Breathe deeply and excitedly because today you get to hear from qualified yoga teacher, holistic wellbeing expert, midlifer herself, Randi Ragan. And she’s so cute to boot, don’t you think?! Get blissed out reading her guest post below. Then PUH-LEEZE breezy breathe over to visit her site, RandiRagan.com.
By Randi Ragan
In particular, women over fifty would seem to be ideal candidates for realizing the stress reducing benefits of yoga. Between parenting their children, taking care of aging parents, and figuring out how to save for retirement, midlife women have major changes happening in their lives and bodies, including:
If you haven’t taken the opportunity to try yoga for yourself, here are five great reasons you may want to check it out.
Yoga originally was designed to subtly affect the body for the purpose of insight or self-knowledge. With regular practice, yoga confers a calm fluidity from its baseline cultivation of internal grace. Yoga also breaks up the patterns that bind us, transforming our energy. Through the practice of the physical postures, our mental, emotional and spiritual postures begin to change as well. They become more balanced, calm, and focused, giving us a new way of coping with life’s inevitable ups and downs.
Holistic Wellbeing expert Randi Ragan is the author of A Year Of Living Mindfully: Seasonal Practices to Nurture Body, Mind and Spirit, to be published in 2016 by Quest Books. She can be found at randiragan.com, her mindful living almanac and blog, and @randiragan on Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook, with daily inspiration for vibrant seasonal living. She is also the founder and owner of the award-winning GreenBliss EcoSpa, named one of Los Angeles’s Top 10 Holistic Spas its very first year in business (2006). Prior to being a business owner, Randi was a yoga and meditation teacher for 12 years. During that time she led yoga and spiritual retreats in California, Mexico and Hawaii, and formed The Blessing Works, which specialized in the creation of customized healing ceremonies and rituals for its clients. Randi lives in Los Angeles with her husband and 13 year old daughter.
Readers: Help Randi feel welcome by commenting below. What do you do to reduce stress? Have you tried yoga? How did your body respond?
I’ll add a tip that works for me – pretend you’re a marionette with a string running through the top of your head and down the center of your torso. Now imagine that the puppeteer is pulling the string up. If you’re more technical, just pretend it’s a plumb bob.
Because our Posture Series has made us so famous (hi Mom, hi Dad), we’ve been invited to two super duper events, where we’ll be offering posture assessments (and an energetic, fun Drums Alive class).
This Saturday, January 25, we’ll be at the Sherpa booth (#556) at the L.A. FitExpo doing free posture and gait assessments from 1:30 – 3:30. Please stop by if you’re attending.
And at the Yosemite Healthy Living Retreat at Tenaya Lodge, March 28-30, we’ll present a posture workshop, as well as a Drums Alive class to the attendees. Be part of Tenaya’s inaugural healthy retreat and join us at one of the world’s best wellness resorts (according to USA Today). Their focus is on interactive, fun, take home sessions and activities in a breathtaking setting.
Besides our classes, you will have exclusive access to wellness education on topics ranging from fitness and yoga to nutrition and personal care. Your weekend also includes special treatments in the Double Silver LEED-certified Ascent Spa, products and classes from Kimberly Parry Organics, and a hands-on culinary class and dinner with Executive Chef Frederick Clabaugh.
Why not book the weekend and join us? All kinds of good stuff going on for those with perfect (or imperfect) posture! You can focus on perfecting your gait too, by joining us on a walk right at the gateway to one of our nation’s most revered national parks.
No matter what, dear Posture Pals, do as the Dirty Heads suggest, and
“Stand tall, it gets a little better
I see the wall that we can break down together
Stand strong, it gets a little better now”
When you’re done singing and standing tall, sit down at your computer and book your trip to join us at Tenaya Lodge.
Photos: posture graphics – Dreaming in the deep south; all others – Tenaya Lodge
Yoga can transform you into a more confident woman who’s not afraid to meet life’s challenges. Not only will you become stronger, more flexible, and more agile, but yoga will also affect your mind as you cultivate patience. Yoga can help prepare you to face life’s changes with love, respect, and belief in yourself, and will strengthen you in all the choices you make.
Through yoga, you will learn to listen more to yourself, and trust your self-assessments. As you set the boundaries that work for this phase of life, you will hone your ability to take one day at a time and stay at the present moment. Not tomorrow or yesterday, but now.
Yoga takes your values and thoughts and turns them upside down. If you’ve harbored negative thoughts about yourself, you’ll find yourself becoming a more positive person who values the experiences life has to offer.
In the past, women approaching their 50’s lowered their expectations of what their bodies could do. Perhaps due to cultural pressures and perceptions, women’s self-esteem at this age could suffer. Stress adds tension, especially at the shoulders and neck, which can affect breathing. Once women learn to breathe deeply, their shoulders relax and you can see them start to settle into their own bodies as they learn how to use their entire lungs when they breathe.
No matter what age we are, we have to believe that we are good enough just the way we are. It has to be repeated over and over so that it manifests itself in the mind, because it is the truth. We have to accept and love ourselves for who we are. We don’t need to be perfect – we just have to like who we are. But we sometimes need a little bit of help, because the pressure from the external world is powerful. Yoga can be that friend that provides help.
Yoga is a powerful practice that encourages wellbeing on so many levels. It enables us to age with grace and beauty, and makes the aging process more pleasurable and meaningful.
If you are new to yoga and don’t know where to begin, the following video is for you. It is a sequence of 8 yoga postures specifically for beginners.
More cool info about Lexi: She instructs Yoga videos on her YouTube channel and actively works on her website LexiYoga.com. Her life mainly consists of – Eat, Sleep & Yoga. Follow her to learn more about the healing power and benefits of yoga.
Photo Credits: Lexi Yoga
In December of 2006, at the age of 53, I was given the life altering diagnosis of post polio syndrome, a progressive neuromuscular condition. A survivor of paralytic polio at age 5 and traumatic childhood events, the years of despising my challenged body finally caught up with me. Over there <——– is a picture of me in December of 2007. I’m smiling because I had just quit my full time award-winning career as a social worker at the Department of Veterans Affairs to heal my life, and had published my first book of inspirational poetry. Deep down in my soul I knew that great things were waiting for me on the other side of my office door and my diagnosis.
“When you get a diagnosis, don’t play to the result, take it day by day.” – Michael J Fox
After being discharged from outpatient treatment, I hired a personal trainer. Oh my goodness, do I ever remember my first session with her. I was so weak and deconditioned that I couldn’t even complete parts of the assessment. By the second session, it was game on. Everything hurt after we finished, but I had made a decision. If I was going to feel pain, I might as well experience pain on the side of health and strength, rather than the pain of disuse and being sedentary.
By February of 2008, I had met and surpassed my trainer’s initial goals for me. She asked what my next goals would now be. “Oh,” I answered, “I’d like to feel free in my body, go outside and take a walk, dance ….” She feverishly wrote down these goals. Her bag was packed and her hand on the door knob when I said, “Oh, there’s one more goal to add. I want to run the Boston Marathon.” That was quite a leap from having an initial goal of being able to get up off of a low seat.
On April 20 2009, 7 hours and 49 minutes after the gun went off in Hopkinton, Massachusetts, I crossed the finish line of the 113th Boston Marathon as a mobility impaired runner and raised $10,535 for Spaulding Rehab Hospital, where I had taken the first steps on my healing journey. My daughter and husband ran by my side every step of the way – from the grueling training through the winter of 2009 and the 26.2 mile course.
After running the marathon, my symptoms recurred, so I went back into outpatient treatment. In January of 2011 I came to my yoga mat. In May of 2011, I discovered the healing power of a form of body work called Structural Integration. For more information you can visit Anatomy Trains. From our second session, my body worker, David Vendetti talked to me about what happens in yoga teacher training. I was there for body work. “What does any of this have to do with yoga teacher training,” I would repeatedly ask myself.
I soon found out. On January 13, 2013 – don’t you love the lucky number 13 – I ran the 113th Boston Marathon and graduated from yoga teacher training. I am now a certified yoga teacher.
I bring all the gifts and treasures of wisdom I have learned on my healing journey to others through teaching yoga. At the age of 59, I feel more vibrant, healthy and fully present in my body than ever before. And as for that progressive neuromuscular disease that was going to get a lot worse with age – well, they say one picture is worth a thousand words, so consider this picture an essay!
This baby boomer is blooming!
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA
We met Phyllis 28 years ago when we were newbie guest instructors at Rancho la Puerta Fitness Resort, located just south of the border in Tecate, Mexico. At the time we knew her as the Group Fitness Director and well loved and respected yoga teacher. But we knew very little about yoga except that it seemed for the fringe and oohie woohie sorts, nor that Phyllis had lived in many countries and through war horrors. She was always so nurturing, funny, warm, and positive that we never imagined her history. That fact alone bespeaks the effect that yoga and meditation can have.
Bring some of those same positive feelings into your practice by listening to Phyllis’s story. Can’t wait to listen? Click on the radio episode and finish reading this post later. Not only will you appreciate what yoga can do to improve your life, but also you’ll get a kick out Phyllis’s sense of humor and English “elocution.” Then read the book she wrote of her childhood prison experiences, The Hidden Passport, which was easy to read and fast paced.
Given the hardships and cruelty she faced as a child imprisoned in Japanese war camps, Phyllis is especially appreciative of the ways yoga brought joy and awareness back into her life. “Yoga offers Balance, Compassion,and Gratitude,” she asserts. “Yoga is not just what you do; it’s also who you are.” Some of the benefits yoga or meditation include:
Looking for the ultimate yoga or guided meditation treat? Head to Rancho la Puerta, a place we hold near and dear to our hearts. Take Phyllis’s classes in person. Discover an entire range of fitness classes, hikes, cardio workouts, art classes, and top quality instructors. (Side note: if you are thinking of going to “the Ranch” let us know as we can save you $250).
Please click to visit us at FunandFit.org, subscribe to our YouTube Channel, and follow us on twitter: @KymberlyFunFit and @AlexandraFunFit. See our instagram pics at: @KymberlyFunFit and @AlexandraFunFit. We follow back!
We were not compensated in any way for this post. Our goal is for you to listen to our radio show and have a healthier, happier life. For more on yoga, take a look at our post, Yoga: For Flexibility? Weight Loss? Animals?
Guest post from Phil Tucker
We are at Rancho la Puerta Fitness Spa in Tecate, Mexico taking yoga classes and attending a presentation by John Ratey, MD, author of Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain. So you get the benefit of a guest post from one who knows yoga much better than we! Phil Tucker is an avid yoga practitioner and general health and wellness advocate. He’s looking to feel ever younger as he grows older! Please make Phil feel welcome by leaving comments. THANKS! K and A
Does that sound a bit much? Then consider this: yoga is often described as a form of ‘moving meditation.’ You strive to perfect all the different poses to clarify your mind and ground yourself in the present. By bringing all of your focus and attention on the entirety of your body, you find you don’t have room to worry about dinner or whether you are going to finish your work in time. Instead, you have to be fully conscious of what each part of your body is doing, and in doing so, you switch off your mind and find a sense of peace.
It goes deeper than that though. At the end of each yoga session you experience the final pose known as Savasana, or ‘corpse pose’. This is most beginner yogi’s favorite pose, as it simply involves lying on your, back, arms out, fully relaxed, with eyes closed. Usually the instructor will play soothing music. Many people find that they tend to drift off to sleep as they relax ever deeper. Why do they sleep? It’s not just because they’re tired. It’s also because beginner yogis often have the most active minds and the greatest levels of stress. Savasana is meant to provide practitioners with a final opportunity to still their minds and experience the universe through only their spirit and bodies, but beginners, who are often exhausted by too much thought, will often slip away completely into sleep.
That is how yoga can truly make a difference in both your mental health and general well being. It affords you the opportunity to still your thoughts and release your stress for not only the hour that you are on the mat, but for a long period of time once you step off it. One could say that the point of yoga is to help you live a conscious life, to be self aware and fully present in your life, and it helps you do that by grounding you in the moment, energizing your body, and helping calm your mind.
Photos: Provided by Phil Tucker via Flickr
Readers: How has yoga changed your life (for those who practice it? What would motivate you to try yoga if you have not yet done so?
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA
Kymberly: The short answer is that both yoga and Pilates DO improve strength and are fantastic activities. And both are low resistance workouts. Depending on your fitness or health goals, you may also want to add some heavier resistance training to your weekly workouts. Think: free weights, machines, elastic tubing, medicine balls, kettlebells, barbells, teen progeny who hold still when you hug and squeeze them. Lots of choices!
Alexandra: I just went over to Gaiam TV to see what kind of yoga and Pilates videos they have for strength training and I got 3 pages of titles just for the “beginner” category. I think my mouse-clicking finger just got stronger! That was surprising – not that my finger has superhuman strength, but that there were so many “alternative” strength DVDs – because in our Yoga For Flexibility and Weight Loss post we talk about yoga’s more relaxing aspects. In this Ab Strengthening post, we talk about some of the benefits of Pilates (and share some great ab moves).
And my sister gave you the short answer above, so I’ll give you the strong answer. If you only enjoy yoga and Pilates, do them, knowing it will take you longer to show your Wonder Woman toned up muscles. But if you also enjoy free weights, add them to your workout. The combination of activities will be your quickest path to Dee-lightful, Blissful muscles. I shall now go practice my “I got into the Pretzel and can’t get out” move. It’s sort of like the saying for New Orleans (I’ve fallen down and can’t get up), except the Pretzel doesn’t involve drinking. Or cartilage as far as I can tell!
K: Huh? Were you talking? I was working out to Gaiam TV videos that had the words “powerhouse,” “pumping,” “squeeze stronger,” and “Budokon” in them. Apparently I will be invincible!! after I try Budokon. Heck, I’ll be smarter just figuring out what that means. Here’s to being strong and invincible!
Dear Readers: What are your favorite yoga or Pilates moves for gaining muscle definition and strength?
Also, we want to let you know that Gaiam TV is offering a 10 Day Free Trial, which means you’ll get free access to over 2000 healthy living streaming videos. Yup, free access for you all because that’s how we work the magic on your behalf! If you can’t watch them all in 10 days (you can’t), put a subscription on your wish list. Just sayin’.
Bonus tip: They have videos on everything from the environment, metaphysics, art & culture, science & technology, travel, fitness, documentaries, and dinosaurs to food & nutrition, TV shows, family and even (can you believe it?) yoga and Pilates! We’re off to check out the self-help because if we don’t help ourselves, who will?
Disclosure: Gaiam TV compensated us for the links in this post. All opinions and suggestions are our own.
Guest post from Karen Whittier
Just like every other working mother out there (I know that’s redundant) spare time is something rare. So when I did have the opportunity to get some exercise, I’d go run figuring running gave the most bang for my pavement-pounding buck. Sure I knew runners were supposed to stretch—either before or after running depending on who you listened to. BUT they just didn’t understand…I didn’t have time for that.
Over the years, the body will try to do what it can to keep going. It’s very easy to choose to ignore your body’s signals that things are amiss. I certainly ignored warnings from my body, but I didn’t want to change my workouts or admit anything was wrong. Sooner or later, though, the body’s quiet distress signals will become full-fledged screams.
The usual progression of overuse leads right to injuries. I had a handful of injuries, leading up to the one that definitely got my attention. I was out running when I heard a pop and simultaneously jumped straight up; crumpling on the trail when I landed. Unfortunately I was out a distance from my car and so I did my best to shuffle/limp the rest of the back. My tight, unpliable hamstrings were the culprit and I was forced into some stretching exercises with physical therapy when my injury healed. I even voluntarily tried some yoga classes.
I guess this is an indictment on my intelligence but once I started feeling better I lapsed right back into the prior patterns. It wasn’t too long before injuries and newly diagnosed arthritis knocked me out of action again.
I credit yoga with reclaiming my physical freedom. I’d gotten to the point where, almost every day, I’d be in tears suffering from chronic pain and stiffness from arthritis. I was given more and more medication. None, except cortisone shots, did anything to alleviate the pain and unfortunately cortisone shots are not something that can be done routinely.
I was getting to the point of desperation. I faintly remembered feeling better when I’d done yoga. I decided to commit more fully to it and, sure enough in not too long a time, the range of motion in my hips and shoulders increased; I stood up taller and moved more fluidly. Having my brain work with my body, as partners, has made all the difference! I’m not 100% pain free every day and I’ll never be described as flexible, but I am no longer taking anti-inflammatories and I’m much, much more flexible than I was.
I was so impressed by the results yoga gave me I ended up going through a teacher training program. I’ve been able to unite my passion for health and wellness through yoga with my commitment to fight disease with a new business, Embrace Activism. You might not be able to envision just what you’ll discover once you begin your yoga journey, but I can promise you it’ll be life-changing.
Dear Readers: Add to your online workout buddy list and actively embrace Karen over at her site, www.EmbraceActivism.com.
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA
Alexandra: Your question caught our eye because today we saw some photos of a colleague who leads a Doga Yoga class for people and their dogs. I’ll answer the first part of your question and leave the flexibility to Kymberly.
I’m going to answer from a backbend pose and say, “Almost any exercise will help you lose weight to some degree; the question is ‘how much?’” Now I’ll take a stance–yoga is meant to be about relaxation, better breathing, focusing the mind, balance and flexibility, although there are some types of yoga that can improve strength. In two independent studies (both discussed here), calorie burn and aerobic benefits of Hatha and Power yoga were tested. Answer–no substantial aerobic benefits. If you want to lose weight, I’d say park your car far from yoga class and run there, ride your bike to the store to buy a yoga DVD, or dance in your kitchen before downloading a yoga video.
Kymberly: Who believes Alexandra was in a backbend throughout that reply? Well, she was and still is. In fact, I doubt she will ever get up. If she did more yoga she’d be flexible AND strong enough to rise… like the bread she is baking (for me, no doubt).
A: That was quite some pretzel logic!
K: Onto you, Chen and all readers: Yes, yoga will enhance your flexibility. We suggest you visit My Yoga Online (see their logo in our sidebar to the right? Scroll up if need be. Click on it and check out their offerings.) Well-designed yoga classes alternate or balance forward bends (such as the “down dog”) with backward bends (“cat pose” or “up dog pose”) partly to maintain balance and improve flexibility.
K: Are you sensing an animal theme in today’s post? Ever noticed how flexible animals are? Coincidence or great planning centuries ago? See how well I stretched out my answer, which could have been handled by “no to significant weight loss and yes to flexibility”? My work here is Ommmmmmm-most done.
Dear Yogis and Posers: What name shall we give the yoga pose (asana) that the cat is demonstrating above? And “cat pose” is currently oversold, so make up something else.
Photo Credits: Creative Commons
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA
Kymberly: With red paint and a template of concentric circles. Aim for the middle. When you are done with target practice, get fired up! Aerobically, that is, cuz’s it’s calories burning time. In a way, Hannah, you are asking the ever-tempting question: “Can I spot reduce?” In your case, the “spot” starts at the belly button. See our post, Spot Reducing: A Zap-O-Matic Myth. Short answer is “No.” If you want to target ab flab, you have to address overall body fat levels.
Parts 1 and 2 of our Get Fab Abs series had several AWESOME (that’s Twitter talk in case you did not recognize it) ab exercises. Feel free to try those exercises between your cardio workouts. And to give you your full pound of flesh (sounds gross, but that’s Shakespeare for you), give some of these yoga moves a try as they are specifically designed to address the center.
Alexandra: I also like this 3-minute video from My Yoga Online. And, after you move to whatever desert has white sands, a perfectly white yoga mat and a personal drummer, you can ask the drummer to pick up the pace so you can do some cardio. Who knows, Indiana Jones might appear and help you get whipped into a cardio, belly flab burning frenzy!
That is my hot movie celebrity way of saying, “Flab is a four-letter word for ‘fat’ and for that you need cardio & strength-training.” Get rid of the fat on top so you can display the musculature underneath. So….break up with your flab; start dating your abs! Flaunt the fab; fire the flab! Gee, I could make up ginchy little rhymes all day, but then I’d have no time for stalking my friendly visits to Harrison Ford!
Dear Readers: What is your favorite way to burn the flab that covers your abs? (Note: This is not a hint to stick a burning candle in your belly button)
Photo credits: Photobucket