Your Guide to a Better Night’s Sleep

In the midst of our bustling modern lives, achieving quality sleep can feel like an elusive dream. As we grapple with the demands of work, relationships, and technology, the concept of a peaceful night’s rest might seem like a distant fantasy. Yet, amidst this chaos, there are practices which can be very beneficial techniques to give you the upper hand and gently guide us back to sound sleeping. Here are a few pointers to get you on your way to a better night’s sleep.

Sleep Hygiene Practices

This first section outlines some basics around setting the stage for a better night’s sleep. You’ve probably heard these sleep hygiene tips before, but I wonder, are you doing them? These simple strategies are effective at both helping you fall asleep and improving your quantity and quality of sleep.

  • Keep a Consistent Sleep Schedule: Your body needs to become habituated to going to bed and getting up at set times, whether it’s a weekday or weekend. It sounds like tough love, but if you force yourself to get up, say, at 6:30 am for a few days, regardless of how you slept the night before, and then to go to bed promptly at 10:30 pm, it can help you reset your sleep pattern. It might be painful for a few days, but it will likely be worth it. Of course, having a consistent sleep schedule is not always possible for shift workers, and when this is the case, taking a look at all other strategies to ensure quality sleep becomes evermore important.
  • Avoid Caffeine and Alcohol too Close to Bedtime: These substances affect your readiness for sleep or the quality of sleep you get. As any coffee lover knows, caffeine is a stimulant that can keep you awake. It is best to avoid caffeine (coffee, tea, cola, and some pain relievers) for four to six hours before bedtime. Alcohol, on the other hand, is a sedative, and while it may help lull you into sleep, sedatives have a rebound effect and increase the number of awakenings throughout your night. Alcohol limits the amount of REM sleep we get and this is the crucial sleep which helps to store and organize our memories. 
  • Get Daily Exercise: A regular exercise routine can help you fall asleep faster and sleep more soundly. Exercise strengthens circadian rhythms, and may stimulate longer periods of slow-wave sleep, the deepest and most restorative phase of sleep. Everyday it is important to find time for some movement – a walk/hike, a run, bike ride, weights, yoga class, swimming, an interval routine, or home calisthenics routine (aiming for 20-60 minutes). It is especially helpful if you get outside for your exercise, and particularly during the earlier part of the day, for the purpose of light exposure. Exposure to natural light in the day primes the evening release of natural melatonin that supports healthy sleep.

    It’s important to remember, however, exercise stimulates the body to secrete cortisol, which helps activate the alerting mechanism in the brain. So if you exercise too soon before bed you are fighting the cortisol in your system. Try to finish exercising at least 2-3 hours before bed or work out earlier in the day.
  • Minimize Light Exposure Before Bed: Light slows down the production of melatonin, the hormone that helps us sleep, and blue light from screens seems to be the most potent at doing this. Get the melatonin kicking in by dimming the lights in your home before bedtime. If you use a device before bed, turn the brightness level down on the screen, or consider using blue light blocking devices. Blinds in your room or using an eye mask can be helpful to block out the light while sleeping.
  • Keep Your Bedroom Cool: Cold induces sleep due to lower brain temperature. Research suggests a cool bedroom of around around 18-19 degrees Centigrade (66 degrees Fahrenheit) is best for sleep.  
  • Reduce Environmental Noise: Although it seems obvious, sometimes we don’t take the steps to minimize environmental noise. If you are a light sleeper and easily jostled by sound, consider using earplugs or “white noise” machines. Many people use a fan for white noise, which also helps keep the room cool. 
  • Set up a Bedtime Ritual: Along with establishing regular bedtime and wake-up times, it is helpful to set up a soothing bedtime ritual. If you’ve ever put a baby to sleep, you know how important these routines are in settling a wakeful brain into sleep mode. It works the same way for adults. Plan a relaxing routine for the 30-60 minutes before bed. This won’t be the same for everyone. For one person, it might be 15 minutes of meditation followed by a cup of chamomile tea. Someone else might like a warm bubble bath accompanied by calming music. Get the lights dim in the house, this also cues the brain that sleep time is coming.

Yoga Techniques

Yoga, with its rich tapestry of postures, breathwork, and meditation, offers a holistic approach to fostering a tranquil state conducive to restful sleep. In this section, I’ve listed some yoga techniques to help calm the mind and relax the body, which can be part of the bedtime ritual. I do not go into detail with the techniques listed below, but you will find links links to previous blogs I have written on the techniques with more detail. 

  • Breathing: At the heart of this transformative practice lies the power of deep, mindful breathing. By incorporating pranayama, or yogic breathing techniques, one can effortlessly invite a sense of calm and relaxation, paving the way for a peaceful transition into the realm of sleep. Try incorporating these breathing techniques in the evening to unwind before bed: Ujjaiya breathing and belly (diaphragmatic) breathing combined with a focus of slowing exhales
  • Gentle Yoga Poses: Certain postures can serve as a lullaby for the body, gently releasing tension and encouraging a state of tranquility. The poses shown below take advantage of calming practices such as inversions and vagus nerve stimulation to soothe the nervous system, helping the body shift into a state of ease and relaxation before bed.
  • In the realm of the mind, the meditative aspects of yoga hold the key to unlocking a peaceful sleep cycle. By incorporating mindfulness and meditation into one’s practice, individuals can cultivate an inner stillness that serves as a powerful antidote to the restlessness of the day. There are countless guided meditations you can source online and through various apps. Ultimately, you are looking for anything that promotes feelings of ease. Here are recordings of a progressive muscle relaxation meditation, a body scan meditation, which are all excellent for promoting relaxation and allowing for a seamless transition into a restorative sleep state. 

Cognitive Strategies

Anyone who has experienced insomnia will tell you the whole process of going to sleep is complicated by the fact that your mind develops a whole range of negative or anxious thoughts about it. These thoughts then prevent you from sleeping. However, by questioning the validity of these thoughts, we can decrease their power to cause us anxiety. Here are some typical negative thoughts of people with insomnia, and for each one, I’ve included an alternate response to challenge the negative thought and reduce anxiety :

  • Negative thought: “I’ve got to fall asleep right now or I won’t be able to function tomorrow.” Alternate response: “ Actually, there’s no urgency. You’ve done without sleep before. You’ll be a little tired, which is uncomfortable and inconvenient, but it’s hardly the end of the world.”
  • Negative thought: “It isn’t normal to have this kind of insomnia. It means there’s something wrong with me.” Alternate Response: “ Unfortunately, insomnia is quite common. Almost everyone experiences it sometimes. No one will think less of you for having it.”
  • Negative thought: “I could will myself to go to sleep if I tried hard enough.” Alternate response: “Trying to force yourself to sleep never works. It increases anxiety, which only fuels your insomnia. It’s better to let go of the attempt, and give in to not sleeping. Then you can relax a little.”
  • Negative thought: “I need to remember all the things I’m lying awake thinking about.” Alternate response: “If something is worth remembering, get out of bed, write it down, and go back to bed. There’s plenty of opportunity to plan things tomorrow.”
  • Negative thought: “I never get enough sleep.” Alternate Response: “This is probably true for most people; you are not alone. It’s simply uncomfortable and inconvenient. It’s not the end of the world.”

I hope this blog gives you a few new ideas on how to improve your sleep. Getting a good night’s sleep is an underestimated aspect of our health and well-being. By incorporating these science-backed tips into your routine, you can set yourself up for a more restful and rejuvenating night’s sleep. Remember, it may take time to see significant improvements, so be patient and consistent in your efforts to achieve better sleep. Sweet dreams!

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Interrupting the Wandering Mind is Helpful for Depression


Research is proving, a wandering mind is not a happy mind. A study done by Matthew Killingsworth and Daniel Gilbert found that 47% of the time, people were thinking about something other than what they were actually doing, and regardless of whether the wandering thoughts were positive or negative in nature, the more thinking time spent out of the present moment related to greater unhappiness (Killingsworth, M. and Gilbert, D., 2010). Considering these results and the increasing prevalence of depression and other mood disorders, it makes sense we learn strategies to interrupt and steer our wandering minds. Yoga and mindfulness can help you get there.

You might be wondering what is so bad about a wandering mind. For this, consider where your thoughts go when left to wander. The mind ruminates on past events; it elaborates in self-evaluation, comparing, and judging; it daydreams and imagines future scenarios (often negative); and it assigns stories to experiences. Wandering minds jump from direct experience into elaboration – taking you from the present moment into the past, future, or fantasy. As much as this can contribute to creativity, when left unchecked, the wandering mind develops habits of analyzing and projecting negatively towards ourselves and others, making it a very unhealthy addiction.

So, if being lost in our thoughts is making us unhappy, it is important to learn ways to lessen the mind’s natural inclination towards wandering. Ultimately this is about interrupting the moments when we get lost in thought and learning how to redirect ourselves back to the immediate experience, in other words, becoming more mindful. We can do this by accessing our senses – take a couple deep breaths and feel the sensation of the breath moving, smell the air, scan your environment, feel the weight of your feet on the ground, etc. We can also do this by immersing ourselves in the states of creative flow, choosing activities where we are totally absorbed into the experience of the activity, e.g., music, dance, art, gardening, etc.

In yoga and meditation, we practice embodied mindfulness, which is particularly helpful for interrupting the wandering mind. Embodied mindfulness is simply being aware of body experiences as they happen, and we learn to do this without narrating, evaluating, or judging what we are sensing. By noticing what you feel in your body, we teach ourselves to come back to the present moment through the internal sensations, heightening our interoceptive abilities. Embodied mindfulness also helps us build emotional resilience (Bo Forbes, The Neuroscience of Depression (boforbes.com). Regularly checking in to what you notice in your body, without needing to control, change or fix what we feel, gives space for the emotions to be there and helps them move in our bodies, and this can interrupt a cycle of rumination or feelings getting “stuck”.

Try these practices to strengthen your mindfulness skills and “rein-in” the wandering mind:

  1. Body-based Check-ins: Embodied mindfulness is a skill that can be practiced and it doesn’t have to be reserved to yoga class. You can do a couple minute practice anytime in your day.

    Start by settling your attention inwardly (it is helpful to close your eyes) and sense what you notice in your body (without the need to interpret, control, change or fix what it is that you feel). E.g., Do you have tension anywhere? How does your breath feel? Are there any feelings or emotions present and where do you feel this in your body? Are there any other sensations are present in your body and where? If at any time, you come across difficult feelings, see if you can meet them with self compassion. Try breathing into the feeling and notice how it shifts and changes over time.
  2. Mindfulness Meditation with Mental Labeling: In this style of meditation, you are developing the brain’s capacity to recognize when it has wandered off and to learn your habits of what types of thoughts you are ruminating on (giving you insight). Lastly, it gives you practice to how to let go of thoughts.

Find a comfortable seat, set a timer for 5-10 minutes, and close your eyes (or cast your gaze downwards if preferred). In the meditation you aim to keep your mind steady on one thing, usually the feeling of your breath somewhere in your body, and whenever your mind wanders away, the mind can be recruited to briefly step in and label the type of thought you’re having. For example, you can say “obsessing over details” or “negative self-judgment” or “revisiting the past”, and then you return your focus to back to your breath. This is repeated every time you notice your mind has wandered simply as an act of recognition. Don’t be discouraged if you repeatedly do this, that’s totally normal and it’s the important part of the training.

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Finding Your Center (a meditation)

Have you ever paused to consider what the phrase ‘center yourself’ really means? I think most of us have a notion that this means to settle excessive mind chatter and to ground ourselves inwards, and I would agree with this. Over the years of practicing yoga I have found it a very valuable skill to drop in and connect that feeling of my internal center. To get started on this process, try the guided meditation below. Do this daily for 1-2 weeks and notice how it can help you feel less scattered, and have better clarity in navigating your day. 

Instructions for meditation: Finding Your Center

  1. Come to a comfortable seated position, close your eyes and connect to your body in the way of sensing and feeling—notice the sense of grounding of your body, the weight of your body, the posture, and any other sensations.
  1. Then sense the core of your body from the inside and notice where you would locate the feeling of your body’s center. Take some time to land in just the right spot where you feel your center to be. Try not to get too literal on this one, see if you can connect to your personal “feeling” of center. 
  1. Begin to sense the flow of your breath moving in and out of your body and gently direct the breath towards this internal center area. Work with long, smooth breaths, filling and releasing from your center. 
  1. Now connect with your center on a feeling level and sense how this part of you holds an energy about it that is knowing and calm. This is a place where all the distractions of busy life fall away and only a personal truth remains. Take a moment to ask your center what it knows to be true at this moment, and see what shows up. Or ask yourself, “What is important in my life today?” Take whatever shows up and let this be information for you on how to move forward in this moment, or on this day. 

To be guided in this meditation, play the video below

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Bhramari Breath (bee breath)

In Yoga we use many different tools to steady the mind and body. Often in my classes I teach pranayama (breathing exercises) for this purpose and I recently revisited a simple but effective one know as Bhramari Breathing. If you are like me and sometimes have a really hard time settling the mind into a meditation practice, consider this pranayama technique.

The basic Bhramari breath is easy and simple, making it great for the beginner student. You breathe in and out through the nose, and on the exhales you make a low pitched hum sound (from the throat), extending your breath out as long as feels comfortable. Often equated to the sound of a buzzing of a bee, it is sometimes known as bee breath.

What makes this breathing technique so special is how the hum noise effortlessly secures your attention. In addition to the sound, the sensation of the sound vibrations in the body also latch your focus, making it less likely for the mind to dart about in thought. This makes it a very easy meditation technique for people with anxious/busy minds.

In addition the extended exhales activate the parasympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system, which is responsible for resting, digesting, and relaxing – essentially it has a calming effect on the nervous system. For more detail on this process have a look at a previous blog I wrote which gets into the physiology of breathing and the nervous system in Learning to Take a Deep Breath.

Here’s some step by step instructions on how to do Bhramari Breath:

  • Sit in a comfortable position and preferably with eyes closed
  • Inhale and exhale through the nose, and for the entire length of your exhalation, make a low to medium-pitched humming sound in the throat
  • Attempt to prolong the buzzing sound on the exhalation as long as you comfortably can
  • Keep the face, jaw, neck and shoulders relaxed as you practice
  • Do 6 – 10 rounds of this breathing and pay attention to the sound and the feeling of the vibrations in your body
  • Once completed, return to normal breathing and notice how you feel

For more information on this technique, have a look at a really good article by Timothy McCall, 5 Ways to Practice Bhramari, which explains variations off the basic Bhramari breath.

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Yoga stills the fluctuations of the mind…

Have you ever done a yoga class and somewhere along the way you realize (maybe at the end during savasana) that you feel more calm, connected with your body, and relaxed compared to when you first arrived. You might also notice the busy mind chatter has dulled and there is some distance between you and your reflexive thoughts. If yes, then you’ll understand what I mean when I say yoga stills the fluctuations of the mind, and by this very nature, you’ve experienced entering into a deeper level of awareness through the experience of yoga. One could even say you’ve dropped into a “meditative state”.

There are a couple aspects of yoga that assist in the process of experiencing this calm, more peaceful state. When you move your body and get the muscles warmed, stretched, and the circulation flowing, this eases tension and pain, resulting in less distracting sensations to attend to. It’s also the mindfulness aspect – paying attention to sensation in body and breath, from moment to moment. This keeps the mind anchored to the present moment, which stills the mind chatter.

When we drop into this more meditative-like state in the mind, we are not actually stopping thoughts from occurring. Rather we enter a different state of awareness where the thoughts feel more distant – we are less attached to them and their meaning.  A nice parallel is to imagine the reflexive thoughts of the mind to be like waves on the surface of the ocean. When we are swimming on the surface, the waves push us around, lifting us to their peaks and dropping us into their valleys. When we are connected and calm, we can drop into that deeper water space where everything is still and peaceful… And in this place, we are able to see the thoughts for what they are – surface waves.

I have always found the transcendence into this calmer level of awareness easier to access by doing a little yoga first. In fact one could say the very purpose of physical yoga is to ready oneself for meditation. So the next time you are on your mat, soak up the stillness you’ve created within – lay still and linger in this experience. This short few minutes will leave you feeling focused, connected, and calm.

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A Meditation to Still the Mind

This easy meditation uses repetition of linguistic sound to bring focus and stillness to the mind. All you need to do is choose a word or phrase that does not hold any strong association or memory for you. For example you could use a sanskrit term such as Sat Nam (meaning truth is my identity) or So Hum (meaning, “I am that”, where “that” refers to all of creation). You could also use a familiar word like “gratitude” or “peaceful”, but make sure the word you choose doesn’t conjure up strong memory associations which could pull you away from the task.

The task is simple – find a quiet comfortable place to sit and set your timer (5 to 10 minutes to start with). Close your eyes and take a couple full breaths to settle in, then begin repeating your word inwardly to yourself. Continue to repeat your word at the pace that is comfortable for you and focus your mind on hearing the sound of the word. If you notice the repetition of saying the word slows down, let this happen. As you notice thoughts pop up in your mind, let them come and go and continue to focus on repeating your word.

Over time you might notice that your mind starts to feel a little more detached and calm, and you may be able to drop behind the word sound to a place of quiet stillness in your mind, much like finding the calm, deep waters below the surface waves in an ocean. If and when this happens you can let your task of repeating your word drift off and you can rest in this place of relaxed awareness. Let thoughts ripple on the surface without intruding the quiet peace within.  Continue this until your timer goes off. Come back feeling connected, calm and focused.

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Yoga for Your Brain: What You Need to Know About Mindfulness and Meditation

110203-064Here is a little Question & Answer piece to explain some basics around mindfulness and meditation, and how they relate to yoga.

What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness simply means maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment.

When we practice mindfulness, our thoughts tune into what we’re sensing in the present moment rather than rehashing the past or imagining the future. Mindfulness also involves acceptance, meaning that we pay attention to our thoughts and feelings without judging them—without believing, for instance, that there’s a “right” or “wrong” way to think or feel in a given moment.

How are mindfulness and yoga related?
Yoga teaches mindfulness each class when we become the observer of what we are noticing in our bodies and minds during a pose or transition. When your yoga teacher cues you to notice sensation, alignment, breath, and thoughts during class, she or he is cultivating the state of mindfulness. This is what makes the practice of yoga different than other physical sports/disciplines – you are learning to move with conscious awareness, and you are learning the skill of shifting your attention away from the unconscious mind-chatter to that of the observer, present to all that is happening in your mind-body from moment to moment.

What is meditation?
Look up the definition of meditation and you’ll get a lot of different answers. That is because within the practice of meditation there are many different styles and techniques. Most commonly, meditation means the act of giving your attention to only one thing in order to focus or affect the mind. Generally, a meditation practice follows a specific procedure to produce transformational results in some way, such as the development of concentration, emotional positivity, self-knowledge, calm, or spiritual growth.

Also, among the many forms of meditation, the process varies – some use an object or a sensation to fix the attention to, while others use chants and mantras (sometimes having a religious connection). There are also guided or content-directed meditations with the focus of achieving a certain state of being or emotion, e.g. cultivating a state of loving kindness or relaxation.

One of the most simple forms of meditation, and the one I am choosing to highlight in this blog, is Mindfulness Meditation; it is secular, well-defined, and researched with proven benefits. Mindfulness meditation uses the process of sustained focus, specifically by focusing your full attention on your breath as it flows in and out of your body. Here are the steps:

  1. Sit in a comfortable seated position with your back straight and eyes closed
  2. Notice the feeling of your breath coming in and going out. Pick a spot where you sense the breath to be most prominent (could be nose, chest, or belly), and focus fully on the sensation of the breath coming in and out.
  3. Your mind is going to wander off in thought constantly, and when you notice you’ve lost your focus on the feeling of the breath, let go of whatever you were thinking and start again, bringing your attention back to the sensation of the breath.

Many people think meditation is about stopping thoughts, but it is not. The mind thinks. That’s its job. The purpose of mindfulness meditation is to help us unhook from our tendency to get caught up in thoughts without any conscious awareness. The first time you meditate, you might notice the instructions are simple but the practice is difficult. You may keep getting lost in thinking about the past or future. The key is to remember that getting caught up in thoughts is normal. Just make note of thinking and return to the breath over and over again.

Why should we practice mindfulness meditation?
Because it is yoga for your brain!

During the meditation practice, every time your mind wanders into thought (and you notice this), and you bring your attention back to the breath, you are strengthening your brain. As Dan Harris explains in his YouTube clip, Meditation for Beginners, (link at bottom), “it is like doing a bicep curl for the brain.” This process of letting go of thought and returning to the breath, improves your concentration and focus, builds grey matter in the brain, and creates a shift in cortical processing (for a more in-depth review of the research showing how meditation positively changes the brain see these links: 7 Ways Meditation Can Actually Change The Brain or Harvard Unveils MRI Study Proving Meditation Literally Rebuilds the Brain’s Grey Matter in 8 weeks.

In my opinion, the greatest benefit of practicing mindfulness meditation is the way it helps us become aware of the self talk in our minds, and specifically to gain awareness of the preoccupation of fixations to things we like, and the aversion of things we don’t like. By watching our thoughts we get insight into the frequency of rumination and projection that is constantly going on in the brain, and we learn how we talk to ourselves. Consequently, mindfulness meditation is proving to be extremely helpful for mental health conditions, specifically for individuals with depression, anxiety, and PTSD, as well as for children as it improves their emotional regulation and focus/concentration.

How often do I need to practice to get benefits?
As a yogi, you are likely already learning the skill of mindfulness during your yoga classes. However, if you want to take this a step further, and get the brain strengthening benefits discussed above, start by setting aside 5 – 10 minutes per day for practicing mindfulness meditation. Here is the short YouTube clip to help you get started: Meditation for Beginners.

So, I hope this blog clears up some answers you may have had about mindfulness & meditation. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to comment or email!

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Why isn’t yoga just a stretch class?

iStock_000003388488XSmallThe other day at work I had a client ask me why we (yoga instructors) don’t just call yoga “stretching” or “gymnastics”. Fortunately, I didn’t have to answer this question since one of my other clients spoke up for me (we will get to that part later). I work in a physiotherapy clinic where there are a lot of injured clients who have had very little experience doing physical exercise, let alone any yoga experience. In this clinic, I teach gentle yoga classes and relaxation meditations. Although, sometimes it takes a little convincing to get the clients to try the classes because they hold an assumption that they need to be some bendy, twisty super yogi to keep up; or, for the meditations, that there is some religious or “new-agey” spiritual practices associated with it. As a result,  I often advertise the classes by explaining the focus or intention of each class.  One might be a class designed to “help relax” or  another might be designed for “pain reduction,” and this usually gets a few individuals through the door.

It’s understandable that there are these assumptions and stigmas out there about yoga and meditation. We see ultra-fit and bendy individuals in the media’s portrayal of yoga and we see these Zen like poses with hands “just so” illustrating meditation. Even though yoga can be like this, it isn’t always, and doesn’t need to be. So when a newcomer to yoga asks me the question, “What is this thing called yoga?”, I tell them it is a lot of things, and that there are many styles and intensity levels out there to choose from, but one of the more important intentions behind most yoga in today’s culture is self-awareness building. That’s right, it’s not just about the physical benefits of stretching, strengthening, and breath (Pranayama) – although, all things being equal, yoga rocks in this department. It provides us with an opportunity to take a step back and be an impartial witness to ourselves.

Here is the secret that I and many other yoga instructors, and practitioners of yoga know. We teach classes intended to take you on a journey inwards. For an hour or so of your day, you are finally getting a break from your mind’s busyness of all your “to do’s,” future, and past thoughts, and instead you are transported into state where you notice your body and your breath, and are focused on the present moment. Whether you are moving or not in the class (in guided meditation you may not move at all), you are spending time experiencing what’s going on with different parts of yourself. You are discovering how you are positioned, where you are tensing your body, how you breathe, what it feels like to move or sit in a certain way, and where your mind goes as you do all this. In essence you are getting in touch with what’s going on inside – you are building awareness to your internal self and your patterns. In a yoga class, the opportunity is there for all parts of you to speak up because there is finally the space and break from the busy chatter of your mind to let them be heard. As a consequence you begin to learn about patterns of holding, and thought, which in turn can lead to a shift in perspective and how you approach the moments of your day.

So it was the best compliment ever when this client of mine spoke up for me when I was asked the question why we don’t you just call yoga “stretching” or “gymnastics”. This is what he shared: He had never done yoga before, nor had he even thought to do so, but was amazed at how it affected him. He explained how during the class his attention was drawn out of his thoughts and into noticing how he frequently tensed his shoulders and jaw in a certain way, and through the guided instructions to breathe and release he could relax these areas, which lowered his internal stress feeling. He told me how these awarenesses lingered with him well after the class was finished. Later that night, he was cooking his dinner on a grill and forgot about it, burning it. Normally he would tense up and get angry, but after the class he felt he could step outside himself a little more, notice the tension that was forming in his jaw, and by taking a couple deep breaths he released the stress of the situation rather than letting it escalate.

What this client explained so eloquently was how he exercised the use of his new awareness. This is what we do in yoga and meditation. We are teaching you, experientially, how to get in touch with your internal self, and then give you some skills of how to manage yourself in a healthier way to deal with whatever it is that you are noticing moment to moment. In yoga and meditation you learn how to pause and step outside of yourself and learn from the language of your body and breath. This is the yoga I know and love.

 

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Staying Grounded Over the Holidays

Maple Ridge

There’s always a lot of extras to do over the holidays, and this year, I’ve noticed myself stressing over the hustle and bustle even before it starts. If you’re like me, and you are wondering where you’re going to find time to do the extra shopping, baking, and decorating, have a read through this quick list I developed to help myself ground and refocus back into beauty and harmony of the season. Nothing new here, just reminders on how to keep it real:

  • Pace yourself and only say yes to those events that you enjoy. Don’t overwhelm yourself and your family. You either want to do it or you don’t. Sometimes we try to pack too much in one day, and miss out on enjoying the moments because we are too rushed from one event to the next. When you find yourself in these situations, it’s okay to decline, to let go of some things, and to be mindfully selective of where you put your energy.

  • Let go of perfectionism. Hosting parties can be a lot of work and having perfectly dusted table tops doesn’t make you a better person. Take a step back and consider how much you are worrying about what other people think of you. It’s okay if your cookies aren’t perfectly round this year (of course, if baking is your thing and round cookies are your passion, by all means, cut away). This is a reminder to keep perfectionism for the sake of perfectionism in check.

  • More is not always better – keep it simple, keep it you, and keep it from the heart. Whether it’s gifts, decorating, wrapping, preparing food, think about what is important to you and what you love and share these things. One small gift that is in some way meaningful from you to the receiver, is plenty.

  • Ground yourself in the bigger picture. Get outside for a walk or hike in nature. Pause and reflect on the abundance around you. If you are reading this, it is likely you live in a privileged society; one that is wealthy in opportunity and freedom, in food, health, and safety. Take moments to reflect on this… be grateful for these essentials.

  • Use meditation or yoga as a way to connect inwards and keep your priorities in focus. It is easy to get caught up in the current of everything around you when you are disconnected from yourself. Find ways to connect inwards that work for you. Even taking 20 second awareness breaks throughout the day can be of benefit–shift your focus to your breath and body for twenty seconds, and simply be present to how you are breathing and become aware of any sensations that arise in your body during the 20 seconds. This quick break from the mental to do list can down shift your nervous system re-establish a sense of calm. Of course, I find meditation and yoga particularly good for helping me connect inwards, so set aside some time to do a 5 minute meditation, or even better, come out for a class if you can!

Hope these tips help and wishing you the gift of presence this holiday season.

Namaste ~ Renee

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