Age and Yoga

Do you want to feel youthful, agile & alive regardless of your age?

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The eightfold path of yoga keeps the body and mind agile, peaceful & responsive. We all know yogis who seem ageless, appearing far younger than their actual years. That said, aging gracefully through yoga is not about looking young forever.

Aging gracefully through yoga begins wherever we find ourselves in life, whether we are still young or start practicing because our great-grandkids are into yoga. It is about cultivating deep self-acceptance and capacity to love what we’ve got. And aging gracefully is about giving ourselves enough support so we can lengthen, relax, let go, and breathe deeply during practice, rather than push ourselves to achieve something that we think we should be able to do.

As each year passes, I enjoy the mind-blowing variety of yoga practices available. Rather than push myself to be strong and overcome fatigue as I did in my younger years, I am learning to support myself and deepen my practice with gentle & therapeutic yoga.

I continually find that my students who are older and wiser are very mindful and clear about how deep they want to go. They ask for adaptations for knees, wrists, hips, shoulders or back injuries or discover adaptations themselves. Gathering all of the props to support themselves, they enjoy finding ways to let go and relax. They love breathing and moving and, given the opportunity to add some humor, laughter is quick and from the gut.  When they have breakthroughs or openings, they discover ecstasy, lighting up like a small child.

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I will never forget the time, a man nearing his nineties joined class. He relaxed into yoga therapeutics with grace and then also wanted to explore some of the warrior series and tree pose. He balanced on one foot with determination and, yes, grace. Yoga is for every body. And the beauty and grace that can accompany a yoga practice comes from deep within ourselves.  His practice was truly his own without ego and without judgement.

When we begin to cultivate a non-judgmental mind and become willing to explore ourselves as we are in this moment, we are given an incredible amount of information from our bodies.

We begin to tap into our body wisdom. Sometimes we discover that we are stronger than we thought we were. Other times, everything feels stuck and hard. Each time we lean into the hard places without self-criticism or going numb, we discover a little more light and grace. Often, this occurs as we find ways to provide enough support so our bodies and mind can relax.

If we provide enough support, eventually something is going to let go.

The beauty of allowing yoga to help us to age gracefully is that everything we do permeates out into the rest of our lives. If we are able to show up to our mats and be with ourselves in a way that is non-judgmental, loving and compassionate, we deepen our capacity to show up to the rest of life with these same graceful qualities.

The powerful part of starting or continuing to practice yoga when we are not so young anymore is we are often already tapped into the many dimensions of ourselves. We can access and experience the subtleties of yoga. We know ourselves better and have more tools to talk ourselves through the confusing or challenging parts of yoga. No longer wanting to push ourselves so hard and incur injury, we tend to know our boundaries and treat ourselves with gentleness and wisdom.

Just as Leonard Cohen said, “Ring the bells that still can ring. Forget your perfect offering. There is a crack, a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.” Aging gracefully through yoga comes as light gets into broken and stuck parts and we experience a profound acceptance of ourselves as we are. When we have these moments of yoga, we are ageless and infinitely graceful.

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How to Start a Regular Yoga Practice

Do you want to start a daily yoga or meditation practice but feel overwhelmed with a full schedule? Or, do you wonder how to get started and stay focused without the guidance of a teacher?

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Like anything else, the experience of yoga and meditation deepens with practice. The subtle effects of the postures are revealed over time. As we sit in the practice of yoga and meditation, we strengthen our capacity to be with ourselves as we experience the ups and downs of life.

The beauty of practice is this: The more we practice, the easier it becomes. In fact, over time, we cannot help but show up to our yoga practice, because yoga slowly becomes a part of everything we do. Plus yoga works! Once we know how calm and peaceful we can feel all day long as a result of our yoga, we will have a hard time giving up on our daily practice. The asana practice or seated meditation practice becomes a way to continue to stay engaged with the essence of our beings, every beautiful day.

Ready to get started?

Here are my top four tips to start a daily yoga practice:

1. Easy Does It

Life design coach, Martha Beck, recommends that we establish “ridiculously easy” goals to make BIG changes. After all, if we aim too high and make our goals too difficult, we will not do them. To begin your daily practice, start with something ridiculously easy that you will do every single day. Try one sun salutation or one minute of sitting. Just 30 seconds of breathing deeply can be your ridiculously easy daily practice. Once you reach your goal and you have a simple routine established, add just a little bit more. Continue to build your practice with baby steps until you discover a routine that works well for you.

2. Develop A Yoga Habit

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Commit to practicing a couple of postures every day for a full month until it becomes a routine. Or invest in yourself and get a monthly unlimited package at the studio, so you can build your daily habit with the guidance of your favorite teachers! Developing a routine around yoga makes continuing a daily practice easy. If you miss a day, be kind to yourself and simply start again the following day. Allow your practice to be nourishing and fun… not one more thing you have to do in your day. The simple act of showing up to your personal yoga practice will have a profound effect on your life, guaranteed.

3. Find A Sequence That Works Well For You

Depending on where you are at in life, different asana practices can support your body and soul. Having a series of postures or flow that you can practice every day can help you to see how certain postures affect your well-being. Some people enjoy the Ashtanga yoga practice because there is a series that they show up to every day. Others prefer restorative postures, or seated meditation without any postures at all. Do you want support in designing a sequence that is perfect for your body? I highly recommend working with a private instructor who can teach you a sequence that will support you wherever you are at.

4. Take Your Yoga Off the Mat

You can start a daily practice by integrating yoga into your day wherever you are. Maybe you don’t have time to roll out your mat every day, but can you breathe deeply for 30 seconds on your commute? Or find time to practice tree pose for five deep breaths on each side after you go to the bathroom? Sometimes the simple yet profound act of listening deeply, with full attention, to another human being can be your yoga practice. Pay attention to how you practice yoga off the mat. Perhaps you will find you already have a daily practice!

Do You Embrace Your Emotions?

Daily we find ourselves in situations, conversations and thoughts, all of which evoke a certain emotive response. With the wink of an eye we may become happy, angry or grief stricken. Like it or not, we are emotional beings. When we choose to let the emotions move through us in tears or shared conversation, their intensity naturally dissipates. However, when we choose to hide them, the emotions seep deep into our being, awaiting the perfect moment to explode.

Out of fear or pure negligence, we oftentimes bury our emotions. In response to rejection or hurtful words, it is natural to feel the sting of hurt. In the same way, when faced with challenge or uncertainty, we naturally feel fear. Our emotions are a powerful part of our inner guidance – a blessed gift of our humanity- so long as we acknowledge, honor and release them. It is when we fear these emotions that they cause us suffering.

While beautiful, life will always throw us curve balls; obstacles when we already feel weakened by challenge and loss when we feel as though we can lose no more.  In such cases, it is tempting to shove our emotions aside, choosing instead to busy ourselves with distractions. These infamous distractions take a myriad of forms, from seeking the external validation of a prestigious job to seeking a life of perfection. In truth, our current society is a fertile breeding ground for living a life dictated by constant busyness and distractions.

Today, I propose an alternative solution: what would happen if we chose to befriend our emotions instead of ignoring them? How could our lives look and feel if we chose to experience our emotions, instead of avoid them through distraction?

In his book Living Without Regret, Buddhist scholar Arnaud Maitland suggests that we can reduce suffering. He shares that suffering is a choice. One way to do so is to "treat an emotion as a guardian or spiritual friend, instead of a foe.” In truth, our yoga practice serves as a wonderful opportunity to sit with our emotions, allow them to move through us and to be fully present. Through asana, pranayama and moving meditation, we are offered a rare opportunity, to embrace instead of avoid; what a lovely gift.

In your yoga practice, how can you befriend your emotions? What does your anger, sadness or grief, have to teach you?

Feeling Addicted to Your Smart Phone?

Howdy everyone!  We are halfway through January, and I just wanted to see how everyone is doing with their goals/growth this month.

I know the goals we have for this month to help us grow are a bit difficult at times.  Anyone who is currently taking any of my group fitness classes knows that the beginning of class is turning into a therapy session for what we are discovering are some uncomfortable addictions we have developed. 

I have loved our discussions in my classes about what everyone is discovering about themselves, and the goals they are setting for themselves.  It is so wonderful to see a group of people come together in class, share their struggles and growth, and then encourage each other in the same breath.  I truly believe that working together to help each other succeed is what makes our communities and lives better.

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To be honest with you, I thought the most difficult goal for everyone would be giving up technology after 7pm.  However, I've discovered that both giving up artificial sweeteners and technology are proving to be equally difficult for most people, and some are throwing temper tantrums, and asking me why it is even necessary for them to do/try all this. 

Through emails I've received, and discussions we have had in my classes, I've noticed that we all need to realize that we have formed some unhealthy attachments to things that are harming us (myself included...BIG TIME).

Basically, we all have addictions in life (there isn't a person out there that doesn't have an addiction to something) and we need to look at those addictions and decide if they are healthy and fulfilling, or if those addictions are damaging and/or hindering our lives. 

Today's blog post will focus on cell phone usage.  I'll start it off by sharing my struggles with giving up my cell phone for texting, social media, games, etc. after 7pm, because I'm pretty sure everyone can relate to this struggle in one way or another, and sometimes learning about another person's struggles and successes motivates you to try harder.

I secretly suspected that I might be addicted to my damn (yup...I swear) cell phone years ago.  However, I didn't see the need to change my usage or see how my usage affected my life.  This month...actually, just the first week...I discovered that my cell phone usage was hindering my social life with my own family.  For example, anytime (in the past) when I heard my phone "ping" with a text message or social media message, I immediately grabbed my phone, checked it, and then responded.  That response then turned into me having to hold on to my phone and wait for the other person's response.  While doing this, and checking social media (I'm holding my phone, so I might as well get on Facebook and see what others have posted), I was no longer engaging socially with my son and husband.  They would talk to me, but I really wasn't paying full attention. 

How many of you do this?  Do you find yourself sitting with your family in the evening, but instead of talking to them and asking them questions about their day, you are on Facebook or another social media site, or you are sitting there texting multiple people?

I won't lie, the first week I felt like I was slighting my friends by not responding to their texts or getting to everyone's posts on Facebook and "liking" them.  However, as one of my friends pointed out, if someone is upset at you for spending time with your family, then they are the ones with the issues. 

By giving up my phone after 7pm...lately I've been putting it down at 6pm...I have been there with my family 100% and having tons of fun with them.  Not to mention, I just feel this huge sigh of relief and like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders when I put my phone down for the rest of the night.  I don't know why I feel this way, but I'm glad I discovered it so I can change my habits.

Recently I even had a gentleman come up to me and thank me for having his wife put her phone down at 7pm each evening.  He felt like his wife no longer really cared about him, because once their dinner was done she was on her IPad the rest of the night till bed and sometimes in bed. 

This made me think about how our spousal relationships (talking about sex here people) are affected by our addiction to our cell phones.  How many of us climb into bed, and then begin surfing on our phones.  Is this a "turn off" to our significant other, causing them to just roll over and go to sleep?  How does this affect your relationship?  Are you no longer noticing those "come and get me" signs your partner is throwing out there?  Just some food for thought.

After the first week of forcing myself to put my phone and IPad down (I feel that I have be available 24/7 for my job and business) I discovered that I felt less stressed and slept better.

Since I was all of a sudden sleeping a heck of a lot better, I went and did some research on cell phone usage before bed.

A growing body of research suggests that staring at the blue and white light emitted from digital screens prevents your brain from releasing the hormone melatonin, which lets your body know when it's time to hit the sack, so it becomes harder to fall and stay asleep. 

The secretion of this melatonin depends on the body’s circadian rhythm which is controlled by light exposure. A kind of blue light emits from your cell phone which interrupts the body’s circadian rhythm and instructs the brain not to release melatonin hormone. When you have a lack of melatonin, it is more difficult to fall asleep even after you have set your phone down for the night.   Therefore, using your cell phone late at night not only reduces the amount of sleep, but it also affects the quality of sleep. Moreover, if you check your phone message or email, or social media, or news before going to bed, your brain can become tensed which leads to uncomfortable night with intermittent sleep.  

Did you know that less sleeping can create trouble in your professional and social life? It can make your decision-making–skills weak and also your productivity gets poorer. Both short term and long term memory can be damaged which can lead to meaningless stress and anxiety. 

If memory damage didn't scare you enough, less sleep reduces your metabolism rate and makes you feel hungry. Thus, it increases the chances of taking unhealthy light meals and/or snacks throughout the day and leads to weight gain. 

Now I know parting with your cell phone is freaking hard to do, because in one survey 71% of Americans sleep next to their cell phone.  However, the damage it is causing you is worth you really examining your addiction to your cell phone.

Here is a quick video by Dr. Sigel describing the affects our nightly cell phone usage has on our sleep patterns.  I thought you would really lke it.

How to Give up Soda

Ok, you are a few days into your goal of no foods or beverages with artificial sweeteners added.  You are wondering if life as you know it has ended (or maybe having to let go of your social media life after 7pm has done that for you already).  I'm sure you are swearing at me and harboring evil thoughts.  I'm doing the same to myself, since I had to cut down on my caffeine intake (coffee addiction is a real problem for me...I seem to still think I can run on the stuff).

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Well, here are some steps to help you kick your soda addiction to the curb, and become healthier and happier for it!

1.  Don't go cold turkey all at once.

What!?!  You're telling me I can still have soda!?! 

Yup!  You can still have soda if you are someone who was guzzling down over 5 cans of the wretched stuff each day.  When one becomes addicted to something (addiction to artificial sweeteners is a real and horrible thing) you have to slowly come off of it.  Try cutting down to 1 drink a day for a week and go from there.

2.  Drink water!

Time to carry around a water bottle instead of a pop bottle!!  Drink that water when you feel the need to drink soda.  I definitely don't need to tell you all the wonderful benefits of drinking water.

If you are someone who just has to have some kind of "kick" in their water, you can always add/infuse fruit or mint to your water for added flavor.

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3.  Get your healthy eating on!

Instead of relying on soda to give you an energy kick, get your energy from eating healthy!  Getting your servings of fruits, vegetables, and proteins each day will give you the energy you need to get through your day without the extra sugar and caffeine.

4.  When all else fails...DUMP IT DOWN THE DRAIN!

Yup...Go take those cans and bottles, open them up, and dump them down the drain.  When the temptation is not there, you can not cave in to it.  Plain and simple.  AND DON'T BUY MORE!

 

Growing in 2017

Happy New Year Everyone!!

As each year begins, we find ourselves wanting to change something about our future, something about our body, something about our nutrition, something about our finances, etc.  Then, we set these huge goals with great intentions.  After a few weeks or months go by, we forget or throw those goals to the wayside....And, life continues.

Science has shown that it is better to take little steps when changing or wanting to improve upon ones life.

This year my goal is to help everyone #GrowIn2017.  We will take small mindful steps together throughout the year by working on two goals each month.  One goal will involve nutrition, and the other goal will be more of a "mental" goal.  Don't worry, I'm not going to require any extra work or time from you.

Life is always about growth.  We never stop learning or achieving as our life goes on.  Why not view our goals as growth?

Hopefully our small steps will help each of us grow in mindfulness, knowledge, strength, and love.  From there, hopefully, our growth will rub off on those around us.

For now, take this week to get back into your normal routine as you begin your New Year.  Settle in to your post holiday schedule, and we will start our new growth next week!