How To Practice Yoga At Home If You’re An Absolute Beginner

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PHOTOGRAPHED BY MOLLY CRANNA.

There’s an image that comes across my Instagram feed about once a day of a wellness blogger in their light-filled apartment, surrounded by house plants, doing yoga and looking very casual about it. The thought of doing yoga at home sounds ideal; you don’t have to deal with people, spend any money, or even leave the house. But in actuality, when I try to do yoga at home, I get distracted and end up scrolling my phone in child’s pose on a yoga mat.

“One of the best things about yoga is that it can be done almost anytime, anywhere — including at home,” says Jade Alexis, a yoga trainer on the audio-based workout app Aaptiv. The problem is, without a yoga teacher around, or a proper app to walk you through the workout, it’s tough to know what exactly to do. You need to at least have a plan or intention each time you flow at home.

So, whether you also aspire to be an at-home yogi, or you just want to do yoga in private, ahead are some tips from Alexis and Sinikiwe Dhliwayo, yoga instructor and founder of Naaya Wellness (New York), a wellness collective for people of colour. With a mat and the right attitude, you too can be a yoga-flowing homebody.


1. Know a few basic poses.

When you’re starting out with your at-home yoga practice, it’s a good idea to have a vocabulary of postures that you can work with. Alexis and Dhliwayo suggest learning: cat cow, child’s pose, downward-facing dog, plank, cobra pose, upward-facing dog, warrior one and two, chair pose, and low lunge. If you know those, you can piece them together a beginner flow, like Sun Salutation B, Alexis says. Look up videos or images of the poses to get a sense of how they’re supposed to be done, but try not to get wrapped up in what they look like; how you feel is more important.

2. Listen to your body.

Form is essential in yoga, but without an expert to guide you through the poses or make physical corrections, it can be difficult to know if you’re doing it “right.” The best way to make adjustments or tell if you’re making mistakes is to just pay attention to how you feel, Alexis says. “Regardless of wherever you are, it’s important to listen to your body,” she says. “If something doesn’t feel right, listen to your body and ease of the posture.”


3. Try an online class.

The internet is full of tons of free yoga classes and resources for you to take advantage of — arguably too many. Dhliwayo is a fan of yogis Sara ClarkRocky Heron, and Dianne Bondy. The beauty of taking an online class is that you can stop it at any time, or rewind a section if it gets confusing. And of course, the Aaptiv app has lots of audio yoga classes that you can try that are varying lengths, styles, and levels of difficulty.

 

4. Get some gear.

You don’t need much to do yoga, but ideally you’d have a clutter-free space to practice, a good yoga mat, and most importantly a positive attitude and patience, Alexis says. Blocks can also be super helpful if you’re just starting out, because they essentially bring the floor up to you, which is imperative if you don’t have flexibility yet, Dhliwayo says. Other props like blankets help you be more comfortable in a pose, and can be nice to have during a restorative practice, she says. Music and calming essential oils can also help make your home practice feel more special, but those aren’t must-haves.

 

5. Don’t stress the names.

Often in yoga classes, teachers will use the Sanskrit names to define yoga poses, which can make it seem way more confusing. “Many people are concerned with knowing the names of poses, but that comes with time and I tell beginners to not worry about names when they get started,” Alexis says. Instead, just find beginner classes that will walk you through the individual poses, she says. With enough repetition, it’ll eventually click.

Showing Yourself Compassion Can Have Mental and Physical Benefits

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Expressing love for your nearest and dearest is a hallmark of Valentine’s Day, but research suggests that you may want to save some of that love and compassion for yourself.

A study published in Clinical Psychological Science shows that university students who engaged in exercises focused on self-compassion had lower physiological arousal relative to peers who engaged in other exercises.

“These findings suggest that being kind to oneself switches off the threat response and puts the body in a state of safety and relaxation that is important for regeneration and healing,” says Hans Kirschner of the University of Exeter, first author on the research.

“Previous research has found that self-compassion was related to higher levels of well-being and better mental health, but we didn’t know why,” explains lead researcher Anke Karl, also of the University of Exeter.

“Our study is helping us understand the mechanism of how being kind to yourself when things go wrong could be beneficial in psychological treatments,” Karl says. “By switching off our threat response, we boost our immune systems and give ourselves the best chance of healing. We hope future research can use our method to investigate this in people with mental health problems such as recurrent depression.”

For the study, the researchers recruited 135 university students and assigned them to one of five experimental groups. Each group completed an exercise in which they listened to an 11-minute audio recording and engaged with a specific scenario.

The researchers monitored participants’ physiological arousal during the exercise, measuring their heart rate and sweat response. Participants also answered questions about how safe they felt, how likely they were to be kind to themselves, and how connected they felt to others.

As expected, the two groups that engaged in self-compassion exercises — either a body scan meditation or a loving-kindness meditation — reported feeling more self-compassion and connection with others as a result of the exercises. And they also showed reduced physiological arousal, with a drop in heart rate and diminished sweat response. They also showed an increase in heart rate variability, a sign of being able to flexibly adapt to different situations.

Importantly, participants who engaged in positive thinking by focusing on an event or situation that was going well also reported increased self-compassion and decreased self-criticism, but they did not show the same physiological response.

In contrast, the group that engaged in self-critical thinking, contemplating something they hadn’t managed or achieved as they had hoped, showed an increase in heart rate and sweat response — physiological signs consistent with feelings of stress.

“These findings help us to further understand some of our clinical trials research findings, where we show that individuals with recurrent depression benefit particularly from mindfulness-based cognitive therapy when they learn to become more self-compassionate,” says coauthor Willem Kuyken of the University of Oxford.

Future research will need to explore whether the one-time self-compassion exercises used in this study have similar effects for people with depression.

Overall, the findings suggest that showing yourself a little love and compassion may help you feel more connected and less stressed.

Reference

Kirschner, H., Kuyken, W., Wright, K., Roberts, H., Brejcha, & Karl, A. (2019). Soothing your heart and feeling connected: A new experimental paradigm to study the benefits of self-compassion. Psychological Science. doi:10.1177/2167702618812438

Coffee Linked To Youthful Skin And Longevity

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A controlled randomized study conducted on 100 healthy Europeans just vindicated you and your coffee obsession. As far as DNA integrity is concerned coffee is actually more beneficial than water.Over the course of a month (comprised of two periods), 50 men and 50 women were organized into two groups. The first served as the control group and were instructed to consume 500 ml of water a day with a precondition that disallowed them to imbibe coffee or any other kind of caffeinated drink.The second  group was instructed to consume 500 ml of freshly brewed dark roast a day.

At the end of each period, blood was drawn and analyzed by a single-cell gel electrophoresis in order to evaluate how DNA was affected by the two opposing diets.

The coffee group exhibited much less DNA strand breakage than the control group by the end of the 4-week span.

The Reasoning

The positive effect coffee has on repairing cells has been previously suggested on three separate occasions, once in 2011, 2015 and 2016.

All three studies used dark roast blends, though the correlation between the degree of effectiveness and the breed of coffee used has yet to be thoroughly tested.

As it stands–all coffee is rich with anti-oxidants, a compound that enables cells to better repair themselves in the wake of the damage done by free radicals. Free radicals, birthed by sunlight, oxygen and pollution,  deteriorate the collagen fibers in the skin. The microbial properties in coffee help ward off germs in the skin. Its caffetic acid boosts collagen levels which in turn reduces the aging process.

The antioxidants found in coffee are also instrumental in fighting diseases, preventing cavities, diabetes, siroccos of the liver and various forms of cancer.  The Journal Of The National Cancer Institutereports that habitual coffee drinkers were 20% less likely to develop malignant melanoma.

An epidemiological study published in Circulation back in 2015 found that people that drink coffee were 15% more likely to live longer than those that don’t. More specifically the subjects studied were less susceptible to neurological disorders, heart disease and even suicide.  Caffeine has been independently reported to prevent the development of Parkinson’s disease and drinkers express fewer instances of cognitive failure.

What Is Well-Being? Definition, Types, and Well-Being Skills

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What Is Well-Being?

Well-being is the experience of healthhappiness, and prosperity. It includes having good mental health, high life satisfaction, and a sense of meaning or purpose. More generally, well-being is just feeling well (Take this quiz to discover your level of well-being).

Well-being is something sought by just about everyone, because it includes so many positive things — feeling happy, healthy, socially connected, and purposeful. But unfortunately, well-being appears to be in decline (at least in the U.S.). And increasing your well-being can be tough without knowing what to do and how to do it. These are some of the reasons why I founded The Berkeley Well-Being Institute — an organization that translates the science of well-being into simple tools and products that help you build your well-being.

Can You Actually Improve Your Well-Being?

Increasing your well-being is simple — there are tons of skills you can build. But increasing your well-being is not always easy — figuring out what parts of well-being are most important for you and figuring out how, exactly, to build well-being skills usually require some extra help.

How Long Does It Take to Improve Well-Being?

Usually when people start consistently using science-based techniques for enhancing well-being, they begin to feel better pretty quickly. In the research studies that I’ve conducted and read, most people show significant improvements within five weeks.

But you have to stick to it. If you are feeling better after five weeks, you can’t just stop there.

Why? Well, you probably already know that if you stop eating healthy and go back to eating junk food, then you’ll end up back where you started. It turns out that the exact same thing is true for different types of well-being. If you want to maintain the benefits you gain, you’ll have to continue to engage in well-being-boosting practices to maintain your skills. So it’s really helpful to have strategies and tools that help you stick to your well-being goals — for example, a happiness and well-being plan or a well-being boosting activity collection that you can continue to use throughout your life.

So, what are the skills you need to build and the practices you need to engage in to build your well-being? Here’s what you need to know:

Where Does Well-Being Come From?

Well-being emerges from your thoughts, actions, and experiences — most of which we have control over. For example, when we think positive, we tend to have greater emotional well-being. When we pursue meaningful relationships, we tend to have better social well-being. And when we lose our job — or just hate it — we tend to have lower workplace well-being. These examples start to reveal how broad well-being is, and how many different types of well-being there are.

Because well-being is such a broad experience, let’s break it down into its different types.

Five Major Types of Well-Being Are:

  • Emotional Well-Being — The ability to practice stress-managementtechniques, be resilient, and generate the emotions that lead to good feelings.
  • Physical Well-Being — The ability to improve the functioning of your body through healthy eating and good exercise habits.
  • Social Well-Being — The ability to communicate, develop meaningful relationships with others, and maintain a support network that helps you overcome loneliness.
  • Workplace Well-Being — The ability to pursue your interests, values, and purpose in order to gain meaning, happiness, and enrichment professionally.
  • Societal Well-Being — The ability to actively participate in a thriving community, culture, and environment.

To build your overall well-being, you have to make sure all of these types are functioning to an extent.

Think of it like this. Imagine you are in a car. Your engine works great, and maybe your transmission works pretty well too, but your brakes don’t work. Because your brakes don’t work, it doesn’t really matter how well your engine works. You’re still going to have trouble going about your life.

The same thing is true for your well-being. If everything else in your life is going great, but you feel lonely, or you’re eating unhealthfully, other areas of your life will be affected, and you likely won’t feel as well as you want to.

Because each part of well-being is important to your overall sense of well-being, let’s talk about how to build each type of well-being.

How Do You Build the Different Types of Well-Being?

Emotional Well-Being

To develop emotional well-being, we need to build emotional skills — skills like positive thinkingemotion regulation, and mindfulness, for example. Often, we need to build a variety of these skills to cope with the wide variety of situations we encounter in our lives. When we have built these emotional well-being skills, we can better cope with stress, handle our emotions in the face of challenges, and quickly recover from disappointments. As a result, we can enjoy our lives a bit more and pursue our goals a bit more effectively.

Here are some of the skills that research suggests contribute to emotional well-being:

Physical Well-Being

To develop our physical well-being, we need to know what a healthy dietand exercise routine looks like, so that we can implement effective strategies in our daily lives. When we improve our physical well-being, not only do we feel better, our newfound health can also help prevent many diseases, boost our emotional well-being, and limit the number of health challenges we have to deal with in our lives.

Here are some of the things that can help you boost your physical well-being:

  • Eating for Health
  • Detoxing Your Body
  • Correcting Nutritional Deficiencies
  • Removing Plastic From Your Home

​Unfortunately, it’s possible to eat healthy and still be unhealthy. We can accidentally miss important foods or nutrients. Or we can overburden ourselves with toxins from plastic or processed food. As a result, we may need to eat additional foods, detox our bodies, or prevent these toxins from entering our bodies again. This is why it’s essential to learn about health, so that we can make the right changes — changes that lead to long-term health and well-being.

Social Well-Being

To develop our social well-being, we need to build our social skills — skills like gratitude, kindness, and communication. Social skills make it easier for us to have positive interactions with others, helping us to feel less lonely, angry, or disconnected. When we have developed our social well-being, we feel more meaningfully connected to others.

Here are some of the skills that research suggests contribute to better social well-being:

It’s important to know that building social well-being is one the best ways to build emotional well-being. When we feel socially connected, we also tend to just feel better, have more positive emotions, and we are able to cope better with challenges. This is why it’s essential to build our social well-being.

Workplace Well-Being

To develop our workplace well-being, we need to build skills that help us pursue what really matters to us. This can include building professional skills which help us to advance more effectively, but it also includes things like living our values and maintaining work-life balance. These skills let us enjoy our work more, helping us to stay focused, motivated, and successful at work. When we have developed workplace well-being, our work, and therefore each day, feels more fulfilling.

Here are some of the key skills you need for workplace well-being:

  • Maintaining Work-Life Balance
  • Finding Your Purpose

​Because we spend so much time at work, building our workplace well-being has a big impact on our overall well-being.

Societal Well-Being

To develop societal well-being, we need to build skills that make us feel interconnected with all things. We need to know how to support our environment, build stronger local communities, and foster a culture of compassion, fairness, and kindness. These skills help us feel like we’re part of a thriving community that really supports one another and the world at large. When we cultivate societal well-being, we feel like we are a part of something bigger than just ourselves.

Although each one of us only makes up a tiny fraction of a society, it takes all of us to create societal well-being. If each one of us did one kind act for someone else in our community, then we would live in a very kind community. Or if all of us decide we are going to recycle, then suddenly we create a world with significantly less waste. In order to live in a healthy society, we too need to contribute to making a healthy society.

Here are some of the skills you can build for greater societal well-being:

Who Benefits Most From Building Well-Being?

Not everyone experiences the same benefits from building their well-being. For example, lots of research suggests that the more motivated you are to build well-being skills, the greater the impact. Perhaps this is not surprising.

Still other research shows that having skills like a growth mindset or a positive attitude can actually help you build your other well-being skills more easily. This is why I tend to encourage people to build these skills first — afterwards, you may be able to increase the other types of well-being more easily.

In addition, building well-being skills is perhaps most beneficial for people who are struggling with well-being the most, particularly if they’ve recently undergone something stressful. It may be harder to build well-being during this time or for these people, but the impact may be greater, because there is more room for improvement.

There Is No Magic About Building Well-Being

Keep in mind, it takes time and effort to build any new skillset — that includes well-being skills. It’s important to be realistic with yourself about what you can reasonably accomplish is a given amount of time. Having unrealistic expectations can lead you to give up before you’ve reached your well-being goals. So it’s key to create a realistic plan for your well-being, stick to it, and take small actions every day that add to big improvements up over time.

If you’ve read my articles before, you might know that I too have struggled with aspects of my well-being, particularly with maintaining work-life balance. The truth is, we all struggle with different parts of well-being, and new struggles can and will pop up, even if you’re doing well. But the longer we’ve worked on strengthening our well-being skills, the easier it is to be resilient, take the actions needed to bounce back, and continue moving forward even in the face of challenges.

Yes, growing your well-being is a lifelong pursuit, but it is a pursuit that is totally worth it.

Attitude of Gratitude

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By Chloe Pattison

ATTITUDE OF GRATITIUDE

Words Chloe Pattison

Having an ‘Attitude of Gratitude’ is more than just a catchy phrase. It is a reminder that there are things you have, every day, to be thankful for. Focussing on these things, instead of the things that will inevitably go wrong (it happens to the best of us) then you find yourself with a much more positive outlook and you may even find yourself with more opportunities to enjoy.

There are certain things you can practice that helps you be a more optimistic and thankful person. Practice positive thinking to turn your thoughts and your life around. The practice of yoga or other exercise you enjoy reduces any harmful things that stress and negativity will do to your body. Meditation, eating healthier and staying hydrated will work wonders for your body and your mindset too.

There have been multiple research studies done on what positive thinking can do for the mind and the body. Keeping your energy positive is a key thing to keeping your mind and body in a healthy place. The second you start focussing on the negatives, that’s when you start to feel anxious or depressed.

When you find yourself thinking negative thoughts, think of a positive one to combat it. It is said that if you say five things you’re thankful for when you wake up, you are bound to have a good day. On top of that, if you say 5 things you’re grateful for before you sleep then you’re bound to have sweet dreams.

So, you get a great day and good dreams. If that’s not reason enough for you, then here’s some facts from the studies.

Due to the higher level of positive energy, people have reported:

• feeling less lonely,
• having a stronger immune system/ feeling generally healthier,-reduction of stress/ a higher level of positive feelings,
• greater level of confidence/ a general feeling of happiness.

Can’t think of anything you’re grateful for? Here are some examples:

• Good waves
• Sunshine
• A hot shower/bath after a cold surf session
• Surfing in the rain (it’s so fun and beautiful)
• The smell of surf wax
• Good music
• Not getting sand in your eyes

• Fluffy towels to dry off on (really makes the job much faster)
• 
Finally getting the wetsuit on/off
• Tasty food (or any food, really) after a long day on the waves
• Time to binge on your favourite surf movies
• Joyful beach day giggles with your friends

Make a list of all the things you’re grateful for and what makes you happy.

Be positive and plan all the cool things you’re going to do this year on our 2019 SurfGirl Wall Planner.