Come stretch it out and relieve some stress with us!
We all now April brings showers, cherry blossoms, open-toed shoes as well as today’s tax deadline. As you scramble to finish your taxes and then rush to the post office for a April 15th postmark, to only get there and wait on a longer than usual line, you begin to feel your stress level bubble to new heights. Instead of getting caught up in a storm of stress and anxiety that tax season can bring on, melt away tension and fatigue with a therapeutic massage, which will nurture you body, mind and overall well-being. Read on for a few delicious reasons to treat yourself to a massage today.
For the same reasons that a massage is relaxing, it can also soothe anxiety, stress and depression. Massage reduces levels of the stress hormone cortisol resulting in lifted spirits and often lower blood pressure. It can also boost the neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine, which are involved in depression.
If you’ve ever dozed off on a massage table, you don’t need to be convinced that a massage can promote a good night’s sleep. A number of studies have examined this link, and chalk it up to massage’s affect on delta waves, the kind of brain waves connected to deep sleep, according to Health magazine.
A traditional massage or deep tissue massage can help improve the functioning of your immune system. In one 2010 study, researchers found massage increased a person’s disease fighting white blood cells. Also helping to aid the body in breaking up and releasing toxins found in the body a massage will have you feeling healthier, lighter and more energized.
Just like muscle and back pain, headaches can also be alleviated thanks to massage. A regular rubdown can reduce a person’s number of migraines, as well as limit how painful each headache feels, according WebMD. A 2009 study found that a 30-minute massage decreased pain for people with tension headaches, and even curbed some of the stress and anger associated with that pounding head.
Ease Cancer Treatment
Because of many of the benefits listed above, massage is particularly helpful for people living with or undergoing treatment for serious illnesses, like cancer, and some studies have shown that massage can relieve fatigue, pain, anxiety, and nausea in cancer patients.
Yoga twists are important poses to help aid the body in detoxification as they stimulate digestion and facilitate the elimination of impurities and waste products from the body. Circulation of blood and of lymph is also promoted. Taking a few minutes a day to yoga twists is extremely beneficial as they cleanse and refresh all our abdominal organs and the associated glands.
Think what happens when you wring out a sponge — the dirty water is forced out, and then the sponge can soak up clean water again. Twists work in a similar way. The abdominal organs are squeezed during twists, stimulating the kidneys and liver, and forcing out blood filled with metabolic by-products and toxins. When the twists are released, then fresh, clean blood enters these organs, bathing the cells in nutrients and oxygen.
Try this pose at any point during your day or evening and you’ll begin to feel the stagnate oxygen and toxins breakdown and release from your body make room for new blood and oxygen to enter the body. And always remember; find length through your spine on your inhale and twist on your exhale.
This week’s featured yoga pose is;
Half Lord Of The Fishes or Ardha Matsyendrasana
Sit on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you, buttocks supported on a folded blanket. Bend your knees, put your feet on the floor, then slide your left foot under your right leg to the outside of your right hip. Lay the outside of the left leg on the floor. Step the right foot over the left leg and stand it on the floor outside your left hip. The right knee will point directly up at the ceiling.
Exhale and twist toward the inside of the right thigh. Press the right hand against the floor just behind your right buttock, and set your left upper arm on the outside of your right thigh near the knee. Pull your front torso and inner right thigh snugly together.
Press the inner right foot very actively into the floor, release the right groin, and lengthen the front torso. Lean the upper torso back slightly, against the shoulder blades, and continue to lengthen the tailbone into the floor.
You can turn your head in one of two directions: Continue the twist of the torso by turning it to the right; or counter the twist of the torso by turning it left and looking over the left shoulder at the right foot.
With every inhalation lift a little more through the sternum, pushing the fingers against the floor to help. Twist a little more with every exhalation. Be sure to distribute the twist evenly throughout the entire length of the spine; don’t concentrate it in the lower back. Stay for 30 seconds to 1 minute, then release with an exhalation, return to the starting position, and repeat to the left for the same length of time.
Directions and Photo: Yoga Journal.
In light of this evening’s full moon we wanted to share with you a beautiful lunar yoga practice. Moon Salutations, also known as Chandra Namaskar, are a soothing yet empowering variation and counterbalance to classical Sun Salutations (Surya Namaskar). They allow us to honor the yin or feminine side of our energy, in contrast to the Sun Salutations, which are more yang and masculine in nature. When practicing moon salutations these yin qualities are evoked helping to calm the mind and soothe the body bringing you into a relaxed and balanced state of being.
Moon salutations can shift energy without increasing heat in the body and tend to be less stimulating than Sun Salutations, thereby balancing hot emotions, relaxing and calming the mind and body and restoring balance. While Sun Salutations are designed to allow us to connect to the sun’s powerful energy and are often practiced at dawn. The Moon Salutations are especially effective when practiced during the full moon, as this is the most powerful lunar phase – making it a great practice just before bed time.
Over the years, numerous variations of Chandra Namaskar have emerged, usually the sequence includes some variation of the following postures. The practice below is in 28 parts honoring the lunar cycle. I encourage you to stay in each pose for 3 – 5 deep breaths.
Just before settling in to your shavasana don’t forget to give thanks to the moon and mother earth and all the bounty of beauty they bestow on us every day and every night.
Instruction/drawing from Yoga Wire.
Served throughout India as “Masala Chai” which translates to “spiced tea,” yes, “chai tea” as we refer to it in the west, literally means “tea tea” this beverage dates back thousands of years. The simmering aroma of the exotic spices of this medicinal blend instantly brings us back to our many trips to India where it is served everywhere, all the time, year round, hot and iced. As we fight our way through these cold winter days we can think of nothing more soothing and satisfying than a rich and creamy cup of Masala Chai. Enjoy and let us know how you like it.
Yin Yang Yogi Chai Tea
1 tablespoon of fennel seeds
1 tablespoon of cardamom pods
6 Whole cloves
6 black peppercorns
1 cinnamon stick
1” piece of fresh ginger, thinly sliced (optional: if you like the extra flavor and heat or are recovering from the flu or a cold)
4 ½ cups of filtered water
2 tablespoons of Darjeeling, black tea or any loose tea of choice (you may use tea bags but the quality found is generally better with loose teas)
1 cup of Milk, nut or dairy
Sweeten to taste with brown rice syrup, honey or agave
Combine first 5 ingredients in a mortar and crush with pestle just to release their aroma. Be very careful not to turn into powder. If you do not have a mortar and pestle place on a cutting board and use a heavy pan to crush.
In a medium saucepan add the crushed spices and fresh ginger. Pour in the water and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Lower the heat and simmer uncovered for approximately 10 minutes.
Remove from the heat, add the tea leaves, and let steep for 5 minutes. Strain immediately, it will become strong quickly, discarding tea leaves and spices. Stir in the milk and sweeten as desired. Bring the mixture back to the saucepan and return to simmer for a few minutes until milk and sugar are warmed through. Serve immediately.
*Note: There are hundreds of chai recipes so feel free to add or eliminate spices to your own taste. Some variations could include vanilla bean, a bay leaf, star anise and nutmeg to name a few.
Okay, winter has officially arrived and in full force. With the temperatures into the low 20’s moving around with our normal day-to-day routine can feel, well just wrong on these bitter cold days. The only thing that feels right is snuggling up with a good book, cozy blanket, and a warming cup of decadent hot chocolate. So if you’re throwing in the white towel today or hanging in this weekend – treat yourself to this delicious Superfood Hot Chocolate. The nutritious ingredients will help warm you from the inside out, as well as pleasantly aid in boosting your energy and mood levels, leaving you with a bit more pizazz in your step the next time you step outdoors.
Raw Cacao: one of the best sources of magnesium found in nature, in addition to containing high amounts calcium, zinc, iron, copper, sulfur, and potassium. Cacao contains many chemicals that enhance physical and mental well-being, including alkaloids, proteins, magnesium, and beta-carotene.
Ginger: aids digestion; decreases arthritic swelling; destroys bacteria and viruses; lowers blood pressure; aids circulation.
Cinnamon: aids digestion, relieves nausea, vomiting, diarrhea; has antiseptic properties; beneficial for the heart, lungs, and kidneys; aids insulin’s ability to metabolize blood sugar.
Cayenne: reduces inflammation, relives pain, reduce blood cholesterol, clears congestion, boosts the immune system, prevents stomach ulcers, lowers risk of Type 2 Diabetes.
Maca: is an “adaptogen” meaning it has the ability to balance and stabilize the body’s hormonal, nervous and cardiovascular systems. For this reason it is particularly effective for improving libido. Maca also has the ability to help us cope with stress, and stabilize our moods and energy. Boasting 31 minerals and trace elements, maca is a nutritional powerhouse and a stress-relieving, healthy addition to many foods.
Superfood Hot Chocolate
2 Tbsp. raw cacao powder
2 tsp. maca powder
1 Tbsp. coconut sugar
pinch sea salt
pinch cinnamon powder
pinch cayenne pepper
pinch ginger powder
small piece vanilla bean, scraped (optional)
1 ½ cups milk of your choice or water
1. Boil water or warm milk on the stove and let cool slightly. If using raw nut milk, do not heat above 118°F/42°C.
2. Whisk in dry ingredients. Serve immediately with a cinnamon stick, if desired.
If you do not like spiced hot chocolate, just use the first four listed ingredients, plus milk or water. If you do not have or cannot find coconut sugar, leave this ingredient out of the mix and sweeten the finished beverage with honey or maple syrup.
Recipe: Sarah Britton, My New Roots.
With a new year upon us, I always find this a good time to evaluate and recalibrate my yoga practice. By this I mean setting new goals toward advancing my yoga practice, or it could even be re-committing to a daily meditation practice or coming back to pranayama basics. For the beginners out there, Pranayama is the practice of breath control. In sanskrit, Pranayama translates to extension of breath or life force. Creating a breath practice in yoga is quite important, as in most yoga practices we connect our breath to our movement, transitionally moving from one pose to the next while maintaining a continues and controlled breath.
Just as there are a number of different asana poses in yoga there are just as many different types of pranayama techniques. For today’s post we’ll cover a beginner technique that every yogi; beginner or advanced and non-yogi alike can benefit from. The practice below is very relaxing, calming and soothing. Go ahead and give a try just before bed and you’ll melt into deep yogi slumber.
You can practice this breath for 5 – 10 minutes a day as a beginner, as your practice continues and lung capacity expands you may practice up to 30 minutes per day.
Please note: practicing pranayama can affect everyone differently and can be dangerous if done incorrectly. As a beginner, I encourage you to check in with yourself and if at any point you feel light-headed, uncomfortable or short of breath to stop pranayama and just breathe as normal.