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Wellness Archives - Rakta Hot Yoga

Impermanence

By Mindfulness, Values, Vulnerability, Wellness, Yoga No Comments

Impermanence is the state of lasting for only a limited period of time. A very dear friend of mine is moving away from this valley in just two weeks. She is relocating to Pennsylvania which seems awfully far away. As I think back on the many fun times we’ve had together, I realize I never expected this past spring would have been the last time we rode horses through pastures of baby calves. I never thought we would have already played our last game of pickleball or taken our last Snow Bowl bowling lesson together. We all know change is a constant and certain part of life. In yoga, we practice presence on and off our mat. We understand tomorrow isn’t promised to us, but even with that knowledge, do we really embrace life and those around us?

Another friend of mine from Denver is getting ready to square off with stage three breast cancer. Surgery and chemotherapy are in her future. She is one determined and strong woman, and I have been inspired by her for years. I fully believe she will crush cancer, but I know she has a fight ahead and her life of leading yoga and fitness classes and owning a gym will abruptly change for a bit. How often do we think about our practice of yoga as a gift instead of just something we schedule at 8:30am between our morning routine and the start of our work day?

When I lived in Denver, I was a tired mom of two young and energetic kids. I could easily create a pity party of the never ending needs and demands of raising children. Driving my route for daily errands, I would occasionally (and seemingly when I needed it the most) drive past the house of an older woman going through chemotherapy. Her elderly, frail husband would help her with her walker as she slowly made her way from the house to the car. Thinking about what she faced each day initiated the immediate attitude reset I needed. Awareness about her situation heightened my gratitude for my own health and lifestyle. I wasn’t in and out of a hospital or doctor’s office; I was running in the park with a stroller and playing in the sunshine with my kids.

We take so many things for granted. The place we call home, our beautiful Yampa Valley, is one that so many people from all over the country want to see and visit. We regularly experience gorgeous weather and we can enjoy long trails that take us away on hikes, bikes, or skis. We share our lives and land with wild animals that seem exotic to city dwellers. And, we can easily connect with each another through the wonderful small businesses around town including gyms and yoga studios.

We take so much for granted until one day life instantly changes. Maybe you get sick or injured and your routine is interrupted. Maybe you need to tend to a family member or friend who faces sobering challenges. Suddenly that typical yoga class or regular walk up Spring Creek with your dog sounds so lovely. You wish you could be in the routine you took for granted. As we have learned this year, things can change in a moment. Again and again. My wish is that we all approach our time, our activities, and our loved ones with real-time authentic presence and gratitude.

In light and love,

Sandy

The Gift of Time & Yellowjackets

By Health, Mindfulness, Values, Vulnerability, Wellness, Yoga No Comments

I feel like I’m in a sci-fi movie right now. Empty streets, empty supermarket shelves, and toilet paper panic. The past few days have been difficult trying to make the right decision to close Rakta when, as a small business owner, I feel uncertain and anxious. I’ve been concerned about my teachers and concerned about taking away a place people can come to breathe, ground, and find peace.

But, I believe in my heart that closing is the right thing to do. Social distancing helps flatten the curve and reduce the impact on our healthcare system. Please remember that real people with families are working in hospitals and clinics. They are risking their health to take care of us. We owe it to them to be responsible and look out for society as a whole.

Remember, too, that we have been preparing for this kind of experience. Every yoga class, posture, meditation, and quote is designed to help you feel great when life is good and to feel stable, ready, and equipped when life is uncertain, unprecedented, or unfamiliar.

This is a time to grow and experiment. This may be your first opportunity to practice at home. It might feel awkward or empty at first, but lean in. Be present. Know that you are the source of your own calm. The pause between stimulus and response is your breath, and this is where growth occurs. Use your yoga tools.

Last fall, we had a bizarre infestation of yellowjackets in my house. It nearly unglued me. I have a real fear of all mean stinging vespids (not honeybees—they’re sweet and I love them). In the summertime, I jump away from yellowjackets when they land on my meal, hover, and dare me to proceed to eat and practice proper social etiquette.

The infestation in our house was like living in a horror movie. We wore shoes because dying yellowjackets fell from ceiling lights and blended into the carpet as they crawled around using their last measure of life. They fell on my son’s pillow at night. They dropped into my morning coffee while their counterparts buzzed overhead.

We called exterminators and set traps outside. “It seems this winter may be unusual and we’re seeing some bizarre behavior,” professionals explained. “Just wait it out and it will pass.”

About six weeks ago, I started feeling a shift in the energy around Steamboat. People seemed stressed and busier than ever. When I asked, the common response was: “I just have so much going on.” People stopped having time for social gatherings, meeting up to ski, and making phone calls. I thought back to my yellowjacket friends from the fall (yes, I’m overcoming my aversion) and I thought to myself: is something looming?

Here we are on March 14th, 2020. The COVID-19 situation means things are changing rapidly. It’s day-by-day, hour-by-hour with regard to policy implementations, cancellations, and closings. This is uncharted territory for the entire world.

But we are all in this together. Our over-scheduled lives have just been completely opened up. It may feel daunting, you may feel lost. But you have the power to make the most of this gift of time.

Get outside and walk, run, or bike. Listen to the sounds of nature and feel the springtime ground beneath you. Look through your pantry and finally use the dried beans and quinoa you intended to use last winter. Read a book. Catch up on sleep. Hang out with your family. Sit, meditate, and evaluate how much of your busyness is necessary versus optional.

Following the news nonstop will not help. Refer to one or two trusted sources for updates and information. Don’t fall victim to panic and the sneaky, dangerous every-man-for-himself mentality. You’ve been training for this moment on your mats for years. Continue the yoga without your mat. Continue the yoga.

In light and love,

Sandy

Don’t be a fruit fly

By Health, Values, Wellness, Yoga No Comments

I was happy and relieved to learn that I passed my Physician Assistant National Recertifying Exam (PANRE) earlier this month. I’ve been a certified PA since 1995, and every six years I’m required to take a 4.5 hour exam covering all of medicine. It doesn’t matter if I practice cosmetic dermatology or forensic pathology, as a PA I have to test on the comprehensive entirety of medicine.

More to the point (you may be thinking), is that I haven’t been practicing medicine at all for the last six years. And I’ve noticed, as a result, that I have the attention span of a fruit fly. Not a goldfish—did you know the myth of their three second memory has been scientifically debunked? The most recent research puts the goldfish at nine seconds, which is actually longer than the human’s attention span since the mobile revolution. (Eight seconds. Google it. On your smartphone.)

The most common response I received when I told people I was studying for my boards was a whimsically confused and nonjudgmental: “why bother?” Comments came in along the lines of: Are you planning on practicing any time soon? Won’t that be hard to squeeze in between your morning flow and midday sculpt? Do you know if I left my mat here yesterday?

Studying certainly took a lot of effort, especially considering it was for something that wasn’t going to directly affect my daily life. But I had two reasons for spending eight weeks buried in books and answering 1,578 prep questions.

Before owning a yoga studio, medicine was my life. I spent years in hospitals—in the OR, ED, and ICU. I read journal articles for fun, I attended amazing conferences, and I wore cool dog scrubs.

One of my favorite Christmas memories was being on call at Denver Health Pediatrics. Santa delivered gifts and my Christmas morning rounds were much more enjoyable seeing kids happy that they weren’t forgotten. For one morning, the floor was filled with innocence and joy instead of pain and sickness. It felt magical. Even though it was a while ago, I’m still not ready to close that chapter of my life.

The second reason for digging in and studying was that I really enjoyed the intellectual stimulation of reviewing things I hadn’t thought about for several years. Ruptured pancreatic pseudocyst? Endoscopic retrograde basket extraction? I’m listening! With this kind of content, mindlessly opting out and scrolling through Instagram didn’t stand a chance.

In the last few years, I’ve challenged myself physically with yoga through poses, technique, philosophy, workshops, trainings, and seasonal challenges. I’ve tried some new Steamboaty sports and acquired new athletic aspirations. I’ve worked on my spiritual growth with meditation and incisive attention to my own personal beliefs. I’ve endured emotional challenges associated with raising two teenagers and running a business in a remote ski town. But I hadn’t challenged myself intellectually, and I can’t tell you how surprised I was to enjoy it!

Living in such a beautiful area with abundant alpine activities, it’s easy to focus on our physical bodies and commit to exploring all the different ways to create strength and develop new skills or hobbies related to the outdoors. But don’t forget the power of stimulating your brain.

Learn to speak Turkish or play the oboe. Study astrobiology or auctioneering. Assemble an 18,000 piece puzzle of the Sistine Chapel. Tackle your teen’s trigonometry homework. Okay, maybe start with a scatterplot, but challenge your brain in 2020!

In light and love,

Sandy

Refining my List

By Goal Setting, Health, Mindfulness, Values, Wellness, Yoga No Comments

I just joined a book club and went to my first meeting. We discussed Brene Brown’s latest book Dare to Lead. I’m a huge fan of Brene’s work and Dare to Lead was especially timely for me.

One of the exercises from the book is to examine our values. Our group passed around a list of about 100 values. From the list, we each picked our top ten values and then the top two we thought defined us. This exercise was extremely challenging—all the values listed seemed to apply to me (trust, learning, achievement, financial security, faith, family, personal satisfaction). It was hard to find my top ten, then even harder to pick my top two.

We went around the group and discussed our selections. It didn’t take long before we noticed that I didn’t choose health as a value. How could I overlook health? I’ve dedicated more than 20 years of my life to studying health and working in the industry in various capacities.

I was baffled and honestly somewhat embarrassed.

Since the book club meeting, I’ve been asking myself questions:

  • What is health to me?
  • Is it absence of disease?
  • Is it a number on a scale?
  • Is it a set of laboratory values or how energized I’m feeling?

It’s easy to take health for granted until we get injured or sick. Our own community has experienced so many tragedies this year from cancer and suicide, infection and sepsis, to accidents and overdoses. The Winter Solstice is usually a powerful time for me for introspection and reflection. On the longest night of the year, I was able to reflect on what health means to me and where I can make changes to better support my health.

As we close the month of December and move into 2019, we can journal and contemplate shifts we would like to make in our lives. We can take inventory on exercise, personal and professional relationships, sleep, diet and nutrition, outlook on life, as well as habits, needs, and addictions. As a society, mental health and wellness are often overlooked, but chronic pain, anxiety, and depression can lead to substance abuse and suicidal ideation and they can decrease our immune systems, too. If you value adventure, curiosity, and learning but your partner values financial security, order, and routine, you can see how conflict can occur and how a survey might be an opportunity to create deeper connection. In the workplace, understanding how your core values differ from your co-workers’ may help explain sources of conflict and instill greater respect.

An honest survey of our values is such a beneficial exercise and a great way to kick off the new year. There are lots of online surveys available to take and download. Or dare to read Dare to Lead.

What does 2019 look like for your health?

In light and love,

Sandy

Christie Brinkley, Billy Blanks, and Me

By Health, Mindfulness, Nutrition, Wellness, Yoga No Comments

When I was 13, I received a copy of Christie Brinkley’s Outdoor Beauty and Fitness Book. I was set. In one book, I had the complete guide to everything I needed to know to be just as dazzling and breathtaking as Christie Brinkley. I followed her advice for cutting up bananas and freezing them as a snack to satisfy my sweet tooth. I did her exercises religiously and followed her beauty advice on how to lighten my hair with lemons. What could go wrong? I was totally sure that if I followed Christie’s advice, I would have all the tools I’d need to become a sexy, confident woman.

Fast forward a few years and moves, college and grad school, and I eventually lost track of my beauty bible. It was okay though because I found Billy Blanks and Tae Bo. I could kick and punch my way into total body fitness.

By my 30s, I wasn’t nearly as quick to fall for a quick fix, but I was influenced by yoga teachers, medical mentors, and people who seemed to me to have it all together. I was sure that if I could be more like them, I could be a better mom, wife, and friend. Looking back now, I realize I didn’t trust myself. I wasn’t connected to my physical body or my intuition. Being a mom to two young kids, I was completely focused on their needs, care, and wellbeing. I didn’t have time or energy to listen to and interpret the messages my body was sending me. It was easier to listen to people like Christie and Billy, people who knew the steps to success. I ignored symptoms of allergies, stress, and fatigue—signs my body was using to tell me it was out of balance.

It’s taken nearly a decade of my 40s (my favorite decade, by the way) to connect to myself. What changed? Why do I now listen to my own inner voice? I can’t point to just one thing, but I believe meditation, yoga trainings, health coaching, nutrition training, and not working all night shifts in the emergency department have supported me on this path.

When I was a new yoga teacher, I labeled myself alignment-oriented. I knew exactly how a posture should look and I would cue ad nauseam to get students to create that posture. After almost 10 years and many hours of teaching and observing different bodies with different injuries and stories, I’ve come to see alignment as what works in the body within reason on any given day.

I no longer hold on to rigid ideas that are tethered to the word “should.” I have a running joke with Becky Kuhl about burpees. After doing them for 15 years, burpees don’t feel so good in my body. In fact, I really don’t like them at all. So I modify when I need to and I take pride in that. At this time of year, I make many life modifications. I may go to bed at 8pm. If I’m not teaching a 6am class, I don’t go to yoga at 6am. I make sure my eating, self-care, and exercise are aligned with what supports me, even if someone I respect tells me to do something different.

As we head into late fall and winter, I can’t encourage people enough to listen to their bodies about sleep, food, movement, and even the company you keep and connections you make. It doesn’t matter what your most inspirational yoga teacher, health guru, accomplished outdoor athlete, or business person eats, drinks, or does to their body or puts in their hair for highlights. It’s wonderful to have teachers, mentors, and guides on our personal journeys, but we don’t have to take others’ words as scripture when our true or best selves may be compromised.

“We are always looking outward, listening to our teachers who come in with their own problems and limitations, and we ignore the most supreme teacher within ourselves. The only way to evolve, to progress, to truly practice, is to listen to our inner teacher.” ~ Prashant Iyengar

In light and love,

Sandy

Getting Old, Getting Connected

By Values, Wellness, Yoga No Comments

This week, I turned 49. Do I feel old? No. I feel like I’ve been blessed with one heck of a fun adventure I get to call life, a wild and unscripted road trip I couldn’t have planned if I tried.

As I see so much suffering, uncertainty, and unease around me, I often ask myself: why do I feel blessed when others seem to struggle? With physical health, emotional or spiritual health, or mental health? When I turned 40, I remember thinking how old 40 seemed. Entering my final year of my fourth decade, I truly believe these 10 years are ones of growth and maturation. I finally found my stride and figured out who I am. I followed dreams and made bold moves (like move to Steamboat and open a yoga and wellness studio).

Our lives and the people in them are to be celebrated everyday. I don’t view my daily responsibilities of cooking, cleaning, doing laundry, mucking stalls, and managing behind the scenes tasks at Rakta as chores. Maybe with the exception of after school pick-up at the middle school (truthfully, it gives me angina), they’re parts of my life that fulfill me.

Life is short. I’m almost half a century old already! And with everything I’ve experienced and lived through, all the old clichés make more sense, become obvious. Live every day like it could be your last takes on a different meaning when you’re suddenly faced with an ailing parent, the death of a friend or pet, or the reality of cancer as it spreads through your community. Over this past decade, I’ve learned to be truly grateful for parents, family, good friends to confide in, great food and wine, the joy of cooking, the serenity of a walk with my sweet dog, and the sound of my goats greeting me. All the little things that happen before and after the big events—that’s where the beauty is.

My vision for this year is to create more real and deep connections with others and to tune in to my own innate wisdom about what I need in my body and life at this moment. The yoga studio is a magical space where we can connect with others through intention and breath but also have a truly unique and individual experience. In yoga, being united and together doesn’t diminish the power of individuality. It’s taken me 18 years of yoga practice to own my body’s strengths, injuries, and weaknesses. I’m no longer defined by how long it takes me to skin to the gondola or run a 10K, or how open my hips are in Pigeon or Lizard Lunge Twist. I choose to define myself by how I treat all living creatures on this earth. That’s what it’s about.

Moving into fall and winter—seasons that are darker and colder, I recognize that many people can feel isolated or lonely, disinterested or disconnected. In our social media-driven society, it’s easy to get lost in virtual misinterpretations and unhealthy comparisons to unrealistic ideals or imagined realities.

But Rakta is real, and open, and welcoming! We’re here to provide connections through asana, community, health, and new experiences. There are so many things about yoga that I love, and there are so many benefits to regular practice. Look for Rakta’s next challenge, some social sweats, and happy hours. We’ll coordinate some social ski and skate-ski days in addition to our existing book clubs, teacher trainings, and wellness lectures.

We’re all better when we’re together, feeling connected to ourselves and each other.

In light and love,

Sandy

6 Hours on a 30-Day Ketogenic Diet

By Alcohol, Health, Inflammation, Nutrition, Sugar, Wellness, Yoga No Comments

I had a great holiday season full of friends, dinners, wine(s), and Ghirardelli chocolate squares. Sitting in front of my Christmas lights on New Year’s Eve, I vowed to get back on track. I was feeling depleted and sluggish from repetitive overindulging.

The romance of the holidays ended and the lights got packed away. The holidays were behind me along with my inspiration. So I did something I never do—I jumped on a diet. I believe in the principles and eating plan that guide this ketogenic diet, but I set myself up for failure. I was ignoring my true self—my physical and emotional feelings as well as my knowledge and core beliefs.

As if I needed more proof, I was actually excited about having to wait for my supplements to arrive. I had more time to eat, drink, and be merry before restriction reined me in. As I unpacked my chocolate and vanilla bone broth protein formulas, ketone tablets, meal plans, and shopping lists, I became uneasy. In my heart, I knew this wasn’t what I needed.

I choked down my chocolate bone broth with ghee and trotted off to teach my 6am Fire Series. Denial gave way to survival as I realized once again that, for things that truly matter, you can’t just “pop a pill” and experience immediate results. I also learned that it’s better to wait until after teaching in 105 degrees to put something new, different, or out of the ordinary in your body.

The issue, of course, was not the diet.

It was me.

Over my lifetime, I have come to recognize my pattern of thinking I’m not enough, of not trusting myself. Within six hours, I knew I didn’t need to radically change, add supplements, or pee on a stick to measure my ketones. I needed to go back to what I’ve learned in three years of nutrition and health coach training. I needed to believe in myself. I needed to center, dig in, and get back to my roots. With the trials of my first year as a yoga studio owner on top of my commitment to my crazy, active family, I lost my personal focus.

This incident, or kink in my journey, has inspired me to get back to what I know and to share it with folks at Rakta. February is Heart Health Month. To take care of our hearts, we need to reduce inflammation. In my Wellness Challenge, we’ll start with the two big culprits: SUGAR and ALCOHOL!

Are you still there? Do you need a minute to process? I know, I understand….

During the month of love and wine, chocolate and champagne, we’ll make choices to support our immune systems, break our sugar addictions, and examine our individual patterns around these prevalent inflammation offenders. By boosting our immune systems and reducing inflammation, we’ll create anti-cancer environments and make feeling good (even great!) the new norm. Fight Inflammation February—will you be mine?

In March, we’ll move deeper into gut health and supporting our microbiomes through other dietary changes. March 18th-April 20th is Rakta’s 30 (+2) Day Yoga Challenge with great locals deals to step into spring with new energy, strength, and balance. Look for more information about Fight Inflammation February and our Yoga Challenge at the studio and on Facebook and Instagram.

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