Twists with Benefits

Private Lessons for individual form practiceThe holidays have come and gone as they always do.  As fun, stressful or enjoyable as they were, they probably left us feeling a little lethargic and overindulged.  Now it’s time to detox!

If you take my class regularly, you know that twisting is the focus of the month for January.  Almost all styles of yoga incorporate twisting into the practice.  So, what’s so important about twisting anyway?

Twisting cleanses and detoxifies the internal organs.  Think about ringing out a wet rag.  When we twist, the liver, kidneys, stomach, pancreas and spleen are being massaged and cleansed of toxins.  When practiced regularly, twisting relieves abdominal bloating and promotes better digestion.  And it’s more pleasant than drinking wheatgrass juice.

If you don’t use it, you lose it.  When we twist, we are lengthening the muscles, tendons and ligaments around the spine.  A lack of twisting can lead to a lack of mobility, especially if you live a more sedentary lifestyle (desk work, lots of travel, etc).  For the same reason, twisting helps to relieve back pressure and pain.

The good news is twisting is easy to incorporate into your life whether it be at yoga class, home or work.  Twisting in your chair is simple and discrete – just remember to lengthen your spine before you twist.

Happy Detoxing!

Om for the Holidays

Every year in January or February, my classes are jam packed with yogis and yoginis who have resolved to be healthier in the New Year.  Some look exhausted, overworked and so ready to take some “me-time”.  They have survived the holiday craze and now it is (thankfully) over.  A New Year has come, and we are all ready to start fresh making this year better than the last.  In my opinion, New Year Resolutions are great, but Holiday Resolutions are better.

For many of us, the holidays spell S-T-R-E-S-S.  The decorating, holiday card writing, cooking and baking and money spending (is your blood pressure rising yet?) tend to get to us.

Here’s the thing:  We all know the negative effect stress can have on our bodies manifesting in the form of heart disease, insomnia, obesity, gastrointestinal problems and the list goes on, so if you want to do something good for yourself (which you should) the holiday season is the best time to practice yoga.

I know what you are thinking.  It’s easier said than done.  And, in a way, my telling you not to stress automatically causes your mind to hone in on all of the stressors in your lives.  So here are some tips on how to stay sane during the holiday season.

1. Practice more Yoga: Showing up is the hardest part.  Yes, even harder than crow pose!  Once you are in class, you can make the practice your own based on how you feel.  If that means staying in child’s pose for 10 minutes, PERFECT!  If that means attempting a challenging arm balance, GREAT!  If you can’t make it to class, practice at home even if that means sitting in meditation for 5 minutes before starting your day.

2. Breathe: If you find the rush of the holiday consuming you, stop and take a few breaths.  Use the full capacity of your lungs and feel the belly rise and fall with the inhales and exhales.  Also, try lengthening the exhalation.  At the bottom of your breath, hold empty and savor the stillness.

3. Set goals, but don’t become attached to results:  In yoga, we talk a lot about presence.  Staying in the here and now.  Most of us are very goal oriented.  When we obsess about the results of our goals, we are throwing away the present moment and living in the future.  We are all guilty of it.  This does not mean we shouldn’t set goals.  It just means that we should be present in the process of completing our goals without worrying about the outcome.  This way, we can really connect to the things we love about the holiday season.

So you decide what is more important – getting the holiday cards out on time or preventing heart disease.  My example is extreme, and no, holiday stress probably won’t kill you, but lowering our stress level is part of being healthy.