Monday, June 4, 2012

8 Tips for Reducing Stress

While it is unlikely that you will ever completely eradicate stress from your life, here are a few tips to help lower your stress level and live a calmer life. Use any of these tips to help bring you to a calmer mindset in the face of a stressful situation.

1. Be honest
Be honest with yourself; about your expectations, about your limitations, and about your abilities. Know yourself; approach every situation with the full knowledge of the person you are and you won't find yourself stressing to fit into someone else's ideal. Be honest with others, and avoid the stress of lying and feeing guilty. Anxiety over getting caught in a lie is a completely avoidable source of stress, so always choose honesty.

2. Plan ahead
There's nothing worse than frantically trying to fit several days worth of work into one morning before you rush out the door. Wake up 15 minutes early so you have an extra moment with yourself to just breathe and think about the day ahead. Maybe that extra time will allow you to head out early and beat traffic; maybe you'll have time for a cup of tea. Planning ahead can also mean preparing for the unexpected- leaving an extra copy of your house key with a friend, or keeping your extra cash in a "rainy day" fund. That way, if you find yourself right in the middle of a potentially very stressful situation- a flat tire, locked out of your house- you can pat yourself on the back for having already planned for it.

3. Look for the positive
Find humor in a crappy situation. Laugh in the face of potential stress, and see how much better just the simple action of laughing makes you feel. When you feel overwhelmed by negativity piling up; pause, and think about as many positive things about your life that you can.

4. Do something nice for someone else
Buy flowers for someone you love, hold a door open, bring an extra bag of bagels into work with you to share with coworkers, smile at the people who pass by you. It's amazing how brightening another person's day can in turn brighten your own.

5. Eat healthy
The foods that you put in your body are reflected in your mood and emotions. Remember that eating healthy foods that fuel your body is a decision that you can think back on and be proud of, rather than being stressed and angry at yourself for giving in to fast food cravings. Don't fall victim to eating/diet trends- every body is different and needs different combinations of vitamins and nutrients. Pay attention to how foods make you feel, and only eat the foods that make you feel fantastic.

6. Stretch/move your body
If you're overwhelmed with stress, trying getting up and taking a walk around the block, or even take a lap around the office. People tend to hold onto a lot of stress in shoulders, hips, and jaw- so roll your shoulders around, stretch your neck by rolling your head side to side, stretch your legs. If you have time to go for a long walk, or bike ride, or to take a yoga class, great! If you don't have that much time, there's always some little movement you can find to let go of some physical tension. Move your body, and notice how much better it feels!

7. Smile
Sometimes something as simple as a smile can be just what you need to brighten your mood. Smiling is contagious, and it's a way to turn around a bad mood that costs you nothing.

8. Breathe
Take whatever time you have, whether its 30 seconds, 5 minutes, 10 minutes, or longer. Quiet your mind and focus on making your breath deep, steady, and even. Let go of your mental to-do lists, your worries, your fears, and just breathe. It's amazing how much more focused, creative, and relaxed just a few minutes of meditation can make you. Try it!

Peace to the body
Peace to the mind
Peace to the spirit.

Namaste, yogis!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Yoga & Nature

I'm beginning to really feel summer in the air. Spring rains have begun to make way for hazy heat & sunshine, and the city sidewalks and parks are starting to fill with people walking, biking, running, and playing.

Being outside has proven health benefits. A daily dose of sunshine can lead to increased energy levels, better sleep, stronger defense against autoimmune diseases, and a more optimistic outlook! Being barefoot outdoors is even better- it helps to strengthen the muscles and ligaments in your feet, awakens the central nervous system, improves posture, and literally grounds you. It's hard to be distracted when you're carefully choosing each step, feeling the grass tickling your toes, feeling each step connecting you with the Earth. 

So, spending some time outside might be just what the doctor ordered! And what better way to spend time in nature than with yoga? Yoga is about connecting with every element of the present moment; to let go of clamoring thoughts in the mind and pay attention to the breath; to the sensation of the wind on your skin; to deeply feel your connection to the universe. 

Practicing outdoor yoga also provides a greater challenge to disciplining the wandering mind. Outside, there are always smells, sounds, and distractions to keeping yourself focused on the practice. But it also allows you to open up and feel the depth of the experience. You can smile and laugh, brush the leaves off your mat, and let go of your expectations about what "should" be happening. You can hear the sounds of children playing, smell blooming flowers and fresh cut grass. Feeling heat on your skin from the warm sunshine, and feeling gratitude for a cooling breeze. Yoga is about developing an understanding of your role and place as an individual, a part of the universe that surrounds you.

This summer, take your practice outside! I am teaching 2 (FREE!) weekly classes at the park, Wednesdays at 5:30 and Saturdays at 11:30. I hope you'll join me!

Monday, May 21, 2012

The Chakra Series: Part 4

Continuing where I left off in my closer look at each of the Chakras- today, we're up to number 4: the Heart Chakra, Anahata. To read more about the Chakras, check out Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

Anahata means “unstruck”- meaning the sound that is made without any two things striking. It is associated with air, the element that is neither solid nor liquid in nature. The 4th Chakra is related to forgiveness and compassion; developing unconditional love for others which leads to self-love and self-acceptance.

Anahata is associated with the color green. It is depicted by the image of a lotus flower with 12 petals; in the center, two intersecting triangles make up a 6-pointed star, representing the balance between the physical body and the spiritual body.

The Heart Chakra develops between ages 21-28, the time when most people begin the quest to balance love for others with love of self.  When we give too much of ourselves in a relationship, we forget to love ourselves, which can lead to intense jealousy and possessiveness. Loving relationships offer the potential to dig deep, stripping away layers of the “outer shell” that is presented to the world and really get in touch with our raw, exposed selves.  In order to be able to truly love others unconditionally, there must be a foundation of self-respect and self-love: love that includes knowledge and acceptance of our own dark sides as well as the strong qualities we present to the world.

Emotional dysfunctions associated with the Heart Chakra are; co-dependency, conditional love, fear of commitment and/or betrayal, and feeling unworthy of love.

Physical dysfunctions associated with Anahata are high blood pressure, shallow breathing, heart disease, and cancer. This Chakra is associated with the heart, chest, lungs, and circulation. 

One of the best ways to heal this Chakra is simply by cultivating loving relationships with ourselves and others. Love is a powerful tool, and a healer of many wounds. 

Two yoga poses associated with opening the Heart Chakra are Camel pose- Ustrasana and Fish pose- Matsyasana. Backbends such as these force us to let go of fear and literally open the chest & heart. The head dropping back lower than the heart creates a powerful sensation of "letting go." 

Camel, Ustrasana

Fish, Matsyasana

Happy heart opening, yogis!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Yoga Humor

Because sometimes, we all just need a laugh! Enjoy :)

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Yoga Pose of the Week

Triangle pose- Trikonasana

In Sanskrit, "tri" means three and "kona" means corner.

  1. Step into a wide stance, about 3-4 feet wide. 
  2. Turn your back foot out to the side- if your right foot is the back foot, point your toes to the right.
  3. Stretch forward through your front hand, lengthening both sides of your waist; then let your hand drop down to rest on your leg/foot/mat- wherever it can comfortably reach without compromising the long extension of the torso. Raise the other arm overhead.
  4. Peel your hips and chest open, stacking your shoulder blades with your arms in a straight line.
  5. Keep your neck strong; don't let the head hang heavily. You can turn your head to look up at the top hand; or look straight in front of you; or gaze down at your foot- whatever feels best for your neck and shoulders.
  6. Keep your breath smooth and steady; stay in your pose for 5 or 6 deep breaths and then lift yourself up, rooting your back heel down in the mat.  

Beginner Tips:
  • Try practicing your Trikonasana with your back against a wall to get a feel for the openness of the pelvis and chest. 
  • If you feel unstable, practice with your back heel braced against a wall. 
  • If you are straining to reach farther down your leg, bring a block under your hand to lift yourself up enough to keep lengthening both sides of the waist equally.
  • Used therapeutically for anxiety and infertility
  • Helps relieve stress
  • Improves digestion, and can help relieve constipation.
  • Stimulates function of the abdominal organs
  • Stretches the legs, knees, groin, chest, neck and spine.
  • Strengthens the knees, abdominals & obliques, and back
Enjoy the sunshine today, yogis!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

"Never, Ever Give Up"

This story is really amazing. Have a box of tissues handy when you watch this, it definitely brought tears to my eyes. If my teaching yoga can make half as much of a difference in just one person's life that was made in this man's life, I will count my efforts as a success.

Thursday, May 3, 2012


This Saturday, May 5th, is the perigee Full Moon- meaning that the Moon will be at its closest point to the Earth this year. This Moon will be so large and bright in the sky that it is titled "Supermoon." The perigee Full Moon is also when the Moon, Earth, and Sun are in direct alignment.

So, what does this mean? New and Full Moons are the strongest points of the lunar cycle, when our energy is most effected. Full Moons have a huge impact on the tides of the ocean; and because the human body is made up of a majority of water, it is logical to assume that the strong pull of the Full Moon- and especially of the Supermoon- can have a significant effect on our bodies, emotions, and consciousness.

Around the time of Full Moons, people often complain of feeling confused, overwhelmed, sluggish, or just "off"- and if this has been the case for you, Saturday's Supermoon provides the perfect opportunity to refresh & replenish your energy, and gain greater clarity. The Full Moon is the time for personal transformation- decide the areas in your life that need adjusting, and let the bright, silvery light of the Moon cleanse and renew.

Solar energy is the energy of action, youth, heat, external forces, and the nervous system. Lunar energy is the energy of rest-recovery, cleansing, internal forces, grounding, emotions, cooling, and the digestive system. In traditional Hatha yoga, practitioners strive to find balance between the Sun, and solar energy- "ha"- and the Moon, and lunar energy- "tha". But often, in the interest of physical fitness, there is a much greater emphasis on solar energy; Surya Namaskar, Sun Salutations, or longer holds in asanas that create heat in the body. The Full Moon is the perfect time to remind yourself to slow down, to nurture your soul, and take gentle care of your body.

Solar energy has long been considered masculine in nature- lunar energy is considered feminine. That's why I thought that the evening of the Supermoon, filled with feminine lunar energy, would be the perfect time for a Girls Night Out. Celebrating the sacred feminine with a spirit-lifting, gentle, replenishing practice is a great way to refresh your energy- not just for this month, but for the whole year! There will be a chance after the yoga practice for socializing and enjoying wine, tea/coffee, and chocolate snacks- what better way to spend the night of the Supermoon?

Yoga in the East traditionally was men-only, but as yoga moved to the West, it shifted into a majority-female practice. Many claim that the practice of yoga has also shifted to become more fitness-based, rather than sticking to its deeper, meditation-based roots. Take advantage of the Supermoon's strong gravitational pull to get you back to YOUR roots.

Enjoy basking in the silvery glow of the Supermoon!