Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Spring Clean Yourself!

The spring equinox is just a day away.  No matter what the weather, are you ready for some spring cleaning?  Yes, it's good to clean up the house, the garage, and the garden, but what about you?!  How about a little self spring clean this year?

There are detoxification plans out there - on the internet, in magazines, at your health club.  Some use a bunch of supplements that are filled with who knows what.  We've got good, healthy food with all the nutrients we need available to us with no expensive pre-packaged powders or pills. Detoxifying is a method of freeing your body and your mind of the things that no longer serve your health and well-being.  The problem is with all of the input our bodies and minds tolerate in a day, it is hard to know which things are no longer serving our health and wellness.  This is why we do the spring clean!

Detoxifying is an excellent way to solve the mysteries of all those symptoms you no longer want to tolerate.  Some of the mysteries you might need to solve:  Why am I so bloated and gassy?  Why can't I sleep?  Why don't I feel full?  Why can't I focus?  Why do I feel so much anxiety each day?  Why am I so irritable?  Why do I always seem to get sick?  Why do my skin/hair/fingernails appear so depleted? Why do I have no energy?  Why do I have trouble going to the bathroom?  Why am I always on a mood swing roller coaster?

When I do a detox my goal is to clear out my system and then notice what changes.  If I give up caffeine does my sleep improve?  If I eliminate sugar do my cravings and mood swings throughout the day decrease?  When I limit my intake of wheat and gluten, do my bloating and digestive issues decrease?  If I stop watching the news does my anxiety go down?  When I journal before bed, does it help me get to sleep?  If I decrease screen time, do I make time for family and feel more connected? This is what we need to know!

So here's what you can do food-wise:  eliminate one food group at a time.  Suspicious characters are - caffeine, sugar, wheat, dairy, soy, trans-fats, artificial colors and flavors (includes sweeteners), and meat.  See what happens when you give up a food group for a week or so.  Make sure it is eliminated by reading food labels.  Or, do a full detoxification week.  With this, you will need a plan.  Check out the WholeLiving detoxification plans or contact someone like me who has experience doing detoxifications and guiding others through them.  The idea is to spend some time clearing everything out and then bring in one thing at a time afterward to see if that one thing is a culprit.  Then, make a plan to decrease or completely eliminate the food that no longer serves your good health - for GOOD!

Do the same with activities and people that are not serving your well-being.  Eliminate or decrease and see what the result is.  Ways to do this are to stop watching or reading the news for a week. Eliminate or decrease any screen time at all for a week.  Reduce the toxic patterns of your thoughts by writing them down and leaving them on the paper.  Meditate, relax, visualize....make space for what you really need in life!

It's like a spring clean of the closet.  You get rid of those old clothes you never wear, organize and make room for what you want.  You don't go hunt down the old stuff and put them back in the closet!  Same with the detox.  Once you discover a food or activity that really isn't making your mind or body feel its best, don't bring it back in!  Or, at least, limit how often you indulge, knowing there will be consequences, but those consequences will be short term.

Try one thing or many things for just a week and see how it goes!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Yoga for Women

For most of us the experience has been that when we attend a yoga class, we see mostly women in the room.  Yes, men are attending yoga classes, but still, the majority of yoga students are females.  So, it seems then, that yoga classes are already for women, right?!  Not necessarily.

There are many ways for a teacher to create, sequence, and plan a class.  It involves training, philosophy, studio requirements, experience and much more.  Many of the great yoga styles that influence the majority of classes in the West were created by males in the East.  On the surface and in the actual experience of a class, this might not seem to be a problem.  But maybe it is.  It is likely that the teachings of men are not the same as the teachings of women in all areas of the practice.  It is even more likely that the physical needs of men and women are not the same and so the physical practice alone should be different, at the very least!

Without continuing on in this argument of the big picture, what I'd like to do at this time is discuss some of the practices women can utilize to benefit their own specific needs.  Let's start with attention.  Women, in general, are less able to focus on one thing, to break problems down and take care of component parts - women tend to see the whole picture and find homing in on one aspect of a problem difficult or impossible.  There are positives and negatives to each way and, of course, I am generalizing and sticking folks into stereotyped groups. But, there is research to back up this claim.

Ok, what does this mean for a yoga practice?  It means women need to learn to focus their minds, to learn skills for centering, for being mindful of the breath, and for moving back out to see the big picture, as needed.  In other words, women need to be able to turn off the big picture thinking when it isn't beneficial.  An example, it's good to see the big picture, set a plan for the day of all that needs doing, but then, let go of that big picture and see one thing at a time.  The thing I am doing now is all that matters, the stress of all the other things coming up causes problems.

Next, there are hormonal differences between men and women - duh!  We know this, but are we addressing it?  There are hormonal and bio-chemical processes that we have no control over and yet there are so many that we can influence and can control.  It would serve us well to know what we can change, influence and affect with our practice.  There are breathing techniques, poses, stretches, and ways to focus the mind to affect the hormones and chemical messengers floating around in our systems.  We can't do it 100%, but there are many very effective techniques to change hormonal effects such as mood, energy, metabolism, and again, stress.

There are physical differences between men and women.  Women tend to carry stability and strength in the hips and core of the body, men in the shoulders and upper body.  I am going to generalize again here, but I have so many men in my classes simply unable to sit in a safe cross-legged position on the floor.  The pelvis is tight and unforgiving.  There are a few women as well, but, for the most part, female students have no problem with a cross-legged seated position. Athletic women and girls tend to have 5-6 times more knee injuries than boys and men.  The differing body mechanics and muscle mass is obviously important to note.  We can't just coach, teach, and lead groups of female athletes and students the same way we do male athletes and students.  Women and girls need to have a practice focused on the support muscles around the knees.  Women who wear impractical shoes, need poses benefiting the feet.  Women need to work on connecting the core strength of the pelvis to the leg muscles and the upper back and shoulders.  There is much more I can say here, but I think I've made my point.

Yoga classes have to be generalized to fit a good medium-range of students, but is that happening?  Are the needs of the majority of students - numbers range from 70-80% female yoga students - being met?  Are you attending classes to address the needs I have mentioned above?  They should and can be met through a regular practice!  Look around.  With so many yoga options available, are you in the right class for you?