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The Wren

Filtering by Category: Yoga

5 Great After Work Yoga Poses by Lauren Conrad

Renee Woodruff

Long day at work? Try these awesome yoga poses by Lauren Conrad to release a little tension and to give your body the love it deserves. And PS - if you aren't a familiar with her site, it's a good one to bookmark and reference often!

Downward Dog
If you are a regular yogi, you know that downward dog is the foundational pose of most yoga flows. It’s home base. And it’s also the best move you can do after sitting all day. It stretches your shoulders, lengthens your back, and gets blood flowing to your brain. Simply make your body into an inverted “V” shape, and push your hands into the floor to stretch your legs and back.

Mountain Pose
This pose may seem simple, but you’d be surprised at how much good it can do for those sitting joints. Stand comfortably with your feet hips-width apart and reach your arms to the sky. Then move your torso backwards into a slight backbend and let your neck and head relax. You should feel a lengthening in your legs and an opening in your chest muscles.

Forward Fold
One of the best poses for stress and anxiety, forward bend is a position you should be implementing into your everyday routine. And the best part is that you can do it anywhere (even on your lunch break!). According to Huffington Post, this post provides a feeling of release in your body and mind, allowing you to let go of anything hectic that’s going on at work. Stand with your feet hips-width apart, bend your kneed slightly, and fold your hips down to the ground. Let your arms and neck hang for at least one minute for a full release.

Cobra Pose
This back bend not only feels good after sitting all day, it also lengthens your spine and opens up your chest and shoulders. Lay on the ground with your arms bent and place your hands directly under you shoulders, as though you’re about to do a push up. Then gently straighten your arms, bringing your chest up off the ground. If this feels comfortable, you can eventually graduate onto an Upward Dog pose, where you lift up your thigh and hips as well.

Butterfly Pose
Good old fashioned “criss cross applesauce” is actually an incredible yoga pose that opens up your hips and lower body. It’s a great way to ease any tightness you may feel from sitting for a long time. Sit on your hip bones with your back straight and your knees out to either side. Focus on melting your knees lower to the ground, gently, to really give your hips a stretch.

Meditation for Beginners

Renee Woodruff

In my last post, I made a recommendation to add a regular mediation practice into your life in order to aid with sleep. Along with this, meditation is said to have several benefits for the body including:

  • Increased focus and concentration
  • Lowers anxiety and depression
  • Brings greater awareness to the current state of the body and the mind
  • Supports good posture

The question usually becomes for someone just getting started is, "How do I meditate?" During my 200 - hour yoga teacher training, we learned a 3-Step Process to help beginners:

  1. Sit down and choose a comfortable seat you can commit to.
  2. Be still.
  3. Focus your attention and steady the mind on one point of concentration.

A "comfortable seat" recommended is typically seated on the floor with your legs crossed and your hips elevated by using a cushion or a blanket. Or you may choose to sit in a chair with your back straight and your feet pressed firmly into the ground. Your hands can be resting on your knees or at your side. The idea is to feel comfortable so that you don't fidget too much.

There are several forms of meditation that you can experiment with:

  • Analytical (to observe ones thoughts)
  • Mantra Recitation (for example: silently say "let" on the inhale; and "go" on the exhale)
  • Visualizations (focus your awareness entirely on a visualization in order to release your unbalanced emotions)
  • Simply focusing on your breath (observe every inhale and exhale)

One point I would like to stress is the common misconceptions about meditation. Most people tend to think they should make their mind blank and stop all thoughts. That's not the goal. I'm here to tell you, that if you are human, your mind will take charge and the intention is to simply become aware of the thoughts and to observe them. Don't attach yourself to them and if you find you get lost on a certain thought pattern, just return to the breath or to your mantra. 

The last tip I'll leave you with is that I find the best time to meditate is first thing in the morning or at evening. In our training materials, they say sunrise and sunset, when the night is meeting the day and the day is meeting the night. 

 

"Meditation is a process of lightening up, of trusting the basic goodness of what we have and who we are, and of realizing that any wisdom that exists, exists in what we already have." -- Pema Chodron

 

5 Tips to a Better Night of Sleep

Renee Woodruff

You've probably read hundreds of articles dedicated to the subject of sleep. Since we spend a huge chunk of our lives in a horizontal position, it rightfully deserves a lot of conversation. For reasons that have affected my family growing up, I'm addicted to feeling well rested -- so much so, that I've dedicated an entire section on my website to products that I've found help me "sleep like a baby."

Here are the top 5 recommendations that I would make to someone that is looking for a good night of sleep:

1. Exercise. Mental exhaustion is not the same as physical exhaustion. Do something active every single day even if it is just 25 squats and 25 push ups in the morning before going to work. Get a FitBit and make it a goal to hit 10,000 steps. Do yoga. Take a class at your gym. Go running with a buddy outside. Just do something to help wear your body down so that it is ready for sleep.

2. Don't Eat Too Late. Every time I have a late dinner and then try to fall asleep I'm just setting myself up for disaster. Try to eat dinner on the earlier side so that your body isn't working harder than it needs to when it comes time to get rest. In addition, it's good to give your digestive system a break. If you eat before 8pm and don't eat breakfast until 8am, you're giving your belly the much needed rest it deserves.

3. Shut Down ALL Screens. Don't expect to be able to fall asleep immediately after sending a text or getting those last minute emails done or, for that matter, while watching TV in bed (the worst!). Go old school and read a book in bed for at least fifteen minutes prior to sleep, preferably fiction to give your brain a chance to stop thinking about everything that happened that day or all of the things you need to accomplish tomorrow.

4. Pamper Yourself. Take a salt bath or a long shower. Deep condition your hair. Exfoliate. Shave. Oil yourself with coconut or sesame oil afterwards. And use lavender oil just before getting into bed to calm your nervous system. 

5. Meditate. If all else fails and you find you are having two or three inconsistent nights of sleep, consider adding a regular meditation practice into your routine. My next post will provide some tips on this as it deserves more discussion than just a paragraph. I've found this to be extremely beneficial in getting some serious shut-eye.

 

3 Yoga Books Worth Reading

Renee Woodruff

Throughout the yoga training, we've been introduced to so many new wonderful books. There was one required text and several suggested texts for all participants:

Required Text:
“The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali” translation by Edwin F. Bryant *

Suggested Texts:
“Bhagavad Gita” translation by Winthrop Sargeant
“The Hatha Yoga Pradipika” translation by the Bihar School
“Light on Yoga” by B.K.S Iyengar
“Yoga Anatomy” by Leslie Kaminoff
“Key Poses of Yoga” by Ray Long

There were a few other books that were either mentioned during lectures, recommended by fellow yogis or introduced through our required book report presentations.

If you are a teacher-in-training or a yoga practitioner looking to deepen your knowledge, I suggest investing in a copy of each. Not only have I enjoyed reading them, but they’ve helped me tremendously throughout the training.

Light on Yoga

Light on Yoga was first introduced to me by one of my bestest friends, Kelly (who you'll be hearing more about on this blog)Written by the founder of Iyengar Yoga, B.K.S. Iyengar, this book is referred to as "The Bible of Modern Yoga." It includes more than 600 photographs of various postures and breathing exercises. And my favorite part...it provides the benefits of incorporating them into your practice. 

 

Eastern Body, Western Mind

Eastern Body, Western Mind was introduced during our lecture on Chakras. Each chapter focuses on a single Chakra, starting with a description of its characteristics and identity issues. (I nerd out on this type of stuff, so this book holds a permanent spot on my night stand.)

 

Jivamukti Yoga

Jivamukti Yoga was given to me by my yogi friend, Jessie. When she heard I was considering enrolling in the teacher training, she let me borrow her copy, and then told me to keep it. I'm glad she did because I destroyed it by underlining, highlighting and flagging so many pages. It's a great book that I’ve referenced and read from multiple times during our training.

 

All books can be found in the Words of Wisdom Shop.

Post Yoga Routine

Renee Woodruff

Believe it or not, we're more than halfway through the 200-hour yoga teacher training. Only three more weekends to go! Although this has been one of the hardest things I think I've ever done -- mentally, spiritually and physically -- I can't imagine my life any other way. Working full time, planning for a wedding (this October!) and making such a large time commitment has had it's challenges, but hey, like they say, "nothing good in life comes easy"...right?

One of the things that I don't think I was fully prepared for going into this type of training was the physical demands it would put on my body. Before I started this training, I had a routine in which I worked out four to five times a week doing various activities such as spin, bootcamp, barre class, biking and yoga. But at most, I was doing yoga two times week.

I'm here to tell you, that when you do anything repetitively, no matter how "good" it is for you, it will wear you down over time. We start each Saturday and Sunday in the studio with a 65-minute asana practice followed by various physical activities which include practice-teaching, adjustments, inversions, forward bending backward bending and balancing postures.

By the time I get home around 6:30pm, I'm BEAT! It took me a couple of weeks to figure a routine that would help me maintain my body, my energy levels and ensure I was getting a full eight hours of sleep but here's what my regimen looks like now:

 

  1. First things, first. HYDRATE. I drink a ton of water throughout the day in my reusable Kleen Kanteen, but when I get home I add a pack of Ultima 8 oz of water and chug!
  2. After hydrating, I fill the bath tub full of warm water and add Dr. Teal's Lavender Epsom Salt and SOAK... for at least 20 minutes (I use my iphone and set an alarm). 
  3. As I'm draining the water out of the tub, I turn the shower on and I EXFOLIATE using these gloves -- this gets rid of dead and dull skin cells keeping your skin looking refreshed.
  4. After bath time, I grab the tub of Coconut Oil and MOISTURIZE from head to toe. Slather it on the bottoms of your feet and put socks on for a few hours to lock in the oil.
  5. Now fully relaxed, I pop a Magnesium SUPPLEMENT. Here are several articles that talk about the benefits of having enough of this in your life -- muscle recovery, keeping PMS and anxiety at bay and ensuring shut eye are a just a few of the reasons I take it.
  6. After that, I put the tea kettle on and make comforting Chamomile TEA and treat myself to some DARK CHOCOLATE. Alter Eco Mint is my absolute favorite. 

 

Take these ideas and apply them to your life as needed. You don't need to be preparing for a marathon, doing a yoga teacher training or be an overly active person to benefit from taking time out to treat yourself to a little extra attention every now and then.