Tag Archives: stretching

Intent of the Day: Stretch It Out


Is the weather highlighting just how stiff and achy you are these days? We don’t always reward our muscles with a good stretch after all their hard work and that, along with bad posture, long hours sitting and other medical conditions can contribute to pain and soreness. But it doesn’t have to stay that way!

Stretching can be a free and effective way to beat the pain, get the blood flowing again and have you climbing mountains (or at least getting in and our of your car) again. Our intent today is to take time to stretch our muscles.

You too? Here are 3 things to help you get your stretch on: Continue reading

10 Ways You Know You’ve Become the Ultimate Annoying (and Lovable) Transatlantic Yogi

Meditation RoomMost of us may find ourselves wondering sometimes if it’s an upside down world.

But maybe especially so when the journey you’re making means you have to first go bi-coastal across the USA and then carry on to make a transatlantic crossing all in one transit plan. 6000 miles in under 24hrs, multiple stops – with 300 passengers on each of your flights, tens of thousand of people going through airports with you, airline staff, baggage staff, hotel staff and transit drivers: in 24 hrs of less, you get to see the whole world.

It’s intense.

No one can say that yoga can’t help us when we’re involved in as much intensity as this. It’s relaxing, right? It’s stress relieving. It’s stretching. Everyone can use a little yoga on airport days.

But beware. There are signs that you’ve crossed the line from being someone who sometimes does yoga to being a yogi when you start doing things that are as natural to you as they are probably irritating to people around you – but you really can’t help it!

Because whilst everyone else is just trying to make the whole flight/layover/connection as ‘enjoyable’ an experience as it can be given the circumstances, you may instead be contemplating the extent to which we humans will go just to avoid the sensation of suffering: serving alcohol on airplanes to offer stress and boredom relief; offering continuous in-flight entertainment to provide distraction from long hours; enabling shopping from the air or in airports to give the feeling of pleasure when actually airplanes and airports are all about pressure.

And you might consciously decide not to seek pleasure as a response to pressure. You might choose to respond to the 6000 mile half-way-round-the-world 24 hour ride with the commitment to maintain as much stillness as you can for every single moment of the journey, so that when you get to your final destination you have all the energy, poise, and clarity you need to do whatever in the world you would go such a distance to do.

If you’re doing these 10 things, be warned: you’re a transatlantic traveling yogi, taking the journey at a pace all of your own, quite possibly irritating others with your daft and baffling ways, breathing in and breathing out as the world keeps turning, and things just keep moving – and maybe, you wouldn’t have it any other way…

  1. As soon as your transatlantic flight is in the air, you don’t even think about viewing the film choices because instead you have a short list of favorite mantras that you love silently chanting, and now you’re thinking about which ones you’ll repeat for each one of the hours that you’re in the air – and wondering what sequence it would be best to do them in…no, really.
  2. On a transatlantic flight you get up after a few hours in the air and start doing gentle ‘stretches’ in the aisle that happen to involve casually balancing on your left leg, whilst your right arm (that you’d casually stretched in to the air a few seconds ago) stoops down to pick up your right foot a few inches below the right toes from the inside, and you begin kicking the right leg out as far as you can without anyone really properly noticing, before bringing it back to the ground: acting again as if nothing really just happened and you were just having a regular little stretch…. like… ‘What?’
  3. You genuinely wonder at 3am in the morning on a transatlantic flight, when the cabin is in complete darkness, and everyone is either asleep, or wearing those eye masks or watching films that look like they’re glowing in the dark, if anyone would really notice or mind if you went for a full downward facing dog in the aisle, just to really stretch things out – and you find you’re asked by the flight attendants to not do that as they still need clear access to the aisles at all times.
  4. You ask the flight attendants for hot water every time they come by with the drinks cart and cheerfully hand them over your own reusable flask that you brought with you for the trip – and they say ‘Don’t you want me throw that tea bag out?’ And you reply ‘No, it’s rose and tulsi. It can take another round of hot water yet…’ Because it’s your favorite soothing thing in the world. And they oblige, but you can see they’re a little bit dismayed.
  5. The flight attendants feel so bad for you when they offer you ‘beef, chicken or pasta’ because you – with a sincerely sad face tell them you thought you ordered a vegan menu choice or a raw fruit platter when you made your reservation – that they come back 20 minutes later with small pots of fresh pineapple and melon and say ‘Your order just isn’t here, but we found some of these… could this work for you? Would this help?’ And then they smile because they see that you too are deeply smiling again.
  6. You call your family/friends/lover/life partner/colleagues from the airport when you land to let them know that you’ve arrived and and you say ‘My hips are so tight from just sitting in that air conditioned cylinder for so long. They really need to breathe…’ You notice there is silence at the other end of the phone.
  7. Your smiling, patient, unargumentative demeanour baffles all the airline staff who have to speak to you when your airline sent you to the wrong terminal for your connecting flight resulting in you missing the flight altogether, spending the night (at your expense) in a hotel and your airline trying to charge you $200 to book you on a next day flight – because you understand that your guru is giving you a chance to live your yoga under pressure: at once giving you the opportunity to burn karma and practice equanimity in all circumstances even though there’s a part of you that is so tired you could actually burst out crying.
  8. You see an orange robed Buddhist monk at the airport lounge whilst waiting for your connection and get kind of excited to think how maybe he’ll sit next to you and together you’ll talk about ‘Dharma’ – and you witness yourself feeling a little deflated when he walks right by you with great purpose and heads straight to the Costa Coffee instead. And whilst you notice (without any judgement) how assertive your ego is being, at the same time you seriously wonder if you should follow him to Costa and sit next to him in case he wants to talk…erm, ‘sangha’ – but, thankfully, your wisdom kicks in and instead you decide to go and get some more hot water and watch a video instead.
  9. You are delighted to get internet connection at the airport whilst waiting for your connection because you can finally catch up on some video entertainment – and you choose to watch videos of Himalayan babas teaching ancient yogic techniques to activate the pineal gland.
  10. You do your best to approach the hours and hours of your life that are being played out in airports in between flights with easiness – because after all, the more time there is in between ‘doing’, the more time there is for ‘being’ – and you find you can tune out the sound of warehouse trollies, baggage trollies, crowds coming out of elevators, and babies crying as you go deeper in your sadhana (be it asana, meditation, or chanting) under florescent strip lights.

But you always do open your eyes every 5 minutes or so in case said trollies, or crowds or children need to get past you – because somewhere inside you you have preserved enough sanity to remember that Yoga is not about escaping the world, but about showing up in it fully present, and of becoming aware of what, in this present moment, the next right action could be.

I made it to the other side today.

LAX-LHR done.
LGW-EDI: pending.
Nearly done. Two hours to go.
The florescent strips are shining bright. And I am breathing.
Om Shanti.


Originally published on my blog, The Modern Girl’s Guide to Spirituality.

Yoga Classes Online – YogaToday.com – Great Resource!

I love yoga.  I love going to my local yoga studio.  I am not sure why it is so hard for me to get my butt out the door and into the yoga studio!  But it is a challenge.  I don’t have any problem going to CrossFit classes.  It is a strange phenomenon!

I was talking to a friend about this and she has the same issue.  She told me she now does yoga classes at home in her living room using YogaToday.com.  She said that the classes are great and there were many to choose from, plus the yearly membership is only $85.95 which is less than a 1 month membership at most yoga studios.  They also offer 1 free class per week to non-members. It all sounded great to me!

I signed up for the 2 week free-trial and did a few classes in the comfort of my living room.  I couldn’t believe the huge selection of classes!  You can choose classes based on skill level, instructor, and focus.  The videos are high quality and the streaming works perfectly.

I signed up for a year membership and will combine my home practice with my visits to my favourite yoga studio.  For me, it is the perfect combo!  Plus I can take YogaToday.com with me when I am traveling.

If you want to try yoga at home, check out their 2 week free-trial and see how you like it!

To your health,

Kim Duess
You Be Healthy

How to Om at Home: Starting a Home Yoga Practice

Having the ability to practice yoga at home, without the need for a teacher or studio, has many benefits, including convenience, cost-savings, and added creative license. Students often express an interest in practicing on their own, particularly while traveling away from their regular studios and health clubs during the summer months; however, they’re unsure of how to begin.

I believe that practicing solo provides yogis with essential opportunities for growth. Free from the confines of a structured class, a home practice allows for greater self-expression and deeper meditation. Here are a few suggestions to help you cultivate a knack for om-ing at home.

1. Start small. Many people are overwhelmed by the prospect of remembering or recreating the sequence of a 60 or 90-minute class, which is why it’s best to throw that idea out the window. Instead, start with 10-15 minutes. Your sequence can be as simple as 5 rounds of sun salutations and sivasana, or child’s pose followed by seated postures such as half pigeon, upavista konasana (seated straddle), and pascimottanasana (seated forward bend). 

2. Create space. It’s important to create space for your home practice. This doesn’t mean you need to build a yoga room with bamboo floors and import a statue of Ganesh from India. Truth be told, your home might not have a separate room for yoga but rather a little space on your bedroom floor or a few squares of linoleum in the kitchen, which is fine. The concept of creating space doesn’t actually require much square footage at all– just enough for the length of a yoga mat and the height and width of your arm span. While in college, I once worried about not being able to practice yoga while studying abroad. I’ll never forget my ashtanga teacher’s response: You can practice yoga in a prison cell. Fortunately, I’ve never had to test the theory, but he’s right. The beauty of yoga is its simplicity. To that end, create an oasis for yourself by turning off all cell phones, computers, TVs, iPads, etc. Perhaps you light a candle to make the space feel serene and special. Your yoga space doesn’t have to be elaborate or elegant, just welcoming.
3. Play favorites. The most liberating part about a home practice is the freedom to choose your own asanas. In the beginning, it’s important to develop a sense of play on your mat. Don’t worry about the "right" order of poses. Choose your favorites and build a mini class around them. Over time, you will learn how to order your yoga postures effectively. However, your initial goal is getting on your mat and having some fun, not reenacting one of B.K.S. Iyengar’s books, pose for pose, page by page.
4. Cheat. Speaking of books, there are oodles of yoga resources to help you acquire the knowledge you need to fly solo, such as books, blogs, DVDs, magazines, podcasts, and more. For the study abroad trip I mentioned earlier, I left home with a yoga mat and Beryl Bender Birch’s book Power Yoga and returned a few months later not only comfortable practicing by myself but also leading classes for more than 100 of my peers, professors, and members of the school staff at once. If you feel adrift on your mat without an instructor, use a "cheat sheet" in the form of one of the above resources or a few notes written on a piece of paper until you get the hang of structuring a practice on your own.
5. Groove. As you know, different teachers and styles of yoga have different- often strong- opinions about playing music during class. Some see it as a crucial element for setting a certain mood or theme; others think it’s a crutch for both students and teachers. At home, none of this matters. First-time solo yogis usually benefit from playing music, as it encourages rhythm and provides another outlet for self-expression (not to mention drowning out the sound of your roommate playing bongos in the other room or the neighbor mowing the lawn). That’s right, if you want to practice yoga to Rihanna or The Red Hot Chili Peppers or The Rolling Stones, go ahead! Rock on with your bad yogi self.
Readers: Do you practice yoga at home? If so, what are some of your keys to solo success?

A Poor Gal’s Pedicure

If you practice yoga, you spend a fair amount of time looking at your feet. The more often you practice yoga, the more you look at your feet, and with the arrival of open-toe shoe weather, others, too, will now be looking at your feet.

What does this mean? You need a pedicure.
Not so fast. Pedicures feel luxurious and look lovely; however, you can provide your tootsies with some of the same health benefits at home, for free. (Save your money for your yoga classes or health club membership).
Toes Pose is a very simple and potent stretch for toes and feet. It is essential for athletes, people who spend long hours standing (think: nurses, chefs, hair stylists, etc.), and/or fashionistas, who teeter around town in sky-high heels. All these activities have the potential to jam our toes and confine our feet until they cramp, contort, and ache.
I should forewarn you that although this pose is simple, it is not easy. I recommend doing it at home while you watch TV, before yoga class when you arrive on your mat, or during your home practice. Over time, it will get easier, and, eventually, it will feel divine . . .
Step 1: Start by standing on your knees, curling under all ten toes (you might need to help your pinky toe by folding it back with your fingers).
Step 2: Next, sit back onto your heels. Try to stay here for ten deep breaths. If the sensation is too intense for your feet, return to Step 1. Don’t let your mind panic and become unwieldy. Your deep ujayi breath will support you.

Step 3: Release the pose by un-tucking your toes, setting your hands behind you, and lifting your shins and knees off the floor. The stretch in the tops of your feet, ankles, and shins will feel amazing . . . and keep your toes looking spacious, straight, and happy.
And, if you must splurge on a pedicure. Choose an awesomely vibrant summer hue for your happy and healthy feet.



Exercise: Movement that Matters

Exercise boosts the immune system, prevents or treats many diseases, improves focus, elevates mood and stabilizes it for at least twelve hours. After a sluggish summer, fall is almost here with its fresh, new energy providing you with an opportunity to discover individualized movements that you enjoy while you harness your power.

Many people don’t exercise because they are
* Ashamed of their appearance – others will sneer at  the gym or dance class
* Afraid of failure – if you don’t try, you can’t fail.
* Fatigued by stress and unhappiness

However, when you perceive exercise as grounding, self-healing and generating positive energy, you will stay motivated and become habituated. Consider that your workout has a spiritual component:  a series of holy moments to strengthen your body to house your spirit. To get physically fit address the basic needs of your body and mind: strength training, aerobics and stretching.

Strength training teaches you to operate at full strength by tightening a loose mind. I always say, “Lift weights to lift your spirits” and you can quantify your personal improvement with the weight of the dumbbells or kettle bells that you use. You can use machines at the gym which keep you in proper posture for execution, or you can use free weights for core stabilization or even use your own body as resistance. Aim for at least 2 strength training sessions a week for 30 minutes – and you are never too old. Here’s what you can do at home with your own body:

* Push-off with a push up using your body’s own resistance and for a wonderful total upper body workout strengthening your chest, triceps and abdominals. You can do them on the floor, full body or modified, off the wall, or off the kitchen counter.
* Get grounded with squats. They are a total lower body workout which you can do even by getting up from your chair. Just don’t use your arms when you rise and push off your heels.
* Add some lunges. Begin by doing them in place, alternating legs, and then do walking lunges. You will strengthen your legs to walk to your next happiness.
* Visit a gym or community center and learn the basics of using dumb bells, stability balls and other equipment.  You can take it from there.  You can sign up for group classes and find some workout buddies.
* Watch exercise videos and follow along.

Aerobics workouts are so much fun that we get addicted to the high: Our bodies are moving, good energy is generated and our minds break out of a worry loop to become carefree. Follow your heart and do it for at least twenty minutes 3 times a week. Use upbeat music (periodically change it) and try:

* Speed walking or jogging – alone or with friends for accountability
* Dancing – salsa, belly dancing, zumba, or make up your own
* Boxing/ martial arts – process-oriented
* Bicycling
* Swimming
* Join a sports league
* Gym equipment like ellipticals, stationary bikes, treadmills, rowers
* Housework counts if you do it with alacrity!

When your workout gets easier, you can change: speed, sequence of the exercises and intensity.  Change promotes muscle stimulation. You can incorporate aerobics with strength training by doing short intervals in between your weight lifting moves, like marching or jogging in place.

Stretching will elongate your contracted muscles and keep you flexible. Stiffness leads to chronic pain as you age. Stretching encourages your mind to be more flexible about its preconceived notions and self-justification. You will learn to breathe and be still with yourself. Yoga is excellent for returning to your breath, centering yourself and stretching yourself into new realms of possibility. Aim to stretch after workouts (when your muscles are warm) for a few minutes or in longer sessions a couple of times a week.

Don’t overdo it! Muscles need to recover between workouts by resting. Don’t pound your body into submission. Use exercise as a spring board for overall quality self-care which includes eating healthy foods. Always check with your doctor when exercising for the first time or if you have a special condition.

Exercise can be a moving meditation. Give your workouts a specific intention or affirmation, so you think it and do it. Ultimately, you will become it. Conceive, believe, achieve.

10 Ways to Power Up Your Energy

1.) Give someone you love a big hug. Giving my husband a big hug in the middle of a stressful, fatiguing day is an instant energizer for me.
2.) Drink a large glass of water with freshly-squeezed lemon juice. Over 80 percent of people are dehydrated and one of the symptoms is fatigue. Additionally, most people are acidic and the fresh lemon juice helps balance your pH, which spells greater energy, mental clarity, and improved cellular functioning. (Check out more in my book: The Ultimate pH Solution.) 
3.) Stop for one minute to breathe deeply. Research shows that even as little as 30 seconds of deep breathing can slow the production of adrenal hormones that keep our bodies feeling stressed-out. 
4.) Go for a brisk walk. Getting blood circulating is a great way to increase energy levels. Plus the extra oxygen helps boost energy and improve mental functioning.
5.) Eat a large green salad with a handful of sprouts. The vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients and enzymes in these Life Force Gold Foods spell instant (and sustained energy) plus they pack a serious disease-fighting punch. (Check out more in my book: The Life Force Diet.)
6.) One of my favorite ways to recharge is to enjoy a detox foot spa. Not only is it relaxing to soak your feet for half an hour, I’ve seen blood tests of people before and after a series of 10 sessions that show reductions in levels of harmful heavy metals.  For me, I always find it gives me a boost of energy too. My favorite is the Platinum Energy Systems model (www.PlatinumEnergySystems.ca).
7.) Another way I love to recharge my batteries is to visualize myself with my hubby in my favorite place (Banff, Canada in the Rocky Mountains for me) breathing in fresh mountain air, enjoying the glorious views, with the sunshine pouring down on us. Take a break from the every day tasks by visualizing yourself in your ideal setting having the most fun you can imagine.
8.) Snack on some brain foods like: blueberries, almonds, green tea, purple grapes, or wild salmon. For a list of more delicious and nutritious brain superfoods, check out my book, The Brain Wash.
9.) Hold the acupoint known as Stomach 36. The Chinese name for this point translates to mean “Three-Mile-Point” because it has been known for millennia to boost energy levels and keep people going an extra three miles. You can find this point in an indentation a couple of inches below your kneecap and about an inch outward. Hold for a few minutes.
10.) Stretch. Whether you’re at your desk or can actually spread out on a yoga mat, stretching out your muscles and joints can help oxygenate your tissues and get your lymph moving. The lymphatic system is the body’s equivalent of a street-cleaner. It collects and moves toxins that may be fatiguing your body and, with the help of the liver, gets it out of your tissues and blood. Stretching gives this important system a boost. Plus fewer bodily kinks means greater energy flow.

Do an Oscar Winning workout!

 The Oscars are this weekend, and many stars are getting in their last workouts.  Final tweeks on the diet plan, hair touch-ups, facials, manicures and pedicures.  Lots to do to be a star on the red carpet.  At the 73rd Academy Awards in 2001, my client Julia Roberts took home the Oscar.  That morning, I met her at the hotel and gave her a workout.  Mostly to calm the nerves, but also to give her energy for the night ahead.  

So why not get yourself red-carpet ready and try this workout today, tomorrow and Sunday?

20 minutes of biking indoor or outdoor.  Medium to Hard intensity

One 15 minute mile

2 sets of 15 pushups

2 sets of 30 Bicycle Abs

5 minutes of stretching

I guarantee you will feel energized and red-carpet ready to watch this year’s Oscar Show.

Pre-Game Stretching with the New England Patriots

Whether you’re headed out for a run, preparing to take your squash opponent to school, or limbering up for the season opener of the company bowling league, you likely have a preferred pre-game stretch, a few signature moves and motions that help you loosen up and get ready to play. My pro-golfer pal, Joe Horowitz, uses twisting poses to simulate his swing, for example. Meanwhile, you can find my friend, Karen Fabian, an avid runner, in viparita karani before a race. Professional cyclist and a reader/commentor on my website, OmGal.com, J. Alain Ferry opts for lunges as a way to fire up the muscles in his legs before the starting gun fires. 

For football players, like the New England Patriots, pre-game poses of choice would depend upon the position of the player. Receivers benefit from twists, to mimic the game-time action of reaching around, receiving a catch, and then, continuing a forward motion. Offensive lineman, given their need to be very grounded and low to the earth, are best served by standing poses, like warriors and utkatasana- which appropriately translates to mean "powerful pose." For defensive players, I might recommend balancing asanas, forward bends, and some protective work for the shoulders. Likewise, a quarterback would benefit from shoulder work, hip postures, such as pigeon, (which also serve to protect precious knees), and some pranayama to boot. Think about: if you were about to endure four hours of the biggest, strongest, fastest men on the planet trying to clobber you at full speed- you’d need to spend some pre-game time breathing deeply too. 

So, what’s your favorite way to limber up?