Mindfulness and Writing

Have you ever noticed that you feel pretty zen after writing? When you write, it’s like you’re in the “zone” layering the elements of a scene into your story. Dialogue, characters, setting and theme are all being poured onto the page in front of you. You’re so focused on what you’re creating that the worries of real life aren’t able to pester you. Sometimes, though, it’s hard to focus on writing through all of the chatter going on in our minds.

Mindfulness, simply put, is the practice of purposefully paying attention without judgment. By immersing yourself in the present, you can quiet your mind and learn quite a bit about your own habits and thoughts. Here’s how practicing mindfulness can help you focus, release your fears and write. Continue reading “Mindfulness and Writing”

Essential Oils for Headaches

Headaches are one of the most common health issues that everyone faces. With triggers like stress, allergies, fatigue, hormonal imbalance, poor diet, and poor posture, it’s hardly surprising that no one can really say they’ve never experienced some kind of headache. Pain killers are relatively inexpensive and most of us don’t think twice about taking Advil or Ibuprofen to get through the day, but what we don’t often think about is the negative side effects from frequently taking these pain killers such as kidney and liver damage.

Enter essential oils. Essential oils have been used to combat headaches since way before ibuprofen came around. These oils have been used since ancient times and are gaining popularity in recent years as a natural remedy for a multitude of health problems. If you suffer from headaches, check out these ways to help ease pain naturally.

  • Diffuse five drops of lavender oil to reduce muscle tension, relieve stress, boost mood and aid sleep.
  • A warm or hot compress over the eyes or across the back of the neck is my favorite headache reliever. It’s relatively easy to make a compress that is infused with essential oils (such as lavender or peppermint) using an unused sock or dishtowel, rice and a few drops of your choice essential oil. To make your own compress, check out this tutorial:
  • For some people a warm compress is the opposite of what they want. If you’d prefer a cold compress, soak a dishcloth in icy water with a few drops of your choice of oil and then apply. You could even throw it in the freezer for a couple of minutes to really cool it down.
  • Dilute two drops of rosemary (adding a drop of peppermint oil if you prefer) into a teaspoon of coconut oil and massage into your forehead, temples and back of the neck. (Warning: rosemary can cause severe irritation so use sparingly. Never use this oil internally)

If you have more serious headaches such as migraines, sinus or tension headaches, check out these specialized remedies.

Tension headaches:

These headaches are usually triggered by stress and the constant tension in your neck and shoulders it creates. You will usually experience a dull, constant pressure or pain with this type of headache.

  • Stress relief is a great way to counter these. Diffuse lavender in your home or try taking a bath with lavender oil.
  • If you’re in the midst of a tension headache, try eucalyptus or peppermint oil diluted in a carrier oil and applied to your temples, forehead and wrists.

Migraines:

Migraines are a severe type of headache that is associated with throbbing pain, nausea and light sensitivity. They’re triggered by stress, sleep deprivation and hormonal changes. To alleviate migraine pain try these essential oil remedies.

  • Massage lavender or peppermint oil, diluted in a carrier oil, into your temples or back of the neck.
  • Raising the temperature of your hands by 15 degrees Fahrenheit helps stop a migraine in its path. Add a couple drops of ginger and lavender to the water for an amplified effect.

Sinus headaches:

These headaches are caused by inflamed membranes of your sinus cavities. The pain will be located at your forehead.

  • Eucalyptus oil is a great option for clearing your airways. Add it to your carrier oil and apply to your chest, back of the neck, temples and forehead to help alleviate the pain.
  • Another great option with eucalyptus is to add the oil to a steaming pot of water and then breathe in the steam.

Whether you’re looking to cut back on your use of over the counter pain killers or you’re tired of the nasty side effects that can come from prescription medications, essential oils remedies are worth a try. For more info about essential oils and how to use them safely and effectively check out our article about the basics of using essential oils.

So, What Is Acupuncture?

Around 10% of the world’s population have a fear of needles. Being a member of that 10%, I have to admit the idea of acupuncture seemed like some kind of twisted joke to me. Who would want to be stuck with more than one of those awful needles? And people enjoy this? Turns out, most of what I knew about acupuncture was made up of common misconceptions of the practice. Turns out, the needles used for acupuncture are incredibly small and the benefits are huge.

The first system of acupuncture dates back to China in 100BC. Since then it has since gone through periods of great interest and complete disregard, however in relatively recent years scientists have redirected their attention toward the practice. Originally acupuncture was said to help balance Qi (pronounced chee) throughout the body. For most modern practitioners, acupuncture is focused on nerve endings and stimulating the body. While these ideas sound unrelated, they both focus entirely on what needs to be done to keep the body in balance.5-acupuncture

How it Works

Acupuncture works by the insertion of tiny needles into the top layer of skin in select acupuncture points. There are around 400 of these points on the body. Each of these points is home to nerve endings connected with different systems and organs in the body. Inserting the needles at these points stimulates the nerves and so affects the body. The acupuncturist will decide which points to focus on based on what you need.

By stimulating the different organs and systems of the body, acupuncturists are basically reminding the body of what it needs to do to heal itself. If you’re looking into acupuncture in order to increase your overall wellbeing, the acupuncture points chosen will help to balance your body’s interconnected systems. Basically, any problem you are suffering that has an internal source can be lessened by acupuncture.

Benefits

Most often acupuncture is a treatment sought by those dealing with pain of any sort. It helps with back pain, headaches, neck or shoulder pain, postoperative pain and pretty well any other sort of pain. However, there are many ailments that can be relieved by acupuncture treatments such as digestive issues, allergies, insomnia, asthma and more. The most common benefits, seen by anyone who seeks out acupuncture treatments, are better sleep, higher energy levels, lower stress levels, and better digestion.

What to Expect

Acupuncture doesn’t serve as a quick fix. It needs several treatments to make a difference. Think of it this way, you don’t expect one day of antibiotics to kick your sinus infection to the curb. It takes days before you feel normal again. The same goes for acupuncture. For general maintenance, patients will have one treatment a week, or every other week. For injuries or other ailments, you might need to go in more often.
acupuncture-needleThe needles used during acupuncture come in different sizes. If you have a fear of needles, all you have to do is mention it and they’ll use the smallest needle size available. When the needles are inserted in the acupuncture points, it’s described as a heavy feeling rather than any sort of pain. A lot of people don’t feel the needles at all.

Once the needles are inserted, the acupuncturist will leave them in and let you relax. The average acupuncture treatment lasts between 45 minutes and an hour. Once the treatment is over, some people leave feeling energized others leave feeling relaxed.

Finding an Acupuncturist

If you’re ready to jump on the acupuncture bandwagon, make sure that you check with

your insurance. Many people make the mistake of assuming it isn’t covered, but a lot of insurance companies are adding it as the practice gains traction.archana-ram-acupuncture

There are sites out there that will help you find an acupuncturist in your area, but the best way to find a great acupuncturist is through word of mouth. Ask friends, co-workers or family members who have tried acupuncture if they have someone they would recommend.

Keep in mind that certified acupuncturists have completed between 2,000-3,000 hours of training and have passed the board exams given by the National Certification Commission of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine.

So no, acupuncture isn’t some kind of torture, it’s a kind of healing. And with more and more people, even those who are scared of needles, turning to it every day, this practice of balancing the body is going to be around for thousands of years to come.

Essential Oils: The Basics

If you’ve ever tried to look up basic information about using essential oils you’ll know that typing something like “essential oils 101” into Google will actually give you hundreds of articles with 101 ways to use them.  If you’re interested in learning more about using essential oils, look no further! We’re here to help.

Essential oils are a highly concentrated version of the natural oils in plants. This means that you can get all of the benefits of the plant you’re using in one drop of its essential oil. These oils have an incredibly small molecular size, which allows them to penetrate the skin and enter the blood stream quickly. One drop, the typical amount you would use, can make it through your entire body in about 20 minutes.

Essential oils have been in use since ancient times. The ancient Egyptians are credited as the first to create a distillation machine to extract the oils, and Hippocrates “the father of medicine” is said to have utilized aromatherapy in ancient Greece. The practice as we know it today really started in the early 1900’s with French chemist Rene-Maurice Gattefosse, who became interested in the healing powers of essential oils after using lavender oil on a burn he suffered in the lab.

Today, essential oils are gaining popularity as people learn about their uses for skin and mental health, physical well being, cleaning and more. Essential oils are giving people a way to eliminate harmful chemicals that are present in everyday items such as beauty and cleaning products.  For example, lavender oil is frequently cited as a fantastic oil for relaxation, a cure for acne, and a remedy for migraine sufferers. Lemon oil’s antibacterial and anti fungal properties make it great for both body care and household cleaning. Even larger brands are seeing the benefits of these oils. You’ll find essential oils listed as ingredients for most organic or natural soaps, bath and body products, or organic cleaning products made by companies like Trader Joes and Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day.

The process of extracting essential oils from the plant is as unique as each plant itself. Sometimes the plants are steamed other times they are pressed. Some plants have the oils taken from the roots, others from the stems, seeds, bark, flowers, etc.

When you buy essential oils they’ll come in a small, dark glass bottle to protect the oil from oxidation. Storing essential oils in a place where they aren’t exposed to a lot of light (specifically sunlight) is best to preserve the potency of the oils. In the absence of light, essential oils take a long time to expire. Archaeologists actually found jars of essential oils in ancient Egyptian tombs that were still potent.

Ways to use essential oils:

essential-oil-bottle-with-lavender-candle-and-stonesTopically– This means that you apply the oil directly to the skin. It is recommended that you always use essential oils diluted with a fatty oil such as coconut oil. However, there are some oils that are considered generally safe for use undiluted. These include lavender, German chamomile, sandalwood and rose geranium. If you are trying an oil topically, it’s always a safe bet to dilute it and try it out on a small area on the skin of your inner arm before committing to using the oil on a larger area. This way you can see if you are going to have any sort of negative reaction. If you do, don’t wash it with water. Use a vegetable oil to dilute the oil and then wash with soap and water. Water actually intensifies the effect of essential oils, which is great if you’re trying achieve that affect for things such as soothing sore muscles. For this you can use a hot compress or take a hot bath or shower to intensify the effects. If you’re going to add them to your bath, don’t add the oil directly to the water (it floats). Instead, apply the oil to your skin before getting in or add a few drops to some Epsom salts and add to the water that way.

Diffusing– This is a pretty simple one. By allowing the essential oils to fill the air of your home, you can have a wonderful smelling apartment and create a space where you get some of the benefits of essential oils. For example, if you’re looking to make a space where you can de-stress, or if you need help falling asleep at night, try diffusing lavender in your bedroom. When you’re diffusing essential oils remember that they shouldn’t be heated up. It actually breaks down the compounds and makes them less effective. You can purchase a diffuser specifically for essential oils, or add a few drops to a spray bottle and fill it with water to create a kind of air freshener you can spray on surfaces.

Ingestion– This is another pretty simple one, but you have to make sure to be very careful. You can put the essential oil directly on your tongue or gums, add it to a capsule, or add it to your food as you’re cooking. Generally speaking, essential oils should be diluted if ingested. If you are choosing this route, it is important to remember that one drop of essential oil is equivalent to many plants. One drop of lemon oil is the equivalent of 20 lemons, and one drop of peppermint is the equivalent of 28 cups of peppermint leaves. This is why ingesting essential oils can be dangerous if not properly researched before use. Wintergreen oil, wormwood oil, bitter almond oil, and mustard oil are all actually really bad for you if ingested. If you’re unsure, make an appointment to see a certified herbalist. A good rule is to always treat essential oils with the same amount of caution you would give to medicine you get from the pharmacy.

oilsThe benefits of essential oils 

The benefits of essential oils are as varied as they come. You can use them for mental or physical health. Getting through a big project at work or battling a nasty cold. Once you decide to purchase essential oils and have found a reputable company to purchase from, you’ll have a starting guide on what essential oils to use to treat different ailments.

If you’re looking to get started with essential oils, have a chat with certified herbalist to make sure you understand how and what to use in your journey with essential oils. Some great “starter oils” might include lavender (for stress relief), peppermint (for nausea, vertigo, and headaches), and frankincense (for an immune system boost and coughing). No matter which route you choose, incorporating essential oils into your wellness routine is a great way to boost mood and overall health. Enjoy!

 

 

 

Ten Yoga Stretches for the Workplace

 

It’s no surprise that sitting at a desk for eight hours a day isn’t healthy. We try to get up and walk around the office every few hours or set our computer monitors up on books to decrease neck strain, but in most cases we still suffer from the aches and pains that come with desk jobs. If you’re struggling with issues such as back and shoulder pain, tight hips or “tech neck” check out these 10 awesome yoga poses you can do at your desk.

  1. Shoulder Rolls– Remember these from P.E. in grade school? Turns out, they’re fantastic for releasing tension in the shoulders and upper back in the work place.

How to do it: Sit tall in your chair and (inhale) lift one shoulder up to your ear, (exhale) roll your shoulder back and down. Do three or four shoulder rolls on one side and then move to the opposite side. To finish this exercise inhale both shoulders up to your ears and exhale to relax them back down.

  1. Neck Stretch– Once you’ve been staring at a screen for a while, your neck might start to ache. Try this to stretch out those cramped muscles.

How to do it: Sit tall in your chair, aligning your head over your spine. Drop your left ear down to your shoulder, pressing down with your left hand if you need more of a stretch. Make sure not to lift your shoulder for this exercise. Hold this pose for a few seconds before switching sides.5d9b34687e4c73e63f03f5902e863c54

Bonus Stretch: If you liked the Neck Stretch, try adding a few rolls in to further loosen your neck muscles.Close your eyes and drop your chin to your chest. Slowly roll your head around (shoulder, looking up, shoulder, looking down). Make sure to keep your shoulders loose and to switch directions after five or so times around.

  1. Open Chest Stretch– I am absolutely in love with this one. It helps to release any tightness in the middle back and chest as well as decreasing rounded shoulders.

How to do it: Sit on the edge of your chair and interlace your fingers behind you (palms facing your body). Lean forward, lift your arms and rest them on the back of your chair. As you inhale lift your chest.  As you exhale relax your shoulders down. If your chair is too tall for your arms to rest on the back, hold on to the sides as far up as you’re comfortable with.

  1. Seated Twist– Practically every office yoga article you come across will list this exercise. It’s great for quick relief for your achy back from hunching and sitting for too long.

How to do it: Sit tall in your chair, inhale, and on the exhale twist to the side. Use your chair’s armrest or back for support. Hold for a few seconds and twist to the opposite side. One great piece of advice I read was to focus on twisting from the bottom of your spine, focus on using your abs rather than your back.

  1. Wrist Stretch: Tasks such as writing and typing builds tension in your hands, fingers and wrists. I’ve seen these recommended as a break for every two hours you spend typing.

How to do it: Reach your arms out to the sides and circle your wrists forward five times then backwards. Once you’ve done that spread your fingers out, making your hands as big as possible then make a fist, repeat five or more times.gjst

Bonus Stretch: Move back from your computer and stretch your arms out in front of you, gently pull your hand to bend your wrist in both directions (fingertips toward the top of your arm and then the inside of your wrist).

  1. Shoulder Opener: This is great for pushing your shoulders back into alignment and fighting the hunch back we get when we’ve been sitting at a desk and typing for too long.

How to do it: Push your chair back far enough that your hands are the only thing that can reach your desk. Brace them on the desk and lower your head between your arms.

  1. Hip Opener:

How to do it: Place your left ankle on top of your right knee, flexing your foot and pressing the inside of your foot away from your body. Fold forward. Stay here for 10 to 15 breaths. For a deeper stretch try to brush your fingers along the ground. Make sure to stretch on both sides.

  1. Hamstring Stretch: Being at the front desk, this one isn’t one I’ve tried at my desk, but it is one to keep in mind if you have tight hamstrings.

How to Do it: Sit close to the edge of your chair and place your heel on the surface of your desk (another chair, or open, sturdy drawer will work too if your desk isn’t at a comfortable height). Flex your foot back. Breath in to lengthen the spine, breathe out and fold forward. You might find that just sitting with your foot up is plenty of a stretch. That’s okay! Just do whatever feels best to you.

  1. Seated Crescent Moon Pose: One part of our body that we tend to neglect with office yoga is our sides. When you’re going through your office yoga give them a little love with this easy stretch.jd

How do to it: Sit straight in your chair and bring your arms together above your head. Lean to the right (holding for 5 or so seconds) and then to the left.

10. Seated Forward Bend: This one is really great if you ever need to take a moment to de-stress.

How to do it: Push your chair back from your desk and keep your feet flat on the floor. Interlace your fingers behind your back and hinge forward at the waist, resting your chest on your thighs and relaxing your neck. Pull your hands up away from your back.

These stretches take some getting used to and you can tweak them to make them work for you. I had to adjust the height of my desk chair a couple of times to make the poses more comfortable. However, it’s amazing how after just a few of these stretches your body will feel more relaxed and comfortable, which will help you bring down your stress levels and boost your energy.

 

 

Go Deep With Yin Yoga

Meditation is all about being still, but that can be tough if you find the seated pose uncomfortable. If you’re having trouble sitting comfortably for the length of your meditation, you might want to check out Yin Yoga. This style of yoga is designed to help you sit longer and more comfortably when you’re meditating. It is made up of deep, passive stretches that are held for longer periods of time.

Yin yoga gets its name from the Taoist concept of Yin and Yang. These opposite forces make up the entire world around us. Yin is the stable, hidden aspect of things, and Yang is the moving, revealing aspect. Most yoga we think about in the western world is an active, yang practice. It focuses on strengthening muscles and cleansing our bodies. Yin yoga focuses on the connective tissue in the body and helps to prepare you for the still practices such as meditation.

yin-yoga-012Another aspect of Taoism is qi (pronounced chee).  Qi is the energy flowing through the body and meridians are the pathways it follows. Practices such as meditation, Tai Chi, yoga, and acupuncture seek to balance this energy. Recently, Dr. Hiroshi Motoyama and Dr. James Oschman have been studying the possibility that the connective tissues running throughout the body might be the pathways that allow qi to flow through our bodies. This is where Yin yoga focuses.

Focusing on working the connective tissues might strike you as odd. Most of the time, you only hear about the connective tissues when dealing with some sort of injury, such as strained backs or blown out knees and shoulders, so our instinct is to avoid using them in exercise. However, as with any form of exercise, yin yoga focuses on working these tissues in order to strengthen them. In this way, yin yoga is a great choice for athletes who are at risk of joint injuries like the ones I listed before.

It is important to remember that connective tissues are still very different from muscle and so should not be worked in the same ways. When lifting weights, we are working our muscles by continually lifting the dumbbell; this repetitive motion is what builds muscle. When strengthening connective tissues, the trick isn’t to repeat the stretch, but to hold the stretch for longer periods of time.gaiatree-yin-yoga-1024x768

So, what is different about participating in a Yin yoga class as compared to other yoga classes? Many of the poses are similar, but have been modified so that the muscles are relaxed during the stretch. This is what allows us to really work the connective tissues. Think of it this way, if someone tugs on your arm, you instinctively tense your muscles to protect your shoulder and the connective tissues around it. Yin yoga poses put you in a position where your muscles can relax and so the stretch focuses on the connective tissue. The poses are held for a longer time than in other classes, 1-3 minutes for beginners and 5 minutes or more for advanced practitioners.

Consider taking a class or two to introduce yourself to the altered poses and learn how to listen to your body when stretching. Try committing to practicing yin yoga just twice a week and you’ll see how it can change the way you feel when you sit down to meditate, helping you maintain your posture, and deepen your practice.

Ten Ways To Add Mindfulness To Your Day

In our busy lives, sometimes it’s hard to commit to a firm meditation routine. If you’re looking to dip a toe into the waters of mindful living, check out these ten mindfulness exercises that are short, sweet and to the point.

  1. Take 3 – Take a moment and notice three things you can hear, then three things you can see, and finally three things you can feel.
  2. Make a Fist – Grasp your hands really tight and hold for 5-10 seconds. When you release notice the feelings in your hands and focus on these for as long as you can.
  3. mindfulness-exercises-studentsThe Inside of a Smile – Take a moment and smile to yourself, closing your eyes if you want. Notice how the smile feels on your face. What feelings does smiling evoke in you? You can try this with a small smile or a wide, excited smile.
  4. Stop and Smell the Roses -Take a deep breath and smell something strong such as coffee beans, flowers, or perfume. Notice the sensations in your nose and the feelings that the scent provokes.
  5. Mindful Watching – Next time you sit down to watch a movie, pay attention to the process of becoming engrossed in the plot. Notice how the story affects your emotions as it plays out. Remember, the point of being mindful is to observe without judgment.
  6. Eating Meditation– If you plan on eating at some point during your day, you have the perfect opportunity to be mindful! When you sit down to eat, try to really notice the smell, color and look of your food. When you take a bite focus on how the textures feel in your mouth, the taste of the food and your body’s reaction to it. You don’t need to do this for the entire meal, but really being in the present for one or two bites gives you a few minutes of mindfulness.
  7. The Candle – Take a few minutes in a darkened room and focus your attention entirely on a lit candle. Notice everything about it. When your mind wanders, bring it back to the candle.
  8. Take a Hike -If you have 10-15 minutes to walk during the day, this exercise is great for you. As you walk, take the time to really notice your senses. Notice how it feels when your feet touch the ground, what the leaves on the trees look like, the sound of birds or cars passing by. The trick is to keep your mind on the present. If and when your mind drifts to the problems or triumphs of the day, gently bring yourself back to the present.
  9. One Breath– Take a moment to notice the feeling of just one breath, or more if you’re up for it.
  10. Body Scan – Starting at the top, slowly work your way down your body, tensing and releasing all of the muscles. Really notice how your body and mind react when you do this.

Ideally, to build your mindful lifestyle, small mindfulness exercises like these would be used alongside the more formal meditation. Think of it as formal meditation being your workouts and these small exercises being your healthy diet. Just like when you adopt a healthy lifestyle, you need continual dedication to your goal for living mindfully. Even if you don’t have the time to devote to formal meditation, taking up small mindful habits can make a difference in your life. Try out these short mindfulness techniques, mix and match them, or combine them to create a mindfulness habit that’s entirely your own.

 

Wonderfully Wacky Yoga

Since yoga came to the western world, it has seen hundreds of different styles and modifications. While a basic Hatha yoga class will never fail in helping you get healthy and calming your mind, sometimes it’s even more beneficial to switch things up. This might mean trying out a different instructor’s class, jumping from Hatha to a Vinyasa class, or maybe something a little more…out there. If you’re looking to break out of your routine, would you give any of these wacky yoga classes a try?

Foodie Yoga

Love food? Who doesn’t? Check out this foodieawesome style of yoga. David Romanelli founded Yoga for Foodies, Yoga + Chocolate, and Yoga + Wine. Imagine munching on chocolate during your workout and the instructor is totally fine with it! While wine and chocolate are great during a yoga workout, think of a chef prepared meal awaiting you afterwards. Talk about motivation!

Paddle board Yoga

If balance is your biggest concern, you might want to stick with the other options on this list, options that stay on dry ground. This style of yoga involves entire workouts done on a stand up paddle board (SUP). Connecting with nature and the calming effect of being on the water aside, this style of yoga has fantastic benefits. Because of the SUP’s movement, you can see exactly where you’re placing the pressure of your body in the poses. If you lean more to one side, the paddleboard will lean. It’s a great way to learn to center your balance. Don’t live near an ocean? No worries, these classes can take place on any kind of body of water whether it be an ocean, lake, pond or (if you’re desperate) pool.

Yoga with Cats and Dogs

A cat café in New York has started a new trend of including feline friends in our yoga workouts. This kind of workout involves cats prowling around the room during yoga classes. Some of the cats sit back, others hang out on your mat while some join in the yoga fun. Some people have gone so far as to incorporate their cats into their actual yoga poses.

dogaDoga combines meditation and massages for your K9 companion. This style of yoga emphasizes union and connecting with others like the dogs, who are pack animals. Some believe that Doga is just a fad, others (myself included) can’t imagine getting their dog to go along with them to yoga class, while devotees believe that Doga is beneficial to both the dog and their human counterpart.

Broga

Broga was founded in 2011 by two guys who wanted a space for yoga that was more inclusive for men. In these classes, the poses are focused more on the naturally strong areas for men such as the back and arms. These classes tend to focus less on flexibility or spirituality. Probably the coolest part of this trend, they also have a site brogamats.com with fantastically guy-oriented products such as army men in yoga poses and yoga bags that look like burritos.broga

Tantrum Yoga

Have you ever wanted to throw a massive, toddler level tantrum? Tantrum yoga gives you that opportunity. These classes include traditional yoga, breathing and meditation and incorporate dance and vocal techniques. The thought behind this practice is that, just like when you were a kid, throwing a fit helps you release the negative emotions. Practitioners are encouraged to scream, stomp, yell or pound their chests. After a tantrum yoga class practitioners always find themselves ready to laugh and relax.

Rave Yoga

This style of yoga brings the spiritual element back to celebrations. These workouts last for around 4 hours, and are proud to be in a completely drug, smoke and alcohol free environment. The party starts with yoga to warm up, then an easy guided meditation, which leads into the music portion of the evening. The whole night ends with another meditation. There’s also a nonalcoholic bar serving drinks and vegetarian food all night.

rave

Depending on where you live, you might find more wacky yoga styles, such as mommy & me yoga, nude yoga, and aerial yoga. So if you’re looking to break from your routine check out the wacky yoga classes in your area and see if any of them would be a perfect break for you.

Moving Meditation

Tai Chi is a form of meditative movement. Similar to yoga, it combines breath and movement to improve overall physical and emotional health. Over the years, Tai Chi has grown in popularity due to its low impact nature. It can be adapted to just about anyone’s level of fitness and is relatively inexpensive with no special equipment needed.

While the origins of Tai Chi are made up of a combination of legend and fact, the most reliable sources date the beginning of Tai Chi back to the 16th century when Chen Wangting developed the foundational Chen Style Tai Chi.
Tai Chi is a major branch of the traditional Chinese martial arts that infuses the philosophy of Taoism into its movements. Taoism stresses the natural balance in all living things. 344b4bba6b72be6f6ce6adca8bcd72d4910e3ed8.jpgHave you ever seen the Yin and Yang symbols? This is where those originate. According to Taoism, the world is full of these opposite but complementary halves. These halves work together in a balance that creates inner peace and outer tranquility. The movements in Tai Chi work with this balance, which is what makes it so effective as a form of meditation.

Tai Chi Basics

Tai Chi is non-competitive and self-paced. As you practice you’ll flow between movements without pausing so that your body is in constant motion. The meditative quality of Tai Chi is in its focus on how your body feels while going through these movements.

The sets of movements are called forms. Some forms are short and made up of less than 12 movements. Others are much longer and can be made up of hundreds. Movements are usually circular and never forced. The muscles are meant to stay relaxed and the joints are never fully extended or bent.

Check out this video to see what Tai Chi looks like!

Benefits

While Tai Chi hasn’t been studied quite as extensively as other forms of exercise, here are some of the great benefits that can come from regular Tai Chi practice.

  • Helps reduce arthritis pain
  • Decreased stress
  • Improved mood
  • Increased energy
  • Improved flexibility, balance and agility
  • Improved muscle strength and definition
  • Better Sleep
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Improved overall well being

cr-health-ah-healthy-tai-chi-in-park-03-16

Getting Started

While there are some great books and DVD’s out there to learn Tai Chi, it’s generally suggested to attend a class before striking out on your own. Since Tai Chi instructors don’t have a training or certification program, you should make sure to ask about your instructor’s background and experience.

If you’re not sure about a class, ask about observing first to check out if it is a place you might like. If you’re looking for Tai Chi classes, check out these awesome places,

As with any new exercise program, check with your doctor before starting Tai Chi. Otherwise, check out a class near you and start feeling the benefits of this moving meditation.

The Benefits of Using Coconut Oil

It seems like we can’t talk about any sort of health or home issue without hearing how coconut oil can fix it. From squeaky doors and rust covered tools to teeth whitening and acne scars, everything has some sort of “cure” to be found in coconut oil. So, are the benefits of coconut oil really as awesome as everyone says? Or is this another case of “if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is?”

Coconut oil’s secret is that it’s made up of medium chain triglycerides (MCT’s). These triglycerides are processed differently in the body, making them more likely to be burned off than stored as body fat. Studies have also found that it also raises good cholesterol. It has been said to help with heart health, prevent Alzheimer’s, aid in weight loss, and it makes for a great moisturizer.

can-coconut-oil-cure-alzheimers

Heart Health

If you ever talk to a coconut oil enthusiast, they’ll probably bring up the fact that coconut oil is proven to raise good cholesterol levels. However, it will also raise your level of bad cholesterol. It’s not known if the increase in the good outweighs the increase in the bad at this time, but that doesn’t mean there are no benefits to speak of.

In moderation, coconut oil is actually a healthy replacement for cooking with butter and lard. The American Heart Association states that you should only get 13 grams of saturated fats a day, that’s only 1 tbs of coconut oil. Otherwise, try to get most of your dietary fats from unsaturated sources, such as olive oil, avocado and nuts.

Here’s how to bake with coconut oil:

  • In most recipes, you can replace butter with coconut oil at a 1:1 ratio. So, if you needed half a cup of butter, you need half a cup of coconut oil. Some people choose to only substitute half so that the coconut flavor isn’t as strong. So, you’d end up adding ¼ cup of butter and ¼ cup of coconut oil, rather than the half cup of butter the recipe calls for.
  • If the recipe calls for salted butter, you’ll need to add salt in your substitution. You’ll need to add about half a teaspoon per stick of salted butter.
  • Temperature and bake time will not change.


coconut-oil-and-wooden-spoonAlzheimer’s

This claim has not been researched at all, so there is no scientific evidence to site as to whether it’s true or not. However, coconut oil does contain antioxidants that may help reduce the risk of disease, but you’ll get a bigger antioxidant boost from vegetables, fruits and whole grains.

Weight Loss

Since the MCT’s are processed differently, there are a number of claims that coconut oil is exactly what you’ve been missing in your weight loss plan. While diversifying the cooking oils in your diet is always a great option to get more healthy fats, there isn’t anything about upping your intake of coconut oil that will make you shed pounds faster. Actually, coconut oil is pretty high in calories (117 calories per tablespoon). If you plan on incorporating higher amounts of coconut oil into your diet, you’re going to have to cut back elsewhere.

Beauty

One quick search of coconut oil on Pinterest and you’ll find thousands of possible uses and recipes for coconut oil body wash, face masks, and conditioners. While not every use you’ll read about is going to be a miracle cure, there are some uses that are widely used and praised.

Moisturizer: Using coconut oil as a moisturizer, especially in the winter months, has become increasingly common. This is really great for really dry skin, such as on the elbows or heels, and to keep your cuticles from cracking.

Makeup Remover: coconut oil is a great option for those who have skin that can’t tolerate the harsher makeup removers.

Conditioner: You might have noticed that several beauty brands have come out with coconut oil shampoos and conditioners. If you prefer the cheaper route, there are hundreds of concoctions for coconut oil conditioners on the web. Just plain coconut oil will help tame frizz and can improve scalp health.

coconut-oil-for-health.jpg

So yes, the overall health benefits of coconut oil have been exaggerated a bit. No, it’s not the cure to Alzheimer’s or cancer and it’s not going to make you shed 50 pounds in a week. But if you’re looking to recreate your Grandma’s chocolate chip cookie recipe and can’t bear to add that pound of lard to the recipe, or if you’re struggling to find a moisturizer in this dry, cold winter weather, you should definitely give coconut oil a try.