Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Yoga For Sinus Relief

Thanks to Jamie ( @saphiremist77) for requesting a yoga for sinus issues blog!

I'd never really had sinus or allergy issues until moving to Memphis - the number one city in the country for allergies. Yeah Memphis! When the cotton pops in September is usually my worse time, but year round I'm often blowing my nose in the middle of class.

Treating sinuses with yoga is a two-fold approach; 1 - relieve the pain and pressure and 2 - keep the sinuses clear and draining properly. Here are a few yoga remedies I use for my own sinus issues:

Nadi Shodhana (Alternate Nostril Breath)
Bring your right hand in front of your face and lower the first two fingers. With your thumb, close the right side of your nose and inhale through the left. With your ring finger, close the left side of your nose and exhale through the right. Keeping the right side open, inhale. Close and exhale through the left. Inhale left, close and exhale right. Continue with the left-right-right-left pattern.
Have a tissue nearby to blow your nose when finished.

Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog) 
I like downdog better than a full forward fold to allow the sinuses to drain without causing as much head pressure. Downdog also expands the chest allowing for deeper breathing.

Halasana (Plow pose) 
Good to unblock the sinuses.


Setu Bhanda (Bridge)
Good to unblock the sinuses and more accessible to most people than halasana.

Sirshasana (Headstand)
You might be unsure about going upside down if you have a sinus headache, but it really does relive the pressure and drain the sinuses. If full headstand isn't available to you, try this supported version on two chairs. Note: if you've never done a headstand, find a qualified teacher to assist you until you are ready to go upside down on your own.

Neti Pot Rinse 
Yes, I know it looks weird. And yes it does feel a bit weird at first. But if you have sinus or allergy issues, the neti pot will be a huge relief. I don't Neti Pot every night, usually only when I'm feeling stuffy, during cotton season, or if I've spent a lot of time outside. The secret to successful Neti'ing? As the water is flowing through your sinuses, whisper the letter "K". When you say the K sound the back of your throat closes and therefore no water can drip down your throat. 

Headache relief
Sometimes, the headache gets too intense and you need a restorative pose for relief. Please read my previous post on Head Wraps and Restorative Poses.
Head Wrap

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Head Over Heels - For Good Summer Reading

My latest Elephant Journal post is up!

Head Over Heels: A Book Review

It is, if you couldn't tell, a book review of the second in a series of books set in a Los Angeles yoga studio. It's a fun, easy read. The perfect book to pack for your summer vacation when you just want to relax and laugh a bit.

Please also check out my other Elephant Journal posts.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Momma Heart

My momma heart is heavy tonight. Each of my three teen boys are facing some battles and disappointments and there's nothing I can do about it.

Neither of the boys are guilty of anything except growing up. And growing up involves some tough life lessons:

  • Life isn't fair
  • People aren't always honest
  • Bad things happen to good people
  • Sometimes dreams don't come true

Tonight I'm just their mom. I'm old and I can't possibly understand what it's like to be 13, 15 or 17 years old.

Except I do. And I am old enough that I've been through all those life lessons - usually more than once - and I know that:

  • Life isn't fair - but hard work does eventually get rewarded. Sometimes the reward isn't what we expected, but it will be what we need when we need it. 
  • People aren't always honest - but I've found that most people actually are quite honest. And in times of great need even strangers will step up and lend a hand.
  • Bad things happen to good people - and there's not always an explanation for it. Being mad at the injustice takes energy away from loving the good person through their bad time or remembering them after they are gone.
  • Sometimes dreams don't come true - but new dreams are born that you can't yet even begin to imagine.

I know my boys don't believe me tonight, but they will make it through this and someday their heart will ache as their children have to learn these lessons themselves.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Yoga Cures by Tara Stiles: And The Winner Is...

Thank you to everyone for reading my review of Yoga Cures by Tara Stiles and to those who posted a comment hoping to win their own free copy.

I used a very scientific method to choose the winner:

  1. Read through everyone's comments and smile at all the ways yoga has changed their life.
  2. Write down everyone's name on a scrap of paper
  3. Fold and place papers in a hat
  4. Except I couldn't find a hat so I just put all the folded papers in a pile on my bed
  5. I picked out one paper and the winner is....
Erin who blogs at Scrambled Eggs!

So, Erin, please email me at so I can forward your address on to Crown Publishing to have your own copy of Tara Stiles Yoga Cures sent to you! Congratulations!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Yoga For Achy Knees

I have a lot of runner friends - like serious half marathon/marathon type runners. Their dedication amazes me and sometimes confuses me (running in the rain/snow/extreme heat)? Almost all of them also complain about their knees.

I've had some pretty good success in converting them to running as cross training and I look forward every year to teaching a 6-week Yoga for Runners session leading up to the annual Munford 5K race. And now with race season really heating up, a few of my friends are in danger of being sidelined by knee pain.  It's even slowing down Natalie's training schedule for the Disney Princess Half Marathon. And since Natalie is part of the running crowd that doesn't like my advice to back off their training schedule and rest, instead I suggest some extra yoga.

When knees begin to hurt, I first look at what's going on in the hips. My students know I say all the time "it's all connected", so an imbalance in one area will certainly cause problems in another area. Because of the repetitive motion, running often causes tightness in the hip flexors, hamstrings, quads, IT band - which can all lead to pain in either the lower back or knees. When I design a yoga class for a runner, I like to not only stretch but also to strengthen the muscles supporting the knee.

To strengthen knees:

  • Virhabhadrasana II (Warrior 2) with a folded up yoga mat under the front toes. Placing the front toes on a folded mat relieves pressure on the front knee while strengthening surrounding muscles.

  • Virsasana (Hero's pose) full hero's pose isn't available to most people, especially runners with tight quads and hips. Try placing a folded blanket or yoga block underneath for additional height and support. A few years ago when I hurt my knee, I sat on a stack of books twice a day. I gradually lowered the height of the books as my knee got stronger and eventually was able to sit on the floor again.

To stretch/strengthen the surrounding muscles (quadriceps, hamstrings, IT band, hip flexors):

  • Anjaneyasana (Lunge) option for the back knee either up or down, but very important to keep the front knee behind the toes. Stretches hamstring, groin, hip flexor

  • Parsvottanasana (Pyramid) excellent for the hamstrings

  • Dhanurasana (Bow) great quad stretch, but be sure to keep the knees in line with the hips rather than letting them flare out to the sides

  • Eka Pada Rajakapotasana (One legged king pigeon) - again, the full version of the pose probably isn't accessible to most people just starting out. But modified versions are just as effective.

  • Vriksasana (Tree) - opens the hips, strengthens ankles, improves balance and coordination. If the knee is in pain or uncomfortable, lower the foot to the shin so there is less flexion in the up knee.

To strengthen the total body and mind:

Observe the first Yama of Patanjali's Eight Fold Path - Ahimsa.

Ahimsa is translated as non-violence, but really it just means do no harm. Practice ahimsa to yourself and your body. Know when to challenge yourself, and know when to listen to your body's signals, back off and rest.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Yoga Cures by Tara Stiles

A few weeks ago I received an email from Crown Publishing Group asking if I'd like a review copy of Tara Stiles new book Yoga Cures.

Would I? Absolutely!

Tara Stiles is the owner of Strala Yoga in New York City (one of the studios to visit on my yoga bucket list), author of Slim Calm Sexy Yoga and star of yoga DVD's and YouTube videos. Ms. Stiles has gotten some flack from the snarky yoga snobs for being just another "yoga star" - and to those people I say Get Over Yourself.  Stiles approachable style has allowed many, many people to find yoga who otherwise would never think of walking into a studio.

Yoga Cures is a series of yoga routines anyone can do anywhere to remedy a list of ailments most of us will face at one time or another including anxiety, insomnia, PMS, shin splints, tension, broken heart, thyroid imbalance and many others. Each practice consists of written instructions as well as a picture of each of the poses, making it super easy to follow along.

My favorite part of Yoga Cures is Stiles doesn't just emphasize the asanas - physical postures. Most of her routines include the importance of beginning each practice with time for meditation. Stiles says meditation is nothing more than "calming the mind by watching the breath... The more we do it the more we realize that everything we need is right there inside."  Like she says,  we just have to do the work and the yoga will work for us.

The beginning chapters include some basic yoga info, a brief description yoga benefits, the Eight Limbs of Yoga, and the scientific evidence that yoga works. Everything is written in a light and easy to understand way - no fancy terms or scientific jargon.

The cures chapters include anecdotes from her students of how yoga helped has helped them and medical proof where applicable of how yoga can help with medical conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes and fibromyalgia. Most of the cures routines are three to five poses and easily doable on a daily basis.

For those looking for a longer practice, the third section of the book is a series of 'At Home Yoga Retreats', both active and restorative for morning and evening time.

Crown Publishing has generously offered to send a copy of Yoga Cures by Tara Stiles to one reader of this blog. Simply leave me a comment describing how yoga has helped you with an issue you have dealt with and I will randomly select one person to receive your own copy of Yoga Cures!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Self Determination - And Yoga - Prove the Doctors Wrong

This video is about five minutes long. It's worth watching.

You've heard the excuses. Maybe you've even said them. I can't do yoga because...  I can't lose weight because....

This guy will show you how wrong you are.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Queen Academy - Because Success Is Waiting For You To Grab It

I've been very protective of this blog as my own personal space. I've turned down offers to promo products because they weren't something that I personally believed in and I've sent back merchandise that I didn't feel delivered on what it promised.

Tonight, though, I want to tell you about my mentor and a woman I'm honored to call my friend.

Wanda Marie is a certified master coach and founder of the Queen Academy, a site dedicated to "helping women find their way." A place where women gather to support each other, pay blessings forward and empower each other.

Wanda Marie offers a variety of different courses including Building Your Own Website, Jump Start Your Business, Embrace Your Power and Write Your Book. In fact, Wanda Marie is the one who gave me the encouragement to finally sit down and get my book started. She's also the one who keeps gently reminding me that there is some good stuff in my book and I need to get it finished! I'm working on it, really I am.

The Queen Academy is starting a new series of classes next week and registration is open now. All you need is a computer with high speed Internet access, a cell phone and the desire to start living your best life. My favorite part? Wanda Marie believes personal empowerment and success is out there for everyone, so her classes are very reasonably priced. Donation-based classes are available to those who can't afford to pay.

If a full course isn't in your schedule right now, you can schedule a private coaching session with Wanda Marie where I give you my guarantee her intuitive sense and advice will leave you feeling stronger and more empowered.

You don't have to feel stuck in your life - the Queen Academy can help you get moving on a better path.