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.

Private Yoga Downtown Toronto

From February 13-16, 2018 I will be teaching private sessions at The Coach House at 7 Admiral Road in the Annex. 

Schedule:

Tuesday (Feb 13): 11am – 3pm

Wednesday (Feb 14): 2pm – 7pm

Thursday (Feb 15): 11am – 3pm

Friday (Feb 16): 1pm – 6pm

Sign up now for a one hour introductory session and find out how rehabilitative yoga can change how you move, how you relate to your body, and unlock your healing potential for long-term sustainable results.

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.

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.

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)

Art of Attention with Elena Brower

IMG_2820I have spent the last 4 days in the presence and teaching of the gifted Elena Brower here in Toronto. The first time I experienced one of Elena’s classes was  4 or 5 years ago at her studio in New York City. Since that day, I’ve been waiting for the opportunity to learn from her again. The yoga teacher training was 14 hours over two days as well as an additional 4 hours of practice. She shared with us Vedic meditation, Katonah Yoga, Para Yoga, and Kundalini yoga which all together opened our hearts, re-patterned our bodies and minds and powerfully connected us to our centre and to each other. This experience confirmed again, the power of yoga when practiced intentionally and appropriately. Elena reinforced my belief that great teachers are good students. A great teacher is a life long student with an authentic self-practice. Authentic teaching is an offering of what we know, with the humility of honouring our teachers; sharing what we have learned without trying to prove anything.

The cleansing kriyas of Kundalini, the powerful mantras of Vedic meditation, and the transformational essence of Katonah and Para yoga brought us back to what Elena calls our home frequency. A place where creativity flows and freedom abounds. As always I love to share what I have learned. If you are interested in learning more, please get in touch.