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Find Your Balance
Music To Move You
Find YOUR Summer Body
Mindful Cooking: Enjoy Your Time in the Kitchen
Taking Yoga off the Mat

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yoga

Find Your Balance

Summer is coming to a close. Kids are headed back to school. Vacation vibes are finished for now.  While the change of seasons always brings excitement, if also brings a bit of frantic energy to the air.  We are often running around, filling the schedule to the brim, and feeling drained a few weeks in.  It’s hard to strike a balance. How can we find peace when life gets hectic? Maybe it’s not about changing up the schedule to find moments to relax, but about finding ways to relax in each moment along the way.

The Yoga Sutras suggest that we should have an “alertness without tension and a relaxation without heaviness.”  Easier said than done! We are constantly walking a fine line between overworking and under-working, active energy and passive energy, alertness and relaxation.  BUT it is possible to find a balance. Here are some things you can do anywhere, anytime to stay centered.

Breathe
When a challenging moment arises we go into fight or flight mode. The sympathetic nervous system kicks in. Our heart rate increases. Our blood pressure goes up. We experience stress in our body and mind.  Deep abdominal breathing helps up tap in to the parasympathetic nervous system., allowing the body to go into a “rest and digest” state of being.  The good news is that your breath is easily accessible! It is flowing all day, every day. So next time you feel yourself fly into a state of tension try closing your eyes and taking 3 to 5 full, deep breaths. Feel the change.

Try a Mantra
Whether you are feeling sluggish or tense a mantra can be a useful tool in shaping your outlook on the day.  It can be one word or one sentence.  When you feel yourself teetering off your center, try repeating your manta a few times, either in your head of out loud.  They work great for kids too. I recently used this one for my 3 year old and myself: “I accept my feelings today, good or bad, just as they are.  They are perfect.” A few others that I find helpful are:
“I am strong, stable, and at peace”
“I am thankful.”
“My words are seeds.”
"Breathe in peace. Breathe out tension."

Practice Non-Attachment
When your to-do list is long and you feel your mind racing to keep up, try practicing non-attachment to guide you back to a place of peace.  Allow thoughts to flow without latching on to them or judging them. Positive thoughts AND negative thoughts can make us feel overwhelmed. Realizing that our thoughts do not make us who we are is liberating.  We have the power to let go. Try to detach by staying connected to the present moment. Look around you. Notice your physical surroundings.  Concentrate on your breath. Say your mantra.  Do some yoga! Non-attachment does not come easily, so practicing it just as you would with any other skill, sport, or artistic pursuit is necessary. With time it will come easy.

Happy fall! And happy balancing! :)

Music To Move You

Music and movement are undoubtedly intertwined. Studies have shown songs choices can make us move faster, work harder, and distract us from discomfort while exercising. One study even revealed that music can activate parts of the brain related to movement even in persons who are completely still. So why not use music as a tool, not to distract or push beyond natural limits, but to support your yoga practice moment by moment?  When choosing music for my personal yoga practice and classes I let the asana guide the soundtrack, not the other way around.

I want to provide music that will move yogis on a physical and emotional level, not distract them from what is happening on the mat. I try to choose songs that are ambient and soothing and suit each moment of class...Slow indulgent tunes for the warm up. Peppy, rhythmic songs for the work phase, and rich, cathartic sounds for the deeper more restorative poses. I want the music to support the asana from moment to moment. When you need a burst of energy the music is there to fill your body. When you are ready to open the emotional flood gates the music will give you permission to do so.

All this being said, taste in music is obviously a very personal choice. I can't please everyone all the time...But mixing the soundtrack with different sounds, genres, styles makes for an eclectic flow that is sure to please someone at some point (I hope). Opening with a more traditional Sanskrit chant and then sneaking in some Adele later on is not uncommon practice for me.

Practice yoga at home? Need some musical inspiration? Below is a sample playlist from a recent class. Enjoy with joy. :)

Warm up-
Stoned on Shiva by Steve Gold
A Path with a Heart by TJ Rehmi   
Gooey by Glass Animals

Work-
Soak It Up by Houses
Holiday by The Hip Abduction
Send my Love by Adele
Soul Miner by Tommy Guerrero
Sitar lights by Dj Drez
Sita Ram by Madi Das

Restore-
Let it Go by James Bay
Bell Service by Feist and Grizzly Bear
There is a Light by Steve Gold

Taking Yoga off the Mat

In my classes I often invite practitioners to take their yoga off the mat. I have had a love/hate relationship with yoga over the years…There was a time when the practice was solely about making shapes in space, strengthening the muscles, and blowing off steam. I was practicing for the physical benefits. After a while I started taking my yoga off the mat and noticed more profound changes in my mental well-being. Calm on the mat doesn't necessarily translate to calm off the mat. Here are 3 ways I try to in operate yoga into my daily life.

Breath Work
Challenging moments happen to all of us…from the mundane (the kids are screaming, you butt heads with a work colleague, someone cuts you off on the road), to the profound (you lose a loved one, you are dealing with illness, a difficult life decision presents itself). Deep breathing is a powerful tool that can help decrease stress in any situation. By using deep diaphragmatic breathing we stimulate our vagus nerve, which helps our body to relax and avoid feelings of fight or flight in stressful situations. Try it the next time you are feeling stressed. At first it might feel a bit forced, but after a while it will become a natural way to self soothe.

Practice Non-Attachment
Have you felt as if your thoughts would consume you? That you were missing out on the present moment by focusing on fears or worries in your own mind? This kind of thinking often does one a disservice. When I feel this happening to me I try to practice non attachment. I allow negative or stressful thoughts float into my mind just as easily as they floated in. A good way to detach from these thoughts is remind yourself to live in the present. Meditation techniques such as reminding yourself to breathe or using a mantra can help. “Be here now.” is one of my favorites. With practice, non-attachment will feel like second nature.

Namaste
Namaste stays it all: “The Divine light in me bows to the Divine light in you.”
It has taken many years to discover the weight of namaste, but I must say that understanding it greatly increases my ability to connect with others and find happiness in my relationships daily. In every person I meet I try to recognize that they have a Divine light. Each person has an experience as vivid and complex as my own. So whether it is the guy bagging my groceries or my own daughter, I try to treat them as if I was living their reality. Maybe it’s God? Maybe it’s just the universal spirit that connects us all? Whatever it is, recognizing that makes for a better existence. If you choose love you cannot go wrong.

Partner Up for Family Yoga

Adult participation is always encouraged in my toddler yoga classes. Yes, it helps to make the little ones more comfortable and open to explore, but it also helps the grownups find their own mind body connection. I often hear the parents say things like "I should be doing more yoga." Or "Man, this feels so good!" So I say, DO MORE! If you have no time to devote to yoga without your kiddos, try a family yoga session. Here are some fun ways to create a family practice that will benefit both you and your little one.



Chair pose/Wall sit
This is an awesome way to strengthen the core and lower body, and if you know how to sit on a chair you can do it! Try out a wide legged chair pose side by side with you child. Imagine you can sit way back in a tiny imaginary chair. For a little more support try chair pose using the wall (a wall sit).Take 5 to 10 deep breaths together.







Tree in the wind
For balance, work on your tree pose together. First the child can strike a tree pose as the adult moves all around them like "the wind." The goal is to stay balanced and strong as the wind whooshes all around you. Then switch roles and allow your child to dance like the wind and knock you down.








Upside-down Dog
Everyone enjoys the thrill of going upside-down.
Children and adults can practice this hand stand modification at the wall.
Create a down dog “L” shape with your body by placing hands on the floor and feet on the wall. For extra excitement bark or howl like a dog!










Sunning on a rock
This is a wonderful restorative pose for child and adult. The adult sits on their heels with bent knees as the child stands behind. Your backs should be touching. Nice and slow the child can lay back as the adult takes a child’s pose (rock). Let your child sun on the rock for 5 to 10 breaths.










Foot rubs
You are never too young (or old) to enjoy a foot rub. End your practice by using some scented lotion to massage your child's feet. And then switch and allow them to rub yours. Not only will it be relaxing for both, but it's a wonder sensory exercise for the kiddos. I love the lavender scented lotion from Jivamukti.




The most important thing is to be creative and playful in your practice.  There are hidden games inside the asanas. If you make your practice flexible and inclusive, the whole family can reap the benefits.



Do You Have a Dumb Ass?


There are major incentives to using your buttocks properly....not just to look good in your favorite jeans. If your glutes are firing properly they can improve posture, increase pelvic floor strength, and protect your joints. We live in a very "seated" society which tends to create "dumb" asses. They just don’t know how to engage because we have not taught them to do so. Sitting for long periods of time can re-position the natural tilt of the pelvis and stretch out already weak gluteus muscles. Compare the tribal poteriors below to a typical western booty. It is easy to tell which one is going unused. I am just being cheeky and overgeneralizing a bit, but keep reading to find out if you have a dumb ass...
















Test Your Ass

While walking normally, place your right hand on your right butt cheek. Ideally your gluteal muscles will be working while you are walking. If you do not feel the muscle engaging as you walk, then your buttocks is probably not firing properly. Most likely you are pulling yourself along with the front leg and putting most of the work in the quadriceps (front of the thigh). Repeat on the other side. You also may notice that one side is much better at engaging than the other.  You can use the same touch test when doing a lunge.The gluteus muscle of the back leg should feel firm and engaged to the touch.

Another thing to note is the position of your pelvis. In our seated society we are often tilting the pelvic bowl backwards and losing the neutral tilt of the pelvic bowl. This not only takes the work out if our glutes, but puts strain on the pelvic floor, the lower back, and the hip joint. The illustrations below show the correct, "neutral" position of the pelvis. If the pelvis is positioned correctly, then your glutes will be properly firing.


Cultivating a Smart Ass

If you feel your ass needs some educating (many people’s do), then you can start by consciously engaging your glutes on a regular basis. When walking or running think about pushing off the back leg instead of pulling yourself along with the front leg.  If you work out or practice yoga, engage the glutes of the back leg whenever you are in any lunging pose (Front/back lunge, warriors, high lunge, low lunge). When doing squats (or simply standing up from a chair) put your weight way back in your heels, don’t over tuck the tail, and imagine your sits bones are pulling away from one another.  You should feel your buttocks engage!

You can also work on finding the neutral curve of your lower back. Make sure you are not super tucking your pelvis on a regular basis.  If you have to sit for long periods of time at work, take breaks to stand and walk around.  Try some cow/cat tilts by extending and flexing your spine.  You can do this movement seated, standing, or on all fours.  If you stand sideways in front of a full length mirror you will be able to observe the tilt of your own pelvis. The goal is to have a slight curve of the lower back. Try not to over tuck or over arch.

With time and patience a dumb ass can be taught! And a smart ass looks good in jeans too… so fire up that booty. 

 
 
 
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