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How Yoga Helped Me Run a 21K

Running is one of my meditative escapes. I might not run as much as I would have liked lately, but the few times that I make it out for a run, the benefits are no less relaxing. I enjoy nature trails with hills, rocks, roots, and all. Being out on the fresh air invigorates lots of my sensory feelings, too.

It has been a way of exercise that has been following me since I was a baby with my dad competing in triathlons, and not many years later, I started the same myself. I always immensely enjoyed it. But it wasn’t until I was well in my 20s that I started to also take it seriously. One day, I was joking with my running buddy saying how we should try running a half-marathon. For a split second, we looked at each other seriously and made a pact that we will. It was exactly what we did.

It was about the same time that I also started to take yoga seriously. So, with the progress I saw from one, I felt how I equally progressed in the other. Performing yoga helped me understand my movement on a deeper level than I ever did before. It gave me the necessary flexibility for relaxing and elongating my muscles. Both forms of exercises, despite being polar opposites, allowed me to enter a state of intrinsic mind that made me understand and feel many of the muscle groups better than ever before. 

Yoga, in my case, played a vital role from the flexibility standpoint–increasing my range of motion. I was able to elongate muscles that in turn made me quicker, bouncier if you would, and moving forward more efficiently. It moreover helped me improve my posture, decreased the chances of me getting injured as well as increased the blood and nutrient supply to the muscles.

Yoga has affected me far beyond its capabilities of making me stronger physically. Being a meditative practice tightly connected to the breath, it additionally deepened my understanding of mindfulness. It gave my body the necessary time to recharge in between running practices, releasing tension from muscles, and in turn, mental blockages, too.

It also, not so expectantly, built up my endurance. It, after all, is a low-impact cardio training, which firstly helps improve core strength and secondly endurance. 

There are a couple of simple exercises that in particular helped me do all those things. The first one is a downward-facing dog for stretching out the calves. There are obviously numerous variations to it; however, I feel that lifting one leg from it helps stretch the standing leg that much deeper. I also think that twisting poses are great additions to any fitness program, not only for runners, because they inspire upright posture. Think of it as you want to lead your body forward with your heart in all areas of your life.

Staying with the athletics for a while, I also believe that if you’re a runner yourself and are able to run a 10K, you are able to run any distance. After a certain distance, all the push comes from the thoughts going through your head. Be supportive of yourself, celebrate your achievement while you are succeeding, recognize the hard work, and be proud of yourself. Those positive little affirmations will help you progress to the finish line–wherever that might be.

I think that there is a stigma around fitness that makes people think they need to profusely sweat and excessively cycle or run to call it fitness. But I feel like fitness is performing exercises that feel best for you, to the level that you can go at a certain point in time regardless of what others do or say. Mat classes, like yoga and pilates, and meditation are obviously great tools to make you quicker on the field, more alert at work and have a better self-image. Plus with the advancements in athleisure clothing, you can surely find time to get that run or workout in. 

Even with you signing up for a marathon or a marathon-like race, you’ve already won by participating.  Whichever higher result is only a cherry on top of the (healthy) cake.

What’s in Our Yoga Bag This Summer?

We have decided to open our yoga bag for you this week and show you what are the essential items we can’t live without this summer.

Summer is all about being careless and free, and we don’t want our yoga bags weighing us down. Lightweight and practical, we have you covered with our top five items this summer. You may be heading to a yoga class and then straight to the beach, hiking in the mountains or maybe you are going to a health and lifestyle festival.

What’s Inside?

S’well Water Bottle

Keep hydrated in style this summer. Especially if practicing an active class such as Vinyasa Flow. Health professionals recommend for us to aim to drink 1-2 liters of water per day, or fill up with coconut water for extra electrolyte replacement. These water bottles are lightweight and come in a variety of beautiful colors and designs, not to mention being eco-friendly and BPA free. Price: $25-$45

Eko Super Lite Travel Mat

We love the new marbled color combination of blue and green, called cayo, this summer. The Manduka Eko super lite is the perfect fold up mat to put in our bags and take anywhere. At just 1.5mm thick and 2.2lbs, this yoga mat is super light. We love that we can take this mat and practice yoga in the outdoors. On the beach, up to the top of a mountain or at a yoga festival, we can’t live without this one. Price: $42

Cut Out Capri Yoga Leggings

Feel great in these capri yoga leggings from Onzie. Keep cool, and let the breeze in through the mesh panels. After yoga, just throw over a loose-fitting top and head out from the studio into your day. We love that labels like this make it easy to look good wearing our active wear anywhere. Price: $69

SPF 20 Tinted Moisturizer

Keep protected from the sun this summer especially when practicing yoga outside. We love this natural light weight tinted SPF20 moisturizer because it is vegan, gluten-free, cruelty-free and it is made with organic ingredients. Active ingredients include aloe vera, white tea, and lavender. It offers us moisture, light coverage, protection and comes in six natural shades. Price: $42

DIY Yoga Mat Spray

This product is fundamental for keeping our yoga mats smelling good and keeping clean after a sweaty yoga practice. Making your own mat spray is easy, all you need is a spray bottle, some water, and some essential oils. This is our favorite combination to disinfect and freshen up our yoga mats, but you can change the oils to suit your preference.

  1. Add 3 drops of tea tree oil
  2. Add 2 drops of peppermint oil
  3. Add 2 drops of lavender oil
  4. Fill with distilled water
  5. Shake to combine

Have you got any items you can’t live without? Share your favorites with us in the comments below.

Treatment for Sciatic Pain with Yoga

The best treatment to eliminate or prevent sciatic pain is to perform yoga exercises, especially during pregnancy. The sciatic pain is born in the lower back or one of the buttocks. It usually travels down the hamstring until it reaches the bottom of the leg or even the foot.

How to Know If I Have Sciatica?

Sciatic pain usually occurs on only one side, although it may happen on both sides at the same time.

  • Do you feel numbness in your leg or foot?
  • Do you feel pain in just one buttock or one leg?
  • Do you notice relief when you lie down or walk?
  • Is it worse when you’re standing or when you sit down?
  • Is it a sharp pain instead of dull?

If the answer to these questions is YES, then the following exercises will help you a lot. Apart from answering these questions, I advise you to go to the doctor.

Exercises Sciatic Pain

Cobra Posture

It is one of the most famous asanas.

  1. Laying facing down your mat, place your hands next to your ribs.
  2. Extend your arms while keeping your belly button and legs on the mat.
  3. Open your chest and breathe.

Supta Virasana

  1. Sit on your heels keeping your knees together and slowly open your feet as much as possible to let your hips touch the mat.
  2. If you have knee problems, open your feet until it feels comfortable.
  3. Slowly and with control, start laying on your back.
  4. Put your elbows on the mat.
  5. If it feels good, continue to lay all your back on the mat and rest for five breaths.

Remember, yoga is not supposed to cause you pain. Listen to your body in order to prevent injuries.

Pigeon Pose (Eka Pada Rajakapotasana)

  1. Start in Table Pose (hands and knees on the mat), and bring your right knee between your hands.
  2. Stretch your left leg towards the back of your mat.
  3. Place your right ankle towards your left wrist striving to get a ninety-degree angle on your knee.
  4. Of course, if you have knee problems, the ankle could be placed more towards your navel.
  5. The stretch you give to the hip on the bent knee side will release the sciatic pain in it.
  6. Change sides to make the exercise even.

Hasta Uttanasana

It is one of the first Sun Salutation postures.

  1. Stand at the top of your mat with your hands together.
  2. Raise your arms as much as you can and stretch them without raising your shoulders.
  3. Very gently, bow your spine and arms back and bring your hip forward.

Balasana (Child’s Pose)

The Balasana serves to stretch the lower back muscles and relieve the pain caused by sciatica.

Opposite Hand and Arm

This is an exercise to strengthen the back.

  1. Starting in Table Pose, raise your right arm parallel to the mat and look ahead.
  2. Find your balance and raise the left leg also parallel to the mat.
  3. Strengthen your core to keep the spine flat.
  4. Hold this pose for five breaths.
  5. Repeat the exercise with the other arm and leg.

Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Bridge Pose)

  1. Lying on your back, stretch your back and put your arms at your sides.
  2. Bend your knees and support the weight of your legs on your feet.
  3. Bend your knees as much as possible so that you can touch your heels with your middle finger.
  4. Pushing from your feet, raise your hips as much as you can.
  5. Clasp your hands, and squeeze your shoulders under the body.
  6. Press up with your hands too, while keeping the knees parallel to each other.
  7. Hold this pose for five breaths.
  8. Unclasp the hands and lower your body one vertebrae at the time.
  9. Repeat three more times resting between each exercise.

Other Reasons Why Yoga Helps Sciatic Pain

  • Helps with weight loss
  • Losing some weight is important to prevent and relieve pain because it reduces pressure on the roots of the spinal nerve.
  • Releases tension during pregnancy

There are three causes of sciatic pain during pregnancy:

  1. The uterus begins to press the sciatic nerve.
  2. Vertebral compression produced by additional weight.
  3. Bad postures may be acquired when trying to find a more comfortable position.

To avoid this, you can see more about Yoga for pregnant women here.

 

Yoga Promotes Good Posture

Bad postures could press organs and cause spinal deviations and other health problems.

It is important to pay attention to your body posture when you are:

  • Standing up: try to keep your back straight and look straight ahead.
  • Sitting: many of us spend several hours a day sitting in front of a computer. It is important to keep our spine straight and have a computer screen in front of our face.
  • Driving Same as sitting.
  • Sleeping: We also spend several hours a day in bed. If we do sleep, we begin to move and try different positions, some of which are bad for the spine.

How to Practice a Yoga Mala

Yoga Mala is a whole-body prayer through a repeated cycle in divisors of 108. It is a devoted offering that can come from mantra Japa (repetitive uttering of a mantra) or yoga asana. When we conduct our practice, we tend to follow a flow of poses from one into another; but often, we intend to increase our difficulty within the poses; to improve our strength, balance, and flexibility. Yoga Mala is less about the poses and more about spiritual practice.

As mala beads, meaning “garland” in Sanskrit, are connected to create a circular and continuous form. When we use the term yoga mala, we are referring to a circular and repeated cycle within our practice. Within the yoga mala, the types of offerings are mantra Japa, pranam and yoga. 

Mantra Japa Offering

This specific mantra involves chanting that can be done internally or aloud; as Japa means that it is offered continuously. When you choose to practice this type of offering, you may select an English mantra or a Sanskrit mantra. While either is perfectly acceptable, the Sanskrit mantras are meant to awaken your whole being with vibration, and not just within the mind. 

The mantra is intended to be short and powerful and can be easily learned through repetition. The belief is that mantras are the sounds that should complement our yoga asanas; and in order to fully understand yoga, you must have knowledge of mantras. 

Pranam Offering

This mantra offering is a gentle yet transformative practice. You may choose to either offer traditional Namaskaras (salutations) or Pranams (prostrations). Prostration is the practice of kneeling and involves the physical gesture of bowing to convey respect, honor, and reverence. The pranam is where the whole body surrenders itself to the earth in a flat position. 

To complete the pranam, the practitioner will begin standing and then lowering the hands to the ground, walking them away from the feet to bring the entire body face-down on the earth. You may place the forehead on the hands like a pillow and will want to remain in the position for at least one cycle of breath. Once you have completed your cycle of breath, you may return to your standing pose. You may also choose to complete your cycles with your eyes closed. 

Yoga Offering

Lastly, we come to the yoga mala which is where you use a combination of poses to equal a total of 108, just like the number of mala beads. You may also do a shortened practice, such as 27 or 54 cycles. 

One example of this would be, but not restricted to, 12 cycles of 9 sun salutations; but keep in mind that this would be quite a challenge for even the most experienced Yogi. As a result, you may want to introduce some modifications within this offering; such as alternating between a full pose and a modified pose. Despite this being an offering, you do not want to deplete all of your energy. 

The Significance Of 108

This number has great significance across many different cultures. One particular example is the 108 chapters of the Rig Veda, which are written in Sanskrit, a language that has 54 letters. Each of the letters has a masculine (Shiva) and feminine (Shakti) form; we can, therefore, take 54 and multiply it by 2, to equal 108. 

The relationship to this sacred number is seen in other examples, such as within the field of Ayurveda where there are 108 sacred places. We also already mentioned the 108 mala beads used for prayer. Because the beads specifically have 108 within their cycle, these are great to use within your Yoga Mala practice. 

When To Practice Yoga Mala?

As this practice is meant to cleanse and invigorate the individual, you may choose to practice it during the beginning or end of a change in season or shift in the time of year, such as a holiday time (like the New Year) or even during a personal change.

A Yoga Mala requires dedication but can be a great way to clear a path for new changes in your life. It can dissolve the past, aid us where we may feel stuck in life, and stimulate our intentions for the future. 

How I Manage to Stay Away from Processed Sugars

I love chocolate. And by love, I mean I cannot go a day without eating it. But once I got into my 30’s, the continuous intake started to show. First on my thighs, where the excess fats like to accumulate especially for women. Then my digestion slowed down from all the processed sugars. And my skin was not as fresh-looking as it used to be and I would prefer it to be. But as I can’t really stir myself away from eating any sweets at all, I found out great alternatives.

1. Dates

Dates are rich in proteins (which keeps your muscles strong) and vitamins (which keep you filled with energy). They are also rich in selenium, manganese, copper, and magnesium that keep your bones strong. They include potassium, yet little sodium, regulating your nervous system. As well as they contain iron and are, therefore, suitable for those who suffer iron deficiencies. They promote digestion and bring elasticity to your skin. As they prevent melanin to accumulate in your body, they are much better for you than any magical anti-aging pills.

They also lower the cholesterol levels. And they kind of taste like chocolate, right?

2. Trail Mix

Use the dates mentioned above to create your own. I even like drying my own fruits when I see they are going to be left behind when in season.

Apricots, plums, grapes, mulberry, figs, etc. they are all natural sugars which intensify when dehydrated. Plus, you will be able to have them at any time of the year.

Then make your own trail mix using your favorite ingredients. You can use any or all the above-mentioned things in combination with some nuts. It is a great healthy alternative to any processed sweets. Dried fruit spikes your blood sugar a lot, but if you combine nuts with them, it lowers your glycemic index. You could even add spices like cinnamon, cardamom, and a little sea salt.

3. Black tea, lightly sweetened with either agave syrup or stevia and cacao nibs, and a splash of milk.

Hear me out, before you skip to the next point. Sometimes when you feel hungry, you might just be a little thirst talking. I like to run my creativity wild while preparing my foods and drinks. And sometimes, if the snack seems a little too small, this is a great way to get some extra healthy nutrients in.

4. Compote

It is a light meal that you can pair with a couple of nuts, or just drink the juice that is left.

Simply slice some apples or pears into pieces, add some dried fruit (my favorite are plums and raisins because they add extra sweetness), and water and heat up for about 10 minutes, till the fruit softens.

5. Cinnamon

Sprinkle it wherever you can.

It improves your metabolism, evens out your blood sugar levels and makes your breath nice.

I like mine on the previously mentioned compote. You can mash that up into an applesauce. I also started adding cinnamon to my Greek yogurt and, despite my initial hesitations, it tastes delicious. It is also good in a spread made of cottage cheese, dried plums, sunflower seeds, and cinnamon, of course.

Those will get you through to the next meal and hopefully set the healthy tone for the rest of the day.

But also, sometimes there is no way around having a piece of chocolate. I like to remind myself to go for options like dark chocolate covered with almond. It helps to lower glycemic index. Indulge, rather than beat yourself up for not following the plan to the T.