Be Active…

Ok, so I have to brag. Below is my “little” brother’s wake-boarding video. (I’m also impressed with his editing skills!) There is a “yogic principle” to this post! I promise…

I love yoga, I really do. But cross-training our bodies is equally important. For our bodies to stay healthy we have to move, get some cardio, stretch, and all the better if it’s done in nature. If my brother, Wes, has taught me anything it is that exercising in nature is better than the gym. Get outside, go for a hike, ride a bike, just have fun.

Mind-boggling statistic: Physical inactivity is ranked just below cigarette smoking as a major cause of ill health in America.

Wes mountain biking at Oak Mountain State Park…

True yogi’s say that yoga is THE exercise (see my post Yoga and Fitness…) but I believe that our bodies are meant to do whatever we love. For example, Wes’ extreme lifestyle has lead to a couple broken bones and surgeries. But what’s important is that he’s still going and he has a passion for it. Even just coming off a surgery for a collar bone dislocation he is out walking the trails and climbing the stair-climber at the gym. {Inspiration? I think so.} No, I’m not as extreme as my younger counterpart. I like to say, “I didn’t get that ‘crazy’ gene!” But I can still enjoy the same activities! So… no, you don’t have to be quite as extreme, just get outside and change up your exercise routine. Recently I started going to cycle classes and I love it! The music keeps me going when I’m feeling tired and I feel like a rock star when I finish class! Yes, I’m busy, but the “I don’t have time” excuse doesn’t work with me. You’ll find that it’s the days that you really “don’t wanna” are the days that it makes you feel the best. Exercise lifts your spirits (thank you, endorphin’s) and gives you a sense of accomplishment.

Yoga is still my #1. It always will be. But while I’m young and able I’m going to have fun too! In yoga, we learn mindfulness… to be mindful with every action. So take that mindfulness that you learned through yoga and put it towards every activity. Listen to your body and have fun!

"You can get me down, but you can't stop me!" (Wes in Tsali, NC after surgery on his collar bone)

And yes, Wes does yoga too!

Happy journey’s,

Note: Wes uses the GoPro camera for all of his crazy adventures.

Fight the Winter Blues {part 2}…

Part 2… because there are so many reasons for holistic health in the winter months! This is a continuation of my previous post: Fight the Winter Blues…

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8. Neti Pot

Benefits: The Neti Pot (nasal irrigation) is a natural way to clear your nasal passages of dust, pollen, and other irritants. The gentle saline solution thins the mucus in your nasal passages allowing it to naturally drain from your nose. (Last year when I had all the sinus problems there were only 2 times that I felt relief… when I was in a hot shower and when I was using the Neti Pot!) Don’t wait until you get a stuffy nose! The Neti Pot can be used year round as wellness maintenance.

How to: Follow instructions on the package. Add distilled water to your Neti Pot and add the saline solution. (Do not use tap water and do not use table salt as your saline solution!) Bring the Neti Pot to one nostril and tilt your head. Keep your mouth open and let the water drain out of the other nostril. Repeat with the other nostril. *If you are extremely stuffy you will find that the water will not run out of the other nostril. Ayruvedic doctors would probably slap me on the hand, but I use a little force to help it through by using this Neti Pot when I’m extremely stuffy. Regular Neti Pots rely solely on gravity to push the solution through, with this one you squeeze the bottle giving it a little extra push.

Where to buy: Can be found in the Pharmacy/Wellness section of your local grocery store. I get mine at Publix.

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9. Sleep with a humidifier

Benefits: Have you ever wondered why there are certain illnesses that go along with winter? Winter is the cold and flu season because of the change in weather. Germs and viruses cannot live long (outside the body) in a humid climate, so when the weather changes and the air is far less humid, you have a greater chance of getting sick. Fight this by using a humidifier at home. Sleeping with a humidifier will put moisture back into the air soothing your dry skin, stuffy nose, and helping to kill germs and viruses that you’ve brought home with you. (This information makes me want to put a humidifier in my preschool classroom!)

Where to buy: Can be found at any store with a Wellness section (pharmacies, grocery stores, etc.)

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10. Nasya Oil (Eucalyptus oil, also seen below in Herbs)

Benefits: Main ingredient: Eucalyptus oil.  In the winter your nasal passages are dry out and it becomes even worse when you blow your nose constantly. Nasya oil lubricates nasal passages, helps decongest the sinuses, and even promotes mental clarity. Nasya oil is great for head colds.

How to: Follow the directions on the bottle. Hold you head back and drop 1-3 drops into each nostril and sniff lightly. If you don’t want to drop it directly into your nose you can add a few drops to a tissue and hold it up to your nose and breathe deeply.

Where to buy: Check your local health food store (such as Whole Foods or Golden Temple). If you can’t find it in the store you can order online via Banyan Botanicals.

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11. Herbs (Echinacea, Elderberry, Goldenseal, Elderflower, Ginger, Slippery Elm, Thyme, Astragalus, Eucalyptus, Eleuthero, Mullein, Tulsi, Yin Chiao, Sage, & Licorice.)

Benefits: Herbs can ease coughs, congestion and sore throats, and some may help prevent illness all together. The naturally occurring qualities in herbs have been used for centuries to prevent illness.

How to: View the sites below (listed under “other awesome info”) for a “how to” on each herb. Yes, herbs are time consuming. But remember, you can also drink herbal teas to get these herbal benefits! I love the Yogi Tea brand.

Where to buy: Try to find a local herbal vendor in your area. Also, check out the natural/health food stores in your area. If you cannot find these herbs locally you can order online from these sites: Jean’s Greens &/or Mountain Rose Herbs.

Other awesome info: Visit this site to see how to make your own Tincture: Make your own winter remedies. And visit this site to see each herb, it’s benefits, and how to consume: 15 Natural Remedies for the Winter Season.

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Happy & healthy winter (once again!)

Fight the Winter blues…

Ahhh, flu season. How I did not miss you.

I love this time of year… wonderful crisp weather, fall colors, fall fashions, football, and the feel-good family holidays right around the corner. What I don’t love? The fact that it’s also “cold and flu” season, not to mention that dreadful daylight savings that makes the days crazy short.

Since I was sick pretty much all of last Winter (first year teaching school) I started researching natural remedies. These remedies should be paired washing your hands (a lot), lots of Vitamin D (get out in the sunshine, even though it’s cold!), exercise, and a healthy diet (then you’ve earned a few holiday treats!). You’ll notice that a lot of the immune system boosters I have listed also aid in healthy digestion. This is because your immune system can’t be healthy without a healthy digestive system! Poor overall digestive system health is also associated with illnesses in other parts of the body, including immune system issues. (Surprisingly, your digestive system contains 70% of your body’s immune system… that’s just one clue to the importance it has on your overall health!) We support a healthy digestive system with probiotics (good bacteria) and a healthy diet. Read more about the importance of digestive health here.

Immune system boosters… Natural remedies to boost your immunity!
Benefits: This is an old Indian Ayurvedic remedy. The mixture is primarily made of amla (goose egg) which is one of the richest sources of Vitamin C. It helps to boost the immune system while also promoting mental clarity & healthy metabolism.
Where to buy: You can look at your local Indian Grocer or Natural Foods Store but I had no luck. I order from these websites: The Dabur brand is more spicy, Banyan Botanicals is less spicy.
How to: Take one tablespoon followed by a glass of milk or soy milk (or you can mix it into your milk). It can also be spread onto crackers or bread. This is definitely an acquired taste, but it’s so good for you!
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Benefits: This supplement contains a powerful combination of herbs, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals not found in everyday multivitamins. I take this when I start feeling “the crud” coming on and it knocks it right out!
Where to buy: Can be found at any vitamin/supplement store. I get mine at Golden Temple.
How to: Follow instructions on the bottle. You can take it when you start to feel sick, or every day as wellness-maintenance.
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Benefits: Recent studies have proven that Apple Cider Vinegar can help lower cholesterol, kill cancer cells, aid in weight-loss, and lower blood pressure. This heart-healthy remedy can also help to reduce sinus infections and sore throat, encourage the growth of healthy bacteria in your body, and promote healthy digestion.
Where to buy: Can be found at any grocery store in the condiment section and/or in the health supplement section. I get mine in the Publix Greenwise section.
How to: Make sure you purchase raw & unfiltered. Follow instructions on bottle: Mix 1-2 tbsp. with 8 oz. of water. Add a tbsp. of organic honey to taste (if desired).
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4.  Water with lemon first thing in the morning (I drink mine year round!)
Benefits: Lemons are acidic foods that, once metabolized, become alkaline. Alkalies help the body maintain a healthy pH level. A body with a healthy pH level is better equipped to fight sickness.
Other awesome info: This book, Crazy Sexy Diet is all about foods that balance the body’s pH level and how it can work miracles, even cure cancer! See the other books, Crazy Sexy Cancer Tips & Crazy Sexy Cancer Survivor by Kris Carr.
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Benefits: A body rich in Vitamin C protects against immune system deficiencies, cardiovascular disease, prenatal health problems, eye disease, and even skin wrinkling. Naturally occurring Vitamin C can be found in many fruits and vegetables. (Click here for a vitamin chart of fruits and veggies)
Where to buy: Can be found at any grocery store.
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6.  Green smoothies (I just started, but I’m going to drink mine year round!)
Benefits: This drink is packed full of antioxidants that have been proven to fight cancer and heart disease. It promotes healthy digestion and vision, boosts your immune system, is great for weight-loss, and will leave your hair, skin & nails radiant!
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7.  Kombucha  
Benefits: Kombucha is a fermented tea that is packed full of naturally-occurring probiotics. Probiotics help to regulate your digestive system & strengthen the immune system.
Where to buy: Can be found at any natural grocery. I get mine at Organic Harvest.
Other awesome info: View Laraine Dave’s story of cancer and how kombucha helped!
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Have a happy & healthy winter!
ps. Want more? There’s more at Fight the Winter Blues {part 2}…

Office yoga…

Let’s face it… we’re a desk-potato nation. Some 80% of Americans have sedentary jobs… Our bodies aren’t designed to hold a position for eight or more hours a day – they’re made to dance, twist, jump, and run. When we’re deskbound, the body has to hold a fixed, unnatural position for a long period of time. Eventually that can lead to problems, including changes in our metabolism, decreased circulation in the legs, and compression in the spine and pelvis, which places extra pressure on the connective tissue and nerves.

When you sit at your desk what do you notice? After only one hour at work what does your body alignment look like? Most of us end up slouching with a rounded back, shoulders forward and your chin protruding forward. This is a very unnatural body position and is the reason for many chronic back and shoulder ailments.

So what do I do? Stand up, stretch, and breathe deeply at least once every 50 minutes. Check out Yoga Journal’s great quick office yoga sequence at yogajournal.com/officeyoga.

Put a sticky reminder in your cube.

Here are some examples of easy office yoga moves… de-stress at your desk!

  • Twist out tension… standing chair twist
  • What it does… wrings out tension in the deep muscles of the spine.
  • How to… place your right foot on the seat of a chair. Press your knee against the back of the chair. Firm your legs and belly to stabilize your lower back. Twist to the right and hold the back of the seat with your left hand. Place your right hand on your right hip.
  • Inhale; lengthen the spine. Exhale; slowly turn the shoulders to the right, looking over your right shoulder. Progressively deepen the twist over 8 to 10 breaths and then repeat on the other side.
  • Stretch your sides… standing crescent
  • What it does… lengthens the torso while opening the chest, rib cage, and shoulders. Facilitates deeper breathing.
  • How to… while standing, hold on to the back of the chair with your right hand. Ground both legs firmly into the floor. Inhale as you lift your left arm up by your ear.
  • Exhale, engage your abdominal muscles, and move your tailbone down. Inhale, lengthen your spine, and sidebend to the right. Move your left shoulder back, open your chest, and breathe into your left side for 4 to 6 breaths. Repeat on the right side.
  • Stretch your hips & legs… chair warrior
  • What it does… stretches tight hips and leg muscles. Because the body is partially supported by the chair, you don’t need to exert as much energy to stay balanced in the pose, so you can focus on the stretch itself.
  • How to… Sit sideways on a chair with your right knee bend at a 90-degree angle and your left leg extended straight behind you. Firm your legs, tone your belly, and lengthen the tailbone. Place your hands on your front thigh and breathe evenly into your torso while moving the shoulders and head back. Inhale and lift your left arm up, stretching your entire left side. Hold for 6 to 8 breaths and repeat on the other side.
  • Relax your neck & shoulders… standing shoulder opener
  • What it does… helps reduce neck and shoulder pain by encouraging proper alignment of the upper arm bones, shoulders, and head.
  • How to… while standing, clasp your hands behind your buttocks or hold onto a scarf or belt behind your back with your palms facing forward. Inhale; expand your torso. Exhale; firm the legs and belly. Inhale and slowly stretch your arms straight. Move your hands away from your buttocks, draw the shoulders and head back, and enjoy the stretch across the collarbones.
  • Exhale; lift the chin slightly and soften your jaw. Hold for 2 breaths, keeping your belly firm to support your low back while breathing deeply into your neck and shoulders.
*If you do only one thing, take a break every hour and notice your body alignment, then correct it. Sit up straight, roll your shoulders back, pull your chin back so your neck is in line with your spine and take a few deep breaths.
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Most phones now have an app called the Zen Alarm Clock. This acts as a peaceful reminder every hour to take a break and breathe.
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Don’t want to do it alone? Get the whole office in on it! I have a wonderful friend, Jennifer Berman who specializes in Corporate Yoga. She will come to your office and lead you in a wonderful practice leaving everyone peaceful for the rest of the day! View her website, Jennifer Berman Yoga for more info!
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Get up out of your chair… your body will thank you.
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Reference: Yoga Journal 2011

A Yoga Pose for Every Problem…

I found this very interesting article about how yoga poses can help with specific ailments and disorders. This is no new news to me since I love my book, Yoga, the Path to Holistic Health. But I love finding new studies proving the authenticity!

A Yoga Pose for Every Problem” by Meryl Davis Landau…

“As a longtime health writer, certified yoga teacher and, most recently, the novelist of a book with a yoga theme, I’m impressed with the way science has increasingly put yoga under a microscope. A number of well done, if small, studies are proving that these ancient stretches and breathing practices do more than make you feel energized and connected to your higher self (although they do that, too!), they actually help specific health problems.

Here are a suggested pose–and the corresponding research–for five common medical conditions. Remember to breathe as you hold each pose. (Of course, you should consult with your doctor before doing these or any exercises.)

*Irregular Heartbeats

The research: Atrial fibrillation–more commonly called A-fib–is a common but serious problem where the heart beats irregularly, putting sufferers at risk for stroke. When researchers at the University of Kansas Hospital recently referred people with A-fib to a 3-times-a-week yoga class, their number of A-fib episodes slashed in half. The study author says this is especially impressive when you consider that traditional treatments include drugs with serious side effects or risky surgical procedures.

Helpful yoga pose: Cobra. Although the study involved comprehensive yoga sessions, poses like cobra that open the chest are said to aid the heart. Lie on your abdomen, legs and feet together, forehead on the floor, and hands on the floor beneath your shoulders, elbows close to the body. Inhaling, stretch the chin out slightly and, pressing on the palms, begin raising the chest and shoulders, continuing to a height you feel comfortable (typically just before or just after the belly button leaves the ground). Hold 30 seconds, then release.

*Shoulder Injury

The research: Quelling shoulder pain after a rotator cuff injury usually involves surgery and months of rehab. But a study by an esteemed NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia rehab medicine doctor found that a single yoga move keeps people from needing to go under the knife. The pose, which can be repeated a few times in a row, strengthens the usually weak muscle below the shoulder blade, allowing it to take over the damaged muscle’s role.

Helpful yoga pose: First-stage of headstand, modified for standing. Stand a foot or so from a wall, facing it. Grasp your elbows with each hand and press both elbows against the wall. Keeping your elbows at that distance, release your hands and join them together to form a triangle against the wall. Engaging your shoulders, press your forearms into the wall. Hold for 30 seconds, then release.

*Migraines

The research: Migraine sufferers doing yoga weekly have less frequent and intense head pain after three months than a comparable group not doing the poses, a small but important study by Indian researchers found. If you have migraines, it’s best to practice as a preventive measure; once the pain strikes, yoga movements could make it worse.

Helpful yoga pose: Seated forward bend. Sit on the floor with your legs out in front of you. Inhaling, raise your arms to the ceiling and exhale, folding forward from the hips, bringing your hands towards your feet. When you’ve reached as far forward as is comfortable, relax your head, neck and shoulders. Hold for 30 seconds, then release.

*Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

The research: One of the first American studies documenting yoga’s ability to help specific health concerns was the University of Pennsylvania’s 1998 research published in the prestigious Journal of the American Medical Association. People with carpal tunnel syndrome who practiced yoga moves emphasizing the hand and arm joints felt much better after 8 twice-weekly sessions.

Helpful yoga pose: Prayer pose. Sit or stand in a comfortable position with your spine and head centered. Relax your shoulders. Bring your palms together, fingers extended upward, in front of your heart. Gently press your hands together for 30 seconds. If this pose feels too easy, try repeating the move with your hands behind your back.

*Anxiety/Depression

The research: Pat Garbarg, MD, a psychiatrist and assistant clinical professor New York Medical College, was so intrigued by the power of yoga breathing that she tested it on perhaps the most anxious and depressed people around–survivors of the 2004 Southeast Asia tsunami! Amazingly, after just six weeks, their depression practically disappeared, and signs of post-traumatic-stress disorder fell 60 percent. If it could work for them, imagine what it can do for run-of-the-mill mood problems.

Helpful yoga pose: Paced breathing. The breathing practices Garbarg tested were complex, but she has found that even the most basic yoga breath works wonders in her less traumatized American patients. Once or, ideally, twice a day, sit quietly and begin slowing down your breaths until inhalations and exhalations become equal in length and last roughly 6 seconds each. Continue this slow, even breathing for up to 20 minutes.”

Healing Journey…

Yoga proves to be an ideal approach to self-care cancer survivors…

Breast cancer affects many of us: One in eight women in the United States will develop invasive breast cancer in her lifetime. The good news is that more women today are beating the illness. There are more than 2.5 million breast cancer survivors in the United States. 

Yoga can be a valuable part of the process of healing and recovery from the disease, and classes for cancer patients and survivors are readily available. “Yoga can help women who have cancer find solace and learn to deeply care for themselves,” says Linda Sparrowe, a yoga teacher who co-leads yoga and meditation retreats for women touched by cancer.

New academic research backs this up. Several studies published this year show that yoga offers effective relief from the physical and mental affects of the disease and the side effects of treatment. These effects include symptoms such as fatigue, pain, swelling, stiffness, stress, and depression.

Researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles, found that after practicing Iyengar Yoga twice weekly for 12 weeks, breast cancer survivors were less depressed and exhausted and felt greater vitality. In another study of Iyengar Yoga, conducted at Washington State University, Spokane, participants felt better physically and emotionally, and they had lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol. This does more than reduce anxious feelings: Elevated levels of cortisol may contribute to cancer recurrence and earlier mortality among breast cancer survivors. 

Yoga can also help survivors regain trust in their bodies. In a study at Indiana University, Bloomington, women who participated in and eight-week hatha yoga program were stronger and more flexible, felt less self-conscious about scars from surgeries, and were more accepting of their changed bodies. “Yoga helps us feel more comfortable with our bodies and ourselves,” says the study’s lead researcher, Van Marieke Puymbroeck, a professor of recreation therapy at Indiana University. “It helps us build inner resources to respond to life’s challenges.”

Specialized Restorative Yoga Retreats for women living with cancer…

Red Feather Lakes, Colorado – www.shambhalamountain.org 

Bolinas, California – www.commonweal.org

New York City – www.thelibbyrossfoundation.com

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month! The Komen for the Cure fundraiser travels all across the U.S. raising money for breast cancer research. Click on the Komen for the Cure link to find the Race for the Cure event in your town!

In Birmingham the event is Saturday, October 15, 2011 at Linn Park. Click here to see the information for Birmingham’s event. I will be running the 5K in honor of a few amazing women I know! 

Race for the Cure! Or… you can even “sleep in” for the cure!

Shanti Om,

***I’m Pink for breast cancer awareness! If you have trouble reading the pink writing please let me know and I will post in standard black.*** 

Reference: Article by Kelly McGonigal, Yoga Journal 2011

Servant of Peace…

This is my current favorite Snatam Kaur song…

Aad Sach, Jugad Such, Haibhay Such, Nanak-a Hosee Bay Such
Translation: True in the beginning, true in the primeval age, true even now, and true forever.

“When a time comes and things don’t move, this mantra writes down the root of prosperity in your personality… all that is stuck shall move.” ~Yogi Bhajan

Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace;
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy;
O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love;
for it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born into Eternal Life

The pictures in the video are of Anandamayi Ma, a great teacher who is now widely recognized as a personality of great spiritual eminence.

The video cuts off at the end but you can buy the song/album on Sprit Voyage, Amazon, or iTunes 🙂

Om Shanti,