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Month: August 2020

Quick Mindfulness Tricks to Deescalate a Terrible, Stressful, No-Good Day

By Brianne Hogan for SheKnows.

We’re living in stressful times, so experiencing a terrible anxiety-inducing day (or two) is pretty common now. Like most of us, you’re probably looking for any stress-busting technique that can quell your swirling mind and land you in in the present moment in a more peaceful state — stat! Enter mindfulness. Mindfulness is the ability to be totally present, fully engaged in where we are, what we’re doing, free from distraction and judgment.

Mindfulness practices are known to regulate our emotions, decreasing anxiety, stress and helping cope with depression. Unlike other stress-relieving practices, like yoga and transcendental meditation, mindfulness is immediate and accessible. Meaning you experience mindfulness and return to calm in a matter of minutes no matter where you are.

Below, experts share their quick mindfulness tricks to deescalate your terrible, stressful day.

Embody Yourself

Laura Day, practicing intuitive and New York Times bestselling author.

“Embodiment is simply being fully within yourself, in the moment you are living, now. However, embodiment is far from simple, especially from an intuitive perspective.

Research has convincingly demonstrated the existence of non-local perception. In other words, not only are you able to be in other places, other people’s minds, and other times, past and future, but others are able to intrude upon you, often beneath your conscious awareness.

The simple fix is to bring in your perceptions by noticing your five senses in this moment and moving, breathing, sounding, listening, feeling in ways that anchor you inside them.

The reality is that even though we can accurately perceive the future, we can change things only in this moment. Being present, or mindful, allows you to access the alchemic power of awareness. You can sense the future and reform the past, the better to serve your functioning, if and only if you are available, in your body and senses. If you are in you, you are able to make choices about what you allow to enter your perceptual field and what you need to keep at a distance.

Being mindful is, in fact, simply being here, at the point you are physically inhabiting in time and space. All power, pleasure, and effectiveness begin there.”

Practice Radical Self-Acceptance

Devon Hase, Meditation Coach at Ten Percent Happier.

“A huge part of mindfulness is allowing things to be just as they are. Paradoxically, when we open and allow ourselves to really be authentic – whether we’re feeling stressed, distracted, exhausted or grumpy, things naturally settle out a bit. So when you are transitioning from a stressful day, you might try letting yourself be just as you are. Don’t try to change a thing. With this kind of radical acceptance, you might be surprised at what happens – there is often a level of ease right there in the middle of everything.”

Find an Object to Focus On

LeNaya S. Crawford, LMFT, RYT and Holistic Wellness Expert.

“Find an object near you and begin to tune into that object, noticing every detail about it. As you begin to notice the patterns, colors, etc. begin to focus on your inhales and exhales as you continue to observe the object.”

Cook Mindfully

Vibay Chandran Weisbecker, Holistic Wellness & Mindfulness Specialist at Mindbody.

“Cook a meal or a simple snack for yourself. As you put together the ingredients, reflect on how they came together while being grateful to all the beings that were responsible for its creation. Eat silently and without distraction.”

Don’t Forget to Breathe 

Heather Peterson, CorePower Yoga Chief Yoga Officer.

“Practice two minutes of slow Pranayama or yoga breathing techniques. For a count of four, breathe in through your nose. Then, breathe out of your nose for a count of four. In two minutes, you can flip your “calm” nervous system on, allowing you to make better decisions on the fly!”

Shift Your Focus to the Good

Tiffany Cruikshank, founder of Yoga Medicine®.

“The brain is wired to focus on the negatives so it takes work to shift a bad day. Simply think of three positive things that have happened already this week and then three things you’re looking forward to in the day ahead of you. If you’re having trouble, look for simple things: having a few minutes to meditate, cooking a nice meal, putting out fires at work before they become worse, etc. If you get good at this, you can increase it to five of each and notice you can always find some positives even on the worst days. Since stress is simply our resistance to reality, this one is key as stress will continue to follow you if you don’t shift your perception of stress.”

Bottom Line Inc. Facebook Live Interview

By Sarah Hiner for Bottom Line Inc.

In this episode, Sarah Hiner interviews Diane Malaspina, Yoga Medicine Therapeutic Specialist, as they discuss the complexity of COVID and its affect on mental health. They work through grief in this Bottom Line Inc. Facebook Live Interview.

Click here to listen to the full episode.

You can also listen to the full podcast here on Bottom Line Advocator’s site.

What Is “Yoga Butt” and How to Fix It

By Emily Cronkleton for Healthline.

Yoga can be a real pain in the butt if you’re not careful. Although this ancient practice is one of the most physically and mentally rewarding methods of movement, flowing through poses can cause injuries.

“Yoga butt,” while not a medical term, is a casual way of referring to an injury people can get from doing yoga.

More specifically, yoga butt is an overuse injury from some of the most basic and frequently performed poses. The good news? It’s rarely complicated or advanced.

Read on to find out what it is, how to spot it, what causes it, and how to make yoga butt go away.

What is yoga butt?

“Yoga butt, technically called proximal hamstring tendinopathy, is an irritation or inflammation of the hamstring tendons at their attachment site on the ischial tuberosity (the sitting bone),” explains Jenni Tarma, a Yoga Medicine Therapeutic Specialist.

While it’s also possible to experience an acute injury in these tendons, like a sudden sprain or tear, Tarma says tendinopathy is a chronic condition that happens over time.

What causes these injuries?

In the context of the yoga practice, Tarma says one of the main contributing factors is repeatedly doing poses that require end range of motion hip flexion. This includes:

  • Deep Forward Fold
  • Compass Pose
  • Splits
  • any pose where the foot is put behind the head

“Since tendons have a limited amount of elasticity, these kinds of poses can cause the tendons to become overstretched and irritated,” she explains.

Physical therapist Leada Malek, DPT, CSCS, SCS says that high hamstring and deep glute rotator strains as well as piriformis syndrome are extremely common due to the single-leg stance and hip rotation components of certain poses.

“When there is a demand on the hip and knee to stabilize, ideally the entire glute complex, deep hip rotators, and hamstring muscles are working efficiently together,” explains Malek.

However, if one of these factors is slightly off due to pain or weakness, she says it can set off symptoms in either area as there’s a struggle for compensation.

And finally, yoga poses generally doesn’t incorporate hamstring strengthening. Combined with frequent and sometimes extreme stretching, this can exacerbate the issue and cause overall function and load tolerance to decrease, says Tarma.

“In this sense, hamstring tendinopathy is not just an overuse injury, but also an underloading issue: The tissues haven’t been subjected to enough challenge and have therefore lost their ability to tolerate the stress of certain movements or joint positions, resulting in pain and irritation (aka poor function),” she explains.

How do you know you’re injured?

Experienced yogis will tell you there’s no mistaking the pain and discomfort associated with yoga butt.

According to Malek, common symptoms include a deep ache or pain in the glute, just below it, or at the ischial tuberosity (sit bone) where the hamstring inserts. It can feel tight or like a mild strain.

Additionally, Malek says the deep knot-like feeling in the piriformis muscle can even manifest as sciatic symptoms and tingling or numbness down the leg. This is because the piriformis goes directly over the sciatic nerve in some individuals, if not through it or under it.

In yoga, Tarma says you would most commonly feel pain during hip flexion in poses such as:

  • Forward Fold
  • Lunge
  • Padangusthasana (Big Toe Pose)
  • Happy Baby

Healing Tips

There are many physical benefits to practicing yoga. According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative HealthTrusted Source, these include:

  • Increased strength and stamina
  • Better energy levels
  • Enhanced flexibility
  • Reduced low back pain
  • Reduced stress

That’s why the sooner you can heal this injury, the better.

Since many people experience this condition as a cycle of flare-ups that come and go, Tarma recommends resting until the worst of the irritation passes.

“This could mean avoiding any positions or movements that trigger the symptoms, modifying poses in yoga class, and possibly wearing a compression wrap around the upper thigh to take some of the strain off the hamstrings and their tendons,” she says.

When it comes to improving yoga butt long-term, Tarma says once the inflammation subsides, you’ll want to start loading the tissues. This will help them get stronger and develop better overall function and capacity to tolerate stress.

“This means building strength in the tendon and the muscle, in as broad a variety of positions and planes of motion as possible,” she explains.

To do this, Tarma recommends isometric holds, since they’re accessible to most people and can have an analgesic (pain-relieving) effect.

Once those feel manageable, she says you can progress to more challenging movements like eccentrics and plyometrics and increase the load. Weighted squatting and deadlifts are two examples.

This issue can also be slow to improve, so it pays to manage your own expectations and be patient as you take steps to heal.

Alternative Poses

If certain poses are aggravating the injury, it’s best to avoid them and try a different sequence. A knowledgeable yoga instructor or physical therapist can help you modify poses, so you can continue with your yoga practice.

In the meantime, here are a few alternative poses to try.

Bridge Pose

Malek says Bridge Pose is an excellent way to get symmetrical glute activation without a lengthened hamstring position. This allows the muscles to be activated without aggravating the areas that are irritated.

Tree Pose with a Modification

She also recommends Tree Pose with your foot placed on the calf. It’ll be easier to balance than with your foot placed high in the hip.

An easier stance for balance will likely allow for better recruitment of the glutes that stabilize the hip, without triggering factors like hamstring or piriformis overcompensation.

Chair Pose and Deep Single Leg Chair Pose

Once you can tackle Chair Pose, Malek says to work your way up to more advanced poses for the legs, like a Deep Single Leg Chair Pose, which takes a lot of core, hip, and quad stability to do efficiently and can be a risky one.


Keep Your Knees Slightly Bent

To avoid this pain in the butt in the first place, Kelly Clifton Turner, E-RYT 500 and director of education for YogaSix, says to keep a microbend in your knees even during forward folds and other hamstring stretches.

Don’t Stretch as Deeply

Ensure you don’t go past your edge or push yourself deeply into a pose early in the practice.

Take a Break

If you have this pain, Turner says to take a break from stretching the hamstring or moving towards your full range of motion.

“I had yoga butt but didn’t address it early, so I had to spend about 6 months of my yoga practice keeping a generous bend in my knees any time I was in a Forward Fold,” she explains.

More Tips to Prevent Yoga Injury

Additional tips from Turner include:

  • Keep your knees bent.
  • Use blocks under your hands to keep from “hanging out” on your joints.
  • Focus on engaging your quads in Forward Folds or other hamstring-openers to avoid overstretching.

The Takeaway

Yoga butt is something that can happen to any yogi. If you’re dealing with this high hamstring pain, it’s important to modify or skip poses that may aggravate the injury.

You can also incorporate balance and strengthening exercises into your overall workout routine to avoid re-injuring the area or to prevent yoga butt in the first place.

When in doubt, it’s always a good idea to talk to a physical therapist or knowledgeable yoga instructor.

What Are the 7 Chakras and How Can You Unblock Them?

By Kirsten Nunez for Healthline.

If you’ve ever taken a yoga or meditation class, had an energy healing session like reiki, or just watched online videos about those subjects, you’ve no doubt heard about chakras and the role they play in the flow of energy in your body. You may have also learned that it’s important to keep your chakras open, or unblocked.

But what exactly are chakras and how do they affect your physical and emotional well-being?

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at your main chakras. We’ll also help explain the impact these energy centers may have on your mind and body, plus how to keep them “open” in order to promote physical, mental, and emotional well-being.

What are chakras?

In Sanskrit, the word “chakra” means “disk” or “wheel” and refers to the energy centers in your body. These wheels or disks of spinning energy each correspond to certain nerve bundles and major organs.

To function at their best, your chakras need to stay open, or balanced. If they get blocked, you may experience physical or emotional symptoms related to a particular chakra.

There are seven main chakras that run along your spine. They start at the root, or base, of your spine and extend to the crown of your head. That said, some people believe you have at least 114 different chakras in the body.

The chakras most often referred to are the seven main ones that we’ll explore in more detail below.

What are the 7 main chakras?

The chakra system refers to the energy centers we have in our bodies. There are seven major chakras, each in a specific location along your spine. Let’s look at each one more closely.

7 main chakras


1) Root Chakra

The root chakra, or Muladhara, is located at the base of your spine. It provides you with a base or foundation for life, and it helps you feel grounded and able to withstand challenges. Your root chakra is responsible for your sense of security and stability.

2) Sacral Chakra

The sacral chakra, or Svadhistana, is located just below your belly button. This chakra is responsible for your sexual and creative energy. It’s also linked to how you relate to your emotions as well as the emotions of others.

3) Solar Plexus Chakra

The solar plexus chakra, or Manipura, is located in your stomach area. It’s responsible for confidence and self-esteem, as well as helping you feel in control of your life.

4) Heart Chakra

The heart chakra, or Anahata, is located near your heart, in the center of your chest. It comes as no surprise that the heart chakra is all about our ability to love and show compassion.

5) Throat Chakra

The throat chakra, or Vishuddha, is located in your throat. This chakra has to do with our ability to communicate verbally.

6) Third Eye Chakra

The third eye chakra, or Ajna, is located between your eyes. You can thank this chakra for a strong gut instinct. That’s because the third eye is responsible for intuition. It’s also linked to imagination.

7) Crown Chakra

The crown chakra, or Sahasrara, is located at the top of your head. Your Sahasrara represents your spiritual connection to yourself, others, and the universe. It also plays a role in your life’s purpose.

What does it mean if a chakra is blocked or unbalanced?

Diane Malaspina, PhD, a yoga medicine therapeutic specialist, said she prefers to think of chakras as out of balance versus blocked.

“There can be a depletion of energy flow or too much energetic activity in a chakra — each will manifest into different outcomes,” she explained.

When a chakra is low in energy, she said, you’ll have difficulty expressing the particular qualities associated with that chakra.

When a chakra is overactive, Malaspina said, the qualities are a dominant force in the person’s life. This can have both physical and emotional effects.

For example, the first chakra is about security, survival, and the foundation of our life. If it’s underactive, she says it can show up as depression and insecurity. If there’s too much energy, it can show up as fearlessness without precaution or hoarding because you need more to feel secure.

Can a blocked chakra affect your health?

In general, the location of the chakra that’s out of balance may affect the parts of your body in close proximity to that chakra, according to Malaspina.

This includes your organs, bones, joints, and tissues near that area.

Psychologically, she says, imbalances in the chakras may cause an emotional imbalance.

This may lead to increased anger, sadness, fear, or indecisiveness.

“It’s important to pay attention to both the psychological and physiological sensations because they can inform each other and uncover the root cause of the experience,” said certified yoga teacher and master reiki healer, Guadalupe Terrones.

According to Terrones, experiencing too much stress — physically or mentally — may cause one or more chakras to be out of balance.

“Personal habits such as poor physical alignment or posture, eating unhealthy food, or self-destructive behavior may cause a chakra to be imbalanced,” she said.

Terrones also said that prolonged imbalance may lead to physical disease and illness, musculoskeletal issues, and mental health challenges like depression or anxiety.

How can you unblock a chakra?

According to Malaspina, a great way to promote balance in a chakra is to create alignment in your physical body through:

  • yoga postures
  • breathing practices to encourage the flow of energy
  • meditation to bring about clarity of mind

Each chakra has yoga poses that may help fine-tune its energy. Here are some poses that may help unblock each of your seven chakras.

Root Chakra

The root chakra is the base chakra and reflects your foundation. According to Terrones, Tree Pose or any balancing poses, like Mountain or Warrior, are great for establishing a stronger relationship with your body’s foundation.

Tree Pose


Sacral Chakra

The sacral chakra is associated with our reproductive area and is responsible for our creativity and sensuality.

Terrones says poses that strengthen your pelvic floor, where the sacral chakra resides, such as Bridge Pose or deep hip openers like Pigeon Pose or Lizard Pose, are great for strengthening your sacral chakra.

Pigeon Pose


Solar Plexus Chakra

The solar plexus chakra is all about your inner fire and resides around your core. That’s why Terrones says core strengthening poses, such as Boat or Triangle, are great for firing up your abs and creating more balance in this chakra.

Boat Pose


Heart Chakra

Your heart chakra, according to Terrones, is the integration point between the lower chakras and the higher chakras. “It reflects our ability to open ourselves up to deeper connections with others,” she said.

To unblock this chakra, she recommends heart openers, such as Camel Pose or Wheel. She also recommends Cow Face Pose and Humble Warrior, which help open your chest, shoulders, and arms so you can more fully embrace others.

Camel Pose


Throat Chakra

The throat chakra is your communication center. According to Terrones, Plow and Fish are great poses to open up your throat chakra. Both help open up the back and front sides of your neck, where the throat chakra resides.

Plow Pose


Third Eye Chakra

The third eye chakra rules your ability to invite a new reality into your life by dreaming up different possibilities. Terrones recommends poses that involve getting your upper body intimately connected with your lower body.

According to Terrones, poses such as Forward Fold or Folded Eagle are great for the third eye.

“In these poses, our higher self, represented by our upper bodies, establishes a connection with our more rooted parts of our bodies, our legs, so that we can manifest a dream into a physical reality.”

Forward Fold Pose


Crown Chakra

The crown chakra rules your connection to your higher self. That’s why Terrones recommends the pose that comes after all yoga poses: Savasana, or Corpse Pose.

This pose, says Terrones, helps strengthen your crown chakra by connecting you with your eternal self — your soul — and reminding you where you came from and where you’ll go.

Savasana Pose

The Bottom Line

Chakras refer to various energy centers in your body that correspond to specific nerve bundles and internal organs.

The seven major chakras run from the base of your spine to the top of your head. If these energy centers get blocked, you may experience physical or emotional symptoms related to a particular chakra.

One way you may be able to unblock or rebalance your chakras is by doing certain yoga poses. Specific breathing exercises and meditation practices may also help.

If you’re not sure where to start or just want to know more about your chakras and how they may affect you, consider working with a professional energy healer, such as a reiki practitioner, or a certified yoga instructor.

This Is Why You Need to Have a Restorative Yoga Practice (According to an ER Doctor)

Cognitive, emotional, and physical health are what I like to think of as the “three pillars of longevity.” Longevity doesn’t just mean living a long time. It also means living your best life now and as you age. Restorative Yoga can be a cornerstone of this temple of vitality.

While it may look like you’re not doing much in a Restorative Yoga pose, there are, in fact, a lot of things that go on when we allow ourselves to be supported by props, our breath, and a quiet space.

To those of you out there that are skeptical that any “lying around on props” can advance your practice, trust me, it can. I am living proof of it.

I am an emergency physician, medical acupuncturist, business owner, educator, writer, mother, wife, and high-level endurance athlete with over 13 Boston Marathons under my belt (yes, I qualified for each one and even raced with an elite bib) and a full Ironman.

I can confidently tell you that adding Restorative Yoga to my schedule has helped me in every aspect of my life and is the reason I can be so productive.

What Is Restorative Yoga?

So what is at the heart of Restorative Yoga anyway? Well, experientially, when we are in a Restorative Yoga pose, the idea is that all the props we use meet our body’s every nook and cranny.

This allows for all of our tissues to relax. It’s like a cradle that supports every empty space so there is absolutely no effort against the pull of gravity for any of your tissues. There is simply no “doing” at all.

This supported space allows a true moment to draw our mind and body inward, or – as yogis describe it – to be in the state of Pratyahara.

Physiologically, what is happening when we get to this place where our tissues are completely supported is deep but awake relaxation. There are few times in our day when we can really achieve this conscious state of being.

Want to learn more about Restorative Yoga and how it affects the Nervous System? Click here to read the full article originally published on

Polyvagal Theory and the Breath

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been hearing a lot about the vagus nerve of late. From its association to stress, mental health and wellness to heart rate variability and respiratory sinus arrhythmia (and a related term called vagal tone), this nerve certainly seems to play an important role in our lives. For those of you newer to the vagus nerve, here are some interesting facts – it is a cranial nerve (number 10 of 12 cranial nerves, in fact) that originates in the medulla, and the name ‘vagus’ can be translated as ‘wandering’. It is called the wandering nerve because it influences the function of multiple organs (heart, lungs, and digestive tract to name a few), and it is the longest nerve of the autonomic nervous system in the body. The vagus nerve is a primary component of the parasympathetic branch (“rest and digest”) of our autonomic nervous system, as opposed to the sympathetic branch (“fight or flight”). Specifically, research suggests that stimulating the vagus nerve activates the parasympathetic branch of the nervous system; a ‘vagal brake’ if you will.

Polyvagal theory (‘poly’ meaning many) is a term used to describe the multiple associations between the vagus nerve and things like emotion regulation, social connection and our fear  response (Porges, 1995). This theory proposes an evolutionary model of how the vagal pathways respond to stressful and novel external stimuli. Essentially, it is proposed that there are two vagal systems that can behave differently: (i) a more primitive path that is shared with reptiles and amphibia which leads to fainting, freezing, or ‘playing dead’ when threatened so as to conserve metabolic resources; and (ii) a more evolved branch unique to mammals that is involved in self-soothing and calming behaviors in stressful situations. Each of these adaptive behavioral strategies are inhibitory in nature and thus, in line, with parasympathetic activation. And, given the evolutionary nature of this theory, it is thought that when the more evolved branch fails, the primitive branch takes over.

By now, you might be saying to yourself, “Okay, cool. But what does this have to do with yoga and the breath?” Interestingly, the wandering vagus nerve runs behind the throat, suggesting that we can gently stimulate the vagus nerve when we do things like chanting, om-ing, and yes, breathing….particularly deep yogic breathing (Kromenacker et al., 2018). In fact, there is research to suggest that we can stimulate these inhibitory responses to our nervous through our breath (Senthilnathan et al., 2019). If you are anything like me, you might be wondering how to measure vagus nerve activation. Well, earlier in this piece, I mentioned the term ‘vagal tone,’ which is defined as vagus nerve activity. It has become quite popular as a novel way to measure stress vulnerability and can be measured in various ways. The most common non-invasive way is through heart rate and heart rate variability, or measuring the variability in the time interval between heartbeats. Increased vagal tone (and thus vagal action) is generally associated with a lower heart rate and increased heart rate variability. And guess what else  High heart rate variability is also associated with better emotion regulation, decision-making, and attention (Thayer & Lane, 2009). As with most scientific theories, there are some who strongly believe in polyvagal theory and others who question its validity; however, the role of the vagus nerve in calming the body through parasympathetic nervous system activation is clear. And while we
don’t have much control over most of our autonomic nervous system functions, the breath is one way to access the vagus nerve and thus our ‘rest and digest’ response as a means to find balance (or homeostasis) in our system.

Here is a simple technique to bring some awareness to your breath:

  1. Lie on your back with knees bent and feet flat on the floor about hip-distance apart.
  2. Place a palm on your abdomen and breathe comfortably for a few moments, noticing the quality of your breath. Does the breath feel tense? strained? uneven? shallow? Simply observe the breath without any judgment.
  3. Gradually begin to make your breathing as relaxed and smooth as possible, introducing a slight pause after each inbreath and outbreath.
  4. Once the breath feels relaxed and comfortable, notice the movement of the body. As you inhale, the abdomen naturally expands; as you exhale, feel the slight contraction of the abdomen. In a gentle way, try to actively expand the abdomen on the inhale and contract the abdomen on the exhale to support the natural movement of the diaphragm and experience the pleasure of giving yourself a full, relaxed breath.
  5. Continue the practice for 6 to 12 breaths.
  6. Take a few moments after the practice to observe and notice how you feel physically, mentally, and emotionally after spending a few moments focused on your breath.

Staying Connected, Apart: The Pandemic of Stress

By April Geary for Yoga Medicine®.

I’ve spent the last 3 years focusing my work on one-on-one sessions here in Ventura, California. The usual scene is a power kick butt flow with recovery tools at the end, usually. This has not been the case since COVID came to town. 
Picture this… a large man, muscles are like cement, powers through town on his road bike about 50-60 miles a day on weekdays and triple that on the weekends. He is ready for his private flow class with a full dose of strength and intensity and a bit of myofascial release for mobility and muscle recovery. After an hour he’s into his inversion practice and then a 25 second savasana is about the norm. BOOM. He’s happy and feels as strong as the hulk! I pack up and head on my way till the next time.
This time the scene was a little different. I walk in and he is sitting on his mat in Sukhasana, his shoulders rounded forward, his head dropped. He looks up to me, places his hands over his heart and says “I have so much anxiety, I’m stressed out and on medical leave from work…”
Well, we just had a turn of events. A fine example of being completely prepared and throwing it all out the window. I quickly realize I need to help support and empower him to be able to step into his life again. First thing that comes to my mind is breath and I need to get creative with my words to help him process what he is feeling. 
So, I dig into my YM tool bag and bring him into a supported heart opener, decadent with props, and ask him to start with bhramari pranayama (Humming bee breath). I ask him to start to visualize the anxiety swirling around in his chest and with each hum leaving his body. Then we do Kidney 27 tapping, I tell him to imagine each tap is like a pebble falling into a lake, letting go of his anxiety with each tap. After some time his taps become gentler and I ask him to relax his arms to his sides, I guide him through a quiet walk to a well and tell him to throw his last thoughts of worry into the well and once done, to walk away, reminding him to come back into his breath. 
Astonished by the effects, he was excited to use these new tools and I was grateful for the experience to offer new modalities. I was able to put the Yoga Medicine training I completed during COVID to work immediately and I am so grateful for still being able to stay connected online with my Yoga Medicine family. 


A few things I have learned in the last 6 months:

  • Take Care of Yourself First. COVID is overwhelming for us as teachers and we must put our “masks” on first. Keep up with your own practice and rituals. Use the tools you use to keep yourself in a healthy mental state. What you use and know will be your best tools, especially when it comes to communicating it to them.
  • Explore the Viability of Digital Tools. If being around people is causing your clients anxiety, offer to meet with them online, via Zoom, Facetime, IGTV, Youtube or even offering to send them videos you prepare for them of guided meditations, sun salutations or breathing techniques.
  • Let Go of the Emphasis of Your Aesthetics. Your videos and appearance do not have to be perfect. Letting our students know we are still human is comforting to them. Your space, you, your phone camera is all you need.
  • Make a Schedule for Your Online Offerings. This will help keep you grounded as a teacher, and allow you to keep your time for yourself.
  • Consider Being of Service As Well As Compensation for Yourself. I Like to offer my clients bundles of classes, 6 for a certain price, one being free. Or a free first session to discuss their needs. Usually  paid upfront and a guaranteed time slot if they prefer every week. This guarantees me that we can be consistent with their practice and there won’t be that weird exchange of money in the end. With Paypal, Cashapp, and Venmo it makes it very easy.
  • Communicate. Don’t be afraid to ask things. Since this will be a very personal space they will tell you lots of things. As a teacher, be transparent and real and don’t forget your Code of Ethics. 
  • Less is More. Don’t overwhelm them with so many tools that it causes more anxiety. I like to offer 3 things at a time for my clients and we build on those once they have been doing them for a while. 

Here are 3 things that I have been doing and has been working well for my clients:

  • Breathe Work. Learning Ujjayi and Bhramari pranayama (humming bee breath) are simple but powerful options. I recommend a daily, just a few minutes is all that’s needed.
  • Sun Salutations. Teaching them simple sun salutation variations to meet their needs so they can do them the days we don’t meet, I offer to send them a video of me doing them to follow along with if they haven’t got it down just yet.
  • Yoga Nidra. Yoga Nidra can be a powerful practice for mental health, stress, anxiety and so much more. There are many scripts available for free on Youtube as well as on apps to use. Headspace offered their app for free for a year to people who have lost their jobs due to COVID. 
All of this is an important reminder that even though we can’t be together, we can still support each other by staying connected, apart. 

Trauma’s Impact on Our Communities: Lessons Sent from India

Many of us may be feeling overwhelmed or helpless, especially during the COVID-19 global pandemic and as racial and political tensions heighten in the U.S. In times like these, retreating inward to examine ourselves should become more than a priority and instead be a necessity.

When we assess our own trauma, we typically consider the ways it affects us personally, such as depression, fatigue, negative cognition, strained relationships, avoidance or numbness—to name a few. And while it is wildly important to unpack our own trauma, to work through and bring meaning to that of which we’ve suffered, we do need to consider how trauma, even unprocessed, impacts our communities as a whole.

Perhaps the reason I’ve been drawn to my work in anti-human trafficking is not solely because of my desire to help those who’ve experienced systemic oppression, but on the contrary, to be in awe of, and study, the resilience that is possible in the human being.

In a recent virtual (thanks, COVID) gala I hosted for the Yoga Medicine® Seva Foundation and Her Future Coalition, partnering organizations with aligned missions to break the cycle of poverty and exploitation by providing education to survivors and the vulnerable, I had the opportunity to connect with Dr. Ann Bortz, a licensed clinical psychologist who specializes in trauma. According to Dr. Bortz, 90% of people will be exposed to at least one traumatic event in the course of their life, and 8%-20% of those people will suffer debilitating effects as a result.

What does this mean? A lot of us are walking around with trauma—and how it affects us can and will ripple out to affect those around us. Think like this: if one toddler in my son’s classroom uses glitter on an art project, how many toddlers come home with glitter on them?

What we do to help ourselves on the inside will help those who surround us on the outside. The controversial COVID-19 face mask is a great example. Yes, we wear them to protect ourselves, but in the greater scheme, we are wearing masks to protect those around us who may be compromised, elderly, or otherwise high-risk.

Dr. Bortz explains that trauma occurs when we’ve been exposed to a life-threatening stressor, overwhelming our ability to cope and creating a profound sense of helplessness. She goes on to give examples such as an accident, war, natural disasters, or sexual and physical abuse. The effect of trauma can be vast and differ between people. However, commonly, trauma survivors get stuck in a fight-or-flight response. Our energy then, whether conscious of it or not, is constantly working to prepare us to meet threats. This creates an unhealthy environment, affecting our ability to trust, think clearly, be present, or establish caring relationships.

My work in India has thrust me into a fight against an industry that commits heinous crimes against women and children. From children being sold into forms of slavery such as domestic servitude, child marriage, or forced labor, to women and girls kidnapped or coerced into a life of prostitution. The remarkable part, though, is watching a survivor heal. When placed in a caring community that ensures your basic needs are met and offered an education—and full range of services that support education—survivors can heal.

I sat with Sarah Symons, founder of Her Future Coalition and author of This Is No Ordinary Joy, to discuss the lessons she’s absorbed during her 15-years of anti-trafficking work in Asia. The following lessons are thanks to the beautiful, strong, resilient women and children of India—may your past inspire the collective to heal theirs.

1. Practice Forgiveness & Be The Change

Amara grew up in a remote village of Nepal, where trafficking had become so normalized that 90% of girls in the community were either trafficked to brothels in India or forced into child marriages. Amara was one of those girls. Members of her family were involved in trafficking her—either actively or through neglect and tolerance of the practice.

After Amara was rescued by a local NGO, she was given years of support, shelter, and education. Her plan is to go back to her village to open a school and to change the mindset of the villagers so that other girls will not suffer as she did. Amara actively decided not to hold a grudge toward the people of her community, but instead, she committed to helping them, to show them that there’s another way. She says that she practices forgiveness every day because she knows if she did not find a way to forgive, she would be hurting herself, reliving and perpetuating violence in her own heart and mind.

Symons concludes, “Forgiveness is the ultimate act of self-love. Amara has taught me that until you are able to forgive, you can never be completely free.”

2. Focus on What You Can Control & Give Back

“Priyanka grew up in one of our shelter homes, because her mother, a brothel worker, didn’t want her child to be anywhere near the red-light district,” Symons says.

Priyanka was offered a trainee position in Her Future Coalition’s Jewelry Program, a vocational training program that aims to end the shame and powerlessness that many survivors experience, giving them the opportunity to learn a profession to support themselves independently. She started to realize her own potential and began to place focus on what she can control. She poured her energy into creating beautiful pieces of jewelry.

Priyanka’s mother is no longer a brothel worker because of her age. She has various health issues associated with repeated physical and sexual violence over many years. When Priyanka went to visit her mother, she realized something was wrong and had an overwhelming sense that something had to be done. She had been earning and saving money for several years in the jewelry program and decided to move into a small apartment with her mom.

As Symons reflects, “She inspires me because she found a way to give back, despite having limited resources. No matter the situation, there are always ways to give back and take control.”

3. Keep Learning New Things

We can work through and bring meaning to that of which we’ve suffered by finding outlets that stimulate our mind, move our body, and bring forth our creative abilities. According to Psychology Today, art therapy is an artistic method to heal. Art, whether you create it yourself or marvel in other’s pieces, has the ability to help people explore emotions, develop self-awareness, cope with stressors, boost self-esteem, and work on social skills that help give us a sense of connection. These same effects can be felt from many modalities such as yoga, meditation, singing, dancing, karate—or anything that allows for creative expression.

Kiya from Nepal speaks five languages. When she was 11, her parents sent her to a monastery school because members of her extended family were involved in human trafficking. Her parents were too poor to provide for her and feared for her safety. Regardless, when Kiya was in her early teens, she was drugged, kidnapped, and trafficked from the school in Nepal to a brothel in Mumbai, owned by her aunt.

“Despite the betrayal of her family, and the terrible suffering she endured in the brothel, Kiya keeps an incredibly positive attitude,” Symons says. She goes on to explain that Kiya finds reprieve in learning new things such as jewelry making, hairstyling, spoken English, volleyball, karate, and academic subjects in school. As Kiya engages in things that stimulate her mind, she builds new neural pathways and creates space for healing.

I’ve personally learned by watching profound lessons in the human’s ability to overcome. As we work through our own traumas and discover ways to heal, collectively, we are creating a new, better future for all.

5 Things Anyone Can Do To Optimize Their Mental Wellness with Tiffany Cruikshank of Yoga Medicine

By Beau Henderson for Authority Magazine.

As a part of my series about the “5 Things Anyone Can Do To Optimize Their Mental Wellness” I had the pleasure of interviewing Tiffany Cruikshank (@tiffanycruikshank), the founder of Yoga Medicine® (@yoga_medicine), a community of teachers focused on fusing anatomy and western medicine with traditional yoga practices to serve the medical communities. She has trained thousands of teachers around the world, graced the cover of over 15 magazines, been featured regularly in major media outlets, authored 2 books, and released over 150 classes on various topics on With a background in Acupuncture and Sports Medicine, Tiffany has worked with celebrities, athletes, and corporate professionals alike in her own private clinics and Nike World Headquarters. Tiffany also founded and continues to run two nonprofits — one conducting research on yoga’s therapeutic benefits and the other supporting a shelter for women rescued from trafficking in Delhi, India.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?

Growing up, I was a bit of a rebel and yoga was a big part of what helped pull me through some difficult times. It helped me feel more comfortable in my own skin and finding something that I was passionate about at a young age helped me focus energy on something and gave me a sense of purpose. I found the meditative aspects of the practice helped keep me focused and healthy. Later on my career in the healthcare industry showed me the noticeable impacts that yoga and meditation practices could have on a patients’ mental and physical health. As my teachings evolved, I founded Yoga Medicine® to create a resource of yoga teachers trained more deeply in anatomy, physiology and pathology to serve the medical communities. Through Yoga Medicine® we have over 1500 hours of training for yoga teachers to fuse education in both western anatomical information and research with the traditional practices of yoga. I’m also really excited to be offering classes online this fall on our website ( so people can have access to some of our brilliant teachers from the comfort of their homes.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

During my teen years, my parents sent me away on a wilderness program that changed everything. There, I was introduced to an herbalist who taught me how to use the environment around me as medicine. This ignited a passion to heal and help others through holistic means. Once I started doing yoga, which was a great way to keep me feeling athletic, I couldn’t get enough! I ended up graduating early and started college at the age of 16. I started teaching yoga when I went off to college to get my pre-med degree and then study Chinese Medicine.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

For sure my husband, his support and encouragement have been pivotal to my growth as a person and business owner. He works in the tech world and his perspective can be extremely helpful and refreshing. Plus, he’s an invaluable asset whenever I need any tech or business advice.

What advice would you suggest to your colleagues in your industry to thrive and avoid burnout?

Stay close to the things you love about your job, find ways to magnify the positives. I feel so lucky to have my dream job, however with that in mind even the best job comes with stress and overwhelm at times. I love what I do and so I tend to take on more and more which at some point can be too much. Learning to find balance and say no is part of it of course. However, I find that the point at which I start to see the struggles and stress more than the passion is where the burnout begins. The first step for me is to look at what I don’t need on my schedule and make some tough decisions and then reignite the passion for what I do (however big or small it is). For some people that could be a passion outside of your work or a sense of duty or service that is provided by your job or to your family. Connect to the positives and make sure you carve our time for self-care!!

What advice would you give to other leaders about how to create a fantastic work culture?

Culture is everything to me!! I have a small team and our relationships are pivotal, however because of that we’re also all super busy. Finding the right people for you and your business needs is crucial. I’ve been managing a team remotely for years now and the key for me is having a team I trust implicitly, letting them run with their work and ideas (I hate micromanaging), remembering to share the excitement and appreciation for their work and checking in regularly.

Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. Mental health is often looked at in binary terms; those who are healthy and those who have mental illness. The truth, however, is that mental wellness is a huge spectrum. Even those who are “mentally healthy” can still improve their mental wellness. From your experience or research, what are five steps that each of us can take to improve or optimize our mental wellness. Can you please share a story or example for each?

  1. Meditation is huge. During challenging and stressful times — whether those challenges are due to work, family, uncertainty and more — meditation provides so many benefits including a chance to quiet the mind, renewed mental clarity, the opportunity to step back and see the bigger picture, and the perspective we need to manage discomfort. Finding even a few minutes to meditate in the way that works best for you each day can be a game changer. One visualization I often find helpful is to close your eyes, breathe, and imagine that every sensation in your body is like one brushstroke in the painting of your entire experience in this moment as you step back to look at the whole picture. Taking a moment to do this regularly can help develop the ability to zoom out and look at things in their entirety, including many things still working in your favor and things to be grateful for.
  2. It is no longer a secret that quality sleep is paramount to our overall well-being, including our mental health. Yet so many still struggle to get it. There are numerous factors that can both positively and adversely affect sleep, but one think that I have seen over and over is the inability of the nervous system to transition from a state of “awake and alert” to one of relaxation and sleep. There are many strategies I use to make sure my sleep quality is high including powering down my electronic devices a couple of hours before bed. A simple legs up the wall pose can also be helpful in easing yourself into a better sleep mindset. Dim or turn out your bedroom lights and begin sitting with your right side up against the wall then support yourself so you can gently lie down on your back with your hips up against the wall. Extend your legs up the wall as you allow your torso and head to lay back into the floor and relax. If your hamstrings are tight, feel free to move your hips away from the wall a bit until you are comfortable there, then close your eyes and try to relax your entire body. As you begin relaxing, take note of your breath. Once you feel relaxed, begin counting your inhale and exhale without any tension or gripping. If you can relax into it, try lingering a couple of seconds longer on the exhalation. Continue at this pace for about 3–5 minutes. Next, let the breath be natural for a few minutes before you slowly roll onto your side and carefully crawl right into bed.
  3. Helping others has incredible power not just to make the world a better place to be, but in your own mental wellness as well. Doing things that give back asks us to step outside the demands of daily life and find ways that we can help others. It helps build our awareness, broaden our perspective and increase our gratitude. There are so many ways to give back with large gestures and small. I grew up working at a homeless shelter my mom ran and was able to realize from an early age how important it is to give back. Now I’m so fortunate to run my Yoga Medicine Seva Foundation where we raise money to help rescue and rehabilitate women and children rescued from trafficking in India. I can truly never state the impact this work has had on my life. Consider causes that you feel passionate about and look for ways that you can help in your community. Many cities and towns across the country have volunteer organizations and more that can help match you with opportunities that are a fit. And remember that you can also find ways to do small kindnesses for those around us every single day. Sometimes even the smallest of gestures can make a world of difference for someone.
  4. Finding movement each day is another key element of our overall mental wellness. I do my best to start my day with some kind of movement-based practice. Movement and exercise improve circulation, coordination, body/self-awareness, balance, mobility, strength and more of our physical well-being, but they also help us increase mindful attention, mental focus, compassion, emotional intelligence and mental perspective as well as boosting mood. All of these are critical to good mental health. Pick a form (or forms) of movement that work for you and practice them regularly.
  5. Leaning into a positivity bias is really helpful for me personally. Our brains are wired for survival and tend to focus on the negative events, so it takes attention and practice to shift our perspective and ultimately shape our reality. My favorite, simple way to do this is in the evening as my husband and I transition from our work day to our night (whenever that might be, often as we cook dinner) we’ll each think of 3 positive things that happened that day and then think of 3 things we’re looking forward to in the upcoming day ahead. Short, sweet and powerful!

Much of my expertise focuses on helping people to plan for after retirement. Retirement is a dramatic ‘life course transition’ that can impact one’s health. In addition to the ideas you mentioned earlier, are there things that one should do to optimize mental wellness after retirement? Please share a story or an example for each.

  1. Find a new passion — We all need something that brings us alive and studies show that seniors live longer and live better when they have something that gets them out of bed in the morning. With a lack of work life structuring your days, you ideally have time to explore new things — from art classes to dance classes to gardening. Make sure to keep a few things in your calendar a week to look forward to. Nourish your inner fire, and in return, it will help keep you feeling younger!
  2. Surround yourself with people who stimulate you — While relationships might be harder than ever to invest in with social distancing, make your friendships and family relationships a priority, even if it’s just a weekly FaceTime call. Keeping your brain stimulated through unpredictable conversations is invaluable to keeping you mentally sharp.
  3. Stay active — It’s no secret that physical wellbeing is directly related to mental wellbeing. As we age, it becomes more and more important to make fitness a part of our lives. Conversely, sitting around all day has extremely damaging effects on your mental health. As mentioned previously, after retirement, you can much more easily carve out time to dedicate to physical fitness. This doesn’t mean you have to go to the gym and pump iron! Find activities that you enjoy and know you’ll make time for — from swimming to yoga to walking regularly. Physical activity releases endorphins in the brain to help you feel happier and more energized.

How about teens and pre-teens. Are there any specific new ideas you would suggest for teens and pre-teens to optimize their mental wellness?

  1. I mentioned them before, but I had several experiences as a teen that really helped me stay on track with my mental wellness. One was being introduced to an herbalist that really ignited my passion for healing and ultimately led to my chosen career. Finding something you are passionate about — be it a sport, an artistic expression, and more — can be key. And you don’t have to know right away. Try things. Explore! Find and develop the talents that really speak to you.
  2. Movement and giving back can also be very powerful for teens and pre-teens when it comes to their mental health. Getting away from social media and other screens to get some physical movement in can have a powerful impact — like it does for adults. As can taking some time each day to do something kind for others. Again, these things can be big and organized or small. The benefits are still there.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story?

I am a huge reader and have been impacted by so many of them. Most of the books I read are nonfiction — I like to read to learn so most of the books on my overflowing shelves are educational. Some that stick out to me include: When Breath Becomes Air, The Brain that Changes Itself, Molecules of Emotion, Anatomy of an Illness, How Emotions Are Made: The Secret Life of the Brain, The Spark in the Machine, Siddhartha’s Brain, The Sensitive Nervous System, Human Heart Cosmic Heart, Real Happiness: The Power of Meditation, Rewire Your Brain: Think Your Way to a Better Life and so many others.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Yoga as a part of standard healthcare!

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?

Just do it! Even before I worked at Nike it always felt like these words resonated with me. I ended up working at Nike for over 6 years at their World Headquarters and it obviously meant even more to me after that. I’m not one to sit around thinking about doing things. I prefer taking action and getting things done!

Yoga Essentials for Beginners

By Ashley Keegan for AskMen.

If you think the only yogis out there are earthy ladies in tight leggings, then we’ve got some surprising news for you. A ton of top male athletes across the NBA, NFL, MLB, and NHL practice yoga to help them advance in their sport due to its ability to aid in muscle recovery and cardiovascular health, increase flexibility, ease back pain, and boost self-esteem. Best of all, a yoga workout can be done just about anywhere — including your own home — and guys of all fitness levels can get started quite easily.

We spoke to Dana DiamentYoga Medicine® Therapeutic Specialist, for a few key tips to keep in mind when first embarking on your journey into yoga.

  • Learn the Basics First: Before you try to contort yourself into a tripod headstand or some other advanced pose, you’ll first need to build up your flexibility and confidence, preferably via a studio class with an instructor or an online class geared toward the yoga beginner. “Understanding alignment and concepts that are going to support you individually will help you get the most out of your new yoga practice,” Diament says.
  • Prioritize Frequency Over Duration: Aim for three shorter yoga sessions per week (rather than one long one) to allow your body to benefit from the repetition and rest in between. You’ll learn faster this way and will be more likely to keep up your new yoga routine, too.
  • Make It Enjoyable!:”You’re more likely to continue doing yoga if it’s not just another boring chore,” she says. So set up a special place for your home practice, make a playlist of all your favorite tracks to chill to, hop on a video call with a friend to practice together, or anything else that will keep you engaged.

What to Keep in Mind When Buying Yoga Gear

Top Brands

When searching for the best yoga essentials you’re bound to see a lot of the same names come up. There are several yoga brands out there that are well-trusted by experienced yogis — including MandukaYoga Mate, and Gaiam — that beginners can feel confident relying on for their newbie needs.

What Do Men Wear for Yoga?

Yoga clothing brands such as lululemon and prAna offer activewear designed specifically for yogis, and all-around athletic staple Under Armour also has great options for dressing the part.

What to Spend On

A comfortable, non-slip mat is worth the splurge since that is what you’ll be practicing yoga with 100 percent of the time. You’ll also want to wear clothing that fits loose enough to not restrict your movement, but not so loose that it will shift around or trip you up as you move from pose to pose. You won’t regret investing in moisture-wicking fabric, either, to keep yourself cool and dry.

While some yoga props are more optional for beginners, Diament suggests having two yoga blocks to make some of the poses more accessible as you learn the basics. A bolster can also be a huge benefit to newcomers, especially those interested in restorative yoga.

What You Can Scrimp On

A yoga towel is a hygienic must if you’re heading to a yoga class in a studio or practicing Bikram yoga (also appropriately known as “hot yoga”) to prevent sweat-induced slippage. But if you’re at home in a well-cooled room and you feel steady on your yoga mat, you can opt to go without the towel and invest in a good yoga mat spray for periodic cleaning instead. Obviously, you can ditch a mat carrier if you’re just working out at home, too.

When it comes to yoga props, beginners can ease into extras like sand bags and straps so as not to get too overwhelmed. For a home yoga practice, items such as belts and rolled-up towels can also stand in as substitutes if you really need them.

Click here to read the rest of this article on AskMen, including experts’ top picks of yoga equiment.

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