Your Inner Coach

By Guest Blogger: Anne Macaulay

As a spouse, parent, or dog owner, you may know the value of catching someone doing something right–noticing and reinforcing desired behavior right in the moment. “Thank-you” for making me dinner, “What a good puppy” for peeing outdoors, etc.

But, how often do you do the same for yourself?

When we’re trying to improve our health, we often focus on the end result: getting cholesterol numbers down or running a 5k. What if instead we focus on the process, the little decisions and steps taken throughout the day to support health goals? What if we support ourselves by really noticing, acknowledging, and becoming grateful to ourselves for these steps?

To give yourself timely, positive feedback, you first need to be aware of your inner dialogue. If this is new to you, journaling and meditation can build this awareness. If you are already conscious of how you talk to yourself, you can focus on catching yourself doing something right. Be sure to use phrases that feel authentic to you. Here are some examples: “Nice choice!” or “You’re on your way!”.

You, yourself, are the best person to provide reinforcement at just the right moment. This is a habit that can be learned. It will support all other habits—it’s a virtuous cycle!

Try starting out by spending a week listening to the inner coach while letting the inner critic know you’ve got this! It may be surprising how good it feels to give yourself that same warm, caring feedback that you give so generously to others. 

Way to go!

More about Anne Macaulay:

Anne Macaulay is an ADAPT Certified Functional Health Coach. Anne helps people sidelined by health challenges to get their lives back on track, one step at a time. She is an avid gardener, professional dog trainer, and hiker who uses functional medicine principles to live well with autoimmune disease. She lives in Franklin Park with her husband, Jeff and Vizsla, Cash. https://www.ongoodbehavior.com/coaching.html

Your Presence is a Present

“If you are depressed you are living in the past.
If you are anxious you are living in the future.
If you are at peace you are living in the present.” Lao Tzu

Staying present can be challenging all the time. Add a global pandemic to the mix, and our minds and thoughts travel everywhere! To stay present, it’s helpful to anchor attention on something where we can keep bringing our focus back when the mind strays. It can be frustrating to experience constant drifting back to the past or into the future, imagining things that will likely never happen. It takes a big toll on the nervous system and thus our overall health and wellness.

Try to use breathing as an anchor (it’s my favorite). And, it’s right under your nose! When the attention begins to wander away, just think “not now” and bring the focus back to the anchor with compassion and not judgement. Perhaps even acknowledge and accept the wandering. With practice this will become more fluid. Remember too, that practice isn’t for perfection. Practice is for navigating in the light, what we may truly need in the dark.

During this season of light and holy days, may your presence be a present!

A Locust a Day…

One of the very best yoga poses to do every day is locust (Salabhasana). In my gentle mat and chair classes, I teach a few variations of it. Here’s why it’s so great:

Locust pose is a back bend and backward bending poses stimulate and tone the sympathetic nervous system (the fight or flight response in the body). It energizes the body and helps to improve focus.

Practicing locust pose involves core strength. As we engage the core muscles, we’re also lengthening and extending the entire spine, thus strengthening the back muscles, particularly the low back. Keep in mind while trying this pose that it’s mostly about the lengthening versus the lifting and keeping the neck long (because every body is different, we’re not going to necessarily look like the picture above).

Some other amazing benefits of this pose are that it opens the chest, which we all often collapse during the day due to our posture and how much time we spend sitting. Depending upon the version of locust (arms behind and parallel to the mat), we’re getting some nice retraction of the scapula — a good movement for the rotator cuff. Locust is great for strengthening the gluteal muscles in the butt that support the back, and it tones the inner thighs, hamstrings, adductors and calf muscles. For these reasons and more, it is often “prescribed” in PT for low back pain and improving posture.

As we move into this asana or posture, we put our body weight and balance into our abdomen (if practicing the mat version) so the internal organs get a massage and we activate our digestive system, getting everything moving along effectively.

Are you ready for a locust a day? It may keep the doctor away.

Go Nuts!

Well, not literally, but we’re already a little nuts in different ways!

Did you know that some recent research has found that incorporating walnuts into meals on a daily basis has been linked to a reduction in the concentration of inflammatory biomarkers? While they may not be the go-to nut for meals and snacking (that would be pistachios for me!), walnuts do have essential omega-3 fatty acids (alpha-linolenic acid). This plays an important role in the functioning of the brain (and have you noticed, they look like a brain?). And it helps mitigate heart disease and inflammation.

Try some as a snack maybe mixed with other nuts you like, add them in a salad, or to cookie/cake recipes or even make a walnut (instead of pine nut) pesto. Experiment with them in other foods, chop them finely and sprinkle them. With the holidays coming up, try them in stuffing. Who knows, maybe you’ll discover something profound!

Reference: Mind Body Green Magazine, Scientists Find More Evidence For Adding This Inflammation-Fighting Nut To Your Diet

Little Revelations

At age 20, I was given the feedback that I didn’t get my first internship because I was wearing sparkly brown nail polish. “Interview was great, but nail polish was unacceptable.” This was the feedback the interviewer gave the career counselor at my college.

Ever since then, my nails have been impeccably polished with “acceptable” colors. Thirty plus years of nail polish and a pandemic later, I’ve come to love my natural nails. I rub organic castor oil into them 1-2 times a week and that’s it.

It’s liberating. I feel like I’ve shed that stigma of the past. Loving yourself means your whole self and not cherry-picking certain things.

What is your little revelation? How are you loving your whole self? If you’re not, why not? This is worth some contemplation.

❤

Mindful Moment

“Too many of us move through our lives with our true selves

buried below layers of repressed emotion. With so much

energy channeled toward sustaining the repression,

there is little left over for the deeper questions.

The consequences of our evasion are profound.

Our stockpiles toxify into a cache of weapons

that turn inward against the self:

quick fix, long suffering.

As Rumi said, “Most people guard against the fire,

and so end up in it.”

This is the power of then. If we don’t deal with our stuff,

it deals with us.”

― Jeff Brown, Soulshaping: A Journey Of Self Creation

Effort versus ease

By Guest Blogger: Eva Montalvo

Sthira Sukham Asanam

We may think that ease (sukha) is better than effort, because it just sounds so, well EASY.  Yet without effort (sthira) there is no strength or stability.  On the other hand, we can overdo effort and feel as if we are straining and stressed.

In yoga we come into poses (asanam) that may be relaxing, and others that feel more strenuous.  Practicing Sthira and Sukha really isn’t an either/or, though.  It is balancing both at the same time

For example, even in a relaxing stretch like child’s pose we can find a steadiness in our breathing and thoughts.  In a stronger pose such as Warrior II, even while feeling the effort of the body’s muscles used to hold the pose, we can still look for a lightness and comfort by letting the shoulders relax down away from the ears and softening the muscles of the face.

Often, we can find ease or contentment simply by letting go of expectations – what we think “should” be – and simply acknowledging what IS.  We can feel the pose and use the breath as a guide to that sweet spot of harmony within.

As you step off your mat and into your life, can you find this same balance of effort and ease?  For example, even while performing a task such as preparing dinner, I find a sense of ease by putting on my favorite music and reflecting on the day with gratitude.  

More about our guest blogger:

Eva is the Owner/Founder of Nourish Yoga & Wellness. Her mission is to inspire adults to live more energetically and vibrantly by helping them incorporate simple changes in their lifestyle, especially in learning how to move and breathe to connect to their body through yoga. She believes strongly in making yoga available for EVERY BODY and specializes in working with beginners and older adults. To learn more click here: https://www.nourishyogawellness.com/

Saffron For Health

By Guest Blogger: Rae Steinbach

Have you considered the health benefits of adding saffron to your diet?

A range of health benefits may flow from simply consuming natural ingredients. Consider saffron. Research shows it can boost health in numerous ways when taken as a saffron drink or ingested with food. Here’s more:

It helps protect the heart

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S.  Saffron might help. This is because it reduces the stress on arteries and blood vessels. What this means is less risk of heart attack and similar cardiovascular health problems.

Managing anxiety

There’s evidence that saffron can improve mental and emotional health. Specifically, saffron has been shown to reduce anxiety to a degree. Its mood-boosting qualities also make it a powerful aphrodisiac for some. 

Improving immunity

Just as important as treating illnesses properly, is guarding against developing illnesses in the first place.

Saffron may help in this capacity: Research indicates it boosts the immune system. This makes colds, viruses, and similar illnesses less likely.

Adding saffron to the diet can be very beneficial for health and wellness.

Possible option if looking for a saffron drink

Please note: With the introduction of any new product, herb, or supplement, please consult with your healthcare professional before partaking, to ensure there aren’t any contraindications.

More about Rae Steinbach:

Rae is a graduate of Tufts University with a combined International Relations and Chinese degree. After spending time living and working abroad in China, she returned to NYC to pursue her career and continue curating quality content. Rae is passionate about travel, food, and writing. Twitter: @araesininthesun

Essential Oil and the Limbic System

By Guest Blogger: Beverly McGivney

Ever wonder why a certain smell can bring up memories and even elicit a physical response? Our sense of smell effects the limbic system in the brain — it has powerful healing capacities!

Our limbic system is a combination of higher mental functions and our emotions. It is directly linked to parts of the brain that control heart rate, blood pressure, breathing, memory, stress levels and hormone balance. It’s because of this, that the smell of essential oils can produce profound positive effects. Essential oils can help support overall wellness. They consist of over 100 different natural organic compounds that supply support for every system in the body. When inhaled, the aromatic molecules of an essential oil interact with sensors in our nasal cavity, lungs, and pores. Once engaged, the sensors emit strong emotional signals starting from the limbic system, then the hippocampus, and spread throughout the rest of the body to places like the heart and the digestive tract.

Some essential oil examples are:

Citrus oils: orange, lemon, lime or grapefruit. Known for uplifting aromatic qualities.

Floral oils: geranium and rose. Known for an aromatic quality that encourages peaceful feelings. Does all this make scents?

Read more about Beverly McGivney (YL # 1149206) here:

Facebook: www.facebook.com/thebodhiseed1121; Instagram: @thebodhiseed1121
Beverly, the creator of the Bodhi Seed, has a passion for whole person wellness. During her personal exploration of whole person wellness body, mind and spirit, Beverly was inspired to create The Bodhi Seed. The Bodhi Seed is a platform to educate and advocate on wellness using nature’s energy while inspiring purpose and abundance! She believes in creating non-toxic living mentally, spiritually, emotionally and physically!

Should?

Just because you CAN do something, does it mean you should? I recently realized while practicing yoga, after years of thinking I can’t do Camel Pose (Ustrasana), I actually can. Imagine that! I felt accomplished, proud of myself. All from a discovery that if I widened the space between my knees, I’m able to bend back just a bit deeper and take hold of my ankles. Prior to this discovery, I’d been priming my back with other poses which created some space. So I was ready at that time for this epiphany.

Fast forward about 2-3 weeks and I decide to teach it in class. First I demonstrate the gentle version of it, which I really like. And then for those who want to try a fuller expression, I demonstrate. The next day, I noticed sensation in my mid-back. The only explanation is that I should have stayed with the gentle version knowing that when I teach, I have a harder time being mindful of myself, because I’m focused on students. I did not, in that moment, have the ability to discern my best course of action. The Sanskrit for the concept of discernment is Vivek. I’d been learning about Vivek in a weekly class through the Princeton University Hindu Life Program. I had discovered the perfect lesson in Vivek (the hard way).

How can we take this lesson into our every day lives? Discerning how much we want to take in. One more news segment? One more Netflix series? Reaching, striving. One more commitment on the calendar? Should? Should not? Pause, breathe, think, weigh, assess…

Read more here about Camel Pose: https://www.yogajournal.com/poses/camel-pose