The Best New Year Resolution?

It’s the first morning of the New Year and here we are!  Fresh from the previous year and ready to take on the 12 months to come.  It’s a time when the traditional practice is to make the so called “resolutions” toward the New Year.  Usually folks will focus on self improvement ideas such as quitting smoking, losing weight or eating a more healthy diet.  These are endeavors that are certainly worthwhile and what I would call “commitment worthy”.  However, I often here that people have a varying degree of success with some of these resolutions.  I attended a workshop once where I heard that something in the order of 80% of “diets” meet with either noncompliance or plain old failure.  It could be that some of the programs that people try are not sustainable in real life, are not realistic or the individual sets standards that are not realistic.

No matter what the resolution is, I think that it is important to commit  to positive change and goals that truly fit into our lives and personal styles.  The belief in ourselves as we are and the faith in our resolve to be our best in everyday (I know it sounds like an army recruitment ad)  is a goal in itself.  If we can get to this – I think all of the rest will follow.

If we also take the focus away from exclusively ourselves, it allows us to look around at the world and the people in our lives.  A positive focus on the people around us, even strangers, gives a better chance of paying it forward, spreading the positive vibes and being happy.  This all comes back to building and improving ourselves.  I wish you all a Happy New Year!

 

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The Best Yoga Mat Review – Manduka Mat Review

I’ve recently become an affiliate of  MANDUKA products mainly because of the company’s great overall philosophy but also the products they sell.  Their mats are exceptionally great and Manduka has a fairly wide range to suit any Yogi’s needs.  The mats come in a variety of lengths and thicknesses.  They have a travel “eKO lite” mats that folds instead of the traditional rolling as well as mats that are more suitable for environments like a hot yoga class.

I have a Black Pro mat that is the extra long length, 85 inches x 26 inches, to accommodate my height.  It’s certainly not “lite” and weighs in at 9.5 lbs.  The standard version of this mat is the same width but 71 inches long (7.5 lbs.).  Once set up, this mat offers a space that has great foot grip, even in hot yoga.  I’ve even used it as a make shift mattress on an unexpected night of sleep in the back of my SUV.  I have a nice Manduka can to carry it in and I might consider getting one of the lighter mats when I’m travelling or wanting a lighter load.

One advantage of this mat is the thickness.  At 5mm, it is easy on the knees.  I seem to want to step off the mat when in a balancing pose.  The floor seems to give a little more stability than standing on a thicker mat – at least for me.  The verdict on this Manduka Pro is definitely a thumbs up.

4 Ways to Leave a Yoga Class

working-cobra-yoga-pose-cute-hispanic-women-practicing-their-class-gym-35911698I wrote about the preparation for your Yoga Class last post.  It’s one of those things where there’s truly a “before, during and after”.  The “after” of a Yoga practice is important.  You’ve recovered from lying on the floor in savasana and here you go back out into the world. Here are a couple of things to keep in mind as you do this.

1. Be happy and thankful to yourself for making the effort to be there and challenge yourself.  This extends to everyone around you.  It’s always nice to bid others good bye or even a nod of acknowledgement since they were part of the experience.  I remember being taken completely by surprise after a class when young female friend of my gave me a huge embrace after the class.  She wanted to just share the moment.  Sure – not everyone wants a hug – especially strangers – but a little kind acknowledgement goes a long way.

2.  If you made an intent or goal at the beginning of the class, give some consideration to how you might take it away and continue to use or consider it.  If the goal is living your intentions and growing, well why not take it with you.  There is a philosophy about “leaving your yoga practice on your mat” but I think that the strength and insight that we sometimes achieve are worth taking with us.

3. Thank the teacher and be sure to let him or her know how much you appreciated and particular parts of the class.  It’s always a good opportunity to ask a question.

4. Nurture your body with water.  Many classes are dehydrating if you worked hard and sweated.

These are some of my suggestions and I’d be open to your comments.

 

Namaste

5 Essentials to Get Ready for Your Yoga Practice

pexels-photo-374694If you’re like me, getting to your yoga practice is often a rushed affair that ends in finding a place in the studio and landing on the mat just in time for the instructor to begin.  But if possible, there are some essential things that should be considered before one depends to the mat to begin the practice.

  1. Be mentally ready to begin approximately an hour of letting go of your daily demands and focusing on yourself through your yoga.  This is a time for you and it’s important to allow this space to be as much as it can be, especially if you are putting the effort into doing it.
  2. Make sure you have all of the equipment needed – primarily your mat and water.  Most studios have block and straps as well as other props.  It’s like having your gym stuff in your bag ready to go.
  3. Try to avoid heavy meals or simply eating close to practice time.  Most yoga experts recommend an “empty” stomach.  Hydration before during and after is always recommended.  So bringing water is good.
  4. Wear your best and most comfortable yoga apparel that will bring out the best in you.  Try to keep them ready and fresh.  Having the appropriate yoga apparel that is fresh and comfortable works for you, your fellow yogis and teachers who get close-up doing adjustments.
  5. Be on time and ready to go.  Adjusting your schedule so that you can be a few minutes before class time allows everyone to grab a spot in the studio that is best suited to them.  Teachers appreciate this too!

Feel free to add to this list with your own experience.

Namaste

How to End Mental Illness Stigma- Awareness and Education

Who would have thought that an actor from the Sopranos TV series, Joey Pantoliano “Joey Pants” would be a leader in the area of mental health education and awareness and one of the most significant figures that I’m aware of in the crusade to de-stigmatize all forms of mental illness. Well through his documentary, “No Kidding, Me Too” he has started the NKM2 movement that has also involved a remarkable group of individuals from all walks of life as well as other celebrities.

 

The NKM2 web site is very impressive as well as the actual documentary.  There are some segments that you can view for free on Youtube.  It’s an entertaining and fascinating look at a range of individuals, some mental health professionals, who have experienced mental health issues of some form.  It’s about hope, confidence and the knowledge that it’s all something that can be dealt with.  Also, the documentary, as well as the whole, NKM2 organization provides information and direction on new research and resources.  And by the way, Joey Pantoliano himself reveals his own struggle with a mood disorder and ADHD.

It’s a great movement and as Joey Pants says “Infotainment!”

Photo credit: No Kidding, Me Too .ORG

The Best Canadian Vacation Destinations to DeStress and Push Some Limits (More to come)

There are so many places in the world that are great destinations for finding space, relaxation and, if you want, excitement and adventure.  When someone takes a journey either near or far and finds a space for themselves and come back with great memories of the experience, it is time very well spent – especially if you were able actively relax, enjoy your time or even feel that you’ve achieved something new and interesting .  Here’s 2 of my initial entries in this category.

  1. Newfoundland – Virtually all of the Province of Newfound, Canada is a place of peace , tranquility and adventure.  The province has a great online site.  There is a city on the East Coast, Corner Brook as well as the Capital on the East Coast of the province.  One of my favourite spots is just outside the City of St. John’s called Cape Spear.  This beautiful Cape is a majestic piece of the land that is actually the most Eastern part of North America.  The amazing experience is going there for a sunrise (I have) so you can be the actual first person in North America to see the sun on that day. 
  2. Osheaga – On literally another note anthem, Osheaga is the annual summer Alternative Music Festival held over three days in Montreal, Canada.  I include this because it’s opportunity to simply get lost and involved in a musical, cultural and social phenomenon.  The catch is that you are doing it with about 100, 000 other people.  Sure, you’re not standing on shore with no one around for miles – just the opposite.  But there is something I it if Alternative Music is your thing – there’s actually a wide range of music in this genre.  The people are nice, there is an air of freedom and fun.  There’s even a kind of “Burning Man (Nevada Desert), feel to the place.  

I’d be interested in hearing about your getaways and experiences.

photo credit: Newfoundland and Labrador Dept. of Tourism

The Best Way to Deal with Stress and Anxiety: Some Important Parts of Your Approach

The important part of the title is “your approach”.  Just like your own finger print, your stress is unique and the approach to deal with stress and anxiety is as individual as you.

  1. Thinking is an important aspect of any approach to daily stress or anxiety.  The style of our thought patterns often plays a role in how we deal with challenges such as stressors or symptoms of anxiety.  One of the Best approaches is seen in the Centre for Positive Psychology that is directed by Dr. Martin Seligman at the University of Pennsylvania.

2. Physical Activity remains an important part of any approach to the management of daily stress and symptoms of anxiety.  There is quite a lot of research to support the benefits of regular exercise for mental and physical health.  Especially exercise that you enjoy.  I previously reviewed an article posted by the American Psychological Association.

 

Your Approach to Taking Care of Yourself is as Unique as your Fingerprint

 

3. Getting Help   . Help can come in the form of a good book that you find to have the information that you need , such as Kabot-Zinn’s Full Catastrophie Living or a therapist who is trained in the area in which you need help.  Psychologists and other mental health professionals, especially in private practices, are able to list the areas of specialty in their public listings.  You can also see what organizations and licensing bodies they are affiliated with.   If you feel that you need the assistance of a professional – it’s important to get someone suitable for you.  Most will even answer questions before you make a commitment to refer yourself.

These are some key features that I recommend considering.. I’m interested in your views.

living life to the fullist

5 Key Strategies for Stress Management that are Essential

Even though the list can be endless, I think that the following 5 components of tacking your stress are essential for any plan!

1 . ENJOY the activities that you are using to deal with your stress.

The American Heart Association has outlined the importance of actually incorporating enjoyable and pleasurable activities into your stress management plan.  Doing things that you simply don’t enjoy does not work

2. Include Physical Exercise in you Stress and Anxiety Management.

The Anxiety and Depression Association of America recommends physical exercise as part of any approach to management and control of stress, Anxiety and mood problems.  This includes everything from walking, Yoga, running and the list goes on.  Cardiovascular exercise is simply a great thing!  However, know your limits and take your time if you are new to this or not in good condition initially.

3. Deal with Stress at Work.

Work stress, whether it’s issues with other people or just the type or amount of work you do is absolute crucial to get under some control.  Work stress is the source of pressure and angst for many and can be a bad and detrimental addition to an already stressed life. The American Psychological Association has a division called the Psychologically Healthy Workplace and has a lot of great resources and guidelines for both employees and companies.

4. Learn Assertiveness and Self Respect  

This link to the Mayo Clinic has a great article on the relationship of Assertive to improved stress management and communication.  It’s all about feeling better about you.

5. Avoid the overuse of substances or artificial way to Reduce Stress .

Using substances like alcohol, drugs or ingestion of food and drinks such as cola or coffee can become an ineffective way – as well as problematic- to deal with stress.  Simply put – It’s important to watch this aspect of your life and not make your “go to’s” a problem area for you.  A relaxing coffee, tea, meal or other things like this can be a great part of your day.  The National Library of Medicine has an interesting article on stress and vulnerability to addiction that is linked here.

Please add your comments and tips .  This is just part of a plan for stress and anxiety management that can be effective.

Fitness and #Exercise – Still one of the Best Medicines

An entry published in recent years by the American Psychological Association is entitled “The exercise effect”.  Kristen Weir outlines the often standard belief in the mental health world that exercise is not only good for mental and physical well being but that it should be part of the treatment for psychological problems such as depression and anxiety.  There is evidence that a person can feel the positive effects of exercise within “minutes”.  Numerous people have stories about their own routines of walking or running that contribute to positive mood and stress reduction.

 

However there are many who don’t really enjoy exercise and certainly don’t want to step foot in a gym.  That’s their style and personal preference – like anything else.  So then the challenge becomes – What does work for you if you want to get your body in a fitness routine or work toward conditioning and overall fitness.  It’s important for each person to find their own niche.  Not everyone wants to ride a bike, not everyone enjoys a walk or run in the park.

 

What we do know is that exercise in many forms has advantages when done properly  – in line with a person’s age, condition and background.  So perhaps the task is to determine what is right for you.

Mindfulness The perfect Example of Your Own way to manage stress

Mindfulness, first made really popular by John Kabot-Zinn (sp) the author of “Full Catastrophe Living”, wanted people to be able to be present in their own experience of stress, joy, excitement and just simply the human experience.  We now have a wide variety of “Mindful” approaches to stress anxiety and life management.  Ultimately it’s the experience of living a moment in the fullest and hopefully feeling positive, aware and good.

We can all be our own experts on developing an approach that is unique and effective for each of us.  The other day I was caught in a moment where I watched some spring chickadees at my bird feeder as I pulled into my driveway.  A few minutes passed as I watched them fly to and from the protection of a nearby bush.  I really didn’t think about it as mindfulness at the time but I was not thinking about anything else for those few minutes except the two small creatures and the beauty of the scene (cue the music).  Anyway, that a mindful experience.

 

I’d be interested to hear about the experiences of others.IMG_0367