Stress is an everyday thing, it’s hard to avoid… whether it’s your daily commute in the morning or your boss at work – living in the 21st century is stressful but what does that have to do with your fat loss goals? It has everything to do with a hormone called Cortisol.
It’s released in response to different circumstances such as waking, exercising, and stress. Cortisol can have serious impacts on sleep and weight gain, thus inhibiting fat loss. This is one reason why people experiencing a lot of stress struggle with reaching their fitness goals. The key with cortisol is not necessarily to reduce it absolutely, but to control it. Continue reading “Why Stress Is Preventing Your Fat Loss”
Everyone at some point will experience some degree of inflammation. It’s not all bad. Inflammation is the body’s natural response to protect our cells from external toxins, to heal injuries, to fight infection, and to act as a warning sign of food allergies and hormonal or nutritional imbalances in the body.
Warning signs range greatly from mild rashes, hives, eczema, puffy eyes, digestive upset, and fatigue. However, when left ignored these seemingly minor discomforts could progress into chronic conditions like arthritis, cardiovascular disease and even cancer.
It’s not the acute inflammation (think: swollen ankle) that poses a long-term risk to our health. It’s the chronic inflammation (think: food allergies and arthritis).
So what can you do?
1. Regular Cleansing.
As we get older our body’s natural detox defenses become depleted and our ‘toxic load’ becomes heavier and heavier. The need to support and assist the body to properly cleanse and heal our cells becomes even more important. Various focused cleanses provide the most anti-inflammatory and detoxifying benefits. Or even simply replacing one coffee a day with nutrient dense green juice or glass of water is a step in the right direction! Continue reading “Glow From The Inside Out: 6 Ways to Ease Inflammation.”
Every athlete, exerciser, active person, and couch potato can benefit from stretching and most of us stretch daily whether intentional or not. Oftentimes daily stretching becomes habitual and thoughtless. We may not be getting the maximum benefit from from this important routine if we continually tune-out. I believe incorporating some yogic principles and even yoga asanas (or postures) into your stretching routine will maximize the physical and mental benefits of stretching.
First, start with being more mindful while doing your current stretching routine. Take those standard stretches you do every day and play with doing them in silence (no music) and with your eyes closed. Instead of counting the seconds you are holding the stretch, instead focus on your breath. See how slowly you take an in-breath and an out-breath and then practice equalizing the duration of each in-breath and out-breath (count during this portion, if needed). This often has the effect of taking you out of your mind and more fully into your body which can lead to deepening the stretch.
Second, bring even more mindfulness to your stretching by taking your attention to the parts of your body that are resisting the stretch. For instance, visualize your breath reaching into your hamstrings while you are in a forward bend. Over time you will actually feel a release of tension in the body part in which you are directing your thoughts and breath. You will actually be able to feel your body let you in. Notice which muscle groups contract and which lengthen for each stretch.
Third, instead of just stretching one muscle group at a time, you can choose a yoga posture that stretches the particular muscle group you are focusing on and so much more. For example, Revolved Triangle will stretch the hips, hamstrings, and IT band while also opening up the back, shoulders, waist, and arms.
Why use this opportunity to practice mindfulness? Bringing more attention and awareness into your body can only be good for your workouts (as well as your mental health!). Mindfulness practices have been shown to slow heart rate, reduce stress, anxiety, and tension, bring clarity and creativity, and foster compassion for both ourselves and others. Bringing mindfulness to the mundane, such as stretching or dishwashing or commuting, is the perfect practice for being able to use mindfulness at times when the stakes are higher such as intimate relationships, work projects, or health issues.
One of the most important lessons I’ve learned from my years of yoga practice is the need for rest. We all have this part of us that is the constant seeker. Always feeling the pull to achieve goals, focus on where we are going, willing ourselves to do more and keep moving forward. It’s hard to let go and take the time to rest when your body tells you “stop, I can’t take another minute”. I’m not talking about scheduled rest days in your fitness program. I’m talking about the days or even weeks where you’ve somehow hit a wall with your energy level, your performance, your desire, your discipline, your will power. Perhaps something in your personal life has depleted you emotionally and as a result you are lacking in coordination and balance. Or maybe work-related stress has you waking up, anxious, at 3am and your legs feel like tree trunks the next day. Psychological stress can have these physiological effects. These are the times to take a restorative yoga class, practice Yoga Nidra, or choose poses before bedtime that encourage sleep. And, most importantly, adjust or even put a pause on your fitness routine. Your body is talking to you. If you don’t take the time to listen and nurture it, your body will just scream louder next time and the recovery time could be longer.
Restorative yoga classes emphasize full relaxation by propping up the body in mostly reclining positions that are held for many minutes at a time. You will then be guided into releasing your grip on the body and the mind. You may fall asleep or you may just reach a place of deep relaxation.
Yoga Nidra or yogic sleep is like an extended, more deeply-focused Savasana or Corpse Pose. The instructor uses voice commands to guide you in visualizing each body part. At the start, you will also be instructed to repeat the mantra “I am doing Yoga Nidra and I will not fall asleep”. The CHOICE to enter Yoga Nidra is absolutely key. It is more restful and beneficial for you to consciously practice the deep visualization than it is to nap. In fact, it is said that 20 minutes of Yoga Nidra relaxes you so deeply on both a physical and emotional level that it is equal to 4 hours of sleep! With my online coaching and audios of guided Yoga Nidra, you can do it right in your own home.
Lastly, adding a few forward bends to your nighttime routine will trigger your body to engage in relaxation as it moves toward a sleep state. Forward bends are poses that require full surrender. Telling yourself you are fully surrendering to the need to sleep and rest your body and mind as you are in these poses further encourages deep relaxation and a letting go that is deeper and more trustful. Suggested poses are: Seated Forward Bend (Paschimottanasana), Reclining Bound Angle Pose (Supta Badda Konasa), and One-Legged King Pigeon Pose (Eka Pada Rajakapotasana). Hold each pose for 2 to 5 minutes as you breathe slowly and deeply.
Maybe one of these choices becomes a daily or weekly habit for you or perhaps only used as the obvious need occurs. Either way, learning to give your body the deep rest it needs is essential for your growth and expansion both physically and emotionally. If you could benefit from coaching to help you incorporate these tips into your daily routine, please contact me.