What is Ayurveda?

Ayurveda is yoga’s sister science and India’s ancient system of medicine. Its literal translation from Sanskrit, the language of Yoga and Ayurveda, is “the science of life”.

Two Goals of Ayurveda

The primary goal is to maintain health in the healthy by nipping any imbalances in the bud. In other words it is about prevention of disease. Secondarily, it looks to alleviate and manage disease in the unhealthy. We achieve these two goals through diet, lifestyle, and culinary herbs.

Ayurveda is ancient personalized medicine

Ayurveda is Ancient Personalized Medicine

Each of us is born with a unique constitution or make up. Therefore, Ayurveda takes a highly personalized approach to health. It looks at the individual — mind and body — and not solely their symptoms in order to determine what that person needs to restore balance and well-being.

What does that mean? What one person needs to deal with their digestive issues might be completely different than what another person needs. It’s not just the symptoms that determine the diet and lifestyle recommendations.  It’s everything about the person that determines them.

At the end of the day Ayurveda looks to return you to the “truth of you” by restoring balance to your unique constitution. Because a healthy you means you can do all that you’re meant to do in this world!

Setting up a home yoga practice: The props

I once read that a yoga teacher was asked by a student, “How many times a week should I get on the mat and practice?” The teacher’s response was once a week is better than zero, twice is better than once, and on and on.

Getting to a yoga studio for a 75 – 90 minute practice 7 days a week is probably not likely given our life schedules. What is possible though is getting on the mat every day at home. And good news! It needn’t be a lengthy practice to see great benefits. By showing up on the mat every day anywhere from 5 – 30 minutes you will feel better in your body and your mind.

And more good news! You don’t need a lot of gear to get started. From my point of view there are two things that everyone should invest in.  The rest can be gathered up from around the house.

Yoga props to invest in….and those to find around the house

Invest

  1.  A high quality yoga mat:: Invest in a heavy sticky mat that won’t crawl all over the floor while you’re practicing. It should also give you enough padding to help cushion your knees when kneeling.
  2. A pair of sturdy blocks:: Blocks help create possibilities in our poses. They help us access actions and movements in the body that might otherwise be inaccessible when, say, straining to reach the floor. It’s not a crutch or a cheat!

Shop Your House

  1. A blanket:: Most of us have plenty of options from which to choose already laying around the house. Blankets create a perch to sit upon so that you’re nice and tall. And the obvious? A cozy layer to rest under during savasana.
  2. A belt, towel or long scarf:: Having something at the ready that helps you to reach your feet or get your hands behind your back is a must have, especially while we patiently wait for hamstrings to lengthen and shoulders to open. There are so many options around the house to help in this endeavor!
  3. A dense pillow or couch cushion:: In a more restorative yoga pose extra props create the shape for you so that you don’t have to do the work. A dense pillow or couch cushion will take the place of a bolster anytime you need some extra R&R.

Want some more specifics about what props I use in my home practice? Request my Home Practice Toolkit guide below.  It even includes how to shop your house to make similar substitutions with what you already own.

 

P.S. Are you new to yoga? Check out my 3 Tips for Yoga Beginners

It’s Time

Several years ago I gave up resolutions in favor of choosing one word to guide my year. It’s my way of setting an intention. It serves as a simple reminder of where I want my energy to go every day in order to continue building and living a life I love. This year I chose TIME.

Time to set aside fear.

Time to take the next big step.

Time to bust open doors.

Time to close others.

Time to go deeper.

Time to celebrate.

More time with family and friends.

Less time mindlessly scrolling on a little screen.

These are just a few of the things I hope time helps guide me towards this year. It is the my most precious commodity. And I want to squeeze every bit of value out of my life by living one that is not fleetingly busy but one that is beautifully full and deep.

Releasing tension in the neck

Releasing Tension in the Neck
Does this sound familiar? You’re at your desk working away at your computer. Your shoulders are hiked up towards your ears. Your chin is jutting out towards the computer screen. By the end of the day you are reaching to massage the back and sides of your poor aching neck.

These three stretches are little miracle workers for releasing tension in the neck. They are my go-to when I literally have a pain in the neck or feel a headache coming on. As a bonus they take less than 5 minutes to do. Remember: slow and steady wins the race so always work gently and mindfully.  In these stretches less is more!

Pain in the neck or headache? Try to these 3 quick stretches to ease an achy neck. Click To Tweet

Back of Neck Stretch

 

Back of the Neck: Interlace the hands at the back of the head.  Allow the chin to drop towards the chest until a stretch is felt at the back of the neck.  With the interlaced hands providing gentle resistance lightly press the back of the head into the interlaced hands for 10 seconds.  It’s as if you were trying to return the head to center but the hands prevent you.  Let that go and drop the chin any closer to the chest, until a stretch is felt at the back of the neck once again.  As before gently lift the head into the interlaced hands for 10 seconds.  Repeat this process 1-2 more times.

Side of Neck Stretch

 

Side of the Neck: Lean the right ear towards the right shoulder.  Reach overhead with the right hand and rest it on the left cheek.   With your hand, gently press the right ear to the right shoulder until a slight stretch is felt on the left side of the neck.  Reach the left fingertips towards the floor.  With the right hand providing gentle resistance lightly lift your head into your hand for 10 seconds.  It’s as if you were trying to return the head to center but the hand prevents you.  Let that go and drop the right ear any closer to its shoulder, until a stretch is felt on the left side of the neck once again.  As before gently lift the head into the hand.  Repeat 1-2 more times and then switch sides.

 

Front of the Neck: Rotate your chin towards the right shoulder until you feel a slight stretch towards the left side of the neck.  Rest your left hand on your left cheek.  With the left hand providing gentle resistance lightly rotate the cheek into the hand for 10 seconds. It’s as if you were trying to rotate the chin back to center but the hand prevents you from moving the head.  Let that go and rotate the chin any further towards the right, until a stretch is felt on the left side of the neck once again.  As before gently rotate the cheek into the hand.  Repeat 1-2 more times and then switch sides.

 


 

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A savasana to eliminate shoulder knots

Last month I introduced you to positional therapy, a way to address the muscle imbalances in the body that lead to pain.  After a session, I always recommend homework to help keep the balance we worked to create so that achy body parts and stubborn knots become a thing of the past. The good news is that unlike the hours of homework we may have endured every night in high school, this homework takes only a minute or two here and there throughout the day. Even better, some of the homework can be snuck into our yoga practices and that’s what I’m going to share with you today — my favorite piece of homework to help you get rid of that glorious knot on the top of your shoulder.

You know the one.  It’s right where the top of the shoulder runs into the base of the neck. Throughout the day you reach up to massage what feels like a goose egg lodged underneath the skin. So how do we get rid of it?  By marrying positional therapy homework with savasana!

Got a knot on the top of your shoulder? Try this savasana variation! Click To Tweet

 

 

A Savasana to Eliminate Shoulder Knots

When you come to rest in savasana at the end of your yoga practice, allow the right forearm to rest on the forehead.  To make it even yummier, you can let the right ear tilt slightly towards the right shoulder.  Hold for 1 to 2 minutes.  I highly recommend using a timer here.  We often vastly underestimate how long a minute is in a pose, even the restorative ones! Resting with the arm in this position brings the two ends of the muscle closer to one another which allows the muscle to relax and unwind. Now switch and do the left side.  Finally, end your savasana with 1-2 minutes in the classical pose.  Arms are at a bit of an angle away from the sides of the body  with the palms facing the ceiling.  Let the shoulders rest heavily on the floor.

If you give this modified savasana a try, I’d love to hear what you think!  I don’t think you’ll miss those annoying shoulder knots one bit.


 

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Positional therapy: the gentle pain reliever nobody knows about (yet!)

positional therapy

Never heard of positional therapy? I think it’s time that I change that!  Along with yoga, positional therapy is one of the most amazing tools in my toolbox.  It not only keeps me pain free and feeling great {good bye low back pain and angry muscle knots!} but I’ve been using it for the last 3+ years in one-on-one sessions to help others do the same.

What is positional therapy?

Positional therapy is a really gentle and super effective method for relieving common aches and pains in the body.  It works because it doesn’t just address the symptom but gets to the root of the problem: the muscular imbalances that are causing the issue in the first place.

Learn about the gentle pain reliever nobody has ever heard of....positional therapy! Click To Tweet

What are muscular imbalances?

Muscular imbalances result when muscles become too short or too long due to injury, stress, and/or the repetitive ways in which we carry out daily life.  These imbalances lead to pain that is commonly experienced in the low back, shoulders, neck, knees, elbows….and the list could go on.

Picture this:: you’re sitting at your desk, in front of the computer.  Your upper back and shoulders are rounding forward and your chest is caving in.  Try as you might it is nearly impossible to sit up straight and tall, with shoulders back, for more than a few moments at a time.  Sounds familiar, right?  This is muscular imbalance at work.

Because we practice this position so frequently (daily and for hours at a time!) the muscles across the front of the chest have become too short, rounding the shoulders forward.  As a result the muscles across the upper back have become too long.  These overstretched muscles are also weak which makes it that much more difficult to sit up with good posture…..so we slouch forward because it feels better.  And so the vicious cycle continues!

Too much time seated at a desk? Your achy low back might need positional therapy. Click To Tweet

How does positional therapy work?

It’s simple.  The muscles that are too short are lengthened and the muscles that are too long are shortened.  It is a combination of gentle, assisted stretching and passively held positions of comfort. {And it all happens on a really comfy massage table!  Easy peasy, right?}  By getting the muscles back where they belong pain is greatly diminished and even eliminated!

It is amazing how great you’ll feel after a positional therapy session!  {Some have told me they love the sessions more than a massage!} To keep you feeling that way, though, you’ll need to do some quick daily homework or incorporate some of these important pieces into your home yoga practice.   Once things are back where they belong it takes only a few minutes a day to keep them there.  Now isn’t that magical?  If you are interested in learning more about my 1:1 sessions click here.

 


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A Yogi Gift Guide

With the holidays right around the corner I decided to create a gift guide for you.  Each and every item in the guide is something that I love and use all the time.  I think you and the yogis in your life will love them too! {Don’t be shy about sending this over to spouses, friends, or bosses! They just might appreciate the helpful hint.}

Use my guide to get the perfect gift for the yogis in your life. Click To TweetGift Guide Photo

 

In the gift guide you’ll find a very special holiday bonus. Purchase a single private session gift certificate and get an extra 15 minutes added on to the session.

Grab the gift guide

 

Hard is OK

I was assisting a yoga class and noticed a very tall gentleman in a very, very short Utthita Trikonasana (triangle pose).  I suggested he take a much longer stance given his very long legs.  At first he resisted and then he looked worried.  That will make the pose too hard he replied.  I set him up with some props to bring the floor closer to his hand and he settled into the longer stance.

Several weeks later I suggested a slight modification to someone’s Virabhadrasana II (warrior II pose) to bring the knee in line with the center of the foot.  Again I was met with resistance and worry.  But it’s so much work to bend my knee and keep it pointing in the right direction was the reply.  I smiled and agreed completely.  It IS hard.  And that’s part of the practice.

Depending on who you are and what particular set of anatomy you came to the practice with it can be hard for a number of reasons.  Perhaps your muscles are strong but completely resistant to the idea of stretching.  Or perhaps your muscles are very long and the idea of the stability that comes from strong muscles is completely foreign to you.  Likely it is some combination of the two.

Hard is OK

But you stick with it.  You start to explore the physical body and its unique combination of expansiveness and limitations.  You push the edges of boundaries both real and imagined.  You start to notice your default reaction to the hard.  Your mind wanders.  It shuts downs.  You blame the teacher.  You set your jaw and decide to power through as the ego takes over.  You make excuses because you aren’t (__________) enough.

And then there is a subtle shift as you start to notice the important difference between needing to let go and come out of the pose because the mind wants a break and the body actually needs a break.  You realize you alone control your reaction to this pose and this practice.  That it is up to you to learn from this experience and mold it and shape it into something.

It is then that the practice takes a big shift from being all hard, all the time to something more balanced.  There is work and effort but there is a lightness and ease.  It is both hard and soft.  You start to find space for playing and giving it a try no matter what it might end up looking like.  And then you forge forward into that next level of exploration – you start to take the yoga off the mat.

You realize all this practice was never about the pose because in the end does a perfect handstand really matter?  It was about creating a safe space on the mat to explore our edges and our reactions to life.  It was about cultivating a reaction to the hard that life inevitably throws at us.  It’s about learning to override the default switches the poses revealed to you.  It’s not about instant reactivity but thoughtful consideration.  It becomes discernment in action.

Then another shift occurs.  You notice you miss the challenge the poses gave you — the way that the hard poses required your instant focus and attention on them.  So you start exploring new poses and new variations.  You look for ways to continue to hone this skill of being present even when poses are hard.  You take that increased learning off the mat, where life continues to throw us something hard or uncomfortable.

And thus the cycle continues: facing what is hard or uncomfortable, working to stay present, finding tremendous growth.  This is why hard isn’t to be avoided.  It is the place where magic happens.  This is why we practice yoga.

{from my kitchen} sweet & spicy caramel corn

One of my favorite things to do with my nieces is to make caramel corn.  When they (along with Nana – who is both old enough and tall enough to drive) pick me up at the airport I barely have my seat belt fastened before they start asking for the timeline of said caramel corn.  It might not happen the moment we step in the door (much to their chagrin) but almost without fail it makes its appearance before I leave.

My go-to recipe is a good one.  There is no thermometer to mess with, just a simple timer, some measuring cups and spoons, and a pan or two.  You’d think I’d leave well enough alone.  After all my nieces and I never had any trouble sitting in the kitchen and finishing off a tray all by ourselves.  Yet I always wanted a bit more dimension, something to go with all that sweet.

When I first started playing with which spices to add and how much I thought I had missed the mark.  It was still all sweet.  Then slowly the heat started to build.  But not too much heat.  It’s just right amount of both sweet and spicy.  Who doesn’t want a bit of both?

Sweet and Spicy Caramel Corn Gift

If you’re inclined to celebrate Valentine’s Day, might I suggest this as the perfect gift? It’s out the ordinary. Takes no time whatsoever in the kitchen.  And I’m even throwing in a download of my Namaste Conversation Hearts so you can tie up a pretty package of your own.  Though if you decided to eat the tray all by yourself, I can’t say I’d blame you.

Sweet and Spicy Caramel Corn Recipe Card

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