Pose of the Week: Firefly

grasshopper.jpg

Model: Lacey Grillos 

Firefly

TITTIBHASANA

“It is through the body that your realize you are a spark of divinity.”

~ B.K.S. Iyengar

Pose Benefits:

  • Strengthens arms and wrists
  • Opens and stretches groin, hips, back, and legs
  • Improves balance
  • Tones abdomen

Asana Breakdown:

Begin in a squat with your feet positioned less than shoulder width apart with your slightly arms firmly planted between your legs. Walk your hands back as far as you can, fingers pointing forward. Engage all five knuckles as you gently begin to tilt your torso forward. Carefully begin to lift yourself off of the floor and extend your legs forward. Keep your inner thighs as high on your arms as possible. Straighten your arms, hollow your chest, and widen your shoulders to get as much lift as possible, then spread your toes apart. Slowly begin to lift the head upward. Breathe — see if you can hold this pose for at least 15 seconds, then release.

 

References:

http://www.yogajournal.com/pose/firefly-pose/

Awareness & Labeling Emotions

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It is hot topic in biology that the bacteria in our gut has a huge impact on our mood, personality, emotions, and even thoughts. The bacteria living there, however, are not permanent. They change in quantity and type depending on our environment, what we ingest via breathe, food, and beverage.

Over the past few years I have begun to place a large amount of awareness towards how certain foods affect me. I know that if I eat certain things my gut flora will get out of balance and change my mood and therefore how I interact with those around me. All too often I have said something that I regret and realize that I ate something recently that probably made me that way.

I know it sounds like a bunch of science fiction, but it is the truth. The bacteria in our gut neurons-582054_640has a direct link to our brain and thus to our actions and reactions. This is why eating well is of the utmost importance.

So how do I deal with it? Personally, when I realize I have an intense emotion towards someone that may not be exactly justified I think, What did I eat in the last 24-48 hours? More often than not, I can identify the exact meal or food item that upset me. In efforts to bring humor to the irritation, sadness, or anger, I have started labeling my emotion as the food I ate that made me upset.

When I check in with myself and ask, How are you feeling? The answer becomes something like carrot cake, ice cream, pizza, or corn.

Saying I feel like carrot cake, for me, is a much more accurate description of how I am really feeling because I am really feeling the chemistry of that particular food interacting with my biology. What I have noticed from my personal experience is that when the food passes through me so does that emotion. The same is true on the other end. When I eat right for my body, I am balanced, clear, happy, and light. The emotion then changes to feeling like carrots, quinoa, smoothie, or kale.

So today’s post offers a suggestion in how we approach our meals and how we approach our emotions. When eating a meal, notice how you feel before eating it and how you feel after. Generally, you will feel better, worse or the same. Ideally, you want to feel better, so if you noticed that what you ate made you feel worse, shift your next meal choice and ask yourself what are you feeling and why. Often, I find, I can identify the feeling but not why. If that’s the case, observe the emotional for it will pass once the food has been digested. In this case you will know how you’re feeling because if very well may be that you just feel like carrot cake.

The Potential “Cure-All” Diet

rose-1082542_640I would like to introduce a diet that has changed my life and is beginning to change the lives of many others.

MY STORY

In October of 2015 I entered the hardest month of my life….I was experiencing gut/intestinal pain, severe acne, adrenal depletion, an overloaded liver, depression, warts, fatigue and an inability to sleep.

To sum it all up, everything hurt physically, mentally, and emotionally. I was distraught that my body was preventing me from showing up in the world the way that I truly wanted to. I didn’t want to eat, cook, be productive, blog, go out, go to school, any of it!

Two months went by like this until I went to see a local naturopathic doctor. It was suggested that I go on what is called an elimination diet for 3 weeks.

This diet was probably the most amazing thing I have ever had the pleasure of experiencing. For three weeks I challenged myself to get completely off of:

Dairy   Gluten   Sugar  Soy   Nuts   Caffeine  Alcohol  Corn   Legumes     Nightshades   White Potatoes

So what does that leave me with? Basically milk substitutes like coconut or rice milk, fruits, gluten free grains, meat and vegetables. I’ll admit that it was tricky. I began by taking out the things that I was already impartial to and didn’t mind taking out such as caffeine, alcohol, white potatoes, nuts, corn, legumes, and gluten. For me, all of those things were easily substituted. A couple of days went by like this and then I began to take out nightshades. Then the hardest part came: Dairy and sugar. I am completed addicted to both of theses things so it was incredibly tricky to get off of them. I gave myself the space to have my cravings and just started by decreasing my intake. Another week or two went by like this until I was able to finally get off of both of them.

Five days went by with out eating any dairy for the first time in 4 years and  I could hardly believe what I saw:

  • my acne was gone (for the first time in 4 years)
  • my energy was back
  • my gut didn’t hurt
  • nausea, diarrhea, gas — gone!
  • depression subsided
  • warts disappeared

I had my life back and it felt so good to know that the power was in my hands and it was something as simple as a shift in diet. So here I am at the end of my 3 weeks and I have amazing skin, energy, and vitality to show for it.

UNDERSTANDING THE DIET

The Elimination Diet is great for anyone with any kind of food sensitivity or GI disturbances as well as arthritis, ADD/ADHD, narcolepsy, migraines, issues with the kidneys, cardiovascular disease, allergies, asthma, and others. It’s best if the diet is adhered to for a minimum of 2 weeks. Big dogs like gluten and dairy should be eliminated for 28 days.

It should also be understood that these dietary changes are not permanent and that these foods can be reintroduced. It is recommended that you begin to introduce one of the eliminated food groups for one day and then notice your symptoms for the two following days. If you show no symptoms or reactions you can introduce another food group. This process can take up to 5-6 weeks.  At the end of the process you will know a great deal about your body and your allergies. I learned that I was allergic to dairy and nuts, I could tolerate gluten and sugar, and appear to have no symptoms concerning soy, beans, nightshades or caffeine.

Consult your physician or registered dietitian if you find that there is a certain food group you’d like to introduce, but have an allergic reaction to.

 

Here’s my advice for trying it yourself:

  • Give yourself space to do it at your own pace and don’t beat yourself up when you “relapse”
  • Understand that you WILL go through withdrawals and that they WILL pass and you WILL make it
  • Consult your doctor or physician if you have any questions or concerns
  • Find a community or a friend to support you in your process
  • Switch to organic foods
  • Get on a Probiotic, Multivitamin and/or a B Vitamin complex
  • Supplement with essential fatty acids (i.e. EPA or Fish) and CoQ10
  • Remove other toxins that your not digesting such as perfumes, chemical fragrances, artificially scented lotions, cremes, shampoos and conditioners.

Tips and Tricks for getting through the withdrawal symptoms:

  • Epsom salt and lavender essential oil bath
  • Charcoal (to bind toxins being produced in the body during detox)
  • Broccoli Sprouts
  • Getting body work at least once a week (ex: yoga, massage, chiropractor, acupuncture, etc.).
  • Don’t keep what you crave in the house and resist the urge to buy them when you shop.
  • When a craving appears, drink a large glass of water and wait 30 minutes. Often, the craving will go away.
  • Don’t let yourself get too hungry. When you get hungry you’ll want to eat what you crave, so try to keep an emergency snack or meal prepared.

Check out this link for more information about the Elimination Diet, what to eat, how to reintroduce, recipes, and for more general information:

https://wholelifenutrition.net/articles

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/elimination-diet

For literature on the Diet I suggest exploring:

https://wholelifenutrition.net/books

 

 

 

Thoughts on Meditation For Beginners

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Meditation can be incredibly intimidating for the ruminating or monkey-mind, as I call it. For me, I often find a lot of self-judgement around meditation: “Am I doing it right? When was the last time I had a thought? Am I still thinking? Om Namah Shivaya… why can’t I stop thinking?”

And that, right there, is the ultimate fallacy. The goal of meditation is not to “stop thinking”. It is about awareness. Taking time to truly notice the breath, to feel the weight of your clothes, and the sensation of them touching your skin. To become aware, but not attached, to the mind as it wanders through the vast hallways of your life.

This is easier said than done, but that is why we call it a practice. I can guarantee that every great yogi has had to work towards gaining peace in their mind, that the constant chattering did not merely stop because they decided to sit crosslegged, in silence, for an extended period of time. It stopped because they chose to make a habit of meditation.

What is truly phenomenal is that just the action of becoming still, of listening to the mind chatter, of noticing the emotions, as well as physical distresses of the body, actually has striking effects on your overall health and wellbeing.

In fact, the University of Wisconsin, among many others have proven that meditation alters gene expression. Changing the bodies response to fight or flight by giving an additional reaction: action. The Yoga Sutras discuss this. They say that eventually the dedicated yogi will reach a point where they no longer react to situations, but rather respond situations with clarity and diligence. With consistent practice, it also begins to turn off genes related to cancer, alzheimer, and obesity as it begins to turn on genes that promote mental clarity, longevity, and overall wellbeing.

So here are some tricks you can bring into your meditation practice to get the ball rolling. Remember, you are just noticing what is happening around you. Resist the need to judge or label the mind as it being to string thoughts along throughout your practice.

Breathing — Using Uijayi breathe (the breath of victory) begin to place your awareness solely on the breath. Listen to breath as it moves in and out of the body. As the mind wavers, take it back to it’s basic.

Chanting — Often finding a chant can be very helpful. Whether it is an intention, a prayer, spoken out loud, in silence, in your native tongue, or in sanskrit; it doesn’t matter. Having a chant can be very powerful because it allows the mind to focus on a simple phrase. This can help to bring about joy in the heart and turn the volume down on the monkey-mind.

Listening to a tape — Sometimes it can be helpful to listen to a meditation tape. This way you have something to listen to when the mind starts to wander. This will also help you focus on intention and can bring new elements into awareness.

Set a timer — Another huge fallacy around meditation is that is has to be for a long period of time. Even though meditation is most beneficial when practiced on average for 27 minutes a day, that’s not realistic for some people. So you do what you can. Sitting for even 5 or 10 minutes can make a world of a difference. So set a timer, let go of the need to look at a clock, and take a moment to be still.

Find ways to bring it into daily life — The truest and most evident benefit of meditation is finding ways to take in off the mat and into daily life. As you delve into your mediation practice, notice how your tolerance or patience begins to change. Or choose to actively incorporate the meditative mind into simple tasks such as getting cut off in traffic, waiting in a long line in a grocery store, or having that uncomfortable conversation. That state of being is what will serve you the most. It can be a compass in your life to point you in the direction of where you need to be and the path of least resistance to get there.

You should sit in meditation for 20 minutes a day, unless you’re too busy; then you should mediate for an hour.” ~ Old Zen Saying

Pose of the Week: Eagle Pose

Eagle (behind)

Eagle

GARUDASANA

Pose Benefits:

  • Increases balance and proprioception
  • Increases flexibility
  • Open Shoulders and Hips
  • Relieves back ache & sciatica
  • Asthma

Asana Breakdown:

Begin in Mountain Pose (Tadasana). Beginners may want to practice next to a wall. Slowly and gently begin to bend your knees, rooting into the left leg, allow your right leg to come off the ground crossing over the left. Some people have the flexibility to hook their right foot behind their thigh. If that’s not in your practice, don’t fret! Simply crossing over is just fine. Begin to sink deeper into the hips, cross the left hand over the right, mirroring the pattern of your legs. Allow the collar bones to lift and spread, breathe deeply here. Connect with your core, tucking your tailbone. Find your drishti (gazing point) and begin to left your elbows so that they align with your shoulders. Another variation is to fold forward so that the knees and elbows touch.

Eagle (profile)

Pose of the Week: Peaceful Warrior

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Peaceful Warrior

SHANTI VIRABHADRASANA

“There is no path to happiness. Happiness is the path. There is no path to love. Love is the path. There is no path to peace. Peace is the path.”

~Dan Millman

After the incredible amount of violence this week, it only seems fitting that the pose of the week would be peaceful warrior. I love that traditional yoga often centers around the warrior postures. It reminds us, we do not need vengeance to be strong. We do not need to inflict pain upon another to be triumphant. It reminds us that we do not count our victories as the number of wars have defeated on the battle field, but rather the amount of wars we have overcome within ourselves.

My heart goes out to those suffering right now at the hand of another. I feel so removed from that reality, I can only say this: The war stops externally, when the war stops internally. Peace is a choice. And it is possible. Do not lose faith. Do not lose your smile to grief. Draw inward and we will be triumphant. ❤

om shanti om shanti om shanti om.

Benefits of the Pose:

  • Strengthens the Legs
  • Stretches abdominal muscles and engages core
  • Stretches and supports the lungs
  • Opens Chest & Shoulder
  • Opens Heart

Asana Break Down:

Come into Warrior II (Virabhadrasana II), check your alignment with the front ankle. Make sure it is in alignment with the arch of the back foot. The back foot should be flat at a 45 degree angle. Bend deeply into the front knee. Make sure your front knee does not go past the front ankle. Draw the thighs together, squaring the hips, as if they were being pressed between two panes of glass. Arms should come out directly from the shoulder blades. Turn the hands towards the sky and bend backwards. Back and highly presses into the back leg. Most of the strength is being drawn from the core; the weight is not on the back knee. Open the chest and the heart lifts and spreads. Front arm comes over head, gaze comes towards the sky or the thumb.

 

Above, I have a chant you can say out loud or silently to yourself, either in this posture or sitting quietly. Om shanti translates into “om” the divine universe and “shanti” translates to peace, as a phrase it means may the divine creator, energy, and wisdom grant eternal peace to all things.

Pose of the Week: Dolphin

dolphin

Dolphin

MAKARASANA

Benefits of the Pose:

  • Relieves mild depression, headaches & back pains
  • Helps to calm the mind
  • Relieves symptoms of osteoporosis
  • Strengthens shoulders and abdominals
  • Stretches Hamstrings
  • Opens Heart
  • Preparation for forearm balance

Such a beautiful posture, amazing for alignment and strengthening the body to prepare for forearm balance. To get into this posture, begin in table or Adho Mukha Svanasana (Down ward facing dog). Once you have come into alignment in your preparatory posture, come down to your fore arms. Hands can come together into prayer, lay flat on the floor, or gently be clasping one another. If hamstrings are tight, you may take a bend in the knees. Otherwise, root though your ankles, allowing them to press into the floor. Allow the collar bones to lift and spread as shoulder blades draw near one another, chest beams towards the knees. Head hangs heavy. ❤

Please feel free to leave any questions, comments, or recommendations bellow.

Pose of the Week: Upward Facing Dog

Photo Credit: Lily Russo

Upward Facing Dog

URDVHA MUKHA SVANASANA

Benefits of the pose:

  • Strengthens arms, shoulders & wrists
  • Stretches spine, lungs & shoulders
  • Tones stomach muscles
  • Helps relieve mild depression and fatigue
  • Opens chest

Asana Breakdown:

To get into this pose, begin in low cobra. Firmly press your hands into the ground as your arms lengthen. Draw shoulder blades onto the back as the collar bones begin to lift and spread. Feet are together, big toes touching, tops of the feet touching the ground. Hips, thighs and shins are off the mat. Chin can gently tilt towards the ceiling.

Sources:

“Upward-Facing Dog.” Yoga Journal. Cruz Bay Publishing, n.d. Web. 5 Nov. 2015.

Mistakes: A Step In The Right Direction

It is a misconception to think any one of any stature is ever free from the capability of making mistakes. Mistakes can arise from even the most sincere intention or the smallest lapse in judgement. The importance of mistakes is that they give you feedback and new direction.

Growing up, I was a girl who strived for perfection and deeply criticized myself, my worth, and my merits if I did not meet the impossibly high standard I had set for myself. Interestingly enough, I did not have parents who pressured me to act this way nor was anything else in my surroundings urging me to do this to myself. It came from with in. This unfathomable fear of being wrong. I would say today I can at least pat myself on the back for not being a perfectionist, but I still do strive to answer the question, “What is the most right?”.

I remember this summer, I briefly took a job as a barista at my favorite coffee house. I really had no business being there, however. I knew nothing of coffee, nor did I even drink it myself. On one of my first days, I kept making a series of mistakes that lead to lots of spilling and clean up. I was so embarrassed, but relieved when I apologized to one of my co-workers who replied, “That’s okay. Mistakes are where life happens.”

Even recently, when I moved in with my partner — a move I may not have truly been ready for in my heart, but quickly learned to adapt to — he said to me a quote of similar nature: “Mistakes are unavoidable so you might as well have fun and enjoy the ride.”

Naturally, the part of my brain that has in some way or another programmed itself to strive for perfection was being overrided by the notion that a mistake could possibly been a good thing.

Mistakes are bound to happen. They hurt ourselves and they can hurt others, but they are ultimately how we learn, where we grow, and are what makes our journey unique. I recently lost a job I cared about deeply for a careless mistake, a mistake compatible to that which you make on a math test and think to yourself, “Really? I can’t believe I forgot to do that!”. It’s with a heavy heart that I step away from there, deeply regretting my actions. But I’d like to think that nothing happens without reason. Even mistakes. Yes, even mistakes are divinely orchestrated and can lead you to exactly where you need to be.

This post isn’t to say that you should purposefully make mistakes, but, perhaps, when you do make them, give yourself some room to breathe. Give yourself permission to mess up because that’s where life happens. When you find yourself in the midst of self-ridicule try to change to tone to one of self-compassion and have a little faith. Even though, you may feel deeply sorry for your actions, trust that all is as is because the universe is as is. And, ultimately that it will be okay. Have trust in your actions and faith in your merits. ❤

Pose of the Week: Hanumanasana

Lord Hanuman Pose

HANUMANASANA

Benefits of the Pose:

  • Stretches groin, hips, & thighs
  • Opens Heart
  • Strengthens & improves functionality of abdominal muscles
  • Increases flexibility of hips when practiced frequently

Asana Breakdown:

This pose requires great flexibility and strength and definitely requires a bit of a warm up before getting into it. Personally, I keep this posture till one of my final poses, to ensure that I don’t hurt myself and can get the most benefit out of the asana. For preparation, I like to start off in Ardha Hanumanasana (Half Hanuman/Half Splits). To begin, start in Downward Facing Dog. Inhale one leg into three legged-dog, exhale step it in between your legs and bring your back leg down to the floor. Begin to straighten the front leg, allowing your foot to come off the floor, resting on your ankle. Begin to melt your heart closer to your knee and breathe here. This is the traditional prep pose for Hanumanasana.

Once you feel comfortable here, you can begin to ease your front leg forward and extend your back leg on the ground behind you. Straightening both and coming into full Hanumanasana. Here, you want to square your hips as much as possible. So let’s say your left leg is forward, take your attention to the right hip and begin to draw it closer to the front and allow for an external rotation in the the back leg. Lengthen the spine and allow the collar bones to lift and spread.

This can make the pose uncomfortable. The best way to ease int this pose from grace here is to use your hands as leverage and pull your groin a few inches off the ground. Drawing the thighs in closer together, you will begin to get deeper into the pose as well as your hips. Practice here, until you can comfortably remain in the traditional expression with integrity. From here, you can start to play. Options including, bending the back leg and grabbing the foot, reaching arms up over head or leaning forward over the front leg.