I grew up dancing at my Mother’s studio and always admired the ballerinas who effortlessly had their legs up to their ears. I would spend hours a day training and then after training, go home and stretch until bed. So much so that my nickname growing us was ‘Stretch”. I got my first yoga book at the age of 14 and started to try to copy some of the more contortionists type poses. This planted a seed of possibilities into my head that I have strived for ever since.
Many of you know that I have battled severe rheumatoid arthritis. After almost a year of being completely immobile, I had to start from scratch. I felt stiffer than the tin man. Each joint felt like it needed oil or lubrication and my muscles were frozen tight. I started very simple, from the ground up. I mean bending my legs and arms was a lot for me at the time. But each day I did some sort of movement or stretching, as minor as it was. My original intention was just to be able to put my shoes on again and to help keep my Rheumatoid Arthritis at bay but through dedication and discipline I got my mojo back.
Today I continue to stretch every single day, even on my off days or days that I’m too tired to work out. There is no excuse to not stretch.
Here are some tips that will help you Stretch.
1. Give yourself 5 minutes every day to stretch. I often stretch in bed, before I go to sleep. I have an elastic band or you can use a towel and I put it around my foot. Both legs straight, one straight up towards the ceiling,other leg flat on the ground. This gets deep into the hamstrings but doing it laying down gives you the ability to focus on the stretch and less on the balance. The key is to stay there long enough for the hamstrings to lengthen. I recommend at least 30 seconds to one minute each leg.
2. Hot Epsom Salt Baths. I am a big advocate of epsom salt or mineral salt baths. They are great for your over all well-being and warm up your body perfectly to stretch afterwards. I recommend soaking for 15-30 minutes. Putting on warm clothes, including socks afterwards to keep the heat in and using this time that your body is warm to stretch and open up. I love putting my bum up against the wall and opening my legs into a wide split, letting gravity take over. Ending the day in a slight inversion is also great for your overall wellness and will encourage a great nights sleep.
3. Make the effort. For most of us not born double jointed. Flexibility is muscle memory. So it has to be done repeatedly to see results. Don’t get frustrated. Find peace within the stretch. Every time you push a little bit more, you become more flexible. Refrain from pain. Find the balance between pushing too hard and not enough, then sit in that space for as long as you can. Every little bit counts. Remember a couple of years ago I couldn’t walk or dress myself due to stiff joints.
4. Use your breath. When we are stiff, fear takes over and we tend to tighten up our muscles even more and then we retain our breath causing us to get stuck and stiff. Instead use your breath to encourage your body to open up. Get into a stretch, inhale and let go on the exhale. Open your mouth wide on the exhale to mimic what you want your body to do.Always come back to the breathe when you get stuck or stagnant.
5. Get creative with stretching. I often stretch during family movie night or while I’m on the phone. I try to use my time wisely so that I don’t feel like I have to stop my world to stretch. I just incorporate it into my life. That truly is the key to overall well being. It is small things every day that become part of your life.
*Flexibility is achieved through practice.Just like a beginner pianist is not going to know how to play a Concerto overnight. It takes years of discipline and effort.
We are all living in fear with this new Ebola virus. Rumors of Ebola being the governments way to control the population and that this variant strain may have actually been created to do so. Every where you look there is new information coming out to put our bodies into fear, which can actually be one of the worst things for our immune systems defense. I am not sure what to believe but I do think it is wise to prepare for the worst and have faith in the best.
Here are some things you can do to take the edge off this Ebola crisis.
1. Empower yourself- Refrain from Facebook rumors and “certain” news channels. Do your own research or go directly to the CDC website for fact page updates or find a more left wing’s opinion and compare the two. I know it is hard to know what to believe but try to find reputable sources for information and educate yourself as much as you can. Know how to protect yourself and your family through prevention and knowing the symptoms to look for if they occur. Also it doesn’t hurt to stock up for a lock down. Californians are used to Earthquake preparedness kits as other states are prepared for other natural disasters. Add to this list official medical masks and gloves to prevent spreading in the event that someone close to you comes down with symptoms.
2. Keep your immune system strong- This is a perfect time to clean up your diet and refrain from processed foods, alcohol, and sugar that only deplete and breaks down your immune systems ability to fight infection. Instead nourish your body with fresh foods that stimulate and boost your immune system. Focus on antiviral foods like peppermint, basil, and ginger. Also be sure that you are getting enough Vitamin D3, something most Americans are deficient in that will help keep you healthy and strong. I also believe probiotics should be added to your daily routine, to help your body be as strong as it can be in the event of an outbreak.
3. Wash your hands- There is no doubt that the best way to protect yourself is still a good old hand wash. Make sure you are washing properly for adequate time and lathering soap. Refrain from touching your eyes, nose and mouth always! I mean unless you just washed your hands do not touch your face! Read my previous article here on how to prevent the spread of a virus. This is assuming that the virus is not airborne, in that case, where a medical mask when taking public transportation or in crowded areas.
4. Look at history- Remember that we have been down this road before and survived. There have been many diseases prior to this. Including flu viruses (swine flu) every year that rattles our homes with fear. Thinking that we got through that might put some ease into your mind. This in itself could be all part of the propaganda so that when the vaccine does come out, everyone will run to get it and the drug companies will make billions.Everything is based on fear instead of empowerment. There are things you can do now to be as healthy as we can but there is very little talk about that and lots of talk about just waiting for a vaccine. You always have to look at everything from a broader picture. Then throw it out and use your instinct!
5. Surrender- Once you have done what is within your ability to empower and protect yourself and your family, you have to surrender and continue to enjoy life. Refuse to let this affect your daily living and bring on adrenaline of fear affecting your health. Worrying does not do any good. Every time fear comes up replace it will a positive thought. Your thoughts create your reality. Visualize health and safety for the planet.
* Facts- 480,000 Deaths per year from Tobacco/ 300,000 Deaths per year from Obesity/ 88,000 Deaths per year from Alcohol.
* “After you find out all the things that can go wrong, your life becomes less about living and more about waiting.”
― Chuck Palahniuk, Choke
Five things to think about the next time you get your sweat on that can increase your goal towards optimal health.
1. Forget the fan and/or air-conditioning- Nothing drives me more crazy than doing the hard work to warm my body up then having a fan or blast of air-conditioning right on me. The whole point of working out is to break a sweat. When the muscles get warm, you are able to get into a deeper work out, increasing mobility and flexibility. The other benefits are letting your body sweat it out and encourage toxin removal to benefit your overall health and beauty. Of course there are times where air conditioning is appropriate but try to steer clear from the direct air blowing onto you.
A Chinese doctor that I used to see informed me that there have been studies in China that give mice symptoms similar to Rheumatoid Arthritis by having them exercise while blowing cold air on them. What they found is it creates and infection in the body. The coincidence is that I grew up dancing everyday and then would go outside after sweating into very cold Chicago weather. I have also found this common denominator to be true of many athletes and others living with various forms of arthritis.
2. Drink fluids before and after, not during- It is very important that you stay hydrated, especially when you are active. There are scenarios that require continual hydration,as in athletes that train for long periods of time outdoors in the hot sun, but I’m talking about and hour and half yoga class or an hour gym or cardio workout. Again, our goal is to warm up the body and drinking fluid has the ability to cool off all your hard work.
3. Running vs falling down the hill- There is a huge difference between running and falling down a slope. I often see people trying to run down a slope, very heavy footed, with their head ahead of their body. This is a recipe for disaster, not only are you hurting your knees, ankles and back, without having the controlled resistance you will not gain any positive results from bad form running.
Tip- If running down an incline, lean slightly back so that you have control through resistance, focusing on the heel of the foot landing first. Keep your chest lifted, core engaged, lift up through your perineum and focus on your breath in synch with your left foot.
4. Stretch before and after- I know our gym teachers always recommended this but there is truth to it. Stretching prior decreases injury but stretching after is where the change occurs. When your body is warm is when you are able to create more flexibility. Bottom line, people that are flexible stretch every day. Yogis are great examples of this. They practice vinyasas to heat up the body during the first half of a class and focus more on stretching and opening up during the second half. Give yourself time to incorporate this into your routine.
5. Thinking you can eat like an animal because you worked out- The ying and yang of life. Yes there are times when after a great work out you will reward yourself and rightfully so, but turning bad food choices into a habit after a work out is a recipe for disaster. Instead nourish your body with optimum foods that hydrate and give you energy for your workouts and recovery.
* When you feel like quitting, is the moment where if you push through, the magic happens.
It may come as a surprise to some, but I recently went through a divorce. I sure didn’t plan on divorce being on my list of things to do in my life but looking back at all my biggest opportunities to grow, they were all moments I hadn’t intended.
I came from a divorced family and more than anything didn’t want that for my son’s life but sometimes the universe has bigger plans and these life changes are all part of it. I know in my heart that coming form a tough childhood is what made me who I am and although I would never want that for my son, I have accepted that he too is on his own spiritual journey, growing and evolving into a young man.
With most things in life, I believe it is important for people to be open and transparent with their struggles so that others have the opportunity to feel hope and unity. Seeing others go through relatable challenges and coming out the other end is inspiring and brings hope and faith to others going through similar challenges. I always choose to look at the bright side of things and take each opportunity to learn and grow and try to become a better person. I realize that these are the moments that shape our character and define who we are.
1. Take responsibility for yourself and only yourself. You are not in control of how your ex partner (husband,wife) wants to act and be. You are each individuals not responsible for the other ones actions. Each on your own journey and even though you shared some beautiful times together and felt as one, you need to come back to yourself. You can not serve from an empty vessel. This can be challenging if you lost yourself in your marriage, but what fun it is to re- explore who you are, now! Let this energy motivate you to do things you have been wanting to do.
2. You cannot make somebody understand or accept the truth when they are literally incapable. You can not squeeze lemon juice out of a dry lemon. Release old expectations and see things in the present. Know when to let go and righteously surrender. See the person for who he or she is now, not the fantasy or illusions you built up in your head while married.
3. Acknowledge the time you spent together and further more acknowledge the end. Your contract is up. You have learned what you can from this relationship and it is time to move on. Perceive this as a beautiful thing, filled with new, endless possibility. Change can be scary. The roles each of you once played have changed and that’s ok. There can still be love there, it is just a different type of love.
4.Let go of the stigma surrounding divorce and make your own rules about how the process begins and gets dissolved. It doesn’t have to be ugly. Just because you choose to no longer be married doesn’t mean the person has to be dead to you. You will mourn what was but once that is clear a new relationship is possible. This is especially true if there are children involved.
5. If you live from your heart and are always true then you have nothing to be ashamed of. You are righteous of divine love. Its ok. You did your best and learned what you could and by that nothing was wasted. Pull up your boot straps and get back up.
* I don’t see divorce as a failure. I see it as the end to a story, everything has an end and a beginning.- Olga Kurylenko