Zen Body Yoga + Wellness

Spreading the Zen to Tulsa!

Transitions

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Written by: Calista Evraets

Zen Body-74One of the things we often talk about in yoga practice is being present. Being present can mean a lot of different things, but lately I’ve noticed that while I don’t have too much difficulty being present with the each individual pose, I tend to ignore the transition from one pose to the next as if they were dead space. I’m in such a hurry to reach the next pose and be present, and I fail to notice the way I get there. Recently, I spent a couple of classes paying special attention to my body during those transitions. What was moving? What was stable? At what moment was the tension on a certain muscle released? Where did I feel the stretch as I moved into that forward fold?

With some exercises and poses, the majority of the muscle growth takes place during the return rather than the holding of the position or pose. I realized I’ve been wasting the potential for growth by rushing through the transitions to get to the next pose. Sometimes taking it slower results in a better physical workout!

Life often mirrors my yoga practice, and the transitions in my practice led me to note the transitions in my life. I’m too frequently guilty of rushing from one thing to the next without noticing the journey. As big life changes come along, I’m looking forward to the next phase, trying to hurry through the transition where I don’t feel that anything is happening. In doing so, I’ve missed the potential for personal growth. So much of life is a transition! How much did I gloss over in my haste to get to a better place?

I challenge you to notice the journey and the transitions, both in yoga and in life outside of your practice! It can be as simple as noting the change in the fall leaves from one work commute to the next, or using that drive time to listen to an audio book or some music that feeds your soul! It could come in the form of looking at how you’ve grown as you wait for that promotion you’re expecting, or for your baby to sleep through the night. What has changed? What has stayed stable? Be present today during your transitions, and see how much you can grow!


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Blood Sugar Imbalance

spoonful of sugarBlood sugar imbalance is a condition in which your body does not handle glucose effectively. Throughout the day, blood glucose levels may fluctuate outside of the body’s desired blood glucose range. Your energy can swing from being high after a meal to being low if you skip a meal. Insulin is a hormone responsible for keeping the blood sugar levels in the nor-mal desired range. Insulin works by opening channels on cell membranes, allowing glucose to travel from the blood into body cells. During times of blood sugar imbalance, insulin can become a little out of control.

In some situations, like after a carbohydrate- or sugar-rich meal, too much insulin is produced. When insulin is high, lots of cell glucose channels become open, which results in the blood glucose level dropping too low. During insulin resistance, the cell membranes have difficulty recognizing insulin and too few channels are opened. In this situation, both insulin and glucose remain high in the blood and some cells stay deficient in glucose. Cells in the pancreas secrete insulin into the blood stream. These cells can often become exhausted after long periods of producing excessive levels of insulin. Once tired, these cells can no longer produce adequate amounts of insulin to achieve perfect blood sugar balance. Low insulin production also leads to blood sugar imbalance.

Blood sugar imbalance can be a precursor to diabetes mellitus and it is therefore important to address the contributing factors before the condition develops further.

Signs your blood sugar may be out of balance:

  • Cravings for sweets, sugar, or bread products (This is almost a guaranteed sign that your blood sugar is out of balance.)
  • Fatigue after eating a meal or a “food-coma”
  • Lightheadedness if meals are missed
  • Eating sweets does not relieve the cravings for sweets
  • Dependence on coffee to keep yourself going or get started
  • Difficulty losing weight


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Food Intolerance

Written By: Amy Miller 

intolerance-mainDo you have a favorite food that you HAVE to have or can’t stop eating? Do you feel tired, bloated, and drained ALL the time? These may be signs of a food addiction or food intolerance. And if you’re thinking, “Okay, so what’s the big deal,” then you should know it takes only ONE food to wreak havoc on your health and your ability to maintain a healthy weight, immunity, and more.

Many times, the foods we think we LOVE the most are actually the foods our bodies have a sensitivity to or intolerance to, keeping us from losing weight and making us feel tired and depressed.

When we eat a food we have an intolerance or sensitivity to, it causes an inflammatory re-action and floods our body with chemicals. And it’s the chemicals our body releases that we can become addicted to and could be keeping us from losing weight, causing us to be tired and starting a cascade of other symptoms. One reason is our immune system can attack the food much like it would attack a germ, taxing your whole body and draining your energy.

Food allergies and intolerances are much more common than most people realize.

Millions of adults and children suffer from allergic reactions to food and do not know it be-cause the symptoms can be hard to diagnose. The reason a food intolerance is so difficult to identify is that there are so many different symptoms and the symptoms are different for everyone. Also, there is often a delayed reaction from eating the food, so you may eat wheat one day and feel fine, but then the next day you feel bloated and tired.

More common allergies are really more like food sensitivities and because the symptoms are bloating, poor digestion, headaches, lethargy, depression, and weight gain, most people don’t think they’re caused by the food they’ve been eating their entire lives. They just think, “There must be something wrong with me.” The most common foods people have a sensitivity, or intolerance to, are dairy, wheat/gluten, and soy. (Gluten is the portion of the wheat that causes the problems, and it also found in other gluten grains.) These are the foods that often end up being trigger foods for people, along with sugar.

When people don’t know that a food intolerance is the root cause of their health issue, they usually blame it on their slow metabolism or their bad genetics and they just live with it. Once you have eliminated these reactive foods from your life, you will be amazed at how quickly your energy and health will increase and, if needed, weight will effortlessly fall off. Your body will thank you for returning it to its natural state of radiant health.

Symptoms caused by food intolerances:

  • Acne/skin breakouts
  • Anxiety
  • Gas/bloating
  • Slow metabolism
  • Depression
  • Headaches
  • Lethargy
  • Weight gain
  • Digestive issues
  • Cravings for food
  • Binge eating


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Breathing Exercises for Kids and Teens

Bubble MountainWritten By: Laura Brown

Breathing exercises are a great way to reduce anxiety, agitation and stress, feelings which manifest in children and teens differently than in adults. Children are often taken to therapy for anger management issues, ADHD, autism spectrum disorder and many other cognitive disorders. Breathing techniques have been shown to help in all of these diagnoses.

When we are anxious, our bodies are in a state of “fight or flight,” activating our Sympathetic Nervous System. By increasing the heart rate, blood pressure and muscle tension, this stress response to a perceived threat provides the strength and stamina we would need in a physically challenging situation (IE: being chased by a mountain lion).

Today’s young people are much more likely to experience a perceived threat such as a difficult test in school, social anxiety or even negative self-talk, but the physical response is the same. When children replay negative scenarios in their minds, these kinds of emotional stressors can cause long-term physical effects such as chronically high blood pressure, digestion disorders and decreased immunity.

One immediate and noticeable physical response to a stressor is quick, shallow breathing. This type of anxious breathing can actually make the feeling of anxiety worse and can even lead to hyperventilating.

Each of us has the power to overcome this stress reaction by using calming breathing techniques, which in turn lower heart rate and blood pressure. When we teach these skills to our children, we not only give them a sense of relaxation and control but we also give them a lifelong tool to manage the effects of stress.

These techniques will be tools that your child can use any time, especially in situations when you are not there to help him or her through stressful situations. By making the breathing methods fun to learn, your child will be more likely to remember them and use them when needed.

Children 1 to 6:
Blow a Pinwheel
With this simple toy even very young children can learn the power of breathing. Remind your child to inhale slowly and deeply before blowing the pinwheel, causing it to spin. Although the younger child may not fully understand the correlation between this game and reduced stress, she will experience the calming effects of the deep breathing, as well as the calming visual stimulation of the colorful wheel.

Children 4 to 12:
Bubble Mountain
photoA fun way to teach your child how to breathe deeply is by creating a “bubble mountain.” Fill a small bowl with an inch or two of water and a teaspoon of dish washing soap. This exercise is best for those 4 or older as they will need to pull the straw away from the lips to inhale to avoid sucking in the liquid.

Have the child blow into the soapy water using a straw. Long exhalations will create a “mountain” of bubbles.

Make sure to explain that this type of deep breathing with long exhalations is useful in creating calm during times of anxiety. This is a fun way for kids to actually see the results of deep breathing.

Belly Balloon
Since calm breathing involves taking slow, controlled breaths from the diaphragm, the belly will expand as your child inhales. Have him lie on his back, closing his eyes and placing a hand on his belly. As he inhales slowly through the nose, ask him to pretend that he is inflating a balloon inside his belly. As he slowly exhales through the mouth, he pretends he is letting the air out of the balloon and the tummy deflates.

Smelling a flower
Find a rose or other flower with a pleasing aroma. Have your child smell the flower by inhaling deeply through the nose. After she exhales slowly through the nose and repeats the exercise a few times, take the flower away and have her inhale just as slowly and deeply as when she was smelling the flower.

Ages 10 to Adult:
Fogging up a mirror
For older children and teens, this is a great way to teach a common yogic breathing technique called Ujjayi. This type of breathing can be learned by holding a mirror up to the open mouth and exhaling with a closed throat and a “huh” sound to fog the mirror. After noticing the way the throat feels when exhaling, she can now keep her lips closed and try to make the same sound, with the back of her throat restricted. Continue the practice by inhaling deeply through the nose, gently close off the back of the throat and, keeping the lips sealed, exhale slowly.

Tips to Remember

Teach these techniques to your child during a time of calm. Bedtime is often a nice time to learn and practice restorative breathing. Until your child is comfortable with this skill, practice it at least once per day using 10 calm breaths in a row.

During these practice session, begin to discuss the benefits of breathing with your child. Good questions to ask are:

  • When was the last time you felt anxious?
  • What does your body feel like when your mind is anxious?
  • In what situations might this breathing technique be useful?

Once your child is comfortable with this technique, he or she can start using it in situations that cause anxiety. With practice and persistence, you will notice a positive adjustment in your child’s ability to manage her reactions to change and other anxiety-producing circumstances.


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Your New Year’s Resolution: The Attitude of Gratitude

Written By: Amy Miller

GratitudeThe most important New Year’s resolution you can make is to change your mindset; to stop the Automatic Negative Thoughts (ANTs) before they start and to truly believe that you are ready for and deserve a healthy and happy life.

Did you know that living a life filled with gratitude can actually make you happier AND healthier? On average, grateful people are 10% less likely to suffer from diseases brought on by stress,   have 12% lower blood pressure and live 7 years longer!

This may seem like a novel idea, but the connection between gratitude and health actually goes back thousands of years and was the subject of numerous writings by Greek and Roman philosophers and their followers.

“A grateful mind is a great mind which eventually attracts to itself great things.”  -Plato (423 BC– 348 BC)

This year, give yourself a gift of daily gratitude. Gratitude is a mental tool that we use to remind ourselves of the good stuff. I would argue that very few of us in the western world have nothing to be grateful for. Even when we seem to be having a bad week, month or year, chances are we still have plenty to be thankful for.

I know I often forget to appreciate the goodness in my life: from the sound of leaves dancing in the breeze to the sound of my daughter’s laughter; from the scent of a rose in the garden to the scent of my husband preparing a delicious meal for us to share; from my ability to see the beauty around me to my ability to read the newest novel or non-fiction book.

But when I make a special time for that appreciation daily, I remember that by merely thinking of the things I am so fortunate to have, I experience even more happiness. Every day I take a minute or two to express gratitude for all of the wonderful things in my life.

When we take time each day to express gratitude, we are automatically immersed in positive thinking. Gratitude doesn’t make the problems disappear; it just gives you a new way to look at them and what you can learn from them to better your life.

So often we have developed ANTs which cause us to dwell on the negative aspects of our lives rather than the positive. I would argue that dwelling instead on the positive will not only make you happier right now, but will have a lasting impact on your perceived happiness in life (which in turn reduces stress, thereby effecting physical health).

In fact, when you express gratitude for the things you already have, you will realize more things to be grateful for.

This is the Law of Attraction.

There is an infinite amount of energy in the world that YOU can use to manifest whatever dream you hold. That’s great news! But it could also work the opposite way, so you have to be careful.

The more you think about the negative aspects of your situation, the more you will attract negativity into your life.

When you say to yourself, “I wish I weren’t so overweight,” the universe hears the important words, the ones that produce a visual image. In this case it hears “overweight.” So you have unwittingly manifested your own overweight condition and you continue to manifest it!

If you think to yourself “I can’t stand that Jim at work, he is always so condescending,” guess what you get more of? Jim and his condescension! And who needs that?

How can you turn that around? Train yourself to think in positive terms.

Instead of “I wish I weren’t so overweight” think “I am looking forward to being at a healthy weight again and I am so thankful that I have the ability to exercise and the resources to eat healthfully.”

Instead of “I can’t stand Jim,” think about a positive aspect of work “I really appreciate all of the positive people at work; they really make my day worthwhile.”

And when Jim comes up in your mind, remind yourself that Jim likely has self-esteem or other issues of he hasn’t worked through that cause him to behave that way and that it has nothing to do with you. Send him positive vibrations by recognizing his suffering. I promise, this energy will make its way back to you!

For many of us who have spent most of our lives speaking and thinking of all the bad things in the world, all the wrongs done to us, becoming a positive thinker can be a daily struggle. The more we work to retrain ourselves to shine a light on the positive side, the easier it becomes and eventually, it becomes automatic.

Instead of “I’m so broke all the time,” think “I am thankful that I have a home to protect me and food to eat.”

Instead of “I wish my back didn’t hurt all the time,” think “I’m glad my body is healthy enough that I can go outdoors and walk with my friend.”

Instead of “I always mess everything up!” think “Boy am I glad we caught that mistake before it went to print. Next time I’ll read it more carefully.”

Is this starting to make sense?

In each case, the thoughts are creating a visual image and by staying positive, we create the energy that will manifest the new positive outcome that I want.

So this year, I invite you to vow to spend 2 minutes each evening before bed reminding yourself of the many good things that happened to you that day.

Just close your eyes and visualize the people or things in your life that you are grateful for. Hold the image in your mind for a minute or so, feeling the happiness and love that comes with being thankful. Watch your entire life transform as you employ the Attitude of Gratitude!

May your New Year bring you great joy and peace!


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Yoga and Work

Written By: Jonathan Wish

photo 3The holiday season is upon us, and the new year is coming. For many people that means the workdays will soon be growing in length, which makes it more difficult to find time to do non-work activities, particularly exercise. We often look at this activity as a luxury. After all, doing what is necessary to do your job and make money has to come before something that you just do for yourself, right? But what if these things that we do for ourselves don’t just improve life away from work, they make our work lives better? While it may seem difficult to take a little time away from traditional work activities, certain exercises, especially yoga, can improve performance and productivity in the workplace.

One of the best known benefits of yoga is its ability to improve stress management. It has even been used in treatment of medical and psychiatric disorders because of this. When we are facing times of heightened stress and anxiety, taking that extra time to focus on the breath can improve our ability to move forward productively.

To go along with stress relief, yoga will improve the mood of your office. When workers are not feeling overwhelmed, we are less agitated. There is also a focus on self-awareness and awareness of others around us, which makes compassion and tolerance come much more easily. These factors improve collaboration and teamwork.

While most kinds of exercise will improve work performance in ways, yoga will also improve concentration and creativity. Yoga practitioners should be constantly aware of their breath, as well as the thoughts going through their mind. This awareness is known as mindfulness. By increasing our levels of mindfulness, we are more aware of what is going on around us and within us. We are able to let go of the restraints we place on ourselves throughout our lives both in ways of working and thinking, which is really what creativity is all about. Though it is counterintuitive for many, we can become both more relaxed and more alert, and the creativity will flow.

It may seem that to notice these significant benefits it would be necessary to gain a level of mastery over the mind that may take years to achieve. While it may be true that after years of practice you will still be learning, noticeable improvement can come immediately, and each session does not have to be all that time-consuming. In fact, many companies offer employees 20 to 30 minute sessions that can be performed in work clothes. You don’t have to be drenched in sweat to improve your body and mind, and making this small effort can pay big dividends both for yourself and your company.

So while it may take 30 minutes or an hour away from work activities, you may be able to complete those activities more efficiently, which lowers the cost of time of the exercise. And if doing that exercise also raises the quality of the work, the benefit is compounded that much more. It may be a challenge to make the time to add exercise to your schedule, but the benefits to your body, mind, and spirit should more than offset the time it takes. Instead of being a burden, it may be just the key to solving some of those issues you face in your career.


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Why Should Weightlifters do Yoga?

Written By: Lindsey Means

I asked myself that question a few years ago. Lindsey

I have been lifting weights 5+ days a week for the last three years with hardly more than 3 days off in between.

I decided to try yoga for the first time about a year ago, and I was shocked at how out of shape I felt. Yet, I felt amazing at the same time.  While strengthening your muscles is great, often times, we forget there is more to your muscles than strength alone.

Holding lunges and warriors, and completing multiple Chaturangas forces you to realize how your muscles are working, where you are tight, and what areas need additional work.
I have never been good with stretching and my mobility has been terrible, but yoga has helped that!

I think one of the best things about yoga for weightlifters is its ability to help with our hip musculature. Many yoga poses utilize your hip flexors, hamstrings, adductors, and hip rotators. Stretching and lengthening these muscles will help you considerably with your squat and deadlift. I noticed a huge difference when I started doing yoga. I have always had tight hips so it really helps me to stretch them out.

Another thing that I love about yoga is the breathing. A lot of times I forget to breath when I’m lifting weight, and I have become more aware of my breathing since I started practicing yoga.

I have found that yoga is challenging in ways that weight lifting is not, and I get excited working towards advanced poses.

Yoga is an amazing way to relax. While I have to pump myself up for the gym, I can go into a yoga class and forget about everything in my life, but what I am doing in that moment. Afterwards, I leave feeling refreshed. The only time in my life that I have ever felt 100% relaxed and refreshed has been in a yoga class.

Weightlifters can do yoga on active recovery days or after a weightlifting session to stretch everything out.

Add yoga to your routine and I guarantee you’ll notice a difference in the gym!