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Wellness

​Why Prioritizing Stress Management NOW is Important

By Wellness, Yoga LifestyleNo Comments

As we enter a new era where adaptation and often sheer survival instincts are essential, how can we possibly make time for stress management? In an ideal world, we would have all tested and practiced various stress management techniques to find out what worked for us before self-isolation and social distancing was recommended or required, but that simply wasn’t the case for most of us. We’re now dealing with more stressors than ever before, from learning how to co-work in a little studio with our partner or figuring out the best home-based learning solutions for our children.

Stress management isn’t a luxury. It’s part of our inherent and very necessary survival skill sets as human beings. We have no choice but to adapt in many situations, including the one we’re in right now. There are countless avenues to alleviating stress and anxiety, and not all of them are healthy. If we don’t take a conscious effort to explore and identify healthy relief that works for us, we’re likely to reach for vices that provide temporary but dangerous and harmful results. Smoking, drinking, or spending hours bingeing on Netflix are all very common “stress relievers” that don’t do us any favors in the long run—or even in the short run.

Start Simple: Short, Easy and Accessible

You’ve probably heard that yoga and meditation are fantastic avenues to relieve stress and anxiety, and they are! However, many of us—particularly in western countries—have been conditioned to think there’s a “right way” or “best way” to practice both. For instance, maybe you’ve heard that a proper yoga session should be 90 minutes, and you can certainly find studies to back up just about any claim. Rest assured, 90 isn’t a magic number. The reality is that any time you can spend on the mat is beneficial.

I personally have a daily 30-minute yoga practice. Admittedly, this began before the COVID-19 issues, and I started practicing at home in November. It worked for me then, and it works for me now, because as a small business owner I simply don’t have the time to get ready to go to a studio, commuting 20 – 30 minutes each way. It would honestly be more stressful to watch the clock all day to see what else I have to squeeze in before I had to go.

I “graduated” from using free YouTube yoga classes to simply writing down key asanas I wanted to practice every day and creating my own new daily flow. Granted, I had the benefit of 600 hours of yoga teacher training to help me with this, but that isn’t a requirement either. If you’ve practiced yoga before, you can start experimenting with creating your own flows. There are countless flows online you can use and tweak.

Plus, know that 30 minutes also isn’t the magic number for everyone. It’s simply what works for me and my schedule. You can amplify that time by selecting background ambiance if that helps you deepen your practice. Ever the multi-tasker, I have taken to listening to 30 minutes of classical music as my yoga practice background. Classical music isn’t something I was able to indulge in on a daily basis before a home practice, so there’s the added benefit of imbuing that joy into my daily life, which you can add to your practice as well. I also burn incense in my little office-cum-studio and face my mat towards the window that overlooks my front yard. Any little thing you can do to enhance whatever length practice you have at home is beneficial. The important thing is to make this your time to get on the mat. And if you have kids with no other adult in the house to watch them during this time? It might be time to start exploring yoga videos to practice with children.

Making Time for Meditation

One of the pillars of meditation is concentrating on living in the present. It’s extremely difficult to do, so simply trying not to get flustered is a big part of the practice. My personal meditation practice usually follows my yoga practice or takes place first thing in the morning. I’ve tried out several types of meditation in my life, and I’ve found that candle meditation (staring at the base or tip of a flame in the dark) and mala beads work best for me.

It’s been said that you can practice meditation anywhere, and to an extent, that’s true. However, it can be difficult to really live in the present and focus solely on your breath if you’re trying to multi-task and meditate while you wash dishes. I adopted a ten-minute meditation because—at this point in my life—that’s what my body and mind can handle. Yours may be longer or shorter, in the dark like me (honestly, it’s my closet) or in the daylight.

Be kind to yourself. Be realistic. And remember that what your yoga teacher said was true—the toughest part usually is just getting to the mat (even when it’s in your living room).

​3 Restful Practices to Support Immunity

By Wellness, Yoga LifestyleNo Comments

Fatigue and stress wreck havoc on the immune system. Whenever I get sick, it’s usually because work and worry have depleted my emotional, mental, and physical reserves. Rest is essential to our well-being. Taking breaks, slowing down, and sleeping well allow the body to do what it does best, which is defend and repair itself. Without the energy it needs to function, our immune system simply can’t keep up.

Incorporating rest into our busy lives can be quite challenging, but doing so trains our bodies and minds to relax when the world around us is moving very fast. I’m a big fan of personal practices that restore my sense of self. Carving out time for reflection, designing my space, and being creative, even for brief periods of time, nourish me physically and spiritually. Here are a few ideas for replenishing throughout the day, and I hope they inspire others.

1. Mindful Meals

I worked in food service for several years, and due to the demands of my job, I often ate standing up, while working, and at erratic times. My health suffered, particularly my digestion. If we eat on the go our digestive system doesn’t have the energy it needs to process our food and absorb nutrients because our body is busy doing something else. Without proper nourishment from our food our immune system doesn’t have the fuel it needs to fight illness.

Preparing and enjoying wholesome food is a method of self-healing. Mindfulness is practicing full awareness in the present moment, without reaction or judgement. Sitting at a table, enjoying the taste of our food, noticing the colors on our plates, chewing slowly, and pausing in between bites is a mindful practice that supports the body’s life-giving functions. Start the day with a slow breakfast. Set the table, remove clutter and light a candle. Whatever foods you have available, prepare them with care. Eat slowly and patiently, and sit for a while after you’ve finished. Doing so signals your body to focus on processing nutrients into energy.

2. Observing Nature

Walking is wonderful exercise and can be quite meditative if practiced with full awareness. Due to the coronavirus threat, walking outside may not feel safe right now, especially if you live in a crowded place. If that’s the case, there are other ways to slow down and notice your surroundings.

Observing our environment focuses the mind on the present moment, rather than our thoughts, which often exist in the past or future. When the mind slows down the body can rest. Spend a few minutes by an open window, on your front stoop, or in your backyard. Walk barefoot through the grass or sit with your eyes closed to soak up the sun. Notice the various sights and sounds, whether it’s lawn mowers or children playing, traffic noise or bird songs. If you see something beautiful, take time to delight in that experience. Slow down your movements or sit still, and disregard thoughts that pull you from the present moment.

3. Evening Rituals

To me sleep is a sacred time of renewal in order to greet the new day ahead with fresh eyes and a vibrant spirit. It’s the body’s optimal time to repair. A quick internet search will yield numerous articles linking the blue light emitted from digital screens to poor sleep. News and other information absorbed prior to bed can be over-stimulating and agitating. Establish a cut-off for screen time. Make yourself a calming cup of tea or soothing golden milk, and sit for a few moments to enjoy it. If you have time, silently meditate in a comfortable position. While lying in bed place one hand on your belly and the other on your heart. Take long, full breaths, feeling your chest and abdomen rise and fall with each inhale and exhale. Meditation and mindful breathing activate our parasympathetic nervous system, the one responsible for rest and renewal.

Rest is a form of nourishment. It’s essential to our health and will benefit us in even small doses. Deep sleep and mindful moments replenish our energy reserves so we don’t run out of what the body needs to stay well. Times of relaxation and quiet awareness are opportunities to learn about ourselves and relate to our bodies, which can foster trust in their resiliency, wholeness, and innate capacity to heal.

 

How Yoga Can Help With Anxiety Symptoms

By Wellness, YogaNo Comments



Panic attacks and anxiety impacts our life in many ways, but there are a ton of coping tools available. However, during this time of the COVID-19 crisis, it might feel harder to utilize the tools that tend to be so widely available. For instance, gyms and yoga studios are closed, you might have lost some income, and we should be staying inside to help lessen the spread of this virus. This has created not only a lot of sudden change, but also much more anxiety, even in people who don’t struggle with anxiety on a regular basis.

Despite the challenges of panic attacks and other anxiety symptoms, there are many self-help strategies that can assist you in coping with these feelings. Activities such as breathing and other relaxation techniques are available to help you feel more calm, peaceful, and in control. Some of the most common strategies include breathing exercises, visualization work, and yoga. These techniques have been found to reduce anxiety and may even help panic attacks.

Yoga happens to be an activity that actually has all many relaxation techniques. Plus, yoga has been known to help ease stress, reduce feelings of nervousness, and enhance mindfulness. For these reasons, yoga can be a great tool during this time where many things are changing at once and feelings of anxiety can be extreme.

A small but intriguing study done at the University of Utah provided some insight into the effect of yoga on the stress response by looking at the participants’ responses to pain. The researchers noted that people who have a poorly regulated response to stress are also more sensitive to pain. Their subjects were 12 experienced yoga practitioners, 14 people with fibromyalgia (a condition many researchers consider a stress-related illness that is characterized by hypersensitivity to pain), and 16 healthy volunteers.

When the three groups were subjected to more or less painful thumbnail pressure, the participants with fibromyalgia — as expected — perceived pain at lower pressure levels compared with the other subjects. Functional MRIs showed they also had the greatest activity in areas of the brain associated with the pain response. In contrast, the yoga practitioners had the highest pain tolerance and lowest pain-related brain activity during the MRI. The study underscores the value of techniques, such as yoga, that can help a person regulate their stress and, therefore, pain responses.


Benefits of Yoga for Anxiety

Although many forms of yoga practice are safe, some are strenuous and may not be appropriate for everyone, especially if you are dealing with mental and physical anxiety.

For people dealing with depression, anxiety, or stress, yoga can be a great way to better manage symptoms. The scientific study of yoga demonstrates that mental & physical health are not just closely related, but are essentially deeply connected. Evidence is starting to prove that most yoga practices are a relatively low-risk, high-yield approach to improving overall health.
In 2011, Harvard published an analysis of data from a sample of people and found that 3% (the equivalent of nearly 6.4 million Americans) had been advised by their health care practitioners to use mind-body therapies like yoga and meditation — and more than a third of those patients had a diagnosis of anxiety.

“We’ve seen a significant uptick in referrals from psychologists, especially for patients with anxiety,” says Steve Hickman, PsyD, executive director of the University of California San Diego Center for Mindfulness, where health care practitioners — including psychologists — conduct mindfulness research and offer classes for patients. “Therapists and doctors are rethinking their attitudes toward meditative approaches largely because there’s a persuasive body of evidence showing that [these modalities] can help with stress and mood disorders.”


The Science Behind Yoga for Anxiety

The science in hundreds of studies have looked at the benefits of meditation for calming the mind, but possibly the most definitive paper was published in the journal of JAMA Internal Medicine. In the review, researchers at Johns Hopkins University analyzed 47 studies on meditation programs that involved at least four hours of training. “We found consistent evidence that mindfulness meditation reduced the symptoms of anxiety to some degree across studies,” said Madhav Goyal, MD, lead author and assistant professor of medicine. “When you’re anxious, your mind can get carried away with worrying about things that might happen, and that actually makes you feel worse and can cause other symptoms, like insomnia. Meditation teaches people certain skills that can help counteract that tendency, like staying in the moment, recognizing worried thoughts when they’re happening, and preventing them from getting worse.”

In the research, about 20 to 30 minutes of daily mindfulness meditation — a specific type that aims to cultivate awareness of present-moment thoughts, feelings, and experiences — showed the most promise. But there’s evidence that many other meditation types can be effective, as well. Based on his team’s findings, Goyal, a practicing internist, now recommends meditation not only to his patients with anxiety but also to those who are depressed and in physical pain — the two other conditions for which the study found the practice to be effective. “It works and it’s safe, and that’s a good combination,” he says.

Morgan Gertler received her 200HR RYT certification in 2014 from highly esteemed Kripalu teachers and then continued her learning in 2017 by completing her 300HR RYT certification with teachers from Yogamaya and the Iyengar Institute in NYC. Morgan also completed her Yin Level 1 & 2 trainings and loves being able to teach both sides, the yin & yang, of the yoga practice. Morgan views yoga as a vehicle to get back to yourself – through movement and breath-work, we learn how to live a more authentically happy & content life and meet all situations with confidence. When not teaching or practicing yoga, Morgan can be found writing, walking around town with her two dogs, Jagger and Bowie or browsing Sephora for more make up she doesn’t need. Morgan is also a regular content contributor for YogaRenew.

Holistic Health And Immunity In Times Of Uncertainty

By WellnessNo Comments

The majority of us are at home practicing social distancing, while others are still going to work to the essential jobs that support us during this global pandemic. Regardless of which end of the spectrum you are on, taking good care of yourself seems more vital now than ever. Most of the time our immune systems do a good job of fighting off illnesses, however sometimes it isn’t able to for various reasons, and we get sick. There are many factors that can determine immune health. Genetics, lifestyle, exercise, sleep, diet, mental health, etc. are all said to play a role in overall health and immunity. Looking at our body and mind as an overall whole can contribute to an immune system that elicits a healthy and strong response to attacks. Yoga and Holistic practices offer beneficial tips as well.

Nutrition

Good nutrition may perhaps be one of the most important factors in maintaining body health, as well as mental health. Our body needs proper macro and micronutrients, antioxidants, protein, carbohydrates, fats, minerals, vitamins, fat, and water to function, stay healthy, and provide defense for disease and environmental factors. Rather than letting this be a source of stress or overwhelm, it can be helpful to have guidelines, and simply start to notice the foods you are purchasing more closely. Organic meats processed without hormones or antibiotics if you are not vegan, minimally processed foods, lots of fruits and vegetables, olive oil, switching from processed sugar to dates, honey, maple syrup or coconut sugar, micronutrient rich herbal foods such as spirulina, turmeric, and wheat grass, and lots of water are a few suggestions. All of which are beneficial aides in maintaining body health, but also mental health.

More research has been done the past decade regarding the connection between a healthy gut, or GI System, and healthy mind. In fact, studies have been done that link chronic anxiety to an unhealthy gut or imbalanced gut bacteria. Yogis have told us for thousands of years that every part of us is connected. It’s in the word itself, “yoga” means to yoke, or to bring together. Modern day science is confirming what the ancient yogis have known all along, that our body and its systems are interconnected.

In order to maintain a healthy gut, probiotics and fiber-rich foods can bring balance. Examples are yogurt, kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut, bone broth, and kimchi. If you are vegan you can usually find options in these categories. Just be mindful of sneaky extra ingredients such as processed sugars or preservatives.

Holistic Allies

In addition to healthy food nutrition, herbal remedies have the potential to assist in relieving certain ailments, boost immunity, and have a myriad of medicinal properties. For example, Lemon Balm has the potential to calm the nervous system, relieve occasional indigestion, and promote a sense of calm that relieves anxiety. Garlic and echinacea root are known as immune stimulants. A potent oil, oil of oregano, has been shown to have antiviral, antimicrobial, and antifungal properties, in addition to other powerful properties. Also, mushroom powders such as reishi, astragalus, and turkey tail are thought to help regulate the immune system. Another ancient medicinal herb is ashwagandha, it is known as an adaptogenic herb that can help relieve stress or provide energy, depending on what your body needs. If you feel the early onset of something coming on, try making a tonic such as hot water, fresh lemon, fresh ginger, and 1-2 tablespoon(s) of apple cider vinegar with honey and 2-4 drops of oil of oregano. Be mindful as oil of oregano is very strong and can burn or cause upset stomach. Remember to speak to your health professional before ingesting herbs as they are often not regulated.

Therapeutic grade essential oils are said to have a myriad of healing properties as well. Lavender, lemon, eucalyptus, rosemary, and tea tree are potent oils and can aide in overall health and immunity. Be aware that not all essential oil brands are created equal. Some are meant only for diffusing, and some can be used topically with a carrier oil, or some even minimally ingested. Without proper knowledge these healing oils can quickly become detrimental. Do your research before purchasing an oil and speak with a health professional before use. The term therapeutic grade on the bottle isn’t enough to ensure quality, check for the company’s test results such as GC/MS, and verify there are no fillers or additives in the oil. That being said, with proper knowledge, essential oils can be a powerful tool to maintain health and wellness with antiviral and antibacterial properties, among others.

Overall

Yoga and holistic practices remind us to look at ourselves as one whole. To take into consideration our nutrition, herbal remedies, adequate exercise, good sleep, balancing practices such as breathing techniques, meditation, and mantras, in order to achieve overall health and wellness. It’s not just our body that keeps us healthy, it is our emotions, thoughts, mind and spirit. During this time of quarantine, it can be a great time to integrate more healthy and holistic practices into your daily routine if you are able to. I know not everyone is able to do this, and many are struggling greatly right now, but if you are able to, one of the best things we can do is take care of ourselves, so that we may better be able to take care of others in our community. Have patience with yourself along the way.

Note: The above information is simply to serve as alternative knowledge, and thus should not be taken as medical prescription or advise. Please consult with a physician before taking any herbs or changing diet as there can be adverse side effects with certain medications, and certain conditions should be taken into consideration.

 

With 6+ years of yoga experience, Christine Fronterotta is passionate about sharing the gifts of mindfulness and wellness. Her ample teaching experiences include her years in yoga studio management, teaching abroad in Costa Rica, yoga for schools, company yoga, and much more. She is a certified Reiki Master, Sound Healer, and fuses these techniques in her teaching and healing sessions. Additionally she is a Yoga Educator with well over 1,000 hours of yoga instruction, and has certified many students to become instructors. Currently she teaches yoga for companies, privately, in studios, and for special events. Christine writes regularly for YogaRenew Teacher Training. She is passionate about offering a healing and teaching yoga to others.

 

 

 

​Pranayama for Anxiety and Stress Relief

By Pranayama, WellnessNo Comments

We are indeed in a unique and transformational time as we witness our world’s response to the Coronavirus. There has been a complete upheaval to daily life, and it has left many of us without regular avenues of stability. This has caused stress and panic for many people, as abrupt uncertainty tends to do. So, it is vital now more than ever to maintain health and wellness on all levels, and to remember that everything in life, including the challenges, is an opportunity for us to develop deeper levels of strength, love, and compassion. Yoga, Reiki, breathing techniques, and other mindfulness practices teach us how to move calmly through the ups and downs of existence with more grace and awareness. Through these holistic practices we remember how to deactivate fear-based mindsets and activate calm and clarity of mind.

What’s the first thing a yoga or meditation instructor usually asks you to do at the beginning of a class? Usually, it’s to begin focusing on your breath. Breathing techniques, or Pranayama, are a powerful tool to regain control of anxious thought patterns. Pranayama has physiological benefits as well, by engaging the parasympathetic nervous system which science tells us can slow down heart rate and increase digestion as the body becomes more relaxed. Typically, when we are stressed, breathing becomes more shallow and rapid, and heart-rate increases. As you can imagine this causes a chain of events physiologically, that can lead to increased anxiety and even ailments such as dizziness or nausea. If we remember to pause, and take a slow breath, we can regain control over our system.

Regulated breathing is an unbelievably powerful tool and meditation technique that has been utilized by yoga practitioners for at least two-thousand years or more. Pranayama is a branch of the 8-Limbed yogic path, or yogic guidelines, and is a key process in the overall practice of yoga. The word “prana” translates roughly to life-force energy, and the word “yama” roughly translates to restraint. Therefore, Pranayama goes beyond the actual breathing techniques themselves, and truly describes the connection of life-force energy within the body. Breathing exercises are practiced to keep the body clear from physical, energetic, and emotional blockages, so that your life force energy becomes healthy and balanced. Let’s take a look at one of my favorite breathing techniques for stress relief, called Nadi Shodhana, or alternate nostril breathing.

Nadi Shodhana Pranayama

The word “nadi” generally translates to channel, and “shodhana” approximately translates to purifying. Therefore, Nadi Shodhana is a potent breathing technique for clearing the inner subtle channels of the body and has been known to have an overall balancing effect.

How To Practice

1. Press your pointer and middle finger between your eyebrows, take one deep cycle of breath.
2. Then press your thumb against your right nostril and inhale through your left nostril for a count of 4-8 seconds, hold at the top of your inhale plug both nostrils, press your left nostril with your ring and pinkie finger to exhale through your right nostril for the same count, pause at the bottom of your exhale.
3. Keep fingers as they are and breathe through the right nostril to repeat the cycle in the other direction.

Practice as many cycles as you’d like, I would recommend at least 9 cycles if you can. If you can increase the length of your cycles you are welcome to do so, you may find that your lung capacity and breath control increase with practice. Once you are finished with your cycles take a couple deep rounds of breath regularly. How do you feel?

Simply focusing on slowing down your breath is incredibly beneficial as well. Often referred to as Belly Breathing, as you inhale let your belly extend with a gentle hold at the top of your breath, and keep your shoulders relaxed. As you exhale draw your belly back in towards your spine, pause at the bottom of your breath. Go through as many cycles as you would like, and keep your jaw as relaxed as possible. It can be helpful to place your hands on your lower belly and chest, so you can feel where your breath is going first.

Remember, you have the power to shift your energy and mindset, it takes practice. Take 5 slow, deep breaths right now. Your mind is clear and calm, you are in control.

 

 

 

 

With 6+ years of yoga experience, Christine Fronterotta is passionate about sharing the gifts of mindfulness and wellness. Her ample teaching experiences include her years in yoga studio management, teaching abroad in Costa Rica, yoga for schools, company yoga, and much more. She is a certified Reiki Master, Sound Healer, and fuses these techniques in her teaching and healing sessions. Additionally she is a Yoga Educator with well over 1,000 hours of yoga instruction, and has certified many students to become instructors. Currently she teaches yoga for companies, privately, in studios, and for special events. Christine writes regularly for YogaRenew Teacher Training. She is passionate about offering a healing and teaching yoga to others.

 

How To Stay Centered During Stressful Times

By Wellness, Yoga LifestyleNo Comments

 

 

 

It can be easy to become uncentered due to things that occur in our daily lives. When we feel uncentered, we feel as though we’re being spread too thin in many different directions. Our minds can become crowded with thoughts and we can feel anxious or stressed in our bodies.

When left unchecked, prolonged stress can lead to diseases, lowered immunity, tiredness, fatigue, and burnout. Long term stress can also lead to depression, anxiety, and social or communication issues. Another important point to keep in mind is that how we react to stress determines how stressed we actually feel, as well as our outlook on life. For example, two people could be in the exact same stressful situation, but if one has learned to reframe that situation in a positive light—or learned how to react less to it—that person will have a completely different experience than the other.

Regular yoga, pranayama, and meditation practice can help us to combat stress and help us with how we respond to stressful situations. By quieting the mind and allowing ourselves to be more deeply aware of the present moment, we can start to become more mindful of our emotions, our thoughts, and how we react to stressful situations. It’s important to take time each day to sit in stillness for a few moments to rediscover the place of centeredness in ourselves. As we practice sitting with this place of centering, we often find that we can access our centeredness more easily in times of chaos or stress. By strengthening our connection to it, we can allow this space of being centered to guide us in every moment. Some other ways we can return to our centers are taking walks daily, being in nature, eating healthy, journaling, yoga, breathwork, or meditation

By practicing calming the mind and building awareness of ourselves and the world around us, we gain dominion over our thoughts and our emotions.

Here are a few simple practices you can do today to help you feel more grounded in times of stress.

 

5 Simple Centering Practices

 


1. Centering Breath Practice

The simplest way to center in any moment of our lives is through our breath. The best part of this practice is that is easy and we can do it anytime we begin to feel stressed. To practice this centering breath practice, find a pace of breathing that feels good to you. Then, as you inhale, say the words I’m breathing in either out loud or internally. As you exhale, say the words I’m breathing out either out loud or internally. Repeat this up to a minute or longer. If you find that your mind wanders away, just gently bring your awareness back to this centering breath practice.

 

2. Sitting Grounding Practice

Grounding and feeling rooted helps us get in touch with feelings of stability and support. To practice, begin in a comfortable seated pose, with eyes either closed or open. Begin to center your mind with your breath; breathing deeply. Bring awareness to your sit bones and your connection with the earth beneath you. Observe how firm and supportive it is as you connect to it. Take several breaths in and out as you feel this connection deepening and begin to feel support and stability.

 

3. Counting Breath Practice

Focusing on our breath and breath practices can be a powerful way in which we can turn away from fear and move towards peace. To do this practice, begin in a comfortable seated position. Start off easily with a slow three-count inhale in and a slow three-count exhale out. Then, take a deep breath in for a count of three and hold for a second. After the hold, exhale slowly for a count of three. You can do this for up to a minute, and even extend the count for up to five seconds (five seconds inhaling and five seconds exhaling out, slowly).


4. Standing Grounding Meditation

 

In times of stress, this simple grounding meditation can allow us to come back to the present moment. To practice, begin standing tall in Mountain (Tadasana) with your legs hip distance apart. Bring awareness to your feet rooting down into the Earth and feel supportive energy rising up from the Earth into your bodies. Engage your core and your leg muscles and feel this energy rising up all the way to the crown of your head. Bring your hands to prayer position at your chest, take several deep breaths, and take a quiet moment to express gratitude and respect to our home, Earth.

 

5. Calming Peace Prayer Practice

Compassion has a powerful effect on our minds and how we feel. Practicing compassion can take us from feelings of fear to feelings of love and understanding. To practice, begin in Easy pose or a comfortable seated position with your spine upright. Bring your hands to Namaste or Anjali mudra at your heart center. Allow your heart center to open and fill with love and light. Repeat the following peace prayer mantra, either out loud or internally. Imagine that you are directing this mantra to the entire world:

Lokah samastah sukhino bhavantu

 

This ancient Sanskrit mantra translates to, “may all beings everywhere be happy and free.” Repeat this up to ten times and feel your heart radiating with love and peace for all beings in the world.

 

 

 

7 Essential Oils for Stress Relief and Relaxation

By Wellness, Yoga LifestyleNo Comments


7 Essential Oils for Stress Relief and Relaxation


Stress is experienced by everyone; the very nature of our fast-paced lifestyles often triggers stress and anxiety which, understandably, can be challenging to cope with. That said, the use of essential oils is a very effective way to combat the overwhelming effects of stress in a natural way. Aromatherapy has been utilized since ancient times in order to encourage relaxation and tranquility in the midst of stress. There are various ways to use essential oils such as applying them directly to the skin, inhaling them from a bottle, diffusing them in water or adding them to your hygiene products. Essential oils have a variety of purposes such as boosting energy, relieving headaches, helping with focus, improving sleep quality, and decreasing stress. Feel free to diffuse the following oils while practicing yoga or meditating in order to increase the relaxing effects of your practice. The essential oils listed below provide a natural remedy for stress and can be used to promote calmness and peace.


1. Jatamansi Oil

This calming and anxiety-relieving oil essential oil will especially benefit those who suffer from overthinking and it also supports deep, high quality sleep. Jatamansi is extracted from the spikenard root and it has a rich history of medicinal use in Ayurvedic medicine. It provides antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects while also offering stress relieving properties. One way to use Jatamansi oil is by placing a few drops on the crown of your head at night to promote deep, restorative sleep. Otherwise, use it as a massage oil, add it to a bath or even a warm compress if a specific part of your body is tense.


2. Lavender Oil

This oil is the most commonly used essential oil for stress relief due to its relaxing effects on the mind and the body. Lavender oil is also a very effective way to deal with sleep-related problems as it serves as a sleep-aid while enhancing the quality of your sleep. Often used in aromatherapy, lavender oil has been shown to react the same way as anti-anxiety medications. This essential oil can be added to your bath or even added to an aromatherapy diffuser to promote a deep sense of relaxation and stress relief.


3. Chamomile Oil

Chamomile is an essential oil that relieves stress by reducing common symptoms of anxiety, promoting relaxation, reducing inflammation in the body, and regulating your mood. Chamomile extract is often used in tea to combat stress and improve sleep quality. It’s important to keep in mind that chamomile extract can be ingested but chamomile oil cannot. That said, chamomile essential oil can be used by adding it to an aromatherapy diffuser or to your favorite body lotion to help you feel at ease. Aside from its stress-relieving properties, chamomile also relieves pain, helps with anxiety and depression, aids digestion, and improves sleep quality.


4. Ylang-Ylang Oil

This fragrant essential oil derives from the flowers of Cananga Odorata Genuina which is a plant native to India but it can be found in other countries in Asia such as Malaysia, the Philippines, Indonesia, and also Australia. Ylang-ylang provides many benefits for the cardiovascular and immune system as well as lowers blood pressure and helps with depression. Additionally, this essential oil is known to relieve feelings of anxiety and stress due to its calming effects. Use this oil in your bath, diffuser or directly on your skin with a carrier oil such as jojoba oil. Bonus: this floral-scented oil can also be used as a natural perfume!


5. Valerian Oil

Valerian is an earthy essential oil that eases anxiety, stress and restlessness by promoting a sense of peace and tranquility. Its calming abilities might be attributed to its mild sedative effect on the body which also aids with sleep quality. The best way to utilize Valerian is by adding a few drops to an aromatherapy diffuser before bed and allowing its scent to guide you into a deep sleep.


6. Jasmine Oil

This sweet-scented oil has been used for hundreds of years in Asia to naturally treat depression, anxiety, and even sleep problems. Jasmine oil is an essential oil that is extracted from the white flowers of the jasmine plant and it is known for its sweet fragrance. Apart from its beautiful scent, jasmine oil is also used to effectively reduce anxiety and stress, exhaustion and depression. Jasmine oil will also boost your energy levels, improve your mood, and provide an overall sense of relaxation. Try adding this oil to an aromatherapy diffuser, a bath or applying directly to the skin.


7. Bergamot Oil

This cold-pressed essential oil has a sweet, floral scent and it has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for various purposes such as soothing irritated skin, ingested as a health tonic, and used as an antiseptic and analgesic. This essential oil is obtained from the peel of Citrus Bergamia, a fragrant citrus fruit. Bergamot oil can be added to a massage oil or body lotion, it can be added to an aromatherapy diffuser, and it can also applied directly to the skin. That being said, this oil is commonly used to effectivelyrelieve psychological stress and anxiety.

Common occurrences like arguments, traffic, financial struggles, deadlines, and responsibilities can all contribute to stress. Stress is experienced by everyone and when life gets overwhelming, it’s best to resort to a natural remedy for some relief. Aromatherapy is often used as a natural way to relieve feelings of stress without resorting to medication with inevitable side effects. Essential oils provide a sense of relaxation as well as better sleep quality which is needed after a long, stress-inducing day. Some essential oils are better than others at relieving stress such as Jatamansi, Lavender, Ylang-ylang, Jasmine, and others listed above. Be creative and embrace the various ways that these oils can be incorporated in your daily routine in order to keep you feeling calm, tranquil, and serene.






Stella Versteeg was exposed to yoga early in life from her father – traveling to India to practice yoga with her family. Living in ashrams and being surrounded by the beautiful and intricate Indian culture, from a young age, Stella was able appreciate and learn about the origin of yoga as well as meditation. Stella received her 200 HR yoga training from YogaRenew in 2018. She currently runs a blog, Ride Your Wave Yoga, which shares yoga tips, poses, nutrition, travel and mindfulness. Her goal is to spread honesty, love and awareness about a yogic lifestyle through her blog posts as well as create a supportive, inspired community. She aspires to share as much information as possible about the wonderful lifestyle that yoga has to offer and continuously evolve in her personal own practice.

The Power Of Gratitude

By Wellness, Yoga LifestyleNo Comments



Yoga teachers often speak about gratitude. So, what does this word really mean?

I’ll tell you what it means to me.

When I was younger and someone talked about being grateful for something that I perceived as not going right in my life or something as simple as the grass or sky, I was baffled; I couldn’t wrap my mind around it or align with this grateful feeling. I lamented about what I felt was lacking in my life, unaware that this was in fact the opposite of gratitude.

Lately, I’ve been feeling some frustration around the outward manifestation of my goals versus my effort and hard work. I feel ready for a next step or chapter that has yet to appear. When I focus on this feeling of lack that is what expands in my life; it’s a downward spiral … kind of like Debbie Downer. But if I get up close and personal with this frustration (really feel it) and then, when I’m ready, thank it for, or at least acknowledge, the motivation it is stirring within me to be proactive, I begin to shift my energy into a more open-minded state.

It is not an easy practice, this business of thanking the challenges and struggles. It’s one thing to say it, to recognize that challenges enable us to grow (especially after the fact, when you are looking back at them), but when you’re going through them it’s a different story. The first step is to sit or lie down and imagine breathing into this obstacle. When I do, I can feel my body resisting, my breath constricted, until I finally being to soften around the tight places and allow more space into my body/mind. With each breath I become a little lighter. I might say at the close of my meditation, “Thank you (universe or spirit) for bringing me deeper into my heart; thank you for supporting me as I (create more abundance in my life, for example).” It may sound corny but it’s worth a try.

A gratitude practice enables you to release resistance and therefore accept life as it is in this moment and that brings a sense of peace and wellbeing.

I have also learned, during my many years of practicing yoga, to notice the so-called small things and to recognize the beauty, magic, wisdom, etc. in them. Yoga teaches us how to slow down, to be more present; this has allowed me to notice and find joy in things like: a child playing, an exquisite creature (we tend to overlook birds, for example), a tree, a person smiling, the sky, the light of the moon. When you become more present in you life you naturally become more grateful; awe-struck by the majesty and wonder of the life all around you. You wonder how you lived in such a closed-off state beforehand, how you could have slept walk through so many years of your life. Presence and gratitude are one in the same.

Writing a Gratitude list can help to re-shift your focus from a feeling of lack to fulfillment. I use this exercise with my young students.

Here is my list today:

1. My mini-tiger friends. They double as an alarm clock: little paws in the face every morning. They have taught me about unconditional love.

2. Bare feet. As a yoga teacher, I get to be sans shoes and socks a lot. I love and crave the feeling of the ground or earth under my tootsies.

3. Time outdoors and in nature. It is truly healing for me.

4. My students. People who are receptive to what I have to share. I have had the pleasure of connecting with beautiful souls on this teaching path.

5. My fears. Since young, I have had a deep seated fear of speaking in front of others, of being seen and heard. Joseph Campbell wrote: “The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.”

6. Messups. I am fearful of making mistakes. When I mess up, I want to run for the hills and go into hiding forever. I am gaining perspective in this area.

What are some of the things you’re grateful for? Your list can be made up of words, phrases, musings, images; you can make it creative or simple. By the way, gratitude isn’t about putting a phoney smile on your face and pretending your happy when you’re not; it’s about exploring emotions and then doing your best to accept and make friends with them because that is the most powerful place from which to create and manifest your goals and dreams.




Nicole Alexander is a graduate of the 500 HR Yogaworks Teacher Training in NYC, and an Ayurveda Wellness Counselor. Nicole teaches a mindful/breath-based class, sharing her love for yoga in all its forms (physical, mental, spiritual), and the many ways this practice heals us.

4 Ways To Practice Self-Care As A Yoga Teacher

By Wellness, Yoga TeachersNo Comments




As a yoga teacher, you can be many different roles to those that come to your yoga classes. Some come to class for a full body workout, which is our job to deliver for both body and mind. Some will share personal struggles, like the passing of a parent or recent job loss. Some will be healing from an injury or surgery, and will share because they will need pose modification instructions. Some have been practicing yoga for 50 years and ask ways to make the practice more geared to gentle yoga. Some tell you of their current divorce or financial worries, and they still find the money to take your yoga class. Most times you find all of this information out 10 minutes before the yoga class begins.

Our jobs as yoga teachers is to listen, offer compassion, and use the asana to facilitate openness, even if momentarily. In the high powered, maximum intensity life can sometimes feel like, yoga provides relief.

With all that we do for students, it is vital that we remember self-care. Let’s review four self-care experiences you can do as often as possible.

1. Go for a walk outside

Research has proven the scientific benefits of getting out in nature and enjoying a walk. Links to stress relief within minutes of being outdoors has been associated with reduced muscle strain, blood pressure, and brain flurry. Some days a yoga teacher can be inside a yoga studio for hours, and it’s that breath of fresh air needed after teaching that restores and rebalances. Current studies have pointed to people who walk leisurely as happier than runners, recreation tennis players, even those that practice yoga because it is about taking it one step at a time. Putting one foot in front of the other, even if for only 15 minutes, can create such joy that lifts away any depletion of energy. During the walk, our “chitta vritti”, Sanskrit for “mind chatter”, is calmed and able to process more evenly, every step of the way. Try it after teaching your next yoga class or private yoga session, and go outside for walk.

2. Practice yoga

The ultimate “practice what you teach” principle is a true self-care act. Yoga promotes better health. One hour to 90 minutes deliveries the physical and mental strength needed to perform at your highest level. Different than any other workout, yoga uses your body weight to tone and define your muscular system. In addition, yoga activates the parasympathetic system that releases tension and restores equilibrium. Full body toning, working with an injury, prescribed by your physician for aid in disease treatment, or as a way to heal and maintain your overall health, the investment in self-care will produce an invaluable return for your quality of life. Remember to keep practicing yoga when teaching yoga.

3. Meditate

Meditation benefits are abundant. Studies indicate that meditation can lower blood pressure and stress levels. Meditation allows you to tune in to, to listen internally. Noticing the fluctuations and natural course of your thinking, helps the mind find stillness. By observing, you’re able to let go of attachment to outcomes and results. Find 10 minutes a day to sit down and go inward. Begin by finding a comfortable seat. Propping your sit bones up on a blanket, cushion, etc. will make it easier to sit for an extended period of time. A mantra to begin with can be as simple as “let go”. On the inhale, silently repeat to yourself “let” and on the exhale, silently repeat to yourself “go”. Meditating is a great practice to do daily for self-care.

4. Get bodywork

All a personal preference that is healthy to explore and know, massages can be a tremendous help. Teaching yoga can take a toll on your physical body. Having regular bodywork keeps your muscles and tendons loose. Also a detoxification method by the stimulation of your soft tissues, massage frees toxins by way of blood and through your lymphatic systems. It can make all the difference for your state of mind, working with a massage therapist as often as you can is the paramount self-care for yoga teachers.

After you teach a yoga class and hear the student with the sore hamstring from a recent marathon say, “I feel so much better, that was an amazing class. Thank you. I don’t feel so tight anymore and can walk a little easier now,” you remember why you teach yoga. By caring for others, we teach an asana sequence that even if beneficial to one individual only, is the reason we teach yoga. Yet we must remember to take care of ourselves equally to remain the consistent, steady teachers we have studied very long to be. Happy self-caring!

Desirée McKenzie is a yoga teacher and writer. She trained 500+ hours as a Vinyasa Yoga Teacher in 2007, and is a certified Thai Yoga Bodywork Specialist since 2014. Her blended training in the wellness realm create classes that soothe, nourish and strengthen the body. Desirée continues to deepen her yoga studies, focusing on anatomy. She is grateful to have learned the ancient healing practices that maintain equanimity and grace.

4 Ways To Overcome Emotional Triggers Though Yoga

By Wellness, Yoga PhilosophyNo Comments


Literally, sometimes it comes on like a wave. Completely unexpected. Uncalled for. And truly throws you into an internal and external fit of not knowing what to do. Have you ever had this feeling come on while watching the news about a particular crime? Or maybe while reading someone’s personal story about a trauma they’ve experienced? Or maybe you’ve had this unexpected feeling come on while in conversation with a colleague who holds limiting perceptions of particular groups of people, or even at lunch with your mother because she thinks you could be doing better.

And just maybe, you’ve had this feeling in a yoga class, right at the end when you’re being asked to close your eyes and take Savasana in a room of strangers.

Do you know what I’m talking about? It’s called being triggered. That wave of unexpected, unsettling, consuming rush of anxiety, panic, fight or flight is called being triggered. EVERY SINGLE ONE OF US HAS FELT TRIGGERED! And it’s okay and there is no shame in feeling triggered.

Here’s the thing about being triggered – we have conscious and unconscious understandings of what triggers us. I know from my personal experience, my mother’s way of genuinely expressing interest is to ask me a lot of questions and give me new things to think about in an effort to push me to new heights.

Although I am aware of how my mother expresses interest and support, in my mind, I hear her questioning nudges as, “I am not good enough. She knows I’m not good enough and is telling me so right now. And any successes I’ve had to date are meaningless because I need to be doing more.”

My mother without knowing unearths that wave of triggering emotions and one of two things happens: I shut down and push her away, or, I lash out at her and do my diligence to try to make her upset. Neither of these are good strategies for me or her.

The thing about feeling triggered is someone or something is able to unearth a feeling we haven’t quite dealt with or have made a choice to suppress. In my case, the feeling is insecurity and a sense of low worthiness or low value ascribed to my successes.

Now, I recognize having this conversation with my mother would be beneficial for both of us (and when she reads this, naturally a conversation will ensue). But, I have to stop and take care of myself first, before I can have an effective conversation with my mother or anyone who causes me to feel triggered (or to deal with an event that caused me to feel triggered – like being in a room of strangers with my eyes closed during Savasana).

So how do I that? Yoga! All of the yoga! Sure, going to a power yoga class will make me feel better. But, feelings of being triggered can linger on after I attend a class.

These triggering emotions are necessary, as Thich Nhat Hanh, spiritual leader and Buddhist monk, teaches us. He teaches us that these emotions arise and need to be treated with the same love, care, and affection as you would treat a baby. Once we learn to accept and treat our emotions with loving kindness, their power fades and an emotional healing process can begin. Remember – there is no personal growth without discomfort.

Here are four meditation and pranyama practices I do when I notice my triggers. Next time you feel yourself being triggered emotionally, you can easily do one of these practices in your office, your car, at home, or anywhere else you choose:

1. Loving Kindness & Self Love Meditation

Begin in a comfortable seated position (in a chair, on bar stool, on a bolster, wherever), with your eyes preferable open. Fix your gaze on something and place one hand on your heart and the other on your belly. Breathe in deeply through your nose and as you exhale, audibly let the air out of your mouth. Do this about five times. As you engage in this breathing exercise say to yourself the following mantra, “I am light. I am love. I am okay.”


2. Power In The Present Moment Meditation

Begin lying on the floor face down and place a bolster or a thick pillow underneath you – right around your navel (solar plexus chakra). Next stretch your arms out overhead and take a V-position with your legs. You want to resemble a starfish on your stomach. Turn your head to one side (with eyes opened or closed), breathe in through your nose and hold for a slow count of four, and exhale out of your mouth for a slow count of four. While in this pose say to yourself the following mantra, “Today is today. Tomorrow is tomorrow. I am in control of my present.”

3. Acceptance Meditation

Take Supta Baddha Konasana or Reclining Bound Angle pose with a bolster or thick pillow right between your shoulder blades. Place your arms out to the side (If you are at work or somewhere you can take seat, take this pose by placing both hands behind you on your low back, puff your chest out, and lift your head towards the ceiling).

While in this position, choose a fixed point on the ceiling and see who or what it is that has triggered you. Next, speak into the silence, “I feel triggered because…Although, I feel triggered, my heart is open to my discomfort and I am okay.”

4. Inner Strength Meditation

The last and final pose, I find to be helpful when I’m feeling triggered is taking a power stance. The pose is similar to Extended Mountain pose or Upward Salute pose, but instead you look like a vertical starfish. To do this, take your arms overhead, spread wide, and stand firmly grounded with your legs hip width apart. Take a slight backbend and allow your heart to shine towards the ceiling. Bring to mind what has just triggered you – take a deep inhale and audibly exhale. Say to yourself, “I felt triggered because…but, I am taking my power back. I am love. I am power.”

Treat what triggers you with love, patience, and understanding because you are okay and you are powerful!


Valin S. Jordan Ed.D. is an Assistant Professor of Diversity Education at University of Louisiana at Lafayette. Dr. Jordan’s work focuses on teacher identity and narrative as having particular implication for classroom practice. Dr. Jordan engages in contemplative pedagogy through the practice of yoga, she has founded an organization called, Yoga4SocialJustice. The organization is committed to mind and body connection through engagements of social justice and equity principles. More information can be found on Instagram @yoga4socialjustice or on the website https://www.yoga4socialjustice.org/.