Some Yoga poses that seem easy can be the hardest. Like downward facing dog, a foundational pose of Yoga. This video explores how to engage various muscle groups by transitioning to downward dog from plank. The key is to press into the hands to first lift off the hips. By staying on your toes you can get deeper into elongating the back, stretching behind the shoulders while the crown of the head reaches down. Then, continue to pike up with the hips while the heels reach down. Keep lifting the belly. And... smile! Don’t forget to keep the jaw relaxed 🤣 Voila! This should get you into a deeper, more active down dog.
If you’re not really into OM, you are not alone! Several yogis including now yoga teachers whom I know confessed at first avoiding chanting Om in class. But after trying it, all of them agreed: they couldn’t stop.
What explains this unanimous change?Read More
Feeling Stressed Out? Just Breathe!
There is no shortage of stress in our daily lives. Getting the kids ready and out the door on time for school, commuting, meeting deadlines and deliverables at work are only A FEW of the daily stress factors most of us experience.
It’s no surprise that 78% of survey respondent about stress stated that they were experiencing physical problems due to stress. In that same survey, 48% said their stress level had increased from the previous year.
Many of my students cite the desire to feel more relaxed as the main reason why they are drawn to yoga.
Yoga is so much more than poses. The practice includes breathing techniques designed to calm the monkey mind.
Breathing, or pranayama, is in fact at the core of the yoga practice. In Sanskrit, Prana means “life force” or breath and Ayama means “to extend or draw out”. Pranayama refers to the breath extension or control of the breath.
Are you breathing well?
Breathing is the process of air into and out of the lungs. It includes movement in two cavities, both thoracic and abdominal.
When we go about our lives, we rarely think about breathing. If you take into consideration all of the human body systems:
- endocrine, etc.
The respiratory system is the only one that works both autonomously and with control or awareness.
When stressed, our breath becomes constricted. We breathe without including movement in the abdominal cavity.
By controlling the breath, you deepen your inhales and exhales. This engages the diaphragm and the abdominal cavity. It then enables access the nervous system because breathing "with control" triggers the relaxation response. That’s when the heart rate, blood pressure, digestive function and hormonal levels return to their normal state.
Breathe like a yogi
You don't need to have a regular yoga practice to breathe like a yogi! Here are five techniques to try both on and off the mat.
1. Belly Breath
What: If you are new to breathing techniques, try this one! It’s easy, yet effective. It will help you understand how to engage both thoracic and abdomen cavities.
How to do it:
You can sit or lie down on the floor. If you are new to belly breath, you can use your hands to help you. Place one hand on your heart center and one hand on your belly.
Inhale deeply through the nose. Feel the belly push out as the air is filling the lungs and extending the rib cage.
As you exhale through the nose, feel the belly and the rib cage come down. Repeat a few time. Use as needed during the day.
2. Cleansing Breath
What: If you feel like you are carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders: this breath will help you feel lighter. I like to do it a the beginning or at the end of a yoga practice, but it can be used anywhere, any time you need to recenter your energy.
How to do it:
Sit comfortably. Place one hand on the heart center and one hand on the belly.
Take a long inhale through the nose, pushing the belly out.
Exhale rapidly and loudly through the mouth, letting everything go.
You can do this three times in a row and use as often as needed.
What: This deep breathing exercise is mostly suited for adults and non-pregnant women. Its name “3 part breath” means that the breath will engage the abdomen, the belly, and the thoracic cage.
How to do it:
This breath can be practiced sitting or lying down.
The breath first fills the abdomen first, expanding the belly.
Then, the thoracic area as the thoracic cage expands.
Then the third part takes place as the upper chest and shoulders expand to let the air in all the way up to the throat.
On the exhale, let the air go out through the nose from the top to the bottom (upper chest, thoracic area and then belly.
On a slow exhale the lungs will empty up from the top to the bottom. Gently squeeze the abdominal muscles at the end to ensure that any residual air has been exhaled. If you’re new to this breath, start with a few only to avoid feeling light-headed.
What: Ujjayi breath is a deep and very calming breath. It sounds like ocean waves. It helps to slow down the inhales and exhales. By sending the breath at the back of the throats.
This breath can be practiced during relaxation and asanas.
How to do it:
Sit in a comfortable position.
Take a few deep breaths through the nose.
Then, on the next inhale send the breath at the back of the throat. By constricting the throat, you’ll hear the air passing almost as if you’re snoring.
On the exhale, keep your mouth closed and breathe like you would like to fog up a mirror.
Repeat a few time.
Experienced yogi use this breath throughout asanas or yoga poses. It enables them to keep their awareness on the body as they flow.
5. Alternate nostril or Nadi Shodhana
What: This breathing exercise is ideal for deep relation. This breathing technique is thought to harmonize both hemispheres of the brain creating physical, mental and emotional balance. Science has yet to show what happens with hemispheric functioning during this breath, but the effects of the practice are trifold:
- Activate the parasympathetic nervous system
- Increase respiratory functions
- Improve attention
How to do it:
Sit comfortably and begin with a few deep breaths through the nose.
Let your left hand rest on your lap or thighs.
Exhale. Using the right hand, place the right thumb on one nostril. Both ring finger and small fingers on the other nostril.
Lift up the ring finger and small finger and keep the thumb pressing on the nostril. Inhale on the count of 5 through the left nostril.
Then, block the left nostril with the ring and small fingers.
Lift up the thumb and exhale through the right nostril on the count of 5.
Block both nostrils.
Repeat the entire sequence.
You can start with a few breaths and increase until you take 15-20 per day.
Best to avoid if you have a cold or feel congested.
It’s never too late to start!
If you’ve never tried breathing exercises, the good news is that it’s never too late to start. It’s an easy way to relax and let go of stress throughout the day. And it doesn’t need to be practice for hours.
Breathing helps to calm and balance the nervous system by regulating the heartbeat and blood flow.
A few breaths are enough to make us feel better.
My father taught me deep breathing exercises when I was 4 years old. This was probably the most important thing he taught me. I’ve used various breathing techniques throughout my life even before becoming a certified yoga teacher. My next blog post will explain yoga breathing techniques for kids. I’ll focus on techniques parents or grandparents can easily teach to children, without being yoga instructors.
Stay tuned and until then, just breathe!
If you know people who started practicing yoga, you might have noticed subtle changes in their personality or behavior over time.
Yoga is known to help people transform their lives. Yoga can also help people overcome obstacles or go through challenging times. If you have been practicing yoga for a little while, you might have experienced the benefits of a regular practice. Maybe you feel better in your body. Or you might have gone through more profound changes in your life. You might see yourself and your relationships differently. Your goals might have shifted.
I felt the transformative power of yoga during my first pregnancy. At that time, I was having a hard time making sense of all the changes going on in my body and mind. Yoga helped me feel more grounded. The practice made me feel peaceful and helped me accept the changes that were taking place in my life.
A number of studies investigated the impacts of yoga in people suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Most showed improvements in measures of sleep, positive affect, anxiety, stress, and resilience. The practice of yoga also demonstrated benefits for war veterans suffering from PTSD. While more research is needed, current studies all point in the same direction: yoga helps us calm down.
What’s up with that?
How can yoga help us feel better?
Here are a few reasons explaining how yoga works.
1. Giving yourself the gift of time
The most important of yoga transformation is time. Because there is no time limit or guaranteed results. Yoga does not compete with any exercise regimen boasting results within a specific period.
NO 30-day money back guarantee.
Instead, it promotes a regular and on-going practice.
“Practice and all is coming”
Change takes time and if you’re willing to try yoga, chances are you’ll want to do it regularly. Sometimes the benefits of the practice are hard to quantify. You have to try it to experience them.
2. Removing obstacles to connect with your true self
Something interesting happens when you practice yoga. You learn to let go of what you don’t need and only keep the things you need. This provides you with a deeper sense of purpose. Yoga helps to drop negative habits, patterns and influences within ourselves and from the outside in favor of more sustainable ones. Yoga is a way of life that takes place on and off the mat.
It’s not about what we do, but how we do things, helping us to achieve higher levels of consciousness. It’s not about levitating! It’s about getting a better understanding of what’s important.
3. Calming the monkey mind
“Yoga chitta vritti nirodha” is a quote from The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali often used to describe the purpose of yoga asana (pose).
There are variations on how this statement is translated from the Sanskrit, but one common interpretation is “yoga is the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind.”
Yes, it’s a bit wordy in English!
This means that the real purpose of yoga is to achieve mental clarity and stillness.
The goal of the practice is to calm the mind.
4. Increasing body awareness
Awareness of the body is essential to deepen the yoga practice. Teachers are taught to help students understand the right alignment for each asana. As the awareness of the body increases so does mindfulness and stillness of the mind. By focusing on one thing, you learn discipline and gain clarity. This will affect how you make decisions off the mat as well. By deepening your awareness, you’ll increase your resolve to uncover your true self.
5. The science behind yoga
Interestingly, yoga harnesses the innate capability of the body as a vehicle for transformation. It was invented or discovered as a way to maximize the health and potential of the human being. The physical practice of yoga has been popularized in the Western world. But it is part of a whole system dedicated to impacting the nervous system (breathing exercises, chanting, Ayurveda, etc.)
For instance, chanting OM (or Aum), helps to vibrate the vagus nerve sending to the brain the message that “everything is ok”. This triggers the relaxation response. That’s when the body is no longer in “perceived” danger and the autonomic nervous system functioning returns to normal. During the relaxation response, the heart rate, blood pressure, digestive function and hormonal levels return to their normal state.
Sounds good, doesn’t it?!
Yoga has the unique ability to harness the brain’s capacity to create a blueprint for transformation.
But because these changes often take place over time, as part of a subtle and organic process, it can sometimes be hard to pinpoint exactly what it is about yoga that helps you live a better life.
It comes down to this: get on the mat!
Make some room in your busy schedule.
Get a yoga makeover.
As a yoga teacher passionate about sharing the benefits of the practice with others, I do have to warn you though: yoga can be addictive… in a good way!
Today we’re covering flexibly. Why? 1 - Because it’s the main reason people evoke NOT to start practicing yoga. 2 - It’s widely misunderstood.
So let’s bust a few myths:
Myth 1: I can't touch my toes
It’s not the ability to touch your toes!
Flexibility refers to the ability to move joints through their normal full range of motion.
And if you look at the yoga philosophy, flexibility is not thought to be physical: " Body is stiff. Mind is not stiff." Patanjali "
Myth 2: I’m too old to become flexible
Well, I’ve got some news for you! Anyone who starts yoga will notice changes in their flexibility over time. I don’t have an actual picture of me, at 37 years old, when I got back to the mat after 15 years of absence. But I pretty much looked like the picture on the left. No, I couldn’t touch my toes! And this is me on the right, 5 years later. You can increase your range of motion, regardless of your age. I'm still working on it.
Myth 3: I don’t want to be flexible, I just want to increase muscle mass
Some people think they are better off bulking up rather than increasing their flexibility. Newsflash: both work hand-in-hand! The more extensive your range of motion the more muscle mass you could potentially build.
As a mom, I’ve also seen that we all come into this world flexible As we age, many factors contribute to a decrease in range of motion. The good news is that it’s never too late to start. Get on the mat today. Your body will thank you!
Deep Dive Into The Anatomy Of A Yoga Class
Recently, a few students came to try yoga at the studio. Most of them had never done yoga. Once or twice, a few years ago, but they had walked away from committing to the practice. Since I connected to yoga the minute I stepped on the mat (it was loved at first sight!), I was curious to know why they hadn’t felt the same passion. I was first surprised to hear that the common theme was that they had not seen the point.
Yoga as a second language
After thinking about it, it makes sense. Let’s say one gets to a class wanting to try something new. One's goals could include:
- Getting fit
- Complementing another sport
- Increasing flexibility
- Recovering from an injury
- Learning to relax
But, one might get lost the minute they hear the teacher speak. What are those words and foreign language? Sanskrit is an ancient Indian language. It's often used during yoga classes to describe poses and postures, like:
- Adho Mukha Svasana (downward facing dog)
- Tadasana (mountain pose)
- Vritti (sight)
These words might not be intuitive to all. To be honest, Sanskrit can even be challenging to a teacher! But the usage of Sanskrit helps to keep the practice associated with its roots.
The mind-bogging body directions
Yoga brings a deeper sense of body awareness. But if you’re new to the practice, following directions can be confusing.
- Move your left hand up thumb towards the sky
- Make sure the shoulders are in their sockets
- Lengthen the tailbone toward the mat
- Inhale, exhale
Movements that should be flowing can start feeling like a game of Twister. If one is more of the visual type, a class where the teacher or someone else demonstrates poses might help. If no visual is available, students might resort to peeking to the right or to the left to see what others are doing. That is enough to cause a stiff neck. The whole point of yoga is to release tensions not to increase them! So this scenario could be enough to justify never coming back to the mat. But if you stick to a few classes, your body awareness will increase, and you will start flowing too!
Like a page-turner novel, yoga classes include a beginning, a middle and an end
You might also feel a bit funny about some of the things you have to do. Breathing exercises? Meditation? Chanting? Lokha Samasta Sukino Bavantu? Om???? If the why is not clear, one might entirely miss the point and conclude yoga is useless.
Well, yoga is for everybody (and every body). If you understand the why, you get the most out of it.
Sequencing ensures that a yoga class includes a beginning, a middle and an end. Once you move past the beginner’s phase, you’re also expecting the teacher to throw in a few cliffhangers too!
At the beginning of the class, you start connecting mind and body with the breath. Most classes begin in a sitting position. Then, the teacher guides students through different breathing exercises. There might be visualization or chanting involved. The point is to calm the mind. Stop the erratic trail of thoughts we all experience at any time of the day. Allow the mind to find stillness and to begin relaxing by focusing on one thing, for instance, the breath.
The breath is also the gateway to the nervous system. Breathing exercises help both the body and the mind relax. Give yourself the luxury to relinquish control. Follow directions and truly connect with your inner self.
Warm-ups, sun salutations, and asanas
After connecting mind and body, students will begin warm-ups and sun salutations. Different yoga styles offer different opening series. The Surya Namaskar, for instance, offers specific poses in a pre-determined order. Other yoga styles, like Vinyasa, offer different sequencing options. Regardless of the practice, they all follow the same general guidelines. The purpose is trifold:
1. Get the body moving
2. Increase the heart rate
3. Stretch and loosen different layers of muscles.
Once the warm-up is complete, the teacher will introduce different poses based on the level of the class. Poses are also referred to as asanas in Sanskrit.
The grand finale: resting
If there’s such a thing as yoga humor, you might have heard that most yogis’ favorite pose is Savasana - also called Corpse Pose. That’s when you rest on your back, arms beside the body, palms facing up with closed eyes. The purpose is to allow the body to recover, while your mind remains alert. The challenge lies in keeping the mind still. It's tempting to start thinking about your to-do list or to fall asleep. Yet, you need to remain alert for the rest to be effective.
There is so much more to practicing yoga. And the best way to deepen your knowledge both on the mat and with the philosophy is to keep practicing. Hopefully, this quick overview will be enough to bring you confidence in trying your first yoga class or... your second one.
No advanced twists, binds or hand stands today. But we’re still focusing on one of the hardest poses to achieve, in my opinion…
Savasana is usually practiced at the end of the yoga class. It serves a dual purpose: time for the body to recover and rest and for the mind to stay alert, yet focused. If the teacher offers a guided meditation, bringing your awareness to various parts of the body, it might help your mind stay in the moment present. If you are left to your own device, your mind may start wandering.
It’s so easy to start thinking about your to-do list! Or you might fall asleep. Achieving body relaxation while keeping the mind alert is challenging. If you are able to get into this space, both your body and mind will benefit: you’ll feel recharged, rested and aware at the same time.
Here are a few tips to achieve this conscious balance. As you’re lying on your back, palms facing up, eyes closed, first take a few deep breaths through the nose. Feel the weight of the body on the mat. Let the body relax. While keeping your eyes closed, bring your attention to the point between your eyebrows or your third eye. Gently keep your attention to this point while you feel the body relax. If thoughts are coming to your mind, acknowledge them and let them go, bringing your attention back to the third eye.
Don’t get discouraged if you can’t keep your mind still - it takes practice. We’re used to multitasking and being bombarded with stimuli, so you’ll need time to (re)train the mind to stay still. Enjoy!
Being healthy means being fit, feeling strong and empowered. Staying healthy impacts our physical and emotional health. By eating well, exercising and sleeping enough hours we can better cope with stress. Overall, being healthy improves our quality of life.
Winter weather can get in the way of staying focused about your health. It’s cold, days are short, and it’s sooo cold. Let’s face it, curling up on the couch watching TV and eating pasta can easily take over any other activities. We are feeling more sedentary, ready to hibernate and in some instances, let’s be honest: lazy.
Everything seems harder at this time of year. Try finding locally-grown and fresh food if you live in a cold area. Or wearing trendy yet weather-proof footwear!
Well, there’s no good reason to neglect your health, even in winter. These five key points will get you back on track in no time.
1. Change Your Mindset
Switch on your motivation
Everyone has different reasons to focus on their health. You might want to live longer, avoid disease or feel strong. Others are motivated by the way they look and their desire to drop a size or more clothing.
All these are valid. The trick is to keep these reasons top mind of mind. Remember the old saying: out of sight out of mind? It also applies to staying motivated about your health. List your motivations and display them where you can see them every day. You can also make a vision board for your health. Illustrating your goals help making them more real.
Another way to change your mindset is to bring gratefulness into your life. It turns out happy thoughts attract happy thoughts. So start your day listing the top three things you are grateful for in your life. This quick exercise can be done in bed with your eyes closed before you get up. Or you can also begin writing them down. Journaling gratefulness has had a tremendous impact on may who tried it.
Try to list non-material thing. It’s ok to love the latest pair of shoes you bought; we can all relate! But being grateful for non-material things will bring a more profound feeling of satisfaction. So, start listing the deep and meaningful people or things in your life.
2. Stay Grounded
Staying grounded means that you can slow down your thoughts or your mind. Most of us go through life a mile a minute. If we’re not grounded, we can't slow down when needed. And both the mind and body need some rest. Otherwise, you lose the ability to focus. Here are a few ways you can practice to help you stay grounded.
The breath is the key to the nervous system. If you need tangible evidence, you should know that Navy Seals use breathing exercises to help control stress levels. By bringing your attention to your breath, you can slow down your thoughts and relax. Yoga offers a wide range of breathing exercises (pranayamas). I’ll write more about them at a later date. For now, here’s a simple breathing exercise you can do anywhere.
- Inhale and exhale through the nose.
- Keep your awareness on the air entering and exiting through your nose.
- Feel your rib cage and abdomen expand with each inhale and come down with each exhale.
Practice this breathing exercise every night for a few minutes. If it helps you relax, feel free to repeat more than once a day.
Mindfulness can help us stay grounded since it keeps us in the moment present. It does not mean multitasking, going from one thing to the other mindlessly. It means having dinner with your family or friends and leaving your phone in the next room during that time. It means that you’re experiencing the moment present, that you are there, engaged and aware.
3. Write Down Your Goals
I’m not sure who said: “The difference between a dream and a goal is a plan.” This saying applies to staying motivated about your health. Things don’t happen without work - certainly not in my world! So if you want to achieve your health goals, write them down. Break them down into steps and add a timeline to follow. This is the best way to stay on track!
Set realistic goals
If your goals are unrealistic, not only will you not achieve them, but you’ll get completely discouraged. Losing 50 pounds in 2 weeks is not realistic (and NOT healthy!). Take into consideration everything you want to achieve. Break it down into phases so that each quarter, you can hit a milestone. This will keep your motivation high while helping you track on-going progress.
4. It’s All About Balance
Well, we all seem to be craving the things that are not always good for us. The key is balance. Focus on the things that are good for you. As a Health Coach, I always tell my clients to forget about cutting this and that from their lives. The key is to start adding new things that are good for you. Without noticing it, you’ll start using less and less of the things that are not so good for you.
For instance, let's say your primary source of hydration is soda. Chances are you already know you should drink more water. So, begin by adding one glass of water in the morning for a few days. Then, add one glass in the afternoon for a few days. And then add another one in the morning, making it a total of two glasses of water in the morning and one in the afternoon. We haven’t talked about cutting soda. Yet, your soda consumption should have already started decreasing. Without feeling like it was “removed” or “forbidden.”
5. Plan Ahead
And if you feel like you don’t have time to focus on your health, here’s the secret: planning. Get a calendar or a planner and write down when and where your health goals are taking place. There is always space for the things that are important, like your health.
If you want a visual reminder, based on Stephen Covey's The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, check this video. It helps put everything in perspective. After watching it, you'll be tempted to reorganize your priorities and make space for your health goals.
Here's to your health!
Today we look at Wild thing, Rock star or flip the dog, Camatkarasana.
This great chest, shoulder and hip flexor opener is invigorating and grounding at the same time. I like the fluidity of this pose and the fact that it’s not just about the destination: the entire journey offers dynamic flexibility and strength. Move slowly, with awareness, using the breath to control movement.
One of the way to do it is to start from down dog and get to side plank. In this video, I demonstrate two other options: from fallen triangle and flipping from one legged dog.
Starting from fallen angel minimize the compression in the lower back. Starting from one legged dog will give you a deeper backbend. This can be a preparatory pose to Wheel pose - Urdva Dhanurasana.
In order to be safe for the shoulder joint, the movement has to be distributed from the feet to the head.
If you are new to Wild Thing, it’s best to try it in a class with a teacher that can help with positioning. Now, time to get wild!
If you’re starting 2018 feeling sluggish and lethargic, you might want to consider a detox.
Overeating or drinking can slow down your metabolism. If all your energy is spent digesting, you’ll feel more tired.
What does detoxing entail?
A detox is a perfect opportunity to give your body some rest. It’s a time to reset and recharge. For some, cleansing is synonym with deprivation: no food, tiredness and even headaches.
Forget everything you know (or think you know) about detox. Rather than going on a stringent diet, just opt to add more to your life.
Over the years, I’ve tried many ways to detox. Some left me feeling very sick, which was defying the purpose. I’ve found that these five things will help you get through a cleanse without shock or feeling deprived:
1. Drink up your H2O!
Staying hydrated is essential to riding your body of toxins. Water plays an important role in the body. Not only does it help carry nutrients to the cells, but it also improves digestion and keeps the kidneys healthy. It’s easy to add a few glasses of water daily to your routine. Start with adding one in the morning and one in the afternoon for a few days. Then increase to two in the morning and two in the afternoon. Notice how your body is reacting.
If you’re not a big fan of water, considering flavoring it with different herbs and spices. This blog shares a few easy recipes to add a twist to your water without adding sugar.
2. Go with your gut
Probiotics help balance friendly bacteria in the digestive system. When the digestive system is overworked (eating too much or too much sugary food), the balance between good and bad bacteria in the gut can shift.
While you can buy probiotic supplements over the counter, you can also get them from food. Supplements can be volatile compared to food. Try adding one of these every other day to your diet:
3. Balance your PH
The PH level is a measure of hydrogen. It indicates whether the body is acidic or alkaline. The body needs to keep an alkaline ph to remain balanced.
PH level is directly influenced by what we eat and drink. Most of our diet is rich in acidic food. To restore PH balance, add more alkaline food like broccoli, cauliflower, cucumber, and radish to your diet. Squeeze a lemon or lime into your morning glass of water. Eat berries and mangoes.
4. Get your beauty sleep
With so much to do every day and so little hours, it’s easy to cut down on sleep. But sleep deprivation has several negative impacts including:
- Skin breakout
- Lack of mental sharpness
- Weight gain
- Weakened immune system
The current consensus states that we need between 7-9 hours of sleep per night. If you’re under this guideline, consider going to bed 30 minutes earlier for a few nights in a row. See how that makes you feel and adjust accordingly.
5. Deep breath in, long exhale!
Yoga includes various breathing techniques called pranayama in Sanskrit. Prana means breath or life force and ayama refers to controlling the life force or the breath. For centuries, yogis have used pranayama to achieve higher levels of awareness.
Studies have found that breathing exercises can help reduce anxiety, insomnia, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and attention-deficit-disorder. Even if you don’t suffer from any of these conditions, we all need to calm the mind from all the stimulations and on-going thoughts. Controlling the breath is a great way to clear your mind and bring relaxation to the body.
Science is still identifying the mechanisms of controlled breathing. It is thought that controlling the breath sends the message to the brain that everything is fine in the body. This activates the parasympathetic system, which controls the autonomous nervous system including the heart rate, blood pressure, and digestion.
If you’re new to breathing techniques, try this easy one:
- Sit on the floor, on a chair or lie down
- Close your eyes and place your hands on the belly
- Bring your attention to the breath, deepening your inhales and exhales through the nose
- As you inhale, push the belly out. As you exhale, pull the navel toward the spine as if you were pulling on a string
Try this technique for one or two minutes a day. Increase the frequency to two or three times a day over a few days. See how that makes you feel. I do have to warn you though; this is addictive!
Tis the season to change, improve or achieve new goals.
Who doesn’t aspire to an improved version of themselves? Looking or feeling better, learning new things or skills, helping others are appealing. They give us self-motivation to imagine how better things would be if we could/would change.
New year’s resolutions started 4,000 years ago according to Wikipedia. Babylonians were then making promises to their gods. This tradition was also followed by the Romans and other religious orders. So if you are one of the 40% of Americans who make new year’s resolutions: you are part of a very long tradition.
Yet, more than 25% don’t keep their resolutions past two weeks according to a study from the University of Scranton. Only a mere 8% manage to achieve them. Why is it that we have not gotten better at sticking to our resolutions?
The idea of change is fascinating, but the work can feel overwhelming.
In light of these disappointing statistics, avoiding making new year's resolutions is appealing. But this means missing out on the sense of accomplishment and pride that comes with achieving goals.
Yoga can help you focus on your resolutions in many ways. This ancient form of exercises connects mind and body to achieve a higher level of consciousness. Any type of exercises is better than none to remain sharp and alert. But, yoga offers a unique opportunity to increase your physical and mental connection. Here are 4 ways yoga will help you kick-start new habits and stick to them throughout the year.
1 - Increase awareness
Awareness of the body is essential to deepen your yoga practice. Teachers are taught to help students understand the right alignment for each pose (asana). As the awareness of the body increases so does the stillness of the mind. By focusing on one thing, you learn discipline and gain clarity. This will affect how you make decisions off the mat as well. By deepening your awareness, you’ll increase your resolve to achieve your resolutions.
2 - Set an intention
The Yoga Sutras says:
Yoga helps increase flexibility, and it l also impacts the mind. At the beginning of a yoga session, when you bring your awareness to your breath to settle your mind. Then, you can set an intention for your practice, which will get you one step closer to your resolutions. In fact, by setting an intention for the next hour or so you begin developing focus. This habit is needed to remain committed to your practice and your goals. This attention will also translate off the mat.
3 - Let go
Something interesting happens when you practice yoga . You learn to let go of what you don’t need and only keep the things you need. This provides you with a deeper sense of purpose. If your resolutions are genuine and aligned with who you are, yoga will help you let go of what you don’t need. It will make your determination stronger when it’s time to stick to your resolutions.
4 - Change your habits
In a study published in the European Journal of Psychology, Philippa Lassy, a health psychology researcher at the University College London, and her team focused on identifying how long it takes to form a habit. Their findings reveal that it takes on average 66 days to change a habit. This means that you need to repeat a new behavior over a 66 day period before it becomes automatic. This is an average as some people need more or less time.
Yoga also prescribes a daily practice: “Practice and all is coming.” This principle can be applied to resolutions. Break them down into small steps that can be incorporated daily. This way, you’ll assimilate new habits without struggles.
Yoga can provide the right mindset to bring change into your life.
It's non-competitive and creates the space where you can focus on your wellbeing. By committing to yoga, you’ll change more in your life than just your yoga practice. Yoga will help you strengthen your resolve and make 2018 THE year where you achieve your resolutions!
Happy New Year!
I always like to share recommendations and things that make my life easier. This year was filled with discoveries! Below are the 10 products and things that truly impacted my life in 2017 in three different areas:
Everything natural, please!
I’m on a quest to remove unwanted chemicals on my body and in my life. I am not sponsored for this list. Every product I recommend here, I found on my own. I liked them so much that I can no longer live without them.
Wellness above all
This year, I’ve made a concerted effort to put my health and wellness first. It’s about being and feeling the best I can.
How can I do more in less time?
This mama is on a mission to save time. Between the kids and all the projects I’m working on, efficiency is the name of the game!
Nani deodorant is everything I was looking for: organic, 100% vegan, gluten-free, paraben-free, chemical-free, aluminum-free, nonGMO and made in the USA. The search for a natural and aluminum free deodorant was long and filled with failed trials. It felt at times like I was chasing something that didn't exist! I tried several ones with mitigated success. Since I’m on the mat teaching every day of the week, I need a long-lasting deodorant. Nani deodorant was the answer.
My Magic Mud
I was looking for a natural solution for teeth whitening. I found My Magic Mud at my favorite natural store, Back to Nature. I tried it and thought it was worth the mess! Yes, the sink gets messy, and you’re better off using a different toothbrush for this product. But it works, and it’s natural!
During an Ayurvedic cure at Parkschlösschen earlier this year, I discovered nasal oil. The Ayurvedic medicine prescribes putting a few drops oil in each nostril every morning to prevent dryness. I’ve been doing it for almost a year now, and it helps to reduce seasonal allergies and winter dryness. A must during these cold winter days!
I’ve been using this online platform to plan my life! With Asana, I can create projects, break them down into phases and tasks and get my daily to-do list. Whether it's for managing kids and furry pets' appointments, meal planning, renovations, preparing yoga class or writing my first book (more on that in the new year!), I use it daily.
I admit that I was a little late on this one! A friend was talking about it earlier this year, so I finally tried it. It’s true; it saves a ton of time. The “sauté” function allows to reduce broth and sauce unlike a traditional slow cooker or pressure cooker. A must to whip dinner in a few minutes!
I’ve been meditating for years, but it always feels challenging. Even when I'm using apps, I often become fidgety and uncomfortable, unable to sit still. This year, I discovered the life-transforming impact of Yoga Nidra during a retreat with Dharma Mittra. Yoga Nidra was a revelation: I can meditate while on my back and really quiet the mind. I have been doing it daily for a few months now, and I’ll be sharing more on this in the new year.
I started taking chaste berry to help regulate my hormones naturally. Chaste berry or vitex regulates the balance of estrogen and progesterone by stimulating and normalizing the pituitary gland. If you’re experiencing hormonal imbalance, consult with a herbalist or integrative doctor to see if this herb could work for you.
Here’s a life-simplifying innovation: period proof underwear. They work, they are amazing and worth the investment. Get one or two to try them out. And if you’re like me, you’ll end up with about 10 or so to use each month.
Who said that the best things in life are free? I couldn't agree more. Here are three things that brought a lot of joy into my life:
1. Telling my daughters I love them every day - especially when I don’t feel like it
2. Listing three things for which I’m grateful every morning
3. Dance party every day! The girls and I started dancing every day. There’s nothing like dancing to bright up your mood.
I’m always on the lookout for new and exciting things. If you made any special discoveries this year that also changed your life, do let me know!
This week, I’m introducing three variations of side plank or vasisthasana. The benefits of side plank include strengthening the mid-section. It specifically engages the often weak muscle called the quadratus lumborum. This muscle is part of the posterior abdominal wall that plays a role in back pain. And let’s face it, it’s a good pose for mamas who want to strengthen their core :-)
The first version in the video is a traditional side plank where only one foot is down. Both legs are perpendicular.
The second variation shows side plank with a shin on the floor. I like to include this version in my prenatal classes. It's safe to perform during pregnancy and also provides the full benefit of the pose.
In the second version, a foot is placed in front of the supporting leg to help with balance.
The third version is a more advanced pose where the top leg is lifted into star pose.
Besides to engaging the core, all these variations help to strengthen the wrists and arms.
Remember, practice and all is coming!
It’s no secret that food is an important component of health and wellness.
But, eating well can be challenging, especially during the Holidays. Sharing meals with friends and family can make it harder to follow a healthy diet. I’m not using the word diet as weight loss, but to refer to healthy food. December is a month filled with festive food where wine and drinks flow. How to stay healthy and fit amidst all this temptation?
Making a big deal out of your own dieting needs might be annoying to others (shocking I know!) Whether you don’t want to eat gluten or desert, the world might not care as much as you do. No problem! Here are some strategies to help you avoid temptations while enjoying the holidays. After all, it’s not about deprivation, but about making sure that you feel energized.
Curb hunger with water
Drinking a full glass of water thirty minutes before a meal helps to provide a sense of fullness. It also jumpstarts digestion. It will help you stay hydrated, which is key to maintaining your energy level.
Don’t eat if you’re not hungry!
Duh. Easy to understand but not always easy to do especially when tempting food is in front of us! Just breathe and drink water.
Offer to bring a dish
If you’re eating out at a friend or relative's, you can offer to bring a dish that will fit your own needs. It’s also a great way to complement your host’s menu if they are up for it.
Eat before going out
Eating a healthy snacks, like vegetables and nuts, before going out. It will prevent cravings, especially if you’re out holiday shopping.
Go heavy on fiber
Fill your plate with salad! Fibers will make you feel full while improving digestion. See, it’s not all about cutting things out :-)
If you have to travel far to get to your holiday festivities: bring snacks with you. There’s nothing like munching on something healthy en route and not arriving hungry.
Quality not quantity
We live in a world of abundance. And that translates onto our plates. Pick a smaller plate to control portion size. The best way to visualize portion size is to look at the palms of your hands. That’s about how much you should eat at every meal.
Forgo the second and third helpings too. It’s not about quantity: it’s about quality. The same applies to that glass of beer or wine. It’s about quality, not quantity.
Bring on mindful eating!
Stay in the present moment. Take the time to chew and savor your food. Breathe between bites!
Indulge in timely treats
If you are going to eat something that you know will not agree with you: make it count! Go for grandma’s pie rather than a slice of cake you can buy every day at the grocery store.
Move and be merry!
Devote a few minutes every day to get up and move. Your mind and body will thank you!
I’m committed to starting 2018 healthier than I’m finishing 2017. If you have any other tips to follow during the Holidays, I’m all ears!
Time for sunny #tiptuesday 😎 Today’s yoga tip is about high lunge or crescent pose. In this video, I start from downward facing dog. Stepping a foot between the hands and then raising the torso upright. You can also place your hands on the quads to help with balance before raising your arms up, palms facing each other. The front knee is at a 90 degree angle over the ankle. Shoulders relaxed in their sockets. Don’t overarch the lower back. Lengthen the tailbone toward the mat. Back leg is strong and straight. Hips are squared forward. It’s very similar to warrior 1, except for the back foot. This pose is great for balance, strength and flexibility. It’s also a great transition from and to other asanas. Use it on the mat everyday!
Thanksgiving marks the beginning of a festive season spanning about six weeks. For most, this time is synonymous with food, drinks, and gatherings. Overnight, the calendar gets filled with all sorts of fun and social activities. This leaves little place for good habits you might have implemented this year. Out goes the gym, yoga, balanced diet and proper hydration. With this draining lifestyle, it’s no surprise we end up in January craving a detox.
But what if there was another way? What if we kept the good habits in as part of the holidays? Would it even be possible to add new ones? The answer to these three questions is: YES! By focusing on three key areas, you can do this!
Mindfulness, Movement & Food: The Wellness Trilogy
As a certified yoga teacher and Integrative Nutrition Health Coach, I see weight loss and fitness as a system. When three key components are in place, success can be within reach. Gone are the days where sheer willpower was responsible for implementing and keeping up healthy habits. Now, experts recommend creating habits. In other words, you are better off changing one small thing until it’s part of your lifestyle. Then, you're ready to add another one. Slowly moving the needle toward the desired outcome helps to gain confidence along the way. It also helps to cement new habits. It's been the proven way to accomplishing goals and improving lifestyle.
Mindfulness: Breathe And Be Grateful
The first important step is to bring mindfulness back into your life. We have been conditioned to multitask to the point where our minds are unable to stay still. Take a few deep breaths every morning before you get out of bed. Mentally lists the things for which you are grateful. Try and identify non-material things you are grateful for. Of course, you can be thankful for the roof over your head. But, being thankful for non-materialistic things, like people or opportunities, help to bring a more profound sense of joy. It only takes two minutes to take a few deep breaths and to list two to five things for which you are grateful for in our life. You can do this quickly every day during the holiday season.
This quick exercise will help you start focusing on what’s important in your life. You’ll be surprised how grounded it will make you feel throughout the rest of the day.
Movement: Walk, Run, Lift AND Do Yoga
The human body is made to move. Most of us lead sedentary lifestyles. We spend hours driving our cars, sitting in front of computers or watching television. Get up and move! It will help you stay healthy. If you have a health condition, check with your doctor before starting any physical activities. Pick something you use to enjoy or something you’ve always want to try. Having fun is ok!
Besides any sports you’re into, I can’t help but recommend adding yoga to your daily activities.
Yoga has the unique ability to rebalance the body. I’ve taught athletes that get injured after practicing only one sport. I’ve also seen many runners or golfers getting constrained due to repeated movements. Yoga will add to any exercise regimen. It brings flexibility and core strength necessary to regain balance and prevent injuries.
The other element a yoga practice is uniquely positioned to bring into one’s life is acceptance. By learning on the mat to let go of the things that are not important, we begin to train the mind to focus on what’s important. The good news is that you don’t need to carve out a full hour daily to start. Begin by going to a class every week. If you’re familiar with simple movements like the sun salutations, you can practice it at home after you get out of bed. Five to ten minutes per day are enough to begin. And you’ll feel the positive ripple effects of a morning practice throughout the day. Before you know it, you might want to increase the length of your session or attend more than one class per week.
Yoga also brings a transformational aspect to people who commit to it. So much so, that it might even help you accept some of the very things you’ve been fighting against. Like the fact that health and happiness might be more important to you than a perfect bikini body.
Food: As Fuel
The last part of the wellness trilogy is food. Food to feed your brain and body. Food to give your energy. Not to feel sluggish. I’ll share my list of holiday tips next week to resist temptation and feel great after every meal.
Until then, it’s not too early to start carving time for mindfulness and movement. Every day.
Today, I’m breaking down how to bring a foot between the hands from three legged dog. It’s an important transition but it’s easy to get stuck half way! The trick is to create space. First, use your gaze, and look in between your hands. Bend the knee and bring it closer to the chest as the back foot reaches up on the toes. Now there’s enough space to bring the foot between the hands. Yes, this transition requires flexibility, but creating space is key. As with anything, practice, practice, practice!
Anyone who ever followed a diet knows about liquid calories. Cutting sodas, juices, and alcohol is the easiest to lower calories or sugar intake. Plain H2O is still the best source to stay hydrated. But, sometimes, water can be a bit… plain!
If you’re looking at adding flavor while staying away from added calories and sugar, check the list below. I’ve compiled my go-to infused water recipes. Easy to prepare, they can be drank hot, like tea, or cold. I like mine at room temperature. Not only will they give a twist to your water, but they also come with health benefits!
1. Lemon Water: A Simple Classic
Lemon is known for its cleansing and healing benefits.
- It helps to flush out toxins when drank on an empty stomach in the morning.
- It helps digestion by stimulating the production of bile.
- It helps to dissolves uric acid which cause pain and inflammation in joints.
- It’s a powerful antibacterial.
- It supports colon health because it contains pectin fiber.
To prepare lemon water, either squeeze a piece of fresh lemon in cold water in a glass. You can also pour boiling water over a quarter of a lemon in a cup. I
2. Cinnamon Water: Sugar-Free Sweetness
Cinnamon has been used for its medicinal properties for thousands of year. It acts as an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-microbial. It also helps to lower blood glucose and is being studied in the treatment of type 2 diabetes.
The easiest way to prepare cinnamon water is to pour boiling water over a cinnamon stick. Wait and consume. The longer the wait, the more intense the taste.
3. Ginger Water: Kick-It-Up A Notch
Ginger helps to relieve nausea, stimulate appetite loss and reduce motion sickness. I first started drinking ginger water when I was pregnant. I used to have morning sickness that was stretching throughout the day. Ginger water made a difference: it was helping me keep food down. I kept drinking it post-pregnancies, especially when my digestion is slowed down. Its also my go-to to curb nausea when I have a migraine.
To prepare ginger water: peel the ginger root, cut it into small pieces and put in a pot with water. Boil for about 20 minutes. Drink hot or cold. To preserve ginger root, peel it and keep it in the freezer. Put it in boiling water when ready.
4. Fennel Water: Shooting And Cooling
I love the cooling properties of fennel. I drank gallons of fennel water when I was pregnant and suffered from heartburns. It's a powerful herb to soothe heartburns. Fennel water was a great natural way to reduce reflux.
Aside from digestion aid, fennel can help to lower blood pressure, increase satiety and relieve gas
can help to decrease blood pressure, improve satiety and ease gas.
To prepare fennel water: pour boiling water over fennel seeds. Use a tea bag or a teapot for loose leaves. Drink hot or cold.
5. Cardamom Water: A Different Taste
I first tasted cardamom in Jordan where it’s mixed with coffee. I had never been a fan of flavored coffee, but I was instantly addicted to cardamom coffee! It’s such a different taste.
Cardamom has similar properties to ginger: it counteracts digestive problems. It helps the body eliminate waste throughout the kidneys.
To prepare cardamom water, pour boiling water over seeds. Use a tea bag or a teapot with a meshed screen for loose leaves. Enjoy hot or cold.
BONUS! Cumin, Fennel, Cardamom: The Ultimate Trio
Once you master one-flavor water, you can combine herbs and spices and be your own mixologist! I like to mix cumin, fennel and cardamom seeds. Cumin also aid digestion, insomnia, and respiratory disorders.
What’s not to love about these simple recipes: they’ll keep you hydrated and healthy at the same time!
Let’s take a look at Extended Side Angle or Utthita Parsvakonasana. I’m showing here three variations starting from Warrior 2. Alignement is key: the knee should be directly above the ankle and shoulders should remain stacked. This is one of my favorite poses to stretch the side body while strengthening the core and back muscles.
Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. Growing up in Quebec, Canada, my family never really celebrated this holiday. But since I’ve moved to the U.S., 10 years ago, I’ve come to enjoy the Thanksgiving spirit. I love the fact that it’s about getting together with family and friends to enjoy a good time. No need for gifts, the real gift here is gratitude.
As with any holidays though, it’s easy to feel stressed if you’re hosting. Preparing and cooking meals for a big group is enough to increase one’s blood pressure. I love to cook and host, but I do remember one year in particular where it became too much for me. I was five weeks pregnant with my third one, so it was too early to share the news. I had to prepare a meal for 12 people, nauseous, tired and alone with a 3-year-old and a one-year-old. I was panicking. I ended up ordering everything from Fresh Direct. I put all those entrees and side dishes in my own pots and, voilà! I reheated everything on Thanksgiving pretending I had prepared it. I revealed that I had fouled everyone when we announced that I was pregnant a few weeks later. It was a good joke in the end. But the point is that I experienced first hand how this holiday can be overwhelming!
If you’re not hosting, you might be indulging! It’s easy to get carried away with food and drinks during this time of year. But, you might not feel your best the next morning. Here are 5 tips to get you to the 26th of November without stress. Follow them now to feel energized and reduce tiredness!
1. Hydrate: H2O to the max
With colder temperature upon us, we often have a tendency to reduce our water consumption. This is easy to correct: drink more water! Find what works for you. You could be carrying a bottle of water with you at all times. Or you could get in the habits of drinking a glass of water 20 minutes before a meal. The goal is to stay hydrated. We have a tendency to drink and eat more during Thanksgiving. Your body will thank you if you drink more water.
2. Fresh, local, organic food
Nature is the best planner! Ingredients for Thanksgiving dinner are available at farmer’s markets or local farms. From root vegetables to turkeys, try sourcing your ingredients this week. This way, you'll take advantage of fresh, local and organic food.
3. Rest your mind
That is true at all times. One way to rest your mind is journaling. What better time to start a gratefulness journal than Thanksgiving? Focusing your attention on positive things benefits your outlook. It's proven to improve mental health, sleep, relationships and the list goes on. All you need is a few minutes per day, a pen, and a journal.
Nature makes us feel peaceful and helps reduce stress. Consider a nature walk the day before Thanksgiving. Why not bring the whole party outside for a walk or an outdoor activity on Thanksgiving? It’s also a great way to feel connected to each other.
Meditation remains a potent way to relax the mind. It can be challenging to practice meditation, but all you need is a few minutes. Sit comfortably; it can be on a chair. Close your eyes and draw your attention to your breath. Deepen your inhales and exhales. If you can do this twice a day for only a few minutes, you’ll already feel a difference.
Over the next weeks, I’ll write about yoga nidra. This form of mediation has completely changed my life. I’ll share how you can do it from the comfort of your home.
4. Move, every day, every time you can
I recently came across a sentence that resonated with me: “Exercise is not optional.” I can’t remember where I read it, but I’ve been thinking about this every day since.
The human body is made for an active lifestyle. We are made to move. Whether you like to bike, hike, run or ski, the point is to be on the move. I like yoga because it provides me with a wide range of options.
- If I don’t have much time, I do a few sun salutations when I get up to get my body moving.
- If I need to sweat it out, I do an invigorating vinyasa flow.
- If I need to balance too much yang into my life, I get on the mat for a yin session.
- And sometimes, all I need are breathing exercises to calm my racing mind.
Whatever works for you, make sure you move every day - even on Thanksgiving!
5. Schedule it!
One of the shifts I’ve seen over the last decades is that we should no longer rely on “willpower” to get things done. Planning seems to be the number one key to both getting things done and reducing stress.
Plan your workout too! The studio will be closed on Thanksgiving, but I’ll lead a special Detox Flow on Friday to get you back on your feet!
Start today following these five tips! They will help you breeze through the holidays feel, your best and increase your energy level.