The Magic of Mindfulness

mindfulness
mindfulness
Photo by Ketino Photography

Mindfulness is having awareness of the present moment. It is something to be practiced. The result overtime is experiencing less suffering and more joy in your life. Simply put, savor each moment as if it were your last.

What Mindfulness does

Once you start practicing mindfulness you will start to notice many interesting things in your life….

  • You are less likely to react negatively to emotionally charged situations.
  • You will start to transform pain into healing and darkness into light.
  • You will create an awareness that enables you act instead of react.
  • You will start to think about what you truly want, need or feel, making decisions based on your values instead of temptations or the desire to escape.
  • Challenging moments become less intense and no longer consume you.
  • Your physical immune system will become strengthened.
  • Your relationships will grow stronger.
  • Accidents will be prevented.
  • Your true nature will start to show unadulterated.
  • You will experience more success and joy in your life.

Why Mindfulness works

Your ego is a powerful force. It tries to define you and make you feel like you are a separate entity from the rest of the world. But you are not.

It seeks out ways for us to hide from who we really are, what we really think and what we actually need by finding ways to escape our discomfort. It creates resistance in your mind and forms a hard outer shell that separates you from reality, keeping you in your comfort zone. Only it’s not actually comforting.

In challenging times, you may show emotions of anger, fear or anxiety. These are all emotions that arise from identifying with your ego, or your perceived reality. When you practice mindfulness it is you who is in control of your thoughts instead of your ego.

Do you overeat, drink too much, fight constantly with your spouse, hate your job or stress about your future? Believe it or not these are all things you can change by practicing mindfulness.

Practicing mindfulness puts these actions into perspective, forces you to pause and think and allows you to act with intention. The gap that you create in the constant flow of your thoughts enables you to start becoming aware of why you are in these situations and how to make better choices before you do or say something you will regret.

For example, let’s say you had a hard day at work so you come home, prepare dinner, open a bottle of wine and pour yourself a glass. There are several scenarios that could evolve from here. Below are two of them, one being a scenario where you are mindless and one where you are mindful….

A. You turn on the TV plow through your dinner and look up an hour later to realize that the glass of wine you started out with is now an empty bottle. You start to feel ashamed and regretful knowing that tomorrow you are probably going to have a headache, which is not going to make your day any easier than today was.

B. You swirl the wine in your glass inhaling the aroma of the wine taking small sips throughout your meal savoring the nuances of that particular varietal and enjoy the feeling of getting a slight buzz. Once the meal is over you put a cork in the bottle and save the rest for another night feeling satisfied and happy. With a clear head you go to bed thinking tomorrow is a new day.

Scenario B is a good example of participating in an activity mindfully. The actions are deliberate, done with intention and executed using value based decisions. You are completely aware of what you are doing and why you are doing it.

Alternatively, scenario A is a good example of a mindless act. When you react, like eating or drinking on autopilot,  instead of acting with intention it is because you are seeking a particular result. This result usually comes in the form of a quick fix that you think will bring you comfort. Since the decision was not based on your values you end up feeling regret, shame or angry with yourself instead of comforted. When you don’t get the result you were hoping for you start to experience more suffering than what you originally started with.

How to practice mindfulness

Observe your thoughts and actions as they are. Do not let them define who you are or let them turn into bad habits. Instead become curious as to why you have certain thoughts or do the things you do. To find out who you really are all you have to do is sit back and watch.

There are many ways to do this such as……

  • Meditation – Sit with yourself and experience what is. When thoughts arise, acknowledge them without judgement and let them pass.
  • Yoga – A moving meditation. Notice your breath and how you attempt each pose. Are you holding your breath? Are you clenching? Are you angry that you can’t get the pose down perfectly? Yoga can be a perfect metaphor for how you live your life. Do you tense up and judge yourself when it gets hard or do you treat yourself with compassion and know that you are perfect just the way you are?
  • Live in the present moment – Give your attention to what you are doing instead of thinking about the result you want to achieve. You do this by trying not to dwell on things that have happened in the past or what will happen in the future. Use all of your senses here. What do you see, smell, hear, taste or feel right in this moment? How can you bring more awareness and engagement into your current situation?
  • Constantly check in with your body – Do you have a “pit” in your stomach? Are you clenching your jaw or tapping your fingers? These are all feelings that stem from non-acceptance. Your thoughts can materialize in your body. Notice where you feel pain or tightness and try to release any gripping or fidgeting.
  • Catch yourself complaining – Next time you find yourself doing this stop and ask yourself, “What action can I take to resolve this issue?” If you cannot find an answer either leave the situation or accept it as it is.
  • Breath work – There are many helpful breathing exercises that you can do but simply paying attention to your breath is a great way to start. Next time your thoughts are racing stop and see how you are breathing. You might be breathing fast, or shallow or not at all. Stop and smooth out your breath, breathing deep from your belly and then resume your day.

Use practices like these to gain insight on who you really are and what you really need. Practicing mindfulness all of the time even in ordinary situations, not just when times get tough, is the key to growing the skill. Over time your mindfulness muscle grows stronger enabling you to cope with anything life throws your way. The more you practice the more skilled you become. The more skilled you become the less suffering you endure. This is the magic of mindfulness.

Is mindfulness a practice that you have adopted in your life? If so, what positive results have you noticed so far? Tell us all about it in the comments section. And if you liked this article I invite you to subscribe to The Healthy Locavore for more health tips, cooking ideas and resources. I am so grateful for this community, thank you so much for being a part of it!

Resources

The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle

The Mindful Meal Challenge by Darya Rose (Summer Tomato)

Radical Acceptance by Tara Brach

Eric Ripert Lessons in Mastery and Mindfulness, The Tim Ferris show

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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.

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.

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.

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.

My Top 10 Self-Care Practices

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Photography by Jenee Crayne

The photo above is Justine. She is my friend and one of my favorite yoga teachers. It was her and a couple of other people at my yoga studio that influenced me down my journey of taking back my life. Once a master juggler at getting several tasks done for other people all at once, now the juggling is done to benefit and enhance my own life.

This is no easy task, but the moment you let go of feeling like it is not OK to take time out for yourself, is the moment when you can really start to live.

Caring for yourself enables you to care for other people on a higher level. Feeling confident, rested and healthy gives you the energy to be there for the people who need it (and deserve it) the most in your life.

Here are my Top 10 Favorite Self-Care practices:

  • Yoga – The spiritual practice of yoga is good for both your mind and body. It’s a never-ending practice that you continue outside in the real world after you have gotten up off of your mat. It reminds us to let go of the ego, be present and mindful and to listen to your own body. It is my favorite form of self-care hands down.
  • Massage – This also falls into the category of treating yourself to a day at the spa. Find the type of massage that’s right for you and enjoy it. The body deeply benefits from human touch and massages are great for promoting circulation, treating minor pains, reducing stress and relaxing your muscles.
  • Taking a bath – Taking a good 20-30 minute soak in a hot bath is amazingly detoxifying and relaxing. Add 2 cups epsom salt, 1 cup aluminum-free baking soda & 10 drops lavender essential oil to your bath, light some candles and enjoy.
  • Acupuncture – If you have never had acupuncture do yourself a favor and make an appointment right now. Not only do the practitioners have endless ways of treating any kind of injury you may have but they can also sense how your organs are functioning and heal them as needed. Very thin needles are inserted into the body in various points necessary to treat your ailment. Sometimes cupping (to relax and stimulate energy of muscles) and or/ moxi sticks (for warming) can be used as well. At the end of the session feeling relaxed, euphoric, dizzy & a little light headed are all common.
  • Good Dental Hygiene – This can include tongue scraping, oil pulling, flossing and using a natural teeth whitener. Use natural products and set aside plenty of time to do it right.
    • Tongue Scraping – Clears the tongue of mucous, toxins and bacteria. Rinse your mouth with cold water, scrape your tongue 10 times and rinse again. Follow up with oil pulling and brushing. Tongue scraper I recommend.
    • Oil Pulling – Ayurvedic technique of swishing oil around in your mouth to pull out bacteria and fungus. It alleviates bad breath, cavities, plaque, sensitive teeth and inflammation. Swish 1-2 teaspoons of coconut, sesame or sunflower oil around in your mouth for 20 minutes (do not swallow), spit the oil out, rinse your mouth out with salt water and brush your teeth. Oral pulling rinse I enjoy.
    • Tooth Whitening – Baking soda makes an effective all natural tooth whitener. ECO-Dent makes a good one.
    • Natural toothpaste – To fluoride or not to fluoride. That is the question. I pick not. Here’s what I would rather use. Or this one.
  • Body Brushing – So invigorating and leaves your skin silky smooth. Body brushing boosts circulation and lymphatic flow which detoxifies and opens pores and exfoliates for healthy skin. Using a non synthetic long handled brush gently dry brush each body part in an upward direction starting from your feet all the way up to your neck. Follow up with a warm shower and moisturize with either lotion or oil.
  • Walking or hiking in Nature – Barefoot walks on the beach or in a grassy park. Hiking through the woods or up a mountain. Being in nature is extremely grounding and good for your soul. Turn the phone off and appreciate what’s around you.
  • Reading for pleasure – One of my favorite past times (especially on vacation) and great to do right before bed to help get a good nights sleep.
  • Warm lemon water – Or even just warm water for that matter. Starting your day with  a large cup will stimulate your digestive system, alkalinize your body and detoxify your liver.
  • Meditation – Hands down the hardest self-care technique for me to do. Sit upright in a comfortable position and concentrate on your breathing. Try not to let outside noises or your own thoughts distract you. If they do, acknowledge them, let them go and return back to your breath, for as long as possible. This is totally easier said than done. I recommend a restorative yoga class which also incorporates gentle, relaxing postures into the practice. Meditation is a great way to start and end your day.

Which self-care techniques do you like the best?

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.