Category Archives: health

Mindfullness Apps I Love

It’s no longer realistic to think mindfulness is contained to meditating on a beach or chanting alone in the forest. One of the most inspirational teacher/healers I know, Silvia Mordini, is known as an Apple ‘Power User.’ People are amazing- we adapt to new technologies and invent ways to cultivate mindfulness within them. Here are some apps I have used that keep me centered while I’m on my phone 22.5 hours out of the day…

HEADSPACE: My #1 choice for meditation apps. It’s a simple, creative, modern app for anyone- experienced with meditation or not. The main program is called ‘Take Ten,’ with several 10 minute meditations beginning with very simple techniques and building on them. 

INSIGHT MEDITATION TIMER: The basic function of this app is a peaceful/gentle alarm that tells you when the time you have allotted for meditation is over. I need this because I’ll be anxious about being late or whatever if I don’t set a timer. This app also shows how many other people around the world are using the app to meditate which is pretty cool. You can choose between singing bowls, chimes, etc to peacefully awake you from meditation.

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SPOTIFY: I would consider this a mindfulness app because music brings me so much joy and peace. This is by far the app I use the most. If I were homeless I’d still find a way to get the $9 a month for this app. My Playlists (mostly yoga class playlists)

ANGEL CARDS (old school verion): This is sort of a silly one. I read my real Angel Cards (these ones by Doreen Virtue) every day, but this app is just a little reminder to cultivate the beautiful qualities in angel cards. It has funny music and you can even write little notes with the cards you get.

I still have not found a good app for finding yoga in the area.. I just use Yelp or Google.

All of these can be found my searching the APP store on your iphone or ipad.

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Get Clean

I haven’t been good lately. I’ve been strictly vegetarian for sure.. but I’ve been a booze-atarian bordering on drunkorexic. I’ve fallen into the same trap as millions of people. Working 60 hours a week resulting in eating shitty food, lapsing in self care, and self-medicating with beer, chocolate, and even vegan junk food I trick myself into thinking is healthy.

I will never be happy being just okay. I know from being on a high raw diet for years that my mind and body can do extraordinary things when I give them the right care. I believe a good diet can cure my chronic inflammation, help me shed unhealthy belly fat (the worst kind!) and help me be a more peaceful, happy person.

What prompted this was on Thursday I reached a breaking point. I knew my pathetic work/life balance (if you could even call it that) was not sustainable and my body felt like a dark heavy lump I was dragging around from job to job. A couple tears and $70 at Whole Foods later and I made about a gallon of green juice that I am nearly finished with after two days. I feel so much better.

Here’s the plan. February 28 starts the detox and rehabilitation process.

GOALS:

  • Fresh green juices: At least one a day. Other fruit/veg juices are bonus but getting the greens in is essential.
  • Green Smoothies: Daily. I already do this almost every day but having this goal will keep me on track.
  • 30 minutes of meditation a day: This is a huge goal and a time investment for me. After my vipassana retreat in 2013, my meditation practice has been confined to the 5 minutes of Savasana after yoga and the couple minutes when my eyes are closed before I fall asleep. 15 minutes, morning and evening. I will make time for it.
  • Practice yoga 5 times per week.
  • Work-out/Lift weights 2-3x per week: I feel 100000x better when I do this.
  • Strive for a high raw/paleo diet. Cutting out grains, dairy, legumes, processed sugar. I am not cutting out alcohol or coffee but I’m going to try to keep it to a minimum. Wine, cocktails with soda water and lemon or lime, and when possible fresh fruit juices.
  • Supplementation: Apple cidar vinegar, Algae Oil, trace minerals, and turmeric DAILY. These are things that have been recommended to me from healers but I haven’t quite been able to commit to, even though they’re sitting in my cupboard. It’s time.
  • Sunday Technology Detox: Take sundays off to be with friends, alone time, play the piano, practice yoga, rest. Keep phone/computer time to a minimum and don’t work.

February 28 I will weight myself, take measurements and photos. Because who doesn’t love a good before and after post?

Any suggestions, encouragement, words of wisdom?

love always,

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Fix how you sit! Tips from my rolfer

Yesterday I had my second rolfing session. While rolfing doesn’t feel particularly feel good like a massage, it’s totally worth it to me to go nerd out about anatomy and physiology with my brilliant ‘rolfer.’ I am amazed by her knowledge of the human body and love to pick her brain. I wanted to share with you some of the tips she gave me about sitting that will improve postural alignment and overall balance in my body.

I don’t have a tv, but I told my rolfer that I spend most of my ‘sitting time’ at home at my desk. Right off the bat she recommended that my computer screen be slightly raised so the chin is lifted as opposed to tilted down. Your keyboard should be at a level where you arms sit at a 90 degree angle, like sphinx pose. Your knees should ideally be lower than your hips and your spine erect rather than curved.

Sitting on a very soft surface(like a sofa) puts our pelvis in a posterior tilt and curves our spine, so placing a more firm prop underneath you keeps the spine straighter. It makes sense to me now why most meditation pillows are firm and filled with beads as opposed to soft and fluffy.

I have always had problems with badha konasana, sukhasana, and most sitting meditation poses (without the use of a block) because my spine wants to round and I quickly feel back pain. That being said, these changes have not been easy for me! I am on day two of making these changes at my desk, and my back feels very tired. As I was told by my rolfer, this takes time to develop muscle memory and break the habit of years of slouching.

If these changes are unrealistic, maybe just schedule a pop-up reminder on your computer reminding you to sit up straight!

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For goodness sake- do NOT sit on a ball! It’s almost impossible to sit with a straight spine on such a soft surface.

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Ganesha : The Master of New Beginnings

Happy 2014 Yogis! A time to celebrate sweet endings and exciting new beginnings.

Who is Ganesha? Ganesha is one of the celebrity gods in Hindu philosophy. He is the destroyer of vanity, selfishness, pride and is the remover of obstacles. He clears the obstacles in your life, so there is nothing stopping you between you and your ideal life. I feel Ganesh is a kindred spirit to me because he loves sweets, and he loves to dance!

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He is half boy, half elephant, and the son of Shiva and Parvati. The head of Ganesh represents the Atman (ultimate reality), while his child’s body signifies the earthly realm of human beings. In his upper right hand Ganesh holds a whip or goad, which seems harsh but helps him propel mankind forward(like cattle) remove obstacles from the way. The noose in Ganesh’s left hand helps him capture and restrain all difficulties.

In his lower right hand is a writing tusk he broke writing the Mahabharata, one of the two major sanskrit epics. The Mala beads in his other hand represents the endless pursuit of knowledge and being a student of life. The candy he holds in his trunk indicates that one must discover the sweetness of the life, he loves sweets! The snake that runs round his waist like a belt represents energy in all forms. He travels by mouse!

On December 31st I took my last yoga class of 2013. The teacher asked us to close our eyes and consider the question, “what would you do if there were no obstacles stopping you from your ideal life?”

Not enough time, not enough money, not enough energy, not enough this or that…. These are excuses we use all the time. In this time of new beginnings, let’s get really clear on our 2014 intentions by letting Ganesh demolish our obstacles and excuses and not waste another moment of 2014!

Ganesha’s Mantra. Ganesh resides in our firey root chakra, the foundation of our being, and we can ignite him by chanting his mantra or silently thinking it during meditation. “Om Gam Ganapataye Namaha,” which can be loosely translated to “Yo! Time to wake up Root Chakra! Let’s get the energy of transformation moving so I can kick my obstacles’ ass and live my ideal life!”

And now for all of you auditory learners, Ganesha’s story through the immortal words of MC Yogi!

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Food Diary

The most common question i get sent is about my diet! What do I eat and what is a typical day of meals like for me? I know there are a lot of great blogs that made their name documenting every bite they take during the day. That’s not my thing, but I decided to do it for one day, which has been educational for me as well. Fueling well is SO important, and I find that sticking to a diet rich in raw foods and juices is the best choice for me. Always just listen to your body and make the right food choices based on how you feel.

Here goes:

When I go to bed I throw whatever citrus fruits I have around in a gallon jar of water. Today’s was half an orange and a cinnamon stick. I also love cucumbers in the mix. I had about half of my water and then a big honey crisp apple. Then I went to yoga and had another apple and some water.

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For breakfast I had my morning cereal, which I usually just throw together. But I measured today: 3 TB Chia seeds, almond milk(carageenan free), 2 TB ground flaxseed, 2 TB hemp seeds, 1 Cup frozen blueberries, 1 TB coconut nectar, and 1 TB cinnamon

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I also had my tea: Celestial seasonings Bengal Spice tea with french vanilla coconut milk creamer*. It tastes like a spicier chai tea latte… I went for a second cup, it’s so tasty!food-2

*So Delicious brand coconut milk creamer does contain carageenan

I took a delicious kale, cucumber, apple, lime juice to work with me. The (not so) secret mix: 1 head kale, 2 cucumbers, 2 apples, 2 limes- for a perfectly balanced, not too bitter, delicious green juice.

For dinner I had a delicious salad. This one had a greens mix of spinach, kale, and chard. Toppings were 1/2 cup of chickpeas, 1/3 cup dried cranberries, shredded carrot, 1 TB olive oil, 1.5 TB nutritional yeast. I also love cucumber in my salads.

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For dessert I had a small version of my typical green smoothie: frozen berries, greens(I usually use plain spinach), banana, almond milk/water and sun warrior protein powder. In the morning I’ll maybe add some cacao powder (it’s loaded with caffeine). If I want a super power green smoothie, I’ll brew some green tea the night before and use that as the liquid in place of almond milk. I use YogiTea Blueberry Green Tea.

For snacks in between meals, I have fruits, vegetables, and a raw nuts. I don’t limit snacks, ever. If I want to have five bananas, I do. Sometimes if I’m lazy I’ll just make a super-sized smoothie in place of a salad.

Related articles:

Shopping guide to avoiding organic foods with carageenan

Raw VS. cooked food

 Info about raw juicing

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4 Common Things That Stress People Out: Guest Post by Karen Fernandes

Stress is a huge problem in most societies in the world, and those where it is not will probably suffer from it in the future as their society develops. To tackle stress you need to understand the possible causes of it, and how best to your personal stress can be treated. To help people identify the cause of their own stress, I have listed some of the most common reasons below.

Moving Home

This can be a very stressful time for people because so many things are involved. Changing a property is difficult enough, but when you think it is also your home, things can get out of control. Friends and memories are left behind, to be replaced by the new and the unknown. Fear and anxiety can cause huge amounts of stress, and both of these are in this situation in abundance. To try to avoid the stress plan ahead, get help, and look on the move as a step forward in your life.

Running Out of Time

Some days it seems that we have worked all day to get nowhere, and these days can come one after the other to cause  you stress. If your work life is one endless struggle to complete the tasks you are assigned, you need to alter something before you breakdown. Try to talk to your boss about your workload, as often people are not aware of how much somebody is struggling in their work; and could be singing their praises because of the seemingly impossible burden they handle. If this doesn’t work you may need to consider a change; working yourself to death benefits nobody.

Arguing

Some people love to argue,but if you are not one of those avoid arguing at all cost. It does nothing to improve your mind or body, but can cause damage to both. An argument takes 2 people; if you refuse to participate there can be no argument. You won’t lose the argument; you will simply not have had one. Problem solved.

Not relaxing

Relaxation is something that everybody needs, and we should all demand some time to feel relaxed. Being relaxed is not simply a case of sitting down, you need to forget about everything, and let your mind recover from the continual stresses of the day. You will know when you have reached a relaxed state, because your body becomes almost weightless as the things weighing you down float away. Take a warm bath with aromatic herbs, cuddle up on your favourite chair listening to music, or treat yourself to a massage. Whatever it takes, make sure you relax for an hour or 2 every day, the benefit is immense.

Not all stress can be easily handled, but most of it can be. With some thought and a little help, stress can be manageable for most of us; it can even be totally removed in a lot of cases. If you think you are suffering from stress, it is you that needs to take the first step; try to do something about it.

The author of this post, Karen Fernandes, is an avid blogger, an amateur photographer and a traveler. She recommends that all individuals should read books on self-help skills, in order to build their personality. You can follow her on Twitter for more information.

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5 Ways to add shoulder opening to your hip opening poses

Two birds, one stone. Stretching both muscle groups at the same time will give you twice the benefits!

Also, it’s a good way to break any patterns or habits you may have developed in your practice. If you are a yogi that practices 3+ times a week, please don’t be afraid to break out your own remixes of the poses presented. Trust me, the teacher wants you to do what feels good and benefits you, even if it doesn’t look like what your neighbor is doing. It’s easy to go on auto pilot, especially in forward folds. I am frankly OVER yanking my hamstrings into folds 20x a class! Switch it up and give your shoulders some love in these hip openers!

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Bound high lunge. It’s not all about bound side angle pose all the time! You can do this variation with your heal up or down in a bound ‘Warrior VI’ or ‘Flying Warrior’ as some call it pose.

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Prasarita Padotanasana Cherry Picker. I love this variation, instead of just hanging down or yanking on your feet to stretch your hamstrings, this stretches your shoulders and gives you a new way to open the back body. The resistance you get when you walk your hands back behind you will make your traps and deltoids sing.

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Twisted Janu Sirsasana. I must thank my teacher Silvia Mordini for teaching me this unique variation of one legged forward fold. It’s hard to see in the photo, but this is actually a twist that you will immediately in the outer muscles of your back. Use the hand and arm not touching your foot as leverage to twist further. Further the stretch by softly bending the outstretched leg and twisting further.

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Starfish fold. This variation of Badha konasana is mostly practiced in Jivamukti classes, but this is my new favorite fold! This is a super passive fold that feels great at the end of practice, especially one heavy in back bends and heart opening.

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Bowing Balasana. This variation of child’s pose feels great in the muscles of your upper back and shoulders. To intensify, walk the elbows forward as much as possible.

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Guest post: Lose weight. Just use more sugar….

Hello Yogis! I’d like to introduce to you Emily, my fellow teacher trainee and a huge inspiration to me. I’m honored to have her guest post in my absence. Enjoy, friends!
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The biggest thing I learned from my yoga teacher is:  it’s okay to just breathe.  You don’t need to do anything else.  You can just be in this world.  You don’t have to strive for bigger and better.  You can be you.
I have always pushed myself.  I mean, c’mon, I had an eating disorder starting at the age of ten.  I wasn’t overweight, and I was beautiful (just like each and every person is!), but I had to be the fairest one of all.  Didn’t we hear that message somewhere as children?  Don’t we STILL hear that message now as adults?  “You have to challenge yourself.”  I know I hear that in some yoga classes. True, you do in some areas.  But what about those of us who are already doing that?  I usually get the life coach pep talk when I tell someone I don’t think marathons are healthy for me and to some degree in our society.  We focus so much on the physical aspect.  The physical aspect of running a marathon makes you do what?  Breathe.  And lots of it!
My teacher, Silvia Mordini, taught me the yogic concept of the Sanskrit words Sthira and Sukham.  Other synonyms for those words would be hard and soft, masculine and feminine, or my personal favorite as it relates to food, salt and sugar.  I don’t know about you, but too much salt on food doesn’t taste good.  The percentage of obese children in our country is ridiculously high.  Hmm, yes, too much sugar.  But I have an affinity for salt.  French fries are my favorite food.
My yoga practice was too strong.  It was harder for me to make myself go into Child’s Pose every time instead of Down Dog.  I felt like I wasn’t doing something right if I wasn’t pushing myself.  But then I started to let go of the control, and just started having fun.  If I didn’t feel like doing a pose, I wouldn’t do it.  If I felt like moving my arms or legs while everyone else was in a rigid pose, I would.  The most important thing was, I started smiling.
You can actually lose weight just by doing breathing exercises.  Truth.   The poses, or asanas, are one part of the eight limbs of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras.  Yes, I think they are important.  I do around ten minutes a day of various postures that I feel my body needs.  It’s my creative coffee for the morning since I can’t have the real thing due to my adrenal disorder I’ve developed from trying to run the marathon of our societal race.  I may not be as super buff or skinny like I used to, but more people tell me how great I look now than ever before.
Maybe I’ll need to push myself more in the future, but first I must listen to my body, and it tells me more love, more sukham, more sugar.
I’ll have another scoop, please.
You can find Emily at www.nilesreporting.com and soon she’ll be introducing her writings on YogaRewire.com, coming soon!
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Advanced Poses with Blocks

Learning advanced poses can seem overwhelming and discouraging at times. Using blocks can help you build strength in these poses and just simply feel the shape of the pose.  Shamelessly allow the blocks to be an extension of your pose.  Here are a few ways you can use blocks to deepen your practice and learn some new poses.

Peacock:

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Pincha Mayurasana/Forearm stand: Holding a block between the hands reminds you to keep pulling inward and keeps your elbows from bowing out.

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Sukhasana Hover/Jumpbacks:craig-2

Hanumanasana/Splits: Most blocks have three different heights so you can adjust to the level of openness you’re feeling on any given day.

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Shoulder squeeze/Titibasana: Having the block as insurance takes away some of the fear of falling when trying poses like shoulder squeeze and firefly.craig-5

Bakasana/Crow Pose: Use a block to rest your forehead on and ‘teeter totter’ on until you find that sweet spot of balance.

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Koundinyasana A:

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The Spine: Hyper Lumbar Curve

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For some this might be a boring anatomy post, but to those of us constantly grimacing during backbends, please read on.

If you had a mother like I did who was always telling you to ‘sit up straight!’ and ‘don’t slouch!’ then you may have developed the habit of puffing up your chest and tilting your pelvis down, pushing your front ribs forward. But an exaggerated lumbar curve can happen in many other ways. If the muscles around the hips and low spine become tight or weak, it creates an imbalance. It can be caused by bad shoes, bad posture, obesity, and a number of structural deficits in your feet.

Another common cause of this is weak core muscles. The lower abs and low back are a see-saw system of agonist and antagonist muscles, meaning they work together- when one flexes, the other releases. So if your core muscles are weakened, they will not be able to support your low back and you may compensate by sticking your duck tail out. This effects more than just yogis and athletes, my sister works on her feet all day long and suffers severe low back pain from the repetitive posture we both adopted as kids.

My experience & some tips:

Utkata Konasana/Goddess squat- I’ve never found a comfortable, natural feeling way to do this pose. Squatting when my lumbar spine is already so curved puts painful pressure on my low back. The best way I’ve found to counter this is to engage mula banda finding strength in the core, and tuck my tailbone in as much as I can.

Virabhadrasana II/Warrior II- I only noticed an issue with this during a hatha class where we were directly facing the mirrors. It shocked me how much my butt stuck out! From then on I focus on the energetic pull of my front knee open, my hips even, and my tailbone tucked.

Urdhva hastasana to Uttanasana/Coming up from forward fold During a vinyasa class we’re constantly moving up and down, and this can lead to over-effort in your low back to pull you up and down. Just as they say ‘lift with your legs not your back,’ keeping a slight bend in the knees and space between the feet gives your low back more space and less risk of injury.

Urdhva Danurasana/Wheel pose- I picked up this tip at training and work on it constantly to prevent the crunching in my low back. Contract the adductor muscles to draw the knees toward each other (not touching, just an energetic pull as if you had a block in between them) and focus on turning the thighs inward. The movement in your hips directly intertwines with how the low back feels, so this simple action can make a big difference.

Sources & Related Articles:
Top 5 Stretches to Minimize Back Pain
Anatomy of the Spine- for visual learners
How to get Rid of Lordosis

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