Ayurveda 101: A Healthier, More Vibrant Life with Ayurveda

I’ve been deep diving into living a healthier and more vibrant life. My desire to live the best life possible led me to Cate Stillman’s Body Thrive course. The course is fully rooted in healthy habits and Ayurvedic principles. I’ve been feeling so great, that I committed to doing her twelve month Yoga Health Coaching course (I’m in month one as of May 2018)! This little blog post is simply meant to be an intro to Ayurveda, an Ayurveda 101 if you will. ūüėČ

Ayurveda 101: What is Ayurveda?

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Ayurveda is an ancient science that originated during the Vedic era in India, thousands of years ago. When one looks at the Sanskrit roots of the word Ayurveda we see Ayu = life and Veda = science or knowledge, so Ayurveda is literally the science of life. Ayurveda is not just a way to cure disease, it is also a way of life.

Following an Ayurvedic lifestyle leads to overall health, improved immune system function, weight loss/weight maintenance, lowered risk of disease and improved energy. I think we all want more of that!

Ayurveda 101: Ayurveda and Your Whole Being

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Ayurvedic practitioners take into account the person’s entire being: physical, mental and spiritual. They assess diet, lifestyle, daily habits, imbalances and instances of dis-ease. Ayurvedic practitioners look at your¬†prakriti¬†(or constitution) and your vikruti¬†(current state of imbalance) and work on bringing the patient back into balance by balancing the doshas.

The Ayurvedic College defines “a person’s prakriti¬†[as] the inherent balance of the three doshas at the moment of their creation.” To know a person’s constitution is to know their tendencies. And to know your own prakriti is a way to step into your own power and live a vibrant, healthy dis-ease free life.

Your prakriti, or constitution, is determined by the balance (or imbalance) of your doshas. It is common to have one or two dominant doshas. The three doshas are vata, pitta, and kapha. Each of the doshas has very specific tendencies and are identified by different characteristics of body type, energy, digestion, personality and so much more. Want to find out your dosha? I like the Banyan Botanicals quiz (although they do try to sell you their products). Here is a link to the Banyan Botanicals dosha quiz. I’m Kapha-Pitta, and almost NO VATA!!! I’ve been working on balancing my own doshas and it’s been a fun experiment in self-care.

Your vikruti is your current state of imbalance and is not static. Your vikruti changes at different times of day, seasonally, your stage of life and with lifestyle changes. Would you like to determine your vikruti? Here is a short worksheet from the Ayurveda Institute that you can take.

Once you’ve discovered your prakriti¬†and vikruti, and therefore your dominant dosha(s), you can begin to make lifestyle changes to balance your doshas and thrive. Three easy ways to balance your doshas are to eat a diet to pacify your dominant dosha(s), establish a dinacharya practice, and align your lifestyle with the ayurvedic clock.

Ayurveda 101: Ayurvedic Diet

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In Ayurveda they have broken down our tastes into six dominant tastes: sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter and astringent. Certain tastes increase or decrease the qualities of each dosha.

For example, pitta types typically tend toward hot and oily need to eat foods that are cooling and drying to balance the firey qualities of pitta. They do well with smoothies, fresh and raw foods and should avoid garlic and heating spices. Spicy foods can aggravate pitta and bring it out of balance. Salty, sour, and pungent foods increase pitta, while sweet, bitter and astringent foods pacify pitta.

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Kapha types who tend toward heaviness will do best with astringent, bitter and pungent foods, while vata types who tend to be light and airy need foods that are warm, rich, and heavy or foods that are characterized by sweet, salty and sour.

You can see here that the Ayurvedic diet is one way to find balance and overall health.¬†Quote¬†by Hippocrates: ‚ÄúLet¬†food¬†be thy¬†medicine¬†and¬†medicine¬†be thy¬†food.‚ÄĚ

Ayurveda 101: Dinacharya

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Another way to balance your doshas is to establish a dinacharya practice. Dinacharya is a daily routine, specifically a morning routine. The Ayurvedic morning routine begins with rising before the sun and involves a handful of self-care practices. For most of us, we don’t have hours to dedicate to our morning practice, but I’ve found it pretty easy to streamline.

For example, I wake early, sit upright in bed and meditate for a few minutes, I get up and scrape my tongue and brush my teeth, evacuate my bowls, hydrate, walk the dogs, and then hop in the shower. After my shower, I use a little oil to massage my body and joints and then I’m ready to go.

Do I do all of the dinacharya practices? No, but I have it down to a habitual flow and it works wonders. The trick with waking early begins with eating an early dinner and going to bed at a decent time the night before. The beauty of following Ayurvedic practices is that we immediately tune in and honor our body’s natural rhythms.

Ayurveda 101: Aligning With The Ayurvedic Clock and Your Physiology

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Our 24-hour clock and the doshas are also aligned: certain times of day align with certain doshas, which means that certain tasks are better done at certain times of the day. Here is a simple breakdown of the Ayurvedic clock:

  • 10 pm to 2 am Pitta
    • From 10pm-2am it is possible to get a second wind, want to snack, etc. It’s best to head to bed before 10 pm, so that your second wind doesn’t keep you up later than you intended. This is also the time of organ healing and restoration, so it is best to skip that midnight snack.
  • 2 am to 6 am Vata
    • This is the time where energy is most fluid. This is also the time when many people need to get up for a late night bathroom break. It is best to wake up and start your day before 6 am. This time of day is also characterized by active dreaming and is a time of expansion and awe.
  • 6 am-10 am Kapha
    • The morning hours between 6 am and 10 am are characterized by a steady energy and it is the best time of day to get your daily exercise in.
  • 10 am-2 pm Pitta
    • Digestive fire is the strongest during this time, so it’s recommended to eat your largest meal of the day between 10am and 2pm. This is also the time of greatest productivity.
  • 2 pm-6 pm Vata
    • This is the time to work on projects or do seated tasks and it’s a good time to tackle problems as you may feel both alert and creative. It’s best to eat dinner before 6 pm to allow for proper digestion before bed.
  • 6 pm-10 pm Kapha
    • This is a time of slowing down. It’s a great time to spend with friends and family or to get your daily exercise in.

The amazing thing that happened to me was that my energy improved. I’ve had more energy to do the things I want to do. I’m also more in tune with my body and its needs. Do I need to rest? Do I need to eat? What foods make me feel good and what foods make me feel “blah”. I love it!

 

Over the next few months I will work on sharing more info about Ayurveda, changing your habits and living a healthier life, so if you have questions please ask!

So many blessings to all of you!

Love and Light,

Autumn

Ayurveda doshas

 

The Best Yoga for Better Posture

Does yoga improve posture? The answer is yes! Yoga is great for overall back care and spinal health. The best yoga for better posture includes a full range of motions: forward folding (spinal flexion), backbends (spinal extension), twisting, shoulder opening, hip flexors and hamstring lengthening, and retraining the body to move in better, healthier ways. It is also important to strengthen muscles that have become weakened and/or overstretched.

Posture issues and back pain are often caused by poor biomechanics and muscular imbalances due to habitual patterns of movement (or lack of movement), imbalances of strength and flexibility, injury, and sometimes genetic predisposition.

In this blog post, I will be focusing mostly on gentle yoga stretches for good posture. These good posture exercises help release tension and tightness in the muscles that often become tight, shortened or overstretched when we spend much of our time standing, sitting, or walking with poor posture.

 

1.) Yoga For A Stiff Back: Cat Cow

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Cow Pose

Cat-Cow is one of the best exercises to improve posture. I include cat-cows in every single yoga class I teach. Why? Because it stretches the postural muscles, encourages the healthy movement of the pelvis and requires the core to gently engage. Cat-cow also helps release tension in the neck and shoulders.

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Cat Pose

To practice Cat-Cow, come into a tabletop position on hands and knees with your knees directly underneath your hips and your hands directly underneath your shoulders. To start, find length through your spine, draw your lower belly in and up to support your lower back and lengthen your tailbone straight back behind you. Take a few rounds of breath here and experience the length of your spine and the subtle engagement of your core.

Use an inhale breath to lift your tailbone up towards the sky, draw your belly down, pull your chest forward between your upper arms and finally turn your gaze forward and slightly up while you maintain your core engagement. This will draw your spine into a gentle backbend. You want to think of articulating through each vertebra. On your exhale breath, tuck your tailbone under, pull your navel to your spine as you round your back; Continue to round your back, puff up the space between your shoulder blades, and draw your gaze toward your knees.

Continue this movement for 10-12 rounds of breath.

 

2.) Yoga for Rounded Shoulders: Supported Supta Baddha Konasana

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Reclined Cobbler’s Pose

Reclined cobbler’s pose is one of my favorite¬†yoga poses because it is deeply restorative, reestablishes the lumbar curve, opens the chest, and softens the muscles of the groin and inner thighs. The forward head, shoulders rounded forward, spine rounded forward posture is quite prevalent in today’s society. This forward head, “C” shaped posture is reinforced in our workplaces (computer hunch), our cars, and our homes (super soft couches that you sink into).

When we allow our shoulders to round forward, the muscles in of our chest get tight, weak and shortened, the muscles between the shoulder blades become weak and overstretched, and the muscles of our neck and upper shoulders become tight and prone to strain. If you notice your shoulders rounding forward during your workday, take a minute and do some shoulder rolls.

To practice supta baddha konasana, or reclined cobbler’s pose, you will want a bolster (or a couple of pillows or a rolled blanket), a blanket or folded towel, and two yoga blocks (or cushions of the same size).

Place your bolster or rolled blanket lengthwise behind you and take your folded blanket or towel at the far end of your bolster (this will support your head and neck).

Take a seat with your sacrum at the short end of your bolster, carefully lower yourself down onto your bolster, support your head with the blanket/towel (optional), and bring the soles of your feet to touch as if you were coming into butterfly pose, your knees drop out to the side like the pages of a book. If you feel like you need support for your legs, slide your blocks or extra cushions underneath your thighs/knees. Settle into the posture and allow your entire body to relax. Hold 4-7 minutes.

 

3.) Yoga For a Flattened Lumbar Spine: Supported Bridge Pose

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Supported Bridge Pose

Supported Bridge Pose benefits your lower back by re-establishing the lumbar curve. The lumbar curve is often flattened in those who sit for the majority of the day. Some individuals will have a deep lumbar curve typical of what you would see in gymnasts. A deep lumbar curve compromises the integrity of the vertebrae and discs of the lower back.

For supported bridge pose you will want to have a bolster, block or a firm pillow.

Lay down on your back and bring your feet as close to your bum as you can with your feet and knees both hips-width distance. Stretch your fingertips down toward your heels. From this pose, press into your feet and lift your hips, belly, and chest up toward the ceiling on an inhale. On an exhale breath reverse the motion. Begin at the top and roll your spine down one vertebra at a time. Repeat 3-7 times. The active version of bridge pose strengthens the glutes, back, abdomen and legs.

On your last active bridge pose slide your bolster, block, or pillow underneath your sacrum, so your hips and lower back are supported. Keep your legs bent for a few minutes. If the posture still feels okay after a few minutes you can play with lengthening your legs long along the floor. This will lengthen your hip flexors, but please be mindful of your lower back. If you experience any lower back pain then bend your knees and bring your feet back down to the earth.

Hold the pose for 5 minutes.

 

4.) Two Exercises for Better Posture and Health of The Lower Back & Pelvis: Low Lunge & Half Splits

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Low lunge, or anjaneyasana, is a foundational yoga pose. When linked with Half Splits or Ardha Hanumanasana, it is a great yoga exercise to improve posture because it opens the quadriceps, hip flexors, and hamstrings. Low lunge with the torso upright also trains the paraspinal muscles (the muscles that run along your spine on either side) and abdominal muscles to hold the torso stable.

You might like to have two yoga blocks to practice the low lunge and half splits

Come into a standing forward fold with your feet hips-width distance at the top of your yoga mat. Bend your knees enough to bring your hands down to your mat. Step your right foot towards the back edge of your mat and bring your right knee down. Make sure that your left knee is directly above your left ankle. To begin, bring your torso upright and if you feel stable take your arms up overhead.

Bring your awareness to your lower back and notice if you’re collapsing; if you are, your lumbar curve will be deeper and your belly will have softened forward. If this is you, draw your lower belly in and up. You can think of lifting your pubic bone up toward your ribs, which will teach you to use your core muscles to support your lumbar spine. Hold this posture five to ten rounds of breath and then release your hands to the ground (or onto your blocks).

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Half Splits or Ardha Hanumanasana

For half splits you will wiggle your left foot an inch or two forward and then shift your hips back, so your right hip stacks over your left hip. With your left leg extended long out in front of you flex your foot and dray your toes back toward your shin. This posture lengthens your hamstrings. Hold this pose 5-10 rounds of breath.

When the hamstrings become shortened they pull on the pelvis via the sit bones (ischial tuberosities) and this pulling posteriorly tilts the pelvis and flattens the curve of the lower back.

 

5.) Supine pelvic tilts

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Anterior pelvic tilt.

Supine pelvic tilts are incredibly helpful when it comes to rehabbing low back injuries and teach the muscles of the abdomen, pelvic floor, and inner thighs to engage.

You will want one yoga block to practice supine pelvic tilts.

Lay down on your back like you’re setting up for bridge pose (see exercise #3). Put your feet close to your bum to start. Place your block between your thighs on its narrowest setting.

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Posterior pelvic tilt.

Level 1. Keep your feet on the mat. Bring your hands to your lower abdomen and pubic bone, so you can feel the movement. Inhale a full deep breath and as you exhale curl your tailbone up off the mat and draw your navel toward your spine. Your lumbar spine will press into the mat beneath you. As you inhale, reverse the tilt: tailbone down, belly lifts and there is a space underneath your lower back. Make sure to squeeze into your block during this exercise. Repeat 10-20 times.

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Level 2, position 1

Level 2. This is more of a core strengthener than a pelvic tilt, but it’s equally important. Stay on your back, keep your block between your thighs, bring your shins to parallel with the floor. From here, superglue your lower back to the mat and lower your heels down to tap the mat on an inhale. As you exhale, lift your legs back up to the starting posture. Repeat 10-20 times.

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Level 2. position 2

6.) Yoga For Better Posture: Release Tension in Your Back With Simple Supine Twist

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Simple Supine Twist not only helps release tension in your lower back, it also helps reduce stress and improve relaxation. It’s also really easy and you can even do it in bed.

To practice simple supine twist, make your way onto your back. Draw your knees to your chest and give them a little hug in. Then release your arms out to the side, so they go straight out from your shoulders. Release your knees to the right and turn your gaze toward your left shoulder if it feels okay on your neck. Hold for a couple of minutes and switch sides.

 

7.) Improve Your Posture With A Chest & Shoulder Opener: Downward Facing Dog Using A Wall, Table Or Chair

best-exercises-for-posture-downward-facing-dogDownward Facing Dog at a wall or table is a gentler version of the traditional yoga posture. It helps those who have tighter/shorter hamstrings, tighter lower back or tighter shoulders get the benefits of the posture. Downward Facing Dog stretches the hamstrings, back, and shoulders. The posture also helps people find a long spine and core engagement.

To practice Downward Facing Dog on the wall, face the wall and bring the palms of your hands to shoulder width distance on the wall in front of you. Walk your feet back until your back becomes straight. You might need to slide the hands down a bit. You will create an upside down “L” shape with your body. Your spine is lengthened long and your navel draws in to support your lower back. Hold the posture for 10 rounds of breath.

 

8.) Reduce Your Swayback: Child’s Pose

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Child’s pose is wonderful for those who have tight lower backs. There are two versions of child’s pose: one that works deeper into the hips with the knees wide, and one that works deeper flexion into the spine with the knees together.

You don’t need any props to practice child’s pose. Come down into a tabletop position, bring your knees to touch and your big toes to touch and press your hips back toward your heels. Rest your forehead on the mat or on a yoga block or pillow if your head doesn’t reach the floor. Hold for 2-4 minutes.

I hope you find this blog post helpful. If you would like to learn more about strengthening poses specifically related to the postural muscles, read my post on back strengthening yoga poses. If you have lower back pain, please take a look at my four-part series on back pain, where I discuss restorative yoga for better posture as well as active yoga postures to help strengthen your core and back.

11 Important Questions to Ask Before Choosing Your Yoga Instructor Course

Congrats! Embarking on a yoga teacher training course will absolutely change your life, and that’s why it’s so important to choose the right yoga instructor course for YOU. I have personally taken a handful of yoga teacher training courses that have ranged from really freakin’ awesome to ugh… what a waste of money, time, etc. I want to make sure you find the yoga instructor course that works best for you, your needs, your lifestyle, and your practice.

Here are eleven questions you should definitely ask any yoga school before signing on the dotted line.

1.) Is the yoga instructor course registered with the Yoga Alliance?

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Yoga Alliance provides the minimum standard for which a Yoga Alliance registered yoga teacher training must meet. The Yoga Alliance outlines a minimum number of hours to be spent on each topic: philosophy, anatomy, practicum, methodology, etc.

I’ve heard horror stories where yoga instructors were duped into taking a yoga instructor course not registered with the Yoga Alliance and their teacher training fell way short.

While Yoga Alliance isn’t a perfect organization, it does provide a bit of necessary accountability to instructors leading yoga teacher training courses.

2.) Who are the lead yoga instructors? What’s their experience? What style(s) do they teach?

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You will spend a LOT of time with your yoga instructors and your fellow yoga teacher trainees. I recommend chatting with the lead instructors before the teacher training begins. Find out what the lead yoga instructors are passionate about. What do they love to teach?

If possible, you should take a class with the instructor before the teacher training. Do you actually enjoy their class? Would you like to teach the way they teach? Some instructors will invite you take a class with them at a local studio or give you a video link to preview. Familiarize yourself with their teaching style and explore other styles too.

What type of yoga will you be learning? Vinyasa? Iyengar? Bikram? Ashtanga? Restorative? Yin? Hatha? Integral? Kundalini? Make sure their teachings align with what you want to learn AND with what you want to teach.

3.) Where is your yoga teacher training course located?

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Will the training be in your home town or abroad? Is the training held at a yoga studio, retreat center, or conference room? Will all of your class sessions be in the same place? Are portions of your teacher training done online?

What time of year is the yoga instructor course? Is it in the summer or winter? Is it during rainy season or dry season? I personally wouldn’t throw out a yoga teacher training course just because it was in the off season… you’re doing yoga and learning the whole time anyway, but if it’s important to you, then take note.

4.) What are the expenses associated with your yoga instructor course?

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Typical 200 hour yoga teacher trainings cost between $2300 and $4500 USD. Sometimes these trainings are all inclusive, other times it’s just the training that is included.

There are often additional expenses associated with yoga teacher trainings. Examples of additional expenses include: books, manuals, private lessons for missed hours and registration with the Yoga Alliance.

If the yoga teacher training course isn’t in your home town, then you will also need to factor in¬†accommodation, meals, and possibly flights.

5.) What is not included in the training?

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Make sure you know exactly what is included and what is not included in your yoga teacher training.

Also, note that your registration as a Yoga Alliance registered yoga instructor is typically not included in your course fees. The Yoga Alliance registration isn’t much, so don’t let that deter you from becoming a yoga instructor.

Books are often not included either…. which is a good thing. You can often find used copies for cheaper online on Amazon or similar.

If it’s a destination yoga teacher training, then accommodation and meals are frequently included, but not always. You might as well double check.

6.) How many teacher trainees do they accept?

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There are benefits to both larger and smaller yoga teacher trainings. In larger groups you have an opportunity to connect with more like minded people and see more bodies in their yoga practice. In a smaller group you will receive more one-on-one time from your instructors, develop closer relationships with your classmates and have more time to practice teaching yoga. What do you value most? Choose accordingly.

7.) How long will it take to become certified? What is required to receive certification?

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Some yoga teacher trainings are done in an intensive format, typically around three weeks long, others are spread out over a few months or even a year. All formats have their benefits. In an intensive you are fully immersed in the yoga lifestyle. In a longer training you have more time to integrate between sessions.

Are there any additional papers or online classes that you will need to complete before you receive your certification? I didn’t look into this for my 300 hour yoga teacher training and I realized that I was going to have to essentially write a masters thesis to receive my certificate. Whoops! I learned my lesson.

You will also likely be required to attend a certain percentage of class hours to reach the minimum requirement set out by Yoga Alliance. The lead instructors for your yoga course will also have their own standards of attendance.

8.) What’s their policy on attendance, cancellation, etc.?

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Each yoga teacher training course will have different policies regarding attendance, cancellations, etc. Some teacher trainings allow you to make up time with private sessions (usually at a cost), extra book reports, or self study.

Know the yoga teacher training course’s policies. If you know the policies then you won’t be surprised when something does come up.

9.) How much yoga experience is required to participate?

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Many yoga teacher training courses require you to have a minimum number of years or hours of practice under your belt. Some yoga instructor courses are more flexible on this requirement and some are more strict.

A few courses may even require that you practice at their studio for a certain number of hours/months/years before acceptance into their yoga instructor course.

10.) Will the program teach you how to modify for those with injuries? How to teach beginners? How to teach all levels?

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No matter where you end up teaching after taking a yoga teacher training course, you will end up with beginners in your classes and you will end up having people with injuries in class too. It’s important, from a safety standpoint, to be able to teach both of these populations.

11.) What are the yoga instructors passionate about teaching? How do they teach?

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Are the instructors passionate about teaching anatomy? Are they passionate about story telling, theme-ing, philosophy? Do they teach from their mat? Do they walk around the room? Do they demo? Do they use their hands? Do they use their voice to speed class up or slow things down? Do they teach pranayama and meditation? Do they teach the business of yoga?

You should find out as much as you can! It’s okay to ask to see their syllabus too. You’re paying good money to enroll in their training, so they should be happy to answer your questions.

I hope this blog post helps clear up some of your questions. I also recommend that you reach out to your yoga instructors in your community and ask them about their experience with teacher trainings. In hindsight, what would they have done differently?

If you’ve read this far, you might be interested in checking out the Ambuja Yoga 240 hr. Intensive Yoga Teacher Training held in Bend, Oregon in August 2018. As always, Toni and I are happy to answer your questions.

Have you already completed a yoga teacher training course? If yes, please share your experience below.

Love and Light,

Autumn

Good Sleep Hygiene Begins with Healthy Sleep Habits and Your Evening Routine

Don’t we all want to fall asleep faster, improve the quality of our sleep, and wake feeling well rested? I know I do. It’s taken me 30+ years to master my evening routine and truly practice good sleep hygiene. I still have off days, but for the most part I’ve become a great sleeper. In this post we will talk about the healthy sleep habits and routines you will need to master to get your best sleep ever.

It’s time to throw out your old, bad sleeping habits and replace them with ones that will actually help you get a good night’s sleep. If you want to get better sleep, it’s time to make a few simple changes to your evening routine.

Are you getting enough sleep? The National Sleep Foundation recommends that adults and young adults get 7-9 hours of sleep each night. If you’re not practicing good sleep hygiene then you may not be receiving enough sleep. Sleep deprivation affects your entire being.

yoga nidra produces delta waves

According to Camille Peri, sleep deprivation does the following:

  • Impairs judgment.
  • Negatively affects our moods and emotions.
  • Increases the risk of accidents.
  • Impairs cognitive ability (dumbs us down).
  • Decreases libido.
  • Increases incidence of depression (by five times that of the normal population).
  • Accelerates aging in the skin.
  • May cause weight gain and obesity (and makes losing weight more difficult).
  • Is linked to diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and early mortality.
  • Increases the risk of death.

That’s more than enough reasons for me to make sure I get adequate rest and establish the best healthy sleep habits I can. I’m sure it’s enough for you too!

Here are eleven tips to uplevel your evening routine and finally develop good sleep hygiene.

 

1. ) Good sleep hygiene starts with an earlier, lighter dinner

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For me, eating an earlier, lighter dinner is my keystone habit for wellbeing. If I don’t eat an early, light dinner I struggle to fall asleep when I want to, I struggle to wake up when I want/need to and I feel sluggish the entire next day. For healthy digestion and sleep it’s important to eat dinner at least two-three hours before you want to go to sleep. In our house it means dinner is done by 7pm (most nights) and the kitchen is closed.

No snacking after dinner. If you must snack before bed, then make sure it’s healthy and nutritious. On nights when I’m feeling hunger pains before bed I fix up a cup of warm golden mylk. The warmth of the golden mylk is comforting and their are just enough calories in the coconut or nut mylk to stave off my hunger.

Another tip to making an earlier, lighter dinner work for you is to have a larger lunch with plenty of protein, vegetables and carbs. A larger, well-balanced lunch will keep you satisfied until dinner and you’ll be able to eat less at dinner.

 

2.) Get proper exercise

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Moving your body is huge. And knowing which type of exercise is best for your constitution, or dosha, is also huge. It’s imperative to get the right type of exercise for your dosha. Do you know what your dosha type is? Take this dosha test.

Kapha types, who tend towards excessive sleep, can exercise with a strong physical yoga practice like vinyasa yoga, or running, cycling, etc. Kapha types, should exercise first thing in the morning. Movement early in the day improves circulation and digestion, removes kapha sluggishness and improve mental clarity and focus.

Vata types, who tend to wake in the middle of the night, need gentle and grounding instead. Those who are more vata should try activities like walking, hiking, gentle cycling, yoga, or chi gong.

Pitta types, who tend to burn the midnight oil, should try activities like walking, hiking, light jogging, swimming, cycling or yoga in the morning or evening (when it is coolest).

 

3.) Incorporate stress management into your evening routine

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Stress management is easier said than done. Nearly all adults have experienced disrupted sleep due to stress related anxiety. Meditation, yoga, pranayama, exercise, and yoga nidra are all proven to be effective in reducing stress.

 

4.) Create a bedtime routine that focuses on healthy sleep habits

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What do you do before bed each night? Here is a chance to really create healthy sleep habits that will nurture and nourish you. Give yourself plenty of time to wind down. My husband, Steve, and I both tend to be workaholics. We have a strict no work after dinner policy because we know that once we get started it’s a slippery slope that leads to late night jam sessions and sleep deprivation.

After dinner, clean your kitchen, walk the dogs, bathe the children and then give yourself some time to rest and relax; curl up with a book and a cup of relaxing tea like chamomile, do a few restorative yoga poses, take a bath with jasmine and rose essential oils. According to Ayurveda, rose and jasmine are said to reduce stress, open the heart, and purify negative emotions.

In Ayurveda, the daily routine is called dinacharya. If you’re wondering how you can start your day better, check out this article on the Ayruvedic morning routine.

 

5.) Aim to be in bed between 9 and 10 pm

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According to Ayurveda, the time between 6am and 10am and 6pm and 10pm is dominated by kapha. Kapha is often described as dense, slow, and heavy. In the Ayurvedic practice they recommend that you’re in bed and asleep by 10pm, so you don’t get caught up in the second wind of pitta, which is associated with action and activity.

If you follow the healthy sleep habits of the Ayurvedic practices you want to rise by 6am each morning. At 6am, the energy of day is transitioning from the lightness of vata into the heavy, slow, dense energy of kapha. Have you ever noticed that if you stay in bed a little bit longer that you feel more tired and sluggish? This is why!

Remember. our bodies need 7-9 hours of sleep each night to function optimally. Early to bed, early to rise.

 

6.) Avoid stimulants like caffeine and nicotine before bed

healthy-sleep-habits-no-caffeine-before-bed

I think this should be a no-brainer, but none the less I will include it in my list of good sleep hygiene tips because sometimes we forget. I have a rule of no caffeine after 4pm. What do I do if I’m tired? Move my body. I get my blood flowing. I go on a walk, shake it out, have a mini dance party or practice a couple of inversions. Way better than caffeine… I promise.

As for nicotine, there are so many reasons not to smoke, dip, etc. Just don’t.

 

7.) Alcohol in moderation

healthy-sleep-habits-alcohol-in-moderation

Alcohol is a depressant and may help you fall asleep faster, but overall quality of sleep is sacrificed. Too much alcohol disrupts sleep and diminishes the quality of sleep as your body processes the alcohol. Your body wastes precious energy breaking down the alcohol instead of using it to restore the rest of your cells.

 

8.) Expose yourself to natural light (and darkness) everyday

sleep-hygiene-circadian-natural-light

Exposure to natural light helps the brain and body stay on a healthy circadian rhythm. According to the National Sleep Foundation, the circadian system keeps us in sync with the 24-hour day. Our body‚Äôs internal clock sends signals to many different parts in the body, affecting things like digestion, the release of certain hormones, body temperature, and much more. Our circadian system also helps us adjust to jet lag and seasonal changes in daylight. It’s an adaptive system that allows us to be alert when we need to be alert and rest when we need to rest. Those with circadian rhythm disorders will need extra help creating new healthy sleep habits.

 

8.) Self massage

sleep-hygiene-healthy-sleep-habits-abhyanga

Self massage, or abhyanga as it is called in Ayurveda, is the simple practice of massaging your body. A full body massage is typically done in the morning with warm sesame oil. In the evening, rubbing warm ghee into the temples and navel can help promote relaxation.

One of my favorite parts of my evening routine is to rub essential oil mixed into a carrier oil onto the soles of my feet. For a good night’s sleep I like to rub lavender, frankincense, cedarwood, vetiver, jasmine and/or rose essential oils onto the soles of my feet. The scents are grounding energetically and calming to the nervous system.

 

9.) Make your bedroom a sacred space

healthy-sleep-habits-bedroom-evening-routine

One of the most important parts of good sleep hygiene is turning your bedroom into a sanctuary. Clear out the clutter, get rid of anything unnecessary, install soft lighting, and the best linens and mattress you can afford. Set some ground rules for the bedroom too: no screen time, no work talk, all kids/pets out of the room at a certain time.

 

10.) Good sleep hygiene includes eliminating screen time in the evening

sleep-hygiene-healthy-sleep-habits

One of the most important healthy sleep habits is to remove electronic devices from the bedroom. The blue light from laptop, tv, and cell phone screens is no bueno for your health and your quality of sleep.

Associate neuroscientist at BWH’s Division of Sleep and Circadian Disorders, Dr. Anne-Marie Chung states, “We know from previous work that light from screens in the evening alters sleepiness and alertness, and suppresses melatonin levels.‚ÄĚ In Chung’s study they found, “iPad readers took longer to fall asleep, felt less sleepy at night and had shorter REM sleep compared to the book readers, researchers found. The iPad readers also secreted less melatonin, which helps regulate your sleep. They were also more tired than book readers the following day, even if both got a full eight hours of sleep.”

Even though I typically read paper books before bed I still struggle with this one. I use my phone as my alarm clock, which means I have to get on it to set my alarm, which usually turns into checking email or social media. I’m thinking I need to go old school and get an analog alarm clock! Do you struggle with this too?

 

11.) Keep a journal by your bed

healthy-sleep-habits-journal

Journaling is a great way to wind down. Before bed, take a moment to jot down a few things you’re grateful for in your journal. Also, when an idea does strike you in the middle of the night, know that you can write it down in your journal and go back to sleep. Once your mind knows that the idea is safe and sound (and won’t be forgotten) you’ll hopefully be able to drift off to dreamland quickly.

 

12.) Alternate nostril breathing

Is one of my favorite breath work practices because of it’s calming effect. It gives the brain something to do and simultaneously balances the right and left hemispheres of the brain and calms the nervous system.

Alternate nostril breathing, or nadi shodhana, is practiced by bringing your right hand up in front of your face and taking your index finger and middle finger to your third eye, your thumb rests on your right nostril and your ring finger rests on your left nostril. To begin, block your right nostril gently and inhale to a four count through your left nostril; block your left nostril and exhale through your right nostril for a four count; keep your left nostril blocked and inhale through your right nostril for a four count; block your right nostril and exhale through your left nostril for a four count. Practice alternate nostril breathing for 5-10 minutes right before bed.

To simplify, one round equals:

  • Inhale left
  • Exhale right
  • Inhale right
  • Exhale left

 

13.) Create a bedtime yoga routine

healthy-sleep-habits-yoga-evening-routine

Create a bedtime yoga routine by linking together a series of gentle yoga poses. Restorative yoga and yin yoga are both great to practice before bed because the majority of the postures stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system (your relaxation response). A few postures to try are child’s pose, seated forward fold, supine twist and reclined butterfly pose.

I hope you see that a few “simple” lifestyle changes to your evening routine can help improve your sleep hygiene, so you can get the rest you need. Start incorporating one or two of these healthy sleep habits and you’ll be well on your way to a better night’s sleep. Good sleep and nourishing meals are the key ingredients to our vitality and quality of life. What tips do you use to sleep better? Do you already have some of these sleep hygiene habits automated? Share what works for you in the comments below.

 

Time Management for Yoga Instructors

Hey yogis and yoginis,

I know this blog post is focusing on time management for yoga instructors, but these tips will be helpful for anyone who owns a small business, takes appointments, or runs a busy household.

I’m writing this post after going through a year long period of burnout, where I got less done than I should have/could have, mismanaged my time, wasn’t focused, and was struggling in my marriage and my business. I was ready to throw in the towel… and then I just kept sliding down that slippery slope. I needed an energetic shift and I needed it badly ASAP!

As I reflect back on 2017 I can’t help but think about this Paolo Coehlo quote, “Discipline and freedom are not mutually exclusive but mutually dependent because otherwise, you‚Äôd sink into chaos.” Chaos was my middle name.

I’ve finally made it out the other side! Hallelujah! I’ve been spending the past month reprioritizing, saying exactly what I need and taking charge of not only my time, but my own wellbeing. I’ve given myself more structure, which has allowed for more freedom.

Here are the time management techniques and apps that I’ve used to take control of my life and truly begin to thrive again.

time management for yoga instructors

 

Time Management for Yoga Instructors

1. Establish routines.

Your brain loves routines. Routines become habit. They become automated. Remember learning about samskaras? Not all samskaras are bad, in fact many are what keep us alive and healthy. Establish a morning wake-up routine and a routine for going to bed. Eventually we want all of these time management tips to be automated.

establish-routines-time-management-for-yoga-instructors

2. Stack your classes or appointments.

We’ve all had those days when classes, appointments, and one-on-ones line up poorly and you feel like you can’t get anything done. There are a couple of techniques you can use here. The first technique, schedule your heavy teaching days Monday-Wednesday and leave Thursday and Friday for business tasks. The second technique, schedule your classes back-to-back each day. For example, teach Monday, Wednesday and Friday 9am to 1pm and leave 2pm to 5pm to tackle business tasks.

For me, I like to stack my classes in the afternoon/evening because I’m more creative and inspired in the morning. It’s a great time for me to blog and get stuff done! If you’re struggling to fit in your own yoga practice attend the class right after your class or use the empty studio to practice on your own. You’re already there and you’re already warmed up.

block-your-time-better-time-management

 

3. Block your time.

This tip for time management adds on to tip number two. I advise you to login to Google Calendar and create a new calendar called “Ideal Schedule” and block out your time. Remember to establish routine, so try to keep the days similar… this will make life easier for you because you will know exactly what to expect. Once you know what your ideal schedule looks like begin shifting your classes and commitments, so they align with a schedule you love.

4. Prioritize your tasks.

If you’re a master of the “to-do” list like me, we’re going to switch it up. Yes, you can still have your beloved to-do list, but now it’s going to be prioritized. Number those babies. Prioritizing your tasks is one of the most important tips when it comes to time management for yoga instructors and pretty much any working professional. When you’re prioritizing tasks take into consideration deadlines, the time it’s going to take to complete the task, whether it’s necessary, and whether it makes you money. Also, ask yourself if the task can be automated (especially if it’s a repetitive task).

5. Batch tasks.

Every time you switch gears it takes 11-30 minutes to get back into the groove. It’s very important that you batch your tasks. You don’t need to create a new yoga playlist each week, instead take one day (one creative block) and create them all for the month. Your mind, your body, your energy all get in the zone and you’ll end up creating awesome playlists… instead of scrambling to create a new one each week. Don’t have time to create playlists? Borrow them. Get yourself a Spotify premium account and follow other teachers who have playlists you like.

Instead of coming up with your social media content daily, batch it. Spend one creativity block creating your posts for the next two weeks or month. Create docs with all of your hashtags, common quotes, links etc. and use them. Do all of your advertising prep at the same time. All your writing at the same time. All your emails at the same time.

Learning to batch my tasks was one of the most valuable time management tools I learned this year.

time management schedule breaks

6. Schedule breaks/buffers.

I love to over schedule myself… I don’t recommend it. So here is a chance for you to do as I say, not as I do. Okay, this is actually something I’m working hard on right now. Schedule breaks. Go walk your dog, do a couple of yoga poses, read a passage from an inspiring book. Yes, you do have time. I promise. Work less, to work smarter.

7. Schedule your practice/meditation/exercise.

You are an entrepreneur. And life as an entrepreneur gets crazy, and sometimes you end up going down a rabbit hole you don’t know how to get out of. Yoga, meditation, exercise…. that’s your ladder. Do it. Schedule it or it won’t happen. Some of your best inspiration will come while walking your dogs, resting in a yoga pose, or during that post workout glow. Hard truth: you cannot serve your community if you’re not taking care of yourself!

time management goal setting for yoga instructors

8. Set achievable, measurable goals and break them down into “bite size” pieces.

Gamify your progress. Use apps that track your goal progress. It might sound silly but when a little unicorn with some sparkles floats across your screen because you’ve achieved a task it’s awesome.

9. Say no to classes/events that actually cost your business.

Could your time be spent better working on something else? This is a hard lesson. When you’re first starting out and you don’t have much of a following say yes. Say yes to every opportunity to teach. Once you’re established, stop it. Seriously. You have an immense amount of value to share with the world. Before you commit to an event, get real and ask yourself if this engagement actually benefits you. And definitely don’t give up a day off if the class/event doesn’t meet your specific parameters. Your time is valuable, this is a lesson in healthy boundaries.

10. Class theme-ing and planning.

Okay yoga instructors, are you still planning individual classes with every pose memorized or noted? Can I ask you to stop doing this? You’re making teaching yoga harder than it needs to be. Don’t make life harder. Have your theme, have your peak pose(s), and have your playlist and show up and be present. What do your student’s need most?

I taught a class this morning focusing on lengthening the side body with some beautiful side body postures… all the students (except one) were knew to me because I was subbing. I did chat with most of the students before class to figure out what was going on in their body/life. A gal that has been doing a year of physical therapy for her lower back and hips was in class and she commented afterward about loving the class and being able to check off five of her daily physical therapy exercises. Lesson: it is more important to be knowledgable (always learning) and present than it is to plan a class from beginning to end.

11. Do not overload yourself with tasks and projects.

Have only 1-2 (no more than 3). I’m guilty of this. Likely, if you’re reading this you’re guilty too. I have so many dreams and plans, this is one of the hardest things for me as far as time management as a yoga instructor. I now limit myself to one or two big projects and one little project. What happens when we overload ourselves? We end up suffering. We feel like we’re not getting enough done. No matter how big or small your tasks are, break them down into small achievable to dos.

time management tip minimize distractions cell phone

12. Minimize distractions.

Create a sacred space for work to happen. No pets, no kids and no social media. If it’s possible for your schedule, get your most important work done when you’re distraction free. The kids are at school. The dogs have been walked and fed. And then turn off your social media notifications or use an app that limits your social media time. Skip the scrolling. Use social media for business and don’t get sucked into the endless stream of videos, “news”, and political posts. Not worth it… and really, do these posts add value to your life? Be honest.

13. Schedule “email time” and don’t respond to emails outside this time.

I have been a chronic inbox checker. Out of class… check email. Bored… check email. Waiting in line… check email. Stopped at a red light… check email. Limiting my ability to check email has saved my sanity and honestly I feel so much happier not doing it ALL DAY LONG. And while you’re responding to emails, delete all the garbage… or even better: UNSUBSCRIBE.

organize your workspace

14. Declutter & get organized.

Clutter = time wasted looking for things. I quarterly purge things. I love getting rid of things. Over many months spent traveling abroad I’ve learned to decipher what I need from what I don’t need. Clean out your closet and dresser. Donate what can be donated and toss out the rest. Do you need thirty pairs of underwear? Probably not. Do you need thirty pairs of yoga pants? Even if you’re teaching 15+ classes a week the answer is no.

Organize your computer files, your bookmarks, your playlists, your bookshelves, your closet. Clear your work space. Put seasonal items in storage. Unsubscribe from newsletters you’re not currently reading. If you don’t read it when it shows up in your inbox, chances are you will never read it.

15. Delegate. 

The tasks that take you A LOT of time to finish, should be delegated to someone else. Hire a cleaner for your house. Ask your partner to take over dinner “x” numbers of nights a week. Use a grocery delivery service or similar. Have pet food delivered to your house. Hire a virtual assistant to help with social media, blogging, etc.

time management tip plan ahead

16. Plan ahead.

If you’re working on big projects and you know you have big deadlines or events coming up, plan for it. Start working on them early. Delegate tasks when it’s near. Ask for help.

17. Find out where you’re wasting time.

Rewriting the same emails? Creating playlists? I’ve known for years that I’ve needed to write standard form emails that address common concerns from students and clients and for the longest time I didn’t realize exactly how much time I was wasting writing these emails individually. No more. Repetitive tasks are being automated, so I have more time to spend with my family and friends. If you’re not sure where you’re wasting time, use a time tracking app. You will quickly find out what’s wasting your time, whether it’s social media, distractions, responding to emails throughout the day, etc.

18. Don’t get hung up on unimportant details.

If it’s not important, don’t waste your time and energy on it. Not every task/detail is important. Work on figuring our what is most important to your success and focus your time and energy on that.

19. Form new habits.

Yes, this means change. Change is tough for many of us. Change pushes us out of the comfort of our usual day to day routines. Now is the time to develop new time management habits that serve your wellbeing. Set healthy boundaries. Rework your schedule (that might mean giving up a class or two). Wake up on the first alarm. Get your exercise or yoga in before your first work commitment. Drink 8 oz. of warm water in the morning. Get rid of old habits + automate new habits = success.

20. Automate.

I’ve mentioned automation a few times. It is so important to automate repetitive tasks and streamline your work flow. This is a HUGE time saver!

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21. Schedule exercise.

Yes, exercise has already been included. Do it. No excuses. Schedule it. Make it happen.

22. Eat simple, healthy meals with minimal prep time.

Plan your meals. If you know you have to teach late, plan an easy meal. Don’t tempt yourself to eat junk food. Feed yourself nourishing meals with simple ingredients. I love to cook, so at least once or twice a week I try out a new, elaborate recipe for dinner. It’s fun for me and not a chore because 1) I love it and 2) all the other meals I’ve prepared have been easy.

Also, this is an opportunity to remind you to use convenience services. Fred Meyers/Krogers has a program called clicklist and they only charge $5 to do your grocery shopping for you. You choose the time to pick it up and voila! It’s ready for you at that time. Numerous cities have organic veggie delivery. Blue Apron might be another easy option for you.

23. Commit to your tasks.

Don’t dilly dally. Commit. Get it done. Ask for help when you need it.

24. Use the tools available to you.

There are so many tools that can help with project management and time management as a yoga instructor. Many of these tools I didn’t even know existed until I started speaking with professionals in other industries. Why we don’t learn these skills in YTT is beyond me.

  1. Project Management: Asana
  2. Calendar: Google Calendar
  3. Automated social media posts: Hootsuite, MeetEdgar, or Buffer.
  4. Email: Mailchimp
  5. Time tracking: Focus Booster and RescueTime
  6. Goals: TimePlanner, Coach.me, Goals On Track & Google Goals
  7. Playlists: Spotify
  8. Email Templates: Google Doc (just copy and paste into your emails
  9. Your cellphone: Turn off notifications for social media apps
  10. Notes and To-Do Lists: Google Keep

Pick a handful of these techniques and tips to master now and as you get more confident in your time management as a yoga instructor add a few new techniques. Eventually, they will become automated and you won’t even have to think about it anymore. Life will be more streamlined, which means more time for the important things that bring you joy.

Anything I missed? Comment below with your favorite time management apps and tips.

Love and Light,

Autumn