Bump to Baby: Taking Comfort in Prenatal Yoga

Pregnancy can easily be named the greatest gift of a lifetime for an expectant mother, but with pregnancy comes that lengthy and sometimes overwhelming list of things to prepare for before the baby arrives. Nine months can seem like a long time to get ready (especially in those first few months), but trust us, it will go fast! Our best advice to you, for the sake of yours and your baby’s health and well-being, is to just slow down.

Take the time to find comfort and relaxation with your growing bump—try prenatal yoga! Expectant moms all over the globe find comfort in prenatal yoga, and here’s why:

Increases Strength and Flexibility

A common question we get at the studio from an expectant mother is, “I’ve never done yoga before; is that okay?” The answer is YES. You do not need to be an experienced ‘yogi’ when it comes to prenatal yoga. With very little impact on your joints, you can expect to tone your muscles, improve your balance and promote healthy circulation, all the while supporting the process of your growing baby bump.

Promotes Peace of Mind

One of the first things you’ll learn to do in a prenatal yoga class is to breathe—fully. This form of breathing is known as ujjayi breath.

Breathing very slowly and concentrating on each breath involves calmly inhaling through the nose and filling your lungs as your belly and chest expand. Then, gently release that exhale as your stomach compresses and your heart rate settles into a peaceful and calm rhythm.

Breathing fully promotes almost instant relaxation and peace of mind which will be very useful throughout pregnancy, during labour and delivery, and even into motherhood—those cute kiddies can be frustrating at times!

Many studies have concluded that a happy pregnancy equals a happy baby, and that makes perfect to us.

Allows Early Connection with the Baby

During prenatal yoga, you’ll find yourself in a natural state of self awareness, paying close attention to all the sensations in your body, including your thoughts and emotions. Don’t be surprised if you feel those first little fluttering taps in your tummy during a prenatal yoga class.

What a wonderful way to bond with your growing baby and feel an early connection!

Prepares you for Labour and Delivery

When it comes to labour and delivery, everyone has a unique story and there is no way to guarantee equal experiences. Through prenatal yoga, you’ll be naturally trained to stay calm when you need it the most. You’ll be well prepared to trust your body and allow the process to happen as it should.

Aside from being prepared mentally, your body will also be toned physically in the pelvic floor, hips and abdominal core muscles which will assist in the birthing process. The breathing techniques taught in yoga will significantly help you manage or reduce pain during contractions, too.

Once you’ve been given the go ahead from your doctor, we would love to welcome you and your baby bump to our studio. From 4 weeks to 40, our trained instructors will provide you with an amazing journey throughout your pregnancy. To preregister or to learn more about the benefits of prenatal yoga, we encourage you to email or call us at (604) 746-4070.

Namaste.

Resources

 

Got Stress? Get Yoga.

There are many, many benefits to practicing yoga, and stress relief is just one of them—but it’s a big one. Many scientists now believe that stress is an underlying issue that contributes to a huge variety of diseases, including digestive disease, some types of cancer, obesity, skin conditions, and many more.

By ridding yourself of the stress in your life (or learning how to manage it more effectively), you can give yourself a leg up when it comes to disease prevention. That’s huge! At the time of year when kids are taking exams and sports are wrapping up, life can sometimes feel out of control.

But yoga helps.

Here are 5 ways in which yoga help to alleviate stress and teach you to deal with it in ways that are productive and wise:

It Teaches You to Truly Breathe

We all breathe, but learning to breathe consciously and mindfully at times of stress can be a huge asset to your health and well-being. Breathing deeply and purposefully allows your body to take the heart rate down, circulate more oxygen to the bloodstream, and feed every single little cell with nutrients.

When this happens, our body is given a signal that we do not need to be in fight or flight, and we can relax.

And we do.

Yoga Invites Humility into Your Life

Practicing yoga makes you realize that everyone walks a different path, and that your problems are not unique to you. You’re not the only one in class with a rebellious teenage son or daughter. You’re not the only one struggling at work.

And you’re not the only one with tight hamstrings.

Yoga teaches us that although we are each immensely important, we move as one and all need to respect one another in order to reap life’s rewards.

This realization can be deeply helpful in combating the stress that crept up on you during your drive to the studio, or anywhere else.

Poses and Postures Help Reduce Inflammation

Your organs feel your stress, and although you may not feel the effects immediately, they do, and it’s only a matter of time until you recognize that.

Your body responds to stress by creating inflammation. In an effort to protect itself, your amazing body creates a buffer between its very important parts, but this buffer is not meant to be permanent or chronic.

Yoga helps to reduce and eliminate inflammation by increasing circulation (bringing more oxygen to the brain and body), calming the mind, and creating a collection of healthy thoughts and feelings within ourselves that we can draw from when we feel the need to.

Like a mental health toolbox!

You Learn to Be Still

Think that 10 minutes in savasana is just a show? Think again. Some people have a harder time staying in savasana than they do in pigeon! Why? Because laying still in the day without expectation of sleep invites thoughts into your mind that you may not want there. But dealing with those thoughts in a safe place instead of avoiding them is the healthier alternative.

Learning to be still can help you eliminate a lot of stress—that’s why meditation is so amazing for your body, too!

Competition Stays at the Door

Many of us compete with each other and even ourselves without even realizing it. While competition can definitely be healthy, it’s also unnecessary to be steeped in all the time. Learning to put aside competitive feelings can have a very positive affect on your body—and your stress levels.

For more information on the health benefits of yoga, visit our blog. If you’d like to see our class schedule, visit HERE.

Namaste!

Spring Clean Your Yoga Routine

Happy April, friends! Winter is past us (yay!), and spring is definitely in the air. So why not spring clean your yoga routine?!

We spring clean everything else—our homes, cars, shopping habits, diets, and more. But something that many of us do on a weekly (or even daily) basis is workout and exercise! Your body gets used to the same routines, so why not work new muscle groups and stretch different ligaments? It’s like a spring makeover for your mind, body, and soul.

Here are 5 ways to spring clean your yoga routine:

Swap your Restorative for Hatha

Or, if you want to get crazy, throw in a power class! But if you only attend the same yoga class time and time again, you won’t be pushing your body to discover new limits. It’s all about getting outside of your comfort zone and challenging yourself to move deeper and find the new within yourself.

Practice at a Different Time

Yes, really! Just as it’s important to shake things up when it comes to classes, it’s also a good idea to practice at different times of the day. By asking your body and mind to make a change, it improves your ability to be flexible with time and space.

This is good for you!

Double Up Your Classes

Think a 60-minute class is all you can do? No way! Why not try taking a more physically demanding class like Strong or Flow, then following it up with a Stretch or Yin? Think about the benefits your body would receive from committing to two hours of yoga every now and then! You’ll never know what this can do for you, until you try it.

Increase Your Time in the Studio

If you typically practice 2-3 times per week, why not try increasing that number? Challenge yourself to add another class or two to your weekly schedule, and be amazed at how that small increase changes your body and brain!

Combine Your Practice with Running

Yoga and running could not be more different—which is why they’re great to combine! The high-impact and fat-burning capabilities of running are a perfect complement to the gentle stretching and balance-building poses that yoga has to offer. Try alternating days, 6 days a week.

Push and test your body, and you’ll see better results. Or, if you already go pretty hard, slow down and attend those stretch classes. The bottom line, is that your body can benefit from switching up your routine. Here‘s a list of current classes we’re offering. Take a glance and see how you can spring clean your yoga routine!

To find out what’s new at Parallel Yoga, check out our Events & Workshop page HERE.

Namaste!

5 Meditation Tips for Beginners

If you have an active and long-term yoga practice, then you probably also meditate, or are at least have been curious about it. Although yoga and meditation go hand in hand, people seem to gravitate more easily towards yoga than towards mediation.

Why is this?

If the roadblock mainly consists of not knowing where to start, then we have your back! Here are 5 meditation tips for beginners:

Be Aware of the Benefits

It’s more difficult to begin a meditation practice if you aren’t sure why you’re doing it. Like yoga, meditation focuses largely on breath and inwardness. It encourages those who practice to turn their thoughts inward and focus on the present.

Unlike yoga, meditation encourages stillness and cultivates the ability to be both comfortable and uncomfortable at the same time. It can help increase your resilience in dealing with stress and anxiety, and helps people prone to unwanted overthinking, otherwise known as rumination.

Understand the Principles

Although many beginners think that the main goal of mediation is purposeful focus without becoming distracted, it’s learning to notice when your mind drifts that results in successful cognitive therapy:

“You can’t restructure your thoughts if you haven’t first developed the ability to identify your thoughts.”[1]

Start with 3-5 Minutes

Beginners don’t have to begin their mediation practice by doing so for hours. Start small. Try sitting in a comfortable and quiet place in your home, eyes closed, for 3 minutes. A great way to try and control your thoughts is to breathe in and out a mantra.

On your inhale, imagine the word “slow” and on the exhale, imagine the word “down.” For every breath, repeat the mantra. You’ll be surprised how after a few times, that 3 minutes becomes 8! (And so on.)

Anything is Better than Nothing

Remember that 5 minutes is better than 2, and 2 minutes is better than zero. By keeping your meditation practice consistent, even if it means only getting in 2 minutes a day, you’re creating a healthy habit that will evolve into something powerful.

Be realistic, and do what works for you and your lifestyle. Which brings us to…

If All Else Fails, Throw the Rules Out the Window

Rules don’t mean much if they aren’t going to be followed. So don’t follow the same ones as others, if they don’t make sense! For example, if one person’s suggested mantra doesn’t work for you, create one that does! If meditating in the evening isn’t realistic, try doing it in your car on your lunch break.

Meditation is about learning to control your thoughts and having the tools to recognize when your mind is negatively affecting your body and vice versa. It’s about aligning your mind, body, and soul for harmony and inner peace.

So it’s worth a try! If you’re a beginner, ask us for more tips on how to incorporate meditation into your life, today.

Namaste.

References:

[1] https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/in-practice/201303/5-meditation-tips-beginners

Yoga: Body, Mind, and Soul

The practice of yoga is one that is personal to each who participates. Although there are many different types of studios that offer many different styles of yoga, there are 3 core entities that can’t be manipulated or ignored if yoga is truly practiced properly. To fully embrace everything that yoga has to offer, the focus must be equal on the following:

Body

Yes, yoga is good for your body. It helps to stretch and pull and bend the muscles and ligaments that are often overlooked. Postures assist with strength, balance, and increased blood flow. Your body reaps the rewards of increased lymph drainage and circulation to the extremities that are typically forgotten.

For these reasons, your body is thankful for your practice.

Mind

In yoga, we are taught to breathe mindfully and look within. We learn patience and self-love, acceptance for what we cannot change, and the joy of bettering ourselves for ourselves—not for anyone else. We learn to direct negative thoughts and kiss them goodbye, and we consciously allow ourselves to have the patience and humility that we need in order to grow and receive light.

For these reasons, your mind is thankful for your practice.

Soul

Yoga is not just about those who practice it—it’s about recognizing the strength we have as a community and the love we are able to show one another. It’s about togetherness, support, and oneness. Through the practice of yoga, we evoke our connection to the earth and to each other.

For these reasons, your soul is thankful for your practice.

So there may be different ways to approach the practice of yoga and different teaching styles, but in its essence, we can’t forget that yoga isn’t just about ‘getting a better bikini body’ or competing for ‘most toned abs’. Yoga is about finding ourselves—our true selves—and reaping the rewards along the way.

Body. Mind. Soul.

What does yoga mean to you?

Research Proves that Yoga Helps Us Live Longer

We’ve all heard that yoga is good for us. Right? And we don’t need to read the research to know that there are specific things about the practice that contribute to a better life. Things like:

  • Pain relief
  • Self-acceptance
  • Nixing negative self-talk
  • Body awareness
  • Learning to be full— grateful, mindful, and thankful

And more!

We even know that yoga is amazing at actively reducing stress. But what you may not know, is that it’s scientifically proven to do so; that there is a huge correlation between those who do yoga, and those who live longer. Here’s why:

Breath = Improved Mental Health

In an American research study conducted in 2009, researchers concluded that conscious “breath work can affect longevity mechanisms.”[i] They also provide clinical evidence that links yoga breathing to the positive treatment of “depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and for victims of mass disasters.”[ii]

Poor mental health is associated with a decreased life expectancy, but the opposite is also true. If you can improve your state of mind by practicing yoga, then you’re making conscious and mindful strides towards a longer, healthier life.

Meditation = Stress Relief + Clarity

Another research study conducted in 2009 found that meditation can ultimately be linked to slower cellular aging. The idea is this: how slow or fast one ages is determined primarily by one’s telomere length. The telomeres in a person who experience consistent stress are significantly shorter than those who perceive themselves to be “stress-free.”[iii]

“We can actively change the length of our telomeres by changing our lifestyle habits.”

Meditation is an effective way to reverse the aging process by helping to assist us in dealing with our stress, and enabling us to think more clearly about what we prioritize.

Exercise = Decreased Body Mass + Medication

Yoga lowers your body mass index (BMI). In 2011, the International Journal of Yoga published a research study that concluded that regular and consistent yoga practice was a predictor of “lower body mass index and reduced medication use in women over 45 years.”[iv]

Since both higher body mass indexes and regular commercial medication use has been linked to a shorter lifespan, this means that yoga helps you to live longer.

So there you have it! Three scientifically-proven ways that yoga helps us increase our longevity.

Namaste.

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References:

[i] http://www.readcube.com/articles/10.1111%2Fj.1749-6632.2009.04394.x?r3_referer=wol&tracking_action=preview_click&show_checkout=1&purchase_referrer=onlinelibrary.wiley.com&purchase_site_license=LICENSE_DENIED_NO_CUSTOMER

[ii] http://www.readcube.com/articles/10.1111%2Fj.1749-6632.2009.04394.x?r3_referer=wol&tracking_action=preview_click&show_checkout=1&purchase_referrer=onlinelibrary.wiley.com&purchase_site_license=LICENSE_DENIED_NO_CUSTOMER

[iii] http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1749-6632.2009.04414.x/full

[iv] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3193658/

Mental Toughness for Young Athletes

Physical strength is a quality that most athletes strive for. They train for it, they eat for it, and they live a life that contributes to healthy growth and repair.

But what about mental strength?

The kind of strength it takes to keep competing, even when it becomes more difficult than it was when the commitment was originally made? To be consistently focused on the desired result, to know that each experience brings wisdom and builds character, and to have the bandwidth and energy to remain motivated and inspired? To have the skills and support to be able to handle the pressures and demands that today’s young athletes are subject to?

Mental Toughness for Young Athletes

This type of toughness—mental toughness—is what clearly separates athletes who succeed in all areas of their lives (not just in sports), and those who don’t. A great definition of mental toughness (taken from Building Mental Toughness) is as follows:

“A mental ability to overcome adversity and persevere through difficult and challenging situations or circumstances, to remain focused on the goal.”1

So how do we emphasize mental toughness and teach our kids that our minds are more powerful than our bodies will ever be?

One way, is to help your child or athletes routinely ask themselves the following questions:

  • What routines can you implement into your daily life?
  • How do you get focused for each day?
  • Are you aware of your goals and targets?
  • Do you have a plan of attack?
  • How do you respond to stressors?
  • Do you remain strong under pressure?

This helps young athletes to stay positive, and focus on their own process.

Tips and Tools for Mental Resilience

Other ways to improve one’s mental resilience, is to:

Breathe: Remember that increased oxygen lends to a calmer, more relaxed state of mind. Learning to consciously breathe in times of stress can be a fabulous tool to not only teach young athletes, but every adolescent.

Exercise: This may sound redundant when referring to athletes, but exercise that isn’t part of their daily or weekly program can be stress-relieving and enjoyable. Yoga and Tai Chi are both examples of highly beneficial supplementary exercise programs.

Be present: By not multitasking, young athletes are better able to be in the moment and consciously enjoy it. Mindfully keeping oneself in the present is another great tool for anyone, not just athletes.

Stay focused: This is important in maintaining mental toughness. Staying focused on the original intent and desired result can help aid in decision-making and prioritizing.

Manage expectations: Start small, and build to bigger and better goals. By making goals realistic, you increase your chances of attaining them, which builds self-confidence and drive.

Practice positive self-talk: Mostly, because negative self-talk will only be harmful. Positive self-talk increases self-confidence, which is paramount when it comes to succeeding as an athlete.

Get out of your comfort zone: Surprisingly (or not), stretching your comfort zone results in higher confidence and lends to a better variety of experiences. When equipped with the right tools to navigate the expansion of one’s comfort zone, the results can be thoroughly enjoyable and confidence-boosting, and assist in building mental toughness.

Keep perspective: Above all, remind young athletes that life is about more than the game. It’s about friends, family, experiences, and growth. One loss is not the end of the world—grow from it. Not being able to participate in a particular event will not end your dreams—learn from it.

Reinforce to your young athletes that mental toughness is a skill that’s cultivated—and the people that focus on it and mindfully improve upon it will ultimately reap the rewards.

Namaste.

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References:

1- http://buildingmentaltoughness.com/what-is-mental-toughness/