Deep Breaths

Benefits of Deep Breathing

Most people unconsciously breathe from their chests, resulting in short, shallow and inefficient breaths. Chest breathing causes reduced oxygen and nutrient delivery, increased feelings of anxiety and stress, and muscle tension. Unlike chest breathing, deep breathing involves breathing from your abdomen, which enables you to draw air all the way down into the deepest pockets of your lungs. Deep breathing can provide a number of benefits to your physical and mental well-being.

Technique

To practice a basic deep, abdominal breathing technique, sit in a chair with your feet flat on the floor and your hands resting comfortably in your lap. Keep your spine extended tall and relax your shoulders. Observe your current breathing patterns for a few moments. Place one hand on your belly and one hand on your chest. Inhale as deeply as you can, drawing the air into your abdomen. Focus on raising your lower hand, then your upper hand, as your body fills with air. Pause for a moment and exhale completely, contracting your abdominal muscles to expel the last bits of air from your lungs.

Physiological Changes

Deep breathing helps quiet your mind and body, which can result in a number of significant physical and psychological benefits. Deep breathing reduces your need for oxygen, leading to decreased firing activity in the nerve cells in your brain. Additionally, deep breathing slows down the activity of your parasympathetic nervous system by increasing oxygen delivery and promoting the activation of your sympathetic nervous system's relaxation response.

Physical Benefits

Deep breathing results in greater oxygen and nutrient delivery because you draw air down into the deep pockets of your lungs, which is where the greatest amount of blood flow occurs, according to the American Medical Student Association. This may help increase your energy levels and can result in improved stamina in athletics and other physical activities. Deep breathing also increases your body's production of endorphins, your body's natural pain-killing chemicals. Endorphins are the chemicals responsible for the feeling of euphoria known as "runner's high." According to the Pain Center of Arizona, endorphins may help block your nerve cells from releasing pain signals to your brain, which can provide benefits during times of acute and chronic pain.

Mental Benefits

Deep breathing is a powerful tool for stress relief and relaxation. It teaches you to be more conscious and mindful of your everyday activities and promotes your body's relaxation response. The relaxation response involves a deactivation of your stress response, also known as the "fight-or-flight" response. Deep breathing helps return your body to a state of equilibrium after an anxiety-provoking or fearful event. By tuning in to your breath, you refocus your attention on the internal, rather than the external, world.

A Short, Easy Daily Practice 

Take 10 deep breaths (as in the described technique above) before each meal. 

Take care of your self and enjoy!

Suzanne 

Love to my teachers

I feel extremely blessed for the time and care my teachers have given to me over the years. Without their guidance, I would not be who I am. 

Teachers are so important and as a teacher myself, one who comes from a lineage of teachers (2 of my Grandparents were teachers and both of my parents are, as well) I value those who spend their life sharing the gift of knowledge, one of the greatest gifts there is. However this comes for each of us is different. Some take a more academic, traditional road and others are self taught, or taught in less formal, less traditional ways. Life has so much to teach us and if we are open, there are so many ways to learn, so many chances in a day. My love for learning is big. I love the feeling of understanding, experiencing and knowing based on experience. Yoga is such a stimulating subject (experience) and there is just so much to learn. Whatever path we decide to take, it is ours to chose so following our hearts as we learn and make our way forward seems a wise way to go. 

Question: Can yoga be studied? 

Peace

Do what it takes. Give yourself what you need. Self care, self inquiry, quality time with quality people, practice honesty, avoid gossip, serve others and forgive. Take a trip alone to soul search. Rest up or get up, whatever you need. 

Have patience. Minding our own business and focusing on how we as one person can be better simplifies things. And this is all part of yoga practice. 

Practice is the key word. We are all learning until the day we die. Patience with ourselves is a good thing to focus on because we are all going to have moments we falter. Yet each day we start over again and each day we can try again to be as understanding as possible. 

When on a soulful path it can be extra challenging and there will always be situations that knock us off balance. We will not always hit the mark but peace within is the best place to focus our efforts. 

Do what feels right and do what feels good to you. Respect and love yourself and then it doesn't matter what others think about you. Being right within ourselves means being at peace with where and who we are. We can forget this and I do too at times but bring my mind back to this ASAP. 

When stressful times hit we can go within. Sometimes it takes a little time to calm down but in just sitting, breathing and connecting with our inner self as best we can, can bring relief and peace in minutes. 

Today is another new day. 

Namaste & love,
Yoga for Wellness with Suzanne Via

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Souping is the New Jucing

If you’re a fan of juicing, you’ll definitely be on board with souping, the latest detox trend. Why drink cold juice in the winter? Go for warming soups this time of year! A soup-only cleanse offers a number of nutritional benefits while keeping you satisfied. Packed with vitamins, minerals and fiber, soups are filled with superfoods that can help you battle inflammation, cleanse your colon and reduce oxidative stress. Plus, most soup recipes are versatile, allowing you to swap in different ingredients and seasonings according to your taste.

What is souping:

From the viewpoint of physical wellbeing, the keyword is: detox. All the beneficial properties of pulses and vegetables, proteins, vitamins and the like are blended together in what is, broadly speaking, an extremely healthy and economical option, and also rich in fibre and cooked to make it more digestible. The sugar content is provided by the complex carbohydrate variety and not simple fruit sugar. And, unlike a juice that is knocked back at the speed of thirst, soups are eaten slowly, resulting in a pleasing sensation of fullness.

The key to success:

On the subject of sensorial pleasure, consistency is vitally important when it comes to soup: it can be more or less creamy and liquid according to the recipe, but never solid enough to prevent the purification process, nor too liquid to make the consumer feel deprived of a proper meal. During the summer, in the northern hemisphere, cocktails underwent a solidification process: mojito, daiquiri, cosmopolitan and margaritas were being served by top barmen and chefs in a foody version, in consistencies that were more or less solid, more or less foamy, in a creative impulse that could even be defined as tending towards “Negroni soup.”

Souping and detoxing:

Authentic “souping,” however, is a soup version of detoxing that offers genuine detox battle plans, whose protagonists are armed with ladles. Starting from The Big Apple, the Splendid Spoon suggests “plant based plans” for detoxing, inviting you to put your trust in its steaming, ready-to-eat bowlfuls. Soupelina in Los Angeles follows a similar concept and at the start of the year, it released a book entitled “Soupelina’s Soup Cleanse,” in which the chef shares her soup detox dietary secrets, lasting from three to five days.

What your options are: 

24-Hour Raw Reset Cleanse: This fiber-heavy one-day cleanse is designed to recharge your body immediately, perfect for anyone who needs a quick jumpstart or lacks the time to commit.

3-Day Boost Cleanse: If you're a beginner and up for a little challenge, a 3-day cleanse is the perfect way to strengthen your digestive system, create healthy tissue and help aid your body's natural ability to get rid of toxins. 

5-Day Soup Cleanse: If you're a cleansing pro, you'll benefit from this most, and will likely see the number on the scale drop as well as experience a reduction in headaches and fatigue.

Why it's better than juicing: 

If you've ever done a juice cleanse, you've probably felt dizzy, weak and hungry. Soup cleanses don't leave you feeling like this, because they're filled with more easily digested nutrients and highly satiating ingredients. They also have a lower glycemic index compared to juices, which helps to stabilize blood sugar levels.

How often you should do it: 

Four times a year. It's best to cleanse seasonally, so that your body can stay in tune with the change in weather. 

How many soups you'll have per day: 

Five. If you're doing a 24-hour reset, you'll have five raw soups. For a three-day and five-day cleanse, you'll have three soups—one during breakfast, lunch, and dinner, plus two light broths for snacks in between. For optimal results and to keep your metabolism up, you'll eat every three hours.

What you can't eat: 

A cleanse is a chance to give your body a break from working so hard to digest the foods you normally eat. While on a soup cleanse, you should only consume the soups and broths, with exceptions for pumpkin seeds, cucumbers and celery. Soupelina's cleanse calls for avoiding coffee, sugar, fruit, soda, animal protein, dairy, alcohol and nicotine (a given), wheat and processed, dried and canned foods.

What the benefits look like: 

Glowing skin, silkier hair, reduced stress levels and higher energy levels. It also helps rebuild the part of your metabolism that works with burning fat, and aids in building a strong immune system by cleaning your gut. 

Ready to stir the pot? Get souping with this beginner’s 3-day detox meal plan:

DAY 1

Breakfast: Raw Green Soup

Lunch: Easy Chicken Bone Broth

Dinner: Hearty Wholesome Harvest Soup

DAY 2

Breakfast: Vegan Butternut Squash Soup

Lunch: Easy Kale, Mushroom, Quinoa Miso Soup

Dinner: Simple Dairy-Free Mushroom Soup

DAY 3

Breakfast: Cauliflower Corn Chowder

Lunch: Seasonal Veggie and Umeboshi Soup (Macrobiotic) 

Dinner: Vegetable Bean Chili

Note: I am not a certified medical practitioner; please consult with your doctor before making any changes to your diet or medications. The material on this site is provided for educational purposes only, and is not to be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Forward Head Posture Correction

My bambino is so young and starting to get forward head tilt.

Should be corrected soon with new computer set up, awareness and this technique of pushing back of head into pillow (to lengthen and strengthen back of neck).  

Done with back against wall bent knees strong legs press feet and press back of head into pillow hold for a bit repeat.

If you look at your kids posture don't be surprised to find this issue as many kids now have it (adults too) from looking down at electronics. 

Strengthening the rhomboid muscles (muscles next to upper spine between scapularis also known as shoulder blades) will further help.

Namaste

Tapas for Wellness: 10 Day Commitment (video 1)

Discipline in yoga is called "tapas". The word “tapas” comes from the Sanskrit verb “tap” which means “to burn.” The traditional interpretation of tapas is “fiery discipline,” the fiercely focused, constant, intense commitment necessary to burn off the impediments that keep us from being in the true state of yoga (union with the universe). 

THE CHALLENGE:
☆ 8 hr sleep
☆ 30 min stairs
☆ 1 hr yoga
☆ 30 min meditation
☆ 30 min sutras study

What do you need?

Every year I take a solo time out for travel (usually there is yoga and nature involved). I have done this for years. I leave my work, family, friends and I go out into the world by myself to "recalibrate". No pressure, pure "me time".

We go to work, interact with others, with our kids, colleagues, our families, clients - whatever and we do our best to keep things smooth and to please the people in or lives, to support others, to make money, be good parents and partners, etc. It can happen that we stop paying attention to our own needs. 

There is this thing that I have done over the years. I learned it from author Louise Hayes, the great healer. This is my version of it, anyhow. 

Walk to a mirror. Look yourself square in the face, dead in the eyes and have a conversation with you. You can speak your mind freely and say whatever you want, out loud. No need to edit, just speak directly to yourself. Notice this person in front of you (yourself). You might feel ridiculous and want to laugh. No, you are not a lunatic. You might see how lovely you are and just how worthy you are of your own love and acceptance and find some answers to your questions as to what you want to do or need in your life and information for moving ahead with more clarity. 

I am going for a massage, an early night's sleep. I leave for a 4 week pilgrimage in India soon. That's what I need most right now so I am giving it to myself. 

And you? What do you need and how can you best support yourself at this time in your life?

Why not go to a mirror and ask yourself. Because no one knows better than you. 

Happy New Year :) 

10 yoga-inspired healthy food habits

While many people would agree that a good fitness regime helps keep fatigue, weight-gain and stress at bay, it may just not be good enough. Choosing and following a good and healthy diet can help you there. Even with a hectic lifestyle, one can minimise the risks by choosing the right food to eat. But is choosing the right food enough? No. Along with the right type of food, we must also learn how to eat it the right way. The following 10 yoga-inspired tips should help:

1. See what you are eating

Observe your present diet. What is it that you eat most of? Are you consuming too many calories in your diet and don't have enough time to burn them off?

2. Choose green leafy vegetables

They are a rich source of proteins, iron, calcium and fiber. Green leafy vegetables are easy to prepare and quite appetising too.

3. Know when to drink water

Drinking plenty of water helps detoxify the body as well as gives you a glowing skin. Although, we should avoid drinking water during meals as it slows down the digestion process.

4. Include enough proteins in your diet

Proteins are vital for the body. Broccoli, soybeans, lentils, asparagus, spinach and low-fat dairy are some commonly found protein rich foods.

5. Chew your food

The more you chew your food, the easier it becomes for your stomach to digest it and the more calories you burn moving those jaws.

6. Keep away from fast food and soft drinks

Fast food is addictive and loaded with unhealthy trans-fats. Carbonated soft drinks have a high sugar content, which may lead to obesity, diabetes and dental caries.

7. Cook at home

Instead of ordering pizza from the joint around the corner, stay home and make that dish, adding health tweaks (feta instead of mozzarella cheese) along the way.

8. Focus on your food

Most of us have our food while distracted and don’t keep count on how much we eat. Though your stomach might be full, your busy brain tells you to eat more.

9. Never skip your breakfast

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day as it prepares the body for the whole day ahead. Eat a wholesome dish before you step out of the house.

10. Digest your food better

Sitting in Vajrasna (adamintine pose) for a few minutes after having food helps with digestion. This particular yogic posture enhances blood circulation in the lower abdomen.

A balanced diet helps keep the body fit and active. Yoga combined with good food habits can make you become more energetic, dedicated and focused person in all spheres of life. Remember, what you eat is what you become. So choose wise and eat better!

 

Santosha to Ahimsa!

Life is such an incredible, crazy journey. I enjoy the intensity it brings at times - the spaces of calm and challenge along the way. I have been on a mission to be more patient and accepting of myself and others, which has been paying off.  

Being an avid practitioner these past few months of “Santosha”, meaning contentment, my mind often ponders the fact that we are all so beautiful and perfect, regardless of our imperfections and challenges. We are incredible creatures, capable of so much love, filled with creative genius. I am eternally grateful for my teachers who have helped me down my yogic and meditation path.  

Layering on top of Santosha (the practice of acceptance and contentment), today I want to touch on one of the Yamas - the practice of Ahimsa, which means non-harming.

The yamas and niyamas are yoga’s ethical guidelines laid out in the first two limbs of Patanjali’s eightfold path. They’re like a map written to guide you on your life’s journey. Simply put, the yamas are things not to do, or restraints, while the niyamas are things to do, or observances. Together, they form a moral code of conduct.

Ahimsa: nonviolence

I will never forget the day my teacher Ana asked us, “How are you self-mutilating?” She is a warrior of a teacher and does not mince her words. I found my time studying with her to be intense, conflicting and often confronting. To this day, I am grateful to her for being such a courageous teacher who cared enough about her students to raise the difficult issues that many yoga teachers avoid.

My mind felt resistant and a lot of emotions came up as I wrote in my journal the ways I self-harm. Yikes, Ana.

Since childhood I have had this habit of biting my cuticles when I am under stress or pressure. This is very personal, what I am sharing and to this day I notice this old habit creeping back when I am feeling afraid, over excited or stressed. When I notice myself doing this, it sends me a signal that I need to check myself to see why it is happening.

I am often challenged by habits pertaining to my body so as I focus more attention on Ahimsa, I am looking to see how I can love and treat my body a little better. Baby steps are great and I am okay with going slow. It is just a process and processes can take time.

I am aware of a few other habits that I have been unsuccessful in squashing lately, and am gently asking myself why. Just being aware can lead to greater self-understanding, which is helpful. Higher consciousness in these areas will come in due time.

Today, I am doing my best to go slow and stay calm. By not taking on too much, by allowing myself to experience my natural state of being moment to moment, with awareness and acceptance (Santosha), even when I feel I could or should be doing better. It has been interesting working this Niyama so intently and this particular practice has set the stage, I feel, for taking me now back to the practice of Ahimsa. Let’s be as patient and understanding towards self and others as we can be as we all learn along the way.

Wishing you peace. Happy Ahimsa practicing.

Shanti Time

Attitude adjustment?

I love checking my attitude. And being aware so I am not adversely affected by someone else's attitude if it is negative (sometimes I hit it, sometimes I do not- it's all good, just gotta keep on trying).

I really like to egg on positivity and bring out the best in others. This feels "right". Our instincts and our bodies are always giving signals. It is so good to pay attention. If I miss it, so be it. But I aim to keep this practice of checking my attitude. I just want to be the best I can be which for me means being kind, supportive, patient, understanding, open and loving. 

Santosha

It has been such a gift to be able to teach all these years. It keeps me close to practices I hold dear to my heart. Yoga philosophy is an important element for any serious student of yoga. These past 2 weeks I have been diligently working on one of the Niyamas- Santosha. This is a simple practice of acceptance. Of contentment. Of meeting ourselves and others as are, without undue judgement. It is a practice. I don't always hit it. But making this a practice is becoing more habitual. I have a lot to learn, we all do.

Santosha is rocking my world right now, as I keep reminding myself often to stop, notice when I am being self critical or critical of another, or of a situation, to check in and practice contentment (Santosha). This lets me and others off the hook and allows situations in my life or in my head to soften instead of escalating. It is such a beautiful practice, and this is so good to remember. It's a practice. We don't need to always get it right. But if we make a sincere effort to practice this beautiful Niyama (set out by Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras as a precept for living well and with less suffering), it can truly change your life.

We don't always have to like what is going on. But if we can practice acceptance (because often times we are just trying with futility to control a person or a situation or make ourselves feel better somehow by judging another or just accidentally judging ourselves out of habit when we are not paying attention), we can feel way more calm and chilled out. It's a nice practice.

Put this all through your system and set out to practice Santosha this week. You won't regret it. 

The Mind

In the course of a day, we are perpetually deciding what to do – to eat, to wear, to say, to think. Most of these choices fall towards the easy end of the spectrum – but what happens when we come up against the hard ones? When the available options we see are so unappealing it feels that we have no real choice? When you’re stuck and there seems to be no solution whatsoever?

Some situations you simply cannot think your way out of, you must feel your way through. These are tremendously challenging - and equally rewarding - opportunities.

Our minds, with their problem-solving capabilities, love to work overtime, helping us out to fix things here and now and definitively. And while quick, clear, linear thinking is a wonderful capacity in times of routine or urgent crisis, the more nuanced evolution of big issues and dilemmas can rarely be dispatched solely by logical equation or direct attack. Frustrated with the failure to reach an immediate resolution, the mind tends to convert its overactive energy into stress - magnifying the pressure one already feels.

When the mind becomes a hindrance, rather than help, the best thing you can do is to thank it. Recognize that it just wants to set everything straight for you so that you can move away from discomfort. Thank it, acknowledge it, and dismiss it, so you are free to turn inward and grow.

Shift from your headspace to your heart space in whatever way best suits you. Yoga and meditation are great options, but consider also anything that sparks your spirit: spending time in nature, enjoying a good book, laughing with friends, playing with your children, caring for a pet, working on a creative project.  

Be prepared for discomfort. You may have to exist in a state of uncertainty for some time, allowing internal or external circumstances to shift naturally. You may have to trust in the inherent goodness of this life experience, in the absence of any current supporting evidence. You may have to go against your natural yang inclination to actively force a conclusion and instead embrace your yin nature to allow the situation to unfold.

Remember those brain teasers, made up of colorful repeating patterns in which there is an image or message that will pop out, the longer you stare at the whole, without focusing on any one spot? Often the impossible situations we face must be approached in the same way, in order to find the hidden answer. Relax the brain, connect with yourself and allow the right resolution to make itself known.