3 Effective Yoga & Wellness Exercises for a Pain Free Back

Jonathan Finegold is a guest blogger today for Wholehearter Yoga! Check out his personal experience and favorite postures for a pain-free back.


Bio: Jonathan was born into yoga. In 1975, his grandfather founded Radiance Yoga, a studio in San Diego. Unsurprisingly, yoga and meditation have always been central to Jonathan’s and his family’s lives, and it continues to be a vital part of his routine. He was formerly the marketing analyst at Robbins Research International and is now the marketing director at Now Media Group, which hosts a weekly yoga class for all employees.

I suffer from mild kyphosis — my shoulders are rounded and my spine doesn’t curve the way it’s supposed to. I don’t know whether I was born with the condition, whether it was the result of a childhood of bad posture, or whether it’s a little bit of both.

My spine has caused me problems. Or, rather, I’ve caused problems for my spine.

The medically prescribed solution was to take 800 mg ibuprofens four times a day. I don’t know whether a different doctor would recommend a different approach, but it was what was recommended to me at the time.

I knew that consuming four 800 mg ibuprofens per day was not a healthy, sustainable lifestyle.

I needed an alternative. Luckily, yoga lives in my family.

 

My grandfather and aunt operate their own yoga studio, and my dad has used yoga to help relieve his own back pain, and they were able to teach me techniques for dealing with back pain in an alternative way. I want to share with you what my family has taught me because I know I’m not the only one who suffers from back pain. I’m not the only one who’s experienced, and is tired of, “traditional” pain relief.

There are so many factors that can cause back pain. Most people suffer from problems with their nerves or from spinal injuries that they have accrued one way or another. If you fit in this group, the yoga poses I’m about to share will help you too.

I’m no yoga guru, mind you. Believe me, all of these poses are easy to do and perfect for entry level yoga students.

 

Remember, if you suffer from structural spine issues, like a fused disc, it’s important to be careful with all of these poses. If you feel pain during the exercise, then the stretch needs to be modified or you may need to find a more suitable pose. Consult with a yoga instructor, such as Rosslyn, to help find an exercise that’s right for you.

Downward-Facing Dog (Sanskrit: Adho Mukha Svanasana)

 

To complete this pose, start on on your hands and knees. Your knees should be right under your hips and your hands slightly forward of your shoulders. Your toes should be tucked under and spread your palms.

 

Take a breath and lift your knees. Your knees should be slightly bent at first and your heels off the floor.

You want to pull your abdominal muscles toward your spine, straightening out and lengthening your back. Your body should be bending at the hip, so that your butt is sloping down with your legs. If your butt is the uppermost part of your body, it probably means that you need to broaden your chest and pull your stomach toward your back.

Keep your knees bent and focus on the spine, straightening your knees by bringing your thighs back only if you are able to maintain the position of your spine. Remember to keep your hands pointed forward and position your head so that your ears are touching your upper arms.

 

Hold this position for one or two minutes. To release, exhale and gradually come back to your knees.

This pose stretches several of the areas that cause back pain, including the spine, shoulders, and hamstrings. When your hamstrings are tight, this can be the cause of a lot of discomfort in your lower back, and oftentimes just stretching them can do absolute wonders.

Note that the pain relief is more than physical. Because you are mildly inverted, meaning that your heart is higher than your head in the pose, the exercise will help re-energize your body. This reduces fatigue, relieves headaches, and can even help with your confidence. This allows for a more comprehensive, holistic approach to resolving pain.

If you suffer from physical damage to your back, shoulders, or arms, please be careful. Work within your limits, and if you have any concerns speak to a medical professional first.

 

Cow Face (Sanskrit: Gomukhasana)

 

No, you’re a cow face! Just kidding. This is an actual pose, I promise.

It was suggested to me by Dr. Del Kovacevic, a dentist in nearby Greensburg. As it turns out, dentistry is one of the most at-risk professions for back problems because of how they tend to sit and hunch over the patient.

See an instructor before doing this pose if you suffer from serious neck or shoulder injuries.

To do cow face pose, start in staff pose, sitting on the floor with your legs extended straight out in front of you. Then, bend your knees and slide your left foot under your right leg to rest on the floor on the outside of the right hip. Cross your right leg over your left, and, keeping your knees stacked slide your right foot to the outside of your left hip. Ideally, each foot should sit an equal distance from your hips.

Next, you'll add the arm position. Start by stretching your right arm out to the right and rotate your hand so the thumb faces the ground. Next, bend at the elbow and sweep your arm behind your back, resting your forearm against the hollow of your lower back. Roll your right shoulder back and down as you work your right hand up toward your upper back, between your shoulder blades.

Inhale and reach your left arm forward with the palm facing up. Then, reach your arm up toward the sky and bend your elbow. Reach to grasp the fingers or your right hand.

Pro-tip: If your fingers don't meet, which is very typical, you may want to use a strap or belt.

Lift your chest, bring your right elbow toward the floor — remember to keep it tight against your torso —, and keep your left elbow next to your head.

Hold it for a minute, then release your arms, then uncross your legs. Repeat the exercise with your arms and legs reversed.

Just by reading the description I’m sure you can see how it pulls your shoulders back, straightens your spine, and helps stretch the muscles that we often contract and cramp. The benefits are comprehensive because it also helps open your hips, ankles, thighs, armpits, and triceps, and it helps with restoring balance between the left and right halves of the body.

 

Shoulder Stretch and Lat Pull Down

Bad posture can create rounded shoulders. Our shoulders also  tend to round over time, in large part because we don’t sustain our skeletal strength. I'm going to explain an easy exercise you can do to counteract this rounding of the shoulders.

Grab the nearest strap or belt, take a seat with crossed legs, and straighten your back.

Keeping your hands a bit wider than shoulder distance. Extend your arms straight out in front of you, parallel to the floor.

Inhale and bring your arms over your head. On your next exhale, bend your elbows and bring the strap behind your head. Inhale again and raise your arms, then bring them down again as you exhale. The movement is very similar to a lat pulldown at the gym.

You will feel your shoulder blades being pulled down toward your spine. This will help bring them back, stretch, and open them, relieving the stress and tension we build into our bodies.

What I like about this exercise is that it’s easy. Downward Dog and Cow Face are excellent poses and I highly recommend them, but if you’re new to yoga or would like to make sure your form is good, I highly encourage you to visit Rosslyn at the Wholehearter studio. This shoulder stretch exercise is a bit more basic and something you can pick up right away.

 

Bonus Pose: Thread the Needle (Sanskrit: Parsva Balasana)

 

I personally love this pose because, I usually feel very comfortable while holding the position. This can have to do with my own flexibility limitations and injuries. Regardless, it’s a good example of how different poses may appeal because of the unique range of capabilities of your own body.

 

You’ll start on your hands and knees, with your wrists directly under your shoulders and your knees below your hips. Your fingertips should point forward and keep your knees hip-width apart. Keep your head centered and your back flat, looking straight down at the floor.

Walk your left hand out an inch or two and exhale. Release your shoulder to the floor until your right ear and cheek are touching the mat. You should be looking toward your left now.

With your hips raised, your left arm will be stretching forward. Roll your left elbow upwards and keep it up. Make sure you are not placing weight on your head. Give your back freedom, broadening your upper back and relaxing your lower back. You should feel the tension in your muscles drain.

I cannot recommend Thread the Needle enough. Ask Rosslyn at Wholehearter to help you with your form next time you come in for your class!

I am grateful for this opportunity to share my experiences with all of you. Rosslyn is a very talented instructor with an amazing website and studio, and to have the chance to contribute is amazing. She truly cares about our world and wants to make it a better, healthier place; she is a rare, and the best, kind of hero.


 

 

 

Balancing Effort & Ease

Balancing Effort & Ease: Wholehearter Yoga

Over the years, my physical yoga practice has developed a much deeper sense of ease. This is not to say that all of the postures I practice are "easy," but that each one is most valuable if it is steady and filled with ease. It has taken me many years to appreciate this ease and create more balance within my life and asana (posture) practice. I've come to understand that yoga asana is a way to help us peel back the layers and fully experience what's going on inside.

 

 


I was surprised to learn that Patanjali describes asana only once in the ancient yoga sutras. He doesn't talk about alignment, loose hamstrings, or achieving headstand. Sutra 2.46 simply says, "Sthira Sukham Asanam."

sthira = strong; steady; stable; effort; motionless
sukham = comfortable; ease-filled; happy; light; relaxed
āsanam = asana; posture; physical practice

To put it simply: yoga asana is a balance between effort and ease. The yoga postures teach us how to make wise choices that will help us to move toward homeostasis. We will often find that balance requires us to move toward the opposite of our usual habits and comfort zones. For many of us, this means learning how to YIELD.

When an asana is done correctly, the body movements are smooth, there is lightness in the body, and freedom in the mind....Performance of the asana should be nourishing and illuminative.
— B.K.S. Iyengar.

When I began yoga practice, I liked to move quickly from one posture to the next because my comfort with exerting effort outweighed my comfort to surrender. If I was in a long-held posture, I would often (subconsciously) compensate my boredom or discomfort by trying harder, unnecessarily and to my detriment. Though I didn't think it at the time, my breath was effortful and strained, my mind always reaching ahead toward the next movement, and my body was often left feeling depleted.

My patterns in life were to push and achieve all things better, faster, more efficiently (macrocosm)....so all of these patterns were present in my asana (microcosm) as well.

It's difficult to admit this to myself, even now. But I practiced with excess effort for SO long that it understandably took me a long time to even realize it. Samskara (ingrained habits) are often subconscious and they run deep throughout every layer of our being. This realization was a huge part of my journey and it's why I'm SO big on teaching and practicing self-care now.

So the question for many of us becomes: how can we incorporate more ease (sukham) into our practice? Both on and off the mat, we're often used to pushing toward success, multitasking, or perfecting. Let's move toward making minute adjustments, refining, and quieting from the inside out. Finding sukham takes LESS effort, but more awareness...so let's pay attention today.

What are the benefits of essential oils?

 
 

If you're not familiar with essential oils or don't yet incorporate them into your lifestyle, it's fascinating to learn the many uses and benefits. I used to think that essential oils were had the same basic use as perfume: to smell good. But aromatherapy is much more than just good smells and it's only one aspect of using essential oils. Understanding how essential oils work with the body and the brain can help you to benefit more from the way you use them.

Three main ways that essential oils interact with the body:

1) Pharmacological: When essential oils enter the bloodstream, chemical changes take place when the oil reacts with enzymes, hormones, minerals...etc. Humans have used plants and herbs as medicine since we’ve existed. All over the world, people have figured out that by applying oils topically, they’re absorbed directly through the skin and into the bloodstream. A very small amount of potent oils can have drastic effects.

Essential oil constituents have the potential to affect every cell of the body within 20 minutes and then be metabolized like any other nutrient.

 At some point, much of our Western culture has forgotten about the pharmacy of nature. Essential oils offer an extra way to use plants as part of diet, reflexology, emotional wellness, massage, and immune-boosting. It can feel overwhelming at first, but with a little education, essential oils can be used to replace every synthetic drug in your medicine cabinet.

2) Physiological: This has to do with the way that the essential oil affects various systems in the body. Certain oils will stimulate or sedate various systems or organs within the body. You can also affect the way an oil is used based on which nostril you breathe into or where you apply it in relation to acupuncture (energy meridian) points.

Essential oils have the ability to affect the brain more than drugs.

The blood-brain barrier is a filtering mechanism that prevents substances from reaching the brain tissue and cerebrospinal fluid. 98% of small molecule drugs cannot cross the blood-brain barrier, which would be essential for the treatment of brain diseases and disorders. But certain essential oils can naturally cross the blood-brain barrier and impact neurotransmitter receptors therapeutically. This is why essential oils are so extremely therapeutic for any dysfunction of the brain or nervous system.

3) Psychological: When an oil is inhaled, our body has an individual response to the aroma (aromatherapy).

Our sense of smell is directly connected to the frontal lobe of the brain, so diffusing oils is one simple way to achieve a desired mood.

There are many ways to diffuse scent, without a nebulizing diffuser. You can simply inhale directly from the vial, add to a handkerchief or pillowcase, use as perfume, add in the shower or bath, or place a drop of oil on a cotton ball and add to air vents or attach to a ceiling fan. You might diffuse or inhale invigorating or citrusy oils while you’re working, and switch to soothing, earthy scents when you need to wind down. (TIP: Explore various blends of oils to find or create a combination that resonates with you and your body/brain chemistry. Everyone is different.)

Check out some of the uses of a few popular essential oils and DoTerra blends:


When going the holistic route, it’s important to choose completely pure, therapeutic-grade essential oils. Otherwise, you’re simply adding other foreign substances to your body, putting a burden on your liver and kidneys to filter. Even though they can be pricey, what’s nice about good quality essential oils is that a little goes a LONG way. Essential oils are highly concentrated, so you’re just wasting product if you use more than a few drops. For many applications, essential oils should be diluted in a carrier oil or water.

If you're looking to incorporate oils into your self-care, books are a great place to start! Modern Essentials is one really complete guide that I would recommend. Your local library or bookstore surely has many references and ideas for you...you can also just ask!

I sell DoTerra essential oil products. I chose DoTerra because they preserve purity by sourcing plants from indigenous regions all over the world. I love sharing creative ways to use oils and helping you find ones that will support you on your physical or emotional journey. I place an order on the 15th of each month, so just check in if you have any questions or are thinking about oils you might like to try!

What is Yoga?

What is Yoga?

Whether you've taken a yoga class before or not, you might still find yourself asking at some point: what exactly IS yoga? To answer that big question, we turn to the big, old, yoga texts.

The yoga sutras are one of the main ancient yoga philosophy texts. They provide a wide variety of practical knowledge and suggestions for healing the mind, body and spirit. There is so much to be gained by reading the sutras and they provide a firm foundation for any yoga practice. Without an understanding of the reasons behind yoga, it's easy to fall into a mindless practice.

Today we'll be breaking down and reflecting on just one sutra, Sutra 1.2, which describes exactly what yoga is:

“Yoga is the reflection of the fluctuations of consciousness.”

Swami Satchitanada’s translation says: “Yoga is the restraint of the modifications of the mind-stuff.”

So when we think about 'yoga,' we might think of the western ideal of a traditional yoga asana (posture) class. But nothing is mentioned here about the body, stretching or yoga asana. (In fact, asana is only actually mentioned ONCE in the entire book of the sutras!)  Sutra 1.2 is suggesting that yoga exists within the mind; from there, we have 5 types of yoga to offer us various ways to achieve restraint of the mind. Asana is just one of those paths.

Another thing to take note of about this definition is that we're not trying to 'empty the mind' completely. Rather than trying to force out thoughts, yoga asks us to begin by simply noticing how the mind fluctuates. We can then begin to notice that many of our thoughts are repetitive, negative, past, or future-oriented. You might even find that certain yoga postures result in certain types or qualities of thought. Once we notice the patterns of our consciousness, only then can we begin to develop some restraint.

"The mind is a busy thing. It is always moving. Even when we sleep, the mind is fluctuating, making up little stories, tossing flashes of color and light around, reenacting or inventing conversations and scenes that feel like reality while we’re experiencing them. Only when we wake up do we realize our dreams were “just dreams,” no matter how real they felt. We’ve all heard of lucid dreaming, right? Some people learn to recognize that they are dreaming while it’s happening, and that changes the dream. Similarly, we become lucid in our waking life when we learn to tell the difference between what is real and what is just mental noise." - MissDirt.net

To practice restraint is an active process. There is much intention behind the practice and it's most useful when we can incorporate it into our daily life. It would behoove us all to slow down, and allow enough time for stillness to listen to our thoughts. The quality of our day-to-day thoughts can often be surprising, but this process is what makes yoga so incredibly life-changing.

Our perception of reality is a direct result of the quality of our thoughts.

And it takes time to change thoughts. Many eager students, (myself included) hope to pop right into a deep state of blissful meditation without having dedicated the time and practice needed to notice and alter thoughts. Noticing 'the fluctuations' has to come before the refining process...so begin there. Begin with just a few breaths of attention. A few moments dedicated to non-judgemental acknowledgement of your thoughts. Practice easing your way into a sense of patience throughout those fluctuations. Before you know it, you're practicing yoga and mindfulness meditation. :)

 

Be well!

 

SO HUM Meditation

Please enjoy and practice this SO HUM meditation at your leisure! The words 'so hum' are a sacred Sanskrit mantra that mean, 'I am that,' or 'I am myself.' The words themselves are extremely grounding and you'll find the rhythm of this meditation soothing and healing.

Click the photo below to take a closer look or download and print the file to keep on hand. SO HUM is useful to incorporate into your day or during times of stress, so practice it and remember it for next time!

Click to download and print.

Click to download and print.

PEMF Therapy

If you've been following along with me on social media, you might know about my recent neurological challenges.

A brief synopsis: a chronic hip/pelvis pain helped to alert my chiropractor to what was actually a problem with my left brain stem. Due to the cranial-sacral connection (as well as the vagus nerve that runs directly from the base of the skull down to the pelvis) an old concussion had created a major rift between by brain and my spine. Unbeknownst to me, I had been living with this imbalance for about 17 years and was very lucky to have only really experienced low blood pressure, heart rate spikes, occasional light headedness, and the hip pain.

The condition is called dysautonomia and it affects all of the functions of the autonomic nervous system (breathing, heart rate, blood pressure, digestion, pupillary response...etc). There are many different origins and types of autonomic nervous system dysfunction, but for many people, the condition is debilitating and there is no known cure. Western medicine turns to a lifetime of drugs, surgeries, and pace makers to try to force the body into regulating.

Medication is not the answer for me. I believe that the human body is phenomenal and intelligent and is designed to heal itself when conditions are right. 

As I began to work through the layers of this disorder, I was referred to Paul Bando of Cellular Therapeutics. Paul offers a wide variety of healing modalities including cranial-sacral therapy and Pulsed Electro Magnetic Therapy, or PEMF. Electro Magnetic therapy involves laying on a PEMF mat set that is set to a specific frequency. Magnetic energy permeates the entire body, passing through all of your tissues. The mat essentially recharges and balances unhealthy cellular voltage.

PEMF mat
If you want to find the secrets of the universe,think in terms of energy frequency and vibration.
— Nikola Tesla

PEMF mats are the most therapeutic option for any nervous system disorder. Pittsburgh's own Shadyside Hospital recently began incorporating the use of PEMF mats for post-op cancer patients, however, in Europe, the mats are used to avoid surgeries altogether. You might find the use of PEMF mats at your chiropractor or physical therapist's office to assist in healing and prepare muscles and fascia for support.

"Science teaches us that everything is energy. It’s always dynamic, so it has a frequency. All energy is electromagnetic in nature. Every cell and organ in our body produces its own electromagnetic field. Since PEMFs deal with impaired chemistry and the function of individual cells, they boost overall health by delivering beneficial EMFs and frequencies to all cells." - Source

The benefits of PEMF mats are literally infinite. I have experienced profound relief from the severe insomnia that comes along with dysautonomia as well as the original hip pain. By restoring the body’s natural electro-magnetic energy through PEMF therapy, cell metabolism is boosted, blood cells are regenerated, circulation is improved and oxygen carrying capacity is increased.

I'm so grateful to share that Paul is allowing me to borrow one of his PEMF mats for the month of February while he is away! Paul generously lends mats to other healers, clinics and those that need them. I am extending this offer to use the PEMF mat to Wholehearter students who are in need of extra physical support. Typical PEMF sessions are around 20 minutes. If you are interested in trying it for yourself, it can easily be included into a private yoga session or a reiki session.

Schedule a PEMF mat session soon!

 


 

Local Healing Professionals

If you need help with a specific chronic or undiagnosed issue, these are the amazing friends and healers who have surrounded me, supported me, educated me, and helped me the most. These people are my tribe and I highly recommend and love them all dearly.

 

9 Obstacles of Daily Yoga Practice

9 Obstacles of Daily Yoga Practice

As we begin or progress in a yoga practice, we will encounter many various obstacles. How to fit yoga into our busy schedules? Where exactly should I practice? What do I do on my own to develop an at home practice? And even after all of those questions are answered, we are still somehow often prevented from practicing daily. But repetitive daily practice (abhyasa) is how we begin to move into deeper layers of healing.

Patanjali's Yoga Sutra 1.14 says: "When practice is done for a long time, without a break, and with sincere devotion, then the practice becomes a firmly rooted, stable and solid foundation."

Patanjali does not clarify what it means to practice for 'a long time.' We can make our own assumptions, but I would humbly assume that 'a long time' isn't measured simply by counting the years. This type of daily practice is living yoga.

For may of us, when we first fall in love with yoga, regular practice comes easy. We're so curious about discovering new postures or uncovering new ways of behaving. But when the 'honeymoon' stage of enthusiasm with yoga wears off, we may find ourselves back at the beginning with more roadblocks than reasons to keep going. If we allow those challenges to weigh on us, the negativity becomes it's own practice.

Abhyasa requires that we're aware of what our most common roadblocks and excuses are.

Thankfully, Patanjali has addressed this, too. We find the answer in Sutra 1.30: "Disease, dullness, doubt, carelessness, laziness, sensuality, false perception, failure to reach firm ground and slipping from the ground gained- these distractions of the mind-stuff are the obstacles." So all of our excuses fall into one of these 9 categories:

  1. Vyadhi : disease, illness, sickness
  2. Styana : inefficiency, dullness
  3. Samsaya : indecision, doubt
  4. Pramada : carelessness, negligence
  5. Alasaya : sloth, laziness
  6. Avirati : sensuality, craving
  7. Bhranti darsana : false views, misconceptions
  8. Alabdhabhumikatva : failing to attain stages of practice
  9. Anavasthitatvani : inability to maintain, instability

A recent question in a Facebook group for yoga teachers really got me thinking. The question was, "Why do we [as yoga teachers] often struggle so much to keep a daily practice?" Originally, I thought that part of the answer was false views (putting students before self or misunderstanding our role), but now I feel that for a lot of us, myself included, it's often dullness.

Practicing 'for a long time' needs to be approached with the same care as a longterm relationship. Do you remember your very first date? Those feelings of uncertainty, excitement, and anticipation? THAT is what we need to keep practicing. If you lose the spark or stop 'dating' and trying new things, boredom creeps in and we lose the gift of 'the beginners mind' and curiosity.

Abhyasa is a journey, but our devotion and dedication is worth it. It's not about being perfect or never missing a day, it's about simply being aware and cherishing the gift of yoga. Take the time to remember the very beginnings of your yoga practice (or a relationship). Find ways to keep discovering new things. Explore all 5 types of yoga regularly. Try a new style of yoga that you've never heard of and just see how it feels. And most importantly: keep all 9 of Patanjali's obstacles in mind to remain vigilant as you practice.

Be well!

 

10 of 10 Keys to Live Wholeheartedly

It's week 10 out of 10 in this blog series on a few ways to Live Wholeheartedly. I hope that this series has helped you to stay grounded throughout the holiday season. If you've missed any of the past several weeks, catch up here!


speak love

Today's final suggestion to culminate these past 10 weeks is to SPEAK LOVE. When you think about 'speaking love,' what exactly does that mean to you? How can you practice communicating from a place of love? Or you might also be asking: what do speech habits have to do with yoga practice?

All of our patterns and our relationship to our self is our yoga practice. So in order to create healthy patterns of speech and communication, we have to heal our relationship with the self first and control negative thoughts.

In order to speak love, we must practice high vibration thoughts and speech.

If you're unfamiliar with the concept of high/low vibration, I'll give you the Reader's Digest version: Our bodies and minds are made up of cells, organs, tissues, systems, electrical impulses and fascia that all vibrate, pulse and fire at various frequencies. Thoughts and words also have specific frequencies that are either high (healing, supportive, useful, things you want MORE of) or low (harmful, draining, tiring, things you want to release).

The concept of vibration may seem abstract at first, but in fact it is very simple. Since you cannot separate the mind from the body, learning how to think and eventually speak 'love' (the ultimate high vibration), your body and mind are better able to function. Your brain is dramatically affected by the types of words, images and thoughts it is exposed to on a daily basis. Changing the way you speak will allow you to begin to feel physically better, think more clearly and attract like high vibration energy.

Learning how to speak mindfully is a yoga practice in and of itself.

If you'd like to begin this speech practice, you'll need to begin by catching yourself in the act of negativity. Do you find yourself feeling angry or impatient in certain situations? Do you tend to belittle yourself for making mistakes or worry about the future? Are you complaining on social media or gossiping via texts? There are many ways in which we communicate and we must bring them all into the light in order to experience the amazing benefits of speaking love.

Here are a few tips for holding yourself accountable within your speech:

1). Keep a journal handy! It's helpful to begin to notice what types of people, experiences or events trigger mental negativity. Try to observe what they are and take note for more awareness next time.

2). Practice breathing during challenges conversations. When your breathing becomes rapid or shallow, your brain is receiving less oxygen and you are much less likely to be able to speak wisely. Take a few big breaths in and out through the nose

3). Before speaking, practice rephrasing your thoughts to include high vibration words. You can still express a full range of honest emotions without speaking negatively. For example: "I want less stress in 2018" becomes "I want more peace in 2018." Or, "I will release my fears" becomes "I will embrace bravery." Or lastly, "I hate waking up early" could become, "I love sleeping in when I can."

4). Check your most recently used emoticons. Many of us communicate regularly via text. What types of emotions are you expressing?

5). Take your time. In a conversation, allow time to mindfully gather your thoughts before responding. Consider how you can support and love yourself as well as the other person or people you are speaking to.

Speaking from a place of love is a challenge. But it's a way to draw in the supportive energy of love for yourself and everyone you communicate with. You cannot speak from a place of love without being mindful. You cannot speak from a place of love if you allow yourself to be consumed by hate or fear. Challenge yourself to practice raising the vibration of your self-talk, your communication with others, and texting or posting on social media.

Every word you put out into the world has an impact. Choose wisely.


Here's a cool TED talk with Joanna McEwen about how and why raising your vibration increases serendipity. (Also, Joanna has a beautiful accent, so I could listen to her talk all day long)

9 of 10 Keys to Live Wholeheartedly

Care for Yourself

If you've been following me for a while, you'll know that I'm a big advocate for self-care. (I even did a whole retreat on it this past fall!) I've been burnt out before and I hope to prevent it for myself and others. It's a hopeless, often preventable feeling.

Caring for yourself can look like many different things, but it's not always the pampering many of us think of. Though it can be relaxing, caring for yourself also means making hard decisions, saying 'no,' and creating real boundaries. But so much of the time, we're stuck in this place of expectations v.s. reality and social norms.

It is normal to be burnt out. It is normal to work non-stop and still try to do it all at home. It is normal to put yourself at the bottom of your list and neglect your basic needs 'for the greater good.' But that doesn't mean you don't have a choice. Can we stop pretending like this is all okay? Can we stop 'working for the weekend' and running a mile a minute for the sake of  productivity?

Let's stop pretending that multitasking is an admirable skill or that self-care is selfish.

We don't have to keep behaving this way. Yoga asks us of all of our habits: 'is this useful?' If not, there is no excuse to continue them for one more minute. We have a responsibility to ourselves and to the people around us to create balance in all ways. To live as an example and to live mindfully.

Last March, I wrote a blog post on the concept of Yin v.s. Yang self-care. I was first introduced to the idea of yin and yang self-care when I read the book, "Elemental Yin Yang Yoga, by Erin Aquin." I realized that my self-care tended to lean wildly in one direction or the other, but I wasn't balancing the active and passive energy of the two.

I know that it can be hard to take breaks, shut down or step away from your usual responsibilities. But in caring for yourself, you are truly better able to function and care for those around you. If you're challenged by the idea of self-care or what to do, it can be helpful to have a go-to list on ways to care for yourself.

When brainstorming your own activities, you must first be comfortable with what self-care is. Notice what comes up for you when you hear that term or consider ways to care for yourself. Erin Aquin offers some valuable tips here:

  1. If it doesn’t fuel you or nourish you, it isn’t self-care.
  2. Self-care means you do it for yourself. While asking for help or support is great, self-care should be empowering and something you can do for yourself with as little reliance anywhere else as possible.
  3. Self-care is something you look forward to. If you don’t enjoy/get a deep benefit, it won’t fuel or nourish you.
  4. Self-care results in health and vitality. Self-care doesn’t mean going out and eating a 3-layer cake or getting bombed. Never use “self-care” to justify bad habits or behaviour that hurts you or anyone else.
  5. Self-care is necessary to your well-being, take it seriously.
  6. Did you catch that last one? Self-care is necessary to your well-being, take it seriously. 

If you need more help developing or creating a self-care routine, contact me or create the time to map it out for yourself. Pop over to my other post on self-care here, to download a printable Self-Care Checklist. It's a great visual to hang on your fridge or put in a notebook as a reminder for yourself to stay on track.

Tis' the season to create amazing new intentions for the year!

8 of 10 Keys to Live Wholeheartedly

8 of 10 Keys to Live Wholeheartedly: DO NOTHING

For many of us, today's suggestion to 'do nothing' is truly not as easy as it sounds. (If you're reading this when it was published, it's the day after Christmas, so hopefully taking a break is a little easier right now.) But for the most part, many of us feel guilty taking time to just relax. You might feel as if you need to 'earn' your rest. Doing nothing may have even literally been a punishment for you as a child.

If you can easily shut off and enjoy nothingness, then kudos to you! It is a rare skill and I'm sure you don't often receive a pat on the back for it, but in a world where over-stimulation and over-activity are the norms, learning how to shut off is an imperative skill.

Just as with any other habit, doing nothing takes practice.

Taking time to rest is a learned behavior. It's difficult to figure out how to rest fruitfully if you're surrounded by fellow busy-bodies. When self-care isn't a regular part of our lives, we often don't seek rest until our minds or bodies are absolutely desperate for it. If you're addicted to busy-ness, trying to sit and do nothing will feel painstaking and boring. But that's okay. Start small and practice.

A few ways to practice doing nothing:

Start small. Try just a few minutes of nothingness and remember that doing nothing means doing nothing. It does not include watching TV, using your phone or trying to meditate. Remove as many distractions as possible and just exist with yourself.

Breathe. When doing nothing is a struggle, try paying attention to your breath. Resist the temptation to label as meditation and just feel yourself breathing slowly in and slowly out. Let your body soften into each breath to find a place of ease.

Do nothing within nature. Within the woods or your favorite natural area, there are fewer distractions. You may be able to slip into a place of calm a little easier within the wild. Take in your surroundings and just sit.

Do nothing within your daily life. This is the final stage of doing nothing and it's a technique that takes much practice and intention. Try it once you've practiced and become competent at the above stages.

Start by doing nothing while you are waiting in line, at the doctor’s office, on a bus, driving or waiting for a plane. Wait, without reading a newspaper or magazine, without talking on the phone, without checking your email, without writing out your to-do list, without doing any work, without worrying about what you need to do later. Wait, and do nothing. Watch and listen.
— Zen Habits

Truly doing nothing is a rare gift. Though it feels challenging at first, it's not meant to be punishment, but a way to offer yourself miniature breaks from the constant over-stimulation of our existence. It's one of the most grounding, satisfying and useful practices to draw into your daily life, especially during seasons of busyness. This week, carve out time for absolutely NOTHING.