Stress: It's No Joke

April is Stress Awareness Month and odds are as you read this you’re one of the 8 in 10 Americans affected by it (frankly I thought the numbers would be higher but who am I to argue with stats...). While stress may not be comfortable, a certain amount is actually beneficial; such as reminding us we need to eat and hydrate, to sleep, to focus on completing a task, etc.. But, like anything, too much of a good thing is too much and when it comes to stress, can also be harmful. The good news is there are several things we can do to help alleviate stress. Some of these include:
•Meditate. Just a few minutes a day (new to practicing stillness, start with 5 minutes) can help calm and still both body and mind.
•Get Out. Outside that is. Nature (your own backyard counts) is wonderful to help ground and center.
•Let the sunshine in. Sit by a window for a few minutes. Or better yet, go outside and enjoy it.
•Read a book (not for school, not for work; just because). Play some music. Dance. Paint. Sing. Journal. Do something that gets your creative juices flowing.
•Move it. Our bodies are meant to MOVE. I hear yoga’s pretty good 😏.
•Eat mindfully. Not emotionally.
•Get a good nights sleep. You may be asking “how the heck am I supposed to sleep if I’m so stressed?!”. I know, it’s a vicious cycle and something so many of us struggle with but it’s important for many reasons even beyond managing our stress levels to at least let’s set ourselves up for a good night’s sleep. Some of the ways we can do that are to avoid drinking alcohol at least an hour before bed (other liquids too if you’re prone to hear that call of nature in the ‘wee’ hours). And of course we know by now to turn off the TV and as many electronics in the bedroom as possible including that cell phone (but do we do it? I for one struggle with this). Keep consistent sleep/wake times (bed, not couch). Do some gentle stretching before ‘retiring’ to help calm the nervous system, preparing body and mind for relaxation. Seated forward folds are quite relaxing as are ‘legs up the wall’ either resting the heels on an actual wall with the bum scooted up as close to the wall/baseboard as possible or even just resting the sacrum (low, low back) on a yoga block or something equally supportive as the legs extend upward, relaxing through the knees, ankles, and those tootsies.
•Most of all breathe. Consciously breathe. The last thing we tend to think about, especially when we’re stressed, is our breathing, or even TO breathe, which creates even more stress; physically, mentally, and emotionally. Everything’s temporary. Everything. So just breathe...

The True Price of 'Contentment' in a Groupon Society

Gosh we love those Groupon offers, don’t we? I mean, after all you work hard and who doesn’t like a well-deserved discount? I sure did, and do, but not at the expense of the service provider not being paid their regular rate when attending to a ‘Groupon Customer’. Yet that’s often what happens. I’m in the Yoga world so truly can’t speak as to how prevalent a practice this is in other industries such as restaurants, massage, etc. . But the yoga world that’s all too often exactly what happens, especially here in South Florida (although not limited to this area). As instructors we’re paid either one set price for a class or ‘by the head’, or mat as I prefer to say. The ‘by the mat’ standard in our neck of the woods (or spot by the shore) is $5/per. But would you be surprised to learn that many (thankfully not all) studios pay an instructor a single dollar, yes $1, per ‘Groupon student/client’? The rationale offered by studio owners  for this reduced pay practice is that they lose money on Groupon promotions but it’s a gamble taken in hopes of bringing in sustained business post-Groupon offer and, IF it pays off, the service provider/instructor will also reap the rewards. Sometimes the gamble pays off and the customer is retained but also more often than not that customer just jumps to the next studio offering a Groupon special.There’s not a single yoga instructor I’m honored to know that would ever even consider providing lesser service and attentiveness to a student/client who came to them via Groupon but why should they/we be paid less to cover a business owner's marketing strategy? I, for one, do not feel any sense of Santosha or 'contentment' knowing that my monetary savings could be costing someone else THEIR wages. Now I ask before I buy.

On Meditation....

“Sometimes I sits and thinks and sometimes I just sits. “
~A.A. Milne

We sometimes overthink the concept of meditating, especially if it’s something we’ve just started to explore (and I should know; when it comes to overthinking I’m an overachiever but that’s a story for another time, let’s for now say that’s just one more thing Yoga has helped me out with...). It doesn’t even have to be anywhere ‘pretty’ or particularly ‘special’. Recently, including tonight, I’ve chosen to plunk myself down in an unfinished room that will soon be a new, beautifully serene space to see private students and clients but for now it is what it is; a work in progress, like me. There are sooo many types of and ways to go about meditating but truly, just try sitting in stillness for a few minutes, maybe just three at first, listening to the sound of your breath. Slow, gentle In breath; slow gentle Out breath. Don’t worry about the thoughts that pop randomly in and out, they’ll do that, you’re human; just come back to the sound of your breath. Sit comfortably, if your back bothers, you CAN actually even lay down (really, it’s allowed, promise). Make a point to offer this gift of stillness to yourself every day at a time that works for YOU and as you become more comfortable start adding a bit more time. Gradually, no rush. It takes as long as it takes and you ARE worth the wait. Eventually, maybe even making your way to twenty minutes each day, maybe even twice a day. Got more time, want more stillness; heck, go longer! The longer you practice stillness, the larger the spaces in between your thoughts will become and you’ll find the peace and contentment we all want. And remember, YOU ARE WORTH IT ....


The 'Why?' of Private Sessions

I've had several inquiries recently as to the 'why?' of Private Yoga, Meditation, and/or Reiki sessions.
The reasons why someone may want Private sessions are as varied as people themselves:

~ Some people just are not comfortable in a group setting, again for various reasons.

~ A private session is conducted in a confidential, professional manner, with an initial intake session to assess the client's needs with sessions specifically designed to meet those needs followed up with periodic evaluations to ensure those needs are being met.

~ Yoga sessions which are created to meet and address clients specific physical conditions such as arthritis, osteoporosis, back and/or knee issues, etc. or emotional issues such as stress and anxiety. Such issues can be difficult to address in a generic group setting but can be incredibly beneficial in helping to address many such issues 1:1.

~ Sessions, whether Yoga, Meditation, or Reiki are scheduled at the client's convenience, at a time and place suitable for them; whether at their home, office or Aja Home Studio.

~ More and more businesses, both large and small, are recognizing the overall benefits of offering Wellness programs and incentives to employees. Yoga, Meditation, and Reiki are all invaluable additions to such programs.

~ How about just plain ol' fun?! Private Group Sessions, for both children and adults, are a wonderful way to celebrate life! Gather a group of friends and loved ones together and have a yoga party! Or just to enjoy a class with YOUR peeps!

These are just a few of the many reasons and benefits to private sessions, either 1:1 or group.

In the meantime, remember to breathe....


Cultivating a Home Practice

As much as I love working with students in the various settings that I do I always encourage a home practice as well, and the suggestion is often returned with a 'deer in the headlight' look. "But I wouldn't know where to start or what to do!" is often the panicked accompanying reply. And my advice is always this:
~ Don't overthink it but rather FEEL what your body and breath are asking of and from you.
~Keep it simple. Maybe you've been sitting or standing at your job all day and your body's craving some stretching. Or maybe you need to wake things up a bit with some Planks, Down Dogs, or maybe even an inversion or two. Whatever it is, don't feel like you have to get it all right; just FEEL.
~ Not sure WHAT to do? There's an app for that; or a YouTube video... there's lots to be found online and much of it for free. Just let your fingers do the Googling and you'll be on your way!
~ Don't think a practice has to be a specific length of time for it to be one. If you have 30, 60, 90 minutes great; but even if you only have 10 or 15 that's just as great. You may even surprise yourself and find time you didn't think you had once you get moving and breathing. Just sayin'....
~ Why save the candles just for a 'special occasion'? YOU are that special occasion, each and every moment! Make your practice space a special space; doesn't have to be an entire room dedicated to your mat, just some little spot you can call your own for a bit. So go ahead; unroll your mat, light a candle (or two or three... ), light some incense or an essential oil diffuser, put on some music, add whatever else to the beautiful mix that stirs your soul.
~ "Where do I begin?" At the beginning. Take a moment at the start of your practice to disconnect from the external and connect to the internal, your breath. And set your intention.
 ~Don't forget Savasana, or as I call it; Dessert (yes, with a capital D because it IS that yummy). It's not something we only do in a yoga class. In some ways it's the most important asana (posture) you can do as it allows us to JUST BE.
~And lastly, as a gentle reminder; don't worry about getting it 'right'. If you're breathing, honoring your body as you move and letting yourself feel WHATEVER it is you need to feel and release; well my beautiful yogis, you ARE doing it JUST RIGHT
~ Namaste

Yoga For The 50+ Crowd

My hubby was practically giddy the day he was finally able to order me my very own subscription to AARP; an attitude I admit to finding just a wee bit annoying initially. So, I took a breath (or three or four...) and chose an attitude of gratitude. I mean let's face it, aging often isn't a lot of fun but it is better than the alternative folks, and any day I can get out of bed, put on a cute pair of shoes, or yoga pants, and hug a loved one is a great day.
The latest April/May issue of AARP has a fantastic section of articles entitled 'The United States of Yoga' in which is an article written by Kelly DiNardo '21 Health Reasons To Do Yoga' which I will now share and say "Amen" to each and every one...

1) Improves Flexibility: One study found that people increased their flexibility by up to 35 percent after only eight weeks of practice.

2) Increases Balance: Certain poses enhance balance and, in older students, can reduce the fear of falling. (As we age, the ability to maintain and regain our balance is our first line of defense against falls)

3) Fends Off Weight Gain: According to researchers,middle-aged adults who practice yoga regularly gain less weight as they age than those who don't practice.

4) Supercharges The Brain: As little as 30 minutes of yoga increases memory and focus, and helps you process information more accurately and faster.

5) Soothes Stress: Practicing yoga can have immediate psychological effects. Among these are cultivating a sense of calm, and decreasing anxiety and stress. Over time, these positive mental benefits occur even when you're off the mat.

6) Reduces Depression: Studies showed that yoga can lessen symptoms of depression. one reason may be yoga's boost to GABA, a neurotransmitter that is often low in people who are depressed.

7) Protects Your Heart: Those who have practiced yoga, studies found, reduced their blood pressure,lowered harmful levels of LDL cholesterol by about 12 points and lost an average of five pounds.

8) Promotes More ZZZ's: Insomniacs rejoice: After two months of practicing yoga for about 45 minutes before bed, students fell asleep 15 minutes faster and slept more than a half-hour longer each night.

9) Eases Back Pain: People who took two 90 minute classes a week for six months, one study showed, eased their back pain by 56 percent; those who got standard medical care experienced just a 16 percent decrease in pain.

10) Enhances Body Confidence: Women who practiced yoga regularly rated their body satisfaction level higher than those who did other kinds of exercise.

11) Relieves Headaches: Researchers have found that headache frequency and intensity are significantly reduced with yoga therapy.

12) Lessens Inflammation: Chronic inflammation is linked with health issues ranging from arthritis to diabetes. Regular yoga practice, studies showed, tends to lower levels of a cytokene-an immune system protein-linked to this.

13) Helps Breathing: Yoga improved six out of seven measures of respiratory function, one study showed.

14) Slows Aging: Lifestyle changes that include gentle yoga-based stretching may result in longer telomeres, the parts of chromosome that affect aging.

15) Encourages Exercise: Researchers enrolled previously inactive people in twice-weekly yoga classes for 10 weeks and found this markedly increased the chances they would continue to take part in physical activity.

16) Increases Aerobic Capacity: Patients with heart failure who were enrolled in 16 yoga therapy sessions over 8 to 10 weeks had a 22 percent improvement in aerobic capacity.

17) Eases Cancer Recovery:According to one study, breast cancer patients who practiced yoga up to three hours per week while undergoing radiation had a greater reduction in stress hormones than did patients who simply stretched or did neither.

18) Fights Incontinence:After taking part in a six-week yoga therapy program, women with urinary incontinence had a 70 percent reduction in the frequency of urine leakage,

19) Improves Your Work-day: Various studies have shown that yoga lowers workplace stress and promotes general well-being.(there truly is a reason why more and more workplaces are making yoga part of their in-house wellness programs so if you're looking to do so feel free to reach out to me...)

20) Curbs Neck Pain: Researchers speculate that enhanced muscle tone and less tension are why one study found that participants had a significant drop in the intensity of their neck pain after 10 weeks of yoga.

21) Controls Diabetes:Men with Type 2 diabetes who practiced yoga for six months saw a substantial drop in their blood glucose levels,according to a new study.

Old dogs CAN learn new tricks so roll out that mat, move, and ....Breathe





Open to the Possibility of Change

I never fail to be reminded, both as an instructor and in my own personal practice, how much this beautiful thing called yoga can not only enrich, but actually change, a persons life. This weekend's reminder hit incredibly close to home. I had the honor of guiding a new student through her very first yoga class. She was a young woman of 30 already holding a high stress, high responsibility level job who had recently begun experiencing severe panic attacks. Her doctor recommended she try yoga along her road to addressing them (smart doc). After class she shared with me what had brought her to class that day and how she experienced such a sense of growing peace and grounding with each breath and was FINALLY able to find the space TO breathe. And here's where it hits home. I suffered for years with severe anxiety and panic attacks. They appeared out of (seemingly) nowhere and the lack of understanding the sudden onslaught and root of it all of course made it even worse (the Capricorn in me likes things just so after all...). Only those who were very close to me were able to notice that something was off but didn't know how bad it really was. I was able to remain cool as a cucumber on the outside but inside was a raging sea when the attacks hit and in between attacks I white-knuckled my way along, bracing myself for the next one. After time I began to understand a possible reason for the onset of the attacks but it was through the practice of yoga that I was, am, able to control them. Yes, the anxiety still lingers a bit too close to the surface at times but I am now able to not only control it but share about it, (no small potatoes for a natural born introvert). For anyone who's ever experienced such attacks you know how debilitating they can be but please know there IS a light at the end of the tunnel. As for that amazing young woman; I'm so incredibly humbled to have been a part of her journey back to herself and I'm forever grateful the Universe showed her the way to my class, reminding me of how far I myself have come in my journey on this beautiful blue/green ball. The Divine, perfectly imperfect light in me recognizes and honors the Divine, perfectly imperfect light in you.
~ Namaste