Top 5 Tips for Meditation

MEDITATION1Meditating is hard. It can seem like a daunting task and after repeated failure it is easy to just give up. But there is a reason they call it a practice! Just like a yoga practice, every single day is unique and you never know what will surface when you take the time to practice.

The most important things are actually the simplest.

  1. Create a set time in your schedule. At first it is best to do it first thing in the morning when you wake up. You may want to splash some water on your face and brush your teeth to make sure you don’t fall back to sleep!
  2. Designate a set duration. When beginning a practice it can be hard to set aside part of your day to sit still. You may want to start with three minutes on the first day and set an alarm. See how that feels and try adding an additional minute every other day so by the end of the week you are sitting for six minutes.
  3. Find a special space in your home. Make a space that is quiet and clean. No clutter or visual distractions. You can create an altar of things that are special or have significant meaning to you. Make sure you have the proper seating arrangement that you can be comfortable sitting upright.
  4. Designate a focal point. You may want to keep your eyes open and stare at a candle flame. Other people choose to close their eyes and focus on the third eye if they are intellectual or the heart center if they are emotional. Try different methods to see what feels best.
  5. Focus on your breathing. Slowly begin to inhale through the nose taking slow deep breaths in and out. At first you can count your breaths in an effort to keep the mind from wandering.

This is a starting point. What you do with it from here is up to you. There are many benefits to meditation as simple as starting your day by taking a few minutes for yourself to preventing heart disease. If you have time for facebook you have time to meditate! Stop making excuses and start your practice today.

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The Importance of Stretching

flexibility (2)I hear the complaints of not being flexible all the time but very rarely do I see anyone that is actually motivated to do something about it. I can only assume this is because people don’t understand the importance of stretching and flexibility.  I also know stretching can feel more like a chore than pleasure and if you don’t know what you are doing then you won’t see much progress.

Stretching has not only physical benefits but also mental, spiritual, and psychological benefits. Some of the tops benefits for me are:

  • Flexibility determines what movements you are able to make and how fast, accurate, and powerful they can be. If you are involved in sports this can be a key to getting an edge over your competition.
  • Flexibility helps your posture become more upright without mental reminders and your body become more relaxed as it reduces overall tension in the body. Better posture also helps you breathe deeper which improves overall health.
  • Flexibility relieves pain, prevents injuries, and helps relieve stress.
  • Flexibility teaches you how to embrace being comfortable with the uncomfortable.

Stretching
This is something you can do on your own whenever and wherever you want. All you need to know is the top five stretches that work for you. You could do a google search or you could ask a physical therapist, massage therapist, personal trainer or fitness instructor for recommendations based on your body. I also do skype sessions with clients to teach them a stretching routine and make personal youtube videos for them to follow along with. A small routine can take anywhere from 10-30 minutes a day and will make you feel so much better.

Yoga
Try it on your own, go to a class at a local studio, try a class online with YogaGlo or Gaiam. This is an arena that it is best to do your homework first. Yoga can help you become more flexible but depending on the style of yoga it could be a slow road to progress. Holding a stretch for longer periods of time is when the muscle actually has the time to relax and go further into a stretch to help increase your flexibility. Classes that are quickly moving through the poses will generally take a longer period of time to increase flexibility than classes where postures are being held for over a minute.

Assisted Stretching
This is a one-on-one technique that you will need a professional for but it is a way to get instant results. You get what you pay for! All you need is a thirty minute session so it should not be a large financial burden or if you already get personal training you could ask them to do this for the last fifteen minutes of your session.

Thai Yoga Bodywork
This is also a one-on-one technique that you will need a professional for. With my experience this is the quickest way to increase your flexibility. I used to do this for the NBA and saw players get more progress in the first week than doing a year of yoga. If increasing your flexibility is important to you and you want lasting change then this is the approach for you.

I hope you find a technique that works for you. Flexibility is important and it is one more thing we begin to lose as we age. Don’t procrastinate on this! It is so simple to add into the daily routine. Start with just one stretch in the morning when you get up and one before bed at night.

The Morning Ritual

I truly believe that the secret to success lies in the daily routine. Creating a perfect morning routine will start you off on the right foot each day, properly fuel you, and make you feel accomplished for taking the positive steps and healthy habits you committed to. So, how do you create the perfect morning routine? Since I don’t know you personally or your goals I can’t give you a cookie cutter answer but I can give you a few different options and you can create your own.

Initial Wake Up
Unless it is to turn off your alarm, DO NOT touch your phone. You managed to disconnect from email and social media the entire time you were sleeping so an extra thirty minutes without it is okay too! Take a few slow deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth. Think about two to three things you feel extremely grateful for, think about a goal you are striving towards, think about someone who inspires you – fill your mind and heart with goodness before you even get out of bed.

Hydration
I highly recommend starting your day with a glass of water before anything else. Depending what is going on in your body, you may want to pick a couple of these additions to your routine.
ADD ONS
Warm water with lemon – This is a great way to wake up your digestive system, neutralize the harmful acid in your body that can cause disease, it helps with weight loss, and can also soothe an upset tummy. If you have a hard time eating in the morning this may stimulate your appetite. You could also boost this with some ginger and/or honey for even more benefits.
Apple Cider Vinegar Shot -A shot of this will act as an antibacterial, it lowers blood sugar and blood pressure, and helps with weight loss and skin issues just to name a few benefits.
Apple Ginger Shot – I make this in my juicer with half of an apple and an inch of ginger. An apple a day keeps the doctor away! The ginger acts as an instant anti-inflammatory, pain reliever and helps to boost your immune system. Most diseases are inflammatory related so this can be a very helpful component of the daily routine.
Coffee with Coconut Oil – Also known as bulletproof coffee! This combination boosts your energy, aids in fat loss, and keeps you satiated if you are trying to do intermittent fasting or eat less calories.
Green Tea – This tea has such an immense amount of benefits that even if you don’t start your day with it, you should try to fit it somewhere into your daily routine. It increases fat burning, improves physical performance, lowers your risk of several different cancers, is antibacterial making it great for dental health, and improves your brain function and overall health.

Hygiene
You know what you need to do better than I do! I do recommend taking a shower in the mornings to wash off that lazy energy and start the day refreshed but if you do your workouts in the morning you may want to wait until after.  In that case just wash your face, brush and floss your teeth, and put on some deodorant if you need it.
ADD ONS
Oil Pulling – Take a tablespoon of coconut oil in your mouth and swish it around for 15-20 minutes. This is a hard one to do in the morning because it is time consuming and best done on an empty stomach but you can multi-task and do it while you are checking emails, making breakfast, and packing your bag. The benefits vary from whiter teeth and better breath to cavity and gingivitis prevention. It helps with TMJ, sleep problems, sinus issues and skin issues (reports have shown improvement in acne, psoriasis and eczema). It has also been a hangover cure for many people!
Tongue Scraping – This is a must for me! And preferably anyone I am going to kiss! After you brush your teeth a lot of the saliva with all the toxins you just brushed off your teeth linger on your tongue when you are spitting the tooth paste out. Even if you brush your tongue it is still there. A tongue scraper will clean the tongue off and can also tell you ahead of time if you are starting to come down with a cold as there will be a change in mucus on the tongue. It is super simple and takes about five to ten seconds. I highly recommend it. There is a nice article on MindBodyGreen if you would like more details and research.
Dry Brushing – Before you hop in the shower you can use a soft bristled brush, exfoliating gloves or loofah to “brush the skin”. You want all of the strokes to be towards your heart. Your skin is your largest organ and this will help detoxify your body, improve circulation, soften your skin and decrease cellulite. Click here for more information and step-by-step instructions.

Exercise
I understand that some people have a difficult time getting out of bed any sooner than they absolutely have to but a round of tabata training only takes four minutes and is enough to get results. If you could find just one four minute song that really drives you then it will help you squeeze in at least a small workout each day and get those endorphins pumping to wake you up and make you feel great! If you have time for more or go take a morning class then go for it. I love to do my workouts first thing in the morning because life just can’t get in the way and I feel more motivated the rest of the day.  If you aren’t into a high intensity workout like tabata training than do three rounds of sun salutations on each side to get a nice full body stretch. You could also combine the two – a round of tabata training followed by sun salutations would be a perfect start to the day.

Nutrition
The perfect breakfast is as unique as you! Just make sure it is super healthy. The food you put into your body is your fuel for the day and you get to choose whether it is unleaded or premium. I always like making what I call “a bowl of goodness”. I have three different versions of this depending on the season and what I am in the mood for but it always includes fruit, nuts, and super foods like bee pollen, hemp seeds, chia seeds, and flax seed powder. The ways I change it up is by either just leaving it a giant bowl of fruit, adding yogurt to it (I use a vegan coconut milk version), or adding oatmeal with cinnamon, turmeric, ginger, and pouring hot water over the top. Other days I may just make a green juice or a smoothie but my day always begins with fruits and vegetables that my body can quickly digest and get all the nutrients it needs to feel satisfied and happy.

Think about the lovely morning rituals you would like to have and write them down. Make a detailed schedule of what time you would need to wake up and what it entails. Try it out and see what works and what doesn’t. Keep trying different approaches until you find what truly resonates and works for you! Please feel free to share any secrets to your morning routine in the comments.