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Dec 22nd
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Mind & Body

Wellness - Mind & Body

Tree Pose

Tree Pose

NAVIGATING YOGA > Vrkasana, a.k.a Tree Pose

This week’s yoga pose, Tree Pose, is one of my favorites to teach—it is always a great way to introduce balancing exercises, as it focuses on engaging your body from the ground up.

To begin, root down through your feet. While standing with your feet apart, press your weight into your heels and relax your toes. Engage your left leg by flexing those muscles, not so tight that you lock your knee, but enough to feel those muscles work. Begin to stand on that leg by lifting your right heel to your left ankle. Balance at that point. Focus your gaze on a particular spot in front of you that is not moving. Engage your core by bringing your belly button to your spine, and drop your tailbone underneath you so that you are balancing from your center rather than from your lower back. When you’re feeling balanced, you can start to inch that heel up a little higher up your left leg. If you’re feeling really balanced, reach down with your right hand to grab a hold of your right ankle, draw the foot up to place the sole of your foot against your inner thigh. Engage your hips by squeezing your inner thighs together and bring your right knee inward slightly so that you’re not hyper extending your hips or your low back.

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Wellness - Mind & Body

Yoga For Fear

Yoga For Fear

NAVIGATING YOGA > Fear is a natural part of being alive. It reminds us that we are human, and that we are, in fact, imperfect. And we are afraid of everything, aren’t we? We are afraid of death, deadlines, change, the proverbial monster living under our beds, afraid we fear too much … Incessant worrying about the possibility of things going wrong or completely destructing around one’s self can cloud every experience in life. Mark Twain once famously quipped, “I have been through some terrible things in my life, some of which actually happened.” I love this quotation because it reminds me that fear is instinctual, and that when we let ourselves be consumed by fear, we lose grasp of our ability to distinguish what is real and what isn’t.

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Wellness - Mind & Body


Navasana: Boat Pose


Navasana: Boat Pose

NAVIGATING YOGA > When I find myself moving at the speed of light, unable to regroup and slow down, I head straight for my yoga mat. This week’s featured yoga pose—Navasana, or “Boat Pose,”—concentrates on strengthening the core while lifting the torso and ultimately lifting the human spirit.

A strong core in yoga helps to support your spine when trying to balance, move into a backbend, or even while sitting in a meditative position. When your core is strong, tension can slowly release from your spine. Paripurna Navasana is considered one of the great core-strengthening postures in an asana practice. So for flat abs and a healthy back, practice this pose step by step:

1. I like to begin the posture on my back, hugging my knees into my chest, and rocking back and forth from the shoulders to the low back like a rocking chair to roll out the spine. Eventually, you can rock yourself all the way to sitting on your sit bones. With your legs still elevated, draws your hands underneath your knees for support.

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Wellness - Mind & Body

Upavista Konasana

Upavista Konasana

NAVIGATING YOGA > Try this wide-angle seated forward bend

Here it goes, our first post in a weekly series that will spotlight different yoga poses. This week, we are focusing on Upavista Konasana—a wide-angle seated forward bend or seated angle pose. Practice this asana for a greater openness in the hip flexors, a glorious stretch for the entire back side of your body as well as your inner thighs, and to strengthen your spine. To accomplish this, move through it slowly. Move into the posture from Dandasana (seated staff pose), by sitting upright, lengthening through your spine from your tailbone and out through the crown of your head. Open up your legs at about a 90 degrees angle or as far as you are able. Root down through your sit-bones and feel your hips externally rotate away from you so that your knees and feet are flexing skyward.

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Wellness - Mind & Body

A Love/Hate Relationship

A Love/Hate Relationship

Locals learn to love running in an unconventional program

According to Maggie Ellis, “If you think you hate running, [or] if you couldn’t run a half mile to save your life,” the Hate to Love Running Program is right up your alley.

Ellis is a certified health counselor and the director of The Hate to Love running program, which is now in its third year. Ellis was inspired to start the program by her own relationship with running: through a gentle progression of exercises, running transformed from a chore she hated doing into a true passion. Her program is geared toward beginning runners, and aims to help train them in a manageable way with the goal of completing a 5K run by the program’s end.

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Wellness - Mind & Body

Yoga for Depression

Yoga for Depression

 NAVIGATING YOGA > Balancing the mind, body and emotions with yoga

We now know that yoga can be handy as a sleeping aid, especially when that insomnia is due to stress. But did you know that yoga can also help cope with depression? It’s true—while yoga may not be your cure your blues, it should certainly be taken seriously as a mood booster.

As you probably know, exercise sends natural signals up to your brain that can trigger happiness. The technical term for this is called endorphins. Endorphins are your happy hormones, which are increased with any amount of physical activity. Whether that activity is a jog through the woods or dip in your local pool, being active makes the world seem a little brighter. Knowing this, it’s safe to say that yoga by its very nature as a physical activity can combat depression. Some postures are especially good for opening the heart, relieving insomnia and anxiety, and alleviating external distractions. Here are six postures that I think are particularly beneficial.

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Wellness - Mind & Body

Self Defense Tips

Self Defense Tips

Local jui jitsu instructor gives his top self defense tips

Seated behind the desk of his East Cliff Drive dojo, jui jitsu instructor Claudio Franca explains that it is not always possible to protect oneself or prevent an attack.

“Unfortunately, sometimes you don’t have a choice,” he says in a thick Brazilian accent. “Twelve o’clock, Downtown Santa Cruz … sometimes you can’t [prevent an attack],” he adds, referencing the May 7 fatal stabbing of downtown business owner Shannon Collins that still has the community reeling.

In some circumstances, however, Franca assures that self-defense training can be helpful. “The idea is avoiding the confrontation,” he says. “Move away, call another person.”

Franca, who originates from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, has been teaching the martial art for 25 years. He also teaches two women’s self defense classes a week at the Santa Cruz location and one a week at his Watsonville studio.

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Wellness - Mind & Body

Karma Yoga

Karma Yoga

NAVIGATING YOGA > NOURISH offers free yoga for firefighters

It is safe to say that NOURISH is a popular yoga studio around here. From their reasonable monthly membership of unlimited yoga, to their ongoing massage and informational nutrition consultations, it’s easy to see why the good karma has come back around in form of local newspaper readers voting them the best yoga studio for the past several years. Starting on May 15, NOURISH plans to give back, targeting their effort at firefighters.

From May 15 to June 15, “firefighters from anywhere get a free month of yoga to celebrate and thank them for putting themselves on the line for us all,” according to the NOURISH website.

Needless to say, firefighters are involved in high-risk situations that can create a lot of stress.  Yoga, says NOURISH co-owner Jocelyn Dubin, is a great way to help relieve that stress.

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Wellness - Mind & Body

Yoga for a Better Night’s Sleep

Yoga for a Better Night’s Sleep

NAVIGATING YOGA > As anyone who practices yoga can tell you, it is a powerful way to relax. As such, it also can mean better, deeper sleep. But what exactly about yoga aids healthy sleep? Is it the long, luxurious stretching? Is it the meditation aspect, or the deep breathing? Or it is because “savasana” basically feels like a nap? In short, the answer is yes to all of the above. Yoga is one of the best ways to promote relaxation—so how can we take advantage of its positive affects on sleep?

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Wellness - Mind & Body

Like Running in Space

 Like Running in Space

NASA technology is making its way into luxury gyms across the country in the form of an anti-gravity treadmill known as the AlterG. The treadmill allows users to walk or run with as little as 20 percent of their body weight. The technology was originally developed by Dr. Robert Whalen for NASA as a way for astronauts to exercise effectively, both in space and when they return home.This space-age machinery is ideal for people who are recovering from injuries or recent surgeries, or for those whose excessive weight makes traditional treadmills near impossible.

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