Health

Restorative Yoga

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Restorative yoga is a form of yoga that seeks to find physical, mental and emotional relaxation.  There are props oh so many props, bolsters, blankets, blocks and many more.  I have been participating in several restorative yoga classes, usually when I am feeling extra stressed and have the need to be soothed. I have never left one of these classes feeling unfulfilled. I'm always glad that I went.

So, it was with some delight and trepidation that I was asked to be a regular teacher of a restorative class on a Sunday afternoon.  I said yes of course, then silently inside had a panic attack.  I have never taught one of these classes before and having a regular gig was just a little intimidating.

Thank goodness, I found a 30-hour training locally, what a godsend!  This training is giving me a framework for developing classes and learning more of the philosophy of this type of yoga.

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I have always said there are two prerequisites for doing restorative yoga, that is breathing and lying down!  But it is so much more, it’s about surrendering and enlightenment. In some of the faster paced yoga classes like Vinyasa and Hatha it’s about finding your edge and staying there.  Restorative is the complete opposite of this, it’s about finding your comfort level and relaxing using props or feeling support of the ground beneath you, it’s about meditation and slowing down in our fast-paced lives.

So off I went to teach my first class.  90 minutes…...whaaat!!  That’s an awfully long time to fill.  I had spent days putting together just the right mediation, researching restorative poses like a PhD student.

I was a bag of nerves when I arrived at the yoga studio, everything had to be right, the lighting, the music, the temperature of the room.

People started wandering in to take the class, yikes this is really happening I thought to myself.  We all got settled, I took a deep breath, invited everyone to close their eyes and started with a soothing meditation.  It was at that moment when I relaxed, threw all my expectations out of the window and decided just to be, just be present in the moment with my students and with myself.

The 90 minutes went by with comforting poses, feelings of trust and clarification and a deep support of the poses that were presented.  I felt like I was in my element, I had found my thing, and I was and am eternally grateful that all went well.

Now onto developing the next class and hopefully many more.

A Review of a Mind of Your Own by Kelly Brogan

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My very informed son suggested I read this, and as I always do what my adult children tell me (because they are usually right!), I bought the book, listened to the podcast, got the T-shirt!

The book is written by an integrative psychiatrist (holistic approach to mental health issues) especially written for women who have depression and anxiety issues.  I was so blown away by it to the extent that I have been buying extra copies and giving them away.

The premise of the book is the best way to heal the mind is to heal the body.  With some serious changes to diet and lifestyle, depression and other mental health diagnoses cannot just be helped but cured.  That’s a bold statement but she has anecdotal evidence from years and years of patients successfully implementing her guidelines and resolving all their issues

Kelly states that it all begins in the gut, if the gut flora is off then there is an imbalance in the body, especially the brain affecting mood.  She recommends that you eliminate gluten and dairy (oh boy no more pizza!), drink filtered water, because the water table is full of drugs and bugs and the EPA know and are doing nothing about it (this I think is outrageous), stop taking synthetic hormones like the contraceptive pill and incorporate meditation and yoga into your schedule and stop wearing perfume - now that is going a little too far, I am really not willing to give up my Estee Lauder habit! And absolutely no alcohol.  She also recommends adding an Omega 3, Vitamin B6 and B12 and a multi vitamin. 

So as a lifelong sufferer of depression and anxiety and a spring where I unexpectedly was struggling with this I decided to give it a go.   

Week 1: I was miserable, no cheese or wine what is the point of going on!  I was not too hungry but was craving dairy and bread all week, but I valiantly soldiered on.

Week 2:  Much much better, getting in my stride, beginning to feel lighter and glowing (skin clear and bright).

Week 3:  Becoming a lifestyle.  I think adding the vitamins has been key, Omega 3 and the B6 vitamins are closely linked to mood disorders and most of us are deficient in these so no wonder we are sad.

One of the points that Kelly is quite insistent on is getting rid of all psych meds as soon as possible.  I knew this was a no-go for me as soon as I read it.  She may be right but I will never, never give up my meds, I think it could be potentially disaster for me and my family may well leave me on a top of a mountain with no supplies and no chance of escape if I did that.  It would not be a gift to me or my family.

Kelly sees patients in New York and will not even see you if you do not eat meat (meat is rich in B vitamins) so I am not going to see her anytime soon because I am quite happy being a vegetarian/vegan thank you.

She also recommends you get rid of all the chemicals in your house.  Now steady on, as a self-proclaimed OCD cleaner I would have a hard time giving up my Lysol and my Bleach, but I am willing to do in baby steps so the dishwasher cleaner just went organic as did hand soap and shampoo!

All in all, a very very interesting read. Most of all it gave me a plan to make some healthy lifestyle changes on my own which gives me some sense of destiny of a lifelong issue with depression that I can control with certain interventions.

STOP PRESS:  Just had the results of some routine blood tests.  After a month on this regime my A1C (indicator of blood sugar) dropped over a point which I have been battling for a couple of years and the doc also recommended a cut to my thyroid medicine (which has never happened) because my thyroid is beginning to function better – yeah for healthy living!

Still doing the raw diet as much as I can and pretty much vegan 90% of the time.  Does not suit everyone but my body does seem to like it so we will carry on.

Until the next time, 

Angie 

My Week of Yoga Classes

Every week I look at my schedule and my first priority is seeing where and when I can fit in a yoga class.  May had been crazy due to many preschool classes, sometimes up to 10 a week that left my own personal yoga practice…well lacking to say the least.

This week I feel like my summer vacation started early as my only commitment was teaching one preschool class.  Heaven!

Here is what my yoga week looked like:

Sunday:  Vinyasa flow class taught by a particularly gifted and experienced teacher.  I try hard to get to her Sunday morning class as she teaches alignment based yoga and I always come away feeling like I have been to an intense but very good workshop.

Monday:  Mixed Level Yoga with a really, really good yoga sister who has become my friend.  She was a theatre major at NYU and so the banter and elevated entertaining chatter makes this ambitious class (well for me it always is!) just much more fun. And that 75 minutes always speeds by!

Tuesday:  I recently found a 5.30pm Power Yoga Class that I would have thought a few months ago was beyond me. However, even though this class is a humbling experience. I love the pace, the challenging new poses, the art of breathing and positioning to reach the pose. I love how it makes me realize that yoga is not about achieving the perfect position, it’s about the breath and finding that space within yourself that was not there before.

Wednesday:  Teaching assistant for a Restorative Reiki Class.  If you ever have a chance to take a restorative class, I highly recommend it.  The prerequisites are if you can breathe and lie down!  As the title of the class suggests it is designed to restore your soul through several compassionate, non-impact poses and with the added energy of Reiki, this class is just a joy to take and to assist in.  This is when I get blissed out with my yoga.

Thursday:  Teaching a very challenging but ever so fun family yoga class.  This week there was a grand total of 3 kids! A 10-month-old, a 1 year old and a 3-year-old, and none of them had any intention of doing any yoga! So, I did Very Hungry Caterpillar to myself, sang I’m A Little Teapot to myself 5 times and read the yoga book Rachel In the Garden all to myself….out loud.  Sometimes you just have to roll and know that working with preschoolers is like herding cats.

Friday: A very lovely beginners class, which is not so much beginner in its pace but maybe in its poses.  It’s always good to go back to the basics and this is a class I look forward to and enjoy.

So that was my week.  Yoga every darn day!  How much better and grounded and peaceful I feel after a frenetic April and May.  Time to rest and restore and get back on my mat. 

Hope you're having a great week.

Being a Yoga Teacher

So now that the spring semester is coming to an end, my schedule looks like it may be changing and I have some exciting prospects for the summer.

This spring has been increasingly busy with my yoga teaching commitments and although it has been a wonderful experience there have been some pros and cons:

  • Negative: I have had much less time to attend a yoga class for my own practice and I really, really miss it.  I know it’s important to keep up with my personal practice but when I have weeks where I have 10 classes, it’s just hard to fit in.  I have always found it hard to practice at home as there are too many distractions, folding laundry, emptying the dishwasher, stopping the dogs from jumping on my head! But I am going to have to get disciplined and work on this. There are a thousand YouTube videos out there, I just have to do it when I have a quiet half hour.
  • Negative: Teaching yoga is not always fun.  I know, shocker! I thought I would always be inspired and blissed out.  But teaching yoga to kids can be rough, especially when they are not listening and throwing things at me or you get a group of 20 one year olds (one year olds don’t do yoga!). Also, I have taught a few adult classes where the class gave me nothing… just cold straight faces.  They were immune to all my fragile attempts at humor, not a great feeling.
  • Positive: the more I teach, the more my confidence builds.  I am beginning to find my yoga voice and do not have to follow my notes quite as closely as I did when I first started.  Sequences are becoming familiar and fun.
  • Negative: I have no intention of teaching yoga full time but if I were it would be super tough to make a living doing this job.  No one got rich teaching yoga!
  • Positive: A big plus is meeting some super nice people who are very much on my wave length.  It is challenging, yet refreshing to meet new people and it certainly has widened my world.

I am currently teaching 6 plus preschool classes a week but in a couple of weeks those sessions will end.  For the summer, I am already booked to run a fairy yoga class, this has the potential of being so much fun and I already have my wings in preparation.

I also intend to market myself more as a teacher of adult yoga, I really think that will build my skills.

Looking back, I definitely over committed since graduating as a yoga teacher. I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it and gain experience and confidence.  But this came at a price and really if I am overwhelmed and losing the enjoyment of teaching, then what is the point?  I continue to strive for balance in all areas, but especially in the realm of yoga and teaching.

Until next time, 

Angie 

Raw Food Update

It’s been over 6 weeks since I started this 2-week Raw Food Diet experiment.  I kinda got into a groove and am enjoying it so much I just want to keep going.  I feel great, the eczema on my skin is completely cleared up and I have more energy and less brain fog than I did.

I am not being purist or rigid about being a raw foodie and do have cooked food (yes that includes cheese!) every now and again.  But when I do, I immediately feel bloated and uncomfortable and my skin gets very itchy, so that is a huge incentive not to stray.

The first 3 or so weeks as a raw foodie, I had this huge appetite, it seemed like every couple of hours my body yelled “more food please.”  However, that has calmed down now and I do not feel the need to eat a small horse to satisfy my hunger cravings.  Sometimes it is hard to get all the calories in.  On a raw food diet, for my gender, and weight I should be shooting for 2000 calories a day.  That’s an awful lot of bananas!  In addition, a lot of that intake is supposed to be leafy greens to get in all the nutrients and protein that your body needs.  I hate greens, I know silly, right?  So, I have added a daily vitamin and vegan protein shake to my daily intake to try and make up for what may be lacking in my diet.

This is what my breakfast usually looks like: 

This is what my lunch looks like: 

This is what my snacks look like: 

Also, on a recent trip to Vegas I wondered how much I would be able to eat raw food in a city where burgers and nachos are king. We actually saw a restaurant called Heart Attack Burger where people over 350 pounds ate free - there is something very wrong with that.  But it was not hard at all. The hotel had a marketplace downstairs with a cool fridge stocked with fresh watermelon, pineapple and grapes.  And of course, everywhere you go there was a famous Vegas Buffet so it really was not hard to make a beeline for the salad bar and load up.

You may be asking yourself, how much weight has she lost?  I am happy to report I have lost a whopping 4 pounds.  Let’s alert the media!  However, this whole exercise was not about weight loss but health. I have also lost almost 2 dress sizes and that makes me very happy.

So, I will keep going and I will continue to post updates.

Has anyone out there done a raw food diet?  What were your highs and lows?

May the Force Be With You

During my yoga training we were invited to do part one of a three-part training in the healing energy of Reiki.  Reiki is often used in yoga practice as it is the perfect accompaniment of Zen healing energy. A healing system that channels universal life-force energy: This system was originally developed by Mikao Usui in the early 1900s in Japan.

The word Reiki can be translated like this. Rei means spiritual wisdom, and ki means energy, so Reiki means spiritual energy.

What Reiki Is Not

It is spiritual but not religious, it has been and is used by Christians, Hindus, Buddhist, atheist and agnostics alike.

Reiki is not massage or reflexology.

What Reiki Is

Reiki is gentle, harmless and natural.  You do not need any special equipment or tools. 

Reiki is balancing relaxing and energizing.

Reiki is simple to do - anyone can do it, and anyone can receive it.  With use of channeling into this universal energy and following hand positions that can be light touch or non-touch many people have gained great benefits from this practice.

Part 1 taught me the basics, Part 2 taught me the deeper meaning and Part 3 taught me how to teach Reiki to other people.

I found the training so interesting and deeply meaningful and I know it will be a wonderful addition to my yoga practice, either with myself or with others.

So far, I have Reikied the dog! Result: very chill blissed out dog. I also tried it on the cat who just got annoyed with me and wandered off, apparently, this is not an unusual reaction.

What I do know is that the interest in Reiki is growing and I am very proud to be now known as a Reiki Master, sounds a bit like a character in Star Wars, doesn’t it?

Just another step in my yoga journey.  I cannot wait to see what is next...

Why Yoga?

  • Improves athletic performance
  • Improves quality of life
  • Improves short term memory
  • Increases muscle strength and tone
  • Helps boost immunity system
  • Increases mental concentration
  • Improves quality of sleep
  • Gives you more energy
  • Better mental clarity
  • Improves skin tone
  • Improves self esteem
  • Improves posture (when I started yoga I was 5ft 6, now I like to think I am 5ft 6 ¼!)
  • Improves balance
  • Improves flexibility
  • Greater physical stamina (as noticed when hiking mountains in New Hampshire)
  • Helps to shred excess fat
  • Increases general productivity
  • Slows down the aging process
  • Improves ability to deal with stress
  • Reduces risk of memory loss, anxiety, obesity, cancer, stroke, heart disease, back pain, osteoporosis, drug dependency, depression, hypertension, Type 2 diabetes, infections and thus excessive health care costs.
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And I can say yes to all of this.  I now measure my life before yoga and after yoga.

True Story: Hubby and I were in Philly and ended up in a diner for lunch.  I have a severe shell fish allergy and every time I have an exposure it gets worse, believe me it’s not pretty.  So, I am hyper-vigilant about asking lots of questions when we eat out.  But on this occasion, I forgot and within 10 minutes of eating my lunch I knew there had been cross contamination.  I immediately started feeling sick.  I sent hubby off to find a drug store to get Benadryl quicker than you can say anaphylactoid shock!  While I was waiting for him I started to meditate putting into practice all the meditation techniques I had learned in teacher training.  My symptoms slowly started to subside until I felt relatively normal.  When hubby came back I still took drugs (I like drugs!) but not sure I needed them.  Really you can’t make this stuff up and yoga and meditation has given me so many tools, well just to deal with life.

Until next time, 

Angie 

An Update: Breast Cancer Screening

A little while ago I talked about getting tested for the BRCA gene due a close family history of breast and ovarian cancer. Well the 2 weeks promised result deadline turned into a month...sigh. I was not losing sleep over it, but I did want to know.  The results came in and it was good news. Sort of. 

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First off, I do not have a positive BRCA gene, which means I do not have that 85% risk of developing breast cancer in my lifetime. However, this test does not only test the BRCA gene but several other genes too. A change was found in one of my genes that puts me in a high-risk group of developing breast cancer in the next 5 years. Oh bother, now that’s annoying. Still I did not really freak out, which is not like me. Just did some deep breathing and tried to focus on the information that was being given to me.

The recommendations are that I do lots of surveillance, breast MRI every 6 months alternating with mammogram every 6 months. Deep joy - lots of boob squishing!  But I will do this, it's mildly inconvenient, but relatively noninvasive and the regularity of the imaging gives me comfort that if any of those nasty cancer cells tries to invade my body, it will be caught early.

Also, there was a recommendation to start the drug Tamoxifen right away. This is a med used to prevent breast cancer and to treat those who already have it.  But the risks of some very nasty side effects are high.  I will not be doing this!  I just do not want to put this highly toxic drug in my body.  Now like I have said before, I am not averse to taking drugs and this is a personal decision, so if you are in a similar situation please do not be swayed by my point of view. 

If I had a diagnosis of breast cancer I would pop that tamoxifen pill in my mouth like it was an M&M, but I do not. So I think I am going to go the conservative route for now because quality of life is very important to me. 

Then part of me thinks with this whole genetic coding thing am I just watching the clock until the Big C strikes me.  I remind myself I cannot live like that, fear will keep me stuck and prevent me from enjoying the stuff that gives me deep joy in my life, of which there is an abundance of right now. I am very blessed!

So, me and my boobs are just going to soldier on, getting smooshed, prodded and poked and have a positive attitude and (try) to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Anyone out there going through something similar?  I would love to hear your stories, feel free to post in the comments below.

For the meantime, here’s to boobs, they serve us well.  

Xo

Angie 

 

 

Etiquette in Yoga

I am not always known for having good behavior in all areas of my life, but I really love that quote from Eleanor Roosevelt, "well behaved women rarely make history."

However, I am very persnickety about my and others etiquette in a yoga class.  Here are a few tips that I think are important:

  • Be On TimeThis is super important, especially if the teacher is starting with a quiet meditation (which they usually do). There's nothing worse than someone coming in late, tripping over everyone to find a spot, all the while muttering “Sorry, sorry, so sorry”.
  • Practice Good Personal HygieneDespite what everyone may think, yoga can be a pretty intense workout and sweating, or glowing as I like to call it, does happen. So, I always make sure I have on that clinical strength deodorant. Also, in busy classes peeps can be close to each other so strong smells of perfume or body odor are not a good idea.
  • Do Not Bring Your Phone Into ClassThis has happened to me in more than one class.  One woman answered her phone and had a conversation! The whole point of yoga is to go within and disconnect from the frenetic world for a while.  I always leave my phone in the car so I am not tempted to look at it and it's quite refreshing to be disconnected for a little while. 
  • Wear Appropriate Clothing: I once (and it was the only time...sigh) took hubby to class with me.  He was opposite a very nice yoga lady who seemed very appropriately dressed until she did downward facing dog. Then her lovely airy v-necked top revealed a full frontal.  Hubby's ability to concentrate after that was seriously diminished. So, important to think about that, classes are usually co-ed and those men creatures are so visual, so be aware.
  • Stick Around For SavasanaI know people are super busy and often are pulled in a million directions. I myself have been known to make lists in my head during a yoga class.  But that savasana at the end (aka a nap) is SO important to relax, cool down, reassess your practice and prepare for the outside world.  If you run out early, you are not only cheating yourself but interrupting everyone else’s blissed-out experience. Wars have started for less!
  • Thank The TeacherWhatever you think of the class, this teacher showed up and gave you a class.  You may think it is the greatest thing you have experienced since wine was put into boxes, or you may think it was mediocre at best.  Whatever you think, suspend your judgement and thank the teacher.
  • Put Away All Your Stuff (better than you found it)This may speak to my OCD issues of needing everything in its place and put away in the same way it was found.  It's a small irritation when I need a mat and it has not been rolled up neatly by the previous person, or I have to fight my way through a mountain of blocks to find a matching pair (must be the same size and color…. see I told you I had issues!).  It really does not take 2 minutes at the end of class to put everything away better than you found it. And crazy ladies like me will not be swearing under their breath, which really is the antithesis of a yoga class!  Please save me!

These may be little things to many, but these few simple tips can make a much more euphoric experience for everyone. 

Have...Be a great day!

Angie