Thursday, August 21, 2014

yoga exists to find comfort.

There are big misconceptions going around everywhere about yoga. It's nothing new, but stereotypes exist about what yoga is, what it's for and who practices it. It's unfortunate for newbies, frustrating as a teacher and obvious as a practitioner: people think that yoga is for a certain type of person, usually not them. There's a 'clique' mentality that surrounds this mysterious yoga paradigm, defining it as an elitist form of physical exercise, a mystical practice that involves patchouli and/or just something trendy that rich, skinny women do. Visceral, but true.

The fact of the matter is: yoga is none of those things. It's meant to be accessible and enjoyable for everyone. In many ways, it's literal purpose is for comfort. I want to tell this to people on the street. Yoga literally exists to find comfort! Not so that you can learn how to fling a leg behind your head.

One of the most surprising things to realize in our western culture is that ancient yogis only developed the physical postures (asanas) that we practice in order to find comfort for longer periods of time in stillness (meditation). It was actually only a method to stretch and explore the entire body in a gentle way to avoid muscle cramps. This was way before women ever dominated the yoga world or the term "power yoga" was coined or studios were heated up to a sweat-inducing temperature. Nothing wrong with any of those things perhaps, except for an ignorance of historical roots.
Wholehearter Yoga - motto

Besides it origins, and in a more practical sense, yoga is also meant to help us to find comfort in our minds. Peace of mind. Noticing negative self-talk and stopping those habits in favor of listening to our bodies. Truly guiding us to a more contented state; a state of comfort that most people don't have.

Saying that yoga is meant to find comfort does not translate to saying, "yoga will always be easy," because it won't and it shouldn't be. There will be times that your mind and body will be gently nudged to go deeper, meditate more sincerely, confront judgement more genuinely or to just notice and be curious about yourself in a powerful way. Achieving comfort absolutely is not something you will experience in every sense after your first yoga class. But a taste of it is all someone needs to get hooked on the rest of the essence of yoga.

The motto of my studio is 'keep yoga cozy' in an effort to distinguish my teaching philosophy from many yoga stereotypes. (Also an excuse to push the boundaries of my wardrobe toward pajamas.) But I remember what it felt like to be intimidated in my first few yoga classes. I didn't understand that my pose didn't need to look like the teacher's pose, that no one was watching me and that, really, I could do whatever the hell I wanted and that would've been even better.  All it takes is one attentive and approachable teacher, one comfortable and inviting class or one welcoming yoga community to begin to break down stereotypes. If you practice yoga, you are representing an ancient, sacred and important practice that people NEED in their lives. Help them to understand what you're really doing there. Namaste!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

carrot juice

Rather than offering my yoga students energy drinks, bars or water after class, I'm really looking forward to stocking fresh carrot juice at my studio! I'd love to explain why I chose juice, why carrot juice and why it's such a great compliment to yoga practice.

Juicing, as opposed to blending, steaming or eating raw is one of the best ways to quickly and efficiently flood the body with liquid nutrients. Nutrients directly enter the bloodstream, creating an instant energy boost and powerful detox response.

Carrot juice in particular, has many benefits and has been a large part of my husband's healing protocol and nutritional balancing program. Regular consumption of carrot juice boosts the immune system, improves digestion, liver function & detox, balances skin problems, increases metabolism, supports healthy vision, discourages water retention, ulcers and anemia. (Source) It's also cheap compared to other juicing vegetables and is available year-round!

Though carrots have a high sugar content, they are a very good blood sugar regulator, which (for most people's high-sugar lifestyles) is a huge help. The juice is also rich with biotin, potassium, bioavailable calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, organic sodium and some trace minerals, pro-vitamin A, vitamins C, D, E, K, B1 and B6.
  • Vitamin A: 340% of your daily recommended dose for healthy skin
  • Potassium: 18% DV for proper fluid balance and muscle function
  • Vitamin C: 3mg to pump up your immune system
  • Vitamin E: 0.3mg for the synthesis of hormones and to maintain healthy cells
  • B Vitamins: For your nervous system and brain function - Source
Since we work so hard during yoga to balance the nervous system and the body, detoxify with twists and work toward a balanced mind and body, carrot juice is a wonderful complement to top off your yoga practice and continue healthy detox off the mat.

If you've never had fresh juice or don't regularly drink it, here are some general tips:

1) Drink juice on an empty stomach at least 1 hour after eating or at least 15 minutes before a meal.

2) Do not chug the juice. Drinking any fresh juice too fast could cause an upset stomach or result in what we'll just refer to as a  powerful detox response.... :) You also need to give your body time to release the saliva that contains digestive enzymes, crucial in delivering the nutrients to your cells. 
3) As soon as your freshly made juice gets exposed to air, its live enzymes begin to degrade, therefore decreasing the nutritional content. All Wholehearter juices will be made fresh, but always be sure to drink your juice within a day of purchase.

Share your thoughts!

Monday, August 4, 2014

body grudges

Think about the last time someone really pissed you off. It could be as simple as an angry, careless motorist cutting you off during rush-hour or as complicated as years worth of mental/emotional abuse. Either way, when you're angry, certain hormones are released kicking off a chain reaction of events throughout your body that result in a rise of blood pressure, cortisol and adrenaline, maybe some choice words...etc. You may even notice that more traumatic events will trigger these reactions in your body long after the initial stress response (ie. holding a grudge).

Just like the mind, our bodies cling to emotional trauma too. Unresolved issues can literally build up a variety of toxic substances in the body that settle in certain muscles, joints and organs, often later to surface as a chronic injury, illness or source of frustration and tension.

If you think about your body and become aware of your regular patterns, most people will know where they "hold tension." Times of stress might result in the neck and shoulders contracting, tense hips, lower back pain or tension headaches. The body responds to negativity in very tangible, yet often ignored ways. We know that our body reacts obviously during stress, but when the mental effects of stress linger, it's only natural to also know that recurring and unresolved emotional stress will manifest in chronic pain, recurring injury or illness.

When I officially learned about the theory of different types of stress residing in different areas of the body, I was taken aback at how hard it hit home. I had been told for years that there is no logical reason why my shoulders and upper-back are always so tight, my scapula almost being fused to my thoracic spine. As a yoga instructor, it's not as if I don't make an effort to work out tight muscles in my body, especially those with which I struggle, but I was told that this must be the area in which I just "hold my tension." Though partially true, learning that shoulder pain is directly correlated to "how much we take on" and feeling as if "the weight of the world is literally on our shoulders," it finally made sense to me. My overwhelming responsibilities as caretaker for my husband were taking a serious toll on my body. Over the last few months as my husband's health has taken a huge upswing, my shoulder pain is, inexplicably, virtually gone.

We ALL have emotional "grudges" in our body. These are the traumatizing, sad or stressful parts of life that we have just not been able to fully shake, cope with, work out or move on from (whether we realize it or not.) Clinging to past hurt is a normal part of life. It's unhealthy, but it's often how many people make decisions to shape their future and create their life story. Depending on how we deal with stress on a daily basis, "traumatizing" can mean very different things to different people. In other words, the more naturally high-strung you are, the more effort you will need to make for self-care to undo the damaging effects of your stress.

If you have a specific area in the body of recurring trouble, see if you might better understand what types of emotions could be causing it with the information below. These are just some of the common areas in which people struggle with blocked emotional energy, but here's a more detailed chart.
body grudges : wholehearter

Throat: lack of trust/self-expression 
Shoulders: burdens/responsibility
Heart: lack of love/compassion
Lungs: feelings of sorrow/grief
Liver: anger
Elbows: pushing away
Wrists: feelings of grasping
Adrenals: stress
Kidneys: fear
Hips: lack of support
Knees: ego
Ankles/Feet: issues with standing for yourself

There's so much to know about the emotional centers of the body. But to get rid of these chronic issues once and for all, start by addressing them emotionally, not just physically. Think about what could be causing your pain on a mental level and re-frame it. You can't always change the situation you're in, but you CAN change how you react to it, how often you seek support, guidance or counsel and how you continue to create or break down poor habits of self-pity and negative mantras. Focus on one issue at a time. Meditate on it. Let yourself feel whatever you're feeling, but then find a way for yourself to truly let it go. And above all, listen to your body because it's telling you some seriously important shit.

Comments or questions? Comment below or email Rosslyn!