Invest in Rest, Reduce Your Stress

We all know that it pays to take it easy sometimes. But with the sun shining and the air full of sweet summer smells, our ability to take that life advice sometimes falls to the wayside. Neglecting to slow down comes at a high price though. Over activity and stimulation leads to many of our most common health problems such as back pain, heart disease, weight gain, adrenal fatigue, and mood swings.

Good news is there are simple ways to “mindfully relax” that help the body, mind, and spirit feel renewed and ready to keep taking on the world. These easy techniques are perfect for healing the body of injuries, letting the mind unwind, and giving yourself permission to emotionally just chill out for a few minutes.

Vickie Russell Bell knows plenty about relaxation and restoration. She is leading Namaste’s 20 Hour Restorative Yoga Immersion this summer and is passionate about sharing the importance of mindful relaxation with our community. A little R&R never hurt anybody, and let’s face it, who doesn’t want an excuse to just rest up?

Vickie gave us a few suggestions on how to tune into tuning out the world. We encourage you to try your hand at one of these today!

 

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5 Tips to Holistic Weight Loss

By Dr. Amy

It can be terribly frustrating when your body just seems to hold on to those extra 10-20 pounds, no matter how well you eat and how much you exercise.

A holistic weight loss approach will help you to address underlying health issues and will make this uphill battle a little easier for you. Let’s explore a few of the hidden causes of stubborn weight.

The following are 5 of the most common underlying causes that I see in my practice:

1) Your healthy diet actually isn’t as healthy as you think it is (Food sensitivities)

Sometimes a certain food might be healthy for one person, but not work well for another. Omnivore or vegetarian, raw or cooked, paleo or low fat can all be healthy in the right situation. Some specific foods might contribute to inflammation and weight in some people: sugar, gluten, dairy, soy, corn, eggs and nightshades are common ones. Try varying your diet for 2 weeks at a time to see how your body responds to different versions of “healthy” eating.

2) Your digestive system is out of whack causing a bloated belly (IBS)

When your digestive system is not functioning optimally, it might not be processing your foods correctly. This can lead to bloating and weight gain that typically worsens over the course of the day and is better in the morning after an overnight fast.

3) Your adrenals are storing energy for you, just in case (Adrenal Fatigue)

When you are under stress, your body doesn’t know the difference between an angry boss, an upcoming deadline and a famine. Your body stores extra energy, just in case. And it stores is as belly fat. Managing your stress and supporting your adrenals can help assure your body that it is safe to let go of those extra energy stores.

4) Your low thyroid function is causing a sluggish metabolism (Hypothyroid)

Regular blood tests that come back “normal” might be missing the more subtle versions of hypothyroidism. Fatigue, low mood, dry skin, weight gain, constipation, dry thinning hair and puffy water retention can all be signs of an underactive thyroid. A more comprehensive thyroid panel and optimum hormone levels (not just “normal”) can detect if this is contributing to your problems.

5) Your female hormones are out of balance (Perimenopause, Menopause, PCOS, Estrogen dominance)

Imbalanced female hormones can also lead to weight gain in a variety of ways. You may have experienced the fluctuations that can happen throughout a monthly cycle, which are often due to water weight rather than fat. Progesterone is a natural diuretic so this swelling can happen any time your estrogen is too high compared to progesterone. Then in menopause when estrogen levels drop, your body may need a few pounds of extra fat because the fat cells actually help to make the hormones that the ovaries are no longer making. This system can be complicated so get help if you feel your female hormones need better balance.

And no matter what the reason is for your stubborn weight, it’s essential to make peace with your body and learn to love and appreciate yourself just the way you are. Care for your body tenderly, even as you strive to improve it. Many women are perfectly healthy with some extra pounds that their body just seems to need at this time. When I’m working with patients, I always emphasize overall health and fitness first. Then weight loss is more of a side effect.

Please leave a comment below to share your own experiences and what has helped you.


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JOIN DR. AMY DAY THIS WEDNESDAY AT WOMEN’S WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS.

Dr. Amy Day is the resident Naturopathic doctor at Namaste. She is on a personal mission to empower women to find effective solutions to their health problems.After eight years practicing at San Francisco Natural Medicine, she now has her own practice in Berkeley where she lives with her husband and son. She enjoys cooking with natural foods, spending time outdoors, hiking and yoga.

Schedule a visit with Dr. Amy Day at Namaste Berkeley.

[This post first appeared on Dr. Amy Day’s blog.]

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Yoga 101: Breaking Down Trikonasana

 

Elika Aird breaks down Trikonasana in Yoga 101, showing us how to make the most of this incredibly beneficial posture. Explore each phase of the pose mindfully, staying for 5-10 breaths in each step.
1 – Feel your feet merging with the earth as your spine rises tall. Reach out powerfully through your arms and up through the crown of the head. Keep this energy throughout each phase.
2- Turn your right foot out 90 degrees making sure the knee is pointing towards right baby toe, lengthen your right side waist as you reach through your fingers and move the hips to the left.
3 – Lower your right hand to the shin slowly. Keep your quads engaged and actively lengthen down through the fingers while your reach the opposite arm directly overhead. Look up to your fingers; if there is neck discomfort, look forward or down.
4 – If your balance is unsteady, use a block behind your right ankle for support.
5 – Return to step 1 and repeat on the other side. 
This pose continues to be one that I love no matter how many times I do it and can always find some new discovery. There are so many benefits, it improves digestion, lengthens the spine and improves the balance and flexibility of hips and hamstrings  It can be simple with more modifications for beginners and pregnancy or you can go deeper into hamstring opening and explore arm variations to enhance the shoulder opening.
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Meditation in Motion: How to Stay Present in the Body

By Jill Satterfield

Meditation in Motion is a way of practicing being present by being in our body, wherever it is and whatever it is doing.When we are exactly where our body is, we are in the present moment. The body isn’t in the past or future, it’s not conceptual or imagined; it’s part of nature and contains all of nature’s elements. It houses our awareness, is shaped by our stories, thoughts, and emotions, and holds our memories within its tissues. The body is our house—and how we live in it and where we occupy it are uniquely ours, as well as being part of the common human experience.

The body is a treasure trove and an exquisite vehicle for our practice of waking up and being with what is. The body senses thoughts and emotions, and it displays this psychic knowing in sensations before our mind actually cognizes them. So being in tune with our bodies is a way to be intimately involved in having choice.

Noticing a small vibration, a contraction, or a tightening of the breath all can signal that something is about to be announced, and if not heeded it might be announced in a rather big way. (Think of the rumblings of the ground before the eruption of a volcano.) As we inhabit our body with increasing sensitivity, we learn its unspoken language and patterns, which gives us tremendous freedom to make choices.

The practice of cutting thoughts and dispersing negative repetitive patterns can be simplified by attending to the patterns in the body first, before they begin to be spun around in the mind. Practice is the ground of training that influences all we do at other times. As an outgrowth of the concentrative awareness developed by our meditation practice, there is a natural seeping of wakefulness into our daily life. We begin to notice what we’re doing while we are seated, walking, lying down, or assuming some sort of posture.

But our mind training doesn’t have to stop when we are not in a seated meditation posture, because most of the time we are in some sort of posture without actually naming it as such. For instance, sitting at the desk and craning our neck forward toward the computer is a posture, albeit not one of very good alignment. If we’re standing in front of a crowd and giving a talk, we are in a posture, depending on how confident we feel, and if we simply walk through a crowd of people we don’t know, our body mirrors our self-consciousness by assuming some sort of posture called the way we carry ourselves. A posture is a posture whether we give it a name, practice it in a class, or abide in it unconsciously.

So how are we occupying the posture we are in? By simply locating our breath at any given moment, we begin to develop an intimate relationship with our body, its posture or shape, and the way it is reflecting our thoughts and emotions.

In the Buddha’s discourse on the four foundations of mindfulness (Satipatthana Sutta), he asks the monks to notice the breath, whether it be short or long, and he says: “He trains himself, ‘I will breathe in sensitive to the entire (breath) body.’ He trains himself, ‘I will breathe out sensitive to the entire (breath) body.’” We can notice what our breath is doing and, just as importantly, how it is reacting to what is going on both internally and externally, especially if we are sensitive to the entire body.

In many traditions consciousness and breath are considered to be two wings of a bird—I like to think of breath and consciousness as travel partners. For instance, when we are asked to breathe into an area of the body, what are we actually doing? Certainly we aren’t literally breathing into our hands, for example, but we are beckoning our consciousness into our hands, or wherever we might choose to bring it. Consciousness, breath, chi, prana, energy—these are all words pointing toward the same thing. What’s important is primarily the experience of it, then the naming of it in order to communicate about it with others. What we notice when we metaphorically breathe into an area of our body is that we feel something. That something may be difficult to describe, as many esoteric things are, but it is an undeniable experience.

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Mindfulness of breath can also organically lead us to be mindful of when we are not breathing. We may also recognize the conditions of the body around the area where we sense a contraction or holding of breath, bringing our mind and heart together to be with sensations—pleasant, unpleasant, and neutral. When awareness becomes quite keen, we notice our patterns of moving breath away from discomfort in the body.

This refined awareness can eventually translate into knowing our patterns of holding, tightening, and controlling breath when we are in emotional discomfort. It’s easier to be aware of breath related to physical discomfort than it is to be aware of breath associated with emotional discomfort, so we can train the mind to stay with what is in the body first, and then take it up a notch to be aware of breath and body when experiencing emotional difficulties. This is not a conceptual practice; it is experiential, personal, and intimate.

Eventually we might choose to follow breath into many areas of the body as a continuation of training, to see how the mind and breath are intimately connected, and how they actively mirror each other both playfully and protectively. As we “see” how the breath and mind are connected, we begin to have the ability to move our awareness around our body, locating areas of emotional blocks and areas of unconsciousness.

After intentionally traversing our inner landscape with breath and mind, we can prescribe a practice that might hold the most treasure for us at any
given moment. By witnessing how we are, in our body, heart, and mind, we become armed with the necessary information needed to respond thoughtfully and with care.

There are as many types of practice as there are mind, body, and heart states: whether we are seated, walking, or in a purposeful posture, we have the means to address ourselves with real kindness. This intention to pay attention leads us to skillful action—in our own inner and more private world and in the shared world at large. Ultimately, taking care—by taking time to be with what is—will provide a key to being more spacious and at ease, able to be present with whatever our lives hold for us for as long as we have life, in this body, right now


This article originally appeared in as “Meditation in Motion: How to Stay Present in the Body” in Tricycle Magazine, 2012

jill__0201-240x300Jill Satterfield is the founder of Vajra Yoga + Meditation, a synthesis of yoga and Buddhism that combines meditation, yoga and contemplative practices. Named “one of the 4 leading yoga and Buddhist teachers in the country” by Shambhala Sun Magazine, the VY+M trainings were the first to integrate Buddhism and meditation directly into asana practice in New York City in 2002.   Jill has instigated mindful and creative educational programs for over 28 years.

She is also the founder and Director of the School for Compassionate Action: Meditation, Yoga and Educational Support for Communities in Need. SCA is a not for profit that trains teachers, psychologists and health care providers to integrate mind and body practices into their professions. SCA also provides classes to people in chronic pain, with illness, those suffering from PTSD, and at- risk youth. SCA is now taught and practiced across the country and in Europe.

 

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The Opposite of Unrest: Restorative Yoga and You

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20 Hour Restorative Yoga Immersion with Vickie Russell Bell 

Vickie Russell Bell speaks about her upcoming Restorative Yoga Immersion and the importance of balancing unrest with rest.

Restorative Yoga for many of us seems like a luxury or maybe an after-thought to our regular Vinyasa practice. Learn from Restorative Yoga expert Vickie Russell Bell on about how critical it  is for us to integrate Restorative Yoga into our daily lives and the importance of balance:

 

See Vickie’s Schedule

 

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3 Simple Ways to Gain A Mind Body Connection

 

By Jenn Mason

I am guilty of going about my day without thinking about how my actions impact my body and mind. There are days that go by without any self-care practices. When I finally take the time to just sit and breathe, practice yoga or get an acupuncture session I notice the difference instantly. My body is more at ease, my mind and spirit are calm, the back pain I experience is gone and my headaches subside. What is most surprising is what difference it makes in my interactions with my husband, co-workers and strangers I encounter on the road.

Though I have been practicing yoga for years now, I did not make the mind body connection until I practiced self-care for one week straight. As part of a movement awareness class I practiced qi gong, yoga and soft-belly breathing for seven consecutive days. I went online and found a couple of free 20 minute videos and began my practice. Within the day I noticed a significant change not only in my body, but my mind was clear, my mood was lighter and my spirit felt at peace because I wasnt so worried or caught up in the daily grind.

I am a “worry-wart” by nature and I tend to rush because if I am not running late I have a long to-do list. I am also a control freak and want to make the most of my day by cramming in as much as I can. Which, come to think about it is a little counter-intuitive for someone wanting to live with less stress.

Needless to say that despite my controlling characteristics I am learning to live more in the “calm and at ease” space that I discovered during my week of self-care.

Instead of living in the constant “fight or flight” state and doing damage to our adrenal glands why not take three long breaths?

Our bodies are capable of creating and living in a state of relaxation, why not take advantage of these free tools?

Below are some easy steps you can take on a daily basis to kick start your journey to less stress.

1. Before opening an email take three deep breaths from your belly (you should feel your belly expand with every inhale).

2. During your lunch break go outside (weather permitting), sit comfortably with your back against a wall or bench and your feet on the ground. Let your arms relax and close your eyes gently. Begin to breathe, in through your nose and out through your mouth. Take 5 minutes and increase as needed.

3. Go for a walk! Walking meditations are easy and free. Instead of bringing your phone and checking it as you walk, plug in some of your favorite music OR go without media and bring your awareness to the sights, smells, what you hear. Feel the wind against your hair and the sun on your skin. How does this feel? Bring your awareness to your surroundings while walking in silence

If you need a guided soft belly meditation I would recommend Dr. James Gordon’s soft belly meditation.


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This article originally appeared on Jenn’s personal blog, Heart Filled Life. For more inspirational posts follow her blog for regular tips on staying happy and healthy.

Jenn’s background is in non-profit management, health care and sociology. She is a birth doula and leads stress reduction and mindful living workshops. She holds a master’s in women’s health and is currently getting a PhD in Mind-Body Medicine with a certification in health and wellness coaching and hypnosis.

 

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