How to Do Yoga Sun Salutes for Health, Happiness, and Stress Relief

Ever despair that because of time and money concerns you'll never manage to work yoga into your life, despite knowing how good it is for your mind, body, and spirit? Well, despair no more!

In this video, I show you how to do Sun Salutations, one of the most effective strengthening, stretching, and stress-relieving yoga sequences, in the privacy of your home (or at the park or in your garage, etc.). It's wonderful and very helpful to go to a lovely yoga studio (like mBody, my home studio in San Luis Obispo, CA), but when you only have a few minutes or are short on dough, don't let that stop you from getting healthy and happy on your own!

One of my main reasons for getting up every day is because I LOVE empowering people (including myself) to do things that they believe they can't do. Now, in your case, that belief may be:

a) "I can't do yoga because I'm too old, stiff, klutzy, injured, overweight," etc.

b) "I can't do yoga because I have to spend many hours and dollars every week to learn how. And I ain't got either of those things."

c) All of the above.

Sometimes, all that's required to break down that "I can't" barrier is for someone to tell you, "Yes, you can," and then show you how. Others really like to argue for their limitations. If you're the first kind of person, I can help you. If you're the second kind, I wish you peace and release you!

So, Type Ones, here's what you do. Shift your focus from A and/or B above to this new belief: "I have 5-10 minutes to practice Sun Salutes on most days because I want to be strong, flexible, and relaxed. I'll enjoy a full-length yoga class with an experienced teacher when I can, and in the meantime, I practice on my own or with friends/family at home.

See? Easy breezy. Next, watch Cisco's and my video this week and give it a try! I'll show you two versions of the Sun Salute: one for regular folks and one for people with twingy backs or who are working on building strength. Have fun and send any questions that come up. Namaste!

Blown Away

The wind this week has been crazy where I live! The wind is an apt metaphor for how tons of people are feeling these days: blown around and buffeted like a leaf ahead of a thunderstorm, with no end to the chaos in sight.

So this week I felt inspired to offer several ways to reduce your stress levels—methods that I use personally throughout the day. Each of them resets chronic hyperventilation patterns (shallow chest breathing) to deep, natural belly breaths, eliminating or reducing the confused, anxious, irritable feeling that so many of us have come to accept, tragically, as our normal state.

Remember: you don't have to go to yoga class to experience the benefits of this ancient practice! While we'd all like an hour and a half to dive into a bamboo-floored, lotus-scented spa experience, if that's not an option for you right now, you can get virtually the same stress-relieving effect from incorporating these few techniques into your daily life for a minute or two. Real magic can happen when you make these and other fitness and stress-relief techniques part of your daily existence!

Share these with your kids, your parents, your love, and watch as your inner and outer worlds transform into oases of calm. Find the eye of the hurricane and enjoy a rest, even as the storm swirls around you!

Psst! "Old" doesn't have to mean "sick, frail, and demented."

I just got back from a 15-minute sprint session out here at the Farm, and I got to thinking as I watched the ground race by underneath me—I still get the same joy out of running fast as I did when I was a nine-year-old girl. I still love the feeling of my strong legs pushing me off the earth and kicking rocks back behind me. I feel invincible, powerful, and free. When does that joy in and trust of our bodies go away for so many of us?

What beliefs are we fed and raised on that give us an early expiration date? Why do we allow them to come true?

I taught yoga at Bloom this morning for my early Friday class, and found myself inspired to bring up the concept of aging and what, in our society, that's "supposed" to look like. Most Westerners have been deeply trained and indoctrinated in the beliefs that as our bodies and minds age, disease, frailty, and mental decline are inevitable. The following things are supposed to happen as we age, according to the existing power structure:

1. You will experience more and more pain, so you'll have to stop doing the things you used to enjoy. Besides, those things are just for kids, anyway. Who are you to be having fun?

2. You'll get diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer's, high cholesterol and blood pressure, arthritis, heart disease, and other chronic diseases.

3. Your mind will cave in on itself, leaving you unable to care for yourself in any way. Your family will have to pay many thousands of dollars every year to warehouse your body, even though you no longer recognize them.

Do you agree to believe in and live by these edicts? I hereby resolutely refuse to give them my attention, except to point the way toward the truth: that sickness, decrepitude, and dementia are NOT a normal part of aging.

Along with a growing number of others who are awakening now, I understand something that so many Westerners, and Americans in particular, it seems, have forgotten. Are you ready for this? It's radical, it's revolutionary, it's absolutely forbidden knowledge. Here it comes...

YOU HAVE TO KEEP MOVING.

Your body is one of the most staggeringly beautiful and complex organisms in all of Nature. It is a divine gift that allows you, your Essential Self, to experience creation up-close and personal. It's like an astronaut suit for we who travel through space and time, seeking to perfect ourselves and gain greater understanding. However, like a fine automobile that languishes under dust covers and sits out in the rain, it will eventually lose its vibrancy, its power, and its ability to tune you in to Source Energy if it isn't cared for. And used the way it was meant to be used.

There are powers right now that actively seek to prevent you from understanding this truth. There are powers right now that want you to forget that you are a Being of Light who came here with a purpose and a mission. They want you to take drugs to mediate the symptoms of the diseases that result from eating they diet they recommend and subsidize at great cost to you, the taxpayer. If you follow their lead, you are paying for your own demise.

Remember this: you're meant to leave this world in a body that's still flexible, strong, and joyous. It might get quieter and slower, and that's as it should be. We're naturally encouraged to slow down and go within as we age, and for good reason. It's part of a beautiful process that moves us gracefully toward the physical shutting down and re-emergence into Spirit that we call "death."

Here's what you can do as you age instead of getting sick:

1. Make your own meals using whole, organic, mostly raw and/or grass-fed and free-range ingredients. Grow some or all yourself. Eat huge amounts of leafy greens and berries. (If you get gas frequently, trying cutting out pears and apples--bet you have fructose malabsorption like I do. Whew! Big relief.) Antioxidants reduce or stop inflammation, which is caused in large part by processed food (i.e., anything that comes in a box, can, or bag) and damaged fats. I believe reducing or eliminating grains and sugar is a really good idea. (It works for me and Jim, anyway.) Eat lots of raw fat, like organic coconut oil.

2. Exercise really strenuously several times a week, and gently or not at all on other days. (Excessive exercise leads to stress and injury.) If you have an injury or illness that prevents you from reaching a level 8-10 on the 1-10 scale of effort, find a way at least to move your body. If you're bed-ridden or sick, start drinking organic green juices immediately and daily. Refuse the hospital food. Tense and relax your muscles one at a time. You'll get stronger. Our bodies are incredibly forgiving and adaptable!

If you're relatively fit or even new to fitness and you can walk, go as fast as you can on the flats for 30 seconds 2-5 times. Then find a hill and try it in a couple of weeks. Keep encouraging your body to get stronger! It wants to! Jog or run or sprint if you're able. Rest for 30 seconds in between and go again. Do what your body can do right now to reach a level of 8-10 on that effort scale. Hint: You will not be able to put a sentence together.

Start slowly. Experiment. You'll be amazed how fast you progress. This kind of workout, unlike the usual tedious, oft-prescribed hour-long slog on the treadmill, lights you up body and soul, burns fat like a banshee, releases human growth hormone (our chemical Fountain of Youth), and unplugs all your blood vessels and arteries. If you were a disused race car, in other words, you'd be "blowing the carbon out."

If you're very fit and reaching toward elite athlete status, try for 5-10 sets of high-intensity combinations of plyometric, explosive movements. Here's a great resource, and here's a video of my favorite recent workout. (More coming soon, with modifications for those who've told me, "Yeah, right!")

3. Practice yoga. It addresses at least three issues in one:

a) It breaks up the adhesions that cause so many of us to become prisoners in our own bodies, especially as years of neglect begin to pile up. (Adhesions are strong, microscopic ropes of collagen caused by surgery, infection, inflammation, trauma, and radiation treatment. They bind together organs, nerves, muscles, and other neighboring structures in a strong, glue-like straight-jacket, with a strength of about 2,000 lbs. per square inch.)

b) It reduces chronic and excessive stress, which causes disease and mental illness.

c) It joins us with Source Energy, however that looks to you. Some call it God, Mighty Spirit, Nature, the Universe. Its Names are endless.

4. Know why you're here. What did you come here to do? If you don't know, find out. Quit with the aptitude testing and online quizzes. Your heart knows... Sit down quietly, ask sincerely, and it will tell you loud and clear, if you're open to the answer. Step 2: Operate from that knowledge.

5. Learn new stuff all the time. Find out what music 15 year olds are listening to and download some for yourself. Try "Making Candles with Organic Beeswax" at the community college. Find out about meditation. Like that. (Here's the kind Jim and I practice.)

6. Engage with other people. When was the last time you looked a stranger in the eye and said hello with a smile? Tell somebody with an inspired, funky outfit, "Hey, you look great! Wish I had the guts to pull that off." And then get some.

7. Lose your fear of death. Talk about death. Read about death. Sit with someone who's dying. That's a great gift. Practice releasing your physical manifestation in yoga poses like sivasana ("Corpse Pose") or in sacred ceremonies among people who love you. To the extent that you can lose your fear of death, your joyful liveliness will increase exponentially. After all, your body's going to die; something's gonna getcha—will you really spend your whole life dreading that day and much of your precious life force trying to prevent it? Commit to releasing the tremendous psychic energy you spend on fearing this inevitable thing that could occur at any moment.

8. Release emotional trauma. It causes illness. Your body will store things for you until you can deal with them, but not indefinitely. Find a way to heal anger, hurt, betrayal, shock. You don't have to re-experience it. In fact, modern behavioral science, for those you who follow such things, is finding that there's no benefit to opening that old closet full of skeletons. Just gently touch the old feeling and say, "I release you. Thank you for serving me and keeping me safe. You may leave me now." For more extreme or traumatic experiences, find someone to work with who resonates with your spirit and gives you goosebumps. My good friend Nell teaches the Emotional Freedom Technique, which can work wonders (and has for me).

9. Put on your own oxygen mask first. The most selfless thing you can do right now for your family, friends, and the planet in general is to take good care of yourself. Then serve others from a place of abundance and ease.

Let us know how it goes, and please share your thoughts. Much love to you!

PS: If this information appeals to you, you might be interested in Training for Humanity's Quantum Leap: Skills for a Leading Edge Life™ coming up in 2012. We'll be going over these ideas and much more to keep us strong, healthy, and moving forward with our evolution—individually and as members of the human community.