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Month: January 2019

Yoga Studios Are Supposed To Be A Safe Space—How Has That Changed In The Age Of #Metoo?

In the awakening era of the #MeToo movement, should yoga teachers offer hands-on adjustments in a group class setting? And should studios be concerned that a yoga teacher’s touch, however well-intended, could foster an unsafe atmosphere?

By Erin Magner for Well+Good.

How the #metoo movement is affecting yoga studios.

The Depths of Winter

Valerie Knopik, Yoga Medicine® Instructor, discusses the “Depth Year” and how you can use these concepts to re-invest in your yoga practice.

“In the depth of winter, I finally learned that there was, in me, an invincible summer.” – Albert Camus

With the holidays behind us and winter weather in full swing, many of us experience feelings of being let down during the months of January and February. Do any of these thoughts and ideas sound familiar?

• Now what?
• Is it time to do a New Year’s Detox?
• New Year’s resolutions?
• I’m going to get back into my normal workout routine.
• What can I buy with these gift cards?
• This year will be the year I do weekly meal prep every Sunday!
• I commit to moving for 30 minutes every day this year.

How can we fill the dark days of winter and still fulfill some of those normal desires to do something new?

Recently, I read an article by author, David Cain, about something called a “Depth Year.” Back at the end of 2017, this author had suggested the Depth Year with the original intent of taking a year where we don’t acquire any new possessions or start any new hobbies. The idea caught on, with many people deciding to try this idea of ‘going deeper instead of going wider’. The author decided that, since he had suggested it, he should actually do it too. Instead of doing what he himself had suggested – i.e., one full year not acquiring anything new or starting any new pursuits – the author decided to keep depth at the forefront of mind whenever he made any decisions. His follow-up article discusses how his Depth Year changed his life – offering him more creativity, more opportunity for mindfulness, in fact, he stated that depth was a “new lens for looking at the tools and opportunities that were already there.”

I look at this concept of the Depth Year as an extension of some of the rituals and traditions tied to Winter Solstice – the shortest (and darkest) day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere, which took place on December 21, 2018. The time surrounding Winter Solstice asks us to reflect on our whole selves, including those parts we hide from others. We might then go further to ask ourselves what we can leave behind (symbolically) ‘in the dark’. This self-reflection can be done, at least in part, through journaling, meditation, and introspective yoga practices. The Depth Year concept asks us to consider, among other things, why we’ve let certain projects go unfinished, why we’ve given up on certain pursuits, why we’ve not invested in certain relationships, and why we constantly need more. Both approaches invite us, in simple terms, to go deeper…to check in with ourselves, with our blockages, with our fears, with our fall back habits of procrastination or lack of motivation. And, then each approach asks us to confront (and actually sit with) the reasons why.

I feel inspired by the idea of a Depth Year, but to be honest, it also feels a bit daunting. If you aren’t ready to jump into the Depth Year in all aspects of your life, one idea is to start small and apply these Depth Year concepts to re-invest in your yoga practice, even if you have been practicing forever. I am a believer that how we treat ourselves on the mat is reflective of how we treat ourselves (and others) off of the mat. If you feel as inspired about this Depth Year approach as I do, here are some simple ways to start to play with this concept in your yoga practice:

Go back to the basics. Spend quality time with the foundational poses of your yoga practice. Revel in the principles of alignment. Be fascinated with thoughts about what muscles are working and which muscles are lengthening. Use these investigations as a way to stay focused and present on your mat.

Approach decisions about your practice with depth in mind. This might involve decisions about what kinds of classes to take or what options you choose during class. For example, if you always take the ‘up-level’ or more challenging option, consider dialing back and just sitting in the depth of the base option/pose.

Bring breath to the forefront. I wrote a piece for Yoga Digest last year about going back to the breath and well, it’s hard, but it just might be a game changer for your practice. Approach your practice as if your breath is the peak pose. Instead of thinking about what you look like in each shape, focus on your breath instead. Notice how a shift in mental focus might stir things up.

Bring mindfulness and meditation into your daily practice. Starting with just 3 minutes a day and building to 10 minutes over time can add a layer of depth to your day that is virtually indescribable. Before I started meditating regularly – primarily because I was convinced I didn’t have the time (insert eyeroll here) – my teacher would tell me that meditating would actually give me more time. She was right. I don’t know how to explain it, but meditation can leave you feeling as if you have more time in your day.

Journal about new breakthroughs in your yoga practice as you practice these ideas of going deeper instead of going wider. What did you feel after focusing on nothing but your breath? How does it feel to sit in the depth of foundational poses and sequences (such as sun salutations)? What did you learn about yourself? About your habits? About your thought patterns? About anything? Write it down so that you can look back and recall how this Depth Year approach has changed you and your practice.

“There are vast amounts of untapped value in what you already have. We just need to cultivate it.” – David Cain

A Guide to Your Best Health

Diane Malaspina, a Yoga Medicine® E-RYT 500 instructor and Therapeutic Specialist, offers her tips on nutrition, mental health, and setting appropriate health goals.

By Danika Miller for

Prioritizing your health is no easy feat — especially when the internet and media flood us with conflicting advice on what works. For many of us, trying to get healthy means committing ourselves with gusto to bold plans with big promises. Whether it’s a Spartacus-inspired boot camp with daily 5 a.m. sessions, or an intense diet that cuts out all but two food groups to mysteriously induce some fat-burning chemical, or something in the murky in between, extreme transformation strategies are usually not the best path for most people.

That’s why we’ve spent years researching real ways to get it right and finding products that can actually help you achieve those health goals. Our team has been consulting doctors and nutritionists, vetting ingredients, taste-testing bars and powders, assembling treadmills, sweating it out on yoga mats, and keeping up on the latest training tech to give you the inside track on all things health and fitness.

To get a pulse on the health goals of our readers, we surveyed over 500 people on their goals for the new year. Over 40% of respondents said they stick to their health and fitness goals for just a few months. We also learned more about what kind of health goals people prioritize (spoiler: it’s exercising more), and discovered that 50% of people in our survey said their fitness and health goes are the same as last year. For those of us struggling to stick to goals, or finding ourselves setting the same goals time after time, we dug into how to set effective goals.

If one of your goals for the year is to be healthy, we can help you define that goal and map out a plan for success. But what does it actually mean to be healthy?

According to most of the experts we spoke to, exercise and nutrition are obvious cornerstones, but mental health is also a vital component. Anna Larsen, CPT & Fit Body Boot Camp Owner, told us mental wellbeing is intertwined with fitness and diet, “if you are under sustained stress, you may start to find relief in over-eating, over-drinking or even over-exercising.” Exercise and a good diet produce hormones that improve your mood and mental health, while a healthy mental state can better equip you to maintain positive eating and exercise habits.

We’ve done 40 hours of research, dug into countless studies, consulted over 50 experts, and rounded up our 23 favorite wellness products. This health guide will help you understand the importance of health and start setting achievable goals.

Fitting in Fitness

Exercising and losing weight are pretty familiar New Year’s resolutions so we weren’t surprised that over 70% of our goal-setters listed one of these as their most important health goal for 2019.

Why is exercise so important?

Exercise eases stress, builds muscle, burns fat, and supports many of your body’s systems. Regular exercise is essential for long-term preventative health as it reduces the risk of serious health issues. A strong body is also better at fighting off minor illnesses. Running, weight training, walking, dancing — anything that gets your body moving is great for your health.

Exercise helps with weight management and weight loss, too. In order to lose weight, your body must burn more calories than you consume. And because muscle cells need a lot of energy, the muscles you build during exercise will continue to burn more calories than fat cells would, even when you aren’t exercising.

Another major benefit of exercising is endorphins. Physical activity, anything that gets the heart rate up, will release hormones called endorphins. Endorphins reduce your perception of pain and trigger positive “morphine-like” feelings in the body. This leads to more energy, improved sleep, and a positive effect on your mental health.

“A lot of times people think of exercise as ‘punishment’ for eating or drinking certain things, but exercise is really just a way to get your body moving, strengthen your muscles and activate the mechanisms in your bones that repair and strengthen them.” – Anna Larsen CPT & Fit Body Boot Camp Owner

How much exercise do you need?

The Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) reports that only one in three adults are doing the recommended 150 minutes of moderate exercise each week. While it might seem daunting to add two and a half hours of exercise to your week, it could be as simple as walking for 20 minutes each day, or doing an hour of strength training or a workout class a few times a week.

Don’t feel pressured to sign up for that marathon straight away. Start slow and build on your progress. Once you’re accustomed to that daily walk, step it up and add some hills, or try to walk your same route a little faster. As your muscles get used to a fitness routine, introducing a variety of challenges to push your endurance, speed, or strength will help you continue to make progress.

Goals to get you started

Though you may feel inspired to tackle an ambitious new fitness goal to kickstart your journey, it’s more important to set a goal that you’re confident you can maintain. Larsen advises that consistency is essential, even if your goal seems too easy at first, it’s important to develop a regular routine before you ramp up the intensity.

For example, rather than pushing for an hour of exercise every day, Larsen recommends, “start with three to five days a week of a 20- to 30-minute routine that you enjoy.” If you hate to run, don’t force yourself to suffer through a sweaty treadmill session. Opt for a different activity like pilates, yoga, or a sport you enjoy. Ask a friend to join you for a swim, take your dog for a long walk, or go on a hike. What matters most is that you’re moving and you’re feeling good about it.

Some great products for fitness

The Best Fitness Trackers
The Best Yoga Mats
The Best Treadmills
The Best Exercise Bikes
The Best Ellipticals
The Best Standing Desks
The Best Standing Desk Mats

Healthy Eating Habits

There’s a lot of conflicting information out there about what it means to “eat healthy.” The International Food Information Council Foundation’s (IFIC) 2017 Food and Health Survey found that most people find conflicting advice about what to eat or avoid, causing many to doubt their food choices. Sometimes we’re told to completely cut out carbs, but we also hear carbs are a primary energy source. One authority claims that coffee is carcinogenic, while another suggests it prevents diseases like Parkinson’s. Though defining it may be complicated, 19% of respondents in our own survey ranked “eating healthier” as their most important health goal.

Why is eating healthy so important?

The entire purpose of eating is to fuel the complex systems that function in your body — so feeding it the best nutrients possible is essential. Those nutrients, like calcium and potassium, directly influence bodily tasks like hormone creation and heartbeat regulation. Though vitamins and supplements are sometimes helpful, a balanced and healthy diet is the best way to ensure you’re getting the minerals your body needs.

The perks to eating healthy are abundant — it lowers your risk for health issues, improves confidence, increases energy, aids in weight management, and sets a good example for family and friends. The World Health Organization reports that if people ate healthier, stopped using tobacco, and exercised more — 80% of all cases of heart disease, stroke, and Type 2 diabetes could be prevented. This staggering statistic is reflected in nearly every major health disease — cancer, diabetes, obesity, osteoporosis, and even depression are all less likely for people with a healthy diet.

Calculate your calories: Use the MyPlate tool to calculate how many calories you should eat based on personal attributes.

Which nutrition plan is best for you?

So let’s get back to what it means to “eat healthy.” A good place to start is USDA’s MyPlate. Basically, the ideal plate for each meal contains a balance of essential food groups. Half your plate should be fruit and vegetables, and the other half should be whole grains and protein. Add a small side of low-fat dairy and you’ve got a balanced meal.

Just like with exercise, drastic changes upfront are hard to maintain when it comes to eating healthy (that’s why diets don’t really work for most people in the long term).

While the goal is a balanced plate at every meal, you can start by making small changes to slowly modify your diet. Keeping track of what you’re eating and drinking to help you understand your eating habits. Be aware of portion sizes and don’t over-eat. Try to limit excessive sugars, saturated fats, and sodium. Choose grilled food over fried, opt for fat-free dairy products, and try cooking with herbs and spices instead of salt. Drinking lots of water in place of soda and juice is another simple switch that will benefit your health in many ways.

But know that you don’t need to be overly restrictive or perfect with your eating habits to see success. Making small measured changes over time and striving for balanced nutrition is key to reframing your eating habits. “Eat healthy for 80% of the week and allow for unhealthy choices for about 20% of the week,” Diane Malaspina, Ph.D, Yoga Medicine® Therapeutic Specialist advised. “This is called the 80/20 rule. This approach teaches the skill of moderation and doesn’t call for complete food restriction so that less healthy food can be enjoyed in moderation.”

“Remember that fad diets aren’t easily maintainable, so it’s best to just adopt a healthier lifestyle that you can carry throughout your whole life.” – Dr. David GreunerCo-founder of NYC Surgical Associates

UCLA research found that the majority of people on diets will regain more weight than they lose within five years. Diets, especially overly restrictive ones that eliminate entire food groups, can be hard on your body, make eating at social gatherings complicated, and if they involve exotic ingredients or subscribing to a food plan, can become pretty expensive. Both the USDA and our experts agreed that general moderation and a balance of food groups is the most effective way to achieve long term healthy nutrition.

Goals to get you started

To start eating healthier, just one or two intentional changes can go a long way.

Some great products and services for better nutrition

The Best Water Bottles
The Best Multivitamins
The Best Fiber Supplements
The Best Probiotics
The Best Meal Delivery Services
The Best Weight Loss Programs

Meditate on Mental Health

A healthy mental state helps us cope with the stresses of life, work productively, maintain loving relationships, develop self-confidence, improve physical health, and ultimately live a happy life. But good mental health is not simply the absence of mental illness, just as being in good physical shape is about much more than not being sick. It’s possible to invest in and optimize our mental health and doing so can yield positive effects in every aspect of our lives.

In our survey, 57% of respondents that chose “improve mental wellbeing” as their most important health goal were men. Culturally, when talking about the idea of self-care and mental wellbeing, men aren’t always included. But it’s clear that this aspect of health isn’t a gendered issue. Taking the time to focus on your mental wellbeing on a regular basis is important to everyone’s health.

Addressing your mental wellness doesn’t have to be complicated either. Simple steps like getting more sleep, journaling, disconnecting from electronics, and exercising can make a big difference.

Why is mental health so important?

A positive state of mind will increase motivation, renew your energy, and help you make good choices. It also improves your ability to handle the inevitable stresses of life and maintain positive relationships with those around you.

“[Mental health] affects our emotional, social and psychological well-being; how we deal with others, handle stress and make choices.” – Dr. David GreunerCo-founder of NYC Surgical Associates

Your emotional disposition and outlook will affect how your body feels, too. Fatigue, cravings, irregular appetites, and weakness can all result from a poor mental state. “The mind-body connection is clear,” explains Malaspina. “Our thoughts, beliefs, feelings, and attitudes can positively or negatively affect our biological functioning.”

Goals to get you started

Most people will benefit from simply taking time to practice self care. What exactly self care means to you will be highly personalized. But simply put, give your mental wellness a boost by doing activities that help you feel relaxed and joyful. For some, that could mean spending time in nature (known as shinrin-yoku, or forest therapy). For others, it could be a lively family game night. Whatever helps you feel rejuvenated and balanced.

Some great products and services for self-care

The Best Body Washes
The Best Face Washes
The Best Eye Creams
The Best Face Moisturizers
The Best Lip Balms
The Best Online Flower Delivery
The Best Mattresses
The Best Pillows
The Best Sleep Aids
The Best Noise-Canceling Headphones

How to Set Good Goals

Setting goals is hard. So it’s no surprise that half of our survey respondents are setting the same health and fitness goals as last year. In our enthusiasm for self-improvement, it’s all too easy to design unattainable goals — e.g. “I want to run a marathon next weekend” or “I want to lose 60lbs by Valentine’s Day” — or keep things too general — e.g. “I want to eat better” or “I want to lose weight.”

While there are a large number of factors that can make reaching health goals difficult, we have some suggestions and a few tips from our experts for setting better goals.

According to the HSS, there are four stages to changing a health behavior:

It can be helpful to journal your progress through these stages as you instill new healthy habits. If you find yourself listing the same goals year after year, take some time to think about why you’ve struggled to reach this goal in the past, and then reflect on how you can change it to set yourself up for success.

Steps to setting better goals

*Make it a habit. Most people can form a habit in about three weeks. This is usually enough time to start experiencing the benefits of your new habit. So instead of setting huge goals for the whole year, try setting incremental goals for one month, three months, six months, etc. Successfully hitting these milestones also motivates us to keep up the habit to hit the next one.
*Set SMART goals. SMART is an acronym for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. Use this goal structure to craft an achievable and targeted goal. For example, refine general goals like “lose weight” or “exercise more” into “lose 20 lbs in six months” or “walk for 30 minutes five times a week.”
*Track your progress. There are many ways to keep track of how well you’re sticking to a new goal: journal daily, check-off micro-goals, set specific mile-markers, or take photos. Larsen’s a big fan of this last idea, “take a photo of everything you eat during the day. You may think you’re only having a couple of treat meals a week, but photos may show that you’re actually having one or two a day —this way you can monitor that. Taking weekly full-body photos and comparing them each week or month can show you the progress you won’t see on the scale or in the mirror.”
*Reward yourself. Whether it’s with a day of rest, a movie out, or a cheat meal. “Reward yourself by feeling proud of yourself,” Malaspina recommends. “The more you feel good and rewarded for your efforts, the more likely you are to repeat your behaviors.”

Tiffany Cruikshank Yogi Misfit Sessions Podcast Interview

Danni Pomplun interviews Tiffany Cruikshank for his Yoga Misfit Sessions Podcast.

In this session they discuss how Tiffany transitioned from an acupuncturist to yoga, Yoga Medicine®, how she blends Eastern and Western modalities together, and she even gives some credibility to goat yoga.

Click here to listen to the podcast on Danni’s website.

Follow Danni Pomplun on Instagram (@DanniPomplun) to learn more about his passion for yoga.

An Invitation to a Calm Party Within

Allie Geer, Yoga Medicine® Registered Therapeutic Specialist, helps you take charge of your health and wellness with this quick five minute meditation and breath sequence.

Meditation and breathing techniques to keep you grounded.

We all know that the holidays are busy and our time tends to get stretched thin. This can leave us feeling frazzled, lacking focus, stressed, and even depleted, which in turn can impact our health. Take charge of your health and wellness with just a few minutes a day to not only improve your overall wellbeing, but to shift your perspective and stay grounded this holiday season.

Retreat from the hustle and bustle with this quick five minute grounding meditation and breath sequence. The nice thing about this practice is that it can be done anywhere: in a bathroom at a party, in bed before you get up, on the chair lift at the ski resort, in the parking lot at the mall, there is always an opportunity to check in with your internal environment.

1. Find a comfortable seat anywhere: in the car, in your bed, on a meditation cushion, or in your closet. Wherever it is, to begin, take a moment to check in and be an observer to the experience in your body. Notice your breath enter and leave through the nostrils. Notice the rise and fall of your chest and abdomen with each breath. Notice any tension in your shoulders, neck, jaw or anywhere else.

2. After taking a few moments to arrive, take three grounded breaths with a full breath in though the nose and an audible sigh out through the mouth. With every exhale, allow your sit bones to ground deeper into the support underneath you. Continue for two more rounds. Inhaling through the nose and exhaling through the mouth.

3. Now deepen your awareness of the breath with a pranayama exercise referred to in some traditions as Anuloma pranayama. Take your right hand and fold in your index & middle finger to place your thumb and fourth finger on each side of the bridge of your nose. Place your fingers just below the cartilage on the nostrils. Before putting any pressure on the nose take a full breath in and out. Begin by gently closing off your right nostril as you inhale through the left nostril. Then close off the left nostril and partially close the right nostril as you exhale through a partially closed right nostril. This action should mimic the sound of a bicycle tire deflating (think deflating tension and stress). Continue through this cycle of breath for 5-10 rounds. Inhaling through the left nostril, and exhaling through a partially closed right nostril to stimulate the parasympathetic or relaxation response.

4. After your tenth round, release the hands to a comfortable position by your sides and bring back the observer’s mind. Notice the ebb and flow of your natural breath once again, and notice the effects of this practice on your body and mind. Take a full breath in and exhale through the mouth. You are now back on your way to a grounded holiday season.

Enjoy all that is around you and allow yourself to be in the moment, present with those who surround you. Most importantly, allow yourself to appreciate the fullness of the season!

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