Summer wellness part 4: Movement, Breath & Lifestyle.

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Summer Yoga and Lifestyle Tips

Below are some movement and lifestyle suggestions to complete the summer wellness series. I always have a difficult time making generalized suggestions as each individual is unique. These suggestions are based on some of my personal experiences as well as some best practices from working with many clients. Please check out the first three parts of the Summer Wellness series for more background information.

Yoga

For summer if you normally practice a vigorous form of yoga asana try balancing the fiery yang practice with some cooling  restorative/yin poses. According to Ayurveda aggravated pitta may manifest as  inflamation, impatience, aggressiveness, self-criticism, and intensity. For many of us the summer months are more active, often with less sleep. Make sure to set some boundaries around your self-care, especially for rest and rejuvenation. I know personally over the summer months I struggle with allergies (which is an inflammatory response) the heat aggravates this inflammatory process, and in addition many of the medications stimulate the sympathetic response (fight/flight stress response). Instead of having a rigid plan for my movement practices, listening to my body and honouring its needs has been very healing. Prior to each session I begin with the PEMS check in below:

  1. Begin each practice with a “check in” and  then frequently throughout the sequence “check back in”. The check in encourages introspection and creates a conversation with the body called “compassionate curiosity.” During this process you may find it helpful to use a question such as, How do you feel? or What an I feeling?
  2. The check in begins by scanning the physical body and noticing how each area in the body feels (tense, relaxed, fatigued etc).
  3. Following a physical scan, check in with emotional tone. Allow yourself to observe any emotions that arise. Without judgement or trying to change them, listen and allow.
  4. Next check in with the mental environment with “dispassionate interest.” Notice the activity in the mind; listen and allow.
  5. From here you may wish to set an intention for you practice today. What do I need right now? Make sure the answer is based on what messages your body is sending versus and “shoulds” or expectations you are bringing onto your yoga mat.
  6. Frequently throughout the practice repeat a shorter “check back in” and notice what has changed if anything. I have found adding theses “check in” opportunities encourages a conversation with my body opposed to “telling” my body how and where it should be and feel in the postures. This has made my practice more healing and therapeutic.

In addition to listening and setting boundaries,  It may also be helpful to add some variety to your practice. Incorporating new movements encourages proprioception, which may have a positive effect on mood, concentration and well being. Shift your focus to observing and enjoying the process instead of striving to achieve a specific goal. If you always do the poses one way or in a specific order try changing it up.

I have some full Yoga classes available here which incorporate different movements, approaches and angles into the traditional postures.

I will be posting various strength exercises for #movementmonday, wellness tips including meditation, nutrition and self care on #wellnesswednesday and therapeutic postures and sequences on #therapythursday on both Instagram and Facebook.

Another great way to encourage introspection is the application of “rolling” or self massage with balls, foam rollers and other props that allow you to apply gentle pressure to various blind spots in the body. This develops awareness and releases tension and adhesion.  I have created a video called Enlighten here and I will be planning some enlighten workshops, classes and trainings soon.


Pranayama

One of the most beneficial practices I suggest to clients to encourage relaxation, digestion and restful sleep is deep diaphragmatic breathing. This technique can be done anywhere. The easiest way to learn is lying on your back; however, learning to breath this way in seated and standing positions is also important.
Deep diaphragmatic breathing strengthens and utilizes the diaphragm to its fullest capacity. The vagus nerve, which runs through the diaphragm is also stimulated through this breathing technique. The vagus nerve controls the parasympathetic nervous system, also called the rest and digest system. The vagus nerve secretes acetylcholine, which reduces heart rate and stimulates digestion. Research has also shown that acetylcholine reduces the inflammatory response. Because the liver, stomach and intestines are located just below the diaphragm, learning to breathe this way may also improve digestion.  Try this technique in the middle of your work day, after meals or before bed.

In addition to deep diaphragmatic breathing, alternate nostril breathing or Nadi Shodana can be especially balancing. I personally incorporate this technique frequently before meditation if I am feeling restless, fatigued or agitated.

Here is a link to my Just Breathe video

Summer Fitness Recommendations

With increased energy in the summer, the general recommendation is to get moving; however, with warmer temperatures it is important to stay mindful of excess heat, inflammation and dehydration specifically in outdoor activities.

  • Work out in the early AM or PM when the temperatures are cooler.
  • Joining a recreational sports team is a great way to meet new friends and get active. Make sure to give yourself adequate time for conditioning prior to beginning a new sport to minimize injury.
  • Try water sports such as swimming, stand up paddling, kayaking and rowing.
  • If you don’t have a strength training practice now is a great time to incorporate some weekly strength training. Strength training can help to create stability, strength and balance in the areas of the body which tend to become underdeveloped, inhibited or strained due to habitual movement patterns. Many of my advanced students and have various injurious and complaints that all seem to stem from joint instability. There are many studies that have shown correlations between joint hyper mobility, osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia and RA. Personally, I have had to incorporate more strength training and reduce my weekly yoga practices due to instability issues
  • I also recommend investing in a few sessions with an experienced personal trainer or exercise specialist who can asses your movement patterns, spot your imbalances and recommend exercises accordingly.  I am taking a limited number of private clients over the summer in Edmonton or online so reach out if you would like more information: info@empoweredyoga.ca

Summer Lifestyle Recommendations

There has been a lot of debate recently around sunscreen pros and cons. I reached out to Amy Mcleod, Biologist and Owner of Twisted Sisters Skin Nutrition for her perspective and here is what she had to say:

The biggest variable in the Summer months, for us living the northern hemisphere, is sun exposure. While the sun can be beneficial for the skin because it is required for the production of vitamin D, UV Rays can be detrimental as well, increasing the signs of aging (also called photo aging) and increasing the risk of cancer. There is a trade off between the amount and type of melanin (skin pigment) produced, Vitamin D production and UV absorption. Melanin, the dark pigment in the skin decreases the rate of vitamin D production because it competes with 7 DHC for the absorption of UV light, however melanin is like a natural sunscreen and can help circumvent the damages caused by UV more efficiently by absorbing more radiation. This is why people that originate from places with increased sun exposure (places close to the equator) typically have evolved darker skin pigments, where as people that are exposed to less uv (at higher latitudes) tend to have lighter skin pigments. Basically, us pale skin folk are at higher risk for UV damage ( burn and cancer) with increased exposure, but can produce Vitamin D more quickly. So, having a light tan in the Summer may help protect you from some of the damaged caused by UV radiation, but in the winter, when we are exposed to less sunshine, dark skin pigments hinder the ability to produce Vitamin D. For example, at the latitude of Edmonton, there is insufficient exposure to produce the nutritional requirement of Vitamin D from October to April (Webb et al 1988).
Regardless of skin tone, it is important to protect the skin from the potential risks associated with increased UV exposure. UV has the potential to damage DNA, increase inflammation (burn) and increase signs of aging. Photo aging depletes antioxidants like Vitamin E and C while increasing free radicals that damage proteins like collagen and elastin and lipids that are required for skins laxity. As mentioned before, some exposure is healthy for vitamin D production, but the longer we are exposed the more likely we are to increase damage. Sunscreen can lengthen the amount of time we are able to withstand UV exposure before damage occurs by creating a reflective barrier on the surface of the skin, however some sunscreens are full of toxic chemicals that may actual increase skin damage. Allow your skin some exposure to the sun without sun screen, but for prolonged exposure, look for sunscreens that use Zinc Oxide, as it is not absorbed into the body and plant oils that naturally protect from UV such as: Raspberry seed, essential oil of carrot and coconut oil. Be cautious when using naturally protective oils however. They may not protect from all UV Rays, so for prolonged exposure covering the skin or zinc are your safer options. If you do burn, it is always important to treat the skin. Cool, rehydrate, and use nutrient rich botanicals such as aloe vera and nutrient rich plant oils to help heal the skin. A cool cloth or compress can be applied to the skin surface to help reduce inflammation. Replenish Hydrating Facial Tonic is an excellent after sun mist jam pack with antioxidants to heal the skin and help prevent photo damage.

With the extra sunshine, comes more heat. The body has an amazing ability to cool itself with sweat; however, increased perspiration can lead to clogged pores and increased bacterial growth. Keep you skin cool and clean after sweating by splashing with cool water or mist with Remediation Detoxifying Facial Tonic. Remediation contains cooling essential oils and witch hazel, aloe vera, and cucumber extract for decreasing inflammation, anti oxidant rich green tea, and antibacterial essential oils and botanical extracts. It is also a great after shave for people who trend to get razor burn.

Lastly, keep the skin moisturized. Following sun exposure use a moisturizer that can help restore antioxidants and lipids to protect from dehydration and reverse photo damage. Twisted Sisters Skin Nutrition makes an assortment of healthy moisturizers full of micro-nutrients for balanced functional skin. Summer Body Whip contains avocado oil that is rich in Vitamins and high in oleic acid and contains omega 3 and 6. Other ingredients are coconut oil, shea butter, aloe vera butter, sunflower oil and jojoba. However, it contains citrus essential oils that can make the skin sensitive to the sun,so only apply this whip following sun exposure.



I hope you have found this information useful. If you are interested in private consultations and programs contact me at info@empoweredyoga.ca

Namaste,