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5 Yoga Tips To Get You Through The Holidays


Whether you practice every day, three times or once a week, maintaining your yoga practice this time of year can be difficult. There are parties, busy work days, travel and over-all hectic scheduling that can pull you away from your mat. The problem is, many of us can get stressed this time of year, and lose sight of what the holidays are really about. More than ever, our yoga practices are enormously important to keep us sane. It’s been proven that yoga can reduce stress and adapt our brains to think more level-headed. But let’s acknowledge, that yes, it’s hard. Consistently making it to your mat is the most important — and yet one of the hardest — things to do. Try these little tips and tricks thanks to Naomi Abbot to keep your yoga practice consistent no matter what the external forces may be.

Set up a yoga area at home and leave it there. Find a space in your house where you can build a little yoga area. Lay out your mat, keep your blocks set up, and have some incense nearby. It’s much easier to make yourself hit the mat if it’s there ready and waiting. It’s even better if it’s at home because then you don’t have to go anywhere to actually get your yoga in. It’s also especially handy if you like to do early morning yoga. You can easily wake up and wander to your mat, letting yourself fully awaken as you settle in with your breath and begin moving your body.

Get a space heater. In most states, December is cold. It makes you want to do, well, nothing. To overcome that, have a little space heater set up near my yoga mat, and turn it on 5-10 minutes before you hit the mat. By the time you come back into the room, the space is nice and warm. It’s like a little escape from winter, and makes the yoga practice that much more sweet. Not to mention you’ll really get a sweat going once you get into it.

Sign up for a streaming service. With all the crazy scheduling and travel this time of year, it can be hard to make your yoga studio’s schedule fit with your own. That’s why streaming services are a great supplement to your class regimen. Late at night, or in a hotel room — you can pull them up whenever and wherever you’d like. Most only cost $10-$15 a month, so you won’t be breaking the bank, and you may even be incentivized to get in more yoga than you did before. Some streaming services that are great to check out include Udaya, My Yoga Works, and YogaGlo.

Take a minute to plan your week. It’s much easier to get in yoga when you pre-plan which days you should do it. Do yourself a favor, and sit down on Sundays to think through what’s coming up over the next seven days. Plan which days you will hit your mat, and then try your hardest to stick with it. Be sure you’re not just filling every free moment with yoga though. Be realistic. Planning your week also involves making time for socializing and down time. Every life needs balance.

Shorten your practice. Some days, you just won’t be able to get in those juicy, sweaty 90 minutes. That’s ok. Just 15 minutes of yoga is better than nothing. Even sitting cross-legged on your mat and doing breath work is beneficial for the mind. Sometimes you’ll plan to do 20 minutes, and you’ll end up doing 60 once you get going. Whatever you have time for, do it. The important thing is getting on your mat.

This article was originally published on the Free People blog.

Top 5 Basic Tips for Fall Hiking

No bugs. Low humidity. Zero crowds. Autumn colors. Make a few easy adjustments to your warm-weather hiking routine and enjoy the perks of fall weather. The backcountry is bursting with fall color, crowds have thinned to a trickle, and the bugs are all but gone. But like any type of recreation, hiking carries certain risks, and your safety is best ensured with preparation and caution. And shorter days, colder nights and quickly-changing weather like we often experience in autumn in the mountains can make even a simple day hike more risky than your average summer excursion.When hiking in the fall, pack some extra caution into your backpack.

Carefully choose your hike destination, and take the time to check trail conditions and weather forecasts before you head out. Let someone know where you will be and when you plan to return. Bring warm clothes, and be prepared for any weather. And pack the backcountry essentials that could save your life should you get lost or injured.

Here are some tips for safe backcountry hiking in autumn from the Washington Trails Association:

Check the latest trail conditions. Check for recent trip reports from other hikers to confirm your chosen trail is snow-free. And always call ahead to local ranger stations for conditions.

Let someone know where you are going. Tell them when you expect to return (and call them when you do return). If your destination changes, follow up and let someone know. Here is an easy form to share your hike itinerary with someone.

Always pack the 10 essentials on any hike. These include a topographic map, compass, extra food, extra clothing, firestarter, matches, sun protection, a pocket knife, first-aid kit, and flashlight. In unpredictable weather, it’s also a good idea to bring some sort of emergency shelter, even on a day hike. Hiking poles or ice axes can be of help on stretches of unexpected icy or snow-covered patches. Remember, cell phones don't always get reception and batteries can fade quickly in cold weather. They are not a substitute for carrying the backcountry essentials that could save your life.

Watch weather forecasts. This time of year, weather can turn cold and rainy, even snowy, in an instant. Hikers should turn back if encountering treacherous snow and ice unless equipped with an ice ax and knowledgeable about how to use it, and be aware of avalanche danger. 

Be aware of hunting seasons. Autumn is hunting season, and each year hunters come out to pursue elk, deer, and other game. 

Top 3 Ways To Build Endurance

If you have a running goal – be it marathon, 5k, a jog with the dog, or maybe you're new to running and you just want to push it and get that first mile or two. Whatever your skill level—whether beginner or seasoned fleet-foot—we'll show you how to take your running to the next level.

Take One Step At a Time.  If there is one overarching principle of endurance-building, this is it. Call it gradual adaptation. That is, be consistent, be patient, and build up slowly. This principle applies to all circumstances and all runners the beginner who's trying to make it around the block four times, as well as the 36-minute 10-K runner who's training for a first marathon with long runs that stretch to 12 miles, then 16, then 20.

Combine strength days with cardio days. It’s a simple equation: the more muscle you can get working, the more it will challenge your heart and your cardiovascular system. Instead of building cardio-only workouts (the pitfall that’ll prevent you from building endurance) make sure to weave strength days into your training. “Most people reserve one day for strength and another day for cardio. Try combining the two instead,” says Torres. “Use a bench press, immediately followed by pull-ups, then run a mile as fast as you can… and repeat.” Another good example: Jump rope for a minute, followed by squats, an overhead press, and finally sit ups. Repeat.

Do wall sits. At the end of every run strengthen your quads, hamstrings, and glutes; improving your speed and endurance. Hold the position for 20 to 60 seconds, rest 30 seconds, and repeat the exercise three times. To make this move more challenging, alternate between lifting your left heel for a few seconds and then your right. This helps to target your calves.

A Basic How-To For Healing Yoga Poses

Research shows regular yoga practice can effectively reduce chronic pain — addressing both physical aspects and emotional [1]. Even in the short term, studies suggest practicing yoga can help treat pain-related conditions including back pain, arthritis, and migraines. While completing a yoga practice of more than one pose will likely provide added pain-reducing benefit — including a possible reduction in the stress and anxiety that often comes with acute pain — the following poses are a great start for some of the most common aches.

Childs Pose - Yoga Poses For Common Aches and Pains

Aliment: Headache
Pose: Child’s Pose (Balasana)

While many poses are known to reduce the tension that causes headaches before they happen, this pose is great when the ache has already sprung. Child’s pose just slightly inverts the body for increased blood circulation to the head, helping to relieve tension.

How to: Kneel on the floor, big toes touching, knees at hip-width. Exhale and gently lower the torso between the thighs, resting the forehead to the mat. Rest the arms to the sides of the body (palms up), or extend them in front of the body (palms down) for a great shoulder opener. Rest in this pose for 30 seconds to a few minutes, gently “melting” into the floor with each breath.

Cat Cow Pose - Yoga Poses For The Most Common Aches and Pains

Aliment: Upper Back Pain
Pose: Cat-Cow (Marjariasana)

This pose is commonly used at the start of a practice to stretch and gently massage the back and neck muscles. Arching up and down helps relieve tension and increase mobility in the spine [2]. Cat-Cow also helps prepare the spine for more advanced back bends.

How to: Start in a tabletop position with the hands and knees on the floor, the spine neutral. On an inhale, press through the hands to round the spine and gently drop the head for cat pose. Really arch the upper back, lowering chin to chest and gaze toward the bellybutton, for a full stretch. On the exhale, lift the chest, gaze upward, and allow the upper spine to slightly release downward (the tailbone should tip up toward the ceiling) for cow pose. Repeat four to six times, transitioning with each breath.

Lower Back Pain - Yoga Poses for this most common aches and pains

Aliment: Lower Back Pain
Pose: Legs up the wall (Viparita Karani)

This relaxing and restorative inversion is a great way to end a long day (especially for those who are on their feet all day). Resting the extended legs on a wall gently stretches the hamstrings, relieving pressure in the lower back.

How to: Start in a seated position next to a wall, the feet on the floor in front of you, left side of the body making contact with the wall. Gently lie down on the back then pivot at the hips until the backs of the legs are pressing against the wall, perpendicular to the floor. The legs should be as straight as is comfortable, but if the full extension isn’t there just yet, start with a little bend in the knees. Scoot the body as close to the wall as possible (the bottom can make contact). Soften the upper body and allow yourself to sink the weight of the legs into the wall, hands may rest on the belly. Stay in the position for 2-15 minutes, and gently roll to one side before returning to standing. Note: Some people feel more comfortable in this pose with a prop, like a pillow, bolster, or block, underneath the low back and buttocks.

Wrist Pain Pose - Yoga Poses for the Most Common Aches and Pains

Aliment: Wrist Pain
Pose: Upward Bound Fingers (Urdhva Baddhanguliyasana)

A 9-5 office job can do a number on the body, especially the wrists with continuous keyboard and mouse use. Practice this one at home or on the job to maintain flexibility in the wrists.

How to: This pose can be practiced seated or standing. Inhale and raise the arms straight in front of the body (perpendicular with the torso). Bend the wrists and interlock the fingers, the thumbs touching one another. Exhale and roll the palms away from the body, keeping the fingers interlocked. If fully extended arms create any discomfort, breathe into the pose while slowly straightening the arms. With another exhale, bring the arms (fingers still bound) overhead so the palms are parallel with the ceiling. Hold the pose for 30 seconds to a few minutes, or with each breath, alternate extending the arms in front of the body and above the body (hands bound throughout).

Should Pain - Yoga Poses for the Most Common Aches and Pains

Aliment: Shoulder Pain
Pose: Downward-Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)

This full body energizer stretches everything from the calves and hamstrings to the back, shoulders, and forearms. You will see downward dog in many styles of yoga, as it is part of the traditional sun salutation sequence [3].

How to: Start in a tabletop position with the hands shoulder width apart and knees on the floor, the spine neutral. Extend through the arms, lift the knees off the floor, exhale, and press the pelvis toward the ceiling. Gently pedal through each leg — slightly straightening one, bending the other. Press the upper body up and away from the hands throughout the pose, gradually releasing through the upper back. Think about pulling the shoulder blades away from the ears to open through the shoulders and rotating the elbows slightly inward rather than bowing out. Slightly relax the head and neck and gaze toward the navel.

Happy Baby Pose - Yoga Poses for the Most Common Aches and Pains

Aliment: Hip Pain
Pose: Happy Baby (Ananda Balasana)

While it may feel a little silly at first, this calming pose does wonders for the lower back and hips. Great for the end of a practice or even before bed, this pose requires little effort compared to many standing hip-openers.

How to: Lie on the back. On an exhale, bend the knees to the sides of the body. Inhale then grip the outside edges of the feet (elbows inside of the knees). If holding onto the feet directly is uncomfortable, place a strap on each foot to add length. Gently pull the knees down and toward the armpits. Flex the feet and keep the heels stacked over the knees (the lower half of each leg should be fairly perpendicular to the rest of the body). Hold the pose for 30 seconds to a few minutes. Feel free to add some creativity by rocking side to side while bringing the thighs toward the floor.

Warrior Pose - Yoga Poses for the Most Common Aches and Pains

Aliment: Knee Pain
Pose: Warrior I (Virabhadrasana I)

While certain yoga poses  — such as those in the warrior sequence, for instance — help strengthen the muscles around the knee joint (protecting it from future injury), they may also cause discomfort for those experiencing knee pain [4].  But with the proper form and a multitude of modifications, standing poses can still be incorporated into a practice to work up that strength.

How to: Begin at the top of the mat. Step the left foot back (about four to five feet behind you). The front foot should point straight ahead, parallel to the mat; the back foot should point to the left corner of the mat, slightly diagonal. Think about dropping the tailbone toward the mat, lowering into the front, bent leg. Scoop the pelvis so the torso becomes more perpendicular placement compared to the mat. On an exhalation, raise the arms overhead. Remember to engage the thigh muscles of both legs and make sure the front knee is above the ankle (try not to let it track forward, backward, inward, or outward) to prevent knee pain.

Wind Relieving Pose - Yoga Poses for the Most Common Aches and Pains

Aliment: Digestion Pain
Pose: Wind-Relieving Pose (Pawanmuktasana)

As it’s name suggests, this pose helps release abdominal gas, which can cause sharp pain and discomfort. Curling the body into a tight ball helps massage the intestines and aid in digestion [5].

How to: Lie on the back, feet together, arms to the side. With an exhale, bring the right knee toward the chest, gently pulling it toward the body. Inhale and with the next exhale touch the knee to the forehead (if the body doesn’t allow the head and knee to make contact, just work toward pressing the leg gently in toward the belly). Take a few deep breaths in this position. Return to start then repeat the movement with the other leg then with both legs together.

With any yoga pose, it’s important to work within your own range of limits and abilities. If you have any known medical conditions, have a conversation with your doctor before practicing yoga.

References

    1. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2936076/#!po=5.55556
    2. http://www.artofliving.org/yoga/health-and-wellness/yoga-for-neck-pain
    3. http://www.yogawiz.com/yoga-poses/yoga-asanas/downward-facing-dog-pose.html
    4. https://yogainternational.com/article/view/yoga-therapy-for-your-knees1
    5. http://www.artofliving.org/in-en/yoga/yoga-poses/wind-relieving-pose
5 Ways To Get Fit As A Family

Do you ever think that eating healthfully and working out would be easy if it weren't for your spouse or kids? Whether you have a small toddler, no time and a snack loving spouse, there are ways to have a family and be healthy!

Check out these tips on how you can make your diet and exercise routine work with your busy family life.

Don't make excuses. Make healthy-eating and regular exercise non-negotiable. Not only will this help you stay on track, but it also sets a good example for your children. They'll learn that taking care of health is a priority.

Ditch the car and do some footwork. Whether it’s your school pickup, getting to the park, or running errands, choose to walk that regular driving or transit route. Experiment with different ways to walk from A to B. Time how long each route takes and track which ones are more fun/more interesting/more noisy. It’s a fantastic way to discover new streets in your neighbourhood, to increase your knowledge of where you live, and to get some good old-fashioned walking in as well.

Be a cheerleader. It's all about positive encouragement. If you want your child to play sports, be there on the sidelines to cheer them on. That means showing lots of energy and enthusiasm, especially at the beginning of the activity, even if you would rather plop down in front of the television yourself. For example, when asking your child to join you for a walk or a game of basketball say, "Come on, get your shoes on. I've already got mine on. I'm really excited to play!"

Take out the TVs. Minimize the temptation to just plop in front of the tube by limiting the number of televisions in your house. Take it a step further limit the amount of time they're allowed to watch TV -- an hour a day is plenty. You might also limit their options: Get rid of the DVD collection and subscribe to a more basic cable package. If there's nothing to watch, vegging in front of the TV becomes a lot less attractive.

Stretch it out. If you're not big on dancing, try a yoga video or "mommy and me" yoga class. With their natural flexibility, many kids are good at yoga. It also can help relieve stress, so it's great for mom and dad, too.

DIY: Goji Berry Smoothie

Goji berries are known to have anti-aging benefits, boost immune function, protect vision, and prevent heart disease. Goji berry extracts may even boost brain health, mood and protect against age-related diseases such as Alzheimer’s so eat them up! They are perfect to add to any smoothie like this one loaded with potassium, vitamin A, fiber and good essential fatty acids, or as a snack.

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp. goji berries
  • 1 cup of coconut water
  • 1 banana
  • ½ avocado
  • ½ cup of raspberries
  • 1 teaspoon chia seeds
  • 1 teaspoon flaxseed
  • Ice cubes (optional)

Directions

    1. Soak the goji berries in coconut water overnight or for a few hours (optional)
    2. Combine all ingredients in a blender
    3. Blend & enjoy!
5 Healthy Habits For Exercise

Exercise is an effective coping method for stress, anxiety and depression, and healthy exercisers harness these powers for good. Some of us need an extra push to get off the couch, or some reining in once in a while. For others, finding the balance between too much and too little physical activity comes easily. Below are a few things these people do differently.

People with a healthy relationship to exercise know the difference between a good burn and true pain. "You hear so much about the whole 'no pain, no gain' attitude," says Cohn. "I think we really have to redefine what pain is." Yes, you want to feel like you worked hard, you want some fatigue, you might even relish your second-day soreness. But feeling discomfort in joints, or feeling so exhausted you just want to drop at the end of the day is not normal, says Cohn. Pain can be serious, and pushing through could cause worse injury. People with a healthy relationship to exercise know when to say when.

They take rest days. And when they are in pain or are exhausted, they know it's time to skip a sweat session. "It's the same as that chocolate cake," says Cohn. "It's delicious, you want to have another piece, but you know it's not good for you, and you need to stop eating now." No matter how much you love working out, there is such a thing as too much exercise, and the people with the healthiest relationships to exercise enjoy their off days. Carter recommends taking at least one a week.

They don't exercise to eat, they eat to exercise. Exercising purely to "influence weight or shape", says Carter, can be a slippery slope into obsession and disorder. For a healthy athlete or exerciser, food is fuel, not the enemy. Our bodies require a bare minimum amount of calories simply to survive, and we need to provide extra energy for physical activity. Rather than exercising "to allow themselves to eat," says Carter, people with a healthy relationship to exercise eat to allow themselves to exercise. Eating whatever you want just because you exercised today doesn't cut it either, even if you just want to maintain weight, she says. Of course we'd never say the occasional brownie was completely off limits, but "'occasional' doesn't mean every dinner warrants a dessert!" Carter says.

They can go with the flow. Many experts recommend scheduling exercise into your day like you would any other appointment to help you stick with your fitness plan. But there also needs to be some flexibility in the scheduling. Even walking just a few more steps a day -- whether it’s by taking the stairs instead of the elevator or commuting by foot -- is still physical, and can help ease anxiety over skipping a sweat session.

They Mix things up. "Doing the elliptical every day at the same intensity level is just a repetitive motion," says Cohn, not one you're going to see huge results from. People with the healthiest relationships to exercise balance their workout routines with a mixture of activities, whether that's high and low impact, cardio and strength training, or arm days and leg days, she says. And it doesn't require pricey sessions with a personal trainer or a degree in exercise science to add a little more balance to your regular routine, she says. Simply reading the directions on a machine at the gym you've never tried before, for example, can be surprisingly helpful, she says.

This article was originally written by Sarah Klein. We shared this with you because we want to help you balance life and fitness.

6 Ways To Run Faster

Running gives you a world-class workout. When your legs hit their stride they squeeze blood toward your heart, which in turn forces it to pump the blood right back. The faster you run, the harder your heart works and the stronger it gets. In return, you will stress less, fight cancer, and boost your bones.

Nail good form. The key to running (at any speed) is to practice proper running technique. That means keeping the upper body tall yet relaxed, striking the ground with the mid-foot landing under the hip, and swinging the arms forward and back (not side to side!) at low 90-degree angles.

Count your steps. Get familiar with stride turnover, or the rate of steps taken while running, regardless of pace. The fastest, most efficient runners have a cadence of around 180 steps per minute and keep their feet close to the ground with light, short n’ speedy steps. To find your magic number, run for one minute, count the number of times the right foot hits the ground, and multiply by two.

Get low, get high. Short on gym time? Quick! Try speed training! Interval training, or alternating periods of high and low intensity while exercising, are just one way to build speed and endurance — and burn major calories in less time too!

Stride right. There’s a reason you see all those “real runners” doing short sprints before the big road race. Striders (or strides) are a series of comfortable sprints (usually eight to 12, between 50 to 200 meters each) to improve acceleration technique.

Run the ‘mill. Feel the need for speed?  Chase it down on the treadmill! Because the speed belt assists with leg turnover, it’s actually easier to run faster. Plus, the power to push the pace is right at your fingertips. A word of advice these geniuses could have used: Get on the machine before turning up the dial.

Stretch it out. The jury is still out on whether static stretches before running really prevents injuries [1]. But leaders of the pack know stretching daily (target those hip flexors!) increases flexibility for better strides.

5 Reasons To Listen To Music When You Work Out

A recent study found that not just listening, but controlling and creating music in time to one's pace had an even more profound effect on perceived effort during a workout. Listening to music when you hit the gym to improve your workout isn't exactly a new concept. But understanding how your favorite tunes enhance your exercise is a little less obvious.

Research consistently finds that listening to music distracts athletes from their "bodily awareness" or better known as pain. A recent study found that not just listening, but controlling and creating music in time to one's pace had an even more profound effect on perceived effort during a workout.

Here are 5 very good reasons to jam during your next gym session.

Music is the good kind of distraction. While the study did suggest there's more to it than distraction, working out with music did make participants less aware of their exertion. Such a distraction can benefit athletic performance by up to 15 percent, The Guardian reported. The faster the better, according to WebMD: Upbeat tunes havemore information for our brains to process, which takes your mind off of that side stitch.

It ups your effort. A 2010 study found that cyclists actually worked harder when listening to faster music as compared to music at a slower tempo. But too fast is no good, either. Songs between 120 and 140 beats per minute (bpm) have the maximum effect on moderate exercisers. 

Music puts you "in the zone". Everyone has that go-to song that gets you "in the zone," and there's science to why it works. We associate certain songs with memories, often relating to the context in which we originally heard them, such as the first time you watched Rocky. Channeling that memory -- or even just the emotion of the singer -- boosts the motivational power of the song, and has been shown to improve physical performance.

A good beat can help you keep pace. The rhythm of your workout music stimulates the motor area of the brain as to when to move, thereby aiding self-paced exercises such as running or weight-lifting. Clueing into these time signals helps us use our energy more efficiently, since keeping a steady pace is easier on our bodies than fluctuating throughout a sweat session.

Music can elevate your mood. An August 2013 analysis found that people often listen to music as a way to change their mood and find self-awareness. Study participants said that listening to music allowed them to think about themselves, who they wanted to be and give them an escape from the present. No matter what happened an hour ago, you can use your tunes to help you escape negativity and power you through your workout -- and you know you'll feel great when it's over.

This article was originally posted by Huffington Post. We think it's great to share with you because we find it informative on how to better our workouts so we can reap more benefits.

5 Tips to Make Time for Exercise

Time is a precious commodity and with the fast-paced, urgent world we live in, most people push their needs -- including exercise -- to the bottom of their to do lists. You may not have thought of it this way, but exercise saves you time and will most likely add longer and stronger years to your life. Read on for 10 tips to make time for exercise.

Taking a little time for exercise will surprisingly help you manage other areas of your life. Some of the positive effects include lifting your mood, boosting your self-esteem and reducing your stress. Exercising gives you a healthier focus. Those who exercise are sick less often, report being happier and even make more money then those who do not. Exercisers make healthier food choices and sleep better. If you can manage to make exercising a priority, you will be pleased with how much better you become at managing life tasks.

5 Tips to Make Time for Exercise

Make an appointment. Schedule workout activity in your planner 1 month in advance and keep that commitment the same way you would any other meeting. When you go to schedule other activities, do so around your workout session. If it’s necessary to cancel a workout session, reschedule it immediately for another time during the day or for the very next day.

Plan Ahead. Cook on Sunday night for the week. This way, you can head to the gym after work and still come home to a healthy cooked meal. This will help you stay on track for your meal plan as well as your exercise schedule. For best results, both your meals and activities need to be planned for and should not be left to chance.

Workout at Lunch. A workout break will refresh you for the second half of the day and is known to boost brain power. You will be more productive after recharging your body with exercise than working through your lunch and eating at your desk. Live with no regrets!

Get Support. Let your significant other know your exercise schedule ahead of time, so there are no conflicts or guilt when it comes time for working out. Inform your employer of your goals and ask for some flexibility in your schedule. For example, come in later and work later, so that you can get in your morning run.

Stick to Your Schedule. Set your smart phone to go off when it’s time to exercise. Then stop what you are doing and take 30+ minutes to exercise. You will be more productive finishing up tasks after you worked out versus trying to work through a situation knowing you did not keep your commitment to yourself.

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