Here is the first of 8 Yoga Short Stretch videos for your daily practice. This first one is for hamstrings and low back and is perfect after sitting at your desk, or post run/workout.
I practice most days and vary what I’m doing (Saturday was aerial yoga, Sunday was a long Yin session and Monday a hot “Bikram” like practice and today a Vinyasa).
But every day there’s a Downward Facing Dog. Why? It’s my favorite pose for spinal extension. It’s like traction. It’s not a resting pose as I’ve heard some teachers say. You are in full engagement to create space!
•begin in child’s pose and transition to downward facing dog
•spread fingers wide and press with base of pointer finger and thumb to protect wrist and stabilize shoulders
•rotate biceps and crease of elbow forward
•lift shoulders up towards hips
•pull lower belly and lower ribs in to engage core (feel slight tuck of tailbone)
•lift hips and sit bones towards the ceiling.
•press top of thigh bones and inner thighs back (internal spiral)
•lift knee caps to engage quadriceps
•press heals to the floor
•ankles disappear behind second and third toe
Notice how my spine cascades downward from the pelvic bowl and the weight is in my legs. I’m using leg strength to pull body back and core strength to support the length of the spine. This is a leg posture and not an arm or upper body.
Take a photo of yourself in down dog. Is the weight in your shoulders? Is your upper back hunched. Then take the hamstrings out of the equation for now and bend your knees. Press your ribs to your thighs and keep hips lifted high so your spine cascades long to the floor. Further modification can be puppy pose if you have wrist or shoulder issues.
Picture this. A couple dining al fresco in Costa Rica under the stars enjoying wine, house made chips & pico de gallo, salad and freshly caught fish. Sounds like the perfect evening, right? Anyone watching from afar would say, “Yes!” This was me a few nights ago and yes it was lovely except for some of the emotions generated from the thoughts I was having!
My husband, Scott, and I sat down at a less then desirable indoor table when a single man from Canada gave up his table outside for us and joined others sitting at the outdoor bar. At that moment I felt gratitude for his awareness and generosity and later found he was visiting on a yoga retreat. The waitress soon after brought us water. Then we waited 15 minutes. When she returned we ordered our “cocktails” and chips. Then we waited another 15 to 20 minutes. I was getting “hangry” and a bit annoyed that I was being made to wait for so long until I noticed or “woke up” and said to my husband a quote from Eckhart Tolle author of The Power of Now that we frequently use to get back on track, “I’m not waiting. I’m simply sitting here enjoying myself”. We both chuckled at the absurdity of being upset by the slow service and spent the next few moments discussing how we are both working on “getting better at it” meaning the self-check of our emotions and the thoughts they generate.
I cannot say it better than the yogi Sadhguru in his book Inner Engineering a Yogi’s Guide to Joy: “The bitterness or sweetness of any experience is not the event itself, but how you perceive or respond to it.” Through the practices of yoga, meditation, and books like these two along with You Can’t Afford the Luxury of a Negative Thought by Peter McWilliams (my current read) I’m catching myself a little quicker each time and choosing a more peaceful or joyful response. Just think, the other evening I could have carried around the burden of upset until after paying the dinner bill, but caught myself even before the appetizers arrived. Progress!
All three books mentioned offer something a little different. The Power of Now could be perceived as a little “out there” and I actually got more from listening to the audio in the car then reading. Tolle has a great sense of humor and it’s fun to hear him chuckle as he guides the reader how to be in the Now. Next you do not need to have a physical yoga practice to benefit from Inner Engineering . I enjoyed his teachings through stories and the lightness he applied to happiness through mindfulness. You Can’t Afford the Luxury of a Negative Thought is an easy read and the perfect primer if this “work” is new to you.
There are other ways to build awareness as well. One is to begin a gratitude practice. Journal 3 things you’re grateful for every evening. Through the day think about what you’re going to list at night. You will begin to notice the gratitude or positive feelings and catch yourself when the negative pop up. Another is sitting quietly for 5 to 20 minutes (yep! Meditating) will reveal a lot. There is a common misconception that meditation is about total silence and clearing the mind. It can be this, but it is also about “watching” your thoughts and some self-analysis as to the emotions behind them so you can understand your reactions and get a little better at handling the emotions.
Whatever approach you choose, it’s always steps forward and backward. Be gentle and forgiving with yourself when you stumble and use these events as the teachers for doing it better next time.
As always if you need more resources, books or websites email me at Beth@BethGrahamWellness.com and I’d be happy to share.
Whoops! Even a Yoga Teacher Needs to work on “letting go” of attachments.
We are set for March 9-16, 2019. Email me to reserve your spot!
After seeing Bodhi Tree for the first time last week I knew it would be an ideal place for a yoga trip. The resort is already booked through February of 2019 (and the 1st week of March!) so I have reserved a block of rooms for the SECOND week of March. Please email me (email@example.com) to let me know if you'd like to come after looking for yourself!
When – March 9 to March 16, 2019
Where – Bodhi Tree Yoga Resort - A stunning GREEN resort in Nosara, Costa Rica
How – Fly to Liberia Airport (as of today Southwest has a direct flight from BWI to Liberia)
What is included –
- Balinese style resort rooms and facilities
- Bodhi Tree shuttle service to beach, restaurants, town
- Daily Morning “athletic” alignment focused yoga class with Beth
- Daily Afternoon or Sunset restorative yoga class and meditation with Beth (times will vary so beach sunsets can be enjoyed as well)
- 3 daily Spa Meals (on arrival 3/2 dinner only). Food includes chicken, fish, eggs, gluten free, dairy free, vegan, vegetarian and all is Plant Based
- Salt water infinity pool for laps or relaxing plus shade is available pool side with umbrellas and various covering
- Manduka brand yoga mats, cork blocks, bolsters and meditation cushions
- Gym – full gym with cardio equipment and weights
- Costa Rican Taxes (13%)
- 5 – 10 minute walk to expansive beach
Extras not included –
- Transport to and from Bodhi Tree (can be arranged for you once you have flight schedule)
- Libations at the bar – tropical drinks, wine and beer
- Juice Bar – smoothies, juices, salads, sandwiches, baked goods and other drinks and snacks
- Spin and Cardio Classes on site
- Pilates Reformer Classes
- NOT TAUGHT BY BETH – extra yoga classes (included are 2 daily classes with Beth)
- Bodhi Tree Spa – 6+ types 60- 90 minute massages, facials, manicures, pedicures
- Offsite activities – surfing lessons, stand up paddle board, horseback riding, zip line, off site restaurants
Accomodation Choices and Prices
- King Bungalow
1 King Bed
Private bath and balcony
$2295 per person (2)
- Queen Size Bed (1) Room
1 Queen Bed
$1895 per person if sharing a room as a couple
- Queen Size Bed (2) Room
2 Queen Beds
$1995 per person (2)
I need to reserve a limited number of each style room for our group now. Please RSVP by emailing me (firstname.lastname@example.org) and telling me if you plan to come, whether you'll be coming with someone else, and what type of room you'd like.
I will contact you once the contract is submitted regarding deposit and the date full payment needs to be received.
This will be a varied group with individuals, friends and married couples. All participants will be comfortable in this fabulous setting!
A bedtime routine can train the mind that it’s time to slow down and prepare for rest. When our kids were young it was a bath, reading a book, and bed. As adults with deadlines and full lives, we forget the necessary time to unplug and create a routine for ourselves. Taking a warm bath with magnesium infused Epsom Salts, or diffusing lavender in the bedroom are ways to send the mind messages that it’s time to let go of the day. Reading a book is a great choice and works for many, and so is yoga. Yoga poses and focused breath in bed can relieve body aches from the day’s routine patterns of movement and reduce stress by calming the mind.
Many feel like yoga isn’t possible because they’re “inflexible” but it’s said it is only the inflexible mind that keeps someone from yoga. Yoga can help you trigger a relaxation response and is associated with reduced stress, anxiety, depression, and insomnia. Plus when yoga is practiced in bed or on the floor the body is fully supported by the surface below and can relax into the poses without the need to balance or exert an opposing muscle to stabilize.
When bedtime yoga is combined with focus on the breath, heartbeat or even the sensations in your big toe additional calming benefits are experienced. Brain patterns and heart rate slow plus blood pressure is lowered and an increased sense of well-being is experienced.
For additional Bedtime and Sleep Tips check out www.Tuck.com. This site has numerous articles on a variety of topics like “Health Benefits of Napping” & “How to Prevent Jet Lag” plus a multitude of resources and reviews for everything from types of mattresses for back pain to how to buy one online.
Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclined Bound Angle)
Benefits – opens groin, hips, thigh
Your bedtime yoga practice might begin and end with just this one pose as mine often does. Simply bring the soles of your feet together (it doesn’t matter how close they are to your torso) and then place a hand on your belly and one on your heart. Bring your mind’s attention to the movement of the breath into your palms and how the muscles of respiration expand and contract with each breath in and out. If this bothers your knees place a pillow under each thigh for support.
Supta Padangusthasana (Reclined Hand to Foot)
Benefits – opens hips, hamstring, groin, calf and low back
Lie on bed with legs extended and pull your right knee into your chest and hold to begin to release the low back and hip. Breathe for 10 breaths or longer. If you would like to lengthen the hamstring hold the back of the thigh, calf or foot and extend the foot towards the ceiling. Hold again and breathe 10 or more breaths. For additional hamstring lengthening and hip opening extend the straight leg to the right. You can also use a strap or bathrobe sash around the foot to aid extension of the leg. When complete pull the right knee back into the chest and move to the left side.
Benefits – opens hips, thighs and low back
Lie on bed with legs extended and pull right knee into your chest. Depending on your hip and low back flexibility place your foot on the calf or thigh or groin of the left leg. If this causes discomfort in the right knee bring the foot to the calf and place a pillow under the bent leg.
Viparita Karani (Legs Up the Wall)
Benefits – opens hamstrings and low back plus relieves tired legs and feet
This is another pose that might be all you need to do. It is said to have many therapeutic benefits for insomnia, anxiety, sadness, headaches, varicose veins, menstrual cramps and menopause.
Sit with one hip next to the wall, pivot your bottom to the wall and swing legs up. Your sitting bones can be next to the wall or not depending on your hamstring flexibility. You can also bend your knees and bring the soles of the feet together in Baddha Konasana up the wall (photo #1).
The Gut Microbiome, Fermented Foods, Probiotics, Prebiotics have all been the hot topics in the nutrition world, but what does this mean for you? First the “gut” is the small intestine and to be in a healthy state there needs to be a balance of both beneficial or good bacteria and the bad stuff. We need a little yeast (or bad buggies) to “eat” heavy metals and remove them from the body. The good bacteria are what we need for a healthy intestinal tract and to boost the immune system. Prebiotics are the plant based fiber that feeds the probiotics.
So how do you know if your gut microbiome needs some extra support? If you have belly bloating, gas, or cravings for sugar this could be a clue that you need more probiotics. Most of us need some every day to stay in balance since stress or drinking chlorinated Baltimore city water or eating processed foods or even taking a Motrin for a headache destroys the good bugs. Populating the gut with these good bugs can be done by taking a probiotic supplement (look in the refrigerated case at Mom’s Organic Market at the Rotunda), drinking 1 tablespoon of Bragg Raw Apple Cider Vinegar in water and using it as the vinegar in salad dressings or eating fermented foods.
Fermented foods need to be cold and never heated or pasteurized which kills the good bacteria. You might have heard about local food producer Hex Ferments www.hexferments.com based in our own backyard in the Baltimore Food Accelerator on York Road next to St. Mary’s Church and Belvedere Square. Hex makes kombucha tea, a fermented drink and fermented foods like kimchi and sauerkrauts plus seasonal varieties. Hex uses only locally produced and organic foods and follows traditional methods of fermentation, so their products are loaded with digestive enzymes along with the beneficial bacteria. Only a little is needed (1 - 2 tablespoon) to compliment any meal, salad or even eggs at breakfast as my husband does. One of my favorite ways to make a salad is to use Hex Ferments Glo Kraut in lieu of a salad dressing and topped with sautéed veggies plus chopped egg. Hex’s largest selection of products can be found at their retail outlet in Belvedere Square and also at the year round Waverly 32nd Street Farmers Market on Saturdays 7am – noon and at Mom’s Organic Market. Check their website for more locations and information.
Once you add probiotics to your healthy food lifestyle you might notice more energy because food is digested more fully, less cravings, less belly bloat and since they help to detoxify the body your skin may look brighter and clearer. You might also notice less inflammation (stiff joints and puffy morning eyes). There’s not a down side and if you have any questions or aren’t sure how to incorporate probiotics and fermented foods please reach out to me through my website.
One of the biggest holiday “stressors” has become what gifts to give spouses, family, co-workers, and friends. Our lives are full, and at times we don’t feel like there is room for one more “thing”. Here are fun, unique, and easy alternatives for your gift giving.
Charm City Integrative Health is Baltimore’s spot for full body cryotherapy (inflammation, pain), oxygen therapy, salt therapy (respiratory health) and now Cryotherapy Facials. These facials go beyond regular topical treatments by building collagen. Each treatment is 12 minutes long and the immediate after effect is a glowing complexion. For best results and longer term collagen building a 10 package is recommended with 2 to 3 treatments per week until expired.
#2 Yerba Mate Tea
Starter tea packages or subscriptions, tea blends (detox, skinny, chocolate & more)
Yerba Mate, the tea of Argentina, is the hottest new tea on the scene! One drinks the tea loose in the mate (cup) with a bom (filter straw). Yerba is an autogenic herb rather than a tea leaf. It has both an awakening and a calming effect. Love for Argentina’s website lists the various benefits of enjoying the tea which range from weight loss to focus to constipation relief.
#3 Aluminate Life by LL Coconut Wax Candles
Aluminate Life is a lifestyle collection of organic natural products to enhance your mind- body well being. The candles are made with clean burning coconut wax infused with essential oils that range from restorative to energizing scents (Clear, Lift, Still, Bloom, Dream). Each candle has a healing crystal in the base plus the container is a reusable high ball glass! The collection was developed by a local anesthesiologist who found she was burning the candle at both ends. An injury “forced” her to reevaluate her over-stressed lifestyle. As a result she combined her love of chemistry and the desire to create therapeutic aromatherapy healing products to enhance life. Along with the candles, Liz has essential oil sprays that can be used on linens, yoga mats, bathrooms, and even in the car and Reed diffusers.
#4 Splendid Spoon Smoothies, Meals or Soup Cleanse
Splendid Spoon is the perfect gift for the “on the go” type on your list! Their smoothie plan is perfect for breakfast or afternoon snacks. The meals can be warmed up for a quick lunch or for dinner served on a bed of sautéed veggies. And if you have a health nut who loves juice cleanses or has plans for a New Year’s Detox, the Soup Cleanse is a new approach. It’s a one day program where 4 bottled and 1 meal soups are enjoyed to reset the body’s hunger signals. The meals arrive frozen and can be defrosted the night before or warmed under water.
Discount Code BGSPLENDIDSPOON20
This is a fully clothed massage where Gregory moves your body through positions to release tension and elongate muscles so pain is reduced and mobility increased.
Bill has a magic touch! If there is someone on your list who needs a little “self-care” and calm, this is the perfect gift. Light touch and deep tissue available.
#6 Private Yoga Class
Yoga is a practice for everyone from compettive athletes to those requiring a more therapeutic approach. The best way to learn yoga or improve a current practice is with one on one instruction so proper alignment and form in the postures can be understood. If you have someone on your list who has back, hip or shoulder pain from hours of sitting at the office or is feeling a little stressed, yoga has been shown to help and reduce pain along with increasing mobility and strength.
Packages and single sessions available.
#7 Personal Trainer
New Fitness Creations is a program created by Carlos to help participants reach their fitness goals by developing strength and cardiovascular health. He will help you sculpt your body while building agility and flexibility. Carlos can help you create a home based program or one in a gym. He has a “never give up attitude” and is committed to supporting you reach your goals.
#8 Mom’s Organic Market or Trader Joe’s
Mom’s is located in The Rotunda in Hampden and Lutherville at York & Ridgely Roads. Trader Joe’s is in Towson at Kenilworth
#9 Dry Farms Wine Subscription
Dry Farm Wines is not a vineyard but a wine distributor and all wines must share natural farming and traditional wine making practices. Wines are low sugar/slow carb, biodynamic (organic), mold free, low sulfates and low alcohol (12.5% or less). Wines must meet their exact and specific standards including lab analysis by a certified oenologist. Along with wines meeting specific criteria for nutrition/diet programs, they must also meet standards for the optimal mind and body enjoyment!
#10 Feng Shui Consultation
This is the perfect gift for a new homeowner, someone who has recently moved, or the home decorator on your list. Think of Feng Shui as acupuncture for the home. It’s about placement of furniture and use of elements (water, wood, metal, earth, wind) to enhance the feeling of well being by moving energy. The home is divided into sections (health, love, work, wealth/abundance etc.) and Cheryl will show you how to stimulate the specific areas.
Many yoga students struggle with tense shoulders when raising arms above their head. My suggestion is to modify. Doing the final yoga posture is not the “goal” when practicing. The goal is to move towards the alignment principals of the posture. You will gain more benefits from the pose rather than winding up with poor posture and form.
In poses with arms extended over the head (Warrior 1, Crescent Lunge, Chair pose)
- Release shoulders down your back away from your ears
- Rotate triceps forward (externally) to broaden the upper back and help soften the scapula down the back
- Straighten elbows and enegetically reach up through your fingers
For many, hands touching is not accessible using these instructions. Instead, keeping hands shoulder width apart works nicely.
To modify extended arm poses
- Bend elbows at a 90 degree angle
- Stack wrists over elbows
- Tip the elbows slightly forward to draw the bottom of the shoulder blades flat and slightly in
- Energize the fingers
The Goal of Yoga (No, it’s not the Handstand)
The yoga pose is not the goal. Becoming flexible is not the goal. Standing on your hands is not the goal.
The goal is to create space where you were once stuck. To unveil the layers of protection you’ve built around your heart. To appreciate your body and become aware of the mind and the noise it creates. To make peace with who you are.
The goal is to love, well…You.
Come to your yoga mat to feel; not to accomplish. Shift your focus and your heart will grow.
All Purpose Paleo Flour Blend
2 cups Almond Flour (Trader Joe’s)
1 1/3 cup Arrowroot Flour (Bob’s Red Mill)
2/3 cup Coconut Flour (Trader Joe’s)
Mix and store in the fridge or freezer
Muffin Ingredients – makes 12
2 cups of Paleo Flour Blend (above)
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ cup Kerrygold grass fed unsalted butter
¼ cup dark maple syrup (Trader Joe’s)
1 tablespoon Lakanto Monkfruit Sweetener (Mom’s Organic Market)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large pasture raised eggs
½ cup nut milk (almond, coconut, cashew)
1+ cups blueberries
Pinch of pink Himalayan sea salt
Preheat oven to 375 degrees and line muffin pan with paper muffin cups
Beat butter with maple syrup and monkfruit sweeteners until whipped and creamy
Add eggs one at a time and then vanilla
Add dry ingredients to a separate small bowl and mix well
Alternate adding dry ingredients and the milk to the butter/sweetener mixture while blending
Fold in berries gently
Scoop even amounts into the muffin tin and bake 25 minutes until golden.
Cool and Enjoy!
This is a fantastic muffin base to use with other ingredients like cherries & chocolate chips or diced peaches or chopped apple & walnuts. Or add some lemon zest, candied ginger or cinnamon to the blueberries.
Get creative and have fun!
After breaking a second toe last fall, I took it as a sign that I needed to add something to my routine. I could work on my basic walking skills as my husband Scott suggested, or add Resistance Training back! I hadn’t lifted weights since 2001, so when I opted to add them, I enrolled Carlos Dorsey to help. The question was where to fit it into my schedule between private and corporate clients, group classes, and nutritional work. Also I was not going to give up the 2 to 3 yoga classes that I attend as a student each week.
My original plan was to meet with Carlos once a month and have him give me a routine that I could continue to work on at the gym. This worked initially when it was new, exciting, and my endorphins were high, but it wasn’t as effective long term as I hoped. Life happened with its highs and lows and what was lacking was my planning skill on when to fit it in. Many times I said to myself, “Darn if I had only planned my time better and brought my “trainers” I could have lifted.”
Even with what some would perceive as a “failure” because of my lack of regular workouts I did notice that my yoga practice was getting stronger. I was feeling steadier in poses like Crescent Lunge when I was adjusting my hips and engaging my core, so I knew I had a good thing going and refinement was all that was needed.
So for Plan B I knew I needed to simplify the process and have Carlos create an at-home routine for me. Based on my past training with Carlos I wasn’t surprised after the initial workout with light weights (5, 8, 10 lbs) and an exercise ball how sore I was! Now most days I can do a part of the workout like squats with an overhead press or do 2 to 3 sets of the 20 minute plan when I have the time. The weights were roughly $20 a set and the ball and pump $15 at Target and they do not take up much space. I’ll still go to the gym when I can fit it in to use the machines and larger weights, but with my new “home gym” it’s not hard to commit!