The thoracic jacket is a supportive tool that helps maintain healthy upper spine alignment. It keeps the shoulder blades relaxed away from the ears, the chest lifted, and encourages the head to lean back and line up with the upper back. I used it daily, not too long ago, when I struggled with chronic nerve impingement. I had lots of tingling, numbness and nerve pain down the arms. The sensations were especially uncomfortable when I slept on my side – for a 6-month period, I didn’t sleep through the night because of nerve pain. My condition was probably encouraged by years of working with microscopes and computers for long periods of time, and exacerbated by two car accidents. It also wasn’t helpful that I folded up in a car, 4 days a week, to drive to work from Oakland to San Jose. I had lost all the natural curves in my spine. The thoracic jacket was helpful in scaffolding my upper back, supporting me in healthy alignment so that my body could relearn a better way of being.
If you’re looking for relief from neck pain or shoulder pain, or maybe you’re just trying to neutralize text neck, I hope you’ll put on the thoracic jacket and go about your usual activities. Give it a try and see how you feel. I have found it useful on days when I do a lot of writing or when I learn a new chant with my harmonium. It’s not so great on days when you have to dress up for the office, and it’s particularly annoying if you like wearing nicely pressed, wrinkle-free clothes.
Known for her curiosity, playfulness and nurturing style, Poh offers yoga practices that cultivate spacious presence for the busy, modern life. Poh comes to yoga with a career in tech at the intersection of engineering, law and business. Her personal practice revolves around nurturing body, heart and mind towards homeostasis as she navigates a demanding world. This is the flavor of her yoga classes. Poh teaches from the heart and offers her unique blend of attentiveness to healthy alignment, courageous + compassionate self-inquiry, and deliberate relaxation. Typically, there’s a splash of Bhakti and she sings.
I write now having just taken a sip of some Alishan High Mountain Oolong Tea from Taiwan. Tea has become an anchor in my life. Like brushing my teeth, mornings just don’t feel complete unless I take the time to sit with my tea. I love the whole process of making tea: from filling my electric water kettle, choosing the loose leaf tea to brew, waiting for the water to come to the right temperature for the tea of choice, rinsing whatever vessel I’ll be using for the tea, to brewing my cup, and then the “ahhhh” of taking that first sip of tea. Tea is more than just a beverage. The process of making tea has helped me slow down, focus, and bring awareness to and appreciate the present moments.
Did you know that tea is the second most consumed beverage, after water, in the world?
In fact, most cultures on this planet have some sort of tea tradition. The Asian cultures are suspected to have had the tea practice the longest. Legend has it that in 2737 BC, the Chinese emperor Shen Nung was sitting beneath a tree while his servant boiled drinking water, when some leaves from the tree blew into the water to become what’s now known as tea.
All teas come from the plant camellia sinensis, a species of evergreen shrub commonly known as tea tree or tea plant. Technically, herbal infusions like mint tea or chamomile tea are not tea given the lack of leaves from camellia sinensis. The unique quality of tea is that while it has caffeine, it also has other chemicals like theanine that at once stimulate yet relax the brain. It’s this ability to calm yet focus the mind that I find so unique of tea and so different from coffee.
In the hands of a skillful tea farmer and artisan, healthful tea leaves can be crafted to produce brilliantly beautiful aromas and flavors categorized into what the tea experts at Far Leaves Tea call “kingdoms of tea”: white, green, oolong, black, puer, and, of course, herbal infusion. Each is unique in its proportion of caffeine content and flavor, to allow one to choose pending the mood and experience one is looking for in that moment.
I didn’t grow up in a tea culture. It had never had any meaningful place in my life. But once I started making loose leaf tea, and paying attention to the process of making the different infusions of tea that brewing loose leaf tea allows, a new door was opened, opening into a world that I could make my own.
Brad Lebowitz is a tea lover and aficionado. He has been serving, sharing, and educating the Bay Area community on tea with Far Leaves Tea for the last 15 years.
We proudly serve Far Leaves Tea at our Namaste studios. Sourced from the finest sources and prepared with care, Far Leaves Tea is a local business who continues to provide the community with nourishment and peace through the tea experience.
?✨⚡️Try my Bullet Proof Morning Tea Blend for Allergies/cold/sinus congestion? ✨⚡️?
1 whole lemon 1 small branch of ginger
1 garlic clove
1 tea spoon of Bee Pollen
1 table spoon turmeric powder (or chop 1 small branch of fresh turmeric!) 1 table spoon of organic raw honey (ideally local wild honey will be the best medicine for allergies!)
Tiny sprinkle of cayenne pepper
Chop and Mix ingredients in a quart of boiled water.
For an extra boost option: add 2 bags of black breakfast tea at the end and steep for 3-5min, remove before drinking. Or drink with no tea bags to keep it caffeine free.
Sonya Genel, ERYT500, joyfully embraces the power of yoga not only to heal and transform the body but also to heighten human consciousness and to create a radiant life. In her classes, Sonya weaves precise anatomical alignment with flowing movement. Always approaching her students with authenticity and humor, Sonya’s intention is to hold space for a direct embodied connection with Spirit. Join her for her Friday 9:30am class at Namaste Berkeley! You can also connect with her at sonyayoga.com and on Instagram @sonyayoga
If you have a steady yoga and meditation practice at home or attend regular classes at a studio and now find yourself on the go for work or pleasure, it’s not uncommon to lose momentum in your practices.
Over the years I’ve started traveling more as a yoga teacher and Ayurvedic Health Educator and have figured out a few ways to maintain my wellness routines and yoga practice no matter where I go.
On the road, yoga is a lovely companion and can help you physically recover more quickly from fatigue, time zone changes, and long airplane rides. It mentally supports you in staying grounded and calm in the midst of all the unexpected circumstances you may face in travels! Here are a few of my favorite ways to incorporate yoga on the go:
Purchase a thin traveling yoga mat for your adventures.
Schedule a private with your local teacher to design a practice that is realistic and suits your personal needs.
Research possible yoga studios close to where you are traveling and schedule them into your itinerary.
Find a yoga-inspired book to help you learn more about the philosophy or history of Yoga for those long airplane rides or to help you relax before bed.
Build a wellness-travel kit with tongue scrapper, neti pot, sea salt, nasya oil, triphala (take in the evening if you suffer from constipation when traveling), tea tree oil spray (to sanitize your hotel room), and your Ayurvedic oil to treat yourself to an oil massage before bed or your morning shower.
On the Road:
Wellness Practices = Healthy Yogi Expand your morning routine to include a large glass of room temperature water to hydrate. Also, scrape your tongue to remove bacteria in the mouth, use the neti pot to rinse away airborne pollutants, and squeeze a few drops of nasya oil post-neti to lubricate your nasal cavity.
Mindfulness Practice Meditate in bed for 5-20 minutes first thing in the morning or lying down in bed at night listening to a Yoga Nidra recording. Meditation can be very helpful to prepare you for the unexpected and new experiences that accompany traveling.
Schedule Your Asana Time Write down in your calendar when you plan to do your asana practice. Create a 15-30 minute sequence of standing poses in case you don’t have a mat or clean floor to do a full practice. If you’d like some ideas for your home practice, check out my Art of Sequencing books, available in our boutiques at Namaste.
Online Yoga Classes Ask one of your regular teachers if they can recommend a yoga video or audio practice for your travels. If you travel often enough, you might consider joining something like My Yoga Online, which allows you to stream or download numerous videos to your computer.
Melina Meza has been sharing her knowledge of Hatha Yoga, Ayurveda, and whole foods nutrition with yogis around the world for over 20 years. Melina pioneered Seasonal Vinyasa, an innovative multi-disciplined approach to well-being, and is the author of the Art of Sequencing books, creator of the Yoga for the Seasons – Fall Vinyasa DVD, and co-director of 8 Limbs Yoga Centers 200- and 500-Hour Teachers’ Training Program in Seattle, Washington.
She teaches Mondays at 5:30pm at the Grand Lake studio and will be teaching the upcoming Intro to Yoga workshop at Namaste on Saturday, April 30.
“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.”
–Shunryu Suzuki (Founder of SF Zen Center)
I love this quote because it reminds me that the mind is the filter through which we see the world around us. What Suzuki meant by “beginner’s mind” is that when when we look at the world with fresh eyes, there is a newness and vividness to what we see that allows our minds to be open to new possibilities.
When we take things for granted, when we stop seeing with fresh eyes, the world around begins to get stale. Old and uninteresting. Beginner’s mind is a way of thinking and being in the world that can re-kindle the freshness and newness that makes everything around us sparkle with vibrancy. When we see the world with beginner’s mind, we become inspired, energized, and excited.
The first step is to engage in a simple thought. Try saying these words to yourself, “I don’t know, but I am curious.” Repeat several times and notice how it feels to be in that place of not knowing but openness.
Now, use the trigger question “What is happening right now?” to uncover how you are blocking yourself and what obstacles stand in the way from seeing the world with fresh new eyes. Take a few moments to either note silently to yourself or to write down everything that you can perceive which includes what you are seeing, hearing, tasting, touching, smelling, thinking, and feeling.
Try this exercise in different settings throughout the day to start to develop your beginner’s mind muscles. After all, when you change the way you see, the things you are looking at also change!
For more inspiration, watch Vlad’s recent video, “Waking Up”
For the past 6 years, I have had the honor to hold space for hundreds of people in my Yoga for Grief workshops in the SF Bay Area. Over the past year, this sacred gathering has found a sweet hOMe at Namaste Yoga and Wellness. I added the subtitle: Healing Hearts, Healing Bodies because the grieving process is unique for each one of us and there are a variety of places within our being that unhealed energies or emotions can get stuck. I found that by offering a yoga practice that participants were able to release emotions that had become stuck in the body and helped them move through some very difficult mind states. I also always knew that just a half day of yoga or a 6 week series of yoga sessions could be a safe and supportive space for grieving yogis and yoginis but that it could not ‘cure’ the bereaved heart.
So what might one do to patiently tend to a healing heart during an extended time of grief? In my own personal journey and in hearing from participants of these gatherings, I have found that the following three activities have been helpful during the darker days of loss to channel the pain and anguish, and assist in working through the numbness. These three activities also provide a safe go-to place even after the acute grief response has subsided and we come to realize that there will be waves of grief in the days, months or years to come.
I started journaling when I was a teen and about two years before my mom became ill. Journaling literally saved my life while I was trying to make sense of my mom’s sudden death. I look back at those journal entries and they were riddled with questions I still don’t have the answers to, but allowed me a space to let my heart’s voice be heard rather than shut down. Over the years, journaling has become my free (and always available) therapist and I continue to write in a journal on a regular basis. Of course, there are times when the journal sits at the bed side for weeks but for me it has become one of the best tools in times of loss and grief and I highly recommend checking out this website on grief journaling.
2) Tonglen Meditation
This can be a powerful practice when done on a regular basis. Tonglen meditation is a Buddhist technique that helps a grieving person find a way to sit with the suffering using the in breath to find a way to release the pain, suffering, despair, anger or other unhealed energies so that we can open our hearts to feel relief, joy, forgiveness, and other healed emotions through the out breath. Pema Chodron, a great Buddhist nun, has a graceful way of teaching Tonglen. Check out Pema’s teaching here.
3) Creating an Altar in your home
Admittedly, this was the hardest one to begin for me because I somehow though that a nondenominational eclectic animist like myself who didn’t have any lineage or tradition, didn’t have a foundation for building a sacred space in my home. Then it dawned on me, that is all the more reason to build one! No matter what your beliefs or non-beliefs are, if you are mourning the loss of a beloved person, pet or the loss of some thing, (i.e. a relationship, a job, health) you deserve to have an area in your home that helps to ground and center you! And even though it took me years to find out how powerful my tiny little bookshelf altar would be in my healing journey, I laughed out loud when I searched the web for a ‘how to build an altar in your home’ and found the simplest of instructions. Check out these three steps to creating an altar!
I am prone to borrow Mae West’s wisdom at times like these: “I didn’t say it would be easy, I did say it would be worth it.” I hope you find these tips helpful and if you have any healing tools that you would like to share or if you have any questions on how to deepen your healing practice, please email Ken or share in the comments below!
From my healing heart to yours, I wish you solace and peace in your healing journey.
A conversation with Reba Gray and Poh Teng about their must have self care practices:
Poh: I love seeing what you’re up to on Instagram. Your self-care practices are random mid-day reminders for me to do self-care. What are some of your favorites?
Reba: Asana practice of course! Also massage, reading in a quiet space, and getting pedicures. In general, doing things more slowly and mindfully.
Poh: You do always have nicely pedicured feet! And you went to southern California this summer?
Reba: Yep, my hubby and I went to San Diego & Santa Barbara. My favorite moment was lunch on the beach with my toes in the sand, laughing with good friends and enjoying the sea breeze. We also got to visit Cold Spring Tavern, a saloon from the 1860s. We shared a really delicious cold beer. Having moments like that are so rejuvenating for me, creating sense memories, you know? I can remember the feeling of toes in the sand, the taste of that cold beer after traveling on a hot, dusty day… Tell me about your favorite self-care practices.
Poh: My favorites are yoga, massage and hiking with my dogs. But really, anything that helps me let go of stress buildup in the body, heart and mind. Last week, I took an hour-long savasana in a sensory deprivation tank. It was my first float. I had the best rest in a very long while. It was much needed as I had recently struggled for a few weeks with minimal sleep due to a nerve impingement injury. The injury is related to my history of neck and shoulder trauma, and was triggered when I broke up a dog fight on a hiking trail. Early this year, I started a new job that requires a long commute, which aggravates the injury. During recovery, I practiced yoga and self-massage daily in addition to receiving regular bodywork. Super thankful for my personal practice, the support of friends in my wellness community and for the body’s ability to heal. What are you working on in your yoga practice?
Reba: I’m really inspired by breath work and meditation lately. I’ve been taking 5-30 minutes a day to sit and observe my breath, or to do some favorite breath practice, like kumbhaka pranayama (breath retention). Breath retention helps me feel less anxious, helps me stay present – I tend to get ahead of myself with planning stuff that’s way off in the future.
Poh: I’ve been really inspired by breath and meditation, too. There’s two parts to the practice for me right now: 1) dharana – resting the mind on the rise and fall of the body, using the body as home base; and 2) svadhyaya – contemplating the habits of the mind that I noticed from the meditation practice.
Reba: And I love sweaty vinyasa with inversions. Home practice is sweet, but I really like the energy of practicing with a whole bunch of yogis in a studio.
Poh: Me, too! Throw in a handful of arm balances and I’m happy.
Reba: You know what else is also self-care? Always having my favorite foods in the fridge. Buying or growing food we like is a really important way to take good care of ourselves. It’s something I struggle with, but when I take the time to slow down and carefully prepare my own food, it is so worth it. I always have spinach, yogurt, Frog Hollow apricot conserve, cheese, and eggs in the fridge.
Poh: Yum! I always have eggs, too. And coconut water, kale, several varieties of hot sauce… and soy milk or soy pudding. My constitution is predominantly pitta-vata. I was advised by ayurveda practitioners to decrease intake of hot sauce and soy, to be careful I don’t go into pitta and vata overdrive. I struggle to give up hot sauce because I’m a child of Malaysia, and I can’t give up soy because it’s a part of my family’s diet for generations. I’m practicing mindfulness and moderation of my habits, slowing down to notice if the foods I choose nourish me or deplete me. It’s all a practice.
Make time for yourself – join Reba and Poh in Power Up + Power Down, an extended, self-care practice. You will power up with joyful and supported back bends, and power down with guided meditation and deep hip openers. Discover stillness in power, and power in stillness.
Ayurveda…by now you’ve probably heard the word on multiple occasions. Maybe it’s on the label of your toothpaste or you’ve gotten into a conversation about your ayurvedic dosha, or “type”. Perhaps a yoga teacher has even mentioned that summertime is ruled by the fiery dosha, pitta.
Ayurveda, meaning science of life, is Indian classical medicine with 6,000 year old roots. Ayurveda, along with yoga, believes that humans share the same characteristics as the earth. Ayurveda looks at the seasons and five elements – ether, air, fire water, earth – and identifies those characteristics within our bodies. These 5 elements combine to create the 3 doshas, or humors, which describe us: vata, pitta, kapha. Some of us are spiritual and airy, but not grounded (vata). Some of us are full of fire and drive (pitta). Others are cooler and grounded, like the earth (kapha).
Ayurveda looks at the whole body and not just symptoms, with the overall goal to balance the elements in our bodies.
The seasons, like our bodies, run hot, cold, wet and dry. Summertime is ruled by pitta – the fire/water element. That means summer is the time when visionary, expansive, creative, wild and passionate energies rule. It also means we can easily overdo and overheat. According to Ayurveda, when it’s hot and dry, we need to eat wet and cooling foods and develop practices to keep us healthy and hydrated! Summer is the easiest time to become dehydrated.
Common signs of dehydration are:
Dry skin, mouth, lips
Decreased urination (even when drinking plenty of water)
Sore muscles that won’t recover
Shiny “oily” looking face
Big bags under the eyes (kidney area of the face)
Slower brain function (like a hangover)
Irregular bowel movements
This summer, avoid getting too hot and bothered by using some traditional and modern ayurvedic techniques to keep cool and in control!
1. Up your electrolytes! Electrolytes are a combination of minerals (Magnesium-Calcium, Potassium-Sodium, chloride, hydrogen phosphate, hydrogen bicarbonate) that we need for optimal functioning. The best way to get electrolytes or “trace minerals” are from naturally occurring “good salts.” These “good salts” include Celtic Sea, Atlantic Grey, or Pink salt. According to author Dr. Barbara Hendel, co-author of Water & Salt, The Essence of Life : “These mineral salts are identical to the elements of which our bodies have been built and were originally found in the primal ocean from where life originated…. We have salty tears and salty perspiration. The chemical and mineral composition of our blood and body fluids are similar to seawater. “
We are often told to avoid salt– and it’s really table salt (including kosher and “natural sea salts”) that we need to avoid. These “bad salts” are often bleached, refined and striped of their minerals. Good salt, on the other hand is critical to our health and will not spike blood pressure levels, because it doesn’t contain excessive sodium or refined sodium chloride. Unlike table salt, which causes swelling, bloating, and edema, good salt actually hydrates you. Switch to a “good salt” and watch your intake of “bad salts,” which are hidden in tons of common foods like crackers, chips, pretzels, olives, cheese, pickles, and take out-food.
In addition to eating good salt, which provides enzymatic support for the pancreas to break down sugars, taking good salt straight in water, called sole, gives the adrenals and kidneys a boost for the hot sweaty days ahead.
2.Take more RAW oils- In order to absorb our electrolyte-filled water, we need essential fatty acids (EFAs). EFAs are oxygen-rich oils that bind with the oxygen in our water and allow for our cells, skin, and organs to be hydrated, healthy and pliable. EFAs also assist healthy brain function, alleviate depression and help synapses in the brain fire more smoothly. Look for cooling oils such as olive, flax or hemp (often RAW oils are labeled “cold-pressed” or “extra virgin”). However, the oxygen molecule in these oils cannot withstand heat, so when you heat them, their molecules shifts to mimic free radicals (pre-cancer cells) in our bodies. Rather than sauteing in oil, begin to steam, grill and poach your food, or saute with water and spices. If you need to use an oil, try coconut oil or ghee, which can be heated to higher temps without going rancid. To get the healthful EFAs, put up to 4 TBS per day of RAW oil on your food. It will bring out the unique favor of the food and retain the healthy, raw quality. Feel free to use these cooling oils in a salad dressing or just drizzle them over salads, veggies, soups and grains.
3. Eat your (wet white) veggies – Pitta is ruled by the fire of digestion and during the summer you want to eat as many cooling, alkaline veggies as you can. Go for alkaline and potassium rich wet white veggies. Load up on cucumbers, jicama, bok choy, turnips, radishes, daikon, fennel bulb. If you’re not sure, taste test some at a local farmers’ market. Turnips are great sliced like chips and dipped in hummus. You can also cool off any foods by garnishing with fresh cilantro, basil, mint, fennel root, and lots of lemon and limes. If you need a summer taco fix—smother them in lime and cilantro, and munch on radishes!
4. Cool it off -Hydrate your whole body by spending more time in the water! Truly, a good swim or cold shower can really help cool off a hot body and over-active or frustrated mind. Make sure you get your head wet to blow off steam, and take deep slow breathes. After a shower or swim apply coconut oil to wet skin to keep it moist. This traditional practice of “abhyanga”, or skin oilination, is helpful to ground and hydrate the body. Make sure the skin is still wet (apply before toweling off) so it can fully absorb.
5. Do less and put your legs up! The pitta person, often a natural leader, is always overdoing and under pressure. Summer is fun, but also often full of doing, often resulting in burn-out! Whether it’s simple exhaustion or full-blown adrenal fatigue, it’s important slow down and do less. Make a list of all the ideas, projects or trips you want to do this summer and decide on three to really focus on and follow through with. Put the others on hold, or let them go! Find 15 minutes everyday to be still. Try Viparita Karani aka “legs up the wall pose.” The relaxing and passive inversion helps calm the nervous system, move the lymph, reduce swelling in the feet and get you on the cool earth. And have a truly sweet, sweaty and cool summer.
Kameko Shibata, ERYT-500, has a love affair with yoga that has spanned ten years and five continents! And her teaching reflects her love, curiosity and dedication to yoga and the exploration of breath. Her delicious vinyasa classes invite you to come deeply into your breath and body through safe and challenging sequences combined with sound, breath, and core work.
How twired are you? First things first, what is twired? Twired = tired + wired. And it’s an epidemic in our society. We are running on empty. Some of us go to bed too late, don’t get enough sleep and then run on adrenaline all day. Others don’t sleep well (due to hormones, stress, alcohol) and then wake up, and move caffeinated and wired through the day. We don’t know how to rest. No one taught us. We think that zoning out to TV, or answering emails on the couch while we down a pint of Ben & Jerry’s, or playing candy crush on our ipad is rest. Think again. Rest involves stopping and we don’t do that well. Some of us are so twired, we’re afraid that if we stop, we may not be able to start again (you know who you are!)
Being busy is the new addiction, and it’s actually a control mechanism that keeps us from feeling. It keeps the fear and the loneliness below the surface. Stopping to rest can be downright frightening. It might mean that we tap into a part of ourselves that we’ve denied and kept hidden for a long time. Stopping and feeling requires that we wake up.
So, how can we learn to rest? Yoga and savasana to the rescue!
Here’s What You Do:
Set a timer for 15-20 minutes. Place a folded blanket under your head as a pillow and a roll under your lower thighs/knees (or put your legs up on a chair or your bed). Place your arms a little away from your sides. Let the weight of your body drop into the floor. Notice your breath. Soften something that feels tense. Do nothing but rest. Attempt to relax, and stay awake. Feel + breathe + be.
Savasana lacks ambition. Savasana is receptive. Savasana is soft and kind. Savasana is about being and not about doing. Savasana is the practice of deliberate stillness. Savasana is the antidote to twired. 15-20 minutes will radically shift your nervous system. You will feel more relaxed, more at ease, more peaceful. The more you practice the easier it becomes, and it will change your life. Your friends, family and co-workers will thank you!
Want More? Try the 30-Day Challenge:
For the next month 30 days, do 15-20 minutes of savasana every day, once a day. Drop the twired – be more at peace – get to know yourself. I promise you won’t regret it! (Oh yeah, let me know how it goes…)
Please let us know in the comments how you feel after the exercise!