Sankalpa: Connecting to your deepest hearts longing

I just spent the last 16 days in Calgary. The first few days I went up to Banff with a childhood friend and we hiked up to the tea house at Lake Agnes at 2135 metres from  Lake Louise where I got to experience snow, rain and sunshine in the course of one morning. I also got to experience the challenges of hiking at an elevation and listening to what my body needed along the way and it was speaking loudly! At higher elevations and with slippery slopes I thought my insides were going to burst! Slowly, slowly one step at a time, and with help of shoe spikes, I finally felt into the rhythm and the flow of hike. The quiet and the stillness of the mountains reminded me of that quiet space that is available in me, whenever I slow down and listen to my own natural rhythms. From lakes to hot springs to waterfalls, peaks to plateaus, the mountains were exactly what I needed and I headed back to Calgary feeling rejuvenated.

Reunited with my 11 other trainees we spent the last 9.5 days tucked away in a yoga studio where we improved our capacity to see, grew our own practice, explored the practice of Sankalpa and spent days and days learning more about Rhythmic Movement Training and integrating reflexes.

Sankalpa is easiest to explain by what it is not. It is not a desire, it is not an affirmation or an intention. It is a true statement based on ones inner nature, our deepest hearts longing. It is what we are but have forgotten. We forget our wholeness and our ability to choose. We often feel stuck in the muck of life. Sankalpa means “truth-vow” – a sacred prayer of truth of who are already. When we have a Sankalpa it can guide how we act and creates a more comfortable space for creativity and imagination to arise. It brings us into being and stillness. Described in another way, it is the coming back to source, connecting with your wisdom keeper, being in the zone. These are the places where there is clarity, seeing all the information that is there and knowing what to do. We live in a culture that values the hustle and the thinking and the doing. Sankalpa invites us to to a quieter space so we can experience freedom, authenticity, ease, power, receptiveness, openness and wisdom. Doing things that don’t align with our inner nature are depleting and energy sapping. We can build our energy reserves, or in Ayurveda, our Ojas, when we become more aligned with our true selves. We can use our Sankalpa in Yoga Nidra practice, to interrupt negative self-talk, during conflict, in meditation, or simply in the background of our day to day lives. We always have choice.

Choosing a Sankalpa could simply be:  I AM.  I AM HERE is a statement and identification of choosing to be here, now. Being present. It is a reminder that we are a body with breath, a mind with thoughts and emotions and feelings. We are not lost in the past or worried about the future. Many beautiful Sankalpas arose this last week in my group, I AM BRAVE, I AM CAPABLE OF GIVING AND RECEIVING LOVE, I AM WORTHY. If you are curious about setting your own Sankalpa, start small with what you know is true. Remember, you always have choice. ❤

 

How Our Body Communicates – Creating More Ease in Business

Last time I explained about how our body speaks to us through whispers (yellow lights) and screams (red lights). Today let’s explore how we can take our experience into our work life.

Have you ever been to a yoga class where you came in tired and feeling like crap and left feeling great? At some point, as we go about our life, that feeling fades and we cycle back to feeling crappy again and we repeat.

When I work with my yoga therapy clients we seek to take that one or two steps further. I ask my clients to notice when this good feeling starts to fade. I ask, “When you notice – what are you doing?”

We can figure our yellow lights by noticing what is correlated to that change in feeling. A conversation might go like this:

Do you notice how at the end of the session you feel a bit brighter than earlier?

Do you notice that are standing taller now?

Can you feel the distinction between the two (standing taller vs feeling slumped; or feeling tired vs feeling energized)?

What becomes interesting is that if you notice when all this starts to fade you can start to catch the yellow lights. If you are someone who spends a lot of time in front of the computer or in the office, you can start to notice how the physical feeling of returning to your slump (opposite of standing tall) is related to how you are managing the business at work.

Think about this: how do you approach work when you are feeling bright and tall vs how you manage work when you are feeling tired and slumpy?

The business at work isn’t necessarily going to change or go away but what you can change is how you are with it. It’s like a yoga practice, you can push through the pain and develop tension in order to create a shape in a yoga pose (you’re with the pose in a strained relationship), or you can try smaller movements that are pain free (you’re with a pose in an easeful relationship) where you are nourishing a new way of being. [side note: you may have heard the phrase, how we are on the inside is a mirror of how we are on the outsideor how we do one thing is how we do everything– if you’re creating tension or pain in a yoga class you are likely doing the same thing at work and in your relationships. If you’re creating ease in your yoga practice, you have the ability to create ease at work and in your relationships.]

Now, when you leave the class or session, and you get back to work or whatever life requires of you, and then you notice you are doing a little bit of slumping, try maybe 1, 2 or 3 things so that you can shift up the slumping (maybe your teacher wrote out a program for you or you remember a pose that made you feel great) and then see how that shifts up how you are relating to the scenario at work. In my experience, when I feel strong and confident in my body, I relate to people and problems in a much different way, compared to when I felt tired and achy.

While I can’t fix you, I’m here to support you so that you can make the shifts to get to where you want to be. If you want to shift or change how you are feeling, you can’t keep doing everything the same as before. We can’t expect a different outcome if we keep doing the same things. Change requires different actions. My private sessions are a collaborative process where we work together to figure out what it is that you need so you can thrive in your life and at work. If this is something that resonates with you, I’d love to chat further to see how I can help.

 

 

How Our Body Communicates – Understanding Yellow Lights


I was giving a 10 minute presentation last week and I was talking about what yoga therapy is, what to expect in a session and the concept my teacher Susi describes as Yellow Lights.

This post is going to seek to explain what yellows lights are and how you can start to recognize them. My follow up post will describe an example of how you can translate your yoga experience into business/life.

A yellow light, much like a traffic light is a warning signal. It is something that is telling us to slow down because a red light (danger) is coming. The Yellow Lights concept is a key piece in the healing process if we want to have long lasting sustainable results. Sure, we can seek a quick fix solution where we feel good temporarily, but unless we can get to the underlying issues that are feeding the problem, we are going to stay stuck in the cycle of pain.

Imagine driving down the road and you see a road sign that says, “danger ahead” then a little while after, “road closed,” then, “caution” then “slow down,” then “STOP!” Each sign is a little bit bigger and clearer.

Now imagine that you ignore the signs and speed past them. You don’t stop on time and find your car teetering on the end of a cliff, or you go over the cliff altogether.

Like pain, it’s obviously not an ideal situation to be in. It’s going to take a whole lot of effort and intervention to get your car back up and over the cliff and back on the road than it would have been if you had listened to the signs.

Each sign is a yellow light. These yellow lights are warning you that something dangerous is coming up.

Another way to describe the yellow lights or warning signals is a whisper. In yoga therapy, I talk about how the body is constantly speaking to us. The warning signals are little whispers that are asking you to do something. When you ignore a whisper, it gets a little louder and more frequent. If you continue to blow past the whispers, they will become screams (the red lights) of pain or discomfort.

Our body is constantly giving us feedback. Everything, both inside of us and in our environment, creates a physiological response in our body. Our brain is constantly scanning our environment for safety and danger so it can respond accordingly. It provides information to our nervous system so we feel either relaxed and at ease or on high alert.  We see someone we like and we are filled with a sense of warmth. We hear our inbox ding and we are filled with dread. Our tummies rumble and we know we are hungry. Our knees twinge and we know if we keep going our knees will start to hurt then our hips and then our backs.

The twinge in the knee is a whisper (it’s time to slow down). The hip discomfort is a louder whisper (I told you to take a break). The excruciating back pain that doesn’t go way is a scream (you didn’t listen and now I’m forcing you to pay attention).

When we start to listen to our bodies’ language, we can start to decode and understand how it is communicating with us. The concept of the yellow lights helps us listen. We can use our bodies as a barometer to move towards things that make us feel safe and healthy and keep us away from things that invoke a sense of danger (interpreted as stress and pain). (side note: Pain scientist and researcher Lorimer Mosely from Australia talks about how Safety and Danger can modulate pain).

Listening to our bodies requires some quiet and stillness which can be really challenging because we live in a culture that values hustle and doing, pushing through, driving hard, and giving it our all. We end up ignoring our bodies innate intelligence about what we need because we are so busy chasing after something else. The awesome thing is, it can be learned. Our bodies never lie. Our minds will lie.  We know our minds play tricks on us but our bodies are pretty reliable in their feedback. This is why I love yoga therapy. It slows us down and provides opportunities to feel what is happening in the body.

Where we go from here may be different for everybody. Maybe our starting point is learning how to feel. As we go through a trajectory of movement, from point A to point B, consider what happens and what changes along the way.

Try this: notice what the soles of your feet feel like against the floor. Feel sensation in your hands. Notice what your breath is like (Is it fast/shallow, deep/slow? Are you holding your breath? Can you feel it in your chest? Can you feel it in your belly?).

We can begin to notice a lot just by paying attention to different parts of our body. Once we start to notice, we are growing our awareness, which is awesome, because we can’t change anything we aren’t aware of.

If you are interested in exploring your own red lights and yellow lights here is another way you can start to explore on your own.

  • Take note either mentally or make a list (I love lists because later we can go back and see what’s changed) of what your red lights are.
    • What is happening either physically (pain, headaches, stress, anxiety, fatigue, anger, irritability, insomnia, flare ups, etc) that you consider a scream or red light?
  • Then, and it may or may not be immediately apparent, start to notice what activities or events are correlated with the red lights.
    • Can you identify 1 or 2 yellow lights or whispers that lead up to or contribute to the problem?

The more yellow lights we can become aware of, the faster we can resolve the issue. When you recognize the whisper this is your opportunity to notice what red light is correlated to that yellow light and decide what you’re going to do so you don’t have to hear the scream if you were to continue along the same path.

Can you see how you will start to resolve the issue? If the pain or problem recurs, it just means you missed a yellow light, which is an opportunity for more noticing. It is a new layer of awareness that had become available to you. It’s another interesting data point that something else is contributing to the problem.

So cool right?! Sometimes it can be really challenging to identify the yellow lights if we are experiencing chronic pain. Yoga therapy can help you reduce the pain so you can find those correlating pieces as you work to build stamina around new movement patterns so pain eventually stays away.  If you need more support send me an email and I’d love to chat!

Stay tuned for part two, where I will guide you on how to use the yellow lights to make work more enjoyable.

A New Perspective on Successful New Years Resolutions

A long time ago I gave up on New Years Resolutions. They were pipe dreams with no plan, no direction. When we have big goals that we want to achieve in the year, it can actually be really overwhelming, and despite our best intentions, we end up abandoning resolutions and fall back into our familiar negative thought patterns and self-talk. Part of the problem with the word “resolution” is that it’s so negative. We resolve to give something up or take something unwanted out of our life. Starting with a mind set on the negative is setting ourselves up for failure at the outset.  We feel disconnected and thus stay disconnected from what we really want.  So, then I tried setting some intentions about what I wanted to manifest or create in my life but it still lacked direction and focus. Finally, this past year, with the help of yoga therapy I was able to gain more clarity and competency which led me to a new perspective in planning out my intentions for 2019.

This year my intention is to live with more ease. I’ve identified that to be happy, healthy and successful in my career and relationships I need to make cultivating ease a priority. I’ve asked myself, what does that look like? Sound like? Feel like? As I get really clear about what I want my day to day to be like, it gives me more information about what I need to do or stop doing in order to have that feeling. Creating ease in all aspects of my life is going to take a lot of work and a lot of courage so my strategy is “baby steps”.  Earlier in 2018 I established that In order to have more ease, I need to have a daily self-care routine. I started to slowly add to my daily practice this past summer and will continue to add and refine this year so that my self-care is a part of my lifestyle, rather than a to-do list item. I have more baby steps to take around diet, scheduling, study and work to grow the ease I experience everyday. The beauty of taking baby steps, is we start to recognize what really works for us, and what doesn’t. We gain more awareness. We can refine and adjust our course of action at any time. Success happens on a daily basis because each day is progress. A crazy out of focus week where I get off track, isn’t considered a set back. It’s a recognition that my load increased based on what was happening and it helps recognize where I need more support or where I need to build more bandwidth or stamina in my yoga practice or self-care routine.

If setting intentions are new to you, try going to a yoga class where the teacher invites you to set an intention for the hour practice. Or practice setting an intention for your day. It could be anything. In a yoga class, an intention could be paying attention your breathing, moving without pain, being open to a new perspective or noticing when negative thoughts arise. Intention setting is a skill that you practice until it becomes second nature. Let this be your first baby step.

As your new skill becomes a new habit, start incorporating something new or something more challenging until that also becomes routine. As your capacity grows, add more. If your goal is to develop a morning meditation practice, maybe you start by getting up 5 minutes earlier until it’s easy. Then add 5 more minutes and 5 more minutes. In a few months you’ll be getting up an hour earlier so you can do whatever it is you want or need to do in the morning. Building my Ayurvedic inspired self-care routine started with a couple activities that were easy and took very little time. Once those few things became established as a part of my normal routine, I was ready to add more. As I added, I also started to notice the benefits of these practices which inspired and encouraged me to do more because it brought more ease into my life.

If you want to run a marathon but have excruciating hip pain, your baby steps might include learning the habitual movement patterns that are keeping you in that cycle of pain. You might choose to work with a yoga therapist, to learn how to quiet the compensatory movements to move better. Then you’ll practice your homework to get out of pain and build stamina around your new movement patterns. Then as the pain goes away, perhaps you’ll start to run short distances that don’t increase pain. As your stamina and strength grow, you add more distance and more speed. One baby step at a time. The better you get, the better you get.

I struggled for a long time to get to the point where I could start doing the things I wanted to do and needed to do. I just didn’t have the energetic capacity to do the things in life that I wanted to do. I started working with a yoga therapist who helped me gain clarity and develop confidence and competency to be able to start taking baby steps in the direction I wanted to go. As my energy started to increase, I used my good days to do the hard things. The hard things turned into good things which increased my ease and my confidence and the better I got, the better I got. I really think that the culture of “hustling” is overrated. We push ourselves so hard because we think we have to.  I see so many people overburdened by their work, getting sick, burnt out, stressed, developing aches and pains because they are all hustle and fear of failure.  These folks no longer prioritize their health and miss out on the things they really want to do because they are doing what they think they should be doing.

We often get overwhelmed and discouraged by our  goals before we even get started. The gap between where we are and where we want to go can seem impossible to close. We also tend to have a tremendous ability to tolerate stuff because we think it’s normal or we think change isn’t possible. The truth is we can make change happen bit by bit. Sometimes we just need a little bit of support. Consider there is always another way. The work doesn’t have to be hard or time consuming. It just takes a desire and willingness to make what you are tolerating intolerable. If this resonates with you and you want support to get started, or you desire a fresh perspective on how you can break those goals into baby steps, I’m happy to help. Connect with me via email or schedule a session with me.

Mindfulness Practices for the Holidays

Over the last few years I have been working on simplifying and amplifying my work and my life, focusing on what is essential to help me feel connected and whole. Part of this work has included getting to the core of what’s working and what’s not working.  What I have learned is when I truly honour what I’m feeling and allow those feelings to guide my choices, I am happier, my relationships are healthier and there is more clarity, more energy and more joy to spread around. The foundation of the work I do for myself and the work I share with others is rooted in mindfulness.

Mindfulness is a practice of growing awareness and developing presence. Why do this? Studies show that practicing mindfulness on a regular basis has a host of health benefits including helping to decrease stress, worry, pain and anxiety and improve sleep. When we are present and aware, we have more options, we move better, make better choices rather than being reactionary and our nervous system as an opportunity to help us heal. For a calmer, more relaxing holiday season I invite you to try these mindfulness practices as you go about your day.

3 Mindfulness practices for the holidays

  1. Breath: Take a minute or more to notice your breathing without trying to change your breath. Feel the inhale coming in. Feel the exhale going out. Be totally present to what each breath feels like and where you feel it the most in your body. Notice what it is that takes your attention away from your breath. (this is normal and expected. Just notice.)
  2. Body Scan: starting with your toes and working up towards your head, feel sensation in each part of the body without judgment or analysis. Some parts will be easier to feel than others. Some sensations will be stronger. Take your time and explore what is present at that moment. (add #1 afterwards if you have time).
  3. Presence: Throughout the day pause and notice sensation in your hands (palms, fingers and whole hand). Similarly notice sensation in the feet. Feel each separately, and both together. Notice how easily you can hold awareness of sensation of the hands and feet at the same time.

Have a great holiday!

Toilet Meditation

As I mentioned at the beginning of my 3 part series on Ayurveda routines for better health that I would share my colleague Shelly Prosko‘s Toilet Mediation with you. Shelly is pelvic floor physiotherapist and yoga therapist.

Whether you are a yogi or not, you’ve probably heard of the benefits of mindfulness. We try to mindful with our words when speaking to our kids or colleagues. We think carefully about what we choose to eat, how we spend our time, etc. We practice mindfulness in our everyday activities so why not when we toilet?

First of all, how we position ourselves is important. You want to have your knees higher than your hips. To do so you can purchase a squatty potty  or bring your feet onto yoga blocks or a small garbage can. This is a better position for elimination and helps to release pelvic floor muscles.

Shelly shares an acronym called A.I.R.B.A.G. – use this acronym the next time you toilet:

AAwareness: start by feeling your feet on the floor, feel your pubic bone, sit bones, tailbone. Become aware of any physical sensations you are feeling – in your belly, low back, spine, do a quick scan of your arms, are you clenching neck, jaw, eyes?

IImagination: next, visualize your pelvic floor and the muscles that connect your pubic bone to your sit bones and tail bone at the back.

RRelease/relax: see if you can let go of tension. Notice if holding anything.

BBreathe: become aware of how you’re breathing. You don’t need to change it. Notice how your body is moving with breath. Go back to imagining the pelvic floor – visualize how it moves as you breathe – descends/widens as you inhale, recoils back up on exhale.

AAllow: without straining or pushing. Notice if more needs to come out. Surrender and trust, let go. Trust that your body knows what it needs to do. Do you need to activate or push a little bit without straining? Stay with your breath, revisit the other letters.

GGratitude: when you’re finished, take a moment to send some gratitude to your body for the amazing, sophisticated system that just did some work.

If you have difficulties eliminating daily, consult an Ayurvedic counsellor or Naturopathic doctor. Our diet and exercise can have a huge impact on how well our entire digestive and elimination systems work together. As a yoga therapist I can help you address physical limitations that lead to tension or tightness or holding patterns. You can schedule a session with me at Living Waters Therapies.

 

Part 3: Ayurvedic Self Care for Cold and Flu Season

Welcome to Part 3 of Ayurvedic Self Care for Cold and Flu Season. In Part I I discussed some self-care practices to build into your morning routine and in Part 2 I shared some evening self-care practices for better sleep. In Part 3, I wanted to share a practice I will be participating in and I invite you to join me.

In October I will be participating in a Digestive Reset program by one of my teachers, Mona Warner who is an Ayurvedic counsellor and yoga therapist. When the season and weather changes, it is an ideal time to do a digestive reset. Fall is becoming cooler, we are likely to feel less grounded and this can impact our nervous system and gut which can lead to decreased immunity and onset of cold and flu.

The benefits of doing a digestive reset  include, better digestion, more energy, more clarity, better sleep and feeling better overall.

If you would like to join me this October I will create a Facebook group so we can hold each other accountable and be there to support each other. The program  is a 9 day, self-guided, online program. The program includes educational videos explaining why a digestive reset is important, an e-book with recipes, shopping list and how do the reset. In October there will be live Q&A dates with Mona as well as access to the video of the calls. The cost is $75. You can purchase the program and find more on her website.

I will begin the Digestive Reset program on October 10, 2018. I hope you’ll join me!

Stay tuned for my next post on Toilet Meditation!

 

 

 

Part 2: Ayurvedic Self Care for Cold and Flu Season

Perhaps you’ve started to integrate some Ayurvedic self-care practices into your daily routine from Part 1 and you’re ready to add some more. Today I will share some more practices that you can build into your  evening routine for sleep hygiene and better health.

Do you find that you have a long hectic day at work and by the time you get the kids to bed all you want to do is enjoy a glass of wine and turn on Netflix? I hear ya. Even though alcohol and numbing our minds to the screen gives us immediate gratification, the effects it has on our sleep quality might not be worth it long term. Our bodies are designed to process toxins and restore our system over the course of the night so we can wake feeling rested and energized. Unfortunately for many of us, we have a hard time falling asleep and staying asleep, and wake up feeling tired and foggy. Luckily there are a few things that we can start to incorporate into our evening routine.

Ayurvedic science says that our mid-day lunch should be the largest meal of the day followed by a light walk to aid digestion. Many cultures today already do this. In the evenings, a light supper is recommended and an evening walk will help to ensure that our food is fully digested before we go to bed. This is important because we don’t want our body to have to use up all its energy to digest our food while we sleep. This takes away from the restorative functions we need for good health. So maybe start with a light, healthy dinner and a short walk. A pre-bed routine will help with ease-ful sleep. It is recommended to turn off screens at least one hour before bed to help the nervous system prepare for sleep.

If you have a hard time falling asleep and staying asleep, consider these ideas to help you sleep more restoratively, deeply and easily.

  1. Set a consistent bedtime. If you have an irregular morning schedule, go to bed 8 hours before you have to get up. Some people need more or less sleep time. Keep track of how many hours you sleep and if it feels it’s not enough, or too much adjust accordingly.
  2. Have a bed time routine. This may include other items from this list. It might include reading a book, gentle yoga, chatting with family member, washing your face, brushing your teeth or a self oil massage before you go to bed.
  3. Bedroom is only for sleep and sex (that means no TV or work). That way your body/brain can fall asleep easier.
  4. Minimize screen time before bed. Whether it is your tv, phone or other device, it provides more stimuli and can set your nervous system on high alert. It will take a longer time for your nervous system to begin to settle into the rest/digest system.
  5. Keep your bedroom dark for sleep (invest in an eye-mask and earplugs if you need to)
  6. Avoid alcohol and heavy food. As I mentioned earlier, your body has to put a lot of effort into digestion, which it shouldn’t have to do while you sleep.
  7. Enjoy a cup of warm spiced milk (nut milk is okay too!). This can aid in digestion and set the nervous system at ease.
  8. Indulge in a self foot massage with warm oil. This can help to ground and settle out any erratic energies.

A few yoga postures that I help me prepare for sleep include child’s pose, cat/cow, and legs up the wall. If I’m having a particularly hard time falling asleep I’ll listen to a Yoga Nidra recording.  Usually the hardest one to implement is the one we need to do the most. Let me know what works for you and if I can support you in any way.

In Part 3 I will share a Digestive Reset Program that I will be participating in this Fall so stay tuned!

Happy Exploring!

Source: Mona Warner, Ayurvedic counsellor, Janati Yoga

 

Part 1: Ayurvedic Self-Care for Cold and Flu Season

This blog is the first of a 3 part series on Ayurvedic self-care practices you can build into your routine for better health. In part 1 you will find morning self-care practices you can start building in your daily routine. Part 2 will discuss evening routines for a better sleep. Part 3 will have details for digestive reset program that I am participating in this Fall and I will invite you to join me.

This year it felt like Mother Nature flipped a switch and the weather changed from the hot humid summer to a cool brisk Fall. When the seasons change we are at risk for lowered immune function. I see people all around me getting colds already.

As a student and later as I began my first career as a classroom teacher I would get sinus infections like clockwork as the seasons changed. It wasn’t until I began a regular yoga practice that my nervous system started to become better regulated and my immune system became stronger and the infections stopped.

That is not to say I haven’t periodically come down with the flu or felt under the weather. As I delve deeper into my yoga therapy studies for the C-IAYT certification, I have started some new routines based on Ayurvedic science. Ayurveda is the sister science to yoga that developed thousands years ago. It is based on the belief that health and wellness depends on the balance between mind, body and spirit. Its main goal is to promote good health, not fight disease. This is a proactive approach that we can assimilate into our routines which becomes an ongoing self-care practice or lifestyle, rather than an antidote you receive in order to fix a problem. As a part of my daily routine I have started to implement some new practices. As I begin to find ease in my routine I will continue to add more and more.

Why is a daily routine so important? Without going too deeply into it, our doshas, or qualities that are inherently in us, influence our body-minds and environments in a particular way throughout the day. When we can align with the natural rhythms of the day and the natural rhythms of our body, we promote optimal health. Starting with our morning routine is a great way to begin because it sets the stage for how our day unfolds.

Our bodies naturally work to clear out excess toxins while we sleep. This is why having a full nights sleep is so important. These toxins find their way into our colon and skin which is why personal hygiene needs to be taken care in the morning. First thing when you wake up drink warm water with a squeeze of lemon, followed by elimination. My friend Shelly Prosko, a physio/yoga therapist designed a toilet mediation which I will share in a separate post.

Here are a few things you can build into your morning routine (choose 1 or 2 things then add more later). The key is to be able to create more ease and not feel overwhelmed by a to do list of things.

  1. For your Mouth:
    • Gargle: use sea salt and warm water for a sore throat or to clear the throat of potential infections. To reduce soreness or dryness use sesame oil. To reduce inflammation of the oral tissue use milk.
    • Scrape your tongue with tongue scraper or spoon: it removes accumulations from the tongue and stimulates the fire quality (that we need for energy and digestion). Rinse the mouth after to clear any residue.
    • Brush teeth: astringent, bitter or pungent tooth powder or paste are used to keep the gum tissue firm.
    • Oil pulling: the state of the mouth is thought to reflect the state of the entire gastrointestinal tract. Lubrication is of the utmost importance for a well-functioning digestive system, especially for elimination. Take tablespoon of oil (sesame for fall/winter, coconut for summer) and swish it in the mouth for 2 to 10 minutes. When I started 30 seconds was the most I could handle. It helps to strengthen gums, teeth and tongue. Reduces dryness of the lips and tongue and helps to promote elimination.
  2. For your Eyes:
    • To freshen the eyes, rinse with cool clean water or organic rose water (hydrosol).
  3. For your Nose:
    • Neti: this is my favourite part of my morning routine. This is a technique used to clean the nasal passages using sea salt, water and a neti pot. It is great to clear excess mucus from the nasal passages and sinuses. It reduces the build-up of allergens, dust and other debris in the nasal passages and promotes clear and easy nasal breathing.
    • Nasal Oleation: oiling the nasal passages helps keep them lubricated and nourished and prevents dryness. It is especially important with environmental sensitivities like animal dander and pollen. Use 2-4 drops of plain oil like sesame or coconut in your palm. Rub your pinky finger in the oil and gently swirl in your nostrils.
  4. For your Skin:
    • Dry brush: using a raw silk glove or a brush specifically designed for the body, gently brush the skin to remove any dry skin and promote lymphatic circulation. Depending on your need, it may be done daily, weekly or monthly. Brush gently over your face and genitals. Long strokes over the long bones, and circle strokes over the joints.
    • Self oil massage: a technique used to nourish and protect the skin, harmonizes the flow of energy and promotes circulation and soothes the nervous system. Depending on your need, oil massage may be done daily, weekly or monthly. Use sesame, sweet almond or jojoba for Fall/Winter. Use similar strokes to the dry brushing. Sit and breathe for a few minutes while the oil is absorbed by the skin. The skin is a very important organ of digestion therefore using organic cold pressed oil is recommended. From an Ayurvedic view, you would only put on your skin what you would put in your mouth.
    • Shower or Bath: after self oiling, a bath or shower is taken to remove excess oil before getting dressed. They are also invigorating, refreshing and release negative energy. Soap can be used for the arm pits and groin area. The remainder of the body is simply rinsed – unless there is dirt of course. Too much soap removes the natural oils that maintain the health and strength of the skin.
    • Sweat: the skin benefits from sweating daily. A little perspiration beneath the arms and at the low back – about 50% of one’s capacity. This can be done by going for a brisk walk or visiting a sauna. The intention is to liquefy any toxins and allow it to release through the open pores.
  5. For your Ears:
    • To keep the auditory passages from drying, we put a few drops of oil (sesame or coconut) into the ears by either putting oil on the pinky fingers and rotating them around the aperture or using a dropper to put 2-3 drops of oil into the ear canals. You can also oil the outer architecture of the ears if you like.

I invite you to pick one or two things to incorporate into your daily routine this week and let me know how it goes. Stay tuned for my next post on evening routines and bed time hygiene.

Happy exploring!

Source: Mona Warner, Ayurvedic counsellor, Janati Yoga

Pain and Healing – Part VII

There are many paths to helping people.

Moving with more ease and more movement is the best long term recovery strategy.

As we continue to shift your thoughts and beliefs about pain, consider this: pushing through pain will not make you stronger or more flexible. It actually increases risk to sensitizing the nervous system even more.

The goal of movement should be more ease now. You should be thinking afterwards, “I don’t regret doing this movement.” Our breath test will tell us we are doing the right thing for our systems.

The neuro-immune system is impacted when you push too hard. The commonly held belief that pain is all in your mind is the main reason people push themselves. You don’t have to live with it or despite it. Starting with the belief that pain is not changeable goes against the research. We have to believe that change is possible. We don’t know the degree for each person but we know it’s possible.

Let’s look at the analogy of cook and how it relates to pain. If you make a chili and add too much spice, you don’t add more spice to make it better, you add tomatoes or something else. Pushing through the pain is not going to make the pain go away.

As we have learned over the last two months, pain is highly complex, and we can’t understand all of it. But it is possible to move with ease and understand pain better.

Evidence of increased safety in movement is related how pain is experienced.

SIMs and DIMs can be explored in yoga. The ritual of yoga and breath, calms the physiology and nervous system. Layer breath with ease of movement. Body tension is danger (fight or flight/DM) and you can’t let go and experience fast, shallow breath. You may not know how tight or how to let go. Start with breathing calmly then add benign movement, then move towards more “dangerous” or complex movement. Progression turns a DIM into a SIM. Navy Seals go through a similar process in their training – that’s how they can achieve intensely incredible feats by remaining calm while working through progressively more dangerous situations.

Process. Persistence. Compassion.

Often times we experience euphoria when pain is gone. Then we quit our practice. Consider this analogy: If you were playing darts and hit the center, you might think “whoo hoo! I did it.” You feel great. You did it. But, imagine if you tried it everyday for two months. Imagine how good you’d be.

What if you throw a dart and you don’t hit the target? What does that tell you? Doing something once doesn’t tell us much about what could happen in the future with practice. Repetition is key. Start simple with breathing. Try it everyday 5 times for 5 minutes and see in a week or two weeks.

There is also the common sports analogy. Practice makes you better. Imagery and visualization can stimulate movement that is not yet possible. Watch yourself doing it. Feel yourself do it from the inside out. Yoga Nidra is a practice of guided imagery. If you are someone who keeps pushing yourself, this might be a good place of peace to start from.

Facial muscles even feed into the parasympathic nervous system. Research suggests that when we clench our eyes, ears, mouth, tongue it sends a danger signal to our brain. Softening around these orfices is a SIM. Setting an hourly timer to consciously relax the muscles in our face for 20-30 seconds helps us to develop our neuroplasticity.

Pain can be so wound up that little things can have a big influence on it. One system can change another system. We don’t know the degrees and complexity.

Neil Pearson, physio and yoga therapist shares 5 steps for pain care and can be found on his website.  Here are 2 things to consider when looking for a practitioner to help you heal:

  1. Feel heard. This can change our pain.
  2. Someone who is a helper, a part of the process, not doing something to you. The client is the doer. This is key to the whole process. The practitioner should applaud lowering of pain in the session. Then give something to do to work towards maintaining that lowered pain.

It’s a Butterfly effect: 1 small change can change the relationship of the whole system. 

I’d like to conclude with a Summary of what is known about Pain and Healing.

Persistent pain is pain that is often undiagnosed from tests and not an infection. Doctors don’t know what to do. The complicated part is taking ownership of what’s really going on (eg. Hating your job, childhood trauma, diet). Are you coping in a healthy way? We acknowledge it is scary to nudge your comfort zone.

What we know is pain is subjective based on the individual. Your brains interpretation of what is going on is a protective response of a trigger. Further, emotional pain can manifest physically. It can be related to the environment, structural, sensory input, gut, thoughts, support systems, what you’ve been told or haven’t been told. When we feel helpless or out of control, that is danger. When we feel danger it can strengthen the fear, tension, sympathetic nervous system and pain. Where pain is, is not the problem. Pain is saying, pay attention to me. Low vs high pain tolerance is an interpretation by the brain of what is going on. We can work on flipping the script on how we use words. Finding the positives (SIMs) and retraining safety in our body/mind.

Remember, change is possible! Explore these on your own to develop your awareness:

  1. Educate yourself on pain science. 20 minutes a day can decrease pain. Knowledge is power. When you are empowered, you are in control.
  2. Stress exacerbates symptoms. When quiet, symptoms go away. Notice the quiet moments – change has happened! We can’t think clearly when we are in pain, we ruminate, get irritable and can’t recognize the good moments. Journal and plot out the good and bad moments over the week. Then make a decision about what they can do about it.
  3. Recognize, Reduce, Eliminate. Try Pain Train or Symptom Tracker app if journaling is producing too much anxiety.
  4. Support Groups can be a danger if members complain all the time and increase fear.
  5. It takes more than 1 time with a practitioner for a shift/healing. Be patient. Don’t resist. Own it. Ride the wave. Keep in mind that the first visit the practitioner could be having an off day or you could be having an off day. By the third visit some shift should occur. Could be any number of reasons why you don’t vibe with a practitioner. There is no fault, just that relationship in that moment didn’t work (context). You may or may not be in the right headspace to hear or listen. Instant gratification can’t be the expectation. Keep working through everything under the surface.
  6. Self development: create a web of support. You don’t have to do it alone. If your friend was in the same situation what advice would you give them? All the things that we do, is because we said yes. Do you need to take something off your plate? Do you need to say no? Walk more? Drink water? Stop smoking? Are you ready to take the next step? What do you already have? Contemplate that it might not be people, it could be animals or music or writing. Healing comes from within. No one is going to do it for you.

In health,

Lindsay