Finding Our Way to Health & Balance

Ah the Winter Solstice and New Year, a time of increased energy and hope. Resolutions are set in January and new habits and self care practices are formed. Maybe you did a 30 day yoga or meditation challenge or went for a walk every day. At the end of January I invite you to hit “pause,” to reflect on what you learned and how to move forward. This blog explores how to (1) maintain your New Year’s self care resolutions, and (2) deepen your wellness practices if you are ready. Discovering my self care balance – a combination of yoga, meditation, diet, sleep and listening to my body – has changed my life.

Maintaining. They say it takes 30 days to form a habit. So what are the essential ingredients to keeping that new habit going in a sustainable way? If you added exercise, yoga or meditation to your routine in January, consider these questions:

  • What time of day was best for your practice?
  • Did you learn anything about what length practice works best for you?
  • Do you aim to keep a daily practice going, or did you learn every other day is a better fit for your body and schedule?
  • If you did the Yoga Next Door Yoga Every Day Challenge, what did you learn about exploring the different level classes (Vinyasa, Gentle and Chair Vinyasa)? For example, maybe your practice isn’t all Vinyasa Flow moving forward; maybe you want to mix in some Gentle or Restorative classes as well.

Taken together, the answers to these questions can help you plan out a weekly practice schedule that is manageable and sustainable. Put those self-care times on your calendar!

I also recommend you re-evaluate your self care plan seasonally. Here in New England, we spend a lot more time outside in the summer than we do in the winter. Maybe evenings are best for you in the winter when the days are shorter, but mornings will work better in the summer months. If you are a parent, your school-year practice schedule may look different than your summer practice schedule.

Deepening. It is likely your increased New Year self care practices led to positive physical and mental outcomes for you (less pain and stiffness, more strength, energy, calm, focus, happiness, etc.) and you maybe be feeling inspired to deepen your yoga practice and overall wellness. Investigating diet, sleep and work life balance can further enhance your yoga, meditation or exercise practices.

In the field of yoga, the work we do on the mat is beneficial to the organs, nervous system, respiratory system, muscular skeletal system and the mind. The ethical observance of Sauca, purity, in yoga is the additional work we do to ready our bodies and minds to get the most out of our time on the mat. “For each of us Sauca is a journey of discovery. What works for you? Dairy, no dairy; meat, no meat; lots of sunshine, very little sun; lots of stimulation, or quiet solitude; long ambles or power walks. We each find our own way to health and balance. We are on the path that leads to the truth, and the means for determining the truth is our own individual experience.” (Gates & Kenison, p. 233).

Diet. Like Gates & Kenison, I do not believe there is a one size fits all approach to diet. Nutrition is not my area of expertise, but I will share some anecdotes on how diet has affected my health. I have participated in cleanses that eliminate sugar, caffeine, wheat/gluten, dairy and alcohol. Through these experiences I have learned that my flexibility increases and stiffness in my body decreases when I eat less sugar and gluten. Since I have become more in tune with my body through yoga I have eliminated alcohol because I recognize my energy levels decrease after I drink alcohol. If you are looking for a cleanse program to enhance your yoga or exercise practice, I recommend trying a spring or fall Ayurveda (the sister science to yoga) cleanse. Contact Katie O’Connell at Dragonfly Yoga & Ayurveda (https://dragonflyyogabarn.com/ayurveda/) to learn more.

Sleep. We all know getting enough sleep is important to our wellness. I find that making time to meditate at least 15 minutes a day improves how quickly I fall asleep, and how deeply I sleep. Our daytime and bedtime routines affect our sleep. Keeping a sleep journal can be a helpful practice. You can document your daily activities, bedtime routine, how you slept, how long you slept and how you feel the next day. It should be noted that too much sleep can have negative effects on your energy as well.

Work Life Balance. As a Type A person, this is a hard one for me. Many of us have struggled to find work life balance in the past year in particular because the pandemic has us working, parenting and schooling our children. Yoga helps us learn to turn inward and pay attention to the messages our minds and bodies are sending us. For example, my yoga practice has helped me know when I need to stay in, instead of being social (because it will make me more tired); when I need to do a Restorative class instead of a Vinyasa class; when I need to get up from my desk and go for a walk instead of pushing through for another hour. Ask yourself: do you ignore hunger sensations, building stiffness in the body from sitting, or the need to go the bathroom when you are working? Listen, get up and address those feelings the first time you notice them instead of the last. I recommend carving out time everyday for self care whether its an hour to workout or get on your yoga mat, a 30 minute walk, 15 minutes to meditate or time to curl up with a book.

If you are on the track to deepen your practice and wellness, I recommend exploring diet, sleep and work-life balance, one at a time. One of the silver linings of the pandemic is that we are moving around less and have more time at home to try different things; whether its re-arranging the furniture or eating less sugar! If you want to take a deeper dive into discovering the best diet, nutrition, sleep and wellness practices for your body I recommend Shannon Lynn Hodson’s workbook “Kissing Stress Goodbye” (https://shannonlynn.com). Shannon is Masters level Health Scientists and Holistic Health Counselor and January 2021 Yoga Next Door Yoga Every Day Challenge participant.

Now I’m going to take my own advice and get up, have lunch and go for a walk!

Gates, R., & Kenison, K. (2002). Mediations from the Mat. Anchor Books, United States.