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Month: May 2021

Movement for Mindset

By Sarah Munn for Weight Watchers.

You might have heard about the mental health benefits of being active, but if you haven’t experienced them, it might be hard to believe. Here’s a rundown of how you can use movement to improve your mood, your mindset, and manage stress – plus what to do if you’re feeling unmotivated.

How Activity Boosts Your Mindset

“Physical exercise is just one way to boost positive emotion and well-being and there are multiple studies that show these positive consequences of exercise,” explains Valerie Knopik, PhD, director of research for Yoga Medicine, the Miller Professor of Human Development and Family Studies at Purdue University, and a yoga teacher in Indianapolis, Ind.

Physical exercise improves physical health, mental health, and cognitive function, she adds.

“The pathway from exercise to these positive outcomes is likely complex, but our brains’ mesostriatal reward network plays a significant role. This is because, in general, physical exercise is rewarding, as evidenced by increased dopamine levels in this part of the brain following exercise,” Knopik explains. “Research also suggests that exercise can modify [at least] 80 per cent of brain gray matter, which contains most of the brain’s neuronal cell bodies and is involved in memory, decision-making, muscle control, sensory perception and, you guessed it, emotions.”

And more broadly, she says, physical exercise tends to be linked to other health-promoting behaviors that play a role in our mental health.

“More specifically, exercise tends to be correlated with better eating habits, better sleep, stress reduction and positive self-image – all of which have been associated with improved mood and quality of life.”

A Bit About Endorphins

As Knopik explained above, dopamine levels tend to go up after exercise, which makes us feel good. But there are other chemicals at play, too.

“While dopamine (a neurotransmitter) can help you feel happy, it is often confused with endorphins. This is because endorphins also help us to feel happy,” Knopik says. “Endorphins are hormones and neuro-signalling molecules that function as painkillers. They inhibit the transmission of pain signals in the central nervous system by binding to opioid receptors (the body’s natural morphine). When endorphins bind to receptors of the central nervous system, dopamine (the pleasure hormone) is released. Hence, the feeling of reward and lifted mood following movement.

How Activity Can Help with Stress

“Managing stress and becoming good at it takes practice, just like anything else,” says Knopik.

“Consider stress reduction techniques a muscle, like your biceps. If we want big, strong biceps, we need to carve out consistent time at the gym. If we want strong stress-reduction techniques, we need to carve out time to practice.”

There are so many simple methods that can help with stress management, she says, such as: breath awareness, meditation, yoga, exercise, social support, journaling, gardening, hiking, therapy/counseling, and doing things that bring you joy.

“We can find short-term relief by engaging in things that calm the nervous system, bring joy and increase mindfulness. Going to the gym once might help you feel great for the 60 minutes of class. But how can we take that feeling with us? Practicing these techniques consistently will help individuals to ‘take the practice with them’ outside of the gym, off of the mat, or off of the trail, or out of the garden, et cetera.”

What to Do When You Don’t Feel Like It

If you’re feeling really low and unmotivated when it comes to activity, rest assured you’re not alone. The way out of that is to take small, consistent steps.

“Start small (in duration/intensity), but be consistent,” Knopik says. “This is a practice.”

She suggests thinking of movement like a muscle that you want to build. To do that, you need consistent effort, as opposed to one big workout session.

“Research suggests that it takes [at least] 21 days to create (or alternatively, break) a habit,” Knopik says. “Getting up and moving for a short amount of time every day (as little as 15 minutes) will help create a habit. This doesn’t mean that it won’t be challenging to do it on the days that we feel low or unmotivated, but rather that we are making a commitment to ourselves. Put it in your calendar like any other appointment or meeting and try to adopt the mindset that you won’t cancel a meeting with yourself.”

What to Do if You’ve Never Felt that Post-Workout High Everybody Talks About

If your experience of exercise has so far only been one of struggle, discomfort and physical exhaustion, you’re not alone – and through a little patience, you can find an activity that you enjoy.

“First off, know that your experience is not unique, many of us feel the same way when we first get started,” Knopik says. “Second, start small but be consistent. Finally, experiment with different types of movement. Exercise is not a ‘one size fits all’ activity. Find movement that brings you some aspect of joy. Find an exercise buddy that will hold you accountable and that you enjoy spending time with. Social support is such a huge part of our human experience and tying that to physical activity can have such a wonderful impact.”

Postpartum Vitality

Through a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) lens, pregnancy is considered the most depleting life event a person will encounter in their lifetime. That can feel a bit heavy at first glance and obviously there are benefits that far outweigh that, but I think it’s important to bear in mind the magnitude of this life event. To consider all that the body must create & support to bring life into this world. It’s pretty mind blowing when you consider it. In the same light, I think it’s incredibly important that we acknowledge and appreciate this postnatal time as an important time to support the mother’s capacity to thrive again. Which we all know is ironic since it’s also when baby requires the most from mother. Combine that with the overwhelm of new things to learn, requirements to fulfill, feeling a lack of connection with baby, feeling pressure to “get back in shape” and being flooded by others opinions on how that should happen. It’s like withdrawing money from an already overdrawn account hoping it will somehow work out in the positive. Though everyone has their strong opinions on exactly how a mother should care for herself postpartum, there are some simple ways mothers can support themselves with yoga, that don’t require a lot of time or energy expenditure. 

Through a TCM lens the most important thing to address during this period is a deficiency of the precious vital substances of the body. After 10 months of creating and collecting precious resources to create & maintain this life inside of you, it’s now time to bring the focus back to your body’s capacity to thrive. Like the oxygen mask on an airplane, we know all too well that we can’t be helpful to others unless we find some time to be selfish and focus in on our own health. Of course, nutrition is important but how we manage our energy and support it through introspective practices can be a simple and precious asset for mothers. 

In yoga the more introspective, still practices are the most nourishing. Practices like restorative yoga & meditation can be such powerful tools to have in your arsenal. The good news is that most women really enjoy these practices. With so much pressure to get back in shape after pregnancy, I can’t stress enough how important it is to refill the well with some good nourishment. This nourishment can take many forms: nutrition, supplements, rest, meditation, restorative yoga, mindful moments in your day; but its presence is key to thriving on all levels postpartum. When we support our internal health the positive effects spill over into every other system. 


Here are some of my top tips for supporting the body’s capacity to thrive from a TCM perspective with yoga:

  • Consistency is key. If yoga feels like the right path for you, I encourage new moms to invest in just 5-10mins a day of restorative yoga and when/if you feel like you want more you can linger longer but don’t feel like you need to. I recommend picking 1 restorative pose (see pictures as examples in this article) and staying there for 5-10mins. If you’re feeling restless try some deep breathing here. Restorative yoga is meant to be a form of nourishment in the stillness, as the body rests the nervous system & energy can shift from the external world to the internal, to support the internal systems & health. Restorative yoga is different from traditional yoga in that you’re not looking for a stretch here or any strong sensations, think of this as a practice to support your body to relax. There are so many brilliant checks and balances built into our internal systems, constantly trying to bring us back to balance. In a deficiency state we simply need to support our body to relax so the body can do what it does best- bounce back and be resilient. So, find a pose you like and feel comfortable in, use household items to create a cozy setup (pillows, cushions, towels, etc) and trust in your body’s capacity to thrive as you create some space for your cells to do the work. Soften or close your eyes as you allow your attention to rest on the breath. Allow yourself to relax into the shape of the pose and sense this as the time your body can take rest and soak up the nourishment of the stillness. Sense your energy shift from the more outward thinking, creating, doing to all the internal microscopic cellular maintenance and ATP production that you can’t see. As your body shifts from spending all its time and energy going, going, going – it can now shift its focus to supporting your vitality. Perhaps you can tune into a sense of this cellular vibration in the stillness.
  • Mindful moments are valuable. Pinpoint a few check-in moments in your day. Maybe that’s when you’re brushing your teeth or cooking or driving or dressing for the day. Any task you do daily is a great opportunity. Use these as a reminder to notice how you’re feeling, notice your breath, maybe notice the connection to life in the breath. Allow yourself to simply listen, without judgment, without needing it to be any different, without trying to change what you feel. Listen with compassion, as you would for your closest friend. Based on those mindful moments you may want to say no a little more on days you’re feeling more tired or notice how your body responds to movement and decide what’s best by listening to how you feel and how your body responds after.
  • Energy management throughout your day is key. Notice how you spend your energy. If you were to imagine it as an energy currency, where are you spending your energy? Does it align with what’s most important to you? Are there areas you can shift? Keep in mind this isn’t just about saying no, it’s also about doing the things that need to be done without spending a lot of energy doing it. Can I walk into the grocery and gather my food & nutrients for the week with a sense of ease instead of urgency? Is it possible to go through the same event of my day (and possibly take the same amount of time doing it) with less energy expenditure? There’s no right or wrong here, just experiment.
  • It takes time. After 10 months of hard work your body needs some time to nourish itself on a deep level and is also usually working against a lack of sleep. So, give yourself some slack and know that every little thing you do is helpful even though the changes will be happening slowly over months. There are no shortcuts to deep nourishment & vitality.
  • Remember that you are important & your health is important. It’s easy to get lost in the sea of tasks, but it’s important that your self-care comes from this place. I like this simple mantra regularly for postnatal women, “MY health matters.” 

Yoga for Acne: How to Heal & Love the Skin You’re In

By a Yoga Medicine® Contributor.

Yoga is known for many things. From a mindfulness practice designed to
relieve stress, to a physical activity that serves to improve flexibility and body
strength, yoga is meant to support the mind-body relationship. And part of that
means helping to heal and love the skin you’re in. Starting with the ways in
which it works to fight off acne.

It may sound silly, but you should make yoga a part of your skin care routine,
especially if you’re having a hard time combatting bumps and blemishes. In
conjunction with applying a treatment like acne cream, washing your face twice a day, and keeping your skin hydrated, yoga can also help you in your
struggle with breakouts of any sort.

Yoga for Acne: Understanding the Connection

In order to understand how yoga can affect your skin and diminish acne, it’s
important to first recognize the causes of acne development. Contrary to
popular belief, the reasoning behind the appearance of acne doesn’t solely
come from the dirt and pollution your skin gets exposed to when you’re going
about your day. Although they can and do play a role in your skin’s health,
other factors, namely, stress and unhealthy circulatory and digestive systems
can largely contribute to acne development.

Thankfully, countering these issues can be done through the practice of yoga,
as the ancient tradition actively works to address these issues through
different asanas and breathing techniques that serve to reduce stress,
detoxify, and repair these internal bodily functions/systems.

3 Must-Try Asanas & Techniques to Heal Your Skin

See the benefits for yourself! Next time you’ve found yourself with a pimple
problem, consider using yoga as part of your skin care solutions. To get you
started off on the right foot, try these three yoga asanas and breathing
techniques to better manage acne and the overall state of your skin:

1. Surya Namaskar

Surya Namaskar, an asana commonly referred to as the Sun Salutation in the
English language, has proven to be an effective way to not only boost energy
levels, but also detoxify the body. Specifically, practicing different poses as
part of performing Surya Namaskar, such as the Bhujangasana (the Cobra
pose), is great for detoxification and improving cell turnover in the body by
stimulating facial muscles, both of which are beneficial for treating acne. And the best part? This pose is one of the easier beginner poses to do in
comparison to other more complex yoga positions, so if you’re just starting
out, this is a great place to begin.

2. Sarvangasana

Sarvangasana is the Sanskirt term for the yoga pose generally known as the
Shoulder Stand. This asana affects all of the limbs in your entire body and is
characterized by laying down on your back comfortably, pushing your hips all
the way forward so that your chest is closer to your chin, and lifting both of
your legs up together so that they’re pointed towards the direction of the sky.
The purpose in doing this is to boost blood flow circulation throughout your
body and further relax your mind and body. Similar to the Surya Namaskar
(Sun Salutation) asana, the increase of circulation, particularly in your face,
can naturally detoxify your body and lead to an increase in cellular production.
Therefore, serving to alleviate pimples and unwanted acne!

3. Pranayama

The development of acne often comes from high levels of stress from an
individual. The reasoning for this is due to the fact that high stress can cause
a spike in your cortisol levels, a hormone that’s actually referred to as the
“stress hormone.” When your body releases more cortisol, it naturally causes
your sebaceous glands to produce more oil, which in turn, clogs pores and
leads to breakouts. That’s why we recommend using Pranayama, a breathing
meditation within yoga, in an effort to keep your cortisol levels down and
better balance your mind-body connection. Doing this will allow you to relieve
stress more quickly and efficiently, and thereby work to treat, control, and heal

The Takeaways

These three asanas and breathing techniques are a great place to start in finding the connection between yoga and acne and loving the skin you’re in. And while you’re on your journey to clear skin and healthy living through yoga, you can learn more practices and techniques from Yoga Medicine®’s  online yoga programs and/or online yoga classes

Tiffany Cruikshank Serves Up ‘Yoga Medicine’

By the Editorial Team for Salonpas.

Yoga pioneer, Tiffany Cruikshank, continues to teach and spread awareness about the benefits of yoga.

Salonpas sat down with Wellness Warrior, Tiffany Cruikshank, the founder of 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 non-profits — one conducting research on yoga’s therapeutic benefits and the other supporting a shelter for women rescued from trafficking in Delhi, India.

Tell us how you became a yoga expert?

I’ve been teaching yoga since I was 16 and went off to college. At the time, the Internet wasn’t around yet and there weren’t really any yoga studios to go to so I found a teacher who trained me so I could bring my yoga with me as I went off to school. Yoga has been a huge tool for me, for so many things, over the past three decades of my life and my passion for sharing these tools has continued to grow.

When I finished my pre-med degree, I went on to complete a graduate degree in Chinese Medicine with a specialty in sports medicine. My fascination with the human body grew as I helped many athletes achieve their goals and support their health along the way. I’ve seen thousands of patients over the past two decades and trained thousands of yoga teachers around the world, but my goal has always been to help as many people as possible and share these tools with the world. I’ve seen so many patients and students shift from unhappy and unhealthy to feeling great and being able to appreciate the richness of their lives. That’s what I enjoy most, seeing people shift and watching them embrace their lives with a new perspective as their experience in their body/mind changes.

What is the primary ‘medicine’ that yoga provides?

Yoga can be therapeutic in so many ways. Whether that’s with more gentle, introspective practices like yin yoga, restorative yoga, meditation or more active practices like vinyasa yoga that challenge the tissues in a different way. The physical postures can help support the health of the tissues and there’s a mountain of new connective tissue research to support this.

For example, new research suggests that the passive, held stretches (like a yin yoga practice) can have an anti-inflammatory and anti-fibrotic effect on the tissues. We also know that the more active practices load the tissues in a way that speaks to the cells responsive to loading (fibroblasts) and instigates healthy adaptations to this, like increased production of collagen & hyaluronic acid. Of course there’s also the importance of a healthy nervous system for stress resilience and its impacts on the rest of the body & mind. I’m a firm believer in the importance of supporting our internal, less visible, systems to support our underlying health capacity from that. The beauty of yoga is that, though it’s not a cure all, with a little guidance it can be a useful tool to support all these different facets of the body and mind.

Has the pandemic altered the training that YogaMedicine provides the medical community?

Like most industries it has left us finding creative ways to continue to support our communities. The need for yoga is stronger than ever, especially as people are stuck at home, sitting at their computers more and looking for ways to increase their health & resilience. We now offer all sorts of online trainings & classes for students, yoga teachers and healthcare providers to make our offerings accessible to anyone, anywhere. We also offer a unique platform of online yoga classes for anyone looking to for yoga practices to support their health. We have a new therapeutic line-up each week with a balance of both active classes & the nourishment of the more introspective practices as well as myofascial release, breath work, and so much more. I’m a firm believe in the power of education so each month we also offer an educational video with insights on how to get the most therapeutic benefits from your practice.

Is it more needed than ever?

The pandemic has shed some light on the importance of our health and the value of supporting that. Nothing can replace your health and there are so many simple ways to support it. It’s our mission to help provide accessible resources for those that want to optimize their health. What I love about yoga is that you don’t need any fancy tools or expensive gadgets, just your own body awareness and a commitment to your health.

What advice do you have to a yoga ‘newbie’ who wants to try yoga?

Try a bunch of classes and teachers; there’s someone out there for every person and every need. You just need to find what works best for you. I believe the best teachers empower their students through education and awareness to navigate the practice and listen to their body. There’s no need to be good at yoga to reap the benefits; in fact, sometimes those that struggle most get the most out of it. So, go easy on yourself, listen to your body and find what’s best for you. Only you know what’s helpful.

Also, I believe one of the most valuable things a regular yoga practice provides is a heightened sense of awareness. This awareness or mindfulness is what helps us better navigate our health and the endless stream of resources out there. I can give better insights to my doctor when I’m more aware of what’s working or not working. I can better navigate the endless nutritional options out there by listening and sensing what feels best rather than just depriving myself. When the body thrives all the systems benefit so health shouldn’t be about depriving or demolishing but about supporting what our bodies are designed to do… be resilience and adaptable! And mindfulness give us the capacity to fine tune our health.

Tell us about a typical day in your life from when you arise to when you retire.

I’m typically an early riser; I like to seize the day! First thing I do is savor some green tea. I like to sit and prepare for my day with tea and meditate to set the tone for the day. Then I like to dive into my work early, usually around 7 am. I LOVE what I do so I’m usually excited to jump in. At some point I pull my head out of work to make my green smoothie for breakfast. Then usually around noon, I do a more active yoga practice to get me moving. Sometimes this is a more energetic practice and other times it is more introspective nourishment in movement, depending on what I need. Around 5pm, I turn off my work to start cooking, I like to eat dinner early and be present with my family to enjoy the evening. Then early to bed as I like to get around 8-9hrs of sleep. When I’m filming courses or classes, it’s basically tea then filming all day and trying to remember to eat and drink water, lol!

When You Need to Cultivate Calm: How Yoga Can Help Ease Anxiety

By Tamara Y. Jeffries for Yoga Journal.

Last spring, when we thought we might be in for a couple of weeks of lockdown, we stocked up on snacks and prepared for a short quarantine “retreat.” Little did we know that the shutdown would turn into an extended sentence. As the pandemic continued to spiral, anxiety symptoms surged. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), some 40 percent of people surveyed said they were struggling with their mental health, three to four times as many as in the year prior.

Anxiety—feeling worried, nervous, or ill at ease—is common, even normal under the circumstances, says Diane Malaspina, PhD, E-RYT 500, an applied psychologist and Yoga Medicine Therapeutic Specialist. Worry may intensify during stressful life events (both positive and negative), such as planning a wedding or getting a divorce. But when your worries won’t turn off even after the stressful situation ends, you may be experiencing generalized anxiety disorder (GAD).

How Stress Affects the Body

When you feel threatened, your body releases hormones to help you respond to the stressor: Your heart rate goes up, and your breath becomes shallow as your brain instinctively prepares to fight, flee, or freeze. When the threat is resolved, body systems return to normal—at least until the next threat comes along.

But when the “threat” is ongoing and comes from a danger from which there’s no easy escape, you can never fully relax. Stress hormones keep surging, taxing the system and putting you at increased risk for chronic health problems including high blood pressure, heart conditions, gastrointestinal disorders, and a weakened immune system.

“For my clients who are especially anxious, symptoms show up in the body—headaches, back pain, tension in the shoulders and back,” says Johnette Walser, RYT 200, a clinical counselor in North Carolina. “They don’t recognize it as anxiety because it seems like a physical problem.”

Yoga Reset

Fortunately, yoga has long been used to ease anxiety—and science supports its efficacy, so much so that health care providers are incorporating it into their care plans for patients, according to Malaspina. Mindfulness practices that help reset negative thinking patterns—and movement and breathwork that tone the vagus nerve—are especially helpful for people with anxiety, Malaspina says.

If you are experiencing acute anxiety, going for a run or a walk or simply noticing your breathing can help you clear your head until you’re ready for mindfulness practices like meditation, or pranayama techniques such as Nadi Shodhana Pranayama (alternate-nostril breathing), Malaspina says.

Chamomile has long been a go-to for sleep, but it may help ease long-term anxiety as well. Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania found that people who took 500 mg of pharmaceutical grade chamomile extract three times a day showed milder symptoms of anxiety, had few side effects, and took longer to relapse after they stopped taking the herbal formula. In a follow-up, participants who took the herb maintained fewer anxiety symptoms than people who took a placebo. A health bonus: Chamomile-takers reported lower blood pressure and body weight as well.

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