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Making real change in 2020
Think back to the new year's resolution you made last year. Did you achieve your goals? Did you make the changes you really wanted to and are they now established habits? Not likely...
Why is it that we have so much difficulty making sustainable, lasting changes in our lives? It's not necessarily that our goals are not achievable. It's more likely that we rely on the energy and enthusiasm of the new year to carry us through 12 months, and that is unrealistic.
As adults, the only way we can create lasting change in our lives is by bringing more consciousness to each moment. When we are conscious we are present with ourselves to make a different choice in any given moment. Habits are choices that started out as conscious, consistent, repetitive actions. We did them so often that they eventually became automatic and now we don't even have to think about the action because it's just what we do. Brushing your teeth. Drinking your morning coffee. Driving your car. It's automatic.
So, if you're a person who always has great intentions at the beginning of the year and yet are unable to reach your target in 12 months, you may want to explore implementing habits that will move you, one day (or even one week) at a time, toward your long-term goals. Start by writing down your goals, then figure out what behaviours are required to achieve them, and create smaller daily (or weekly) actions that you can realistically integrate into your lifestyle. For example, many people set a resolution to lose weight. Instead of telling yourself you're going to go to the gym five days a week and eliminate certain foods from your diet, breakdown the components further into more bite-sizable chunks. Commit to doing one physical activity (and identify each activity specifically) for 10-20 minutes twice weekly (based on your personal schedule), and to cooking one fresh meal from scratch each week, or to bringing your lunch to work twice weekly. And you can't just commit to doing it; you have to actually do it for it to become a habit!
Obviously you decide what habits will support you toward your goal. The point is to set small and easily achievable goals at first, to begin establishing a new routine, and then tweak your habits to move you in the direction you want to go in: gradually increase the length of your workouts; gradually increase the frequency of days you bring your lunch to work.
With good (daily and/or weekly) habits in place to support you, you'll notice that your goals are much more easily achievable.
"You'll never change your life until you change something you do daily. The secret of your success is found in your daily routine."
~ John C. Maxwell
If you found this tip helpful and are looking for additional tools and techniques to help you on your journey to wellness, check out Christie's Path to Ultimate Vibrancy Coaching Program.
Sitting on the floor comfortably
Many people experience discomfort when sitting on the floor in a yoga class. That's because, in our society, we tend to sit on chairs or sofas for extended periods of time. Poor posture when sitting on furniture (and leaning into the backrest!) translates into an inability to adjust the body when sitting on the floor.
For this month's tip, Christie has created a video explaining how you can support your body to not only experience better alignment when sitting on the floor, but to also experience more comfort.
Watch the video and explore your body to find your most comfortable seated position!
Health tips during COVID-19
I'm not a doctor, nor do I pretend to be one. That said, I haven't been sick since 2010 and I plan to continue that streak through the coronavirus outbreak. Here are some tips I follow to stay healthy that, I hope, will serve you. :)
1. Proper hygiene. Why is it that, during a virus outbreak, we're suddenly focused on how to wash our hands? Isn't that just simple hygiene? And this need to overly cleanse using antibacterial wipes and Purell is actually not the best practice for our overall health. First of all, COVID-19 is a virus, not bacteria, so antibacterial products will not prevent you from catching it. Second, the over-use of antibacterial products in our society creates an environment for "super bugs" and viruses to thrive. We have good bacteria on our skin and throughout our body, and these good bacteria are our first line of defence against pathogens and diseases. Without these good bacteria our immune system is weakened.
2. Reduce stress. Stress compromises our immune system - plain and simple. Implementing stress-reduction techniques, such as: yoga, breathing exercises, meditation, walking out in nature, taking a relaxing soak in the tub, etc., can go a long way to supporting your overall health. So do something everyday that helps you relax.
3. Sleep. Getting a good night's sleep - meaning 7-8 hours every night - is not only essential right now during the COVID-19 outbreak, it's the foundation for maintaining overall long-term health. Sleep also helps to reduce stress and plays a huge role in the body's ability to detoxify, heal and regenerate.
4. Good nutrition. Now is not the time to pig-out on junk food. A great way to build up the body's immune system and defend against all types of illness is good nutrition. Eating lots of fruits and vegetables will increase your nutrient content (essential vitamins and minerals) and feed the good bacteria in your body that keep you healthy.
5. Supplements. Good quality Vitamin C and Vitamin D3 have been shown to support immune health. Other things, such as homemade elderberry syrup and certain herbal teas, can also be very supportive.
I find it so unfortunate that many medical experts and the media are creating so much fear (stocking up on toilet paper???), rather than actually empowering people with basic information that is proven to be helpful in maintaining health, even in "pandemic" situations as we're currently experiencing with COVID-19.
I'm not saying that implementing the tips listed above will ensure that you won't get sick. I'm just saying that we need to get back to the everyday basics, the tried, tested and true practices, that support overall health long term, not just in times of crisis.
I'm not a doctor, nor do I pretend to be one. But, personally, I practice some basic techniques that have kept me from getting sick since 2010 that I plan to continue through the coronavirus outbreak. Here are some of things I follow to stay healthy that, I hope, will serve you, too.
Boost your immune system by reducing stress
In this time of global pandemic related to COVID-19, it's so important to find ways to reduce your stress. Physical distancing, self-isolation, financial strains, the inability to spend time with extended family and friends in person, trying to work from home while caring for school-aged children, all create a tremendous amount of stress on our physical body, as well as our mental-emotional state.
In times of stress, our central nervous system turns on the sympathetic response ("fight or flight" stress mode) to help us navigate the situation. When that happens, our immune system shuts down; our brain function shuts down, making it more difficult to make rational decisions based on intellectual thought; our digestive system shuts down; we increase certain hormones and chemicals, like cortisol, and decrease the production of other important hormones and chemicals, like the growth hormone, impeding our long-term health; and all our energy shifts to the heart, lungs and the limbs to help us prepare to fight or run away from the danger (aka stress).
Now, more than ever, it's essential that we find ways to switch out of the sympathetic and shift into the parasympathetic response to give our body and brain (not to mention our mental health!) the opportunity to relax and heal on a daily basis.
Now, more than ever, we must make time to care for our overall health. It can be as simple as going for a walk outside (unless you're in quarantine), turning off the news, taking a break from social media, taking a bubble bath, reading a book, taking a nap, meditating, doing yoga or anything else that will help you rest and relax. Maybe you will feel better reaching out to someone who can answer a question that's been troubling you or who can provide specific support that you need.
Self-care doesn't mean that you have to rely solely on yourself. Now is the time to reach out. Reach out to help someone in need. Reach out to ask for the help you need. Taking the time to reduce your stress will not only boost your immune system (which is so important right now!), but will also make you more resilient in this time of massive global change.
Note that all of Christie's services are available remotely/virtually. (Even Reiki? Yes. It's called Distance Reiki and it really does work!) Contact her for full details.
What do you need right now?
In the midst of week 7 of closures due to COVID-19, you must have by now become aware of what kind of support and help you need to get you through these times of physical distancing and self-isolation.
For me, it was reaching out to friends: asking for remote energy healing sessions to help me replenish my own energy field, discussing the latest science on the pandemic, and sharing personal and professional experiences during the closures. I also realised that just because I’m home most of the time doesn’t mean that I don’t need to practice self-care. That, for me, has been a huge insight!
With the current state of the world, more and more, we are going to have to rely on remote or virtual communications – even for yoga classes! It’s not ideal. It’s uncomfortable. (Trust me on that one!) Human beings need social connection and interaction, and right now much of it is through virtual means. However, there are many people who, with physical distancing and in self-isolation, are feeling very alone and disconnected from others. That is causing mental health to become even more fragile than it already was.
So, what do you need right now? Reach out and ask for what you need. Reach out to someone and ask them how you can help them.
Instead of relying on ourselves to get through this on our own, let’s shift that old way of thinking and move into the new paradigm of community. It’s in community that we actually grow to become the best version of ourselves. By supporting each other in community, we will help the world transition into the society we actually want to experience – one of health, peace, cooperation, collaboration and harmony.
As part of Christie’s new virtual community offerings, she is extending an invitation to health-care workers, first responders and front-line workers currently working during this global pandemic to reach out to her for the support they need. Private and community yoga classes, and Distance Reiki sessions are all available free of charge for the duration of the COVID-19 closures. All services are tailored to suit personal needs and time constraints. Contact Christie for more details and to receive a short application form.
Creating optimal health
I never imagined, back in mid-March, that Ottawa and most of the world would be shutdown for this long. We are (unbelievably) at the tail end of week 11 of this pandemic!
There are varying views of the COVID-19 pandemic and where society is headed down the road (with talks of a second wave, the rush to make a vaccine, etc.)... I have my own opinions, which tend to differ from many people and mainstream media. However, the bottom line really is that the only way to get through this time is to stay healthy.
In my opinion, the focus of this pandemic needs to be on creating optimal health for ourselves and our loved ones. And fear is not good for our health. (Have you ever heard that "fear" is simply an acronym for False Evidence Appearing Real? Food for healthy thought!) Fear is not empowering. But taking health into our own hands is!
If we are to believe all the experts that a second wave of the virus is imminent (in the fall), my question to you is: what are you actively doing to build, support and maintain a healthy and strong immune system between now and then?
Here are some suggestions of easy and cost-effective ways to remain the healthiest possible:
* Get in touch with Nature. Go out for a walk in a natural setting, not just around your neighbourhood; enjoy the fresh air; listen to the birds sing. Nature has a way of healing us on so many levels.
* Eat healthily and stay hydrated. The best line of defence is the food and drink we ingest. Our body needs nutrients and water for optimal performance.
* Get a good night's sleep. Our body detoxifies, repairs and regenerates during sleep. At least 7-8 hours of sleep every night is medically and scientifically proven to support optimal health.
* Reduce stress. When the sympathetic part of the nervous system is stimulated, the immune system shuts down to prepare for either the run of our life or the fight for our life. The only way for our immune system to turn back on is to activate the parasympathetic aspect of the nervous system, meaning we have to find a way to relax mentally, emotionally, physically, energetically and spiritually. There are so many ways to reduce stress... find what works for you and then do it.
And one of my favourite immune-boosting practices, which can really only be done at this time of the year (now through early autumn), is earthing. Earthing is easy to do and costs absolutely nothing: walk around barefoot on the grass and ground. It's that simple! The negative ions boost the immune system, reduce inflammation in the body, and give you a powerful sense of calmness and peace. If you haven't tried earthing, I highly recommend it! It truly makes a difference in the body!
So, we have a lot more power over our health and well-being than we think we do. Our health is not in someone else's hands. What are you going to do now to prime your immune system for optimal health?
Pranayama, breathing exercises, are really cool! With the breath being a direct link to your nervous system, there's a pranayama for every situation!
When you're stressed, you can do relaxing pranayama to calm you. When you're feeling tired, you can do an activating breath to make you more alert and focused. And on a hot summer day (or even if you're just feeling a little "hot under the collar"), you can do a breath to cool you down!
The Sitali and Sitkari pranayama are cooling breaths that help calm the nervous system. Doing either breath, even for just a few minutes, will create a noticeable change in how you feel.
Curl your tongue so the sides fold up and allow your tongue to protrude from your mouth. Inhale through your curled tongue, as you would a straw, and feel the cool air as it enters your body. Then close your mouth and exhale through your nose.
Now, not everyone can curl their tongue! So, if that's you, do the Sitkari Breath.
Create a small, relaxed opening between your lips with your tongue resting at the base of your jaw behind your bottom teeth. Inhale through your mouth, letting the air go through your teeth, and feel the cool air as it enters your body. Then close your mouth and exhale through your nose.
Check out Christie's cooling breath video on YouTube and experience the benefits of the Sitali and Sitkari Breaths for yourself!
The Science of Earthing
For millennia, the natural healers of the world have known about the benefits of earthing (also called grounding). And now, science is starting to better understand why the practice of being barefoot on the Earth is so powerfully healing to the human body.
Our modern lifestyle has separated us from Mother Earth. For example, the rubber soles on our shoes prevent us from absorbing the natural healing electrons from the ground. Studies are now showing that our disconnection from nature may be largely contributing to various illnesses.
The negative ions of the ground reduce pain and inflammation, lower stress levels, improve blood flow, increase physical energy, improve sleep, support cardiovascular health, and contribute greatly overall physiological wellness. In addition, a regular grounding practice seems to be linked to higher rates of positive mood and psychological well-being.
So, what does an Earthing practice entail? Simple: Walk barefoot on grass, earth or sand for at least 10 minutes (the more time the better!). There are also products that can be purchased for indoor use when working or sleeping that help ground the body.
More and more research is being done to better understand the powerful benefits of earthing/grounding and why this practice has such healing effects on the body. Below are just a few of the many interesting studies that have been conducted.
From the Journal of Inflammation Research
Accumulating experiences and research on earthing, or grounding, point to the emergence of a simple, natural, and accessible health strategy against chronic inflammation, warranting the serious attention of clinicians and researchers. The living matrix (or ground regulation or tissue tensegrity-matrix system), the very fabric of the body, appears to serve as one of our primary antioxidant defense systems. As this report explains, it is a system requiring occasional recharging by conductive contact with the Earth’s surface – the “battery” for all planetary life – to be optimally effective.
From the Journal of Environmental and Public Health
De Flora et al. wrote the following: “Since the late 20th century, chronic degenerative diseases have overcome infectious disease as the major causes of death in the 21st century, so an increase in human longevity will depend on finding an intervention that inhibits the development of these diseases and slows their progress” .
Could such an intervention be located right beneath our feet? Earthing research, observations, and related theories raise an intriguing possibility about the Earth's surface electrons as an untapped health resource—the Earth as a “global treatment table.” Emerging evidence shows that contact with the Earth—whether being outside barefoot or indoors connected to grounded conductive systems—may be a simple, natural, and yet profoundly effective environmental strategy against chronic stress, ANS dysfunction, inflammation, pain, poor sleep, disturbed HRV, hypercoagulable blood, and many common health disorders, including cardiovascular disease. The research done to date supports the concept that grounding or earthing the human body may be an essential element in the health equation along with sunshine, clean air and water, nutritious food, and physical activity.
From the ESD Journal
The purpose of this work was to provide evidence that when the human body is grounded it is naturally protected from static electricity and radiated electric fields. The meter reading of the grounded subject proved this true. The benefits of grounding the body were expected to relax muscles and improve sleep. This also proved to be true.
Worthy of mention is that several subjects in the study stated they also experienced significant relief from asthmatic and respiratory conditions, rheumatoid arthritis, PMS, sleep apnea and hypertension, while sleeping grounded. These unexpected results indicate that loss of ground contact plays a much larger role in overall health then was anticipated at the start of this study.
The important finding of this study is that the human body when grounded is naturally protected from static electricity and the weak electric currents created in the body by radiated electric fields. The benefits of grounding the body are; sleep significantly improves, muscles relax, chronic back and joint pain subsides and general health improves.
Preventing yoga-related injuries
Two acquaintances in the past week have contacted me asking if it's possible that the injuries they've recently experienced could be related to the yoga practice they started. My answer, unfortunately, was "yes"...
Sadly enough, people do get injured doing yoga. I know I did when I first began taking classes and that's why I decided to take yoga teacher training. Not because I had any desire (at the time) to be a yoga teacher. I simply wanted to understand the poses so I could modify them. During class I would feel great, but afterwards my neck would be sore, my wrists and knees would hurt, and my lower back would be stiff. I couldn't understand why a practice that was supposed to be so good for you could cause me so much pain after the fact.
I learned a lot in my initial teacher training, but it wasn't enough to provide the full relief I was seeking. So I took various therapeutic trainings, which were great, but didn't satisfy my thirst for knowledge and understanding of my body and why I was in so much pain. Then I took my first Yoga Tune Up® training. I had suffered a serious knee injury playing hockey and had been in physio for six months. I couldn't understand why my knee, which was fully healed at that point, didn't feel fully healed.
The various Yoga Tune Up® trainings gave me a deep understanding of anatomical structure, and a great deal of insight into the body's natural biomechanics and functional movement (how the body is intended to move through life, including in yoga poses). Once I began applying this knowledge to my personal practice and in my life, the pain decreased exponentially and my mobility increased substantially. Now, all the yoga classes I teach focus on the principles of functional movement and body awareness.
Preventing yoga-related injuries requires awareness on the student's part. Awareness of your body and your personal capabilities. It also requires awareness on the teacher's part. Awareness that: not all bodies are the same; not everyone has the same range of motion; not everyone can (or should!) do each pose the same way; modifications are not only acceptable, they are necessary in everyone's practice; and that explanations are needed, especially for people new to yoga and beginning a practice, so students can support themselves as needed in every pose.
So my suggestion to you (which I also shared with my two acquaintances) is that, before you begin a yoga practice of any sort, you:
Since most of us are doing yoga in our home, I also recommend having a few props on hand (a couple of cushions, blankets, yoga blocks, and a strap) so you can use them as you need.
Knee sensitivities: cushion your knees when doing kneeling poses; ensure proper positioning of your legs and feet in poses to avoid excess pressure on your knees; learn how to do a proper squat/chair pose.
Wrist sensitivities: learn how to properly place your hands on the mat and how to appropriately distribute the weight of your body when doing poses that require you to bear weight on your hands.
Back sensitivities: avoid over-extending (arching) or over-flexing (rounding) your back in poses; be aware of the position of your pelvis in various poses; and be mindful of transitions from pose to pose, especially when doing sun salutations.
Honour your body. Learn to understand and listen to your body, rather than forcing yourself to do a practice (or a pose) that doesn't feel right for you. Yoga-related injuries are unlikely when you respect your body's natural ability to move.
Yoga Tune Up® offers several specialized immersion trainings where students study in great depth: the anatomy of the body; the biomechanics of functional movement, poses and posture; the regulation of the nervous system; and the process of supporting the body’s natural ability to heal from chronic pain, strain, injury and illness in a more holistic and integrated way to prevent future issues.
As a Certified Integrated Yoga Tune Up® teacher, Christie has a deep understanding of the intricate weavings of the human body and mind. This enables her to determine the underlying causes of her clients’ pain, injury or loss of mobility and to work with them to create a personalized program that will address their specific needs, and help them reach their health
and wellness goals.
Contact Christie to set up your private Yoga or Coaching consultation.
The Art of Tadasana (Mountain Pose)
Mountain Pose is more than just standing. And it's more than just the base posture for standing poses in your yoga practice. It is the foundation of overall physical health and functional mobility.
As simple as this basic standing pose may seem, there are many things going on in the body to maintain one's alignment and posture. In our society, we have a tendency to lean and support ourselves using an external structure. If you get tired easily when you stand or if your body hurts when you stand, it may be that your body isn't used to supporting itself.
Christie has posted a video on YouTube ("The Art of Tadasana (Mountain Pose)" that takes you through the various components of setting a good standing foundation.
Take the Tadasana Challenge! Stand in Mountain Pose for the duration of the video and see how you feel. Every time you practice standing in alignment, your body gets stronger and stronger!
The Importance of Resilience
How are you doing eight months into this global pandemic? Some people I've spoken to are wondering why their energy levels are decreasing and their mental-emotional state feels more impacted. There are a number of possible factors that may be playing a role in how you're feeling.
Perhaps it's the fact that some people are experiencing "pandemic fatigue" meaning that, since the pandemic has been the main focus of the media and society for over half a year, we can experience a sensory overload leading to a burn-out of sorts.
Perhaps it's the fact that many people are lacking in consistent physical contact with loved ones and, as social and sensory creatures, that too can take its toll on us mentally, emotionally and physically.
One thing that many people may be overlooking is the fact that, when all this began in mid March, we were in the late winter months with sunlight beginning to increase and warm weather to look forward to. We knew that it was only a matter of time before we were going to be able to spend time outdoors in the fresh air and in nature.
November brings us into the colder and greyer part of autumn, with less sunlight, leading to lower energy levels and less time outdoors. We tend to dismiss the impact the change of seasons has on us, but it is an important factor to keep in mind.
Building resilience is more than just going outside and getting fresh air though; it's about learning how to deal with change and difficult times in a way that is most supportive to our individual needs.
To support this month's tip, Christie offers a virtual workshop called Building Resilience. In this workshop, you will explore the important role resilience plays on the well-being of your body and mind, as well as how it can help you better respond to stress and navigate difficult times in your life. You will also delve into the role heart rate variability plays, and learn about tools and techniques to develop and maintain resilience in your every day life. For more information on this workshop, please contact Christie.
The Light of Transformation
The last nine months have been difficult in many ways. The life changes we've all experienced in 2020 were huge and unexpected. Nobody likes change. But it is an essential part of our human experience.
As the sunlight continues to decrease over the next few weeks, things may feel bleaker and darker. This is a time of reflection and introspection. A time to evaluate what is working in our life and what isn't. A time to let go of the old and embrace the new. The scary thing is that no one ever knows what the new will look like.
However, with the Winter Solstice/Yule on December 21st, light will once again begin to return and we will have a renewed sense of direction and hope. What in your life are you ready to face head-on and release? What aspects of your life are you willing to build on and nurture? What are your aspirations and hopes for the coming year?
It's easier to stay in the past, focusing on how things were, than it is to face the uncertainty of the future. But resilience is built on the joys of the moment, embracing life knowing that the Light of Transformation is upon us.
"Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, it became a butterfly."
"And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom."