My Self-Care Story

Self-care is a hot topic that is getting a lot of attention in the news and social media right now. We know self-care is important but what is it really? Are you doing it right? How can you make the most of the little free time you already have? As I go through my yoga therapy studies and the evolution of my own practice my perceptions around self-care has changed and I want to share with you what I have learned.

In this blog post, I share my views on self-care, my daily routine and how I managed to have the best winter ever despite it being long, dark and cold, AND how self-care doesn’t have to be time-consuming or expensive.

This Fall I will be hosting a day-long Self-Care workshop to help you design a self-care practice that will work for your lifestyle. You will also learn how you can be accountable to maintaining a self-care program that is supportive and nourishing to YOU!

What is self-care? In my experience, self-care is going to be different for everyone. There may be some similiarities and there will certainly be differences. For me, self-care is more than checking off an action on my to-do list. It is something that is becoming a lifestyle, a series of choices that I know are nourishing and supportive. What this is for me, may be completely different for you. And it didn’t happen overnight. It was as series of choices that have evolved over time. Things taken out of my life and things added. Let me share a couple of examples. There have been some toxic relationships that I had to let go of if I wanted to thrive and have a lifestyle that was free from drama and guilt. I cut out drinking alcohol because I didn’t like how it made me feel. I thought this was going to negatively impact my social life but it only made it better. Some things I’ve added: I’ve started to include some Ayurvedic dincharya practices into my morning and bedtime routines (learn more). Some things that evolved: my diet and how I practice yoga. These lifestyle choices nourish me, they help me sleep better, I have more energy, I handle stress better, I am better at my job. What works for me, might not work for you. Let me give you an example. Some people might find that playing with or petting a dog to be extremely comforting and relaxing. They find it re-energizing and supportive. Someone who is allergic to or afraid of dogs might find petting a dog extremely agitating and therefore not nourishing or supportive. This is why we need to assess what feels good for us, what is sustainable, and what is the outcome of the self-care practices we choose.

My experience of Ayurveda and self-care began in ernest last summer. I began integrating the Ayurvedic practices of Dinaycharya that I learned in my training. I gradually introduced these practices into my daily routines, with consistency. They are now a natural and organic part of my lifestyle.  What I noticed, and what I attribute to these practices is that I had a really excellent winter.

Let me explain:

Winter has always been a troubling season for me.

I get cold and stay cold and find myself shivering all the time. Going outside is extremely uncomfortable.  My happy place is piled under blankets with an electric heating pad.

The long dark days are depressing. No amount of Vitamin D could pull me out the seasonal funk.

I had no desire to go outside, to exercise, to be social. I literally hibernate.

Winter was a real struggle that never seemed to end.

Does this sound familiar? I also worked on going to bed by 10pm each night, waking up early every morning, eating at regular times during the day – which I still find challenging.  But what I took away from these seemingly benign practices was so much more than I though was possible. We can all agree that here in Ontario we had a long, cold winter. Everyone, and I mean literally everyone complained about how terrible winter had been, how long it felt, how there was an urgency for spring for to arrive. While, yes, it was long, this was the first year I didn’t feel negatively about it. I felt like I had weathered the winter well. The snow and the cold didn’t bother me the way it had in the past. I had energy to do more things and try new stuff.  I would even go so far as to say this was the best winter I’ve experienced. When I share this, people look at me dumbfounded. I don’t have any other explanation as to why I didn’t experience all the symptoms I typically do in the winter. When I considered what I was doing differently, it was my self-care routine.

If we want to experience to a different outcome in our lives – whether it’s how we feel, the outcome of our businesses or our relationships, we have to do something differently. Same actions, same outcome. New actions, different outcome. I had no idea what the outcome was going to be. I didn’t start this self-care routine thinking it was going to make my experience of winter better. I was curious. I was willing to try something new if there was potential that it could help me feel differently and in a very general way. There is very little time spent or cost associated with these practices.

I’ve also gained a deeper understanding of how I can create balance in my life. Balance does not mean more of something and less of something else. For me, balance is the outcome of how I am able to be with a situation without being thrown out of whack. It’s about how I relate to stressor or a bad driver or a negative comment. Balance is a state of being that you can cultivate when you are nourished from the inside out.

As a result of this self-care lifestyle that I have cultivated over time,  I have more clarity and awareness around how my diet impacts different aspects of my life. While winter was wonderful for me, I found there was some struggle going into spring, which sparked a new curiosity for me. What do I need to change during the winter, to support myself going into spring? Now I get to explore. Self-care in and of itself evolves and changes over time and for me, across seasons.

Through my yoga therapy training we learn a lot about Ayruveda and how we can support ourselves. In my physical yoga practice there are practices I can do that help me feel more grounded and supported when I feel unthethered. There are practices that are energizing or calming. Movement, breathing, and meditation all factor into my lifestyle and supports and nourishes me. These might look different everyday too.

Check out my earlier blog post about Dinacharya practices. If you’re curious, pick one or two that feel like they would be easy to incorporate, notice how it feels for you and go from there. If you want to introduce a movement, breathing or meditation practice into your life, let’s talk about ways I can support you to get started.

This Fall I will be running a day long self-care workshop that will explore a variety of self-care practices that you can build into your routine that is manageable and supportive. We will create individual plans to help you measure whether or not your self-care practices are supporting you. If you are not on my mailing list and you don’t want to miss out upcoming events and new blog posts, sign up today.

 

 

Yoga Rehab: Workshop for Back Pain

yoga rehab photoPain and discomfort doesn’t have to be a normal part of everyday life. Yoga Rehab is designed for yogis, those new to yoga and anyone who is curious. The aim is to help you live a more functional, effective and strain-free way that is unique to your goals. My principles of movement will help you get stronger and build more stamina, flexibility and balance without pain, strain or tension.

What can I expect in these workshops? You will learn simple (but not necessarily easy) movements that will help improve mobility and decrease pain. For yogis, you will discover a whole new perspective on movement and take your practice to the next level! There will be a focus on breath work, mindfulness and developing body awareness woven throughout the workshop. This is not a typical yoga class so yoga experience is not required.

When we move better, we feel better and we can enjoy life more.

My next 2 workshops are called Yoga Rehab and it will be held Saturday, September 30th and October 14th at McMaster Fitness 2-4pm. Cost is $45 + hst. Participants will receive a handout and free practice video.

Contact me to register or ask a question.

Spring Detox – Body, Mind & Spirit

The 12 Day Complete Mind-Body Cleanse by Lindsay Keefe, E-RYT, OCT and Dr. Corina Dinca, ND

Feel better, look better, live better. We all want to enjoy life more. And in order to enjoy life more, we need to feel good about ourselves, mentally, emotionally and physically. When we feel great, happiness and joy radiate and the people around us feel it too.

Our lives are getting increasingly busy with the demands of work and we need to remember to balance those demands with the rest of our lives. Self-care begins with a decision to value yourself and your health as a priority. What does a six-digit income matter if you are not healthy enough to enjoy the privileges it brings?

The 12 Day Mind Body Cleanse was created to support your body and mind in various ways and help your detoxification organs  work optimally so you can start to feel better, faster. This starts with education about how and what you are eating. By understanding the impact of the food you eat, the products you use and your individual habits and lifestyle you can begin to make appropriate changes that support your own individual needs.

The particular program that Dr. Corina Dinca, ND and myself  are offering is unique from any “detox” program on the market. We will educate you on making healthy food choices that support your bodies innate ability to process and eliminate and support the various systems and organs in your body related to natural detoxification. Although you can’t make the liver detoxify faster you can use herbs and food to support your livers health and remove internal and external toxins that can accumulate leaving you feeling, tired, sluggish and sick. Our program also uses the ancient wisdom of yoga to strengthen your body, mind and spirit as we move towards better health. Our goal is to help you kickstart a permanent lifestyle awakening towards health and wellness.

This gentle yet effective cleanse program targets the body, mind and energetic blockages through herbs, specific foods, yoga asanas, pranayama and meditation and will serve as a lifestyle awakening to help you become healthier and happier! Get educated on how to make the right food choices, understand the bodies systems and have the chance to win amazing prizes!

Over the course of the 12 days you will attend 5 workshops to get educated on a new topic and support your cleanse with a yoga asana/meditation practice.

Sunday May 28 – 1-3pm – Registration. Intro to detox, intro to breathing, yoga and meditation.

Thursday June 1 – 7-9 pm – All about Stress! Restorative Yoga.

Sunday June 4 – 1-3 pm – Environmental Toxins and your body. Building internal heat with twists and inversions.

Thursday June 8 – 7-9 pm Food labels and supplementation. Yoga for longevity.

Sunday June 11 – 3-5 pm – What to do after the cleanse. Yoga: letting go of the past and looking ahead.

Bonus: Program may be covered by naturopathic extended health insurance – inquire in person, by phone or email.

Breathing for Stress and Anxiety

Yoga_Photoshoot_Hany_easy pose 2Wouldn’t you love to live in a world where you could flip a switch and all your stress and anxiety would just go away? There are many different strategies we can employ such as going to a yoga class, getting a massage, meditating, being in nature or exercising. These are all wonderful things that we can do that will help. These all require finding time and going somewhere to do it. However, there is one more tool that we can use at any time no matter where you are. That is your breath.

Many of us who practice yoga or any of the above activites have gotten a glimpse of the switch that leaves us feeling, calm, relaxed and at peace. Unfortunately these feelings are fleeting, stressors find their way back into the limelight and it leaves us wanting without knowing how to get it back.

The answer lies not just in our breath, but how we breathe and the mindfulness that arises from this awareness. After years and years, dare I say decades of stress, years of being on anxiety medication and then the death of my mom, I stumbled across a doctor who told me I wasn’t breathing. I was holding my breath. I was certainly taken aback by this observation and it was turning point for me. Albeit slow, the process brought me to where I am today and now I want to share the skills with you so you can reap the benefits now and not years down the road.

Breathing is important for two reasons. One, it brings oxygen to our blood and two, oxygenated blood helps to heal our tissues. Unfortunately, somewhere along the way we have unconsciously learned a disordered way of breathing that is fast and shallow, that limits the flow of oxygen into our bloodstream. As a result, we are not taking in sufficient oxygen or able to expel sufficient carbon dioxide. Reduced lung function reduces our vitality, ages us prematurely, lowers are immune function, etc. So not only does breathing impact our cardiovascular system, but it also effects the respiratory, neurological, gastrointestinal, muscular and psychic systems. So you can see how important optimal breathing is for our overall functioning.

When we re-learn how to breath optimally we begin the healing process and improve our ability to cope with stressors.

We can also begin to experience these benefits for the long term:

  • Less respiratory problems, stronger heart by reducing it’s workload
  • Relaxes body and the mind
  • Improves the health of the nervous system, including brain, spinal cord, nerve centres and nerves.
  • It has an effect on your sleep, your memory, energy level and concentration.
  • Aids in digestion and elimination. Assists in weight control. Oxygen helps burn up excess fat more efficiently.
  • More oxygen in the blood means better complexion, fewer wrinkles, more energy, clarity for the mind, positive thinking, supports vision and hearing.
  • Rejuvenates muscle and organ functioning. Lack of oxygen to cells is a major contributing factor to cancer, heart disease and strokes

Why Do We Breath Fast + Shallow?

Let’s face it, our lifestyles often dictate that we are in a hurry most of the time. Our movements and breathing follow this pattern. Perhaps you have noticed in your yoga practice how your mind and body mirror each other. The increasing stress of modern living makes us breathe more quickly and less deeply. Other reasons could be related to negative emotional states, reduced physical activity,  environmental pollution and even our culture (the desire for an attractive flat stomach results in gripping and holding of the abdominals. This interferes with deep breathing and gradually makes shallow “chest breathing” seem normal, which increases tension and anxiety.)

Medical journals suggest that fast, shallow breathing can cause fatigue, sleep disorders, anxiety, stomach upsets, heart burn, gas, muscle cramps, dizziness, visual problems, chest pain, and heart palpitations.

Disordered Breathing Patterns

In addition to fast, shallow breathing, you might resort to chest breathing which is a habitual pattern failing to fully exhale and inhale. Other disordered patterns include mouth breathing, breath holding and hyperventilating.  When the sympathetic nervous system is switched on all the time, it can lead to changes in anxiety, blood pH, muscle tone, pain threshold, to only name a few. Overuse of accessory breathing muscles can lead to neck and shoulder pain/dysfunction and could even mimic cardiovascular and gastrointestinal problems.

Typical symptoms of disorder breathing can include:

  • Frequent sighing and yawning
  • Breathing discomfort
  • Disturbed sleep
  • Erratic heartbeats
  • Feeling anxious and uptight
  • Pins and needles
  • Upset gut/nausea
  • Clammy hands
  • Chest Pains
  • Shattered confidence
  • Tired all the time
  • Achy muscles and joints
  • Dizzy spells or feeling spaced out
  • Irritability or hypervigilance
  • Feeling of ‘air hunger’
  • Breathing discomfort
  • Back pain. Research suggests there is correlation between breathing pattern disorders and low back pain.

Our reactions to stress is also known as the “fight-or-flight” response because it evolved as a survival mechanism, enabling people to react quickly to life-threatening situations. The carefully orchestrated yet near-instantaneous sequence of hormonal changes and physiological responses helps someone to fight the threat off or flee to safety. Unfortunately, the body can also overreact to stressors that are not life-threatening, such as traffic jams, work pressure, and family difficulties.

The stress response suppresses the immune system, increasing our susceptibility to colds and illnesses. The build up of stress can lead to anxiety and depression.

We can learn to use our breath as one tool to down-regulate the sympathetic nervous system and up-regulate the parasympathetic nervous system that helps the body rest, digest and recover.  The body is designed to spend the majority of its time in the parasympathetic nervous system.  Ideally, it only uses the sympathetic nervous system for true life-threatening emergencies.

To learn how to optimize your breathing to reduce stress register for my Breathing for Stress and Anxiety workshop May 20, 2017 at Leslieville Sanctuary. These are skills that you take with you in the car, at work and play. This workshop is appropriate for kids, teens and adults. No yoga experience is required.

To find out how you can host a Breathing Workshop for Stress and Anxiety at your workplace contact me for details.

Spring into Action – New classes, workshops and retreats

PhotoShoot_EmilieDee_meditationSpring a time of renewal and growth is certainly upon us. As I write this the rain pours down from all angles and the sky is grey. The first signs of spring precariously poke through the soft earth and shout gleefully that spring is finally here. Warmer weather is around the corner and we are getting antsy to resume outdoor activities and focus on our health.

I have been busy planting and nurturing the seeds of some new and current classes, workshops and retreats that are coming up in the next couple months. Now is a great time to dedicate time for a yoga practice to help prepare yourself for the coming summer months of athletics, travel and outdoor adventures. Yoga helps us to keep our body supple and strong, prevent injuries and pain, and helps us come into a grounded state of calm and clarity.  To help support and nurture all that  you do I have a new studio class starting at Leslieville Sanctuary on Tuesday evenings from 7:15-8:30pm called Yoga Foundations.

Yoga Foundations a slow paced, gentle, rehabilitative style class to help you develop flexibility, improve range of motion, and stability moving from a state of relaxation rather than moving through tension or over efforting. This class is perfect for anyone who wants to learn the foundations of yoga in a safe and accessible environment. People with long term injury, pain, or restricted range of movement will also benefit from this class. For experienced yoga practitioners, it is an opportunity to come back to basics, learn to move more purely and nourish the freedom in your body.

On Tuesday and Thursdays from 5:30-6:30pm I am teaching group Hatha yoga classes at Avalon Woods Fitness (ages 40+) in Etobicoke. Classes are free with Membership or drop rates/class passes are available.

Starting April 19th until June you can register for Yoga + Networking at Marani Law on Wednesdays from 6:15pm-7:15pm. Grab a friend from work and come meet some new people. This is a 10 week session package for $150.

April 29th from 1:30-3:30pm I am teaching  a Yoga Rehab workshop  on Breathing Your Way to Wellness. Our breathe plays an unparalleled role in how the systems of our body function. Beginning with awareness we reveal the awesome power of healing that is already within us. Learn some anatomy and physiology as it relates to the breath, uncover your breathing style and learn how to breathe easier to reduce stress + anxiety, sleep better and move better.

In May I am launching a Complete 12 Day Cleanse and Yoga workshop with Naturopathic doctor Corina Dinca in Don Mills. Despite our best intentions we often veer of the path of wellness and get stuck in emotionally guided patterns of eating and neglect self-care. Sometimes all we need is little bit of support and motivation to kickstart new habits. This 12 day program is designed to educate, develop awareness, support and motivate you to make small changes that have a significant and lasting impact on your health and wellness goals. Whether you want to lose weight, start exercising, address mental and emotional concerns or to develop greater balance in your life this program provides you with the knowledge and skills to get there.

Join me June 4, 2017 for a Day Retreat to Crawford Lake. We will hike around Crawford Lake and appreciate nature in all it’s glory. We will stop for an hour Hatha Flow yoga class and then enjoy a vegetarian lunch. In the afternoon we will explore some trails and practice a walking meditation. The cost is $80 and includes lunch.

To learn more about any of these classes, workshops or retreats please get in touch with me.

Yoga Rehab

yoga rehab photoPain doesn’t have to be a normal part of everyday life. When we learn how to effectively improve the function of our shoulders and hips we perform better in our athletic endeavours, we can chase after our kids with more ease and life becomes more enjoyable.

After the success of my first two Pain Clinic Workshops for hip and shoulders I’ve decided to offer a combo class specifically for yoga teachers, fitness instructors and students to learn the skills to get out of pain, improve the function of their hips and shoulders so they can feel great and get back to the activities that they love or even to excel at the activities they already enjoy.

Often times as a teacher, we see our students or clients struggle or hit a road block in their progress due to pain, injury, or lack of range of motion. As a teacher do you notice your clients cringing in pain? Struggling to breathe or holding their breath in a posture or exercise? Finding excuses? Cancelling appointments? Afraid to re-injure themselves?

Learn the skills to move better without pain, nurture relaxation and move optimally with stability and ease.

When we move better, we feel better and we can enjoy life more.

My next workshop is called Yoga Rehab and it will be held Saturday, March 25th at Leslieville Sanctuary 1:30-3:30pm. Cost is $45 + hst. Participants will receive a handout and free practice video.

Contact me to register or ask a question.

Yoga For Pain

img_5901Healing should be a holistic, multidisciplinary approach. We are a sum of our parts, and there is not just one healthcare provider that provide the solution.

I am drawn to yoga because it embraces a wide scope. It can address the physical, the mental, emotional, spiritual, and energetic elements of healing. Aryuveda, the sister science to yoga, addresses diet, constitution and how it relates with the other elements. Yoga teaches awareness and develops our relationship to our body-mind so that we can learn to intuitively listen to our bodies and know what it needs to be well.

Yoga for Pain begins to address these layers with simple movement, breath work, developing awareness and meditation. Skills are built incrementally moving from simple to complex based on the needs of the individual. Yoga for Pain workshops are one way you can begin to address pain within a wide scope, in one modality.

In my workshops  you will learn 8 principles that will help to guide you on your journey to wellbeing.  You will learn foundational poses that you can practice everyday, and even apply to existing yoga practices or other athletics or day to day activities. When you attend a workshop, you will also receive a video of the key poses so you can continue to practice at home.

I also work with a team of chiropractors, acupuncturists, physiotherapists, massage therapists, facial stretch therapists, personal trainers and naturopathic doctors and psychotherapists that I can refer you to for a balanced, holistic, approach that will  speed the rate of your recovery.

There is no pain too big or too small that doesn’t warrant care. Small pain eventually become bigger pains if we ignore them. Pain is not something physical we must endure. It affects us emotionally and psychologically as well. It effects our relationships and how we live or don’t live our lives. Pain is not a “normal” part of life. Pain just doesn’t show up in our lives for no reason. It’s a sign that something in our lives needs to change.

Learn more about Pain Clinic workshops here.