Five Points Yoga

Barrett's Blog

Archive for the ‘Health and Wellness’ Category

‘Tis the Season to Take Care of Yourself!

 

I sent this out to my business class yogis recently, and thought you’d all benefit from it too.   Scroll all the way down for a cute picture!

In case you need some motivation to attend class as the days are getting shorter and the holidays are bearing down, I thought I’d give you 4 good reasons that ’tis the season’ for yoga!

1) Stress-relief!

Holidays are great, but tiring.   The end of the year often finds each of us pushing our own personal envelope in terms of commitments.   1 or 2 classes of yoga a week will help you let go of the stress that accompanies a busy schedule.

2) Physical detox.

Even if you’re not one for celebrating, everyone else around you is baking cookies and bringing them into work to share!   Yoga will help you process the sugar overload, and better yet, resist the second helping :)

3) Extra energy. 

During the winter months, when we all could use a bit more sleep, yoga gives you that extra hour of better-than-sleep movement and breathing.

4) Immunity booster.  

Regular practice has been shown to help us fight off common colds and flu.  Add to that some Vitamin D, probiotics, and Omega 3’s and you may sail through this winter without a single sniffle. Can’t beat that!  (Check with your doc about above supplements) J

 

Make yoga a priority in this last month of 2012, and everything else will fall into place.   The only public vinyasa class I teach is on Monday nights at 7:15pm at Karma Yoga in Cambridge – here’s my full class schedule.

Cheers!

Barrett

 

Wrist Sensitivity in Pregnancy

 

The wrist is a fragile joint for anyone, but it comes under particular stress in the childbearing year.

A lot of people tend to call any wrist sensitivity “Carpal Tunnel”, but that’s not always accurate.   There are over 20 kinds of soft tissue overuse injuries that can affect the shoulders down to the fingers, many of which are felt in the wrist.  Carpal Tunnel Syndrome refers to the specific instance when the median nerve is pinched as it runs through the wrist (ie carpal) tunnel.   Someone can have wrist pain but not have a pinched median nerve.  In pregnant women, the ‘bracelet’ of the wrist bones feels especially sensitive because: the joint becomes unstable due to relaxin hormone; the increased blood flow from pregnancy is difficult to pass through a narrow joint; fluids pool in extremities, which causes swelling, causes even more narrowing of the passage.  Wrist sensitivity in pregnancy tends to resolve itself when you take these issues away.   In general, the main “cure” for it is finishing up pregnancy!   However, there are many things you can do to lessen the discomfort.

In my prenatal practice, we spend a lot of time on all fours, bearing weight on the hands with the wrists flexed.   In every class, I offer ways to modify the practice so that a woman doesn’t have to spend any time weight bearing on a sensitive wrist.   Options include: making fists and putting knuckles down on the floor with straight wrists; splaying the fingers out like tent poles to bear weight ; or coming down on the forearms.   Most women with sensitive wrists will cycle through all of those options in a class.  It’s so important to keep practicing yoga, because even though you may have to modify in the above ways, the benefits of yoga outweigh that inconvenience.

The basic hands and knees position

 

Modifying down on the forearms

As I mentioned above, swelling is one of the causes of wrist pain.  Minimizing swelling everywhere in the body will help the wrists.  Putting your legs up will help your wrists, as will any mild inversion (we do several in prenatal yoga).  Drinking lots of water and eating water-rich foods (fruits and veggies), which helps reduce swelling, will also help the wrists.

Legs up the wall is safe for most pregnant women and a great help for the circulatory system.

Finally, keeping your circulatory system going will help improve the wrists’ sensitivity.   Yoga is one of the best ways to improve your circulation.  The asanas we practice in prenatal yoga stretch tight chests and shoulders.  As our breasts change size in pregnancy, we tend to hunch and compress our thoracic outlet.  Often, general discomfort in the forearms or wrists is greatly improved once we work out some of the knots in the shoulders and chest, because restriction of blood flow was starting all the way up there. Getting blood and prana (life force) to flow through the whole body, but especially the upper body, is the best healer for injury.

Opening the chest keeps the prana flowing!

And don’t forget about the postpartum period!  Though the causes of the wrist sensitivity in pregnancy might subside, now we have a whole new set of circumstances that can cause wrist pain.   Women are operating on less sleep, are feeding babies in hunched positions for long periods of time, and are picking up babies often with really bent wrists (think baby sleeping in a bassinet next to mom and reaching over to pick up baby by contorting wrists).   All these things put the wrists at continued risk for injury.

There are several non-yoga treatments possible to help sore wrists.   Wearing a splint at night for sleeping or during the day when you’re resting (not when working)  will keep your wrist in a neutral position.  Acupuncture and massage are great.   Vitamin B6 might be good for keeping the nerves healthy.   Ask your practitioner about what they recommend!

Vacation Breaks


With quotes from Angela of http://www.spaceandtimeconsulting.com/


Maternity leave is NOT vacation – maybe it’s just the opposite!  However, it is a time out of ordinary life, and it’s made me think a lot about the ways in which we take (or don’t take) vacation breaks.

We have these set intervals in which we mark time – days, weeks, months, years, etc.  I’ve started thinking about creating little vacations in each one of these time periods as a healthy way to ensure I’m releasing stress on a regular basis.  I’ve asked yogini Angela from Spaceandtimeconsulting.com to chime in a bit about how to create “vacations” regularly for yourself.


DAILY – Studies show that when you work in short bursts, and have some non-work breaks throughout the day, that you’re actually more productive!   Sitting at your desk for hours at a time is bad for your back, your eyes, your heart, your bladder, AND your productivity! When you’re working or studying, you will be most focused on the first and last tasks in your burst.

So, having many mini study/work sessions in the day will help you retain more information and get more done.

Good 1-10 minute day breaks:

  • Get up! Stretch and dance, and take some big sighs. Don’t surf the web.
  • My favorite mid-day yoga that’s easy to do in an office: shoulder stretches! Examples include: eagle, cow, and yoga mudra.
  • Close your eyes and smile at the stillness and silence!  Or listen to some soothing music.
  • Do you need a bio-break?  It’s amazing how we can lose track of the fact that we need to use the bathroom, or that we need to drink water.

“I couldn’t agree more with this!  Often people think of time for themselves needing to be in large chunks of time, but throughout the day if you insert little spaces of time for yourself you will still benefit immensely!  I know sometimes guilt creeps in, but if you think of it as taking care of yourself it puts it into a new light.  The saying of putting your oxygen mask on first before helping others is really the key here!”  -Angela


WEEKLY – The weekend is something we shouldn’t take for granted – we worked hard and earned some rest!  The weekend is basically the ancient idea of the Sabbath – (at least) one holy day of rest each week, to honor the creative lifeforce.   You can’t keep creating if you don’t take some time to renew!

Good weekend ideas to renew:

  • Get thee to a yoga class at *least* once a week.  Please give yourself the gift of a full yoga experience, from warm-ups right through to savasana.   For most of us, that means going to a class where we don’t have to think about what’s next – the teacher will guide you, and you enjoy the journey.
  • Spend the day outside (on the beach or hiking for example).
  • Spend a day with friends (seeing a movie and going out to dinner).
  • Make an excursion to a place you haven’t gone before – a museum or park that you’ve always meant to go to.
  • Spend a day on the couch or porch reading a book (avoid TV most of the time!).

“I love this because it speaks directly to how we choose to spend our leisure time.  I choose to do yoga during my breaks because it is one of those activities that is packed with all around benefits for your well-being.  It encompasses physical, social, emotional, cognitive and spiritual domains all at one time and as Barrett stated, taking the journey with a teacher is a real gift. I find yoga is perfect for getting myself into a state of flow.

In that same vein, not all activities are created equal.  I love that Barrett said avoid TV most of the time, because it really is low on the activity index for benefits to your well-being.  I challenge people who feel they have time constraints to do a time-diary study to see how much time is spent watching TV.  It’s often one of the biggest chunks of time in peoples’ diaries.  If you can cut that out of your schedule you’d be surprised at how much time opens up to do activities that are really meaningful to you.” -Angela


MONTHLY – Inevitably, you’ll have some days and weeks where you didn’t give yourself a little vacation from the grind.  Every month, I try to look at my calendar and see what’s coming up that I’m really looking forward to.   Almost every month, there is a holiday – for example, we’ve got Labor Day coming up.   I’m trying to use those holidays, or special visits from family and friends, as a way to more consciously build in relaxation.   If you are someone who likes weekend getaways, aim for one a month to recharge you.   Finally, if you’re really a yoga aficionado, there are weekend intensives every month in Boston with top teachers ready to help you dive in!   Try a few of these every year – they will take your yoga practice to the next level!

“This idea of looking toward the future is great.  Having positive things to focus on and plan for keeps you moving forward, and also helps you to put the current moment into perspective.” -Angela


YEARLY – Our last cycle of time is the year.   Take a real vacation every year, for at least a week!   Every winter, I make the commitment to go someplace warm to get the chill and the gray of the winter out of my system.  Also, my partner and I try to plan a vacation every few years that’s a big one – to a special place in the world (Israel, Europe, someday to India), and we try to go for a longer stretch of time.   These things help keep us feeling alive and connected to our sense of adventure.  I try to do a yoga training once a year to keep my skills sharp and my spirit renewed.

Carving out some restful time, in small and large increments throughout your days, weeks, months and years, is so important.  It relaxes you, and also helps you reset back into enjoying the moment.  Most of us don’t do this enough.  It’s counterintuitive to think that we’ll actually get *more* done with more time off.  But it’s true – and you’ll enjoy it all more as well.

“I would love to see Americans shift their values to create a culture where we are not only expected to, but encouraged to take time off from work. According to a 2010 Expedia.com survey, only 38% of Americans said they take all of their vacation days!  We can begin to change this one person at a time, one day at a time, and one moment at a time.  How do you begin to carve this time out.  What would it look like?  What choices would you make?  What activities would you choose to pursue?  I am happy to give you a free phone or email consultation to help you get started!” -Angela

See you on the yoga mat for your daily vacation!!

Barrett

Getting the Big Project Done!


‘Finding time to practice is part of the practice.” – unknown source from Twitter!

Paradoxically, it’s often when we’re so busy we feel we can’t squeeze another thing in, that we need yoga the most.  I’m in that space now in my life where some big projects are steaming ahead, and I *need* to be on the mat to help me get through it all in a healthy way.    Two weeks ago, I really needed yoga, but my mat remained rolled up tight.  It was a hard week and I’ll just say it:  I was miserable.  Last week was really busy too, but I prioritized yoga practice and you know what?   I could tell!  Everything flowed a bit more smoothly.

It’s hard to take care of yourself when you most need it, so here’s some ideas for getting a little yoga into your day and week.

a)     Set a timer and do 10 minutes on your mat!  Everyone has 10 minutes at some point in the next 24 hours! This is a great segue between parts of a big project.   It’s great to do when you first get up in the morning, or when you’re just getting home in the evening.   Put a favorite song on – commit to just being present during that song.  You don’t even need to move much.    Consider taking the Yoga Odyssey in January for more encouragement on doing a home practice!

b)      Look at your calendar and schedule a yoga class before your next 10 days get away from you.   Have your partner or close friend/family member help you stick to it.  For your sake and theirs you need yoga!

c) The library and Netflix have a great assortment of yoga videos that give you some direction.  When I get a Netflix workout video I try to return it within a week – that means I have to schedule exercising to the video in that amount of time!!

d) If you’re working on a big project over the course of several months (I’m designing a teacher training for example), reward yourself when you reach milestones in the project.   Book a massage, a weekend getaway, a hike in a beautiful and quiet place, a soak in the tub – positive energy rewards that keep you healthy!

Big projects are daunting when you’re at the beginning, but yoga helps us remember all we really need to worry about now is taking the next step forward.   If we keep doing that, we will eventually get there!!    If you get on your mat regularly, each little step will be easier, and you’ll hit your stride in no time and make a lot of progress!

Enjoy the journey,

Barrett

Something to Smile About

Do you spend more of your life with a frown or with a smile?

It’s an interesting question to ponder and to note how often each hour you smile or laugh.   You may think of yourself as a person with a sunny disposition, and yet you still may find yourself going for hours a day without a smile.  I’m starting to watch day by day how much I smile and feel positive, and how often I feel the opposite.

I think smiling is so important! I recently had the pleasure of this reminder, reading this blog post:  15 Fascinating Facts about Smiling

I love teaching the new moms classes – babies smile very early on, and no, it’s not just gas!   Babies imitate what they see, and that’s why we all act so bizarrely around babies – we’ll do anything to get a positive reaction from them, but all we really need to do is smile at them to receive one back.   And the great thing is, YOU feel better by letting your guard down and oohing and ahhing to the baby.

It’s hard to feel down when you’re smiling!   So I sometimes say: Fake it til you Make it.  That’s right.  Smile even if you don’t *feel* smiley.   It’s one of the best ways to pull yourself out of a bad mood.   It will help you become unstuck and move towards doing something positive.    Something that will help you start to *genuinely* smile.

I notice if I’m in a bad mood, or even just a lethargic mood, the best thing I can do is teach or practice.   Why?   Well, when you go to a class,  everyone is really positive and happy generally.   At first maybe I have to make myself smile when everyone is filing through the door.  But eventually, the smile becomes genuine, and I’m really enjoying myself.   I fake it til I make it.   (Don’t worry, I’m not faking on you all very often).

I’ve started to make a list of natural mood lifters for me.   Some of my go-to happy sources are obvious – call a friend, get on my mat to practice, put on some energizing music and dance or sing.   Some are more personal and zany – watch some funny scenes from the Big Lebowski, dab some peppermint essential oil on my wrists and neck.   It’s good to have these tools, because I want to go through life with a lot more smiles than frowns.

These tricks may not work for you.   You may need to find your own way to fake it til you make it.   But finding something to smile about every day is important!  Here’s a quick YouTube clip to keep ya smiling!

Not faking it,

Barrett

Yoga and Food in the News

There was an interesting article recently in the NYTimes, about a workshop that combined yoga and a rich meal afterwards.  The idea was after the yoga class, you would enjoy the flavors more in your heightened sense of awareness. 

Then the article delved into whether you needed to be a vegetarian in order to be a devout yoga practitioner.   About once a year, I see an article talking about this.   Last year, it was Sadie Nardini “coming out” as a meat eater in the Huffington Post.  

Over the years, the owners of the largest yoga studio in NYC have written books and countless articles about their vegan diet, and their belief that everyone should adopt that diet.  I learned from the NYTimes article that they require their teacher trainees to become vegan.  

What I LOVE about yoga is that it makes you aware of everything.   Yoga is about relationship – to yourself, your family, and yes, with your food.   I think any regular practitioner of yoga thinks about what they eat in relation to their practice, at some point.   We know that eating a large meal is going to make our practice difficult, but we also start to realize what kind of food makes us feel energized and what doesn’t.   

But you get to pick.   To me, it is so clear that some people just can’t be vegetarian and healthy.  It’s also clear that overall, Americans eat too much meat, from both a health and environmental perspective.  Wouldn’t it be incredible if there could be less judgment and more balance around this very personal topic of food choices?  That seems like the “yogic way” to me. 

I recently picked up an old Yoga Journal magazine and found this article.

I think it offers some refreshing perspectives from several yogis about their decision to eat meat, or not. 

Enjoy eating, today, with awareness, with love and appreciation for all that you have, and with no guilt!!

Barrett

Nasya and Neti

So, many people know about the wonders of the Neti pot – Oprah’s talked about it, and I’ve blogged about it, so it’s pretty much out there now :)

What’s not so well known is Nasya, and it’s been hugely helpful to me in this very dry start to winter.  Nasya are oil drops that you put in your nose whenever you’re feeling dry. If, like me, you wake up every morning, and your face feels like the Sahara, and you need to drink about 5 glasses of water before you feel like you’re not all dried up from the inside, then Nasya may help.   My nose has been totally dried out, which then leads to an overproduction of mucus throughout the morning, and some really gross nose blowing (when your sinuses and nasal passages get dried out, sometimes the mucus is bloody when you blow your nose.  Yep, too much information, I know).  

You can put any plain oil you’d like in your nose, and it will help with the dryness.  I recommend olive oil or sesame oil.   In Ayurveda  and yoga, however, Nasya is not just used for these medicinal purposes.   Nasya oil has some essential oils infused in it, including the famous Ayurvedic herb Brahmi, as well as Eucalyptus, and the combination together is said to promote awareness and concentration.    

I’m all for more awareness, so I’ve got a yoga tincture from Banyan Botanicals sitting on my desk.  It’s a nice morning ritual along with my several glasses of water.   I’ve found a good combo for me is using the Neti pot a once per week to help ward off flu and colds, and daily Nasya to keep the nasal passages happy.  I recently heard Dr. Oz recommend coating the inside of your nose with Vaseline before flying to eliminate germs coming in through the nose.  I have no idea if it works, but I’ll give it a try next time. 

Finally, I also have a great humidifier that I sleep with at night which has made life a lot better.   I kind of enjoy the white noise of the humidifier, and of course, not feeling like a prune every morning has been a definite bonus.

 Stay well oiled and not dried out this winter time!!  I’d love to write more on Ayurveda (and learn more myself) – anyone else interested in this over the winter?  Let me know!

Barrett

Staying Healthy

I’ve gotten some great advice recently about how to stay healthy, and I wanted to pass it along!   Check out my friend Christi’s newsletter about avoiding getting sick this winter.   Christi is an awesome holistic health counselor and I especially like her advice to: not eat sugar, sleep a lot and bulk up on Vitamin D and C!   She has a lot more tips in her newsletter.   

My friend Shea also recently wrote an article for Mindful Mama.  She writes about similar ways to stay healthy and calls them the 3  S’s: enough sleep, lower stress, and less sugar.   Both of these articles raise the important point of not listening to all the fear out there this winter, especially if you’re a parent. 

Of course, I am always a fan of encouraging yoga!  If you *are* stressed about this winter season, practice some deep, slow breathing and hold some of your favorite stretches for a while.   10 minutes of yogic stretching a day can make a world of difference, and probably will help you implement the above advice.  Try these 4 restorative postures from the CorePowerYoga blog.

Finally, the Marino Center sent me a great chart that highlights the difference between cold and flu symptoms. 

FEVER –   Cold: Uncommon   Flu: Common (100 degrees or higher) in 80% of flu cases

COUGH – Cold: Hacking (with mucous) is common    Flu: Dry cough is common

ACHES – Cold: Mildly aches are common   Flu: Severe aches and pains are common

STUFFY NOSE – Cold: Common and resolves within a week  Flu: Uncommon

CHILLS – Cold: Uncommon   Flu: 60% of people with flu experience chills

TIREDNESS Cold: Mild tiredness  Flu: Moderate to severe fatigue

SNEEZING – Cold: Common  Flu: Uncommon

HEADACHECold: Uncommon Flu: Common

SORE THROAT – Cold: Common   Flu: Common

CHEST DISCOMFORT – Cold: Mild to moderate   Flu: Often severe

ONSET OF SYMPTOMS – Cold: Symptoms occur a few days after exposure    Flu: Rapid onset within 3-6 hours

Gratitude Journal

Over the years, I’ve kept lots of journals.  I still have all my journals from childhood and my teens stored away. However,  I haven’t kept a regular journal in a few years – just a few sporadic writings here and there.  

 

Recently, I’ve picked it up again though.   I’ve been keeping a gratitude journal.  This is an idea I heard years ago, I think on Oprah(!!).   The idea is that every day you write down 5 things you’re grateful for (to read more details about it, click here).  It can be anything – from a really exciting event (I got a new job!  I just went skydiving!) to the most basic of things (I love my parents.   I’m happy for a roof over my head.). It’s a very private practice for me, and so I often repeat myself, or write similar things in different ways, because it’s just a reflection of what’s inside in that moment.

 

Some days you find you’re spilling over with gratitude, and that’s fun.  However, I think it’s especially helpful if you’ve had a bad day.   Usually, the gratitude journal helps put everything in perspective.  There’s so much to be grateful for – we are so lucky – even if we have some terrible days along the way, you know?

 

 

One thing I’m finding as I’m keeping the gratitude journal – yoga shows up on it almost everyday.  I use it for so many things, and there’s so many parts of yoga to be thankful for. 

 

 

So here’s 5 (that I want to share) things I’m grateful for today:

 

1) I’m so happy to have had the beautiful weekend (and Monday)!   It’s helping me not care about the gray and rain today.

 

2) The impatiens on my deck.   They’re the only flowers out there that look good with lots of rain.

 

3) My farm share – the greens have been amazing this year, and I have so many yummy choices in my fridge currently.

 

4) Andala tea – spicy Middle Eastern goodness at my favorite café

 

5) My bike – it’s so fun to bike to work, and now I have a bike rack so I can carry more easily. 

 

And one more, because they’re just flowing today!

 

Bonus: Hand to big toe pose – awesomely fun today!  Felt like I could hold it effortlessly forever. 

 

 

In gratitude,

 

Barrett

K.I.S.S.

Keep It Simple Sweetie!

We laughed a lot getting ready for our first foray into backpacking – boy, for going back to nature, you sure do need a lot of expensive stuff!

It was so interesting for me to literally carry my world on my back for 4 days. It made me realize that we really don’t need much. I could have used more yoga, and a better place to do it than in the dirt and rocks, but otherwise, I was ok.

When we got to Moab, it was heavenly to take a shower and to sleep on a bed (my old back injury was starting to get a little cranky), things that day by day, I definitely take for granted.

But there were some things I absolutely didn’t miss – my email and cellphone!!!

I don’t think I’ve gone so long without checking either one since the advent of their existence! I’ve always been someone who, even on vacation, will stop by the local internet café, if it’s convenient, and check in on my life for a few minutes. I felt like these ways to communicate kept me in touch with my regular life, even if I was on vacation from it.

Well, there was no internet café in Canyonlands National Park, and surprisingly, even when I got to Moab, ensconced in a beautiful little cottage, I had no desire to turn on the computer or check my voicemail. I think being stripped down to just the most basic things (water, some food, a few articles of clothing, and some shelter) made me understand just how unnecessary being in constant contact is.

Now that I’m back, I can’t hide from them, and interestingly, I find I don’t want to. I had a respite, and now I’m back to managing the information flow. I think I’m doing better than usual, not getting overwhelmed at the 250 emails I had awaiting me. I’m doing only what is necessary, and letting go of the extraneous. AND, making sure to step outside on these beautiful days and enjoy the sunshine!

So, Keep It Simple! That’s what I’m talking about right now. It’s been present in my yoga practice too. Just doing the basics that I know put me into a good space. It’s been a really lovely transition back.

Namaste,

Barrett

PICTURES OF OUR TREK

About to head out – last sign of “amenities” like an air conditioned car

We headed off for a 14-mile hike after sleeping in til 10am – mistake! We had to hoof it to get back before dark.

On the way, there were some crazy parts as we moved in and out of canyons

Very happy to be done and back to our tent home. Ready for some pasta and then bed!

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