Mini-Meditations: Mom’s secret to getting through the toddler years

Mini-Meditations for Moms

Back in the day, when I was a freewheeling ladypreneur who set her own rules and schedule, before the baby, and nap time schedules, and play dates…  Back when all I had to do was take care of me, and I did a damn fine job of doing it….  Wayyyy back then, I had a lovely little meditation practice.  I would wake up, put on the tea pot, and sit on my meditation cushion in front of the floor to ceiling window in our Brooklyn apartment.  I had a little altar, with all the things I thought belonged there — a big ceramic buddha head, some candles and crystals, all the good stuff.  For 15-20 minutes, I would sit and focus on my breath or listen to a guided meditation.  I felt grounded and I felt good.

But that was oh so long ago.  Now, my daily schedule is dictated by an adorable, opinionated creature with needs of her own.  She wakes up in the ungodly hours between 6 and 7am, and so begins our daily adventure. During her naps, I cram in as much relaxation and self-care as I can, while still keeping myself fed, my business afloat, and my house in (relative) order.  Needless to say, that leaves little time for my meditation practice of yore, and that hasn’t been a big deal… until now.

5 Tips for a Healthy Inspiring Workspace

By: Natasha Uspensky, CHHC

Healthy Inspiring Workspace

Since I launched my own business several years ago, I went through several iterations of what it looked like to work from home.  In our little Brooklyn apartment, we didn’t have space for a proper desk, so I typically worked on the couch (not recommended), or at the dining room table (only slightly better). When we moved to our lovely new home in Santa Monica, I finally had a little corner dedicated entirely to my work, and I set about creating the workspace I had been wishing for.  What I found astounded me — a dedicated, healthy, and mindfully created workspace made me more productive, happier, and less stressed out during my work day! I actually looked forward to my work and settling down at my little desk.  The difference was mind-boggling.

So whether you work from home like me, have a traditional out-of-home office, or hunker down at a shared co-working space, there are definitely some important steps to take to make your work, in whatever form it takes, a more enjoyable experience.  After much trial and error and, of course, those failed attempts in Brooklyn, I’ve narrowed down these 5 key elements to creating a healthy, inspiring workspace aligned with how you want to feel throughout your day.

 

5 Minute Bedtime Yoga Sequence for Sweeter Sleep

By: Natasha Uspensky, CHHC

Those of us who have spent torturous hours tossing and turning in bed, or who wake up in the middle of the night with a head full of thoughts unable to get back to sleep know the power of hitting the hay with a calm and restful mind. Though managing your stress throughout the day and having a really good pre-bedtime routine go a long way towards improving sleep in the longterm, you can commit to just 5 minutes of relaxing stretches to sleep better TONIGHT.

This sequence calms the mind and relaxes the body, priming you for a restful night.  Best of all, you can do it in bed… No mat required!  Spend at least one minute in each posture, though longer is better!

1. Seated Twist: This detoxifying posture helps with digestion (which in turn helps you sleep deeper) and calms the nervous system. Repeat on each side.

Organic-Beauty-Yoga-for-Sleep

Exercise for a Perfect Period

By: Natasha Uspensky, CHHC

If you’re like most women, you reach a natural slump every month where it is just grueling to stick to your typical workout routine.  You drag yourself to boot camp, feel drained afterwards, and wonder what you’re doing wrong. Or you feel just too tired to stick to your routine, and end up skipping your workouts altogether for a week. This is because your body’s needs in terms of exercise vary pretty dramatically throughout your cycle.  In this installment of our Perfect Period Series we’ll be delving into the best forms of exercise to keep you in alignment with your natural hormonal patterns, which will decrease PMS symptoms, boost weight loss, balance your hormones, and help you feeling amazing and energized all month long.

Are You Getting The Most Out of Your Yoga Practice?

By: Natasha Uspensky, CHHC

The amazing health, body, and spiritual benefits of yoga are no secret.  People with a regular yoga practice are on the whole slimmer, happier, less stressed out, eat healthier, have lower blood pressure, and experience less headaches, pain, swelling, anxiety, and hormonal imbalance.  I mean, if that’s not reason enough to get on that vinyasa train, I don’t know what is.  But, just showing up to class doesn’t guarantee those results.  There’s doing yoga, and then there’s doing yoga.  I see tons of people in my classes that bring their phones into the studio, half-ass their poses, don’t breathe, break up the flow of their practice with tons of fidgeting, water drinking, and other distractions, and then leave before shavasana. If you’re one of these people, you are robbing yourself of a truly impactful, effective, and meaningful practice!  Make sure you’re getting the most out of your practice by following the tips below.

1.  Try not to get wired before class.  

If you routinely grab a Starbucks or soda on your way to your yoga class, you’re going to make the mindfulness, deep breathing, and ultimately relaxation (if only just at the end) of a successful routine much harder for yourself.  Caffeine speeds up your breathing and heart rate, causes racing thoughts and can increase anxiety, which is pretty counterproductive for yoga.  If you need to have your coffee in the morning, have it 2-3 hours before class, or wait until after to get your fix.  Better yet, use yoga to help you break your coffee addiction!

2.  Put away your phone.

From the moment you set foot in the studio, try to put yourself in a focused, relaxed mindset.  Checking your email on your mat creates a stressful environment that makes settling into a mindful practice much more difficult.  Plus, it’s distracting and even stressful for everyone around you!  Your fellow practitioners are coming to yoga for a reprieve from their busyness and stress, and you being on your phone is a distracting reminder of everything they’re trying to put on pause.  So for the sake of your own practice, and that of everyone around, leave your phone in your bag and fully arrive in the space, mental and physical, from the moment you walk in.

3. Set an intention for your practice.

As with most things in life, if you go into your practice with a specific intention, you’re going to get a whole lot more out of it than if you’re just going through the motions.  Some great intentions can be “I’m going to do my best and push myself further in my practice today,” or “I’m going to focus on my breath and relaxation today… No stress, no pressure.”  You can dedicate your practice to someone in your life that’s in need of a little love and support, or to someone you are struggling with or in the midst of a conflict with.  Yoga isn’t just a workout.  It doesn’t need to be this whole huge spiritual, om-filled, flowery experience if you don’t want it to be, but completely eliminating the mindfulness component is totally selling yourself short and robbing your practice of the meaning that supercharges it’s effectiveness.

4.  Don’t be afraid to personalize your practice.

We can often get so wrapped up in the competitive, comparative aspect of a yoga class (“I can totally get my leg higher than her!”), that we short change ourselves on having a practice that fits exactly what we need on that given day.  Don’t be afraid to use props, rest for a moment in child’s pose, not take a bind, or otherwise make adjustments to poses to fit your needs, your body, and what feels best.  We often see props as a crutch or a sign of being a beginner practitioner, but B.K.S Iyengar said that “confidence and willpower are built up by props.”  Props allow you to progress in your practice and gain correct alignment in your poses, which is so much more important than how you look compared to the girl next to you.  Listen to your body.. If you need to take a break in child’s pose, that is always available to you, and knowing when you need to take that pose is truly the sign of a mindful practitioner.  But make sure to maintain your focus in your practice.  Stopping to fidget, fix your hair or drink water when something feels hard is not staying focused. These are the crutches.  Instead, breathe and listen to what your body needs.

5.  Never skip shavasana!

So many of my favorite teachers have repeated over and over again that shavasana, or corpse pose, is the most important part of a yoga practice.  And yet, every class, at least one person leaves before this crucial final pose.  Shavasana is what your whole routine is building up to.  The mindfulness, the exertion, the pushing yourself, and the breath are all leading you to the vital moment of peace and quiet meditation at the end of class.  To skip that valuable moment is literally half-assing your practice.  If you’re one of those people that has trouble sitting still or quieting your thoughts, use your yoga practice as a tool to focus and calm your body and mind, and use shavasana as a way to integrate all that amazing work into your body.  Focus on your breath and just relax.  If you’re still having trouble with racing thoughts, repeat a long ommmm in your head on every exhale to help you stay mindful.

{Photo: WeHeartIt}

The Power of Ritual

By: Natasha Uspensky, CHHC

Ritual

In my holistic nutrition practice, I am always talking up the power of creating rituals for eating, wellness, and self-care.  Rituals not only help you to create and stick to new healthy habits, but they can also play a huge role in how full or satisfied you feel after a meal, how effective your meditation practice is, or how relaxing your mani-pedi is.

In some exciting news, a new research study co-authored by researchers at Harvard University and the University of Minnesota will be published in the Journal of Psychological Sciences, proving what I’ve been claiming for ages… rituals matter, and they could mean finally feeling fulfilled, consistently happy, and yes, even dropping those last 10 pounds!  The study showed that when a ritual was performed before eating, thse food tasted better and was more satisfying than when there was no pre-eating ritual. Whether it was a chocolate bar or a carrot, participants who performed a specific pre-eating ritual ate slower, enjoyed the food more, and ultimately felt more full and satisfied after eating (which means they didn’t need to keep snacking!).  Though this study was specific to food, the results can be translated across all healthy behaviors.

Rituals promote mindfulness, a slowing down that brings the action at hand to the forefront of your consciousness.  When simple, everyday activities are given more meaning in this way, they are elevated from mere automatic behaviors to moments of connection, fulfillment, and joy.  The more you feel these uplifting emotions, the less likely you will be to overeat, abuse your body, or skip the activities that fill you with energy and vitality (like exercising and meditation).  Pick rituals to perform around the areas where you struggle — food, sleep, relaxation, exercise, self-care.

Try some of these rituals for yourself, and see what a difference they make!

  • Morning rituals:

    • Sip hot water with lemon right when you wake up.  It’s super alkalizing, hydrating, and just feels great!
    • Meditate
    • Spend some time mindfully making your morning tea or coffee
    • Move your body — some sun salutations feel especially great in the morning
    • Listen to music
  • Rituals before a meal:

    • Say a prayer or a few words of thanks, or sing a little song!
    • Take time to beautifully set your table, even if you’re eating alone!
    • Arrange your food creatively on the plate, garnish it with fresh herbs or other edible adornments, and take a moment to admire your work before digging in.
    • Put on some lipstick, brush your hair, and throw on a fresh, cute outfit before sitting down to dinner.
  • Rituals before meditating:

    • Light candles or incense.
    • Water your plants.
    • Do some stretches.
    • Create your own ritual of bowing to an icon, statue, or symbol that has meaning to you, and saying a few words of intention.
    • TIP:  I am a big fan of having a dedicated meditation space (I use my window sill) where you can arrange these ritual items.  I water my plants, light some candles, gain calming inspiration from my Buddha statue, and only then do I start my practice.
  • Bedtime rituals:

    • Unplug from electronics 30-60 minutes before bed
    • Sip some relaxing tea, like chamomile, kava, or sleepy time
    • Take time for a bathroom pampering ritual
    • Take a hot bath with relaxing essential oils like lavender
    • Slip into something that makes you feel sexy
    • Read a great book
  • Other self-care rituals:

    • Have a weekly, at-home spa ritual.  Put on a face mask, listen to music, take a bath.
    • End your week on a high note by walking home (or getting off the train a few blocks early), taking a ferry, or a different, scenic route while driving home.  Listen to music if it helps you relax and wash off the week.

What are your favorite healthy rituals?  Share them in the comments below!

Let Deepak and Oprah Teach You to Meditate!

Meditation is one of the most powerful techniques you can employ to decrease stress and pain, manage anxiety and depression, increase longevity and optimum health.  Not only does it lower blood pressure and clear your head, but it can help with weight loss and motivation to exercise!

But starting to meditate can be really hard.  I’ve been working on it for years, and even I have trouble just sitting, focusing on my breath.  Luckily, there’s an easier way.  Guided meditations start you off with some thoughts, insights, or a mantra, and then lead you into a short solo meditation that is much more manageable and user-friendly for novices.  And who better to lead you down this healthy and enlightened path than everyone’s favorite gurus, Oprah and Deepak Chopra!

The 21 Day Meditation Challenge is an easy, effective, and really powerful way to start a regular meditation practice, and best of all, it’s free!  You just sign up online, and starting March 11th you’ll receive an email every morning with a short guided meditation to start your day with.  The theme for this particular challenge is Perfect Health, with inspirations, visualizations, and mantras geared toward helping you reach that perfect place of balance, well-being, and happiness that does indeed lead to optimum health.  Plus, the daily practice helps you build the habit of meditating, so you can continue your practice after the program is over.

The digital program includes:

  • Daily welcome from Oprah Winfrey
  • Daily guided meditations by Deepak Chopra
  • Inspirational messages, images, and centering thoughts
  • Sanskrit mantras and their meanings
  • Daily reflection questions with a private, online journal to save responses and additional notes
  • Mindful Moments – daily takeaways showing you how to incorporate daily lessons into your life right now

Now you have no more excuses about not being able to meditate or not having the time!  This easy to follow, 21 day challenge helps you to develop your practice with help from the experts.

Click here to sign up!