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It’s 2018: Are you ready to goal?

By Energy, Goal Setting, Values, Wellness, Yoga No Comments

At the beginning of most yoga classes, we set intentions. Intentions bring awareness to qualities we hope to cultivate on and off the mat. Sometimes intentions are hard to choose and sometimes it feels like intentions choose us. Either way, they’re vehicles for yoga to permeate our everyday lives and help us become the kind of people we want to be.

How often during the day, though, do we reflect back on the intention we set at 6am? Do we catch ourselves being patient, non-judgmental, or receptive—or needing to be? Do we purposefully or indifferently set the same intention every day? What do we do with our intentions and how do we know they matter?

If you set a New Year’s resolution for 2018, you’ve either kept it so far or snubbed it. Maybe you didn’t set one because you typically fail, forget about it, or can’t choose one. Statistically, 25% of people abandon their New Year’s resolution after a week, 60% abandon it within six months, and the average person makes the same ill-fated resolution 10 times.

If intentions are more about cultivating virtues and resolutions seem bound to fizzle, how then do we make change? Research tells us that people who regularly write goals down are 42% more likely to achieve them. Our chances for success increase when we articulate our goals to someone we trust. A study about goal setting at Harvard University offers compelling data about why we should write goals down.

Students were asked if they had set clear, written goals for their futures and if they had made specific plans to convert their goals into realities. The baseline: 3% of students had written goals and plans to accomplish them; 13% had goals in their minds but hadn’t written them down; and 84% had no goals at all. Ten years later, the students were interviewed again. The results? The 13% of students who had goals but didn’t write them down earned twice the income of the 84% who had no goals. The 3% who had written goals were earning an average of 10 times as much as the 97% of the class combined.

The left side of the brain is the literal, analytical, sequential, precise, logical side. The right side of the brain is the figurative, creative, irregular, general, imaginative side. If we just think about what we what to achieve or the kind of person we want to become, we’re only using the right side of the brain. But if we think about our dream and write it down, we’re enacting the power of the left brain as well. Writing our goals down creates a greater level of clarity around them while the left brain helps us become aware of opportunities related to achieving them. If we only think about goals using the right brain, we may not see the logical steps or real-life strategies that lay right in front of us.

Writing goals down helps us sort through our thoughts, think big, and identify what we actually want. Written goals create focus and explicit direction. They’re also useful reminders when we get busy or distracted. While it may be true that energy flows where our focus goes, the act of writing goals down allows us to structure time and allocate resources. When we specify the exact, necessary steps to achieve our goals, it’s easier to recognize when we’re too ambitious or unrealistic. To build the resilience needed for eventual execution, celebrating the milestones we reach is equally important as granting self-compassion and a blank slate when we falter.

Goal setting is deceptively simple. It’s a process that requires discipline. We have to slow down, examine our values, and whittle away at the trivial. We have to make decisions about what we truly want. Goal setting isn’t an end in and of itself; it’s a starting point to live life with intention and direction.

Asteya: Character Before Physicality

By Health, Values, Wellness, Yoga No Comments

Most of us who come to Rakta seek satisfaction from the physical aspects of yoga—the strength, flexibility, workout, and sweat. A lot of us are good at applying the spiritual or psychological teachings we learn in class to our personal lives. We often hear the phrase “on and off your mat,” which affirms that yoga is a tool for how we choose to live our lives.

Unless we’re in a teacher training, we generally don’t have time to talk about the yamas and niyamas. The yamas (the don’ts) and niyamas (the dos) are yoga’s ethical guidelines, a map to navigate our individual journeys. The spiritual teachings of yoga go much deeper than the physical practice does. But how much do we know about and focus on these teachings compared to the physical practice? And how aware are we of their daily application to our lifestyles, actions, habits, and relationships?

The five yamas are self-regulating behaviors that govern our interactions with other people and society. They include Ahimsa (non-violence), Satya (truthfulness), Asteya (non-stealing), Brahmacharya (non-excess), and Aparigraha (non-possessiveness, non-greed).

As we move into the season of giving from the intense and time-crunched month of gratitude (with Thanksgiving and the Self-Care Challenge), Asteya has been at the forefront of my mind. Stealing, when it’s less tangible than purposefully taking material items that don’t belong to us, can creep into our subconscious acts and everyday lives. One reason we constantly remind ourselves to live in the present moment is because when we aren’t fully present, we can fall prey to stealing other people’s time, energy, emotions, and resources.

When we don’t live in the present moment and experience life as it is (whether it’s good or bad), we’re stealing from ourselves and possibly others. To cultivate Asteya, we can act from a place of abundance (there’s enough to go around) instead of scarcity (I’m not good enough). When we remind ourselves that we have all we need, we’re less likely to look to other people, items, and activities to make us happy. Fulfillment comes from within.

So how do we practice Asteya in your everyday lives? We follow the Golden Rule, eliminate distractions, and avoid multitasking. Some other simple ways to practice non-stealing include:

  • Say no. If you don’t have the time or energy for a project, don’t commit to it.
  • Be resourceful. Think before you ask for help. Take personal responsibility to make things happen.
  • Be clear and concise. Make every word matter. Make it easy for people to understand and help you. Don’t steal other people’s time by not being precise, direct, or straightforward.
  • Be on time. Being late takes time, energy, and emotions away from others. Often times, it creates more work or chaos for others.
  • Choose silence. Speak only when your words are more important or powerful than silence.
  • Take only what you need. Let go of what you don’t need to make room for what you do need. Don’t steal from others by taking more than necessary.

For most of us, our goals in yoga have similarities, but truly they’re unique to each of us. Some of us come to class for the benefits to the physical body, some come to find peace or re-alignment, and some come for the community. But behind the asanas are higher teachings. Sometimes we simply feel and understand them, sometimes we can articulate and teach them, and sometimes we struggle just to identify them. The ultimate goals of Asteya are not to rob ourselves of life is it is and to benefit our community at large. Being aware of what we give and take can help us become better versions of who we are, inspire others to do the same, and create harmony through every interaction.

 

Every Breath You Take

By Breathing, Health, Transition, Wellness, Yoga No Comments

In this transition to fall, I’ve gotten sucked in. To being busy, doing too many things at once, running around, multitasking. I’ve been making mistakes, getting sloppy, becoming frustrated, and feeling lost and disconnected. I’ve been holding my breath.

To get it all done, I pressure myself to respond immediately to texts and emails… and I ignore my children. I feed my chickens in a preoccupied, frenzied state… and I forget to lock their coop. I move through cued poses in yoga class… and get agitated when the flow is too slow. Abiding the sequences, I’m thinking in checklists. Wanting to execute and perform (check), I maneuver through life (check), and (paradoxically) end up exactly where I don’t want to be: not present, not belonging, and not me.

By definition, a checklist is a type of informational job aid used to reduce failure. A checklist not only implies judgment (the possibility of failure), but it also legitimizes an external standard. When applied to my daily life, a checklist transforms my passions into tasks. Instead of turning in and tuning in, I turn out and tune out.

Fall is the time of year when I need reminders to return to my breath. We hear it all the time in yoga. Breathe consciously. Breathe deeply. Connect to your breath. One breath, one movement. Breathe and release what no longer serves you. But why is breath so important?

On the most basic level, breath is simply a way of staying alive. Breath brings oxygen into our bodies and excretes toxins that can stagnate in and damage our vital organs. Our autonomic nervous system regulates our breathing. Most of us breathe about 20,000 times a day without even noticing. On average, we use just a third of our total breathing capacity. When our breath becomes short, shallow, quick, or irregular, our minds become anxious and our bodies tense. When our breath is deep, slow, and regular, we’re infused with a sense of calm.

Compared to automatic breathing, conscious breathing cultivates different effects on our physical, mental, and emotional beings. Conscious breathing is the essence of yoga, helping us connect with various, subtle, divergent energies inside us. Conscious breathing is meditation, a method for being present, and it allows us to move from one state of being to another. Breath is a tool, a choice, and a way of living—not just a way of staying alive.

Breathing is living in the present. We inhale the future and exhale the past. Breathing aligns the mind and the body. When we slow down our breath, body, and mind, we can notice, focus, feel, perceive, and understand. We may not always like our observations or sensations, but we’re aware of what’s inside and around us.

Take the hours that are available in your day. Breathe consciously and deeply so that you’re present, connected, mindful, alive, tuned in, turned on, and totally you.

In light and love,

Sandy

Transition Time, Pitta Energy, and Nachos

By Ayurveda, Energy, Health, Seasons, Transition, Wellness, Yoga No Comments

We are in a time of tangible transition. We’re on the other side of the first total solar eclipse since 1918, lively Leo is morphing into earthy Virgo, and kids are heading back to school and off to college. The calendar says August and summertime heat warms the day, but mornings are crisp and early light is reluctant.

I’ve felt this change over the past few weeks. My body naturally follows seasonal eating patterns. I’m ecstatic when berries grow in spring. I crave watermelon and fennel in summer. I think about kitchari, soups, and cinnamon apples in fall. But during this time of one foot in summer and one foot in fall, I eat nachos.

Yes, I said nachos. Why nachos? And why would I publicly admit this? Nachos aren’t the best choice, but in their defense, they’re tasty and easy. And with black beans and avocado, their nutritional value skyrockets.

I’m in transition. I’m not craving peaches like I did in July, but the days are still warm and I’m not ready for rice and lentils. Feeling unsettled, I easily revert to comfort food. My yoga has been scattered and I’ve struggled with inconsistency in my workouts and other areas of my life. Transitions can be messy: one look at my kids’ impressive display of back to school items—binders, dividers, color coded folders, and protractors—confirms the chaos. Anyone who has moved from one house to another knows what starts with beautifully packed and labeled boxes often ends with miscellaneous items strewn indiscriminately about and an adamant vow of eternal minimalism.

I’ve heard from several people recently who say they don’t have the same energy they had a month ago. They feel off and sluggish. There could be many possible causes for subdued vibrancy. One that rises to the top in Steamboat tends to be too much pitta or heat in the body—Steamboat is teeming with pitta energy. Summer and all its activities can leave us feeling depleted. We work hard and we play hard. We ride up mountains and trek long trails. We like to feel powerful and strong, pushing ourselves to achieve more and better. Sometimes, though, we need to soften a bit rather than going all out all the time. Even yoga can be presented and interpreted in this go for it manner instead of an invitation to soften and listen to your wise inner voice about what your body, mind, and spirit need.

The more awareness we have for these times of transition helps us do our work. Knowing we might feel anxious or unsettled, crave atypical foods, or experience low energy is the first step. We can mindfully return to the basics of self-care. Summer’s seductive long days tend to throw us off schedule and leave us short on sleep. For me, sleep deprivation means immediate carb cravings. Play with backing off an intense workout or two, or soften a bit on your yoga mat. Allow your body to rest between long or extreme activities. There are plenty of warm sunny days ahead to get outside and play.

We’ll be returning to our wellness focus this fall with a Back-to-School, Back-to-You September special offering. Jen Meister, Certified Holistic Health Counselor and founder of Simple Clean and Whole, will be giving a few talks before offering her 21 Day Challenge. Becky Obray, Licensed Health Care Professional and owner of Sole Balance Ayurveda, will guide us into a better understanding of Ayurveda before offering an Ayurvedic cleanse in October. In the meantime, enjoy these beautifully dynamic and unpredictable days. Meditate, play, and acknowledge the occasional nachos.

The seeds we plant in fall and tend to throughout winter bring beautiful flowers in spring. It’s a great time to evaluate your goals, begin to ground down, and lay your foundation for the future. What seeds will you plant this fall?

In light and love,

Sandy

 

Life and Death: From the Heart With Tears

By Death, Health, Values, Wellness, Yoga No Comments

After a long, painful decline in his health, my uncle died today. He suffered with dignity, but he suffered for so many years and this year was by far his worst. I was able to say goodbye to him yesterday, and I’m so thankful for the opportunity to have seen him one last time.

My uncle had a gift of sincerely caring—asking what was new, genuinely wondering what was going on in your life. Sitting and listening, nothing was more important to him at that moment than your every word. It seems such a rarity in our world today to have someone’s completely undivided attention.

Several thoughts have stayed with me over the past 24 hours…. I don’t know how to say goodbye to a loved one who is dying. I wasn’t sure if my uncle knew he was living out his last moments, and it felt wrong to say goodbye if he didn’t know. I was at a loss for words. I tend to see things clinically, focusing on the medical aspects, but this time was different: it was my family and I felt clueless. As I left, my uncle’s eyes opened and met mine, and he gave me a little smile. His smile told me I was important to him, and I think he understood.

Some things I have noticed on the day a loved one dies…. The sunset is more brilliant and personal, as if my uncle is communicating his peace. My spirituality feels more vibrant and personal. I feel God’s hand in my environment and life. I see the contrast of health, laughter, physical activity, playfulness, and peace versus darkness, pain, suffering, and loss of dignity.

Driving back from Denver I heard Tim McGraw’s song “Live Like You Were Dying.”

Someday I hope you get the chance

To live like you were dying…

Like tomorrow was a gift and you’ve got eternity

To think about what you would do with it…

In yoga, we practice staying present in our lives. On the day a loved one dies, this practice truly resonates.

Enjoy these last few weeks of summer. Do something a little bit outside your box. Be playful. Look at the sunset a few minutes longer. Call a relative or a friend and tell them how much they mean to you. Share a laugh. Most of all, give your whole attention to the person right in front of you. That’s where there’s meaning.

In light and love,

Sandy

In memory of John  ::  December 8, 1935 ~ July 30, 2017

 

Running From a Bull: Your Values and the 5 Whys

By Health, Values, Wellness, Yoga No Comments

I just got back from my annual summer trip to Creede, Colorado where I spent time on a working cattle ranch with my family and friends. As much as I love sitting by the ocean, I love sitting in a rocking chair on a back porch watching my momma and baby cow friends even more. Listening to their different moos, I try to figure out the herd’s social dynamics. Truth is, I have goats because my husband won’t let me have cows.

As I sat on the porch poised to write a blog on the benefits of Infrared heat, my mind kept returning to thoughts of motivation. What motivates me? What really makes me happy? Putting work and yoga aside, I took a relaxing run to mull over the ideas in my head. My run led me down a road through part of the cow herd. The rule of the ranch is to share space and pass by on bike, foot, or vehicle as unobtrusively as possible to keep everyone safe. I worked my way passed the cows, taking special care not to scare a really cute baby and her momma. The momma stepped aside and an extraordinarily large (in every way!) bull was looking right at me. He was not excited to have me in his pasture—I may have interrupted the beginning of a romantic interlude. I found myself wishing for a rodeo clown, cowboy, or pamphlet to tell me what do in a close encounter with an angry bull. I walked away slowly, staying close to the barbed wire fence. When I was far enough away that I thought the bull wouldn’t charge, I sprinted.

Our values come from our identity—who we think we are. We find our values by answering questions: What’s important to me? What really matters in life? To be happy, we must live in accordance with our values, otherwise our body, mind, and spirit fight against us. When we live in alignment with our values, we feel good and can realize our full potential. When we don’t live in alignment with our values, the opposite happens and we don’t feel good on any level.

Hopefully, the goals we set in life correspond to our values. Goals that don’t reflect our values are really challenging to achieve. If you value health and fitness, then setting goals around nutrition and exercise makes sense. A great way to understand your underlying motivation is to ask the 5 Whys.

I was first introduced to the 5 Whys in my master nutrition coaching class. You can apply them to everything from major life milestones to daily habits and rituals. Think of something you want to accomplish, ask why, and then follow up with four more whys every time you answer a question. For example, a client goal I hear a lot is, “I want to lose five pounds before my high school reunion.”

Why? “I want to look good in front of my old friends.”

Why is that important? “To show them that my life has gotten better since high school and to look like I could still be in high school.”

Why does that matter? “In high school, I didn’t feel confident.”

Why didn’t you feel confident? “Because I always felt like I wasn’t smart enough, good looking enough, athletic enough, or funny enough.”

Why does losing five pounds make you feel like a better person? “Because I’ll feel like I’m getting what I want out of life.”

What started as a seemingly simple quest to lose a little weight turned into a lofty mission of “getting what I want out of life.” A simple and fascinating series of links can provide great insight into what lies inside us.

While I was in Creed—detached from cell service, schedules, and my regular responsibilities and expectations of self, I applied the 5 Whys to my own yoga practice. My answers were surprising, unexpected, and revealing (potential material for a future blog!). The 5 Whys can initiate an intriguing journey into our deeper motivation and value system. Try applying this line of questioning to something in your life, maybe a challenge or a roadblock, and just see where it takes you. You may encounter a sweet baby cow and her momma, and you may come face to face with an ornery bull!

In light and love,

Sandy

Understanding and Managing Your Pitta This Summer

By Ayurveda, Health, Wellness, Yoga No Comments

In Ayurveda, summer season is Pitta. Pitta embodies constitutional elements of fire and water and the characteristics of being hot, sharp, penetrating, spreading, oily, and light. According to the deep traditions of Ayurveda and the constituents of nature, “like increases like.”

As the days start to heat up, accommodate for the longer, brighter, warmer, sunnier summer days with these cooling, centering suggestions….

Favor foods that are naturally sweet, bitter, and astringent. Melon, berries, dates, figs, avocados, artichokes, asparagus, leafy greens, kale, celery, peas, and broccoli are a few examples.

Avoid hot and spicy foods.

Use alcohol and caffeine in moderation.

Try self-oiling (abhyanga) with coconut oil or olive oil.

Exercise early morning or evening to avoid the hot midday sun. Favor refreshing activities like gentle yoga, swimming, walking, running, or biking in nature.

Observe your emotions and addictions. How long does the afterglow of your yoga practice last? What are you craving mentally, emotionally, or physically? Are you noticing that anger, frustration, judgement, or critical thoughts arise? Enjoy summer’s emotions by encouraging joy, peace, patience, tolerance, love, and harmony.

If you have questions about dietary, lifestyle, and herbal treatment strategies and how Ayurveda can support you this summer, or if you want to learn more about your personal constitution, please call me at Sole Balance Ayurveda LLC, 970.846.9699.

By Becky Obray

A Short Introduction to Ayurveda

By Ayurveda, Health, Wellness, Yoga No Comments

Ayurveda is a Sanskrit word. Like many other words, it’s a combination of two root words: ayur (life) and veda (knowledge or science). An acceptable definition of the word Ayurveda is “the science of life.” It’s a holistic science that places importance on spiritual health as a key to physical and mental health. In opposition to a lot of modern thought, Ayurveda doesn’t see health as simply the absence of disease, but rather as a state of positive and radiant wellbeing. This is not achieved by meticulously counting calories or nutritionally analyzing every type of food you consume. It’s achieved by identifying features in food and activities that will result in a balance of your Gunas and your Dosha.

I know what you’re thinking: “What’s a Guna? And, who’s a Dosha?” Right?

The three Gunas are found in Samkhya philosophy, one of the six Indian Darshans (or ways of seeing). The entire universe is considered to be a manifestation of a mixture of the three Gunas: Rajas, Tamas, and Sattva. Rajas is considered to be dynamic and can be thought of as kinetic energy. Tamas is associated with inertia or potential energy. Sattva is the luminescent consciousness that balances these two seemingly opposing forces. We’re all a mixture of these three Gunas. I’m sure you can think of people who are more inert or dynamic for their own good. Neither extreme is good. Like yoga, Ayurveda seeks to increase Sattva in the individual.

Ayurveda further classifies us by Dosha types—our constitutional tendencies, innate biological makeup, and intrinsic elements of who we are. For example, I have a deviated septum. This is a strong mark of the irregularity of Vata, and although I’m red bearded and blonde (both markers for Pitta), none of these will change as I move through life. As with the Gunas, we’re mixtures of the Dosha types. People are predominantly one Dosha or a mixture of two; few are tridoshic and split between three. Our Doshas aren’t dependent upon our habits for the last two months but rather our habits over the last 20 years.

The first Dosha is Vata. Vata is associated with cold, dry, light, irregular, mobile, rarefied, and rough. Colorado’s weather is a good example of Vata. The second is Pitta. Pitta is associated with oily, hot, light, intense, fluid, malodorous, and liquid. A digestive tract needs some Pitta to perform well, but it doesn’t need a lot. Stomach acids and the bile our bodies produce for digestion are good examples of Pitta. The third is Kapha. Kapha is associated with oily, cold, heavy, viscous, stable, dense, and smooth. We’re all likely to see some of these traits in ourselves as well as a cross over between the Doshas. In Indian sciences, this is normal—not everything fits neatly into one category. Balancing Doshas can be achieved by consuming or not consuming certain amounts of the six Ayurvedic tastes: salty, sweet, sour, bitter, pungent, and astringent.

Each taste has several different elements. How the elements correspond to your Dosha generates positive health and balance or disease and imbalance.

  • Salty is water and fire, which increases Pitta’s innate heat and Kapha’s cool moist qualities. Salty is balancing for Vata because it warms and soothes Vata’s cold dry qualities.
  • Sweet is earth and water. It increases Kapha but decreases Pitta and Vata. Both Kapha and sweet are earthy, so they increase when mixed. The opposite is true for sweet’s effect on Pitta and Vata, which are either hot and wet or cold and dry.
  • Sour is composed of fire and earth. It increases Kapha and Pitta, but it decreases Vata.
  • Bitter is mostly air and space. Bitter leafy greens, for example, may seem like a big mass but wilt down to nothing when cooked lightly. Bitter helps to balance Pitta and Kapha and it also increases Vata.
  • Pungent, like hot chiles and garlic, increases Pitta and Vata with its qualities of heat and air and it also decreases Kapha. When wasabi clears out congested sinuses, pungent is working to balance overactive Kapha.
  • Astringent is the most difficult taste to pin down. An unripe banana or raw cranberry that leaves a dry feeling in your mouth is astringency at work. Astringent is mainly air and earth. It increases Vata and decreases Pitta and Kapha.

By using these tastes, we can start to balance our constitutions and eventually our Gunas. So, where do we start? Pay attention to the tastes and qualities you discover in your life and observe how certain tastes affect you physically, mentally, and spiritually. Being conscious of your consumption and its effects is an excellent first step toward the goals of both yoga and Ayurveda.

For more information on Ayurveda please read: Prakriti: Your Ayurvedic Constitution by Dr. Robert Svoboda.

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Until next time, may you all be Happy, Healthy, and in Harmony with your environment.

Namaste – A. R. Berger

Mindfulness: Be Present

By Health, Uncategorized, Wellness, Yoga No Comments

Mindfulness is defined by Oxford Dictionary as “a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations.” We see the word everywhere these days—in books, advertising, and other media. One of my favorite athletic clothing brands recently launched a mindfulness line “for the days you want to be mindful.”

Most people agree that being mindful is a good thing, but many of us aren’t sure how to be mindful, what being mindful really means, and why it’s so important.

Not too long ago, our society viewed multitasking as a skill to be admired. Women were proud of their ability to drive a car and simultaneously apply makeup, eat breakfast, referee a back seat fight, rehearse a work presentation, and compose a mental grocery list for dinner. Now we have smartphones with texts, emails, Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, and other sources constantly beckoning our attention.

Distraction and over stimulation do not help our brains function. We’ve learned that multitasking doesn’t work—people actually get less done (with less quality) even though they think they’re doing more. Multitasking has even been compared to cocaine; both activate the reward pathway by increasing dopamine. This constant bombardment of distractions—a neural addiction—increases our underlying stress and corrodes our minds and health.

Being in a constant state of distraction is a safety risk as real as texting while driving: it can steal our lives. We scan through Facebook posts or Snapchat pictures instead of talking with family and friends at a restaurant. We immediately interrupt our regular activities to reply to daily emails. By not being present, we miss the simplicity of each moment. When we’re engaged and present, we don’t have to wonder where our time has gone. We lived it and can remember it, or maybe even feel it. Focusing on the past or the future, or indulging in other distractions, means we relinquish the beauty of simplicity.

So, how do we become more mindful? We all practice mindfulness when we’re fully engaged with someone—not checking our cell phones or making mental to-do lists while partially listening and investing. For some people, mindfulness is in prayer. For me, it’s in nature with my family and dog, playing with my goats, or doing yoga. These are times when my mind is focused on each present moment and I feel peaceful, whole, and aware.

Mindfulness is a skill to be practiced several times throughout your day as you train your mind to stay focused and be present. One of my favorite quotes about mindfulness is from Geneen Roth, author of Women Food and God: An Unexpected Path to Almost Everything.

“It’s like washing the dishes. If you focus on getting the dishes done so that your kitchen will be clean, you miss everything that happens between dirty and clean. The warmth of the water, the pop of the bubbles, the movements of your hand. You miss the life that happens in the middle zone between now and what you think your life should be like. And when you miss those moments because you would rather be doing something else, you are missing your own life. Those moments are gone, you will never get them back.”

As a lifelong student of health and nutrition, I know how important it is to cultivate mindfulness when we’re trying to change our relationships with food. Eating lunch at your computer, for example, while scrolling through social media images can increase anxiety and lower self-esteem, which can then lead to emotional eating.

I am so excited to have Dr. Kristen Race lead our wellness series this next Sunday. I am a huge fan of her work. Not only is she incredibly knowledgeable, Dr. Race is also engaging and funny. I took her Mindfulness in the Workplace series and it changed the way I organize my day, significantly reducing my stress. I hope you’ll join us.

In light and love,Sandy

Restorative Yoga: Less is More

By Health, Wellness, Yoga No Comments

Steamboat is known for its active outdoor lifestyle and prolific production of Olympic athletes. People visit or move here to get their adrenaline rush—whether it derives from banking turns on a mountain bike, skiing fresh backcountry powder, skinning to Storm Peak at dawn, or kayaking the Yampa River. Especially for people who love high intensity activities, restorative yoga is important for maintaining a healthy body and a balanced lifestyle.

A lot of Type A people seek intense, dynamic workouts, and we can now scientifically recognize the power of restorative yoga to activate the parasympathetic nervous system and mitigate the effects of those workouts. Continual engagement in activities that invite the fight or flight response increases the likelihood of muscular damage and breakdown. Restorative yoga counters that effect by calming the nervous system all the way down to the cellular level.

The parasympathetic nervous system is our rest and digest system that acts as a direct counterbalance to the sympathetic nervous system, our fight or flight system. The parasympathetic nervous system helps our muscles relax, heart rate slow, and blood pressure drop. It also helps lower our cortisol and blood sugar levels while improving our sleep patterns and our immune and digestive systems. Increased blood circulation to the endocrine and lymphatic systems means the body can extract nutrients and eliminate toxins more effectively.  In addition, activating the parasympathetic nervous system aids in weight loss because of its effect on stress hormones.

While athletes are willing to accept that strength and endurance training requires resting certain muscle groups, we tend to close the doors on yoga as an aid in recovery. We’re so eager to see the results we want that the benefits of restorative yoga are often overlooked. Restorative yoga helps us heal and recuperate physically, but it also trains our minds to remain in—or choose to remain in—a relaxed state for longer periods of time.

People who practice yoga can learn to be aware of sensations and thoughts as they enter their bodies and minds. They can identify stressful triggers and respond in ways that maintain equilibrium between the nervous systems. In this way, restorative yoga (a physical precursor to meditation), can improve our moods and overall psychological and physiological health.

By its nature, restorative yoga is a receptive practice and therefore the antithesis of our mountain culture. But when we look at restorative yoga as a complement to our other activities, we can attain a healthier state of being and achieve better results on our bikes, skis, boats, or mats.

Restorative yoga is an activity without a goal—it’s an explorative process that invites us to exist within our true selves. While it can be renounced as too passive, it’s actually an opportunity for deep healing, growth, and repair for our bodies and brains.