The Importance Of Wellness Retreats

wellness retreat

wellness retreat

Picture yourself completely relaxed and taken care of. You are staying in comfortable (maybe even luxury) accommodations in a beautiful part of the world away from the city and in touch with nature. Nutritious meals are fed to you three times a day, you can sleep in or nap as you wish, there are no expectations of you and you have no responsibilities. Sounds nice right? This is the beauty of the wellness retreat.

Yoga, meditation and/or overall health can be the focus of any wellness retreat. Although there are usually classes scheduled each day they are intended to be restorative and more importantly, optional. The intention is more to provide a space where you can focus on your own needs rather than follow a strict schedule of activities.

Going on a retreat for the first time can be a life changer. Even a short retreat can be enough to create a lasting impression.

Re-entering the “real world” after going on retreat is a fascinating phenomenon. On the one hand the over stimulation can be a bit of a shock to your system, on the other hand you feel re-energized and ready to take on the world.

At the first retreat I ever attended on the north shore of Oahu, our host, Jennifer Reuter explained something to us that would stick with me forever. She explained the difference between a vacation and a retreat.

Vacations

Vacations can be a blast. They are often highly anticipated, packed full of fun activities and designed to take you out of your normal day-to-day routine. I have learned so much from vacations I have taken over the years. I’ve traveled to new places, learned about different cultures and tried new foods. They are the perfect time to bond with friends and family or reignite the spark between you and your partner.

The downfall of all of this fun and excitement however is the fact that there is often a lot of energy that has to be put into these occasions. There is a lot of planning that goes into them. You may need to travel on multiple planes or do a lot of driving, you have to be mindful of other peoples schedules, personalities and needs and work around them. There is usually a tendency to over indulge on rich foods and alcohol and stay up much later than your usual bedtime. There could be hours of sightseeing packed into each day or schedules to stick to. It can be mentally and physically exhausting.

When it is all over, and I’m sure many of us have said this in our lives, we need a vacation from our vacation. We come home and go back to work more tired than before we left. We are thrown back into our worlds starting off on our back foot trying to play catch up with life, our energy and getting back into our daily routines.

Vacations are joyful events but they can also be extremely depleting.

Wellness retreats

A retreat lives up to its name. It is a time to pull back and withdraw from all external commotion. Instead of accommodating others, you focus on yourself and your own needs. It is a time to fill your cup back up. To look inside and see what it is you really need in order to become re-energized.

On retreat you have all the time you need to relax and just be. Time to reflect and be quiet. The food that is served is designed to be nourishing, cleansing and to take no effort on your part.

Activities can include things like yoga, nature hikes and swimming. They are intended to cause you to reconnect with your body and move in a way that makes you feel good.

There are no substances or events that are depleting, only ones that are replenishing. It is a time to meditate, read, journal, reflect, move your body in a restorative way, hydrate, nourish and re-energize.

When you return from a retreat to the “real world” it is common to feel more focused and full of energy.

There are many life-changing events that can occur on retreat but the real take-away is always how you feel afterward. You feel like a new person – inspired, motivated and like your cup has been filled back up. This is the importance of wellness retreats.

Want to know more about the retreat I went to on the north shore? Click this link for more information about Jennifer Reuter wellness retreats.

Jennifer Reuter
Jennifer Reuter

Jennifer Reuter is a yoga and meditation teacher on the island of Oahu. She offers retreats, sound healing baths and yoga teacher trainings. She is extremely gifted,  passionate and knowledgable. Learn more about her philosophy and offerings here.

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Sarah Burchard is the author of The Healthy Locavore, a natural foods chef and certified health coach whose writing centers around holistic health, supporting community and eating locally grown and made food.

How The Power Of Inertia Might Be Stopping You From Achieving Your Health Goals

HOW THE POWER OF INERTIA IS STOPPING YOU FROM ACHIEVING YOUR HEALTH GOALS

HOW THE POWER OF INERTIA IS STOPPING YOU FROM ACHIEVING YOUR HEALTH GOALS

According to Sir Isaac Newton, in his first law of motion, inertia is the tendency for an object to either stay at rest or stay in motion unless changed by an external force.

This relates to people too.

Sometimes we underestimate the power of inertia. We think that we can just simply talk ourselves into doing or not doing things whenever we want. That may be true but there is also a way to give yourself better odds.

Think about it in terms of trying to build a new healthy habit. Let’s take going to the gym after work for an example.

Is kicking off your shoes and plopping down on the couch the first thing you do when you come home from work? If so, you are making it much harder on yourself to make it to the gym.

The power of inertia is a compelling thought when you think about it in terms of getting things accomplished in your day.

How likely will you go the gym if you go home first and rest for 15 minutes on the couch before packing a bag and going to the gym?

The odds are against you, when you put yourself in rest mode, to continue doing what you have planned to do.

Rest is important but momentum can be key when trying to accomplish everything you want to in a day.

Setting goals that align with your values and building habits that you enjoy are important but you also have to have an element of self discipline. Keeping that discipline is so much easier if you never sat down on that couch.

This is a better plan – Pack a gym bag to bring to work with you and go strait to the gym after work. When you get home, instead of heading to the couch, prepare dinner. When you finish dinner and bring the dishes to the sink wash them right then and there. You are already up and moving!

It may sound exhausting but approaching your day like this is actually a lot easier. Because of the power of inertia.

The minute you put yourself into rest mode on that couch is the minute you have potentially derailed your whole plan. Why not make it easier on yourself to succeed?

Where in your life can you apply the power of inertia to achieve a health goal?

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Sarah Burchard is the author of The Healthy Locavore, a natural foods chef and certified health coach whose writing centers around holistic health, supporting community and eating locally grown and made food.

How To Make Value Based Life Decisions

How to make value based life decisions

How to make value based life decisions

When it is time to make necessary life decisions it is important to make value based ones. Whether it is changing careers, changing your diet or implementing a new exercise routine, value based decisions will ensure that you are doing what is best for your overall happiness and satisfaction.

If you are struggling to make healthy new habits stick, getting clear on your values is the first step. Prioritizing those values is the next step and then living in alignment with those values is the final step.

So let’s start at the beginning.  By answering these questions honestly we can start to find out what are values are.

What is truly important to you?

What do you believe in or feel strongly about?

What inspires you?

What makes you happy?

What makes you fulfilled?

When have you felt the proudest? Why?

What makes you sad or angry?

When do you most feel like yourself?

When do you not feel like yourself?

Do you often have feelings of regret or longing? In what context?

Do other people know what you stand for?

Do you “stick to your guns” or follow the pack?

Now let’s take it a step further and get really specific on how you are currently making life decisions.

How do you spend your time?

– How much time do you spend each day on work, self-care, your social life     and with your family?

– Are you happy with those percentages? Why or why not?

What do you spend your money on?

– How much of it is on experiences and how much of it is on material         things?

– Which ones make you feel more fulfilled?

What do you eat?

– When you make food choices is the source more important or is cost? Why?

– How do you feel physically and mentally after you eat? Do you see any patterns with the types of food you are eating and how you feel afterward?

– How much time do you spend on sourcing, cooking and enjoying your food?

Are you happy at work?

– Why or why not?

– What about it could be better?

– How do you feel when you explain to others what you do for a living?

How is the quality of your relationships?

– How much time do you invest in them?

– Do you have many friends or just a few and why?

How much thought or care do you put into your appearance?

– Why? What is the outcome?

– How do you want others to perceive you? (Think about first impressions.)

And what about balance?

Often times when you are thriving in one part of your life you are not doing so well in another. This may be because you are avoiding certain areas of your life or believing a story that you do not have time for them. Balance is about self-diversification. Investing time in all of the areas of life that you value. Give yourself a reality check. How much time are you actually really spending in all of the areas of your life that you care about.

How to tell if you are being true to your values.

Do your values make you feel internally rewarded or is your reward coming from an external validation? Determine your values based on what makes you happy, proud and fulfilled.

Prioritize your values.

The phrase “I don’t have time” is often associated with things that are not at the top of our list of priorities. Everyone has the same amount of hours in a day. The way you spend those hours is a personal choice.

When setting priorities ask yourself what is really true.

Are you working so many hours that you don’t have enough time for self-care? What would happen if you worked one less hour each day? Would you get fired from your job?

Is picking up take out instead of spending 10 minutes preparing your lunch at home before leaving for work actually saving you time?

Sometimes a simple act of re-organizing your schedule is enough to make time in your life for the things that you want to prioritize. If they truly are indeed a priority.

Living in alignment with your values.

When you are aligned with your values you enable yourself to live a happier more satisfied life. You are able to make clearer life decisions such as what job you should take, how to spend your time and who to spend your time with.

Although your own personal values may change over time, checking in on them and continuously prioritizing them can enable you to live a more balanced life and make healthy habits stick.

Values guide us to make clear life decisions with confidence and make time for the things that are important to us.

So what are yours?

Sarah Burchard is the author of The Healthy Locavore, a natural foods chef and certified health coach whose writing centers around holistic health, supporting community and eating locally grown and made food.

How Eating Local Food Supports Your Health And Community

support local

support local

Eating local food is very important to me. When it comes to what I eat I try my best to select foods that are whole or minimally processed, organic and local. This practice results in eating seasonally as well.

Sometimes finding foods like these can be a challenge depending on where you live. Not everyone places this much importance on the foods they eat. If there isn’t a demand in a particular area there is often low availability. Cost and climate can also be factors. This is why if you have a farmers market pop up in your area or see local food in your neighborhood grocery store it is important to support it.

I believe eating local food is important for two reasons. It promotes good health and it strengthens your community. These are both very strong values of mine and something I encourage everyone to at least consider when buying food.

Eating local food for your health

This idea does not involve micro and macronutrients. However, food grown near to you, eaten soon after it has been harvested is more nutritious than commercially grown foods shipped from long distances. So, even though organic apples grown in California are just as nutritious as ones grown in New York, if you live in California and eat the locally grown apples they will be more nutritious because of the length of time between harvest and consumption.

Aligning yourself with nature

As I mentioned above, this idea is more than just getting the most nutrients out of your food. It is also a matter of aligning yourself with your environment or, living in harmony with nature. Eating local food ties you to the land you live on.

When I decided to leave San Francisco to move to Hawaii I had to prepare myself for the fact that my diet was going to change. Sure, I would no longer get to enjoy the bay area stone fruit season and Hass avocados but instead I would get to taste fresh lychees strait from the tree and make interesting dishes with breadfruit. I didn’t see it as a challenge or something I would miss but rather an exciting opportunity.

Eating for your climate

San Francisco in general has a very cool, dry climate. I would start every morning with warm lemon water, drink hot tea everyday and eat hot cereal, soups and stews to keep me warm.

 

One of the things that drew me to Hawaii was the climate. As a person who tends to run cold and dry, San Francisco’s climate was not a good balance for me. The warm humid climate in Hawaii already has my skin looking healthier and my immune system feeling stronger.

My diet has shifted here. I am constantly mindful of staying hydrated and regulating my body temperature using water and food. I now drink room temperature water in the morning instead of warming it first. I crave iced teas instead of hot teas. I eat more salads, fish and rice. I eat completely different types of fruit. I seek cold or room temperature foods as opposed to hot foods. I crave ice-cream way more.

Even though the weather doesn’t change as dramatically throughout the year, like the Midwest or east coast, San Francisco still has seasons that determine which fruits and vegetables are available. Hearty squashes and Brussels sprouts in the winter, asparagus and artichokes in the spring, heirloom tomatoes and melon in the summer are all examples.

Seasonality is significant because nature produces what will make your body thrive during that time of the year. Heartier vegetables keep you warm in the winter and lighter produce like lettuces, cucumber and stone fruit cool you down in the summer.

Giving your body what it needs in order to thrive in the environment you live in is very important for your health.

Balancing our bodies with food

Our bodies are constantly looking for balance. It is one of the reasons why we have cravings. All of the foods we eat have the potential to create warming, cooling, drying or moisturizing effects in the body. It is up to you to understand what you need in any given moment in order to thrive. This is the principal of yin and yang, opposite energies that compliment each other and create balance.

By being in tune with your body and environment you can choose foods that bring you back into balance. Alternatively, ignoring those two things can bring you out of balance with nature and have the potential to make you sick.

Eat with the seasons and let your climate determine diet. If you live in a warm climate and continue to eat foods grown in cold climates it could cause an imbalance. For example, a diet rich in red meat, high in fat and alcohol could overheat someone living in warm climate. However, if you live in a cold climate you need foods that pack more eat. Living off fish and raw vegetables may not keep you warm enough.

Here are some examples of foods that are cooling (ideal for warm climate) and foods that are warming (ideal for cold climate).

Cooling foods –

– Sweet spices (chai, fennel, elderflower)

– Mint

– Cucumber

– Lime

– Light proteins like chicken and fish

– Dark leafy greens

– Raw fruits and vegetables

– Chocolate

– Cabbage

– Watercress

Warming foods –

– Red meat, pork, duck

– Hot soups and stews

– Ginger

– Garlic

– Onions

– Oatmeal

– Winter squashes

– Peppers

Eating local food for the health of your community

Buying food from the local farmers market brings us closer to our community and environment, which results in a deeper connection to our food.

By buying your food from local farms and artisans you are supporting your neighbors and strengthening your local economy. This act unifies people, it keeps people employed and it allows you to really know where your food comes from.

Eating foods that are shipped in from somewhere else (at least on a regular basis) alienates us from our environment. You may not be physically equipped to consistently eat these foods and over time doing this may confuse your body and weaken your immune system. By doing this you are also supporting the excessive use of fossil fuels which is unfriendly to the environment.

Support local. Support community. Support your own health. It just makes sense.

For more information on how to eat local food in Hawaii check out my Hawaii Local Food Guide.

Sarah Burchard is the author of The Healthy Locavore, a natural foods chef and certified health coach whose writing centers around holistic health, supporting community and eating locally grown and made food.

How To Get Rid Of Acid Reflux

How To Get Rid Of Acid Reflux

How To Get Rid Of Acid Reflux

Your chest is burning, your throat hurts and your stomach is not a happy place. Sound like you? If this is happening on a regular basis you may have acid reflux.

If you want to get rid of acid reflux you need to understand pH balance in the body. There are two things that determine pH  – acidity and alkalinity.

A high pH in our body means it is more alkaline, a low pH means it is more acidic. Knowing how to balance the pH level in our body can keep us in good health and prevent those uncomfortable bouts of heartburn caused by acid reflux.

Strive to have your body be slightly more alkaline than acidic. This is crucial for controlling our metabolism and hormones, promoting healthy liver function and preventing acid reflux.

Acidity

Many things can produce acidity in the body. When our body is too acidic it can cause digestive issues (like acid reflux), skin blemishes, brittle hair and puts too much stress on our liver. Acidity is not completely a bad thing. Our stomachs produces acid in order to properly digest food. The problem arises however, when there is too much acidity and not enough alkalinity. Our body naturally tries to balance our pH for us but only at the expense of pulling important minerals like calcium from other vital parts of the body.

Things that can produce acidity are:

  • Stress
  • Refined carbohydrates
  • Sugar
  • Dairy
  • Fatty, factory farmed Meat
  • Trans Fats
  • Caffeine
  • Alcohol
  • Yeast
  • Cigarettes
  • Medications
  • Pesticides
  • Chemicals (in house-hold cleaners, skin products, etc.)

Alkalinity

Lucky for us there are many things we can do to counter balance acidity in the body. It can get a bit tricky sometimes however. When it comes to eating, you want to balance out the acidity in your body but you don’t want to completely eliminate it. For example, water is very alkalizing so you don’t want to drink too much of it when consuming food. Doing so could lower the acidity level in your stomach causing it to not be able to break down your food as well. On the other hand, when you are not eating you want to consume as much water as possible in order to balance the acidity back out.

Things that help alkalize your body are:

  • Seaweed
  • Dark leafy greens
  • Brassicas (broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, etc.)
  • Sprouts
  • Seeds
  • Beets
  • Lemons
  • Most vegetables!
  • Olive oil
  • Water (high mineral-alkaline water is best)
  • Green tea
  • Liquid Chlorophyll, Spirulina
  • Exercise/movement

How to get rid of acid reflux:

Play around with some of these and see where you may be out of balance in your life.

  • Start each day with a glass of lemon water
  • Eat a diet rich in unprocessed plant-based foods (especially greens)
  • Eat acidic foods sparingly
  • Drink acidic drinks sparingly
  • Drink plenty of water daily (around 8 glasses)
  • Quit smoking
  • Eliminate as much sugar as you can from your diet
  • Exercise
  • Reduce stress (practice self-care such as – meditation, yoga, breath work, being in nature, etc.)
  • Get plenty of sleep
  • Promote waste movement in the lymphatic system (massage, breathing exercises, dry brushing, yoga)
  • Eat less/better portion control
  • Eat slower and more mindfully
  • Lose weight (if overweight)
  • Don’t eat 2-3 hours before going to bed
  • Maintain good posture

All of these things are crucial to living a healthy life in general but they will also alleviate your acid reflux symptoms when adopted as part of your lifestyle. So which of these things are you missing in your life? How can you add them in?

Acid reflux can be a pain. But, it doesn’t have to be.

It is important to remember when treating any type of symptom that everyone is different and there aren’t any “quick fixes”. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is always your best bet at prevention and treating medical conditions. Eat more vegetables, get plenty of sleep, don’t stress too much, be active, don’t smoke and stay social. It doesn’t have to be much more complicated than that.

Do you have an acid reflux success story? What are you doing that works for you? If you have a fool proof plan I would love to hear it in the comments section below.

Sarah Burchard is the author of The Healthy Locavore, a natural foods chef and certified health coach whose writing centers around holistic health, supporting community and eating locally grown and made food.

3 Proven Healthy Lifestyle Changes For Healing Burnout

Shannon Bronson
Shannon Bronson
Photo by: Karolina Zapolska

A story of one woman’s path from burnout to bliss using holistic healthy lifestyle changes. 

How does a woman go from being a successful landscape designer, designing city parks and working in high level design firms, to teaching yoga full time? She burns out.

Shannon Bronson is a friend, a fellow community supporter and one of my most inspiring and brilliant yoga teachers. Her story is like many who have adopted a yogi’s life. It’s one of heartache, awakening and compassion.

Whether you think you may be experiencing the early signs of burnout, or you are completely there, Shannon’s story just may inspire you and possibly even save you.

Shannon’s story starts out the same way a lot of ours does. She discovered her passion, she worked her ass off and she landed the job of her dreams.

And then she became completely miserable.

Although her intentions were good the culture of the environment she had found herself in was toxic. Her and her co-workers worked very long hours, did not take care of themselves and had unhealthy ego-driven relationships with one another.

Shannon found herself becoming extremely competitive. Her self-esteem was fueled by her performance at work. Everything from the way she worked out hard in the gym to going out power drinking with her colleagues reflected her “work hard, play hard” mentality. It was her intense way of achieving success.

Until all of that “success” got torn down.

While Shannon was burning the candle at both ends she was concurrently destroying her home life and her body. The alcohol consumption and her routine of going out partying all night were now taking over. This competitive lifestyle she was living had led to complete self-destruction and burnout.

Her “aha moment” came when she lost her job and almost lost her husband.

A weekend alone, after her husband having walked out on her, led Shannon to self-reflection and the realization that she might never see her him again. Shannon knew she had to start making some very significant lifestyle changes.

These lifestyle changes not only healed Shannon from burnout, but they saved her marriage, improved her overall health and lifted her self-esteem as well.

Shannon’s 3 proven healthy lifestyle changes for healing burnout –

  1. She dropped the unhealthy addiction.

The first thing Shannon had to come to grips with at this point was that alcohol was destroying her life. Like prying a chew toy out of a puppy’s mouth this was not an easy thing for Shannon to let go. Going out binge drinking was engrained in her lifestyle.

The first step Shannon took was to meet with a healer. Shannon chose a modality called somatic experience therapy, which teaches you how to identify, sit with and accept life trauma instead of using self-destructive behavior to treat it.

During her initial sessions she addressed her alcohol addiction. She looked at her life in two ways. The life that included alcohol was one of suffering, loneliness and an endless cycle of fighting and making up with her friends and husband. In the life that did not include alcohol she envisioned herself having a child, a beautiful garden and a happy family.

She drank two more times after that session. Both times her and her husband had blow out fights. She told her husband she had, had it and was giving up booze for good. She hasn’t touched alcohol since.

With the toxic job and substance abuse now out of the way she had removed the root of her burnout and was now ready to heal.

  1. She started practicing yoga.

During what Shannon calls her “process of dissolution” she found herself starting over again on her yoga mat. She said she had never believed in angels before meeting her yoga teachers.

She started practicing daily soaking up anything and everything she could learn about yoga. Her thirst for healing her body and emotions were quenched by it. She became clear and her life started to accelerate. This time at a healthier speed.

She loved this tool for treating burnout because it did many things to get her body out of the fight or flight response. It got her to breathe, to slow down and to listen to her body and pay attention to it.

Shannon believes there are two ways people get involved in yoga in a serious way. The first is a point of crisis. Things in their life start falling apart and they use yoga to lift them back up. The second is the realization that the things that used to make you happy no longer make you happy anymore. She says, “until one of those things happens most people aren’t really going to feel like they need yoga.”

Eventually her practice led her to rediscovering her passion for art, paying more attention to nutrition and learning how to shift her personal relationships from hateful to loving and supportive ones.

As dramatic as it may sound, yoga is what probably saved her marriage.

Through all the pain and suffering she now looks back to that “aha moment” when she lost her job and almost lost her husband and thinks, thank god that happened. Because if it hadn’t, she would have never discovered the life she was meant to live.

Shannon is now one of the most unbelievably gifted yoga instructors I know teaching in San Francisco.

  1. She began studying Ayurveda.

As many yogis have experienced, yoga eventually gives way to studying the magical world of Ayurveda – the science of life healing system invented in India thousands of years ago.

Studying Ayurveda taught Shannon that what she ate strongly influenced her mood and how in or out of balance she was.

The book Absolute Beauty, by Pratima Raichur was Shannon’s primer to Ayurveda. Shannon had very bad skin. Cystic acne and blackheads had spread all over her face. The book taught Shannon that what her skin was expressing was what was happening on the inside. She stopped putting chemicals on her face and switched to natural skin products and began to change her diet. She learned about her doshas, or body constitution, and how to balance them by reading Dr. Vasant Lad’s book, Ayurvedic Cooking For Self-Healing.

She learned that when a person’s doshas are out of balance they crave the things that make them more out of balance. Her strong cravings for alcohol, caffeine and pizza were starting to make sense to her. Shannon is a kapha-pitta dosha type and all of the fiery and wet beverages and foods she had been consuming could be seen all over her face. After cutting those things out of her diet for 3 months her skin had completely cleared up and she felt amazing.

She was able to re-introduce certain foods back into her diet in moderation, no longer having those intense cravings, but continues to abstain from alcohol.

Ayurveda created an intrinsic awareness in Shannon. She is now capable of using foods to strategically bring her back to a state of balance when needed.

As a yoga instructor Ayurveda has also taught her how to understand and read her students. She can just look at them and know where they are out of balance and what kind of practice they need.

Genetics has a lot to do with a person’s dosha type but lifestyle plays just as big of a role. Shannon says, “you can see it on people’s skin, in their disposition, how they move and how they talk.” Being able to ‘read’ her students has brought her closer to them, which adds to the fulfillment she now gets from her new job.

The telltale signs you are burning out

Shannon and I thought about our own experiences with burnout and how we saw it show up in others. Being in a state of mindless action, experiencing physical symptoms, exhaustion, anxiety, depression, negativity and numbness were all things that came to mind. We reflected that during a state of burnout nothing ever seems good enough and nothing ever seems to bring you real joy.

The sad part is that many of us will never admit, let alone treat burnout. In our society people are praised for setting their own personal health aside for their jobs and their families.

It’s common to think that spending money on things like coaching, therapy, massage, acupuncture and yoga are all luxuries and can’t be “afforded”. Maybe we think we don’t deserve the things we really need so we don’t spend the time or money on it.

Expressing her concern Shannon said, “I can’t think of anything a person could spend their money on that could be any better. It’s your brain, your heart, your mind. They’re precious goods.”

The idea of giving up a job or a career we worked our asses off for is a scary one. Many (including myself at one point) fear that all the time they put in to going to school and working their way up the ladder would end up being for nothing. But as Shannon says, “your job is not the most important thing in the world. It is there to serve you and help you live the life you want to live. Renegotiate your relationship to your job so that you aren’t a slave to it and admit that if something isn’t working you don’t have to keep doing it forever.”

Her advice to those suffering from burnout is to talk honestly and sincerely with someone who knows you well. Know that you are not alone. Admitting you need help is the first step. Set your ego aside, humble yourself and re-examine your life. Realize that what you are going through is not the end of the world. Be compassionate with yourself. You may have had the best intentions but think about where you are in your life right now.

Did it really work out the way you wanted it to?

Reflecting back on burnout

I asked Shannon, if she were to live her life all over again, what would she of told herself or did differently to ensure less suffering. With a tear in her eye she said she remembered being in a pattern of self-hatred for most of her life. Despite her talent and passion she never believed in herself enough to really direct it towards what she really thought she could do. She said, “ If I were to do it all over again I wish I could look back and tell myself you are good enough.”

 

Shannon Bronson
Shannon Bronson Photo by:Karolina Zapolska

Shannon is yogini and artist. She’s dedicated her life to interweaving these modalities to live her truth, with the intention of inventing compassionately creative expressions to change the world in positive ways.

Shannon’s life radically blossomed when she fully embraced yoga. She hit the mat hard and allowed yoga to be the safe space in which heal her own traumas. Yoga evolved into the foundation on which she has built a new life in the pursuit of happiness and freedom. Daily asana and meditation as well as a commitment to the 8 limbs of yoga gave her the courage to leave the Urban Design world. She believes it is her path to instead teach yoga, create her art and practice Reiki healing.

Shannon understands that to be a great teacher is to also be continual student. She has an RYT200 from Triveni Yoga and continues to advance her studies with her teachers and Triveni Yoga creators Jessica and Stéphane Dreyfus. Triveni is a vinyasa-based style of yoga that combines asana, meditation with a focus on the subtle body to profoundly transform the practitioner inside and out. She travels internationally with the Triveni team to teach teacher trainings and conduct art, yoga and meditation workshops. She also bows in gratitude to her teachers Elise Lorimer and Betty Roi for sending their light into her life.

For upcoming workshops, guided meditations and schedule and location of where Shannon teaches yoga visit her at:

 www.shannonbronsonyoga.com

Sarah Burchard is the author of The Healthy Locavore, a natural foods chef and certified health coach whose writing centers around holistic health, supporting community and eating locally grown and made food.

Why I’m Picking Up And Moving To Hawaii

moving to Hawaii

moving to Hawaii

When I decided to move from my beloved city of San Francisco to Honolulu, Hawaii it wasn’t a difficult decision. I was ready.

When I was 14 years old my Mom relocated us from my hometown of San Diego to the Bay Area. I was devastated. I missed my friends. I missed my Dad. I missed the warmer weather. As I got older and started to look at my life from a deeper perspective I realized I was right were I belonged.

San Francisco is the land of opportunity. If you open yourself up and let it in it will provide you with everything you need. It was here that I developed my passion for cooking, where I landed my first Chef position, where I earned my first 3 stars from Michael Bauer, where I started my first business, where I started my first blog (and then my second) and where I became an entrepreneur. I never had to look hard for work or connections. Opportunities for both were all around me.

But as I’ve moved from phase to phase in my life here in the Bay Area over the last 20 years I have started to find myself and San Francisco has started to lose itself. The colorful, quirky and highly cultural city has started to turn more and more vanilla. The onslaught of major tech companies and start-ups drove gentrification and luxury condos and pushed out mom and pop shops and affordable housing. The service industry has been dealing with a major staffing crisis for years now because of rents we can no longer afford.

My partner, Spencer and I sat out on our balcony one crisp cool night and talked about life. The employees he could no longer hang on to at work, the scare of our rent increasing, the traffic that was getting worse and worse and old times. We were becoming jaded.

Hawaii had always been a special place in our hearts. We flew out to Kauai every year for years during the time Spencer consulted for a restaurant there. Every time we left we knew that it would not be our last. There was something very special about that place that spoke to our souls.

After a dear friend (more like my older brother) moved to Oahu a few years ago I flew out to visit.  I had never been to Oahu and it was love at first sight. It was Hawaii, but with a city full of action and life. The restaurant scene was just starting to explode in Honolulu, local artisans were popping up all over the place, organic farming was becoming more prevalent. I could see that this was going to be the next major food city. I hopped on a phone call with Spencer during that trip and basically told him that we would be moving there. I visited one more time a year later with Spencer to seal the deal.

Sitting out on our balcony that cool night in San Francisco we decided it was time. Were we waiting until we retired? What if retirement never happened for us? What exactly were we waiting for? My argument was there is no better time than the present to be somewhere that truly makes you happy. Lucky for me Spencer did not take much convincing.

We made a plan a couple months after our decision and a year later here we are scheduling a moving company to ship our belongings to Honolulu.

I have never been so happy in my life. I look forward to each new day and am grateful I get to move to paradise with the man I love.

Sarah Burchard is the author of The Healthy Locavore, a natural foods chef and certified health coach whose writing centers around holistic health, supporting community and eating locally grown and made food.

Finding Mindfulness In Your Yoga Practice To Prevent Injuries

Mindfulness with Justine Duran

Mindfulness with Justine Duran

Mindfulness is a practice everyone is talking about these days. To put it in simple terms it is the act of being present and it can spill over into your whole life if you start to practice it throughout your day. Eating, talking with a friend, driving and exercising are all experiences that can be enhanced by mindfulness.

Yoga has always been an activity that touts the benefits of mindfulness. But being mindful in yoga doesn’t just have to do with the fact that it increases your enjoyment of it. Being mindful in yoga also prevents injuries.

This week I sat down with one of my yoga teachers and good friend, Justine Duran. We discussed something I don’t believe is talked about enough in mainstream yoga, which is how to have an injury free practice.

Justine’s story

Justine started her life as a yogi when she was 20 years old. After battling drug and alcohol addiction in her teens she went through a year of heavy detoxing and found yoga.

She found the benefits in her practice immediately. She started sleeping better, feeling like herself again and most importantly was becoming more present.

Yoga made such an impact on her in fact that she signed up for her teacher training only two weeks into practicing.

The “aha” moment went something like this – She was in a class one day being led by a teacher she hated. The teacher was going on and on about the principals of yoga and Justine was thinking shut up and get to the next pose already.

As the teacher came over to adjust Justine in pigeon pose he said something profound that finally resonated with her. It triggered something in her brain and she began to sob realizing that she had been resisting his words up until that point. What the teacher was saying actually made sense. She had hated him because she didn’t want to hear what was most likely true, that she was being driven by her ego and not her heart.

As she squirmed out of denial she realized that this work spoke to her and she wanted to learn more. Not only that but she realized in that moment what she wanted to do with her life.

She wanted to connect with people on a deeper level. Like this teacher had just done with her.

So, like anyone who has just discovered their passion Justine jumped in head first. She took the teacher training in New York and then continued down a path of practicing every day.

She moved to Arizona where she fell into a routine of what she calls the 8’s. Every single day she would run, practice yoga and study yoga for 8 hours, work 8 hours and then sleep 8 hours, making her life an ongoing infinity loop.

Her body throbbed constantly, but her head was very clear.

Justine moved around a lot. New York, to Tucson, to Los Angelos, to Portland, to San Francisco often back tracking and doing the same city twice.

Once she landed in San Francisco she found a yoga teacher in the Richmond district that taught Ashtanga. She was going religiously six days a week. She was very flexible, focused and fearless powering through arm balances, deep stretches and handstands like they were no big deal.

And then she got injured.

She had gone from zero to sixty and back down to zero in about 7 years. She couldn’t practice yoga basically at all. All she could do was teach. Depression set in and Justine was now faced with having to re-examine her lifestyle. She was angry. She had worked so hard at her practice and on her body and now she could barely move.

What could have caused this injury she wondered?

Rehabilitation started with the discovery of a new float spa called Reboot, which offered water filled pods for floating in. The buoyant salt water relaxed her body and offered an ideal space for meditation. It was while “floating” that she started to reflect on her injury and wonder, what was she practicing so hard for?

Living and teaching yoga in San Francisco made her feel the need to have a strong social media presence. She had been flooding her instagram and Facebook feeds with yoga poses that the general public could only dream of getting into.

Was she practicing really hard just so she could post these images of herself she thought?

Even after the injury happened she was still posting these photos. Justine said, ” I would lay there on pain pills posting photos of myself doing yoga basically “fooling” everyone that, that was my current life”.

She started to resent yoga, for what people thought it should be and what she thought they expected from her. She felt the pressure of having to teach these strong powerful classes when her body wasn’t even strong enough.

It made her realize, most people’s bodies are not built to do all of these advanced poses. But people want them anyway and end up forcing themselves into them.

It was an internal battle for her. Does she give people what they want potentially facilitating a room full of injured students or does she learn from her own experience, slow her class way down and teach students what their bodies need logically?

She realized what she had been doing up until this point was fueling people’s (and her own) ego instead of fueling their consciousness.

As one of Justine’s students I witnessed the change in her classes. There was a shift all of the sudden. We hadn’t practiced handstands in weeks.

How to have an injury free yoga practice

There are four things Justine emphasizes now in her classes to promote an injury free practice..

Breath, alignment, strength and consistency.

Breath

She explains that a slow, deep and steady breath throughout your entire practice is crucial. “Breathing deep in a posture gets oxygen to travel throughout your entire body. It frees blockages and eliminates stress that has become manifested in certain parts of the body, like tightness in the shoulders, for example.

The breath should be paced and calculated, connecting with each movement in a mindful way. You are not moving on to the next posture because the teacher is cueing you to, you are doing it because your breath is telling you it is time to move forward. The teacher is just a guide, your breath dictates where and when you go”, she says.

For me, setting an intention for mindfulness at the beginning of my practice helps me focus on this. When I get distracted, which is inevitable, I gently bring my attention back to my breath.

Justine helps in this department too. She gives cues for breath work throughout the class. This has become a quality I have now come to look for in a teacher’s style.

Alignment

Justine says, “alignment is so important, I don’t see the purpose of getting past downward facing dog if you can’t even do that properly. You should be thinking about every posture you do very carefully before moving on to the next.

It’s not aerobics even if it may feel like it sometimes. If you know how to use your body and understand the breath and how to engage your bandhas you can create so much warmth in your body that you can be completely drenched in sweat and just be standing in one place. People don’t realize that. They think they need a faster more physical practice to reap the benefits of yoga.

Basically they are just trying to get a work out and are missing the whole point of what yoga really is. If you want cardio, go get cardio, and use yoga for what it is meant for.”

Practicing in front of a mirror can help you with alignment. Look at yourself in the posture and pick it apart. Make sure bones are stacking properly and that you aren’t hyperextending. The more you do the posture that way the more you will build muscle memory around it and it will eventually become second nature.

Strength

Flexibility without strength can cause injuries.

Justine says it is best to always keep a slight bend of the knees, especially in forward folds.

Justine urges, “just because you are flexible and can stretch deep doesn’t mean you should. It’s almost better if you are a bit tight because it forces you to come into postures with restriction. When you are flexible and don’t have adequate muscle support you can end up going too far. You can build towards flexibility you can not undo hyper flexibility and hyper mobility.

People tend to see other students in class going deep into certain postures and they think that’s how that posture should look for them, so they end up pushing themselves into it.

Being hyper flexible myself is what led me to getting my back injury. I had flexibility but not enough strength so it left my joints vulnerable. People with very flexible spines and not enough glutes muscle often end up injuring their backs. They end up jamming their discs in back bends. Squats are a great way to build up your glutes muscles.”

I would also add to Justine’s point that every pose should be active even if it’s a seemingly passive pose. Engaging your muscles protects your joints and helps to prevent injuries.

Consistency

Justine recommends to, “either be consistent or don’t. Don’t go once every other month and think you can just pick up where you left off. It doesn’t work that way. Each practice builds upon the next, every day is different, you don’t really know what your body is capable of unless you practice on a regular basis. Repetition is important. If you don’t practice often things are too random and the body loses muscle memory.”

A sustainable healthy yoga practice

I asked Justine what she felt a healthy yoga practice looked like. She said. “you can’t go wrong if you stick with the basics. When I started getting back into my practice after healing my back injury I started by doing just five sun salutation surya namaskar A’s and a five minute meditation each day.

After about a month of that I added in five surya namaskar B’s. Even though my body knew what came next I didn’t push myself. I stopped there because I knew that if I started to push again I would just re-injur myself.

Sticking with the foundation of doing five surya namaskar A’s and five sure namaskar B’s is really all you need. The rest is glitz and glamour.

If you did this short practice everyday five days a week you would know so much about your practice.

You would see patterns like which foot you always step back with first or which way you cross your legs. Knowing this is important because then you can mindfully change it up next time in order to balance yourself out.

Since you only have a goal each day of completing these basic sun salutations you will be more apt to try and do them perfectly instead of rushing through them to get to the other postures.

Pace yourself and focus on each movement with mindfulness. Once you have mastered sun salutations you can move on and start doing other poses to the best of your ability. You will always learn something from each sun salutation.”

Realizing and accepting that Justine no longer has to push herself has been liberating, she admits.

She is now back practicing Ashtanga yoga but only does about 40% of the poses that she used to hop right into. She goes three times a week and just practices meditation on the other days. She knows what her body used to be and what it is now and she accepts it.

On the subject of yoga and longevity. I asked, “how do you get to be that 80 year old lady in the class who is still practicing yoga every week?” She said, “that woman knows how to breathe fully and she doesn’t have 900 poses in her practice. Maybe she has 10, that’s the key to longevity.”

Justine’s yoga philosophy

Justine begs of her students to, “be honest with yourself, try not to be driven by the things you see and what others can do. Observe and learn how to know yourself. It’s not about knowing someone else’s body and trying to match yours with theirs. Drop your ego.”

She ended our interview joking, “it’s so simple! I can’t wait until yoga is not “cool” anymore.”

How to do Surya Namaskar A from TheHealthyLocavore on Vimeo.

Justine Duran
Justine Duran

Justine Duran dedicates her life to her yoga practice, friendships and the attempt of life balancing. She believes in an independent home practice and consistency, and with that the ability to find true observation of the self. She is currently studying to be an alcohol and substance abuse counselor with a goal to eventually own a retreat center for suffering recovering addicts. She currently teaches vinyasa yoga at both OMpower in San Francisco and in private one on one sessions. You can follow her at yikes yoga on instagram

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sarah Burchard is the author of The Healthy Locavore, a natural foods chef and certified health coach whose writing centers around holistic health, supporting community and eating locally grown and made food.

Three Reasons You Can’t Live Without Mobility Drills

mobility drills

Want to know the first thing I do in the morning when I wake up? I do a short series of something called mobility drills. Every morning.

mobility drills
Middle toe pulls

To help me explain why I make these a part of my daily routine I enlisted Jae Yee, founder of J bodyworks in San Francisco, who is an expert on mobility drills.

I had Jae first start off by defining what mobility is. He explained that mobility is your body’s ability to control movement through all ranges of motion with strength and without restriction.

The purpose of Mobility drills are to target your joints using movement which opens them up and sends messages to the brain that the body is ready to work. These drills are important because they can prevent injuries, relieve pain caused by injuries and promote having that full range of motion in the body. Doing them daily ensures that you are always keeping these pathways open and moving your body at optimal levels.

For examples of what these drills look like  scroll down to the bottom of the page for a list of “how to” videos.

What is the difference between mobility and flexibility? Jae breaks it down like this…

Flexibility is the ability to bend easily which stretches soft muscular tissue in the process. If you are not strong in addition to being flexible it means you are loose. Mobility means your strength matches your flexibility which means you are stable.

Being flexible and loose can cause injuries because you are unable to control and support your joints.

For example, lets say I am so flexible I can do the splits with no effort. If I am passively doing this stretch without contracting my muscles I am causing not only the muscle to stretch but the tendons and ligaments too, which can make them loose and not able to keep the joints in my lower body secure and in place. The body then reinforces the joints by having your muscles tighten up or spasm to hold stability, which then causes pain.

Basically you want to have a good balance when it comes to flexibility. You don’t want to be tight but you don’t want to be too loose either. You want to have just as much strength as you do flexibility. You want mobility.

And how do we improve mobility? We do mobility drills.

Three Reasons You Can’t Live Without Mobility Drills

  1. They relieve stress and pain in the body. Jae explained to me that the way mobility drills work is that they stimulate your nerve endings. Those nerve endings then send a message to your brain telling it that those areas of your body are ok. Since the signal from the stimulated nerve endings travel way faster to your brain than your pain signals do the mobility drill action overrides the pain sensation. This brain-body connection is what  brings down stress levels in the brain which then decrease pain in the body.
  2. They prepare you for an injury free work out. Every time you do mobility drills you are “turning everything in your body back on” which gets it primed and ready for a good work out. By comparison stretching does the opposite by making the nerve endings in your body relax telling them they are ready for rest. To prevent injuries your best bet is to begin a work out with mobility drills and end it with stretching.
  3. You can activate mobility in your entire body easily in just minutes a day. Mobility drills only take a few minutes to do and you don’t have to be in great shape to do  them. In fact the hardest part about them is just remembering to do them. That’s why I always do mine right when I wake up every morning before I get busy doing other things. Another good trigger to help you remember is to do them right before any kind of workout. Even if its just going for a walk.

Fun Fact – Every part of the body has a direct correlation to another part of the body. Examples are: the pelvis is correlated to the neck, the mid back to the lower back, the shoulders to the hips, the elbows to the knees, the wrists to the ankles and the fingers to the toes. Since these body parts are all connected when you are doing a drill related to one of them you are also benefiting the other at the same time.

How often should I do them? If you are working through an injury Jae recommends doing these several times a day (like 5 reps of each drill, 5 times a day) for about 6 weeks to see results. If you are not injured and you are just trying to maintain healthy mobility shoot for 3 reps of each drill 1-2 times a day. As you get older you should increase this number.

Mobility drills to do  everyday (“how to” videos):

Lumbar circles

Closed chain knee circles

Hip pendulums

Closed chain hip circles

Ankle circles

Thoracic A/P glides

Top elbow circles

Front and side shoulder figure 8s

Middle toe pulls

Inside ankle tilts

So, what do you say? Do you want more mobility and less injuries? Will you start making these a part of your morning routine or pre-work out in order to make that happen? I would love to hear your thoughts below in the comments section.

Jbodyworks

Jae Yee, Founder Jbodyworks

Jae has been in the health and wellness industry since 2003. As a Hendrickson Method therapist, he specializes in muscular dysfunctions and soft tissue injuries. His study of the human body started at age 10 where he practiced and studied the philosophies of movement and energy through Chinese martial arts and Tai-Chi. Jae holds over 200 hours of study in combined Eastern and Western modalities of bodywork, is a Nationally-Certified Personal Trainer, Corrective Exercise Specialist, and a Performance Enhancement Specialist with Z-Health, a neuro-science based performance system.

After having the honor and privilege of being on staff for 6 years with Dr. Tom Hendrickson at the Hendrickson Clinic, Jae is now a Master Trainer for Z-Health and has a movement therapy studio located in the SOMA area of San Francisco, where he trains and develops a team of coaches dedicated to having : “EVERY BODY WORK”.

Contact Jae: jae@jbodyworks.com

Jbodyworks

“Work” and “Movement” are the heart of J Bodyworks. We believe that  Every Body Works better with improved movement. For us, movement and work within “fitness” are not isolated to just your muscles. Instead, our approach to fitness is holistic, focusing your work on three key zones of the body:

Spirit: The movement of your Brain

Science: The movement of your Being

Strength: The movement of your Body

That’s our Key Three.

Consider this: Every body is in contact motion within their Brain, Being, and Body. Therefore, we believe better movement and real results comes from harnessing the separate motions in all three regions in the right direction for each individual. By correctly directing the motion for each of these harmonious systems – how you think (your Brain), the flow of your nervous system (your Being), and your overall physical fitness (your Body) – we can begin to build a cooperative foundation for real change.

Move your Brain, Move your Being, Move your Body. 

Visit J Bodyworks

Sarah Burchard is the author of The Healthy Locavore, a natural foods chef and certified health coach whose writing centers around holistic health, supporting community and eating locally grown and made food.

How to Build a Solid Meditation Practice

meditation

Meditation and practicing mindfulness are becoming as popular as wearing yoga pants these days. What is it, about meditation, that’s making everyone from teachers to CEOs swear by it?

I recently sat down with Jerrica Fritzley, a meditation teacher and fellow yogi. She and I talked at length about the nuts and bolts of meditation and how important it has been in her life.

In her younger years Jerrica suffered from depression. Not wanting to go on anti-depressants she turned to meditation.

She started taking meditation classes from a woman who taught, not only to heal others, but to heal herself as well. Jerrica’s teacher has Lyme disease.

Jerrica discovered through meditation that she tends to be so empathetic towards others that it gets in the way of her following her own intentions.  She noticed that she was making decisions based on what others believed instead of on her own beliefs.

Meditating started to instantly make her feel better. She started to see herself making her own decisions and taking control of her life. She said “everything around me started to seem lighter, like meditation brought the light out of my body and showed it not only to the world but to myself”.

Jerrica explained that this is her form of therapy and that meditation enables her to reset and balance her brain if she feels bombarded by other people’s energy.

She now teaches meditation to children sharing the lessons it has taught her with them.

Here are some of Jerrica’s tips to building a solid meditation practice:

  1. Start a mindfulness practice first. Becoming more present with your surroundings and your thoughts encourages awareness which sets the stage for a successful meditation practice.
  2. Pinpoint things to focus on. Whether it be following your breath, counting to ten or scanning the body your focus will lead the way to a quiet mind.
  3. Listen to your body and modify to fit your comfort level. Contrary to popular belief you do not need to sit cross legged on the floor with your hands on your knees sitting up strait. Which ever position allows you to relax and be comfortable is the best position to be in for meditation. It can be anything from sitting in a chair to lying down. One of Jerrica’s favorite ways to meditate is in child’s pose.
  4. It’s OK to let your mind wander. Look at your thoughts like you are watching mindless TV. View them, acknowledge them and then let them go. Try not to have any emotional attachment to them. Go back to the breath.
  5. Meditate anywhere, anytime. Being unconventional with your practice will not only enable you to do it more often but will make it so it becomes a part of your life and mindset. Meditation can occur when taking a walk, fishing or doing a mindless task at work. You can also use it to escape anytime you feel like someone has taken your energy. Jerrica suggests ducking into a bathroom stall or empty room at work and taking five minutes to yourself to breathe and recalibrate.
  6. Be patient with yourself. Your practice doesn’t have to be perfect (that’s why they call it a practice). Your awareness will grow over time and it will become easier.
  7. Try out an app, a class or a guided meditation. There are many ways to practice meditation these days. If your schedule is too busy to go to a class downloading an app like Headspace is a great option. There are also many guided meditations online to help you. These can be great motivational tools if you are just starting out.

I persoanlly downloaded the Headspace App after reading about it in a magazine and hearing a friend rave about it (she uses it when she can’t fall asleep). After only a couple of days I have gotten myself on more of a routine and I look forward to sitting down to ten minutes of meditation almost daily now. I am confidant that over time my practice will grow by how quickly I was able to implement it in the first place.

Where do you have five to ten minutes in your day to quiet your mind? What do you think the benefits would be?

If you already have a meditation practice share your tips in the comments section we would love to hear them.

Jerrica Fritzley
Jerrica Fritzley
After 4 years of University in Switzerland, where she received a BA in Hospitality and Hotel Management, Jerrica is back in the Bay Area for good. When her health took a turn for the worse, Jerrica dedicated herself to learning alternative healing methods that produced amazing results. She now looks to combine her enthusiasm and dedication towards alternative healing methods with her love of hospitality, events, and community to help others with their healing journey.
 
Follow her journey on instagram @ease_and_grace
Sarah Burchard is the author of The Healthy Locavore, a natural foods chef and certified health coach whose writing centers around holistic health, supporting community and eating locally grown and made food.