.

apana Apanasana / Wind Relieving Pose

Draw one leg in deeper and straighten the opposite leg. Hold up to 60 seconds. Repeat on both sides.

suptap Supta Padangusthasana A / Leg Stretch

You can practice this one either directly from the above pose or after. Simply straighten the leg and hold the back of your thigh. It is extra grounding to have your bottom foot pushing against the wall.

Hold 60-90 seconds.

bridge Setu Bandhasana / Bridge Pose

Lift your hips up to stretch the front of your pelvis and thighs. Ground your heels, engage your hamstrings, and gently tone your glutes. Breath into your open chest.

viparitakarani Viparita Karani / Legs Up Posture

Let your legs rest against the wall. You can place a block, bolster, or blanket under your sacrum at any height or don’t use a height at all.

Stay here for 8-10 minutes.

savasana Savasana / Corpse Pose

Lay back and give yourself permission to relax
completely. Stay 5-10 minutes.

DSCN1626.JPG Pranayama / Breathwork

Sit comfortably and practice with Sama Vritti or equal breath.

Inhale for 4 counts.
Hold at the top for 4 counts.
Exhale for 4 counts.
Hold empty for 4 counts.

Like a square repeat for several rounds.

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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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!

52 Weeks To Greener Living

Be A Conscious Consumer

I believe with great passion that we vote every time we spent a dollar. Unfortunately most companies are not committed to the sustainability of our planet or to the health and well-being of the population who is buying their products. The market is driven by the dollar, if we all made choices with the environment in mind, companies would be forced to change.

It’s overwhelming to think about all at once. Start by considering where you keep your money. Are you in a big, national or international bank, or a at local credit union? Where you keep your money is the foundation of how you engage as a consumer.

Then, think about the basic products you use every single day: toilet paper, soap, toothpaste, laundry detergent, trash bags… Once a week, choose one product and look for  a comparable local, sustainable, organic product you can switch to. At the end of the year 80% of what you consume every day will be replaced with a greener version.

Inspired by Joshua Scott Onysko, Pangea Organics Founder

ConsciousConsumerism

Relief From Standing

It’s been fun making the Yoga Anywhere! Take Five and Stretch Videos and I appreciate the positive feedback I’ve  been hearing from you. I am so glad the videos are helpful!

Some of you have reached out and said that you stand all day, and asked what you can do to ease the discomfort and pain that results.  This week’s post is for you. If you’re a teacher, retail worker, doctor, nurse, waitresses, cashiers or other stander, here are some tips for you!

A few of the consequences of standing at your job all day are; sore feet, varicose veins, stiff lower back, locking the knee joint, and just like our seated friends, stiff neck and shoulders.

Here are some ways you can relieve these symptoms.

1. When you get home each evening take your shoes off and don’t wear them around the house. After removing your shoes use your hands to give yourself a foot massage bringing circulation back to your feet.

2. Give your feet and legs a rest by putting your legs up the wall. Here’s how! While you are there point and flex your feet and roll your ankles in circles in both directions, then rest for at least 10 minutes. In addition to being rejuvenating and boosting to your immune system, this posture is wonderful relief to tired legs and helps to combat varicose veins.

3. Invest in a pair of YogaToes® toe stretchers! I bought these 14 years ago when I was on my feet all day as a schoolteacher and I still love them! They may not be comfortable at first but work up to wearing them for an hour each day. Not only does it feel like having a foot massage but these funny looking things will prevent and even reduce bunions. I don’t profit from your purchase, these are just something I really believe in.

4. Stretch your thighs with a standing quad stretch and use this supine yoga sequence to open your hamstrings and hips. Both will free your lower back.

5. Sit in Virasana (kneeling on your knees) with a rolled up yoga mat or blanket  between your thighs and calves. Start in the knee joint and gradually move the roll back towards the ankles. Sit in the juicy spots longer! Opening your knee joint and giving it traction allows circulation. As you move the roll down you mash your calves and hamstrings releasing tightness in these muscles. This posture is especially important if you wear heels and/or hyperextend your knees.

6. Invest in a foam roller and roll out all sides of your legs. You can also lay over it both parallel and perpendicular to your spine to open the front chest.

Other Tips:

• Change your posture often.
• Notice if you tend to stand thrusting one hip forward or to the side. Practice being aware of standing evenly on both feet. If that is not realistic for  you switch sides often and teach yourself not to favor one leg.
• Be aware of your knee joint and avoid hyperextending or locking your knees.
• Make sure your core is engaged to support your lower back. When I say core, I mean your lower abs and deeper postural muscles which are your funcional support. HERE are a few ways to increase support and stability there.
• Invest in a pair of comfortable and supportive shoes. Thank goddess they make fashionable comfort these days! I often put pair of SuperFeet in my shoes.
• Avoid standing on hard surfaces. Ask your company to buy a rug or a rubber mat or cushion for you to stand on.
• Use the Yoga Anywhere! videos stretch your neck and shoulders while standing up.

YogaToes