Learning to Live with Stress is More Important than Learning Algebra

Oh, the things we didnt learn in school.

Are you devoting enough time to exploring how to respond to stress? The benefits can be (literally) life-saving.

Stress and anxiety are a normal part of life. In fact, this energy is what motivates us to get out of bed each day, go find food, and build relationships with others. But exposure to high levels of stress over the long-term has major consequences for our health.


Stress & Our Immune System

When our bodies are responding to stressful events, our immune system becomes suppressed. This happens so that all of our physical resources can be given to our fight-or-flight systems to increase our chances of survival in a life or death situation. The problem is, our brain cannot tell the difference between receiving a stressful email from our boss VS being chased by a bearboth situations are simply considered to be threateningand the fight-or-flight response kicks in.


Learning to Cope with Stress

Living in todays fast-paced, connected society means that we are constantly exposed to stress. This long-term exposure to stress and immune system suppression can lead to an increased risk of heart disease, gastrointestinal problems, heart attacks, and cancer.

Fortunately, we can train ourselves to respond to everyday stress in a way that does not engage our fight-or-flight systems. Part of this process involves activating our relaxingparasympathetic nervous system. This can be done in a variety of ways, including: breathing, movement, physical pressure/deep tissue activation, and warmth. When we are already stressed out, it can be irritating to hear someone tell us to just breathe. But this message isnt entirely uselessthe key is knowing how to breathe and exhale in a way that tells our bodies its time to relax.


Mastering Your Nervous System

Now, we dont want you to read this article and stress out!!! Learning to switch onour parasympathetic nervous system doesnt have to be a demanding task. There are plenty of resources dedicated to supporting physical relaxation, so allocate 5 minutes each day to learning a new technique. As you learn which techniques are most effective, continue practicing them so they become second-nature when you encounter stress in your life. For those who want to explore further, join us for the upcoming workshop Interrupting the Stress Response on Wednesday, November 29th at Studio 202 in North Vancouver. There, we will be discussing the physiology of stress, and sampling different techniques that promote relaxation.


Explore Your Response to Stress

A final word of encouragementWe are all unique in our ability to tolerate and respond to stress. Adopting an attitude of curiosity and humour can be helpful in exploring which techniques are most effective for you as an individual. With some time, practice, and patience, learning to respond to stress will be a valuable long-term investment in your health and overall wellness.

What is Pranayama?

Pranayama is the art of breath-work. ‘Prana’ is life force – our breath, and ‘yama’ is discipline. This is why the 8 limbs of yoga are called the yamas and niyamas – the disciplines of yoga to live a healthy and happy life. See our post on 8 Limbs of Yoga blog for more information on Yamas & Niyamas.


How Pranayama Helps Your Meditation

You’ve likely heard you can only think about one thing at a time, so choose positive thoughts. This is part of the beauty of meditation and pranayama. By focusing on a single positive thought, a breath pattern, or a sensation – you become immersed. By focusing on the breath, we are able to let our minds neutralize and reach a more balanced and happier state! It is not possible to control the mind with the mind. This is why pranayama is an essential aspect of meditation.


Notice Your Breath

First please take notice of your breath. Is it rapid? Short? Long? Slow? Deep? Is your chest expanding? Is your belly expanding? Place a hand on your lower abdomen, close your eyes and begin to connect with your breath for a minute. Has it changed?


Forms of Pranayama to Try

There are many forms of breathwork, that can be practiced, each serving different purposes:

  • Calming – simple inhale with your belly expanding and exhale through the nose, flowing into each other is incredibly soothing. This is also called Ocean Breath or Ujjayi when you try to ‘fog up the mirror’ on your exhale – it creates a slight constriction in the throat making the sound of the ocean.
  • Deep calming – inhale for 4 seconds letting your stomach expand, retain the breath for 4 counts, exhale for 6 seconds, and hold out for 2. Continue with this breath.
  • Cooling – rolling the sides of your tongue upward and sticking your tongue slightly out, inhale and exhale. You will notice a cooling sensation. This is great for fevers! If you have a one with a fever, lay them on your bare chest skin-to-skin as you do this breath.
  • Energizing – with Breath of Fire it’s important to ground yourself first. Close your eyes and imagine a golden cord or roots extending from the base of your spine into the earth. Feel that sense of connection. When you are ready, begin by taking a long belly-breath. Exhale in quick contractions, drawing your navel towards your spine. For each long inhale, you should be able to do 10 exhales. Rest between and continue.
  • With kids – to help children calm and sleep, have them lay down and place a hand on their belly. As they inhale imagining their bellies are like balloons expanding, and exhaling to let the air out of the balloon through their nose or mouth.

There are many more pranayama techniques you can try too, but more advanced ones are best in a class with a practitioner who can help you ground appropriately. Check out our Yin and Kundalini classes for more pranayama!


Yoga for Skiing + Biking

The mountains are almost ready… are you? As athletes, we tend to focus on the joy we get from our favourite sports, not stretching. This changes quickly after an injury! Being an avid runner, swimmer, skier, biker…and anything else I can possibly do, I get it! I would much rather be moving, but I realized in my early 20’s if I wanted to keep moving I need to let my body heal. If I didn’t do yoga, there’s a good chance I wouldn’t stretch!

Yoga for Biking + Skiing was created for athletes who need dedicated stretch time. This class is a power flow style, to strengthen the upper body – which isn’t the focus in either of these sports, and stretch the lower half! The goal of this class is to help build your endurance, and prevent injury. We help to bring balance to the body through various poses and breath-work.

Yoga for Balance

In order to be a strong, powerful and agile athlete, it’s very important to have a strong core. The core is the centre of our bodies strength and helps us to balance. Try standing on one leg with your eyes close. Now try it engaging your core – the pelvic muscles. Quite a difference!

By doing simple exercises to become conscious of engaging your core, you will notice your skill in both skiing and biking improve. While these sports are primarily leg-dominant, it’s important to keep a balanced body. Holding plank and doing fun variations of plank are great for strengthening the core and the upper body … and efficient so we can focus on deep release of the glutes & quads. Ensuring we stretch  as we strengthen our body for our sport of choice is essential to continue to build healthy, lean muscle. By allowing recovery time, our body will be better prepared for the next adventure and we lessen the chance of injury.

Yin Yoga for Deep Release

If you are happy to try some deep stretching for your whole body, Yin is such a soothing class! We hold gentle poses for 1-5 minutes to allow the muscles and surrounding fascia to melt, which allows the body to re-set. This is a perfect class to ease you into a solid night sleep.

I look forward to seeing you on the mat!


Belly Dance for Pre and Post-Natal Exercise

What do you think of when you think of belly dance? A celebratory dance? A sensual experience? ….Childbirth? There are many who believe that the origin of bellydance is linked to childbirth rituals of centuries ago. While these theories are controversial, it is easy to argue that many of the movements of bellydance mimic movements of a labouring woman. And, more importantly, many of the movements of bellydance use the same muscles used by a labouring woman.

Bellydance to Prepare for and Recover from Birth 

Pregnancy can wreak havoc on a woman’s body, but exercise, especially core and pelvic-floor strengthening exercise can help to minimize damage and expedite the healing process. Due to the wild changes in a woman’s body, many conventional abdominal & core exercises can cause more harm or exacerbate conditions such as diastasis recti –  a gap of roughly 2.7 cm or greater between the two sides of the rectus abdominis muscle. This can cause a woman to appear pregnant months or even years post-birth. Many pregnancy fitness programs, including the Dia Method – which was featured in the “American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology” – modify abdominal exercises involving contracting and releasing abs from a standing, seated, or side-plank position, to prevent or reverse diastasis recti, to stay healthy and to prepare for or recover from childbirth.

Bellydance in My Pregnancy

As I researched these programs for my own pregnancy, I noticed that these are the exact movements I use in my belly dance teaching and practice. Except, of course, the belly dance version is much more fun! I have been recommending this beautiful art form and exercise to women, and sometimes men, since I took my first class nearly two decades ago.

Benefits of Bellydance 

The benefits of practicing this dance are relevant to all women, and, I believe, especially important for women preparing for or recovering from child bearing. To name a few:

  • Gentle strengthening of core
  • Increasing ability to isolate and control muscle groups
  • Helping prepare the body for birth and preventing diastasis recti
  • Recovery after birth
  • An emphasis on body positivity and acceptance and the feminine form in all its diverse representations
  • Improving posture
  • Stress relief
  • Development of rhythm and some cool party moves!
  • FUN!!

I truly believe belly dance is for everyone, regardless of age, size, shape! If you are pregnant and concerned, check with a medical professional before engaging in any exercise.

Biotensegrity Workshop North Vancouver

Embodied Biotensegrity Training brings the biotensegrity paradigm beyond the intellect to one’s experience in the body. A synergy of theory, interoceptive practice, yoga philosophy and enquiry gives rise to a new understanding and experience of the body. Balance, ease, presence and wholeness arise.

Biotensegrity says that our structure is based on an ever-changing balance of opposing forces on many scales. Continuous tensional forces hold us together against discontinuous expanding compressional forces. We exist as continuities of tissue, different in specialization yet the same in origin. Everything is connected. We cannot isolate single muscles or bones: when one thing moves everything else responds in complex and sometimes subtle ways. Our movements are not restricted by the delineations of up/down, side to side, back/front that we have been taught, but can be fluid, omnidirectional and spiraling. Biotensegrity speaks to what we feel in the body when the mind is quiet and awareness rests with sensation. The body is not solid and fixed – it is alive with ever-changing sensations – tingling oscillations, swirlings and a dissolving of boundaries of skin and separateness.

We see in biotensegrity oneness and duality, the essential coexistence of opposites, and the macro reflected in the micro. Embodied biotensegrity looks to yoga texts and draws relationships between these understandings and the biotensegrity paradigm. In embodied biotensegrity practice, these same concepts are explored with the body.

Embodied Biotensegrity Training opens the door to new explorations in the body by:

  •  cultivating healthy posture and movement patterns
  •  balancing and healing the fascial matrix of the body
  •  finding ease in movement and stillness
  •  experiencing wholeness
  •  quieting the mind
  • bringing yoga philosophy to conversations of emerging science

Embodied Biotensegrity Training uses innovative teaching methodology to foster “sticky learning” inviting teachers of all yoga styles and movement practices not just to integrate the theory, but to generate new knowledge and become trailblazers in their fields.

Join Chris Clancy for her Biotensegrity Workshop at Studio 202 on Nov 4th from 2-4!


Daily Meditation for Your Health

I’m sure you’ve heard of many of the benefits of meditation, so I won’t get into this. But what I do hear often, is how do you meditate? We all have very different ideas of meditation, and that’s completely ok. It’s a very personal journey and can take many forms; walking, painting, music, or more traditional forms including focused meditation, mindfulness, and incorporating breath work, known as pranayama – ‘breath control’.

Why Meditate?

Everyone also uses meditation for different reasons, but this too changes throughout our lives. Many experience anxiety and use meditation to help find peace.  We are better able to be objective, see situations without unnecessary emotion, and better communicate with others. Meditation can help us refine our dreams. Meditation can help us heal, by releasing emotions and helping us to focus on what is most important to us. Energy flows where thoughts go.

How to Meditate

I don’t believe there is one way to do anything, just like there isn’t one way to meditate.  I don’t think it’s necessary to ’empty’ your mind. We are thinking beings. Using the power of meditation to observe objectively is a great practice, and in time you will notice you will have little moments of inspiration come to you more frequently.  Overtime I have learned some valuable tools to meditate in a safe way. When we are energetically exposed, as we can be when we meditate, it’s important to ground and energetically protect ourselves. We are extra receptive after meditation, and you don’t want to be picking up on others energy – this is especially true if you are already very sensitive to others.

  • Begin by getting comfortable in a space you can meditate every day undisturbed
  • Closing your eyes, inhale through your nose to the count of 3 and exhale through your mouth for 3 – sigh it out!
  • Begin inhaling and exhaling for equal 4 counts through your nose, allowing your stomach to relax
  • As you feel your body relax, bring your awareness from head to your seat (crown chakra to root chakra)
  • On your next exhale, imagine roots or a golden cord reaching from your root chakra into the earth. Feel this connection deepen. Exhaling any unnecessary energy into the earth to be dissolved
  • Continue with deep steady inhales and exhales for as long as you wish

More Meditation Tips:

For more information on meditation, you can follow us on Instagram and join our Facebook event: Month of Meditation. 

This is completely free, and you will get tips every day for your home mediation practice. Our Thursday Yin class is another lovely way to meditate whether you have practiced for a while or are new to meditation. Yin is accessible to beginners. For mediation with children, we host Karma Family Yoga on Saturdays (by-donation). If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to email me.

Playdates! for Parents and Tots

We are very excited to be opening the studio for Playdates on Monday, Wednesday & Friday mornings! This is an opportunity for parents to bring their little ones to release some energy, get social, learn something new, and meet new parents + tots. We will have toys, books, and tea for everyone to share, and from time to time, mini-workshops with wellness practitioners sharing dance, yoga, and helpful tools for parents!

This was an essential aspect of the vision for the studio 15 years ago. Katie could see that it was a challenge for both parents to be working on the family structure and children’s emotional well-being. Most parents do an incredible job, but many are also choosing to have one parent at home, often opening their own small business. While running a small business isn’t the easiest thing in the world (!), it definitely provides incredible satisfaction (especially when you feel like you’re helping others) and to a degree, more flexibility. There are still more surprises to build on this vision! Being a community space, we are about connection and supporting each other in growth.

Oct 2nd, our first Playdate, we will have Dinah our Bellydance instructor joining us! This will be a fun session for little ones and parents – a chance to move, loosen up the back, and help mamas get some gentle core work in. For more information and to register for Playdates, please visit our main page and select one of the ‘More Details’ buttons. See you soon!


Help Relieve These Top 5 Baby Ailments with Reflexology

Reflexology is an ancient practice that was developed and used by many cultures across the globe including the Egyptians, Chinese and Vietnamese. It is a gentle, non-invasive technique of activating reflexes in the feet that affect the body’s organs, glands and parts to help to improve overall health, naturally. Modern reflexology is becoming increasingly popular as a holistic treatment for many issues and conditions.

When it comes to our children, we want the best for them and often go to great lengths to raise them in the safest and most natural way. I know I’ll buy my toddler the organic brand and skimp on my own or take hours researching the best product options because heaven forbid we make a “wrong decision” – #firstchildproblems  😉

What if I told you there was a natural & effective way to combat common baby ailments, right at home? Foot reflexology is a great technique to relieve common baby ailments, whether you use it alone or in conjunction with other traditional treatments.

Babies and children are especially receptive to the effects of reflexology since their feet are so “new” and the skin, ligaments, bones, nerves and arches have yet to develop fully. There are less physical and energetic blockages in the feet so activating the reflexes becomes easier and the effects can be faster and more specific.

In addition, infant & baby reflexology;
·         Is nurturing & helps enhance connection between caregiver and child
·         reduces stress
·         calms & soothes
·         activates the self healing mechanism
·         balances hormones leading to greater health of all the body systems
·         detoxifies the body
·         feels great and is fun for the caregiver
Reflexology is also safe, doesn’t have any unpleasant side effects and can be used as a preventative and maintenance tool – for example, combining it with your bath or bedtime routine!

If you’re a parent who would like to try using reflexology for your little one, I have developed a Baby & Me Reflexology Workshop where I show you how to activate the foot reflexes to bring about relief for 5 common baby ailments including Teething, Sinus & Congestion, Gas & Constipation (Digestive Upset), Sleep & Relaxation and Skin Conditions. Join us September 28th at Studio 202! To register, please visit: www.footgurureflexology.com

Moms have been super happy with the results, especially as they’ve seen a doubling or more in length of nap times after a session.

“I was very pleased with all the different techniques to use for various common baby ailments. My son is not a very good sleeper and much to my surprise after this workshop he surpassed his usual 45 min nap and slept for 2.5 hours!!! I also practiced the calming reflexology points before bedtime because he can get quite grumpy at the end of the day, and he was extremely calm afterwards. I highly recommend this workshop! Thank you so much Suzanne!”

~ Jessica, mom to 6 month old.

Practicing Yoga at Home with Your Children

Learning the principles of yoga, meditation (mindfulness), and pranayama (breath-work) is incredibly beneficial at any age, and even more impactful to learn as a child. Imagine if you had these tools as a child! Read on to explore a simple meditation you can practice at home with your children, or join us for classes in our cozy North Vancouver studio!

With the pressure of media, and to constantly do and achieve more, child-hood anxiety has dramatically increased. We are stimulated from the time we wake until sleep, not getting the rest outside of sleep to function properly. This results in nervous energy (and growing popularity of fidget toys), but what we really need is to be alright with taking a time-out to nourish ourselves…and as adults, we need to lead by example. What if we could teach children a way to minimize their anxiety before it becomes a challenge?

Simple yoga, meditation, and pranayama techniques help children (and adults) with the following:

  • Focus
  • Communicating dreams & needs, including healthy boundaries
  • Manage stressors in healthy ways, which promotes confidence
  • Strengthening the mind & body connection for better self-awareness
  • Increasing understanding & sensitivity to others
  • De-stress for healthy hormone balance

Here’s a simple meditation you can do at home with your family:

Begin by laying down or sitting with eyes gently closed. Place one hand on the chest and the other one on the stomach. Taking a deep inhale through the nose, and exhale through the mouth. Repeat ten times. Feel your rib cage and stomach expanding as you inhale, and shoulders relaxing as you exhale. When ready, begin breathing in and out through the nose, with nice long (2-4 second) breaths. Try lengthening the breath. If you like, as you inhale imagine drawing the breath through your crown chakra (top of your head) as a warm white light. Bring this light through your body and as you exhale let it be absorbed into the earth. Continue as long as you wish.

Yoga for children should be child-appropriate and fun. Yoga, meditation, and pranayama are powerful tools to help nurture our-selves, in order to be more effective, healthier, and happier for ourselves and our community. We have Karma Family Yoga every Saturday from 1230-110p – this is by-donation!

North Vancouver Yoga For Kids

How to Build Core Strength to Ease Back Pain

My clients pretty regularly tell me their back is all better, even though they’ve tried many avenues to heal it. I’m not really doing anything special, just giving them tools to help them help themselves … one of the greatest joys in life! ? Simple core and breath exercises help give athletes greater strength and endurance, and also make a huge difference for women, not to mention anyone with back pain! If you are looking for a class to really help you with this, I would recommend the following:
Tues Mindful Movement + Yoga or Intro Yoga or Yoga for Bikers + Athletes
Thurs Bellydance
Sat Ladies Vinyasa Flow

While we don’t work on the core in Yin, this class is also very beneficial for working with the breath and deep fascial (and muscle) release.

See you soon!