Six Benefits of Yoga

imagesIt’s starting.  The stress levels are rising.  The glow and relaxation that summer brought has been replaced with the hectic work/play/school schedules.  The season of holidays is gearing up and thoughts of Halloween costumes and Christmas gifts are cluttering your mind at night.  Was the hockey equipment aired out?  Where are those strands of lights?  Did that trip permission form get signed?

It’s hard to carve out time for yourself.  Moms and Dads are often pulled the minute they get home from work.  Replacing one “hat” for another, and collapsing into bed exhausted, only to wake up a few hours later and do it all again.

But the reality is, for you to be the best employee, caregiver, parent, friend or partner, you need to be the best you.  The only way to do that is carve out some protected time in your weekly schedule for yourself.  This time isn’t meant to be spent trolling Facebook or the half hour spent grocery shopping solo while you wait for your daughter’s karate to finish.

A few months ago, I made a commitment to myself and my family to take better care of myself.  The hope being, I would become a happier, more caring and more thoughtful person.  The first thing I did was get block off two one-hour blocks in my weekly schedule.  Full disclosure:  I work out almost every day, even if just for 20 minutes, and it does feel like something that I have to do.  My protected time was going to be time for me to really nourish my body and my mind while slowing down.  imgres-2

I was a regular at my yoga studio before kids and with the arrival of each son, my practice time slowly whittled to once a month, if that.  I knew that I missing it and so I recommitted.

It hasn’t been easy squelching my guilty feelings but I am back in the studio and it feels great!    I asked my yoga instructor Lori, of Harmony Yoga Wellness, to share what she believes to be some of the benefits from a regular practice.

  • Mental: Deep breathing and thoughtful movements help us to reset the mind to a state of calmness.
  • Physical: Movement combined with breath work improves posture and spinal alignment as well as increases flexibility and strength.

    Lori is a certified yoga instructor and graduate of the Esther Myers Yoga Teacher Training Program and teaches at Harmony Yoga Wellness.

    Lori is a certified yoga instructor and graduate of the Esther Myers Yoga Teacher Training Program and teaches at Harmony Yoga Wellness.

  • Neurological: Yoga nurtures the mind-body connection, stimulating our deep relationship with the power of our own brain, which in turn improves memory and our ability to focus and concentrate.
  • Psychological: By nurturing ourselves and showing self-compassion in our yoga practice, we learn to take these habits with us into our daily lives.
  • Community: Sharing regular time with others, in a safe, kind and peaceful environment creates a sense of belonging and community, a feeling of connectedness and compassion towards ourselves and others.

Sounds like a pretty good trade-off doesn’t it? Just a few hours of self-care for all of those benefits! But how do you protect your time, especially if you tend to be a people-pleaser? Here are some tips:

  • Block off the same few hours in your calendar each week.
  • Consider signing up for an activity outside your home. It’s a lot harder to skip-out when you’ve paid hard-earned cash in advance.
  • Tell everyone: your kids, your friends, and your partner. Tell them about your plan to protect your time and ask them for their support. You may be surprised by how little time it takes for those around you to adjust to your new schedule.
  • Don’t bail on yourself. When someone asks you to do something during your protected time say no. You don’t have to give any more details. A simple, “That’s not going to work for me,” will do just fine.
  • Practice what you preach. When someone else is practicing protected time be respectful and supportive.

Tried yoga and it’s not for you? Consider some other ways to nourish your mind, body and soul.

  • Take a walk outside but leave the iPod at home.
  • Exercise classes
  • Guided meditations
  • Art or photography sessions
  • Locking the bathroom door, and indulging in a warm bath
  • Cooking classes

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How do you practice self-care? 

Rack-A-Thon

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On Saturday, January 26, I will be participating in an urban triathlon benefitting Rethink Breast Cancer.  The Rack-A-Thon is a three-hour fitness challenge: one hour of spinning, intense circuit training and yoga.

Rethink Breast Cancer is a charity dedicated to raising awareness and offering resources and assistance to young families affected by the disease.  Founded in 2001, Rethink uses its savvy marketing to inspire a new generation of philanthropy and activism.

A friend had posted the Rack-A-Thon link on her Facebook and on a whim, I clicked on the pink icon to learn more.  It was impulsive but I made the commitment . . .  and now that it’s only a few weeks away, I am starting to wonder, do I have what it takes or will this Rack make me a wreck?

In an effort to be successful (and procrastinate from my training) I Googled tips to completing fitness goals and I found this list.

1.    Make it part of your routine

Check.  I can do this.   I have almost two hours in the morning when all three kids are at school.

So long as no one has an episode of explosive diarrhea, projectile vomiting, a raging fever, croup, chronic nighttime cough, or develop some weird and unexplainable rash that would prevent them from going to school, I can use this time to train.

I should be able to log a solid three or four mornings over the five weeks.

2.    Give yourself permission to spend time on you

Check.  I give myself permission to spend time on myself all of the time – it’s the little people in my life who aren’t on board!

3.    Set realistic goals

5 weeks to train for an hour of spin, yoga and circuit.  That sounds realistic, right?

4.    Buddy-up

Check.  It took little convincing to get my fitness-junkie sister-in-law on board.  She is always game for a good butt kickin’ and her enthusiasm is good motivation.

5.    Keep your eyes on the prize

Check.  Thinking about the many women and their families who benefit from Rethink make my sweat seem paltry in comparison to their bravery.

6.    Make it convenient

Is anything convenient when you have three kids?

7.    Fit in work-outs even in your off days

Check.  I have three live-in personal trainers who ensure that I never sit for more than a few minutes.

8.    Keep it fun

Cardio = Just Dance 4 = Fun

9.    Support your goal by getting sleep and eating well

Check.   I can do this.

So long as no one has an episode of explosive diarrhea, projectile vomiting, a raging fever, croup, chronic nighttime cough, or develop some weird and unexplainable rash that would prevent them from sleeping, I can use this time to catch up on my z’s.

With our recent track record, I am sure that getting adequate sleep will prove no problem at all. *

*Said dripping with sarcasm and rolling eye

10. Reward yourself

The reward will be completing the challenge and knowing that the funds I have helped to raise will go towards Rethink Breast Cancer’s education, support and research programs.

Check back or follow us on Twitter on Saturday, January 26 for a play-by-play of how I am faring!  Do you want to join me and participate in the Rack-A-Thon?  Check out Rethink Breast Cancer for more information.

Wish me luck!

A Different Kind of Date Night

One week down and I am proud of my progress.  Granted, come June I may be singing a different song.  Like most parents, at the start of a new season, we sit down and schedule the kids’ activities.  This winter, I have made sure to schedule my own.  Each day I have allotted time for myself- sometimes just a half hour and sometimes three hours.

To help me achieve my goal of being more fit and incorporating exercise into my daily living, I spoke with certified CanFitPro Instructor Vanessa Reeve last week.  Part one of this interview focused on the benefits of exercise and why it should be a part of everyone’s daily life.  This week Vanessa offers tips and suggestions on how to do just that.

Vanessa advocates setting a goal (realistic, people!) and telling everyone so that they can support you.  A realistic goal should be attainable and to give yourself a bit of motivation dangle, a carrot: i.e. buying a new pair of jeans, a dinner at a nice restaurant, a new book – whatever makes you happy!

An ideal fitness routine should include:

  • Strength/weight training 2 – 4 times per week
  • Cardio training 3 – 7 times per week (a minimum of 25 min of exertion)
  • Flexibility training 3 – 7 times per week

Before you throw your hands up in the air, insisting that you don’t have the time for this, consider a few things.  Firstly, flexibility training is stretching.  It can be as formal as attending a yoga class or more casual like stretching while your watching TV.  Just don’t stretch for the bag of chips!

Secondly, weight training does not mean investing in a set of dumbbells (although free weights can be an affordable option for at-home sessions).  There are many exercises you can do that use your own body weight for resistance.

Joining a gym provides an opportunity to connect with other like-minded individuals who are also working towards a goal.  The sense of belonging can be empowering and give you the nudge that you need to stay on track.  Classes taught by instructors take the guesswork out of planning a routine, and generally instructors kick your butt in ways you never would.

January marks the time of year when new gym memberships spike.  Many of people who rush to sign up at the start of the year stop going just a few weeks into their new routine.  Perhaps their goals were not realistic (in the beginning consider making a commitment to go to the gym twice a week instead of everyday and then slowly increasing your attendance) or maybe the gym environment isn’t the ideal fit.

How To Exercise At Home and Move More!

  • Walk more.  If it is possible, walk to work.  After dinner leave the mess behind and get for a brisk walk.  Taking your kids for a walk after dinner could the ticket to getting them to sleep better.  Older kids can ride their bikes while you walk/run and with younger kids you can makeup games en route.  Something I like to do with my boys is we run to the lightpost as fast as we can, then walk to the next one.
  • If you live near a school, take your kids with you and let them play in the field while you run/walk laps.
  • Don’t drive to the store if you can walk and if you do drive, park furthest away.
  • On your seventeenth trip to the doctor this month alone, take the stairs instead of the stuffy elevator.
  • Take a bike ride on a path.  Most cities have intricate bike paths that are family friendly.
  • While watching TV or talking with your kids at night, get down on the ground and do some simple abdominal crunches (younger kids love to count along with you), static squats and lunges.
  • Invest in simple equipment like a ball and sit on it while typing on the computer.  These stability exercises help to tone core muscles.  Newborn babies often love being lulled to sleep with a light bounce.
  • Make it a family affair.  Consider taking up a sport that the entire family can do together.  Hiking, skiing, biking and skating are just a few sports that both young and old can engage in.
  • Rent exercise/yoga DVDs from the library, borrow them from a friend, check on-line for free demonstrations (YouTube has plenty).

Date Night Doesn’t Have To Be In A Restaurant Or A Movie Theatre

Instead of the usual fare of dinner and/or a movie, why not try something new.  Lori  Lowe who writes a fabulous marriage blog recently featured Lindsay Rietzsch author of How To Date Your Spouse.  Rietzsch suggests to “ignite the romance” consider activities that allow you to be close such as:

  • Dancing
  • Ice-skating
  • Swimming
  • Walking/jogging

Why not take it a step further and try something neither of you have done before.  Take a snowboard lesson, rock climb or check out the neighbourhood yoga studio.  Lots of studios offer free trial classes so take advantage of them!

Last year, my husband and I tried spinning together and not only was it an incredible work out (I still do it) but it was a lot of fun learning something together.  At night we’d commiserate over sore muscles and during the class we’d motivate each other to keep at it.  Between pregnancies, he taught me to water ski.  Lucky for me, he’s a great teacher and very patient.  We had a ton of laughs and I still remember the look on his face when I lapped the lake.

Doing activities together not only promotes a healthy lifestyle but it increases intimacy. If your partner needs a little encouraging to give hot yoga a try, share this tibit of info.  According to the Mayo Clinic, regular exercise enhances libido in women and decreases erectile dysfunction in men.  Now, if that’s not enough to get up off the couch . . . or maybe get down on it!

Just To Take Away Any More Excuses You Have, Vanessa Answers:

Q:  My ass looks like a pancake.  Any exercises to tighten and tone?

A:  Spot reducing isn’t ideal and doesn’t always work.  The best way to tone and tighten is to do a complete body workout.  That being said, lunges and squats are the best moves to firm a tooshie.

Q:  I know that weight bearing exercise is vital for bone strength but I don’t want to look like I could grace the cover of Body Builder’s Weekly.  Will pumping iron make me bulky?

A: No, not if you are using low weights and doing lots of repetitions.

Q: Does strolling on the treadmill count as cardio?

A: In order to see physical improvements/changes, you need to be doing a cardio exercise where your heart rate is up for a minimum of 25 minutes to the point of breathlessness.

In a few months, I will report back (part of making my goals known) for a check-in.  To get us all off the couch, please share your favourite songs to work-out to.  Music is a great motivator! And/or please share what it is you do with your spouse, friends or solo to stay active.