Sunday, September 29, 2013

Mountain Pose: Connecting With Your Inner Strength

Image by Tania Franco

I have recently embarked on a special journey that will -at the very least- be life changing. I began yoga teacher training this month. I will be deeply involved with yoga theory and practice various styles of yoga the next few months and ideally everyday from now on.

I have shared in previous posts that I have been practicing yoga for the last 15 years and how it has been part of my personal wellness toolbox ever since. Enough so that I think it is of utmost importance that it be a family practice, I regularly do yoga with my better half at home, the park or the gym and have been exposing my son to classes and home practice.

I see the next few months as a spiritual retreat of sorts.

Although I will be home and with my family, I will be attending various classes throughout the week and really connecting with my higher-self more intensely, dedicating 15-20 hours a week to it. I am really excited to see what I will create for myself in these next few months in a state of flow.

I hope to share with you valuable teachings, experiences and "aha!" moments that arise during this time.

I have been remembering many of my yoga teachers and becoming much more aware of the gifts they each gave me and how I carry those with me today, noticing my strengths and shortcomings and realizing that I can work on them. They aren't set in stone, and connecting deeper with the complexities of each yoga pose I arrive at a deeper understanding and awareness.

This week we studied 5 basic yoga poses. One particular pose that I have been thinking about over and over again is Tadasana- Mountain Pose. This is a standing pose where you stand with feet hip width apart, looking forward with your arms at your sides palms facing forward. It can be written off easily because it seems so common and yet it isn't. As you stand there is an active energy to the stance where you engage your arms, legs, torso.

Have you ever seen a mountain and somehow felt in awe of its reagalness? Many times when I am in Mountain Pose I try to imagine that I am a mountain and that I am connecting with this powerful inner strength.

A mountain stands through the rain, wind and heat unshakable and immensely strong. As I imagine myself this way it allows me to connect with my own inner strength that many times I forget that I have access to. I encourage you to stand in Mountain Pose and to mindfully connect with your inner strength.

- Tania

Friday, September 13, 2013

Healthy Lifestyle Choices: Easy Kale and Spinach Green Smoothie

Easy Kale and Spinach Green Smoothie
Image by Tania Franco

As I have mentioned before, this year has been dedicated to reintroducing healthier lifestyle choices for me and my family. We have been exercising regularly, practicing yoga, eating healthier foods, eating more at home and taking "me" time (that would be spouse and I).

Before having my son I drank green juice once or twice a day about 5 times a week regularly. The juices were prepared by the staff at a Medical Institute I worked for which meant I just had to get myself physically to the kitchen. I never considered juicing at home daily. When I say juicing I mean a compliment to my daily diet: the kinds of food that a person, animal, or community habitually eat (not a juice fast).

Curiously I am now drinking healthy juices/smoothies most days. The following is one of the smoothies I make:

Easy Kale and Spinach  Green Smoothie

1 Cup of Kale
1 Cup of Spinach
1 Cup of Honeydew Melon ( I cut it up and freeze)
1 Cup of Orange Juice (you can always add more to make it less thick)
1 Green Apple (optional)
1 Cup of Cactus (optional)
1 Tbsp. Chia Seeds (sometimes 2 Tbsp.)
1 Tbsp. of Flax Seed Oil (sometimes 2)
1 Tbsp. of Spirulina

Blend it for a minute or two. It makes 2 large glasses. Drink right away.

Hope you enjoy it as much as I do!


Monday, September 9, 2013

5 Steps To Starting a Yoga Home Practice

Image by Tania Franco

A regular yoga practice can deeply impact your mental, emotional, physical and spiritual health. It is one of the most recommended practices for people diagnosed with chronic illness (heart disease, autoimmune, cancer, diabetes) and mental health issues (depression, anxiety, chronic stress, PTSD).

I highly recommend joining a yoga studio to be exposed to many styles of yoga and identify which feel right for you. There is a large variety from gentle hatha yoga to the more aerobic vinyasa flow. Many times I hear people saying that they do not have the time to go to regular classes or can only make it to one class a week. This is where a yoga home practice can be helpful.

A yoga home practice can help you regularly attain the benefits yoga is known for. Begin with the following steps:

1. Get useful material. I would definitely begin with a yoga DVD and a book to guide you. Read a bit about the yoga postures you are interested in and study the variations to know how to practice the poses. I try to have my book with me when practicing to be able to look up a particular pose and get it right.

I currently use the following books: The Women's Health Big Book of Yoga by Kathryn Budig and "Ashtanga Yoga" by Gregor Maehle.
DVD I use: GAIAM Ashtanga Yoga Beginners Practice

You can also use Youtube to find short 10 minute yoga sessions.

This is a practical online resource from Yoga Journal.

2. Practice. 5 minutes of yoga is better than 0. Dedicate 5-20 minutes of yoga regularly. I find myself practicing 20 to 40 minutes when I do yoga at home.

3. Learn 5-10 poses that feel good in your body and practice these for a month or two. As you feel more confident with your practice you can add or take away certain poses and dedicate longer time to being in each pose.

For the longest time I practiced the following sequence: 2-5 sun salutations, tree pose, chair pose, warrior II, triangle, standing forward fold, plank, cobra, cow, cat, child pose, seated forward fold, seated twist, bridge, shoulder stand, plow and savasana. It helped me feel relaxed and energized at the same time.

4. Breathe. Diaphragmatic breathing is essential in your yoga practice. Begin by taking 3 deep breaths in each pose and as your body strengthens and can hold the pose better, take 7 breaths in holding each pose.

Deep breathing helps you deepen a pose, get through uncomfortable thoughts or doubts about being able to do a pose and center yourself.

5. Honor your body. Listen to your body by noticing what feels good and what doesn't. Don't push yourself so much that you hurt yourself. Each pose has variations (easy, medium to high intensity). Do what your body is capable of doing. Part of the practice is to commune with your body and be in tune with what you need.

Remember that taking the first step is the most important part!

Tania Franco

Other books I have used:

"The Yoga Bible" by Christina Brown
"Power Yoga" by Beryl Bender Birch
"Light on Yoga" by B.K.S Iyengar