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As I’ve shared on both the page and the stage, I’ve struggled with anxiety for most of my life. Yoga has been a powerful tool to combat it. As a yoga student, the practice provided a sanctuary for me to become more present, grounded, and calm. As a yoga teacher, I seek to provide this experience and these tools to others. I’m especially interested in the intersection of yoga and life because even if you’re practicing yoga every single day, 365 days a year (and let’s keep it real, who the heck is?), what about the other 23 hours of the day? What about when you roll up your mat and step back into your real life, only to be clobbered over the head with work/life stress?

That question is why I became interested in exploring how to take tools that provide yoga-induced calm off the mat and into the rest of your life: So that when you’re back at your desk/in the car/having a difficult conversation, you can tap back into that yoga zen. Seven years ago, I started developing workshops to share the tools that worked for me, and I’ve been teaching them nationally ever since. Here are some of my favorite, proven hacks, as well as techniques from the world-renowned Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital, the teaching hospital for Harvard Medical School. I hope they help you take your zen with you too.

1: Extended-Exhale Breathing. To do: Breathe in for a slow, calming count of three, and out for a slower, calming count of four or five. Repeat for 3-5 minutes (or as long as you like) and students tell me they notice an immediate sense of relaxation. I turned to Laura Malloy, LICSW, director of yoga programs, and director of Successful Aging at the Benson-Henry Institute to understand why and how this works. Malloy explains, “This replicates how we breathe when we’re sleeping. It initiates the parasympathetic nervous system’s relaxation response, which is the opposite of the stress response.”

The Benson-Henry Institute’s founder, Dr. Herbert Benson, is a pioneer in the field of mind-body medicine and credited with discovering the relaxation response. Together with his colleague Robert Keith Wallace, Dr. Benson studied the effect of meditation on the body, and found that it reduced metabolism, rate of breathing, heart rate, and brain activity, which Dr. Benson labeled “the relaxation response,” a term which has become a staple in the field of mind-body medicine (as well as within the worlds of wellness, yoga, and meditation). So what are some of Malloy’s favorite tools to teach at the Institute?

2: Ten-Count Exhale How To: Breathe in (any count), and as you exhale (any count) say  silently to yourself, “Ten.” Breathe in (any count), and as you exhale (any count) say, “Nine.” Repeat until you reach one. Then do additional rounds as needed. Malloy, a licensed therapist, who also holds her 500-hour yoga certification from the internationally respected Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health, says she often starts with this technique for patients. “This works well because the mind loves to have a focus, so if we give the brain something to focus on, it gets us off the ‘everyday train of thought,’ as Dr. Benson says.”

Malloy says that anxiety is defined as the mind worrying about the future—something we can all relate to, amiright? Who hasn’t caught themselves on a runaway mind train where, “I’m nervous about giving that presentation/job interview/other thing you have going on in your life…”  spirals into doomsday-type worries, “…my mind will go blank/I’ll say something stupid/I won’t get the job/I’m a huge failure/Now I’m sweating through my clothes and can barely breathe.”

3: Take a Pause How To: Breath in, pause. Breathe out, pause. Breath in, pause. Breathe out, pause. Keep repeating. This gives your mind something to focus on—your breath—and creates a place to break the anxiety cycle and take a pause.

Malloy explains each of these breathing techniques are designed to interrupt that anxiety escalation and bring you back to the present moment. But what about people who don’t want to do breathwork?

4:   Physical Mindfulness How to: Malloy says the key to this is to focus on the sensations in your body. “Feel your feet on floor, feel your back resting on the chair.” And for those who don’t want to focus on their body, “Notice the view out the window. Have a cup of tea and notice the temperature, the taste, the color, the feel of the mug in your hand.” Malloy explains the key is tuning in to the sensations in your body or what’s going on in the immediate world around you.

5: Mantra Mindfulness How To: Again, because the mind loves to have something to focus on, giving it something positive to hone in on can help steer it away from that runaway anxiety train, and get you back on track to Zen Town. Malloy suggests, “I am…at peace,” which you can sync to breathing in, breathing out. And what about those of us who have yet to achieve Yoda-like Jedi-level enlightenment and may accidentally have a thought or worry interupt? Don’t beat yourself up. As Malloy says, “When the thoughts creep in, put them to the side and go back to your mantra: I am…at peace.”

Malloy says they call these hacks “mini-relaxations,” which sounds like something I’d like to order from my favorite spa’s menu while wearing a big fluffy robe, but can conveniently be done anywhere including while commuting, wearing anything including a suit.

So what does Malloy herself, therapist, co-director at the world-leading institute on mind-body medicine, master yogi practicing since 1994 and teaching since 2001 do to relax? You can bet your mandala I asked. “My favorite is having a mindful moment: bringing my head to where my feet are, breathing belly breaths, and allowing myself to be here now. If my mind starts to run too far into the future, with this awareness, I can bring it back to the present.”

Malloy advises that these mini-relaxations should ideally be practiced as a booster shot to your larger relaxation practice, which the Benson-Henry Institute recommends doing 20 minutes a day—whether it’s yoga, meditation, Tai Chi, or the mindfulness practice of your choice. “It takes practice to get good at them, just like you have to practice an instrument, or learn to brush your teeth. It’s the same thing with doing a relaxation every day, you have to tap into that and train your body how to relax. We teach it as a practice, instead of a band-aid approach. We hope people will do a relaxation practice 20 minutes a day, and then view the minis as booster shots.”

A prescription to relax 20 minutes a day with a booster shot of extra zen? Now that’s mind-body medicine we can look forward to taking!

My sister Hanna is a registered dietician. Which makes me super lucky since I can get research-backed nutrition advice on the ready. Fortunately, I’m happy to share her wisdom (and my food) 🙂

Here are my Hanna/RD-approved energy bites. They are gluten-free, vegetarian/vegan if you want them to be (omit honey and collagen powder) and 100% delicious. They are also quick to make and keep me energized, grounded and balanced even on long days. (Notice one is missing in the heartbowl picture–that’s because I ate it! Photography is hard work. I got hungry 🙂

Let’s do this:

Combine all (except honey) in a bowl or mixer. Stir/mix until blended. Then drizzle in honey to taste. Taste frequently to see how it’s going 🙂

When satisfied, wet hands and roll into balls. Freeze for an hour if you’re in a rush, or refrigerate for 1 1/2 hours, then take them out, pack them up and go!

 

In case you’re not following my every riveting move on Instagram oNYC skyscaper Facebook (wait–why AREN’T you following my every riveting move?? START FOLLOWING! You don’t want to miss out!! 🙂 ), I have some pretty big, exciting news.

Glamour Magazine reached out to collaborate on a very exciting initiative they’re working on about the connection between inner wellness and outer wellness and beauty.

I jumped on a train and headed to the Big Apple last week and spent the day filming with them. I will share as soon as it’s live. Stay tuned, friends! I’ll be posting exclusive behind-the-scenes photos, stories, and info!

xo

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I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling emotionally raw, depleted, and exhausted tonight. I need some extra nourishing, extra pampering, extra restorative self care tonight.

Here’s what I’ll be doing. I hope this helps you too. And if you have other ideas, please share so I can try them 🙂

  1. I’m creating some quiet time. I’m honoring my inner call to stay in, be quiet, rest.
  2. I’m going to take a mineral salt, essential oil scented bath complete with candles and soothing music.
  3. I’ll apply essential oil-scented organic body oil to my pulse points.
  4. I’ll meditate. (I meditate daily, but I’ll do more)
  5. I’ll do a gentle heart-opening restorative yoga pose. (Photo and directions below)
  6. I’ll order in dinner and spend quiet time with close friends.

 

Supta Baddha Konasana:

Lie on your yoga mat or in your bed. Place a pillow or bolster under your knees and another under your head. Wiggle your shoulder blades down (or have someone tuck them for you). Cover yourself up with a blanket or your sheets/blanket if you’re in bed. Place a weighted pillow or small zafu on your belly and a folded towel or eye pillow over your eyes. Breathe slowly and deeply. Stay as long as you like. Only get up in your time. <3

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OK Friends. Here is my individual interview on how I #FoundMyFit filmed by Onslot Creative for Sleep Innovations. This project is SO dear to my heart and so vulnerable making…for a lot of reasons…especially putting myself out there in such an open-hearted and vulnerable way. And also…on a more superficial level…with barely any makeup (and who knew they were going to zoom in quite THAT CLOSE?!?!?).

BUT I wanted to be authentic–and I was–about something this important that I care about this much. As you know, THIS is not only the topic of my book, but something I’m truly PASSIONATE about! I believe there is no greater service to the world and deep-seated satisfaction within than finding your fit (in yoga-speak, living your dharma).

Now, I am so honored to travel around speaking, sharing my journey, & teaching others how to find THEIR fit and step into their most fulfilling lives. Truly, I am so thrilled to be part of this important project.

Produced by amazing: Kate Hammond, Story Producer: Aimee O’Neal, Director: Ben Patterson, Director of Photography: A Poland, Editor: Matt D Peters.

WS picThis is my second year speaking at the W.E.L.L. Summit, an incredible event focused on Wellness, Education, Leadership, and Luxury and it is absolutely one of my favorite events of the year. Here’s why—as well as my top 3 tips on how to make the most when you attend.

3 Reasons I’m Excited to Speak at the W.E.L.L. Summit:

  1. I love living WELL. From what I put IN my body, to what I put ON my body (from products to clothing) I try to make conscious choices.  I try to eat well, clean green, exercise, floss, and meditate…but I can’t know about allllll the products and all the things. So I trust the W.E.L.L. Summit, and its founder, Boston’s Best Wellness Guru, Gianne Doherty, to introduce me to brands I want to know about.

Here’s how the W.E.L.L. Summit has directly impacted me:

What you put IN your body: I met Nectar & Green, a local, organic, handmade in small batches (and delivered to your door!) almond milk company at the W.E.L.L. Summit last year. Turns out, the founder lives in my neighborhood…but I would’ve never known about them if they hadn’t catered the WELL Summit’s tea bar. Ditto for Wedderspoon Honey, a honey company doing things in a whole new way that I believe in and want to support (also it’s delicious) 🙂

What you put ON your body: I met my fellow presenter Josh Rosebrookhttp://joshrosebrook.com/ when I sat in on his mediation session. I fell in love with his beautiful spirit. Turn’s out, he also has a world-known, award-winning hair and skincare line. Wha…?! Yes, Josh has been featured in Vanity Fair, W, Marie Claire, and has been hyped by Alicia Silverstone (vegan beauty extraordinaire…but I met him and his fair trade, organic, beautifying products at the W.E.L.L. Summit. After the Summit, I went to Josh’s website and read his manifesto. It actually brought tears to my eyes. His organic products ensure that everyone in the chain of production–from who grows and harvests the products, to how they’re made–are given a fair living wage, and sustainably, responsibly sourced. These are products that not only make my hair look great, they are also a chance for me to vote for my wallet for a brand that I believe makes the world a better place. It doesn’t get any better than that.

2. I can’t know how to do ALL the things…and I don’t have to

I’m a writer, speaker, and yoga teacher. I am a great home chef, an excellent advice giver, and a mom to a rescue mutt who is the love of my life.  I am NOT, however, a social media maven. Social media isn’t intuitive to me. I feel like I never know what to post. So I wasted no time in sitting in on my fellow presenter Ksenia Avdulova’s How to Crack Social Media Code. Ksenia is the founder of the super successful Breakfast Criminals. I learned…a lot. And I left feeling confident. Takeaway: Step outside your comfort zone. I learn a lot from my fellow presenters!

3: It’s a chance to meet industry leaders across all sorts of topics.

Leaders like Josh, Ksenia, and Siobhan O’Connor, co-author of the natural beauty bible and blog No More Dirty Looks. O’Connor’s blend of science and spirituality is right up my alley. I want to back my practice up with facts. Plus I love to connect with kick-ass female authors! I’m also looking forward to meeting Cyndie Spiegel, another kick-ass speaker leading sessions on overcoming fear and the imposter syndrome. I know from leading workshops that fear is the #1 thing that holds people back. So I know Cyndie’s session is going to free attendees from the fears that hold them back, and if her Instagram posts are anything to go by, it’s going to rock! These are only a sample of the incredible variety of awesome and inspiring leaders presenting all sorts of awesomeness!

3 Tips to make the most of attending:

  1. Go with an open mind and an open heart.
    I love the W.E.L.L. Summit because being there is truly an authentic, open-hearted experience. That’s because that’s the tone set at the top. This is a safe place to be vulnerable. Go in with that attitude, talk to people—attendees and presenters—we’re all looking to connect.
  2. Seek to serve
    Think about what you bring to the table and offer it up. One thing I notice about networking is that people often come in with an “ask” first. Friends, I promise you will receive more if you lead with giving. An attitude of generosity is much more magnetic than an attitude of need.
  3. Diversify your schedule.
    There is truly tantalizing array of classes—mix it up! From Meditation with Josh and also the OMazing Lauren Ash of Black Girl in OM, (creating a meditation play list? I am RSVPing Y-E-S!) to  how to decrease inflammation, learn about fertility, to how to take professional level photos (I will be sitting in on Kristen Kellogg‘s sesh for SURE!), to Where in the OM Am I? (ahem), to how to view beauty in a whole new way at Rebecca Casciano’s Sacred Beauty Salon (I sat in last year!) and sooooo much more, this is your chance to get a well-rounded, full experience of the topics that matter most to you.Open your heart, open your mind, and come join us.

Oct. 21-22, New York City. Tickets: wellsummit.org

MBG Headline*I wrote this piece for MindBodyGreen–for when you’re short on time but still need a quick, effective, 360-degree stretch post-workout.

Ah, summer—that glorious season when we can’t wait to head outside. And heading outside usually means an increase in our usual activities…or trying totally new ones.

Training for a marathon? Beach volleyball? A mountain hike now that it’s warm enough not to freeze your gluteus maximus off?

Whatever the case, your hip flexors, hamstrings, calves, and inner and outer hips may feel the difference the next day. Here are my five favorite ways to help counterbalance any tightness you’ve incurred.

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Sara DiVello

Standing at the top of your mat, step back to crescent lunge with the right foot, then slowly lower your back knee down. Adjust your legs as necessary to keep the front knee directly over the ankle and your back leg long and in line with your hip. Let your head hang down to add a fascial release to this stretch. Stay here for 5 to 8 breaths, gently stretching the hip flexors. Switch sides.

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Downward dog can be a great way to release tight calves. Start by gently peddling the legs out, pausing on each side to first notice which one is tighter (are you right-handed and right-leg dominant?). Knowing more about your body will help you to support, release, and equalize your defaults and resulting areas of tightness. Hold when it’s tight for up to 5 deep breaths.

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From dog, draw your right knee forward until your shoulders are over your wrists. Angle your knee toward the right edge of your mat and the sole of your foot toward your left. Lower the right leg to the mat. Place a block or blanket under your right sitz bone. You can either stay seated to continue getting a hip flexor release or lower your chest to the mat. Repeat on the left.

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From dog, draw both knees down to the mat in table pose. Keep your hips over your left knee and extend the right leg forward. This is my favorite hamstring release because it’s effective, and from here you can see which of the three hamstring muscles are the tightest.

That’s right—there are three hamstrings, semitendinosus, semimembranosus and biceps femoris—and you can only stretch as far as the tightest one. Find which one is tightest by gently, slowly, rotating the foot in a windshield-wiper motion. Then hold on the tightest one for 3 to 5 more breaths. Switch sides, then step back to table.

Next, shift to seated and swing both legs around to the front.

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Open the legs to wide-enough angles that you feel the adductors, your groin muscles, stretch. Place your fingertips on the mat between them and lift the heart, letting the lower back drop very gently forward.

Stay here if you feel enough or continue to slowly lift your heart up first, then lower down (keeping your spine long and lifted).

Work gently, patiently, and with a sense of compassionate curiosity. This is a chance to learn more about your body, its tendencies, defaults, and tightness—and then to start to therapeutically release and equalize.