Category Archives: Angelina’s Yoga Posts

Twist It Out! Benefits of Twists in Yoga

As we move into the colder months of the year when schedules can get busy with the holidays and wrapping things up for the year, it’s important to take time for oneself and for self-care. One easy thing to incorporate to a daily or weekly routine are some twists. Twists have many benefits not just in yoga, but in every day life.

In Ayurveda, winter is the vata time of year when it is cold, windy, and dry. Our digestive fire is working hard to keep our body warm as well as at its strongest to aid in digestion of fats and proteins. With our digestive fire working so hard, it can lead to irregular digestion. Our body begins to feel the effects with chapped skin and lips, dry and cracking joints, etc. Gentle twists are one great way to help keep the digestive fire kindled to help aid digestion and keep the synovial fluid flowing to the joints, especially those of the spine, without over working seasonally tensile muscles.

Spring is the kapha time of year when things are still cool but are beginning to melt creating damp and sticky conditions. Our digestive fire will begin to slow down and our body will begin to become more lubricated, but have sluggish digestion. Moving into deeper twists in the spring time utilizes the lubrication of the joints to really pump the digestive organs to keep things moving while allowing access to the warmer and more sturdy muscles.

Although the benefits of twisting the body are numerous and useful all times of year, this article will focus how twists benefit us in the colder months of the year with digestion and joint health.

Here are some of the benefits you might experience this winter by adding more gentle twists into your day.

  1. Aids Digestion
    When the torso twists, the abdominal and digestive organs are compressed. This causes a lack of circulation to the affected organs and when released allows fresh blood flow rich with oxygen and nutrients to flush the organs. This increase in blood flow aids in optimal organ function which may lead to increased absorption of nutrients from food and their distribution throughout the body.
  2. Eases Constipation
    When the air around us is dry, our body becomes dry. This isn’t just the external part of our body in the skin, or the noticeable parts like the joints, but also our bowels. Dry bowels can lead to constipation and twists, as mentioned above, bring nutrients and blood flow into the digestive organs.
  3. Increases Circulation
    As mentioned above, twists increase the blood flow through the body through contraction and release of the muscles and organs. In addition, as mentioned below, twists help maintain a healthy spine, which maintains healthy posture, which allows the chest and rib cage to expand and contract fully using optimal lung capacity. When we can breathe fully and with ease, our circulation is greatly improved by releasing more CO2 and taking in more O2.
  4. Boosts Immunity
    More research has shown that most of our immunity comes from a healthy digestive system. Because twists support our body’s ability to digest and assimilate our foods, and help increase overall circulation, our body’s response to colds and other winter ailments is bolstered. Also, because our circulation is improved, the lymph system is able to flow more easily with fewer blockages and can drain more easily when necessary.
  5. Soothes Stress and Anxiety
    Because twists help open the chest, rib cage, and shoulder girdle, they can help reduce effects of stress and anxiety by allowing for better circulation, release of the muscles where most people hold tension in their body, and can help calm the mind by gently stimulating the vagus nerve to calm the body and mind.
  6. Supports Spinal Health
    Many people sit for most of their day. When our body isn’t moved in it’s full range of motion regularly, the muscles, tendons, ligaments, and fascia all begin to shorten. When they shorten, they limit our range of motion and this can cause stiffness in the joints and muscles and can lead to pain when trying to accomplish regular tasks that require more mobility. When our spine is healthy, it is possible to greatly reduce back pain and the risk of a back injury. This is extra important in the colder months since we tend to be a little more dry, so we can keep the joints of the spine lubricated and healthy.
  7. Energy Boost
    As mentioned above, twists align our spine and shoulder girdle toward proper alignment. With the spine aligned, circulation flowing with ease, energy, or prana in yoga, can move more freely through the body. You can just feel the difference when you are slouching forward and when you sit upright. In the winter when the days are shorter and darker, we can really benefit from a little extra energy boost.

 

Leave a Comment

September 15, 2021 · 2:38 pm

All About Wrist Health in Yoga

Even if you’ve been to only one yoga class in your life, you know most classes spend a great deal of time weight bearing on the wrists in poses like downward facing dog, table top, chaturanga, etc. For most of us, we spend the majority of our time using our hands to type on a keyboard and move our thumbs around a tiny mobile screen. The combination of these two things can lead to wrist strain/pain if there isn’t care taken to strengthen and mobilize the wrists from all the typing to make them able to bear body weight.

Anatomy Lesson

Long story short, our wrists are made up of eight bones; the two rows of  six small bones called carpals, and the two forearm (anatomically arm) bones radius and ulna. I like to remember radius is the forearm bone on the thumb side by sticking my thumb in the air for “rad.” I know, totally nerdy, but it helps. The wrist is a synovial joint that moves in a way to make our wrist appear to have 360° movement. This movement is actually made by the forearm bones rotating over each other to move the wrist around.

Try this: Make a fist with one hand and roll the hand around and around. Now, hold the forearm with the opposite hand without letting the forearm bones rotate as you move the fist around and around. It doesn’t go 360° anymore!

The muscles that move the wrist are in the forearm. That’s right, not in the hand. Even much of movement of the fingers is done from muscles in the forearms.

Try this: Hold one hand out with the palm facing up and the fingers relaxed. Grasp the largest part of the forearm near the elbow with the thumb on the side with the pit pf the elbow and thins on the side of the elbow. Press your thumb firmly into your forearm and notice how the palm moves slightly closer to the body and the fingers gently curl. I know, weird.

This all means the forearms are one of the biggest keys to wrist health.

Strength and Weakness

Most people have tight muscles on their upper forearm and weak muscles on the under part of the forearm. This comes from doing activities that flex the wrist back (anatomically it is wrist extension for the nerdy types) so the back of the hand moves toward the forearm and is held in that position like using a computer mouse, typing, texting, driving, downward dog, etc. (Anatomically, flexing the wrist means the palm of the hand moves toward the lower part of the forearm.)

The small carpal bones take most of the weight when we are weight bearing on the wrists. They are six tiny little bones not meant to bear the body’s weight. This means strengthening the muscles on both sides of the forearm and stretching the muscles on the top of the forearm will do a great deal to support the wrists.

What You Can Do

  • Adjust your yoga poses for your wrists.
    Allow your hands to turn out slightly in downward dog, plank, etc so the first finger is pointing front instead of the middle finger.
    Place the hands forward of the shoulders in poses like table top, side plank, gate pose.
    Use a wedge or rolled up towel under the hands in any weight bearing position including poses like wheel.
  • Release tension in the arms.
    Whenever you can, let the top of the forearms release a little tension. You can do this in yoga poses where the arms are extended like in warrior 2, triangle, etc by allowing the hands and fingers to be soft. No “Jazz Hands” in your class! It is possible to keep the arms engaged without adding extra tension.
  • Strengthen the muscles on the under part of the forearm.
    The under part of the forearm is strengthen from pushing activities. When bearing weight on the wrists, use your muscles as if you were literally trying to push the floor away. ( I know you’ve heard a yoga teacher somewhere say that to you. This is why.)
  • Use your fingers!
    When in poses where there is weight on the wrists like plank and downward dog, press the fingertips into the mat to engage the muscles in the forearm. It may even help to literally claw the mat so the third knuckle (the one closest to your fingertip) of each finger lifts slightly away from the mat.
  • Keep the weight toward the thumb part of the hand.
    The radius is the larger and stronger of the two forearm bones. When you keep the weight on the part of the hand with the thumb and forearm finger, it transfers much of the effort into the upper arm none for additional support. The weight is even further distributed to the core through the upper arm and shoulder, so abdominal and back strengthening exercises will also do wonders for your wrists. If the weight shifts toward the pinky, the weight is mostly in the ulna and access to the upper arm for support is lost dumping the weight into the little carpals.

Stretches and Strengtheners

  1. Extend one arm out with the fingers down and the palm facing away from the body. Use the opposite hand to draw the fingertips back toward the body trying to include the thumb as well. Hold for 30 seconds and switch sides. You can do this one finger at a time while keeping the others fingers reaching toward the floor holding each finger for about 10 seconds.
  2. Reach one arm forward with the palm of the hand facing down. With the opposite hand, press into the back of the hand and draw the palm down and toward the body keeping the fingers straight and without bending the elbow. Press the extended arm forward into the opposite palm to stretch the top of the forearm. Hold for 30 seconds and do the opposite side.
  3. Extend the arms away from the body with the palms facing up. Without moving the wrist, draw the thumbs to the palms, wrap the first fingers around followed by the other fingers trying to individuate the movement until you have fists. Without bending the elbows, slowly curl the the fists toward the body without letting the arms rotate in. Slowly reverse the movement. Repeat 3-5 times.
  4. With the thumbs tucked under the fingers in fists, reach the arms forward with the thumb part of the hand facing up. Keep the arms straight and curl the thumbs away from the body and down and the pinkies move closer. Hold for 10-30 seconds and repeat 3-5 times.

Leave a Comment

June 15, 2021 · 10:10 pm

How Restorative Yoga Can Benefit You

Most of us come to yoga to stretch, strengthen, and otherwise move our body for any number of reasons like stress reduction, reduce tightness in muscles or joints, or even to establish a greater connection with ourselves. So when we’re asked to prop ourselves up and stay there for 10 minutes, it’s no wonder our mind goes crazy telling us we aren’t accomplishing anything by just laying here.

Well, I’m here to tell you that is poppycock! Including restorative yoga into your regular fitness routine whether it be running, cycling, swimming, weight lifting, yoga, or whatever is a tremendous way to rejuvenate the body, reduce stress, and dive deeper into the practice of yoga. By incorporating at least one restorative yoga posture into your daily routine, it may help you find those benefits your searching for without draining your energy.

What Restorative Yoga Is

As an asana practice, restorative yoga is a sequence of postures where the body is propped up with pillows, blankets, any number of props and held for 30 seconds to 30 minutes to allow the body to  release tension, increase parasympathetic nervous system function, and reduce stress while subtly stretching the body and moving the joints. A practice may last 5 minutes for as long as you like but typically no more than 2 hours. In a studio, a typical restorative yoga class is anywhere between 45 to 75 minutes and is sometimes combined with other styles of yoga into one class such as yin and restorative or flow and restorative.

Physiologically and psychologically, restorative yoga turns on the rest and digest system of the parasympathetic nervous system. By allowing the body to feel fully supported in a passive stretch, the sympathetic nervous system of fight or flight is welcomed to step aside which allows the functions of the parasympathetic nervous system to rejuvenate tissues in the body. It is also possible it helps to reduce cortisol levels which, when consistently elevated, have a negative impact on the adrenal glands, cause weight gain, reduce sleep function, reduce energy, and other harmful impacts.

The Difference Between Restorative Yoga and Yin Yoga

Although yin yoga and restorative yoga are both slow, long-holding, floor practices with the similar goal of accessing the depths of the mind in deep reflection, their effects on the physical body as well as the types of movements they both offer the body are quite different.

In yin yoga there are some backbends and twists, however, there is an emphasis on forward folding and each pose is held for a maximum of 5 minutes, typically, and will have 5 to 20 postures in a class. Yin yoga is not about creating muscular flexibility, rather more on creating range of motion for the joints by “stretching” the deeper tissues of the body like the fascia, ligaments, and tendons by putting “stress” on the physical structure of the body. Props are not generally used, however, some practitioners choose to use them to support their body. Yin is truly about learning to be comfortable in an uncomfortable situation by training the mind to focus on a specific element rather than the discomfort. Pain is never encouraged and should always be avoided. This is not an article on safety or anatomy, so we aren’t getting into that here. 🙂

Restorative yoga is focused more on reducing tension in the body by allowing the physical structure to feel fully supported and safe so any holding of strain in muscles, the mind, and/or emotions will begin to release and let go, and to stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) response of relaxation. All poses are used in conjunction with props to support the limbs, joints, and spine so there doesn’t have to be any muscular effort to hold the pose shape. The use of props is also used therapeutically to help the body feel grounded, to reduce sympathetic nervous system (SNS) response, and align the head with the rest of the spine. Poses are held for long periods of time, 5 to 30 minutes, to give the body adequate time to settle and relax into the shape. This lack of movement also allows the PNS to kick on and the SNS to turn off by not having to move the body very often.

Why Do Restorative Yoga

Restorative yoga has many benefits including:

  • Soothes the nervous system
  • Facilitates mindfulness
  • Fosters greater body awareness
  • Removes the competitive aspects of asana of achieving
  • Encourages greater self-awareness
  • Reduces effects of chronic stress
  • May boost immunity through greater lymph function
  • Can improve sleep
  • Enhances flexibility without strain or injury
  • Opens up the world of meditation

Although restorative yoga heavily relies on the use of props, you do not have to have a bunch of fancy yoga props to do restorative yoga poses. Additionally, you do not have to do an hour long restorative practice to reap the benefits. It is possible to do one pose and relax fully into it with intention to feel rejuvenated and refreshed.

How Long To Practice

Ideally a restorative yoga practice is at least 20 minutes. The reason for this is because most people need 15 minutes for their parasympathetic nervous system to kick in and take over from the sympathetic nervous system. Over time, when a person becomes a regular practitioner, the body’s response to rest turns on much more quickly which would allow the practitioner to practice for a shorter time and gain the same benefit.

There is no expected amount of time to practice, so it can be five minutes, or two hours, or however long the practitioner has time for.

How Many Poses in a Session

Depending on the length of time you desire to practice, you can do one or as many poses as you choose. The fewer poses you do, the less disturbance there will be for the body and mind, but in the beginning it may be desired to hold poses for 3-5 minutes until the mind is taught to settle more easily. There is not set standard here, so feel it out and do what feels natural. It may also be desired to hold a two-sided posture a little longer on one side than the other as well.

Leave a Comment

May 7, 2021 · 2:44 pm

Why Hips?

You know the place at the beginning of class when the teacher asks for any requests? I would say one of the most common, if not THE most common, request is “hips.” Now, I think this is generally meant to be a request to stretch out tight hips from standing or sitting all day while working. When we think of “hips” we tend to generalize it to one muscle. Our hips are each a joint made up of two bones coming together surrounded by at least 17 muscles and tendons, 5 ligaments, and a myriad of blood vessels and nerves, including the sciatic nerve,  in each hip. Eeghad! There is so much going on in one spot.

Most of the muscles that make up the hip joint connect the pelvis to the thigh bone (femur) in some way. So we can intuit hip also includes the upper leg. What, I think, many of us don’t intuit or forget is that some of the hip muscles also connect up into our spine. This is important to understand because tight or weak hip muscles can lead to back pain and tension as well as the knee. The 17 hip joint muscles are typically divided into four groups: gluteal, lateral rotator, adductor, and iliopsoas.

Tight Hips

Some may refer to themselves as having tight hips. This could be related to many things including shorter hip muscles, weakness in some key hip muscles, and even tightness in muscles not designated as part of the hip. What? That’s right. Because our hip is a joint at our pelvis, many hip movements are also regulated by the ability of the thigh muscles and the lower torso muscles including in the back. Because all parts of our body are interconnected, when one group of muscles is struggling, another group will either take over to compensate, or struggle in conjunction. Here’s one way to experiment with this idea.

Stand with your feet hip-width and your hands on your hips. Balance on one leg and bend the other knee to 90°, use a wall to help if desired. Bend your knee as much as you can to squeeze the foot toward the buttock and keep the thigh parallel to he floor. Make sure your hips are level with each other and squared forward, and your abdominal muscles are engaged with a neutral pelvis. Keep your foot squeezing toward you buttock and begin to lower your knee without rotating it in or out. As the knee gets closer to the ground, resist the urge to arch your lower back. Once the knee begins to move behind the torso, resist letting the foot stop squeezing in. Ok, you probably have a huge hamstring cramp after that, sorry. 🙂

Hopefully you can now see how the muscles and movement of the hip are also affected by the muscles of the rest of the leg and lower torso. Once the leg got closer to the floor, the lower back likely wanted to arch. Once the leg moved behind the body, the lower back kept wanting to arch and the knee wanted to straighten. This was a test of what are called the hip flexors and extenders, sheds light on where compensation for tight quadriceps and/or weak hamstrings occurs in the low back.

What Does Tight Hips Mean?

This depends on the person and their bone structure. Everyone has differently shaped thigh and pelvis bones and where and how the thigh bone articulates (connects) to the pelvis is also different. Some people have a shallow hip joint meaning the thigh bone is more toward the front (anterior) which may allow them easier access to forward folds and may cause things like hip dysplasia because the labrum (fibrocartilage keeping the thigh bone in place) can’t fully cover the top of the thigh bone (femoral head). Or someone may have a deep hip joint meaning the thigh bone is more toward the back (posterior) which may allow them to bring the leg further behind the body and can lead to hip impingement as the femoral neck bumps up against the pelvis when the hip is flexed. Then there are the middle of the hip people, who should be wary of overdoing any particular movements.

As you can see, where your thigh bone is in relation to your pelvis can also play a role in hip tightness. This is not something we can change, this is how we are born and best to know our own limits so we don’t hurt ourselves. We can also embrace our hip structure to allow us to be awesome at running, super strong in squats, or make beautiful backbends.

It’s not all about the bones, the muscles, tendons, and ligaments also play key roles in hip mobility. It is also possible some of the tendons or ligaments have been shorted, and/or the muscles may be shortened. If it is the ligaments, there’s not much we can do about that. If it is the muscles, stretching the muscles around the hip joint can help.

The most common tightness people feel is in the hip flexors in the front of the hip and in the deeper hip muscles under the gluteals, typically the piriformis. When the hip flexors get tight, they pull the pelvis forward making a deeper arch in the low back which may also cause tension in the low back. Generally a deep externally rotated hip stretch feels awesome for these muscles.

Hip Weakness

It is difficult to tell if “tight” hips are from weakness or from inflexibility. As I mentioned, the hip flexors are the most common place where people feel tight. This can also be due to weakness and they may not be strong enough to support your activities leading them to feel sore or tight. If you haven’t run before and you go for a 5 mile run, your hip flexors are going to give it to you after because they are not strong enough yet to meet the demands of running 5 miles. In this case, strength building is important.

Similarly the internal adductor muscles that squeeze the legs toward each other, the extensor muscles that move the leg behind the torso, and the gluteal muscles also tend to weaken from sitting. These muscles are key for most of our movement, especially for those who perform athletics like walking, running, swimming, etc.

Now What

If you’re the one who asks for hips a lot in a yoga class, consider if the muscles are in need of strength building to meet the demands of sitting and/or exercise, become more aware of your range of motion to familiarize yourself with your bone structure, and get those deep stretches in that make you melt just a little bit more.

Leave a Comment

April 10, 2021 · 11:40 am

Help Reduce Symptoms of Seasonal Allergies

Spring is a time for rebirth, renewal, sunshine, dewdrops, and the promise of sunny days. It can also be a time of intense allergies, congestion, and sluggishness.

During winter we sleep more, eat heavier foods, and take time to snuggle in for some alone time. In the spring we want to begin to balance this out by eating lighter and drier foods, waking earlier as the sun rises earlier, and beginning to spread our social wings.

According to Ayurvedic principles, allergies stem from all the kapha we accumulate over the winter accumulating in our body. We need the kapha accumulation in the winter to keep us warm, hydrated, and nourished. In the spring, this accumulation can lead to colds, allergies, and a general feeling of sluggishness.

Three types of allergies can trigger these unpleasant reactions: food allergies, airborne allergies, and contact allergies. This means the body senses something foreign and sends cells to attack kicking the immune system into overdrive. According to Ayurveda, some primary causes of allergies are genetics; weak agni, or digestive fire; a person’s current state of wellness, or imbalance; and/or the presence of amaundigested or poorly digested food that turns toxic and interferes with processes in the body.

As we enter spring, this is the perfect time to begin cleansing all the heavy, dense, watery qualities we accumulated over winter from eating foods to keep us nourished and warm. If we don’t take care to balance out these qualities our spring will be blurry and full of sneezes instead of taking in the aroma of new life beginning to bloom.

Seasonal allergies effect many people every spring. If you are one of those people, Ayurveda can help! Here are a few simple things you can do to help prevent allergies from starting this spring.

  • Reduce or Eliminate Cold Foods and Drinks
    Cold foods and drinks aggravate kapha and can lead to more congestion and reduction in the body’s ability to fight allergens.
  • Eat Warm and Cooked Foods
    Our digestive capability in the spring is not very strong. Having warm and cooked foods help our digestion break down our foods better so we able to better assimilate nutrients from the foods we consume.
  • Drink Ginger Tea
    Drink ginger tea 30 minutes before a meal and/or throughout the day to bolster digestion.
  • Pranayama Practices
    Breathing techniques like ujjayi and kapalabhati are great for invigorating the body, stimulating the mind, and clearing the airways for easier breathing.
  • Exercise Daily
    Move your body for at least 20 minutes every day. This does not have to be vigorous movement such as a walk, living room dance party, charades, etc. Or, move your body vigorously for 30 minutes 3-4 times each week.
  • Neti Pot
    The neti pot (pronounced naytee) is a great tool to help clear congestion in the nasal sinuses. If done before seasonal allergies kick in, it will help the cilia of the nose be more prepared to defend against allergens. This is also a wonderful tool to reduce symptoms of a cold if used early enough, but don’t use it after you have a cold or the symptoms will worsen.
  • Dry Brushing
    Gently exfoliating the skin, dry brushing is a wonderful way to move the lymph which can help boost immunity to fight against seasonal allergies and colds.
  • Eat dry, bitter, astringent, and pungent foods
    Allergies stuff everything up with sticky, gooey stuff, so eating similarly like cheese, bananas, etc, will worsen the symptoms. Adding foods to your diet like dark leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables (cauliflower, etc), dandelion greens, pomegranates, green beans, chickpeas, onions, ginger, garlic, chilies, and green tea will help dry out some of the mucous.
  • Seasonal Cleanse
    According to Ayurveda, one of the reasons allergies hit us is because our immune system doesn’t have the capacity fight off allergens. One cause of this is a weak digestive system so the body is having to put too many physiological resources into digesting food. Giving the digestive system a break by consuming an easy to digest meal for several days, called a mono diet, can help rekindle the digestive fire so the body can focus on more important things. (Join me for the annual cleanse March 15-19.)

Leave a Comment

March 4, 2021 · 1:49 pm

New Year New You?

Do you set a new year’s resolution or intention each year? What is your success in following through with it? When you set this goal for yourself is it based on what you think you should be like? Is it based in how you think you can be better? Is the goal action oriented or broad? For myself, I used to set intentions to do things like get more exercise, or eat healthier, or whatever. They were always broad and not specific and always based in what I felt I should be doing. When I become more involved with yoga I started setting intentions like spend more quality time with my dog, or cook more meals at home. Again, they were always broad and things that I felt inadequate about myself.

What if this year there was new year’s resolution or intention?

I’ve moved  away from this practice a few years ago. I’ve started to work on this daily and begin to have my daily intention to keep me focused and on track. In Ayurveda everyone is different. We are all made up of different vibrations of energy, and as such need different things to feel successful in life, to feel loved and to share love,

How do we define what we need?

According to Ayurveda philosophy we are all made up of the five elements; ether (space), air, fire, water, earth. We all have a different amount of each element, so some of us are more grounded, some of us more creative, some more driven. This does not make one better or more desirable than the other, just different. We can begin to define what we need to feel whole when we begin to notice the things that throw us off balance, or disrupt our feeling of contentment and place in the world.

Sometimes is it is easier to notice when we don’t feel quite right than it is to notice when we feel exactly like ourselves. Ayurveda offers the adage opposites balance and like increases like. When we fell blah, or sluggish, or slow, it would do us well to add something uplifting, enlivening, or invigorating. Often our mind tricks us into thinking we need something similar like alcohol, or TV, or heavy snacks like potato chips. While those things are not inherently bad for us in of themselves, if we are already feeling blah, these things are likely to increases that feeling of blah. Perhaps a brisk walk, peppermint tea, a phone call to a loved one may actually lift us out of the funk more than the pull to add more funk.

This is the hard part. Choosing to do the thing that is going to support us most isn’t always the easy thing. This is where needing more than a new year’s resolution to create a life of joy and presence is important. It is a daily practice, and moment to moment practice to be the best possible version of ourselves. It takes practice and discipline to remember we are worth a damn and to make choices to support ourselves.

Prajnaparadha, mistake of the intellect, is often one of the biggest culprits for lack of follow through. We know intellectually something is good for us or not, yet we may choose to do it for any number of reasons like social pressure, unreasonable expectations for ourselves, or any multitude of stories we make up in our mind.

Be Compassionate

Ayurveda offers the 80/20 rule. If we are living life where 80% of the time we are making decisions that support us, and 20% of the time we decide we’re going to eat five sugar cookies, then we are doing pretty good. It is generally easier to offer compassion to others when they make mistakes or need a little help. If we make ourselves a priority, we can begin to offer that same compassion to ourselves as well.

It is also helpful to know that making ourselves a priority doesn’t mean we are not going to be there for others when they need us. We will also not make selfish decisions that create harm for others. It is possible to keep our personal best interest in the forefront while respecting others and their needs. This is not a selfish pursuit, it is the pursuit of creating more joy in our own life to flow into the lives of those we interact with.

Take it Day to Day

You are perfect as you are. If there is something that throws you off balance and makes you feel imperfect, is it worth keeping around?

For this year, I encourage you to set a daily intention or resolution that you are worth it, and you deserve to live a life of joy. When you wake up in the morning, decide what you need from the day. Do you need encouragement on a new project, time to rest, to get organized around the house, or to move your body? Keep it simple and specific; “I am feeling tired from not enough sleep, so I will make sure to go to bed an hour earlier tonight.” From there, see if you can make choices throughout the day to support what you need that day. Maybe a loved one wants to watch a movie, but it will go past the time you want to go to bed. Perhaps offer to watch a shorter film or TV show or reschedule for another day.

You are interesting, you are important, you are unique. Take some time to be curious about you and learn all you can to cultivate a life of joy and presence.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Angelina's Yoga Posts

What’s Your State of Mind?

What's your mindset? Is it possible to notice when things are out of balance and begin to bring tranquility to your mind?

What’s Your State of Mind?

Ayurveda and yoga follow Samkhya Philosophy which divides the world of existence into two polarities of being: Purusha and Prakriti. This article won’t go into Samkhya Philosophy, as that is a whole other ball of wax. But, it is helpful to know that both Ayurveda and yoga follow the basic philosophical structure.

Purusha is ultimate reality, all things that are unchanging in the world. What does that even mean? Doesn’t everything constantly change moment to moment? Well, again, that is an article for another time, but the basic idea is that the physical world we experience does in fact change moment to moment, but that which is beyond us, ultimate consciousness, God, soul, true Self, is constant and never changes. That is purusha.

Prakriti is the changing state, often referred to as the illusion of reality, or maya. Prakriti is the way we experience the world through our senses, perceptions, stories, experiences, and feelings. These are things that change and are effected by the colorings of our mind from life experience. Now, experience of life is not bad. That’s what we are meant to do here. It’s how we experience life and how our mind reacts, perceives, or feels about the experience.

Everything that exists within the tangible world we experience, prakriti, consists if the three maha gunas, or the great qualities; sattva (purity), rajas (activity), and tamas (inertia).

Three Maha Gunas (Great Qualities)

Sattva

Sattva is balance or harmony. It is neutral and moves with ease and calm. Sattva is a clear mind free of anger, fear, distressing thoughts, and full of love and compassion for all beings. This is quality of pure goodness, peace, forgiveness that allows us to deal effectively with the world. Physically is it clear skin, healthy weight, vibrant hair, clear eyes, etc. This isn’t to mean we should all look like super models, because let’s be real, that would be a huge imbalance in of itself for so many reason we aren’t going to go into here. What this means is we are our most healthy version of us with the genetic cards we were dealt. Sattvic foods are most vegetables, dates, almonds, legumes, but most of all what your body can easily digest.

Rajas

Rajas is pure energy, motion, and heat. It is the yang and masculine energy of the gunas. In balance, rajas is the zest for life, ability to set goals and work toward them, and a sharp, resolute mind. Out of balance, rajas appears as anger, hate, frustration, manipulation, rashes, heat flashes, moving excessively fast. Rajasic foods are heating and sharp like garlic, onions, chilies, cinnamon, alcohol, fermented foods and drinks, caffeine, and sour foods like citrus.

Tamas

Often viewed as ignorance, tamas is inertia, or stillness. It is the yin and feminine energy of the gunas. In balance, it is the ability to go with the flow, rest with ease, and be stable and dependable. Out of balance tamas appears as depression, sadness, a dull mind, lethargy, over eating, laziness, and lack of desire to be or do in the world. Tamasic foods are heavy and dull like leftovers, microwaved foods, fried foods, meat, cheese, milk, potatoes, carrots, and other root vegetables.

Often, One Guna is Predominant

The states of sattva, rajas, and tamas are inter-related and cannot exist without each other. In the same sense, one is not better than the other and it’s important to remember we need a healthy balance of all three so we have passion for life (rajas), the ability to stop and smell the roses (tamas), and can love in the place of the Self or the soul of our being (sattva). Additionally, the gunas are not just confined to people, and exist in some way in everything we come into contact with. Think of yogurt. It is dense, cold, wet, heavy, slippery, slow. All qualities of tamas, so we could infer eating yogurt will increase tamas. What about watching Game of Thrones? Well, lots of gratuitous killing, dark imagery, anger, hatred, and competition at the expense of others. These are all qualities of rajas, so we could infer watching Game of Thrones will increase rajas. Qualities of listening to a babbling brook are peaceful, calm, beautiful, serene, and relaxing. These are all qualities of sattva, so we could infer listening to a babbling brook with increase sattva.

Some of this is open to interpretation based on personal experience, likes and dislikes. Because we are limited to experiencing the world through our senses, all things are colored in our mind based on individual experience, inference, and preference. We are living in the world of prakriti, illusion, so we appear separate from others.

This also doesn’t mean you can’t watch things like Game of Thrones or eat yogurt. What is important is to balance those out with sattva boosting activities or foods to return to a balanced state.

Finding Balance

It’s important to remember we need a healthy balance of all three gunas so we have passion for life (rajas), the ability to stop and smell the roses (tamas), and can love in the place of the Self or the soul of our being (sattva). Noticing when one of the three gunas is predominant or out of balance can help us make decisions to create better balance in our diet, mind, and overall way of being. Typically, rajas or tamas are the culprits of imbalance since sattva itself its a state of balance.

In Ayurveda, opposites balance and like increases like. If there is a predominance of rajas, we may see things like excessive activity, anger, heat,  mobility, energy, aggression, shame, physically or mentally moving too quickly. Imbalance can show up as digesting food to quickly which creates loose stools, indigestion, heart burn, sour burps, or perhaps as skin flushing, red eyes, getting hot when trying to sleep. Here are some things to consider to boost sattva and reduce rajas.

  • Incorporate slow, fluid movement or statice practices like restorative yoga or Thai Chi
  • Start a gratitude jar where you write thing you are grateful for and can read them in times of need
  • Focused meditation like yoga nidra or loving kindness
  • Take a cool bath or shower
  • Eat foods that are less heating and more grounding
  • Use cooling spices such as cilantro, mint, coriander

If there is a predominance of tamas; lethargy, slowness, heaviness, dullness, darkness, fear. Imbalance can show up as slow digestion with constipation or hard stools, depression, hoarding, couch potatoism (this is now a word), lack of desire to do day to day activities and things normally enjoyed. here are some things to consider to boost sattva and reduce tamas.

  • Incorporating movement such as vinyasa yoga, jogging, swimming
  • Meet a close friend of family member for coffee/tea or a peaceful walk
  • Consider you’re physical surroundings and use warmer colors for paint and clothing choices
  • Snuggle in your warmest blanket or sweater with a warm cup of chai
  • Eat foods that are less cooling and are lighter
  • Use warming spices such as cayenne, black pepper, cinnamon

Not Sure What’s Out of Balance?

If things aren’t quite right and you aren’t sure what’s up, the best thing is to boost sattva which is the qualities of purity, knowledge, hope, and harmony. This will ensure excess rajas or tamas won’t be increased and still work to bring harmony into life. Here are some simple ways to boost sattva.

  • Listen to a babbling brook 🙂
  • Take in a lovely sunrise or sunset
  • Read an inspiring book
  • Journal about goals, hopes, dreams
  • Hug someone you love
  • Eat sattvic foods like ghee, seasonal fruits and vegetables, broths
  • Eat something sweet and brings joy (Don’t eat an entire chocolate cake)
  • Walk barefoot in the grass
  • Use of essential oils or herbs that are pleasant and calming
  • You get the idea – all the warm and gushy stuff

When we can find balance of the maha gunas, we can begin to connect more deeply to the purusha, the soul and deep inner knowing of truth to live a life of joy.

Next Self Care Sunday is October 18, live on Facebook, and we’ll discuss the transition from summer to fall and ways to change routine to support better wellbeing. You can get even more information and sign up for my online classes, blog, or newsletter at www.yogawithangelina.com

You may also enjoy this video at www.facebook.com/SageAndFettle for a quick discussion on sattva, rajas, and tamas. Or follow Sage and Fettle Ayurveda on Facebook for monthly Self-Care Sunday events.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Angelina's Blog, Angelina's Newsletter, Angelina's Yoga Posts, Ayurveda

Keep Cool This Summer

Keep Cool This SummerKeep Cool This Summer with Some Great Tips from Angelina Fox, ERYT500, YACEP, Ayurveda Health Counselor. Image of canoe.

In the hot months of summer our digestion begins to slow down as the body spends its energy keeping the body from over heating. This is important to remember as we move into the season of BBQs, frozen treats, and lots of time in the sun.

In the summer it is no surprise that we begin to crave things to keep us cool like iced drinks, frozen treats, and shade. This is a natural response from our body to help maintain homeostasis. Summer is the Pitta season, according to Ayurveda, and contains the qualities of fire and water like oily, pungent, hot, spreading, sharp, and light. Our physical form and mental state are affected by these qualities and take them on. This is why it is important to bring the opposite quantities to maintain balance.

Self Care Sunday June Edition - Keep Cool the Summer with Angelina Fox ERYT500, YACEP, Yoga Teacher and Ayurveda Health Counselor in Washington DC and Northern Virginia Areas

Check out my live videowith some tips to stay cool this summer.

One easy way to balance the heat is to incorporate bitter, astringent, and sweet flavors into the diet. Bitter tastes come from leafy greens, astringent from many fruits and spices, and sweet from the fruits of the season (sweet doesn’t mean sweets or chocolate, in this case.) These tastes offer a cooling sensation to the body and are easier to digest when our digestion is not its strongest. It is good to reduce the tastes of salty, pungent (spicy), and sour. Foods dominant in these tastes create more heat and are harder for us to digest in the heat of summer. If you can’t give up those spicy tacos, make sure to load them up with lots of cilantro and avocado to balance them out.

Food Lists

It is also important to make lunch your largest meal and to eat between 12 and 2 pm because this is when our digestion is the strongest. Below is a list of foods to incorporate into the diet over the summer. Some of these will have multiple tastes, but are listed in their dominant taste.

Bitter

  • Aloe vera
  • Amaranth
  • Artichoke
  • Asparagus
  • Barley
  • Bitter Melon and Gourd
  • Chicory
  • Citrus
  • Cocoa (at least 80% and 1 oz or less)
  • Cranberries
  • Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kale, arugula, cabbage, radishes
  • Eggplant
  • Endive
  • Jicama
  • Leafy greens
  • Lettuce
  • Nettle
  • Oat Bran
  • Oats (and astringent)
  • Tapioca

Astringent

  • Apple
  • Alfalfa Sprouts
  • Aloe Vera
  • Avocado
  • Bananas
  • Beans
  • Chicken (white meat)
  • Sesame Seeds
  • Legumes
  • Lentils
  • Pear
  • Peas
  • Pomegranate (tastes sour on the tongue but is both astringent and bitter)
  • Popcorn
  • Potatoes
  • Quinoa
  • Seitan
  • Sprouts
  • Tofu

Sweet

  • All the Berries
  • Coconut Milk/Water
  • Couscous
  • Dairy (in small amounts)
  • Melons
  • Pancakes
  • Pasta
  • Peaches
  • Plums
  • Pumpkin Seeds
  • Rice (basmati, white, wild)
  • Rice Cakes
  • Spelt
  • Sprouted Wheat Bread
  • Wheat
  • Wheat Bran

Spices

  • Basil (Bitter and Astringent)
  • Bay Leaf (Astringent)
  • Cardamom (Astringent)
  • Cilantro – Did you know coriander grows into cilantro?
  • Clove (Astringent)
  • Coconut Oil (Sweet and Astringent)
  • Coriander (Astringent)
  • Dill (Astringent)
  • Fennel (Astringent)
  • Fenugreek (Bitter)
  • Ginger (Bitter) – In moderation
  • Marjoram (Astringent)
  • Mint (Astringent)
  • Nutmeg (Astringent)
  • Oregano (Astringent)
  • Parsley (Astringent)
  • Rosemary (Astringent)
  • Saffron (Astringent)
  • Turmeric (Bitter)
  • Vanilla (Sweet and Astringent)

Iced Beverages

Enjoying a ice cold lemonade on a hot day sounds pretty refreshing. However, this can kill our digestive fire and cause gas, bloating, and discomfort if we consume iced beverages with our food. Enjoy your cold drinks throughout the day, but try to have room temperature drinks with and up to two hours after meals to help aid in digestion.

Take Time to Chill

Another great way to keep cool is through reducing very strenuous exercise and doing your hardest physical efforts early in the morning before it is too hot and when the body is the most stable. Consider changing out your hot yoga classes for a slow flow and keep your exercise non-competitive. Offer yourself lots of space to relax. Relax in a hammock with a good book. Sit in the shade with loved ones and spot cloud animals.

Always stay hydrated. Make sure to consume at least half your body weight in oz of water which will include liquid in your foods. Keep your skin protected with sunscreen and appropriate summer gear like a sun shirt or hat.

Want some helpful tips on cooking this summer?

Please join me on July 18 from 10am-12pm EST for Ayurveda Kitchen: Cooking Class for Summer where we will prepare two main dishes and a sweet treat. This will be live, so you will be able to ask questions and cook along with me! Once registered, I will send the recipes, grocery list, and if you register by July 9 you will also receive a spice pack and a special gift. Enroll now! yogawithangelina.com/online

Leave a Comment

Filed under Angelina's Blog, Angelina's Newsletter, Angelina's Yoga Posts, Angelina's Yoga Videos, Ayurveda

Starting a Meditation Practice

Starting a Meditation Practice

Check out my live videowith some tips to get your meditation practice started.

Starting a meditation practice can be daunting. We have these images in our mind that meditation is sitting quietly on a mountain top, in lotus legs, hands turned up on the knees, eyes closed in rapture, and exuding the bliss of enlightenment. Um, I don’t know about you, but that aint practical for me.

Before diving in, it is helpful to define what a meditation practice is and isn’t.

What meditation isn’t is making the thoughts in our head stop. We are human and we are living in the real world. Our thoughts will never cease. We need thoughts to get us through every day. To help us make sense of the world we are a part of.

What meditation is, is the process of seeing these thoughts as the thinking mind separate from how we actually are. We are not our thoughts. Who we truly are and our thinking mind are two separate parts inextricably connected.

A meditation practice can be what we imagine above, or it could be washing the dishes. The key is the way in which you do the practice, that you do it in earnest, you practice regularly, and do it with purpose.

Be Compassionate

You will have setbacks. There will be days when you come out more frustrated than you went in. You will have days where it is impossible to concentrate. Remember, that isn’t you, that is your thinking mind. Let it be upset you didn’t “succeed at meditation” and then look at that desire to succeed with discernment rather than judgement that you couldn’t do it.

There will also be days where you are completely tapped in. When you have a set back, remember these connected days. See if you can bring that  deep sense of connection and see if you are able to refocus your efforts.

Here are some tips I have for starting a meditation practice.

  • Find a spot where you will always meditate. Let it be a place that is free from interruption and distraction.
  • Pick a time, morning is ideal to help set our day up to be amazing. 
  • Choose the type of meditation you will do before you sit down to meditate and stick with it for at least 30 days before trying a new one.
  • Have a test amount of time. Can be as little as five minutes.

If you’d like more tips on meditation, my Movement and Meditation Series might be a good fit for you. Each class is 30 minutes and begins with a discussion of meditation followed by short movement and a meditation practice. Get more information, the videos and handouts at yogawithangelina.com/onlineseries.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Angelina's Blog, Angelina's Newsletter, Angelina's Yoga Posts, Ayurveda

Add Spring to Your Step

Add Some Spring to Your Step

According to Ayurveda, spring is the Kapha season. Kapha is a blend of water and earth elements which give it qualities like heavy, dense, wet, cool, slimy, dark, smooth, liquid, stable. These are not to been seen as negative qualities, but qualities in of themselves. We need these qualities in our life to function. Without the heavy and dark qualities it would be difficult to sleep. Without stability, we would fall apart. Without liquid or slimy qualities, our joints would dry out.

Add Some Spring to Your Step Self Care Sunday April 2020

View my video with more information and follow me on Facebook for monthly Self-Care Sunday tips.

In spring time these qualities are more abundant and directly affect us so it is important to take care to not let ourselves be overwhelmed by them. Like increases like and opposites balance is an adage closely followed in Ayurveda. By adding light, dry, warm qualities through lifestyle practices and diet choices it is possible to bring balance to the qualities of Kapha and prevent them from taking over and creating that sluggish, don’t want to get off the couch feeling and add spring to your step!

Think of the “spring cleaning” ritual many of us follow with our homes. It is the same thing with our body. We need to shake out the cobwebs we accumulate over winter to make space for the fun of summer and begin to feel light on or feet.

If we are wise, we begin to incorporate the practices just when the weather is starting to turn from winter to spring to reduce things like allergies and colds as much as possible. But it’s never too late!

Lifestyle

Start to move your body more! Exercise is critical to keeping the heavy and sluggish qualities at bay. Every day move your body for at least 30 minutes. This does not have to be high intensity or all in one take, simply walking, or dancing in your living room counts!

Kapalabhati Breathing is also a great way to bust up excess Kapha. Kapha tends to collect in the lungs and airway, which is why it is important to breathe deeply. To do this, sit tall, have a tissue on hand, forcefully heal air through your nose. Your inhale will happen on it’s own. If you feel light headed, take a break or stop. Always be safe and listen to your body.

Doing a saline rinse with a Neti Pot helps keep the cilia in the nostrils functioning at full capacity to help filter allergens, dust, and other pathogens keeping galleries and colds at bay.

Drink your beverages warm or room temperature (At least no ice!). Because Kapha has the cold quality already, we don’t want to aggravate it and further reduce our body’s ability to digest the food we eat.

Diet

Incorporate more foods with bitter, astringent and pungent tastes and try to reduce sweet, sour, and salty tastes. In Ayurveda, sweet is more than sugar and candy. Sweet is anything that has a sweet taste like dairy, heavy meats like red meat or pork, wheat, etc. Replace flour with amaranth, millet, oat, barley, or buckwheat.

Have your meals warm to make them easily digestible. During the spring, our digestion is not as strong, so eating fully cooked foods that are warm make it easier to digest to the food. Make dinner your lightest meal or if you’re digestion is particularly sluggish, you may consider skipping dinner all together for a short period of time.

Bitter:

  • Leafy Greens (like kale, collards, dandelion greens)
  • Cabbage Family (broccoli, cauliflower)
  • Cranberries
  • Artichoke
  • Brussels Sprouts
  • Chard
  • Collards
  • Coffee
  • Sesame Seeds
  • Bitter melon
  • Burdock root
  • Eggplant

Astringent:

  • Apples
  • Blueberries
  • Lemons
  • Pomegranates
  • Rye
  • Popcorn
  • Corn
  • Ricecakes
  • Legumes and Beans
  • Green Beans
  • Carrots
  • Potatoes (not sweet)

Pungent:

  • Black Pepper
  • Cayenne
  • Onion
  • Garlic
  • Chilies
  • Ginger

Begin to reduce oily, cold, dense, and sweet foods like fried foods, avocados (I know, it’s a bummer. Don’t have to give them up entirely, just reduce to like once per week and you can bring them back in full force over the summer!), soy, sweet potatoes, olive oil, cucumbers, bananas, oranges, dairy, etc.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Angelina's Blog, Angelina's Newsletter, Angelina's Yoga Posts, Angelina's Yoga Videos, Ayurveda