My 10 Year Yoga Anniversary

 

The past 10 years of my yoga journey has had a lot of up downs and learning experiences. I started practicing yoga in Hong Kong when I worked there as a teacher at an International School. I got into teaching Kids Yoga to my students while I was there then upgraded to 200 hr Yoga Teacher Training when I moved back to Canada. As a private and corporate yoga teacher I noticed many of my students were limited by pain due to repetitive stress or a health diagnosis. Unequipped with the appropriate skills to help them I started learning yoga therapy, which not only got me out of pain from a previous car accident, it also helped my students get out of pain. Now in private practice as yoga therapist and approaching my 10th Yoga Anniversary, I reflected back on what has happened during that time. My reflections showed up as ways I have changed or evolved and lessons I have learned along the way. Here are my top 10 lists for my last 10 years.

 

My Top 10 lessons learned

  1. Don’t take yourself too seriously.
  2. Yoga processes don’t change who you are – you get clearer on who you are – you change how you are. I used to think a long pilgrimage or seeking spiritual enlightenment was going to provide the answers I was seeking. No matter where we are in the journey, we are always going to have troubles and how we show up with the problems as they arise is the testament of transformation. True change and transformation happens bit by bit, by taking incremental baby steps over time.
  3. Advanced yoga is not crazy, contoronist postures. Advanced yoga is the willingness and ability to do as little as possible, keep coming back to the basics and learning something new about yourself. We have a tendency to work too hard in yoga classes. Slowing down and cultivating a sense of ease is necessary for healing to happen.
  4. Relaxing and letting go is not a thing that you do.  Relaxation and letting go is the result of slowing down and cultivating ease. The better we feel, the easier it is to let go of things or people that make us feel crappy.
  5. In any aspect of life, if you want a different outcome, something has to change – you might have to do something differently or see things from a different perspective.
  6. Sometimes what you are attracted to is not what you need, sometimes it is. Being able to discern is a process. Mindfulness practices can help us grow our awareness and presence moment to moment.
  7. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and make requests. Advocate for what you need.
  8. When you learn how your body is meant to move and move in a way that doesn’t increase tension, strain or pain, progress is going to be a lot faster and meaningful.
  9. The more we can feel, the more we will become aware and the better we can listen to our bodies signals communicating with us. This means more opportunities for us to choose how we respond to those signals. With practice we can start to discern how our body is constantly communicating with us right down to the subtle, nuanced whispers.
  10. Taking time for self-care and making it part of your daily life is the single most important thing you can do. You deserve to proactively take care of your health.

Top 10 Ways I have Evolved

  1. Asana – For me it started off being all about the yoga poses. The poses were the thing to strive towards for a long time, until I realized that they weren’t the thing – the movement piece became a catalyst for everything else.
  2. Resilience – I am resilient AF. I’ve come to a point in my life where I can look back at the challenges and take lessons from all of it. I now appreciate and look forward to change. I embrace challenge.
  3. Awareness – I’ve become very aware of all the things I was tolerating. Releasing the stuff and people that I no longer want to tolerate has given me much more freedom to notice other stuff  that matters.
  4. Grounded – People often describe me as being very grounded and confident.  I use to feel untethered, all. the. time. My mind kept me awake at night. I worried. I was stressed. I was anxious. I was angry, easily irritated, frustrated. Dedication to my yoga practices and routines  helped me release all of these things and I now have the skills to manage them when they do show up.
  5. Gratitude – Learning how to practice gratitude on a daily basis was another catalyst for change. It made me more resilient, more aware, kinder, more compassionate, more grounded and happier.
  6. Health – I have far fewer colds, less aches and pains, I sleep better, have more energy, and am physically stronger and have better movement patterns and a greater awareness of what is related to not feeling well.
  7. Priorities – Self-care has become a priority. If I’m not healthy and am feeling over stressed then what’s the point? I’ve learned how to create a self-care lifestyle and set healthy boundaries with work and not feel guilty about it
  8. Presence – I engage in a lot of introspection, personal reflection and contemplation. I am getting better and better at being in the moment. Meditation and mindfulness helps.  Listening to the language of my body (mindfulness) – noticing the physiological sensations, mental chatter, emotional responses, etc inform my decisions and interactions.
  9. Values – Recently I’ve been focusing more of my attention on my values. They evolve and change over time. What was important to me in my mid-twenties, is not the same as in my mid-thirties. There is also a difference between the values I aspire to and the values I actually live, those which are demonstrated through my actions and behaviour. I’ve also noticed that my values might not always be completely mine. Part of my values are created in my relationships with others. “I am because we are.” – African proverb.
  10. Seeking Support – I used to think I had to and could do it all on my own. Migraines forced me to seek medical help and I’ve since realized in other areas of my life  that I can’t do it all on my own either. There is no shame in asking for help or support. Working with my own yoga therapist was one of the best things I’ve ever done. Support is necessary. Seeking support is  an act of self-love – something we need to give ourselves more of.

No matter who you are, we all have a deep need for support. Ask for it. Don’t be afraid to seek it out. Know that I’m here to support you too. If you feel like you need some support to come up with a self-care plan that is appropriate for your life I’d be really happy to chat with you.

What I Learned from my Digestive Reset

Last year I did my first Digestive Reset. The purpose is to promote health by helping us align with nature’s rhythms. In the Fall our nervous system and digestive systems are more sensitive to stress. This also effects our immune system, given that it activates during times of stress to protect us. This digestive reset helps us to prepare, balance and align with the changes in the qualities from summer to fall.  The nitty gritty involved a process of eliminating some stuff from my diet (I chose things like gluten, black tea, sugar, chocolate and red meat) and adding some self-care practices like body oiling, tongue scraping, neti, daily meditation,  yoga, alternate nostril breathing along with a mono-diet that involved eating Kitchari for breakfast, lunch and dinner and eliminating snacking. Since it was the first time there was definitely a learning curve with some of the spices and getting the right texture for the mung beans and rice.  The self-care practice was easy peasy compared to the diet portion. Caffeine and sugar withdrawal are definitely brutal for the first couple days.  Eating the same thing everyday was torture after the 2nd or 3rd day. I admit I had to cheat a little bit just to have some variety while still trying to stick to an Ayurvedic diet. Like a recurring injury that arises because of a physically weak spot in our bodies, I started to notice the  weaknesses in my mind and the stories I’d tell myself about my perceived struggle. You definitely start to learn some lessons about your relationship to food and perceived hunger. I say “perceived” hunger because those feelings of hunger are usually because something else is going on (thirst, boredom, stress).  Despite the struggles I ended up feeling better because of it. All abdominal bloating from my previous eating habits had disappeared and I discovered to my pleasure that I actually have a nice flat belly! Who knew! Energy was up and consistent. I was sleeping great and aches and pains settled out. 

My experience this year, while similar has a greater sense of ease to the whole process. This year I experienced a headache interspersed with migraines for the first 6 days and then I felt great after. Unlike last year, I mastered my Kitchari making skills and it wasn’t hard to stick to the mono-diet. Like anything, a little bit of planning and intention setting can do wonders. I was also much better able to listen to the signals my body was providing and the struggle was much, much less. Sticking with my meditation practice felt easier and I could sit for longer. As an added bonus I even lost some weight without restricting food and feeling hungry.

This year I started my second Fall Digestive Reset after Thanksgiving  (they are done during seasonal transitions going into Fall and Spring). It was 10 days (the spring one is a month). This what I learned for myself:

  1. Abdominal discomfort and bloating are definitely diet related.
  2. Our bodies are masters at adapting to what we put it in. The withdrawal symptoms are clear signals of what I was putting in was keeping me limited and creating cravings.
  3. Eating wholesome, nutritious food, regularly at meal times cuts down on the desire to snack and decreased cravings.
  4. Feeling hungry and going to the grocery store with my husband shed light on all kinds of food cravings that I probably would have given into otherwise. Shop when satiated. Make healthy choices.
  5. If you can get through the headaches and irritation you are going to feel light, clean and energized after. I feel less desire to jump back into old eating habits. (although as my load increased babysit my niece and nephew so did my old eating habits. A curious correlation between stress and food…)
  6. The second time around was much easier than last year.
  7. My gut doesn’t like milk and caffeine makes me more tired and foggy. I kinda already knew this but now definitely confirmed.

This spring I will participate in a month long digestive reset as a part of my yoga therapy training program. If you are interested in learning more visit my Ayurvedic teacher Mona Warner at Janati Yoga.

 

Cozy Up With Ashawaganda Hot Chocolate

As we head into Fall and add on the layers to keep warm, we can cozy up with our loved ones over this nourishing variation of hot chocolate. In a previous post I talked about reducing qualities that leave us feeling untethered or ungrounded, cold and light and nature the opposite qualities such as heavy, warm and stable.. We want to decrease the stimulants like alcohol and caffeine and increase adaptogens like tulsi and ashwaganda. This root is sometimes known as Indian ginseng and is used for its restorative benefits, strengthening the immune system and apparently supporting sexual potency! Ashwaganada has a strong heating quality making it perfect for cold weather. I found it at my local Bulk Barn if you’re wondering where you can buy it.

ASHWAGANDHA HOT CHOCOLATE

This recipe was shared with me from my Ayurvedic teacher Mona Warner… It’s so yummy!

Ingredients: (makes 2 servings)

  • 1 tsp of ashwagandha
  • 1 tbsp raw cacao powder (I use 2 tbsp…  I love chocolate)
  • 2 cups milk
  • Maple syrup (or your sweetener of preference) to sweeten

Mix all the ingredients in a small sauce pan. Warm on medium and whisk to dissolve the powders into the milk. No need to boil.

When lightly steaming, remove from heat and put in 2 cups or if you’re like me, 1 big mug. I also like to add a cinnamon stick and freshly grated nutmeg to garnish cause I’m fancy like that. Enjoy!

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.

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 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

Corporate Yoga the Best Investment You Can Make

If you were guaranteed a 300% return on your investment would you sign on the dotted line? Absolutely. What about when it comes to your health? Despite the research and statistics that are out there, we continue to play Russian Roulette with our health. We work hard to make money so we can live the life we desire. But what is all that money worth if we are not healthy enough to enjoy our lives the way we want to?

When our health declines, it doesn’t happen overnight. It is a slow and steady descent that is often difficult to recover from and usually results in one or more losses in our lives. We are proactive with our finances: we save; we invest for the future. Now is the time to also start being proactive in our health and the path to better health can begin at work.

Companies want employees with unique specialized skills: people who go above and beyond expectations. They anticipate challenges and respond to opportunities that create growth and value for the company. Whether it is sales, marketing, finance, law, or something in between, companies want their employees to be at the top of their game and to be productive all day, every day. Unfortunately, the reality is that our bodies are not physiologically designed to withstand the demands and stresses we impose upon ourselves during long busy days at the office.

You don’t wake up one day and decide to be sick or unwell. Unless you are in an accident, there is likely something happening over time that causes the body to break down and become ill. Stress has become normalized in the workplace; many people don’t even realize that they are stressed. General busy-ness, hurriedness and day-to-day chaos place our bodies in a constant state of fight or flight for extended periods of time. Our natural state should be one of rest and repose, which is now becoming the exception rather than the rule.

Burnout rates are higher than ever. Sick leave, stress leave, and mental health leave are becoming regular occurrences. These conditions aren’t only a cost to the health of the person afflicted but they also cost that person’s company time, money and manpower.

So what are smart modern proactive companies doing about this? Leading companies are working with health and wellness service providers who offer solutions to these problems, health and wellness providers like me. Companies expect a lot from their employees. Workers likewise give a lot of their time and effort to be successful and productive. So why not invest in yourself and your people? When companies invest in their employees’ wellness they can expect three dollars in cost savings and benefits for every dollar spent.

Corporate Yoga is a wonderful proactive approach that companies are bringing on board to help keep executives and their employees healthy, happy and productive. Often times when someone hears the word yoga, they immediately think of hyper-flexibility and fitness. Yoga is so much more than that and it doesn’t require any flexibility whatsoever. Yoga is an adaptable system that affects the body, the mind and the spirit in profound ways that literally change how we think, act, and feel.

Companies can help workers improve their mental clarity, boost creativity and sharpen their problem solving skills. The beauty of yoga is that it extends itself off the yoga mat and out of the yoga class into your day-to-day work and activities. You learn mental and physical skills that you first apply with some effort, but that will become second nature.

Looking for a long-term solution to improving the bottom line, cultivating healthy workers and maintaining happy bosses?

A good corporate yoga teacher is your trusted advisor who will work to understand your company’s needs and provide solutions that are customized and unique to your workplace and its people.

To learn how you can energize your workplace from individuals to teams to departments email me at lindsay@innergycorporateyoga.com for a complimentary onsite consultation. Customized. Informed. Educated. Wellness for life.

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.

Myths about Injury, Pain, Ache and Strain & The Truths of Healing – Part 2

Tree Handstand VariationIs my last article I discussed Susi Hately’s* 5 myths about pain and truths about healing. Here are 5 more to convince you that life without pain is entirely possible. It is all up to you.

Healing from pain should be a multi-disciplinary team effort. Going to just one healthcare/wellness practitioner may provide some ease from the discomfort but the pain keeps returning.  Often what we fail to realize is that the problem doesn’t lie in the same place that feel the pain. Restriction through the hips can be the source of knee or ankle pain for example. Elbow or wrist pain from the shoulder blades. That being said, to address the issue of pain is to treat the whole person, not just the “spot” of pain.

Along with your yoga therapist you may wish to see your chiropractor to relieve subluxations, massage therapy to relax and calm the muscles, physio, osteo, acupuncturist, naturopath, aromatherapist, reiki, healing waters,  etc. Diet too, is often overlooked when it comes to the healing process of physical pain. The food that we consume can impact how we think, feel and act. It is important that you also take this into consideration and get tested for food allergies (I won’t go any further into this today).

Here are 5 more myths about pain the truths of healing:

Sixth Myth: Acheyness is normal.

Sixth Truth: Physiologically, yes, it is. And, it doesn’t have to be a normal part of your life.

 

Seventh Myth: Being achey is a part of yoga.

Seventh Truth: Nope. Ease is part of yoga.

 

Eighth Myth: Pulling the shoulders back, belly in and chin in/back is part of improving posture.

Eighth Truth: A well-functioning body surrenders upward. This creates a calm, steady, and strong posture.

 

Ninth Myth: Once pain is there, it will never be resolved.

Ninth Truth: Tissue can change. It is a matter of listening and being aware and then acting on what you hear and perceive.

 

Tenth Myth: Pain is just a way of life.

Tenth Truth: For now, maybe. And if there is a compelling reason for change, and the right professional/team of professionals to guide you, anything can change.

When you work with me in rehabilitative yoga, I can refer you to excellent healthcare/wellness providers in Toronto to help you get out of pain fast.

(*Myths published by Susi Hately – Functional Synergy)