Natural Healing for Allergies

pexels-photo-207962.jpegAllergies in Austin, Texas are renowned.  No matter where you live, allergies can make you feel like your head is huge, your nose is concrete filled and the pressure is on. Here are a few natural survival tools I’ve used for myself that I’ve shared with my family and clients that help relieve my symptoms and get me back to a happy head:)

These are holistic tools that I use for myself and you should consult your doctor to clarify your individual parameters.

Natural Allergy Relief Chest Salve – 1/4 cup cocoanut oil, 1 TBLS local bees wax, 1/8 cup Shea butter, 4 TBLS Olive oil, 10 drops each Rosemary, Eucalyptus, Purify blend and Breathe blend essential oils.    Place 1/2 teaspoon of salve on your chest (think Healthy Vick’s) and cover with a towel-wrapped hot water bottle.  Do this once or twice a day for about 10 minutes and especially before bed. Optional Yoga to open the chest: Bend elbows and knees, with elbows pressing on the bed, squeeze shoulder blades slowly together and then release them. Repeat 5-10 times to “trick” your upper back muscles into relaxing.  It’s extra soothing to have someone rub salve on your upper back as well before you lie down – just make sure you lie on an old towel or T-shirt so the salve doesn’t make a mess.  This salve (and the Yoga “trick”) work great during colds and flu as well👍🏽

Reset the Core Belly Breaths – This can be done lying down (ideal) or sitting or standing.  Inhale deeply through your nose, lifting just the navel away from the spine (not lifting the shoulders up), then at the end of your inhale, sniff 3/4 times while lifting JUST the navel….. then exhale out of your mouth gently through rounded lips, and at the end of the exhale blow out 3/4 times using JUST the navel area (try to keep your back relaxed).  Do 5-10 rounds.  Try to isolate the breathing so that you involve only the area between your ribs and hips.  BE PATIENT AS THIS TAKES A FEW ROUNDS TO GET YOUR BELLY TO ISOLATE AND YOUR NECK AND BACK TO STOP “HELPING”.  This breathing exercise helps to reset a stuck diaphragm (your main breathing muscle), which is often tight and shut down due to stress, stuffy breathing and tight chest muscles.  Diaphragm Breathing cleanse the sinuses and tames chest stuffiness.  Note: the RESET THE CORE BELLY BREATH is awesome for reducing anxiety as well, and can be done discreetly anytime.

I take 1-2 Digestive Enzymes (fave brand = “Digest Gold”) during allergy spikes.  I use these in between meals to help eliminate undigested protein in the form of mucous (I know; YUCK!)  I like to wait 15 minutes after taking these and then do a Yoga pose called Apanasana: Lie on your back and gently pull the knees into your chest (on an exhale) and then rock them back out (on an inhale). Repeat 10 times.  This pose provides me great Allergy “gunk” relief and moves my belly along when it is sluggish.  If your head feels like it will explode if you try to lay down do this pose seated; one leg at a time.  

Acu Yoga for the Head and Heart – 1) Tap the center of your sternum with your pinkie finger side of your hand; thump the sternum gently while breathing slowly. 2) rub your fingers up and down on the very center of your breastbone.  This point (CV 17 – “Sea of Tranquility”) may be tender; so go easy.  Allow your neck, shoulders and face to relax.  3) Press the pointer fingers on either side of your nose as you lean your head gently into the pressure and breathe slowly in and out while rolling your neck and head very slowly up and down.    Those allergies can do a number on the upper body and cause a lot of tension so use this Acu Yoga to open your sinuses and relax your body.  Bonus when done in a hot steamy shower!!

Onion Syrup – Cut 1 Red onion into slices and soak in 3 TBLS Raw Local Honey overnight.  In the morning and before bed, mix 1 teaspoon of the “onion syrup” with 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar and you’ll have a tasty alkalinizing allergy away drink. While you are drinking this “syrup” tense and relax your feet – especially your toes to stimulate the sinus reflexology points on your feet.  I try to do 10-20 tense and relax rounds – sometimes with my foot on a tennis or small ball.  Additional Acu Yoga for your feet: pick up one foot at a time (standing would look like a hands on Tree pose – if you’re seated cross your ankle over the opposite knee). Squeeze and massage each toe tip, then do the other foot.  This feels good all over, helps open the sinuses, and your head may feel a little less huge!

Hope these tools help you to be well and breathe deep.  We can only take care of ourselves as we try to make friends with all those wicked pollens and spores!pexels-photo-321576.jpeg

 

Mindfulness Meditation – 5 Minutes and 5 Steps to Well Being

marabaclassI created this 5 Step 5 Minute Mindfulness Meditation process for myself and anyone else who feels ready to feel more calm, release distracting emotions, and focus on compassion in 2018.  In the new year I always like to “reboot” body mind and spirit. Should be easy, for a Yoga teacher, right? Yes…and actually not always. Being accountable to self renewal can seem daunting when I’m teaching others, caring for family, and need to hit that BIG “refresh” button but my hands are full.  We all face changing moods, seasons, politics, bodies…life is constantly offering inspiration to renew our tools!
Let’s practice this 5 Step 5 Minute Mindfulness technique that, while requiring focus and practice, can become a new habit this year!  2018 is the perfect year to reduce stress and boost clarity. As a care taker, teacher and mother, I have deep compassion for myself and others when we can’t “just be calm”. It isn’t easy; and requires practice.  But isn’t it worth the try? Perfection isn’t my goal; I’m practicing staying centered even when things are rough around the edges.  I invite you to practice this 5 Step 5 Minute Meditation with me. Please let me know how it is going!

This Mindfulness Meditation has 5 Steps. It combines well with Legs up the wall Yoga pose but if you have a heart condition or can’t access the wall or get on the ground just sit in as comfortable a position as possible.

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HERE IS WHY: What happens when we mindfully focus on our breathing?  When we feel stress, our bodies tense and our nervous system gets stuck.  Our brain can become locked and the “Thinking Mind” often reacts, judges, and creates MORE tension. How to shift out of STUCK and into the present moment where calm and clarity can heal? One great technique is  to distract that “Thinking Mind”by tuning into the physical body sensations.  With body based relaxation techniques and gentle focused breathing, we can train our brain to reset. When we keep coming back to our Breathing as our emotions and thoughts surge, and FEEL our physical sensations, our nervous system will often relax.  Let’s let our inner critic gently take a back seat as we try this meditation.
HERE IS HOW:  Follow these 5 Steps to Feel more Centered.  Set a timer for 5 minutes to start.  As the process gets easier slowly increase the time if you desire.  Use an eye bag or towel if you like to cover your eyes.

1) GET COMFORTABLE  Find yourself a comfortable pose like legs up the wall, or in a comfortable chair – put a pillow under your knees or feet in order to get very relaxed as you practice this meditation.
You may need to read this over and be prepared to try it a few times to foster the seeds of relaxation. Be comfortable with taking care of yourself.

2)  DON’T CHANGE Gently bring your attention back again and again to your belly like you would sweep a strand of hair away from your face and….just breathe. For a few minutes don’t try to change your breathing.  Simply notice what your breathing is doing.  Without changing anything, just feel the physical sensations in your body.

3) ACCEPT  Whatever happens is OK. The “Thinking Mind” likes to judge and may chatter repeatedly. When you find yourself losing focus, or forgetting to breathe, without judging yourself, gently come back and focus on the Present Moment – the way breath is coming into your body and going out of your body.  Give your Body and Mind permission to lose focus and regain it.

4) CENTER Now bring your awareness to your waistband.  Allow your belly and back to softly expand with each inhale and gently release any tension on the exhale.  Imagine a billowing tent that lifts on the breeze and then settles back into itself easily.  It may help to put a pillow or blanket on your belly to help bring your attention there and soothe your nerves.

5) COMPASSION is the Key. Notice and accept whatever you feel. On each out-breath, as you would for a close friend, offer yourself compassion, or strength, appreciation or whatever first comes to mind.
Compassion doesn’t mean being passive or not taking action.
With compassion we are clear and can do what needs to be done—that might mean taking a pause, settling the mind, and trying to see things as clearly as possible before taking skillful action.  Offer yourself safety and serenity in this short timed meditation; and any other compassionate intentions that you may want to bring in.

Continue to practice this meditation as it will powerfully enhance your Well being. Doing a 5 minute daily meditation has helped me reset my day and recommit to self care for the new year. Just like we try to be more regular at flossing, let’s commit to practicing a Mindfulness Meditation daily in 2018. Do forgive yourself for not being perfect – or flossing as often as you should:)!
I simply invite you to breathe each day and let go of whatever holds you back.

IMMUNE BROTH TIME!

It is that time!  Winter has set in, and it is a perfect time to be drinking broth and doing cozy yoga:)  Tonight in my Mindfulness Yoga class I will be teaching deep abdominal breathing and Restorative poses that bring circulation to the deep core.   Personally I benefit from this kind of practice (even when I’m not remodeling) as it slows my mind and keeps my nervous and immune systems in balance.

Here is my Immune Broth recipe that I’ve developed over time for myself, my family and friends and clients.  It works!  Enjoy the warmth:)

 

How to be an Amazing Beginner at Yoga

Have you ever wondered what yoga is like?  Have you heard the”buzz” about yoga and thought, “could I do that”?  If the answer has been, “Nah”, then please read on!  Have you ever held back from a yoga class because you couldn’t see yourself as either strong enough, flexible enough, calm enough or you just plain didn’t want to wear those yoga pants?  This can happen even if you’re not a beginner.

There are many reasons NOT to do something new; especially something fairly different as yoga.  There are a LOT of reasons TO try yoga and I’d like to tell you just one.  After years of teaching and practicing yoga, studying the body and holistic healing, and just plain managing life, this one reason stands out.  Our world is not getting more complex and we have an epidemic of need for connection on a body, mind and soul level.  What the ancients knew was that going inside and practicing mindfness of our breath and body position is a great way to find balance.  We are experiencing a global trend of such rapid change that this ancient practice of yoga has become modern medicine for the isolation, inflammation and challenges we regularly experience.

But there’s one problem: you still have to try it.  Practice body awareness and it will work.  If your inner voice is curious and you think you’d like to try yoga, you just need to get past the reasons not to do it and consider the reasons to venture out.  You don’t have to wear those yoga pants if you don’t want to, and you don’t have to be flexible, calm or strong.  What you do need to do is give yourself complete permission to see yourself doing something new.  That’s hard to do; how do you imagine yourself doing something that you’ve never done?  It’s harder than ever to make time for something that seems so…. (fill in the blank with your perception).  The good news is that there are a lot of yoga opportunities around!

If you choose to try yoga, find a beginner friendly yoga class taught by an experienced teacher.  There are SO many types of yoga; what type is best for a beginner?  There’s no one best type.  This means that you need to ask around and find a referral for the teacher who will know how to adapt the practice to your individual needs no matter what style of yoga is being practiced.  The word Yoga means connection.  Connecting to the present moment, to your body – and to your breath most importantly.   There are different poses and breathing methods for different issues, times of day, ages, body types, injuries, etc.  Your journey will truly start with just a taste of asanas (or poses/positions).  Later you can progress to a full yoga dinner party.  You just have to be willing to be an asana appetizer for awhile.

If you are new to yoga, there is probably a part of you that longs to feel powerful, energized and is just plain hungry for a taste of what yoga medicine can feel like – you may want to skip right to dessert.    If, at first, you try yoga and feel uncoordinated, it’s hard to breathe like the teacher describes, or you aren’t sure if you’re doing it right, then it’s time to congratulate yourself; YOU ARE DOING JUST FINE!  Remember that part about being at the appetizer stage?  We all set incredible expectations on ourselves; if the mind wasn’t so tranced out with distractions and judgements, we wouldn’t need yoga in the first place to achieve the centering we need.

Stay tuned for the next installment of being an Amazing Beginner, and in the mean time: find an instructor that is well trained, caring and zeroes in on your particular needs.  Have fun and don’t forget to wear your favorite costume:)  After all, you don’t have to do anything special; just choose to start from where you are.

Rededicated and inspired to the core!

It seems to happen every year about this time.  Around our family’s biggest birthday month, the calendar fills to overflowing albeit all with good things.  The end of the school year is fast approaching and the season is changing from spring to summer.  That means three things: busy, change and heat.  Not an easy combination.maraba hoop

One of my clients has asked me to write about being a beginner in yoga (I’ll post more on that later) and this is one of the reasons I recommend yoga: it is a great tool to deal with life’s inevitable swings.  Yoga helps keep me grounded during wacky times and when practiced from a breath and core focus, leaves me feeling strong in my center and more empowered to take on challenges without taking on too much (super easy to do).  That doesn’t mean I don’t feel the stress or that I am “above it all” or that I’m cured.  It  just means that this self-care tool works for me if I practice regularly.

As the kids schedule starts to blow up, my private teaching practice (and my husband’s work) are filled and flowing, and I begin to have to really choose to recommit to my disciplines of self-care.  I’ve learned that I need to take time to pray, belly breathe, clean out, get more organized and stay flexible – especially about last minute teacher gift plans, summer camps….and belly breathe some more.  Getting ready for a big transition like having a child graduate, marking the loss of a loved one, or just preparing for summer’s juggling act is enough to make this yoga teacher need her own yoga big time!  No surprise that during this time of outward focus, I start to feel a bit uninspired when it comes to my own yoga practice and I begin to need a recharge.

Rededication to my own personal yoga came last night in the form of a friend’s awesome Hoop Dance Birthday party.  The class was fun and hilarious with lots of laughter yoga as we tried to lift ourselves onto hanging hoops, balance and do poses like “amazon”.  Most importantly, the Hoop movements woke up core muscles and deep belly breath; two of the aspects of my yoga practice that leave me feeling the most energized, inspired and rejuvenated (yay!).  I’m not sure if I’ll be hanging a hoop in my yoga therapy office right away but I definitely felt more motivated to roll out my mat this morning (bigger yahoo!).

One of my fave teachers, Sadie Nardini calls the deep breathing into the core “belly bonfire breath” as this type of breathing wakes up the deep core muscles and tones and reinvigorates the organs – good way to move out what we don’t need and reduce the baggage of stress.  Belly breathing warms you on the inside and keeps you feeling cooler in general.  A student of mine claims that her elimination has never been better.  That is healing transformation from the inside out!  Hanging off a dangling hoop, I couldn’t help but relax as I focused on form and breath and the smiles and giggles coming from me and all the gals beside me.

It was a strong combination of two of the strongest healers I know: community and yoga:)  I am so grateful and can’t wait to try it again.  Pics to come.  Hope this post inspires you to rededicate to your practice and your belly breathing!  Have fun today and find a way to recharge with your favorite tune-in tool!

These are the yogis in my neighborhood!

kids lyingKeeping it local and organic is what Austin is all about, right?  After much searching for a place to teach very close to home where my students and I could feel inspired and supported, I found a buddhist/yoga studio a few blocks away right here in our very own Zilker.  Yay!  One of my students/Zilker mom friends requested that “it HAS to be walking distance from the school, so I can drop my kid off and come take your class…or take your class and easily walk over to pick up.”  Because I have an on-going private practice as well, I needed to be available to my standing clients and avoid driving out of the area.   I’ve taught the first class of the 8 week series and loved seeing the Zilker parents from my neighborhood looking up at me during Apanasana (vital air pose).  That’s what we ALL need to do during this SOLA construction; Keep Breathing More Vital Air!  I’m so grateful for the support and encouragement of my neighbors, students, friends and family.  My goal is to stay out of my car and on the yoga mat, to share my gift of teaching and love with others, and to do it all right here in my neighborhood.   We can’t all work from home but what would it look like if we could develop South Lamar so that we stayed closer to home for many if not all of our life needs?  What more could we discover about our neighbors if we kept it all local?  Looking at the sweet faces in class on Tuesday, I thought, “These are the Yogis in my neighborhood!” (cue Mr. Rogers theme).  I think it’s a good place to start.

Flu Shots? Make Soup!!

Holistic health has been my interest, academic pursuit and lifestyle of choice since my first year of college.  After experiencing some tough life lessons (such as ‘no, kraft mac and cheese really isn’t the best food to eat on a daily basis’).   I went to California and became one of “those” Yoga studying, Deep Breathing, Juice drinking types.  Very fortunately, I was able to study with some fabulous wise and learned teachers in San Francisco; primarily Donna Farhi – my first Yoga teacher, whose exacting and dynamic style that emphasized the inner body and inner inquiry still informs my teaching and practice of asana and movement today.  I was also able to take incredible Holistic Health courses at SFSU in my undergrad, including Qi Gong, Meditation techniques, and Wellness in Aging from professors who were professionals in their fields and based their work on solid research and science.  These courses, along with the Physical Therapy coursework in my program, helped shape my approach to health and well-being as an integrative, body-based approach.  Body, Mind and Spirit being interconnected was a concept that made sense to me but I certainly had a mostly academic understanding of this idea. I practiced A LOT of yoga but didn’t have a very balanced diet or lifestyle.  I did learn the Pilates Method from the incredible Madeline Black, who emphasized that Joe Pilates developed his exercise regime to heal his lungs and improve his immune system.  My fascia and core were in great shape but my periods were a wreck!  Back then, I knew that belly breathing and core strength could keep me healthy and I knew that certain foods worked better than others for me but I was like a collector of information that needed “digesting”.  My life was forever changed when I experienced the cooking of Simran Kaur, a chef, meditator and one of the most amazing women I have ever met.  She was a foodie before foodies were cool.  She took Macrobiotics and made it fun – and easy!  Simran showed me how my emotions, hormonal and immune system (among many other benefits) could be strengthened by eating “con gusto”; with pleasure and enjoyment; with less rules, more savoring and definitely more joy.  It revolutionized my approach to eating for health. But…. I was still eating waaaaay too much fruit and raw salad and wondering why I was always cold and low energy when I met my husband who cooked for me on our second date.   The meal was so sumptuous and yet simple; steamed chicken and steamed vegetables.  I felt like Sheena after that meal – for many reasons:)  My training in Oriental Medicine only reinforced this idea that the warmer and happier you are on the inside, the stronger your defenses are on the outside.  One of the most amazing teachers I have ever had was my Eastern Nutritional Energetics teacher, Dr. Lisa Wilson, who managed to help us learn about how to implement an individualized Holistic diet for healing while keeping a sense of humor and unconditional acceptance towards ourselves and the patients with whom we work.  Eating fresh, in season, whole foods in accordance with your individual constitution is ONE key to wellness.  Being rigid is not.  When I first began to work on my relationship with food, I experienced how much my diet affected EVERYTHING.  It was easy to become very detail oriented (“crazy!”).  Eventually, life changes, choices, foods, and moods, together with the passing seasons, tidal daily energies, and the needs of  the young souls around me necessitated that I get back to basics, get organized and plan!   Although there is no “right” way to eat, having a meal plan and good recipe ideas that inspire and appeal to me and my family makes the cooking and eating process a whole lot easier.  Less scrambling and More Yoga!  I find great food blogs and books and share ideas with other like minded folks around me; which is part of what food is meant to do; bring folks together.  Being an “airy” sort of constitution, I do best with warm, protein rich meals.  Eating soups and stews seems to keep the bugs away, keeps me grounded, and is a great way to show those around me that I care.   I have had many soup mentors along the way.  I once learned how to make a wonderful Miso soup from my rocker girl roommate who cooked a giant batch whenever any of us got a cold.  Thank you, Leslie for the original probiotic soup!  My acupuncturist Lifang Liang, in San Francisco, always said; “cook soup now!… and you won’t need makeup” and after cooking enough soup, my whole hormonal system normalized; much better than blush and mascara, believe me.  Dr. Lisa showed me how to make bone broth to stave off flu and weakness and as a way to make other foods more nutrient rich and I share this technique with all my friends and clients.  So many people are asking, “Should I get a Flu shot?!”   That is individual choice, but either way, I say,  “Cook Soup Now!”.  And come to Yoga class!  I am offering some great new group classes in a wonderful Zilker Zen healing arts studio so please check my schedule out on the Classes page.  Stay well, and enjoy.