Evolve how you think, eat, sleep and live with yoga-inspired wellness strategies.

Relaxing with tea, reading on a yoga staycation

The Benefits of a Yoga Staycation

If you usually feel tired after a vacation due to travel stress or overindulgence, consider a yoga staycation that will leave you feeling healthier, happier and relaxed!

Mental Focus and Clarity

Yoga staycations allow you to focus on your practice without the distractions of work and rushed agendas. You can pay attention to your own health and well-being at a relaxed pace, and you will meet like-minded people in your community. If you are a complete beginner, a yoga staycation is one of the best ways to try a daily yoga practice and experience its benefits for the body, the mind and the spirit. If you are going to yoga classes regularly but want to learn more, a yoga staycation represents a chance to focus more deeply on your practice.

Daily Yoga Classes

If your normal daily schedule does not leave any time for yoga classes, a yoga staycation becomes a chance to leave routines behind and focus on yoga, relaxation and well-being. A typical yoga staycation includes a yoga class once a day, with additional classes and workshops as desired. If you are a beginner, yoga staycations are a great way to try many types of yoga classes quickly, to inform your new yoga practice in a supportive environment. If you are an experienced yogi, you can take your practice to a new level of intensity. There are many benefits to experiencing yoga classes in a group. You soon will notice the benefits of a daily yoga practice, and you might be inspired to continue your daily practice on a regular basis.

Daily Wellness Reading & Meditation

Allow daily quiet time for reading about meditation, relaxation, yoga philosophy, nutrition and wellness. Add our wellness blog to your reading list to get started. Book a meditation yoga class to inspire your private daily meditation sessions.

Mindful Eating

Plan ahead for healthy meals during your yoga staycations. Allow time to savour and honour the preparation process. Cooking healthy meals can be fun and enjoyable; like yoga, it supports a balanced lifestyle. Smelling, tasting and feeling the flavours, textures and colours of food is a great application of mindfulness. Take a moment to feel gratitude for all the various elements that led to this eating moment. A week of healthy and mindful eating may inspire you to make permanent changes in your ongoing dietary habits.

Take a Digital Break

A yoga staycation can also be a break from social media, or it even can be a complete digital detox. A week without constantly checking your phone and your social-media accounts gives you time to de-stress, to enjoy being fully present, and to spend time mindfully in nature.

Try One New Thing

A week-long break from your usual routine provides an opportunity to experience something new and learn something new about yourself. A yoga staycation clears your calendar, giving you time to try something new and gain new perspectives on life and yourself. What activity, skill, group have you secretly wanted to try but didn’t have time to pursue? The creative challenge of stepping gently out of your comfort zone can invigorate your spirit. Also, if you have wanted to change something in your life, a yoga staycation is a chance to make that change.

Plan Your Yoga Staycation

When planning a yoga staycation, ask yourself what your priorities are. Are you looking for a staycation that involves some yoga but also a lot of time for reading, for a personal hobby, for social activities, for being a tourist in your own city of Hamilton, or for relaxing in Hamilton’s nature areas? Would you prefer an intensive week that focuses on yoga classes and workshops, meditation and yoga philosophy without too many additional activities? Make sure you know what type of a staycation you are seeking.

There are many ways to experience a yoga staycation, depending on your personal needs and preferences. A yoga staycation allows you to focus on your yoga practice with like-minded people and without the distractions of daily life. A week of yoga classes, healthy food, meditation and relaxation will leave you feeling energized and balanced — and you may even want to continue a daily yoga practice and mindful habits after the staycation.

Healing yoga practice and restorative yoga classes increase relaxation.

Yoga Classes and Looking After Your Health While Living with Hypothyroidism

Yoga classes and massage therapy can be a wonderful and healing part of your routine as you learn to live with Hypothyroidism. Hypothyroidism, also known as an underactive thyroid gland, is a thyroid disease in which the thyroid gland fails to produce an adequate amount of thyroid hormone. It’s an increasingly common condition, affecting more women than men. According to the Thyroid Foundation of Canada, it’s estimated that 1 in ten Canadians suffer from a thyroid condition and half may be undiagnosed.

Thyroid hormone is responsible for the body’s metabolism and use of energy. Symptoms of an underactive thyroid gland include poor ability to tolerate cold, fatigue, weight gain, and constipation. It’s not known what causes hypothyroidism; it may be caused by a number of conditions including autoimmune disease, radiation, and medications.

In the majority of cases, hypothyroidism is treated by supplementing the thyroid gland with levothyroxine, a synthetic version of the thyroid hormone thyroxine (T4). This medication is typically taken in pill form on a daily basis. In Canada, a common brand name for levothyroxine is Synthroid.

However, many people find that taking a daily dose of levothyroxine isn’t enough to make them feel well, or as well as they did before they developed the condition. If you too find that you’re struggling to remain healthy while living with hypothyroidism, the following may help.

Exercise Right

While hypothyroidism shouldn’t stop you from exercising, you may find that you can no longer maintain the exercise schedule you previously did, or that you now need a lot longer to recover from a workout than you did before you developed hypothyroidism. These scenarios are fairly common for people with an underactive thyroid gland, so it’s important to learn not to push yourself and recognize when you are overdoing your activity. If you’re struggling to stick with an exercise regimen, consider switching from any high intensity workouts to activities such as aqua aerobics or yoga. The benefits of yoga are many and the various types of yoga classes provide something for everyone. For example, Gentle Hatha yoga classes focus on breathing, basic poses, slow movements, and relaxation to enhance the awareness of the mind-body connection. Yin yoga classes involve passive poses that are held for up to five minutes in order to encourage the softening of connective tissue and induce deep relaxation. These types of activities will still provide a beneficial workout but will be less stressful on your body.

It’s important to continue exercising and remaining active. As well as the physical benefits you will gain, keeping physically fit in group classes can help you avoid feelings of depression, another common symptom of hypothyroidism.

Reduce Stress

It’s especially important that people with hypothyroidism be mindful of any stress they might be exposing themselves to. Cortisol, a hormone released when the body is in a stressful situation, can adversely affect the function of the thyroid gland, in turn exacerbating hypothyroidism symptoms. Take steps to ensure that you’re managing stress as best you can, and if you feel that you’re not coping, then speak to your doctor.

Massage therapy can be a huge source of relaxation and has many additional benefits. For example, hot stone massage therapy is a soothing option.
Another example, manual lymphatic drainage is a type of gentle massage which is intended to encourage the natural drainage of the lymph, which carries waste products away from the tissues back toward the heart.

It may be that you can cut back on some tasks or get support from friends or relatives with certain commitments you have. It could be that you just need to slow down. Put your health first and make any changes you feel you need to.

Gluten-Free Diet

Although there’s currently no scientific evidence to prove a gluten-free diet will help those with hypothyroidism, there is plenty of anecdotal evidence to suggest it might. This is especially true if you suffer from Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, also called Hashimoto’s disease, an autoimmune disease and a common cause of hypothyroidism. With Hashimoto’s disease, the body’s immune system attacks the thyroid gland. The anecdotal evidence suggests that gluten triggers an attack on the thyroid gland; therefore, eliminating gluten from your diet may prevent such attacks.

Further anecdotal evidence has linked an immune intolerance in people with Hashimoto’s disease to dairy products. Again, it’s believed the body may mistake dairy for gluten, which triggers an attack on the thyroid gland.

If you’re failing to see improvements in your health while taking the medication prescribed by your doctor and are prepared to make modifications to your diet, with approval from your doctor, you may want to start by eliminating gluten or dairy, or both, from your diet.

Moderate Carbohydrate Diet

While a gluten- and dairy-free diet may help alleviate hypothyroidism symptoms, there is evidence to suggest that those with hypothyroidism should avoid a diet too low in carbohydrates. This is because insulin is needed to convert inactive T4 (which is what the thyroid gland produces) into active T3 (which is what the body’s cells use), and the production of insulin is generally low on a very low carbohydrate diet. Furthermore, restricting the intake of carbohydrate can cause a drop in blood sugar, which the body compensates for by producing an excess of stress hormones including adrenaline. The thyroid gland is needed for the production of stress hormones, so this process can be taxing on the thyroid gland. So you may want to check that you’re including a moderate amount of healthy carbohydrates in your diet if you don’t feel your health is as good as it could be.

Don’t look at hypothyroidism as preventing you from living the life you used to enjoy before your diagnosis. Yoga classes and massage therapy can be a part of your new lifestyle. All that’s needed are a few changes so that you can better manage your condition, and you’ll be more than able to continue to enjoy life and get the most from it.

Yoga and Chronic Pain: Here’s What You Need to Know

If you’ve been suffering from chronic pain, you aren’t alone. Many adults face chronic pain on a daily basis. Whether you’re dealing with headaches, fibromyalgia or arthritis, it’s important to understand how to learn to live with your pain and continue to lead a life that is as normal and healthy as possible. If you’ve been feeling down, don’t worry. Yoga and chronic pain are compatible, and yoga can help you improve your well-being.

How Is Chronic Pain Different from Acute Pain?

It’s important to understand the difference between acute and chronic pain. Although it’s easy to think that all pain is bad and uncomfortable, the truth is that there is quite a variation in these two types of pain. Acute pain typically lasts for a short period and has an apparent cause. For example, if you fall and break your ankle, you may suffer from sharp pain for a few weeks. If, however, you have headaches a few times a month and this goes on for years, you’re suffering from chronic pain. One of the primary issues with chronic pain is that many sufferers become depressed and anxious as time progresses without a viable resolution to the pain. Chronic pain may impact your personal life, and even your relationships, since the people around you may not understand how it affects you.

How Does Yoga Work?

Yoga offers an efficient way to learn how to meditate. You can use yoga or meditation while you’re having a pain flare-up or issue with your chronic discomfort. The skills you learn during yoga class or training will be transferable to your daily life. Additionally, you may find that the physical side of yoga helps calm your muscles, which leads to a reduction in physical tension. Some adults find that learning about yoga offers them a valuable way to stay fit despite chronic pain, while others enjoy the repetitious and methodical act of performing each pose during a yoga session.

Is Yoga Right for Me?

One of the primary benefits of yoga is that you don’t have to be in perfect shape or perfect health to begin training. The right yoga instructor will help you move from beginner to expert. You’ll learn how to achieve each yoga pose, how to control your breathing, and how to relax your muscles. Remember that for many chronic pain patients, tense muscles can dramatically exacerbate pain. Learning to calm those muscles can lead to feelings of wellness and fewer pain episodes.

No matter what type of chronic discomfort you’re experiencing, it’s time to start moving forward with your life. Yoga may help you accomplish this. Consider signing up for one of our yoga classes today so you can reclaim your life, minimize your pain, and enjoy new experiences.

Four Yoga Poses for Knee Pain

Knee pain is the second most common cause of chronic pain, often caused by conditions like arthritis or injuries like torn ligaments. It can be debilitating and often means that people feel unable to do exercise. Yoga, a series of stretches, poses and breathing, which was developed in India thousands of years ago, can often seem particularly daunting to anyone suffering from chronic pain. But if you change your practice to suit your body, you can still do as much yoga as you wish. Talking about your knee pain to your yoga instructor can help you understand how to comfortably modify poses.

Here are a few favourite yoga poses for knee pain. These yoga positions improve the wellness of most people and will feel particularly good to anyone suffering from knee pain. Just remember that using supports is a great idea. Don’t push yourself, and remember to do only what feels healthy and good. Contracting the muscles around your knees as you practice will help you strengthen them.

Mountain Pose

You might think that mountain pose doesn’t entail anything except standing still, but it can help your body’s alignment. Learning to do mountain pose correctly will be useful in all areas of your life and make you considerably more comfortable, along with warding off further knee problems and pain. Stand with your feet hip distance apart and make sure that all four corners of your feet are pressed equally into the mat so that your weight is evenly distributed. Engage your leg muscles and make sure that your spine is straight; hold your head over your heart and push your shoulders down and back. Engage your quads and inner thighs while tucking your tailbone in and relaxing the muscles in your face. Inhale and exhale deeply eight times, making sure that your body stays aligned.

Bridge Pose

In order to do bridge pose, slowly lower yourself to the ground and spread out on your yoga mat, facing upwards. Make sure that your back is supported by the ground and move your shoulder blades beneath you so that your chest is open and you can feel your pectoral muscles working a little. Breathe in and out deeply before bending your knees and planting your feet firmly on the ground, at the same width as your hips and shoulders. Press into your entire foot and put your arms down at your sides, your palms pushing against your yoga mat. Then lift your hips off your mat, squeezing your glutes as you rest on just your shoulders. This will strengthen your hamstrings without putting too much strain on your knees.

Half Moon Pose

Make sure that you have a block for support, or maybe a small stack of books, and ensure also that you’re leaning against the wall. This pose will stretch your hamstrings and strengthen your legs. Stand with your back against the wall and separate your feet, with your right foot pointing towards the front of your mat. Lift your left leg off the floor so that it’s parallel to the ground – or however high feels comfortable – and use the wall and the block or pile of books for support as you stretch forward with your right hand. Inhale and exhale three times before gently moving back into a standing position and shifting so that you’re balancing on your left foot. Make sure that you press your standing foot firmly into the mat so that you’re balanced calmly.

Chair Pose

A great way to strengthen your knees is through chair pose. Stand with your feet and legs together, or with your feet separated – whatever feels better to you. Lift your chest and make sure that you breathe deeply. Resting your weight on your heels, sit back as if you’re sitting on a chair, and lift your arms. This will tone your legs and strengthen your core, while your weight is balanced in your hips rather than your knees. If you want extra support, lean your back against a wall.

Yoga is all about experimenting to find what makes you feel good in both your body and your mind. If you feel knee pain that goes further than a gentle stretch, it’s time to stop. (If you have health challenges, consult with your health advisor before starting a new activity.) Enjoy experimenting with these yoga poses for knee pain as you strengthen and protect your knees. You can practice these yoga poses at home, or you can learn about them and other poses in one of our yoga classes.

Healthy Eating to Evolve Your Mind and Body

Trends in nutrition, like fashion, come and go – and the popular preoccupation with nutrition has fluctuated over the decades. In these post-modern times, the focus on a healthy lifestyle has become increasingly important to the average person. Today’s consumer finds it important to invest time and effort in quality nutrition, regular exercise and a healthy mindset – with millennials leading the way.

Bringing the Yoga Mindset into Your Eating Routine

The healthy living community has embraced yoga for its ability to offer multiple benefits, from mental and spiritual wellness to physical fitness. Yoga practice can be adapted to an individual’s specific needs, and its intensity can range from very gentle to a high-intensity workout. It can be practised with ease outdoors, at home and even on work breaks, as it does not demand special equipment.

Regular practice of yoga often affects different areas in your life. It gives you better control of your mindset, helping you get more in touch with your feelings. It also gives you better control of your body – and that shows in everything you do. Confidence leads to better relationships, while mindfulness moderates compulsive behaviour and anxiety. If you embrace yoga, it gradually becomes a lifestyle.

There is also a strong, though underemphasized, connection between yoga and healthy eating. Many people practise yoga despite unhealthy eating habits, so they don’t get to experience the full extent of yoga’s benefits as a lifestyle.

Food is something that can comfort you and make you happy; as a consequence, it is not easy to change your eating patterns and preferences. It also can be a matter of convenience: 41% of Canadians surveyed by the Heart and Stroke Foundation say they don’t have time to prepare healthy meals.

Healthy Eating Doesn’t Have to Be a Chore

Preparing your meals at home can be a huge money-saver, but its main benefit comes in controlling your nutrition. Healthy eating often is perceived as being expensive and time-consuming, but cooking and meal preparation can be incredibly adaptable to different lifestyles.

Life in a highly digitized community can be of great advantage to your goal of healthy eating. You can find motivation, inspiration and guidance by searching online advisors and publications. Each niche is now covered by specialized content, and you can find solutions for specific dietary needs.

The good news is that cooking healthy meals also can be fun and enjoyable; like yoga, it supports a balanced lifestyle. A balanced approach allows you some flexibility – unless you have a specific medical condition, you don’t have to reduce your options strictly, nor do you need to feel like you are on a clinical, bland diet. Food is about enjoying life and bathing your senses in stimuli. Yoga teaches mindfulness and focus, both of which you can apply to your eating, too. Smelling, tasting and feeling the flavours, textures and colours of food is a great application of mindfulness.

There is also the social aspect involved in preparing your meals at home. You can involve your friends or family members in the cooking process and really bond together. Websites such as Tree House Kitchen can give you plenty of recipe ideas and cooking tips, and can serve as a great inspiration for your meals. By putting together a menu for the day or week ahead, you’re involving yourself in a positive activity, whether you do it for yourself or for the whole family.

As with any lifestyle change, especially when it comes to exercise and nutrition, it’s a good idea to consult your health provider if you experience certain sensitivities or conditions. Create habits that fit your needs and lifestyle and keep learning about them. Practise yogic thinking, ask questions and experiment. Mindfulness can be very rewarding and lead to a healthier mindset and overall wellness.

Woman holding sore and tight neck trying how to stretch her neck.

Have Headaches and a Stiff Neck? Here’s How to Stretch Your Neck Effectively

Headaches and neck stress can sneak up on us without us really paying heed… until it becomes too painful or interferes with our activities and sleep.

While a headache can be a symptom for many conditions, it can be caused by poor posture. This is commonly the case if you spend a lot of time in front of a computer. Busy schedules often push us to bypass moments of self-care throughout or work day – such as stretching or massage breaks – that would prevent avoidable discomfort.

About your heavy head…

Your neck is constantly under pressure. It carries your head’s weight, which is about 10 to 15 pounds. (That’s 8% of your total body weight!) Optimal posture places the head’s weight vertically on the shoulders, but many times a day we lean forward, causing the neck to cope with greater force. Each time you lean towards your screen or check your smartphone, your neck is straining with more pressure. Be nice to yourself and learn how to stretch your neck!

Try these two simple stretches to relax your neck muscles and improve your posture. Repeat them several times throughout the day to keep your muscles more relaxed. (If you feel any discomfort or pain during any of these exercises see your doctor!)

A do-it-anywhere neck stretch

Give your neck a light stretch with this exercise. Either sitting or standing with good posture, keep your back straight and shoulders aligned with the hips. Move your head slowly and hold each position for about 20 seconds:
• Tuck your chin down while keeping your back straight. Hold and return.
• Lift your chin and tilt your head backwards. Hold and return.
• Tilt your head to the right by directing your ear towards your shoulder. Hold and return. Do the same move to the left. Hold and return.
• Turn your head to the right and to the comfortable limit of your motion. Hold and return. Repeat the same motion to the left. Hold and return.

Do the corner stretch

Open your chest to compensate for the neck-straining hunching posture we often take on.

  • Standing, face the corner of the room with your feet together.
  • Place your palms and forearms on each wall at a ninety-degree angle, keeping the elbows a little below your shoulders.
  • Gently pull down your shoulders while pushing your forearms against the walls and engaging your abdominals.
  • Take a step forward to lunge toward the corner, allowing your chest to lift slightly at you flow through this motion.
  • Hold, pull down your shoulders and lift your chest and abdominals in to the corner. Hold for about 20 seconds.
  • Step back and release.
  • Repeat with the other leg.

There are additional neck stretching exercises that deserve to be in your neck care routine. If you want to learn them or need any help with these stretches, book a consultation.

Stretching through massage and yoga

Yoga is a form of exercise that focuses on calming breath, lengthening of muscles and opening of joints. Therapeutic massage offers another way to stretch out tight muscles. Massage can work through relaxation techniques or deep tissue treatments that can break up scar tissue.

Learning how to stretch your neck and making a habit of it can make neck-stress-induced headaches and neck pain a thing of the past.