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Month: February 2016

3 Mindfulness Techniques Guaranteed to Help You Perform at Your Best

Minda Zetlin from Inc.com sits down with Tiffany Cruikshank to discuss mindfulness techniques to practice to help with productivity:

3 Mindfulness Techniques Guaranteed to Help You Perform at Your Best

The human brain can be a fickle thing. Sometimes you zip through tasks at lightning speed or come up with brilliant flashes of creativity and insight. Other times, you feel like making a simple phone call is a tremendous effort, and hours of your time seem to disappear into nothingness, taken up by pointless distractions. In our increasingly overloaded world, how do you get from the second state of being to the first?

While you shouldn’t expect yourself to function at your best all the time, studies have shown that yoga is one great tool for increasing your focus and productivity. I myself can attest to the sad state my brain gets into if deprived of yoga for too long.

If you don’t have the schedule or physical flexibility for a traditional yoga practice–and even if you do–Tiffany Cruikshank, founder of yoga medicine and author of the new book Meditate Your Weight, offers some simple techniques that you can do anywhere, including at your desk.

“These are extremely helpful for CEOs and business owners with multiple layers of high stress issues requiring focus and efficiency at its peak,” she explains. The reason these work so well is that they focus on the elements at the very core of yoga–breathing and meditation. Both have a powerful effect on the parasympathetic nervous system, sometimes called “rest and digest,” which brings up feelings of calm, focus, and peace. Whether you hit the mat regularly or never at all, give each of these a try. They can make a big difference, even if you only spend 5 to 10 minutes a day on them:

1. Counting your breath.

Sit quietly with your eyes closed or half open, clear your mind, and count your own breath without trying to change or control it. Count up to 10 breaths, then start over. Surprise! What you’re doing is mindfulness meditation–this is all it takes.

“This is a great practice to do at the beginning or middle of the day to set the tone for mental efficiency during the day,” Cruikshank says. “It helps the brain learn to process things more efficiently and to stay focused on one thing at a time.” You’ll see immediate benefits, she says. And if you can spend 5 to 10 minutes counting your breath in this way every day, you will see a lot more benefits as you become more productive and think more clearly.

2. Lengthen your exhale.

Count as you breathe. Inhale for 3 counts, hold your breath for a 1 or 2 counts, and then exhale for 4 to 6 counts. The important point is to make your exhale last longer than your inhale which is automatically calming. Continue for 3 to 5 minutes.

“This technique is especially good for the parasympathetic nervous system and very simple, making it easy to stick to,” Cruikshank says. “It’s one of my very favorites for improving cognitive function.”

3. Breathe through alternate nostrils.

Gently close your right nostril and breath in through left nostril for 3 or 4 counts, hold your breath for 1 or 2 counts, then gently close the left nostril and exhale through the right for 3 or 4 counts. Next, inhale through the right nostril for 3 or 4 counts, hold for 1 or 2 counts, then exhale through the left nostril for 3 or 4 counts. Continue this way, alternating nostrils, inhaling and exhaling for the same length of time, and holding your breath for a moment in between for 2 to 4 rounds, or 3 to 5 minutes.

The name of this technique is Nadi Shodanam and it’s an ancient yoga practice that not only helps regulate the parasympathetic nervous system but also is traditionally used to balance the left and right sides of the brain. “It is said to have a balancing effect on the body and the mind,” Cruikshank says.

4. Make it a habit.

These techniques are great for calming yourself down or regaining your focus when you’re stressed or distracted. But to get real benefit from them, it’s best to make them a daily habit. “I prefer to have my patients do these during the day,” Cruikshank says. “Either set a timer to do these practices at what you know are peak stress times, such as 10 am and 3 pm, or pick one or two times a day to do them as needed.”

Either way, she says, “It is important to do the practices daily to retrain the nervous system.” If you do, you’ll see immediate effects–and those benefits will build over time.

For the original publication, click here.

Take your Walking Workout to the Next Level

Blake Miller from Prevention.com shares some ways to take your walking workout to the next level.

6 Ways To Tone Your Abs While You Walk

It’s true: Walking can actually help firm and flatten abs. But unless you know how to make a few minor but wholly effective adjustments to your walking routine, you may miss out on a fantastic opportunity to whittle away some of your belly-bulge.

“If you’re looking to firm up your stomach, you really need to strengthen your transverse abdominis,” says fitness expert and walking guru Sarah Kusch. “It is the Spanx of your core! It holds you in and gives you that nice slim shape. Because its main function is to stabilize your pelvis and help you balance and move your legs, there are easy ways to activate it during your walk.” And if you wouldn’t mind shedding a little extra padding, you’ll also want to pump up the power of your calorie burn. “It’s a winning combination for a trim, toned belly,” says Kusch.

Ready to get started? Add these belly-firming tweaks to your next walk. (Burn calories and build muscle—all while boosting your mood—with our 21-Day Walk a Little, Lose a Lot Challenge!)

 Move Your Arms

Not only does swinging your arms at a faster rate help you walk faster—and ignite serious calorie burn—but that movement also engages the upper body, lower body, and, of course, your abs. “The movements required to propel the body forward, for instance, don’t begin in the lower body, but in the core—the abdominal region. Simply placing one foot in front of the other activates the psoas muscles—the deep pelvic core muscles—required to move the thighs,” explains Kusch. “Simply propelling your arms faster requires the body to use more energy, burn more calories, and will melt off belly fat.”

Up Your Incline

Your glutes aren’t the only things on fire the minute you start walking up a hill. Adding any sort of resistance to your walk can help up your calorie burn and increase lean muscle mass. “Increasing your lean mass can boost your metabolism and help you burn more calories at rest, resulting in a smaller waist,” explains Kusch, who recommends incorporating inclines to your walks at least 3 days per week and several times throughout your walk.

Punch It Out

Uppercuts and jabs aren’t just for boxers. Incorporating these moves into your walking routine not only increases your heart rate and jump-starts your metabolism, but also engages your core muscles (and strengthens your back). “Forward punches and overhead reaches while keeping your core very engaged are a great way to tone up abs,” says Kusch. “As you punch, contract your abs and hit with power; draw your arm back and engage your upper back.” Try doing 20 forward and 20 overhead jabs every 2 minutes of your walk. Sure, you may look a bit odd, but throw on some Spotify, get in the zone, and punch your way to a trimmer stomach.

Draw In Your Waist

“The key to activating the transverse abdominis—the muscle responsible for a flat tummy—while walking is to gently draw in around the waist as you lift your rib cage away from the pelvis,” explains certified trainer Tiffany Cruikshank, founder of Yoga Medicine and author of the forthcoming book Meditate Your Weight. Not only does this slight tweak take pressure and weight off your hips, it also helps to increase respiration, improve posture, support the sacroiliac joints and lower back, and, of course, flatten the belly and waist. Keep your back straight and avoid leaning back while you walk. Gaze toward the front of your body, lightly pulling in your chin. Relax shoulders and draw shoulder blades together slightly.

Use Your Knees

Side crunches aren’t the only way to tone up your obliques, the abdominal muscles that run vertically down the side of your stomach. Fitness expert Dempsey Marks, co-creator of the PreGame Fit fitness/lifestyle program, recommends adding in knee-to-elbow crosses during your walk to help trim down your waistline. As you step forward, bring your opposite hand behind your head with your elbow pointing out to the side. Rotate your abdomen and touch your elbow to your opposite knee. “It can be a bit tricky to balance during this exercise, so be sure to take your time and perform it slowly,” advises Marks. Complete eight reps on each side before taking a break and walking normally. Repeat two to four times throughout your walk.

Try Straight Legs

Sure, you may look funny (read: like a robot), but walking with your legs straight can help target the abdominals. “When you walk with straight legs, your body must engage your lower abdominal muscles as well as your hip flexors,” explains Marks. “Walking with straight legs puts more emphasis on your lower abdominals than walking normally because you are lifting up your entire leg rather than just from the knee up.” To do it, lift your leg as high as you possibly can while taking a step forward—try to get your foot about 2 feet in the air. To make sure you’re engaging your abs and not just your hip flexors, draw your belly button into your spine to engage your core. Try it for a minute of walking, 8 to 10 times throughout your walk.

For the original publication, click here.

The 23 Absolute Best Ways to Lose Belly Fat

Jenna Dedić originally published the article on how to lose belly fat on Redbook.

“Meditate. No, seriously.

We know: the idea of sitting with your eyes closed for anything more than, oh, three minutes isn’t always realistic. But researchers say the practice helps create mindfulness, which is key to breaking destructive habits like overeating. When overweight women meditated for six weeks, they decreased their frequency of binge-eating episodes (like, meaning to eat just a handful of tortilla chips but devouring whole bag) by over 50 percent. Tiffany Cruikshank, author of Meditate Your Weight, agrees, saying that “meditation can help rewire how your brain responds to stress.” And you don’t have to sit in a dark room and chant. Just schedule a meditation appointment in your calendar; then find a comfortable position to sit in (not your bed—you’re way more likely to fall asleep). Set a timer on your phone, close your eyes, and focus on nothing but your breath. Do it for as long as you can—starting with three to five minutes is totally fine, and it’s completely normal for your mind to wander—and gradually add more time. As you advance, download the Mindfulness App or Meditation Studio for guided sessions.”

For the full article, click here.

You can also find a list of retailers on this page to pre-order your copy of Meditate Your Weight.

Yoga’s Impact: How Yoga Changed These Yogi’s Lives

Gabrielle Frank discusses yoga’s impact on these practitioner’s lives for MindBodyGreen

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“In truth, I never imagined how yoga could transform my life. From setting up The Yoga Project UK (a company connecting yoga teachers with schools across London), becoming a Yoga Medicine assistant, travelling the world, and learning so much. There is no doubt that yoga has given me the confidence, inspiration, and courage to believe in my own potential.”

This quote is by one of our own Yoga Medicine assistants Alice Louise Blunden. To read the full article and what the other 15 yogis had to say, click here.

We’d love to hear your story – share it with us here.

100 Wellness Tips to Change Your Life

Dr. Samuel Tyuluman originally published these 100 wellness tips on Designs For Wellness.

What we love about this list of “100 Wellness Tips to Change Your Life” is how much meditation shows up on this list. From simply breathing for 2 minutes, a Tibetan sky meditation, a loving-kindness meditation, aligning your chakras, to ending your day with a guided meditation, and more.

We’re honoured to be featured at number two with Tiffany’s tip — meditate in the morning to start your day off calm and focused.

We’d love to hear from you. What’s your favourite wellness practice from your daily routine? Share with us in the comments below.

For the whole list, click here.

“Yoga for People Who Sit A Lot” – YogaGlo Class

Notice how life requires us to sit for longer and longer periods of time? This over-sitting can lead to a whole slew of problems including back pain and reduced mobility. Tiffany Cruikshank of YogaMedicine leads you through several essential poses in “Yoga for People Who Sit a Lot.”

This week’s featured classes will help in regaining full mobility in the hip joints and as well as the hip flexor muscles that shorten and tighten while sitting.

This is a yin class for those of you that sit at computers or desks for hours on end. It addresses the tight spots from hours spent seated. Neck, shoulders, back, hip flexors, quads, hip rotators and hamstrings. This practice is also good for those who travel a lot and spend a lot of time seated on a plane

Props: 1-2 blocks, 1-2 blankets

Watch video here.

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What I Learned About Life by Becoming a Yoga Teacher

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by Erin Magner (200hr YTT student) for Well+Good.

Since the moment I started my media career over a decade ago, I’ve secretly fantasized about leaving it all behind and becoming a yoga teacher.

This is surprising to those who know me for several reasons. First of all, I adore my job as a journalist and people tell me I’m good at it. Like many writers, I’m a classic introvert; leading large group activities is not my jam. And even though I’ve been practicing yoga for over a decade, I’ve always kept that part of my life fairly private (you won’t find any selfies of me in mermaid pose).

And yet, from the day I first stepped onto a sticky mat, I’ve looked at yoga teachers with a mixture of envy and awe. They spend their days in serene, sun-dappled spaces instead of fluorescent-lit cubicles, listening to their favourite music and breathing in Palo Santo and lavender oil. They’re doing something that’s proven to reduce stress, rather than sitting through endless, mindless meetings. They radiate peace, warmth, and good vibes. They get to wear stretchy pants 24/7.

Finding my Path

So last summer, when I left my magazine job to study holistic nutrition—another longtime dream—I decided that I’d finally sign up for a 200-hour teacher training. It wasn’t because I saw myself actually becoming a yoga teacher (at the moment, I didn’t), but because it felt like a good time to deepen my practice and embrace being a full-time student again—this time, with headstands instead of keg stands.

I chose to study with Yoga Medicine founder Tiffany Cruikshank, the former acupuncturist and Nike HQ yoga teacher, because her vision—bringing together yoga and health care—dovetailed so neatly with my own. Plus, that particular 200-hour training partially took place in Tulum and Hawaii, which made me think that I’d also be getting two vacations out of the deal.

I was wrong—unless sitting on a concrete floor for eight hours a day, seven days straight, studying anatomy and alignment until your brain aches is your idea of R&R—but I got more value from those trips than I ever have from sipping margaritas while lounging on the sand.

Yes, I can now safely adjust someone in even the most lopsided triangle pose, but my biggest takeaways from teacher training have nothing to do with the physical practice of yoga. Everyone’s experience is different, but hopefully, the lessons I learned will help you jump off the fence if you’re currently on it—or maybe even give you a brand new goal to work towards in the future.

1. Don’t wait until you’re “perfect” at something.

I started researching teacher training about five years ago but thought I needed to put it off until I had mastered a wall-free handstand and could effortlessly do the splits. Eventually, I got over that—I still can’t do either of those things—and my decision was validated when I realized that all of my fellow students (and Tiffany herself, for that matter), have limitations of some sort. And no matter how long we practice, there will still be room for refinement. I’ve given up striving for perfection; instead, I celebrate little victories and am kind to myself on days when I can’t quite stick crow pose. It makes me look forward to my time on the mat that much more.

2. Knowledge is power—and a major confidence booster.

So you say you’re afraid of public speaking? Yeah, me too. But there’s a huge difference between giving a presentation and leading a yoga class. If you’re doing your job well, your students won’t be scrutinizing your every word—they’ll be focusing on their own breath and movement instead. Standing in front of a class can be scary, for sure, but for me, exhilaration and confidence overtake the fear once I see my students getting into that flow and letting go.

3. Go outside your comfort zone.

In the West, when people hear the word “yoga” they think about the physical practice. But yoga actually involves so much more than that—it’s an entire way of living mindfully. For me, immersing myself in the more spiritual side of the practice has been the most profound part of teacher training, since it’s something I hadn’t really experienced in my usual rotation of power yoga classes.

4. When you give joy, you get joy.

Without question, teaching yoga is hard work. I never realized how much went into preparing a class—developing the sequencing, curating a playlist, thinking about what the heck to say for an hour. But I’ve never felt anything as gratifying as having a student thank me and tell me that she feels better than she did when she walked into class. As a yoga teacher, you’re responsible for making an immediate, positive impact on someone’s day. Pretty cool.

5. No one expects you to have it all figured out.

As I mentioned before, I didn’t know whether I’d end up teaching yoga after finishing my training, and I still don’t—but I’m okay with that. If nothing else, I know I’m walking away with a rejuvenated devotion to this practice and a handful of new life lessons in my pocket. And that makes all these hours of studying bones, muscles, and mantras well worth it.

India Seva Service Trip – A Tool Box of Support

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by Alice Blunden (Yoga Medicine Assistant and 500hr Student).

What does it mean to be born in England? To have supportive and loving friends and family that you trust with your whole heart? To have the financial support and education that has enabled you to follow your dreams? Of course, it means the world to anyone who is fortunate enough to have all of those things. But there is no denying that sometimes it is easy to forget how fortunate we really are.

Remembering our Place of Privilege

Born into a big, loving family, I spent my carefree childhood laughing and playing with my sisters and friends in our happy home by the sea. My biggest resentment was wearing a maroon blazer and boater hat to school each day! That’s not to say my life has been completely pain-free. When I was 16, my dad died of cancer and left my family distraught. Mum became a shadow of her former self. As a teenager, I learnt how fragile and precious life is. And how dramatically it can change in such a short space of time.

Life moves on and it is true that time, to a certain extent, is a healer. However, it takes more than ‘time’ to overcome trauma. I needed a ‘toolbox of support’ to get me through this period of my life. Without the love of my family and friends, education and financial support; I wouldn’t be where I am today.

So what happens if you are born into unimaginable poverty? What happens if you and your family live on the streets? If you have no food or roof over your head at night?

How do you survive on a daily basis, let alone trauma? The Yoga Medicine Seva Project was an opportunity to see for myself how so many people born into poverty in India are living. I was able to understand how these women and children, victims of such horrific sexual exploitation and abuse, are rebuilding their lives in the wake of such trauma.

A Toolbox of Support

The Women’s Interlink charity, which Yoga Medicine supports, provides what I think of as a ‘toolbox of support’ for so many exploited women and children. We visited 2 orphanages and 4 shelters and met over 500 women and children benefitting from the facilities, care and support. Meeting and listening to the founders of Women’s Interlink, it was clear to see how passionately involved each and everyone was in the process of changing the lives of women and children. How in fact, above all, they were a non-judging family providing love and care for all.

The orphanages provide a safe home for women and children, who have been abused, trafficked or exploited in another way. Within the homes, they are given a safe place to sleep, health care, food and education and support in their rehabilitation process. Each new arrival has counselling to help them overcome the traumatic experiences and also takes part in skills training. There are a number of different skills to choose from ranging from block printing to jewelry making. Training the women and children with new skills is a vital part of the rehabilitation process. It means that when they leave the home at 18 years old, they have useful skills that will enable them to earn a living and reduce the risk of exploitation once again.

Protecting a New Generation

When women who were working in the sex industry in Kolkata were asked how they would like to be helped, many had resigned to the fact that prostitution was now their form of income. Their main concern was not to change their own lives but to protect their children from entering into the same. The shelters provide a safe place where the children can go before and after school while their mothers work. Their children have a safe place to continue their studies, eat a meal, have regular health checks and practice yoga. While we were at the shelter, we met several young adults who were now at college with plans to go into further education and training.

When I heard about the Yoga Medicine Seva project and decided to take part, I thought that I would go there to help the women and children. However, in truth, they have helped me. Their smiles, laughter and beaming sense of pride was contagious. It reminded me that the future is in our hands and does not need to be dictated by sadness from the past. Every woman or child I met taught me that wherever we live in the world and whatever trauma we have faced in our lives, we are able to grow and move on from it with love and support from the people who surround us.

The Importance of Empowerment

Moreover, it reinforced the importance of education in this process. It is the empowerment that allows us to move forward and build a new life. Whilst financial support is essential to a certain extent, the simple lives that many of these empowered women and children lead reminded me that so often, less is more. It’s not about having the latest colourful leggings or yoga mat. Our role as Yoga teachers is to be of service to the people and the world around us. I feel fortunate to be connected to such a worthy charity in India that I can continue to support with the Yoga Medicine.

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