Supporting your Immune System- 4 Poses to help, and why meditation works to keep you well.

Yoga in general is great for supporting your immune system. The slowing of the senses,  focusing on the breath, turning inward with yoga poses, and meditating are all great for calming the sympathetic nervous system. When we are stressed and constantly in our sympathetic nervous system mode (fight or flight) rather than our parasympathetic nervous system mode, it puts our immune system under stress and weakens it. When this happens , we are more susceptible to catching a cold or the flu. Below are 4 poses that will help support your immune system. Hold each pose for a minimum of 2 min and up to as long as you’d like :). I have also included an article on meditation that shows the positive effects it has on your immune system and how closely our thoughts can affect our health.

Child’s Pose.

Child’s pose or any forward fold is great for the immune system because you are folding back into yourself which encourages a restful state . Child’s pose also supports your adrenal glands,  and stimulates the lymphatic system. Find a bolster, pillows are whatever you’d like to support you and fold into it. If this bothers your knees at all, you can bring a blanket under the thighs to take pressure off of your knees.

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Resting Twist

Any kind of yoga Pose that involves a twist is going to be good for your immune system because 80 percent of your immune system lives in your gastrointestinal tract. Twists help to purify your body and stimulate the intestines to work properly. Laying on the floor, bring your legs to one side or the other and drop your shoulders to the floor. You can support your top knee by placing a pillow between your legs as well. Switch sides.

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Low lunge with twist.

From hands and knees, bring one knee thru to your hands. Picture 1. Lifting up you will twist your opposite elbow to the thigh in front. Picture 2. You can modify this by just bringing your forearm to your thigh as well. Switch sides.

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Legs up the wall or Chair.

This pose is wonderful for slowing down your heart rate as well as lowering your blood pressure. It also stimulates your lymphatic system. Get as close to a wall or chair as you can and bring your legs up. 🙂

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This is a great article worth the read, that shows the relation between mediation and our immune systems and how our thoughts, moods, sensations and expectations are transmitted to our immune systems.

https://chopra.com/articles/how-meditation-helps-your-immune-system-do-its-job

6 Poses for Core Strength

This week we are moving into strengthening poses for the core. When we think of the core, naturally we think of the abdomen area but when we are strengthening our core we are also helping the surrounding areas such as the pelvis, low back and hips.

There are 8 muscles that make up the core. Some of the more recognizable ones are the internal and external obliques (the sides of our abdomen and back), the rectus abdominus, which are the muscles that create the 6 pack, and the erector spinae or low back muscles. The other muscles are the diaphragm (helps us to breathe, so that’s a big deal), the transverse abdominus (these muscles run horizontally around the center of your abdomen and are one of the most forgotten but most needed muscles for a healthy core), the pelvic floor muscles, and the multifidus spinae (runs along either side of the spine).

Even if you aren’t interested in knowing where they are (expect now you do 😝), these 6 poses will help to target them and keep your core and surrounding areas working in harmony.

Happy Hump Day! 💕

Picture A.

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Picture B.

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This move works on your internal and external oblique muscles. Start in a modified side plank (Picture A) and as you exhale, draw your elbow to your knee ( Picture B). Your elbow does not need to touch your knee, you are just moving it in that direction. You can repeat this move 5-10 times and then do the other side. Try 3 reps on each side.

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Picture B

This move targets your transverse and rectus abdominus as well as your external obliques. Focus on drawing your belly button to your spine to move deeper into your transverse muscles. Start in plank, wrists right below your shoulders and hand shoulders distance apart (picture A) and lower your knees to hover(picture B). Once the knees are lowered you will create an isometric contraction, without actually moving your hands and your feet think about pulling them toward one another. This will activate your core engagement even further. If you start to shake, let it happen. This is your body beginning to strengthen and figure out what muscles it needs to use to hold you here. Start small, holding for 3 breaths . Repeat 2 to 3 more times adding on a couple breaths each time.

Picture A.

Picture B.

This next one can be done as one pose, holding in forearm plank, Picture A. And then adding on to the extended arm variation in picture B when you start to feel stronger. Make sure your elbows are aligned under your shoulders and that you are pressing firmly into your inner forearms as well as your palms. You can also bring your hands together and interlace if that feels more comfortable as well as dropping the knees to the mat for a modified variation. When you feel ready for the arm extended variation, keep your opposite arm stable and your shoulder blade pulling down your back. Shift your weight to the arm that is staying put, and extend the opposite arm out. You can again start with 3 breaths and begin to add on breath to either of these variations as you go.

Picture A.

Picture B.

Picture C.

This pose is great for strengthens the lower back muscles or the erector spinae portion of the core as well as the multifidus spinae, the muscles that run along the length of the spine. For this pose you will need a block. If you don’t have one handy or something similar, like a water bottle, you can do the moves without as well.

You will start on your belly and bring your arms overhead. Clasp your block and start to lift your arms as well as your legs. Picture A. Hold here for a breath.

You will then take the block in one hand and move the arms out to the sides. As you become stronger you can lift the chest and the legs a little higher. Hold for a full breath. Picture B.

Bring the block behind the back, clasp it between the hands again and keep the chest and legs lifting. Hold for a breath. Picture C.

From here take the block around to the other side and repeat. Then take the block back to the front and repeat. You will have moved in a full circle with the block. Once you’ve finished one circle, you can lower and rest and then do it one more time moving in the other direction.

Picture A.

Picture B.

You can start in plank for these next two moves. You will need a couple of towels and a floor you can slide on. In Picture A, you will have a towel under your feet. As you exhale you will start to draw your knees toward your elbows and then as you inhale you will return to plank. As you grow stronger, you can pause when the knees come toward your elbows before returning them to plank pose. Start with 5 breaths and build your way up a breath or two at a time.

In Picture B, it’s the same idea, but here you will have a towel under each foot and you will slide the knee toward your elbow one at a time. Exhale as you draw the knee toward your elbow and then inhale to return it to plank. Do the other leg as you exhale it in, and then inhale to return it to plank. Try for 10 breaths total and build up from there.

Maitri or Loving Kindness, because being a human can be hard ♥️

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Today I’d like to share with you the word Maitri.  Maitri translates to loving kindness. More specifically loving kindness to oneself and others. What draws me to Maitri is the depth of which it speaks to giving unconditional love to ourselves. That it allows for us to be human in the entire spectrum of what being human means. 

I first discovered the idea of Loving Kindness when I was in my teacher training a few years ago. We talked about and practiced Metta or Tonglen Meditation that focuses purely on sending loving kindness to ourselves and others and it is extremely powerful. I realize that for some, the idea of sending loving kindness to ourselves and others might sound very peace love and rainbows, but it takes a tremendous amount of strength to soften enough to love others but even more so, ourselves unconditionally. As one of my favorite writers Waylon Lewis (who writes and talks frequently on Maitri) says, ‘it isn’t lovey-dovey, hippie-dippie, it’s truly tough stuff.’ As a testament to how tough it can actually be, a lot of the time with Loving Kindness meditation, that typically begins with sending loving kindness to ourselves, the meditator has to begin with the second part of the meditation where you send loving kindness to someone you love and come back to yourself afterward. That’s impactful if you stop and think about it. That means we completely bypass ourselves….If I was making this into a video this is where the dramatic pause would be….But really, that’s a big deal. 

I recently stumbled across one of Waylon’s short videos on Maitri. In this particular one, (there are several) he talks about how we can fall in love with ourselves. Not in an egotistical way, but in a way that we find acceptance in ALL the parts that make up who we are. The likeable and the difficult. That we allow ourselves to ease into the tender hearted lonely parts, the confused parts, the aggressive parts, the clingy parts, the confused parts, the sense of loss of ourselves and the bold brash parts of ourselves.

For me personally this is relief filled. It means that we get to take note of the messy parts of us, our over emotional and thinks too much parts (this girl right here 🙋🏼‍♀️), our perfectionism parts, our angry parts, our need for control parts, our co-dependent parts just as much as the parts that come easy. That we can instead of feeling shame and pushing them aside, soften into them in ways that are productive and kind and compassionate. After all, we are ready and willing to give unconditional love to the ones we hold dear. Why shouldn’t we hold ourselves in the same regard? 

 ‘Maitri toward ourselves doesn’t mean getting rid of anything. Maitri means that we can still be crazy after all these years. We can still be angry after all these years. We can still be timid or jealous or full of feelings of unworthiness. The point is not to try and throw ourselves away and become something different. It’s about befriending who we already are. The beginning of the practice is you or me or whoever we are right now. That’s the ground. That’s what we study.’ 

-Pema Chödrön

And maybe the reason we have a hard time with Maitri toward ourselves is because the work is hard. Loneliness for example is a tough feeling. It’s sad, it’s heartbreaking, it can feel like a ton of bricks on your chest at times, but it’s in the messiness that there is magic and strength. And how would we ever know what the joy of contentment and happiness can feel like if we don’t allow the loneliness to be felt and experienced and understood. Sitting with these feelings is where we meet ourselves, it’s in this sitting, that we start to realize that these difficult feelings gives us strength. It’s where we begin to give ourselves the love that we deserve. 

Happy Wednesday. Be well Friends. ♥️

Here are a few resources if you’d like to learn more 

Loving kindness Meditation 

http://www.contemplativemind.org/practices/tree/loving-kindness

Waylon Lewis- Falling in love with ourselves 

Pema Chödrön-Maitri 

https://tricycle.org/trikedaily/pema-chodron-maitri/

Happy Hips

 

A few weeks ago, we covered the hip flexor. And while it is super important to keep the hip flexor muscles stretched and opened, it’s just as important to work the other areas of our hips to keep them moving without stiffness and to allow for all of our muscles to work in harmony. If the hips are tight, it will start to show up in other areas of our body that end up compensating for the tightness of the hips.

Here are 5 poses that are great for opening the different areas of our hips. Hold each pose for anywhere from 1-5 minutes. Do both sides and don’t be afraid to use props. Take a few moments at the end to just relax and breathe in savasana. 

Happy Wednesday. 💕

Questions? Please ask 😊

 

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Reclined Pigeon at the wall. Picture 1.

You will start at the wall here. Once you are on your back, you can play around with how close you will need to be depending on your hips. Bring one foot into the wall and take your opposite ankle and place it on top of your thigh. Scoot forward if you need more of a stretch, scoot back if it’s too intense. You can use your hand on your thigh to deepen the stretch here as well. I’m not using a mat here but use whatever or however much padding you need to make it comfortable for you. 

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Bound Angle pose at the wall. Picture 2 and 3. 

After your pigeon on both sides, you can stay and start to draw your feet together. Depending on the flexibility of your hips your feet may be further up the wall or closer to your groin. You can also use blocks under your thighs for support as well as using your hands to press into the thighs. 

 

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Standing forward fold with feet crossed. Picture 4 & 5. 

This pose is great for moving into the outer hips or the IT bands. You will stand and begin to fold at your hip crease. This muscle is tight for most people so if you have a block handy, have it ready in case you need it. You can also use a foam roller or something a little taller to support you if they are really tight. If you are more flexible in this area you can fold further toward the ground and use the floor for support. Switch sides. Remember as you are moving through all of these hip openers, one side will more than likely be tighter than the other so adjust accordingly. 

 

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Pyramid pose. Picture 6 & 7. 

From a standing forward fold you will step one foot back. Have your block ready to use under your hands if you need the added height. Remember as you are moving into this pose, you DO NOT need to have your front leg straight. Move into it until you start to feel the stretch in your outer hip. In the first picture, I have my hand in my hip crease. This is to pull my outer hip back toward my back foot to keep the hips aligned, and to get the most out of this stretch. As you feel ready you can fold further into the pose. 

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Happy Baby. Picture 8. 

This pose is restorative and a great way to stretch the hips as well as the muscles through the back of the body while resting the muscles of the front of the body. If this pose causes you issues as you are lowering into it, you can take a blanket and fold it up to place  under your thighs and above your calves. This will help release tension in the knees as well as the muscles in the back and hip area. It is also wonderful to use a bolster to rest into. You can have your knees further apart as I’m doing in this photo or you can have them closer together to rest into. Experiment to see which one feels best for you. 

 

 

 

 

 

When The World loses its shine….Mindfulness and Meditation.

I’d like to start of this week by sharing an experience I had before diving into the topic of mindfulness and meditation. Its a bit long but I hope you stick around for it 🙂 

This past Friday, I went to take a yoga class from a good friend, and as we were centering before the class started, she told us about a conversation that she had had with a co-worker. They were talking about how as we age, time seems to fly by. We can all relate to this I am sure.  One moment it’s summer and the next you are hanging up Christmas stockings. Her co-worker said ‘you know why that is right?’ He explained that when we are children we notice everything, and as we age we just stop noticing. Everything flashes by because we miss the details. This was profound for me and I thought about how completely accurate it is. My friend went on to say that they talked about how a child is completely enthralled by how a stapler works and the beauty of a color of a flower. This made me think back to how when my kids were babies, how enamored they were by the way their hand looked in front of their face or by someones smile. Or how as toddlers they genuinely became excited by how a ball bounced, and how in awe they were of how blades of grass felt beneath their feet. And then I thought about how as we age these things lose their shine. We aren’t enamored any longer by the small things. We become occupied with our to do lists, and the busy-ness of the day and our phones and we forget to notice. 

While I cannot take credit for this thought, I feel like, and my friend obviously did too, that it is important enough that it be passed forward. 

So How does this relate to mindfulness and meditation and why is it important?  Because the action of paying attention and being present in my opinion, is so important to happiness. If you google the words mindfulness and meditation, you will find hundreds of articles about the positive effects that being mindful can have on us, and several studies that have been done using meditation and mindfulness to help with pain management and depression. So there’s no question that it is effective in regards to helping us not only become more aware of our surroundings, but to also feeling better emotionally and physically. 

How do we practice mindfulness and how do we meditate? I think the key is to start small and easy, and build your way up to longer periods of time. For me personally, this is what has worked best. I’m including resources below that I feel are great beginnings to meditation and mindfulness practice.

This was a long one this week! Thank you for reading. I hope you pass it forward and that it’s of benefit to you! 

 

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This is an easy way to start on meditation and mindfulness . You can find a comfortable place to sit and use this breath work to meditate. Start with 5 minutes and build your way up to 10, and then 20. This can be done over a month or several. There is no need to rush yourself just try to stay consistent. Remember as you are breathing,  it’s not necessary to push your thoughts away. You are simply going to let them pass through. If you like to visualize, you can imagine that you have two open doors on your head, one in the front and one in the back, and as your thoughts come, let them pass straight through.  The more you meditate, the easier this will get and the fewer thoughts you will have of future and past and you’ll be able to focus on what is in the present moment . Pay attention to your breathing. If you’d like, you can add in an affirmation. It could be as simple as saying, ‘I am’, on the inhale, and ‘Present’ on the exhale.

 

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This is a  are great ways to start with mindfulness. And because most of us take a shower every day, it can be incorporated into something we already do.

 

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Another mindfulness practice that involves sitting down and drinking tea, you could use coffee too which is my favorite.  🍵 😋

 

 

More Resources:

•This is an amazing app that is FREE. It has guided meditations short and long , podcasts, breathing exercises, meditation for kids, a meditation timer and more. It was voted one of Time’s top 50 apps. I personally use this and can’t rave enough about it. You can find the app in the App Store or below on this website.

Insight Timer – http://www.insighttimer.com

•This is a great article on walking meditation. The app above has these as well, but if you are’t interested in the app, this is wonderful for walking you through one (no pun intended, or maybe 😝) and gives great information on meditation in general  as well.

https://blog.sivanaspirit.com/practice-walking-meditation/?utm_content=buffer7d42a&amp=&utm_medium=social&amp=&utm_source=pinterest.com&amp=&utm_campaign=buffer

 

Being Soft is Never Weak.

Being soft is never weak. Softness and vulnerability are authentic and courageous. There is no armor, no pretending, no mask covering your tender insides, it’s just you imperfectly perfect. If you love hard keep going. If you wear your heart on your sleeve, keep going. If you are kind and soft and authentic, keep going. Without apology. Do it for you. Do it for this world. Because we desperately need more and more and more of it. 

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Neck and Shoulder Tension Release

This week is about releasing stress and tension from the neck, shoulders and upper back. This is a place where most of us like to hold tension.  And due to the repetitiveness of what our day invites us to do, work on the computer, read, study, etc. it is compounded and causes us to hold on to even more tension as we strain these muscles. One of the biggest culprits of this as we all know, is the use of our hand held devices. It has become so common to have ailments from using them that there is an actual term that was coined by a chiropractor in the early 2000’s called ‘text neck.’ 

Below are several stretches to help open and lengthen the muscles of the shoulders, neck and upper back. After looking at them and how to do them, see if you can put your phone up, put on your favorite playlist and give yourself 20 minutes to be present and in the moment while doing these. Stay anywhere from 1-5 minutes depending on how you feel and do both sides of it applies. 

Happiest Hump Day to you! 💞

 

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Neck Stretches- Picture 1 

Drop your right ear to your right to your right shoulder, allow for your left shoulder to relax. Hold here for about a minute. You can stay or if you would like to add a little more stretch, bring your hand to the side of your head for added weight. No need to pull on the head, the weight of the hand on the head should be enough. 🙂  before moving to the other side, you can drop your chin to your chest and trace your collarbone with your chin for neck circles. You can also place the hands to the back of the head for added weight. 

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Thread the needle- Picture 2 and 3 

From your tabletop pose, you will lift your right arm up and then thread it under your opposite arm, the hips can stay lifted or you can lower them to your heels if that feels better. Turn your head to the left and place your ear either onto a block or onto your mat. Breathe into the back of your shoulder. 

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Wall stretch- Picture 4

The wall is a great tool to use in helping us stretch. You will face the wall and bring your hands to chest level. Begin to walk the legs back and you will fold at the hips. Your ankles should be under your hips as you are folding in. This one is great for helping with rounded shoulders and opening the upper back up. 

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Reverse Needle- Picture 5 and 6 

Laying on your belly, you will bring your left arm out to the side. Bend your right knee and step your right foot over your left leg. Depending on how tight you are will depend on how far you can roll into this pose. Once you are in it, you can either support the top leg with a block under the knee or you can bring your foot to the floor. This pose is amazing for opening the front of the shoulders up as well as the chest. 

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Supported Savasana-Picture 7

You will need two blocks for this one or you can use a rolled up blanket and some bigger books to support your head. I would recommend buying a couple of blocks if you can because we will use them in so many of the poses. You will take one block or your rolled up blanket and bring it under the bottom of the shoulder blades turned horizontally to your mat. The second one will support your head under the base of the skull. You may need to adjust the blocks slightly once you are in it until it feels just right. Let the arms relax out to the sides and breathe into the front of the body, the chest and the shoulders. You will roll off of your support and find savasana to end your practice. Stay as long as you’d like.