Why pampering is important for your health!

In America, if someone gets a massage, or relaxes, or goes to a spa, it is called “treating yourself” This implies a treat, something extra, something unnecessary. But these things are essential to your health!

Why are relaxing activities so important? It’s all about the parasympathetic nervous system…getting our body out of the “fight or flight” mode, and it’s a state of function and healing. Getting your body to this state is not only important for your body, it’s important for your career, and the health of those around you! So no excuses, rejuvenating activities need to become part of your schedule.

I discuss these points in more detail below. So find your activity…walking, reading, a day without the cell phone, massage, stretching, yoga, or a sauna! Or, whatever activity you can think of that gets you out of panic mode and into repair mode.



Surf, Yoga, and Wellness in Peru! Announcing an Encompassing Health Getaway

Encompassing Health is teaming up with Paleo Yogis to bring you an AWESOME life-changing event. This 7 day retreat will be filled with yoga classes, surf lessons, wellness talks, ziplining, and all-around fun. We will spend 7 days on the coast of Northern Peru, this January 7th-13th, 2013.

Peru Yoga RetreatYou will not find a more affordable all-inclusive retreat. (All-inclusive pricing starts at $750 USD!) There will be lodging within walking distance of the beach, with a private hammock and swimming pool. You will eat freshly cooked food by a professional chef-delicious, healthy, and catered to your dietary needs. Every day will bring a different adventure we practice beach yoga and workouts, relax with Yin Yoga and yoga therapy ball massage, learn about subtle energies and the importance of colorful vegetables.

Peru Yoga and Surf Retreat
The early-bird ends soon, so register right away! The full details, pricing matrix, and travel info can be found in “Peru Yoga and Surf Retreat” tab above. Please feel free to contact us with any questions!!!!
I will see you in Peru….

Mancora Peru Yoga

An Interview with Yoga Teacher Brad Keimach

For those of us that live in Southern California, it’s so important for our body and mind to take advantage of this beautiful weather. What better way to enjoy the day than spending it at the beach? You can soak up your Vitamin D from the sun, get your magnesium from the ocean air, and melt your stresses away. To make it even better, Brad Keimach teaches yoga classes on the beach, right at the water’s edge. His classes are by donation (min $10), so there’s no reason not to take advantage of the great exercise for your mind and body. Brad’s classes can be transformational, and have gained him a lot of media attention as of late. His beach classes have been featured as “Best of L.A.” by Los Angeles Magazine and LA Weekly. And if you don’t like the sand, you can find his classes at the renowned exhale Center for Sacred Movement in Venice.

I wanted to find out how Brad discovered his practice, so I was able to get an interview and find out.

Beach Yoga with Brad

How did you discover yoga?

“I had lived in Los Angeles for one year, and I had a conducting student over at the house. I don’t know why, but we were talking about jogging, and I told him I was getting bored with my jog around the neighborhood. And he said, ‘Oh, you should take a yoga class with my teacher Max.’ And I thought to myself, ‘Yoga? How Californian am I?’ But then I thought about it…I was so bored with running, and this guy taught Monday, Wednesday, Friday. So I figured I could take his classes, and then run the other days of the week. Fine. I didn’t know it was a level 2/3 class. I didn’t know anything! So I went to this class. And it was physically the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I came home, thoroughly wiped out. I made it home to the floor of my living room, and just, splat! For two days I lay like that. There’s no way I could have run Tuesday as planned. I went back to his Wednesday class, and came home, and again, splat! But what I did sense is that there was something else that was there, and I didn’t know what it was, but I wanted to find out. So I went to Max’s class 3 and 4 times a week until he left 8 years later. I’m sure I was his most loyal student. Every day he taught, I was there.

So what was the “something else” that you sensed? What else did you get from your yoga practice besides exercise?

The other aspect of yoga, which is primarily what I teach now, is how to teach the mind how to think. This is truly the cornerstone of a happiness practice, because what you think is where you live. It doesn’t matter what the external reality is, it’s what you tBrad Keimachhink about. The mind has a tendency to think worst possible scenario, and that leads us down the path of enormous suffering. Mark Twain sensed this when he said; “I have suffered many misfortunes in my life, some of which actually happened.” So most of our misfortunes come from within, not without.

So what would you suggest as a way to keep our mind in a healthy place?

Staying present is the key. It’s not about the body; the body will get enough work during the physical practice. But that’s not the point.

Basically, the point is to have the mind do one’s own bidding. The mind is a lousy master and a wonderful servant. Most people live the other way…. they let the mind rule. That’s really a tough life.

There are definitely physical things that help certain physical ailments. One of my students had low back pain all the time, and she looks to be in exquisite physical shape. But she was hurting all the time, and I’ve shifted things for her. So there are physical things you can do to help certain physical ailments. Yoga is a stone that shouldn’t be left unturned. Even if it can’t fix a certain physical ailment, what you can acquire from a yoga practice is a way to talk to the mind, to teach the mind, again, how to think. It’s not a lost cause. It’s going to help other aspects of life.

Beach Yoga with BradBio: “Beach Yoga with Brad” has been named “Best of 2012” by LA Weekly, “Best of L.A. 2012″ by Los Angeles Magazine, and one of the best “10 Outdoor Works in LA” by The Examiner. The classes also have a 5-star rating on Yelp. Brad has studied Hatha yoga with Max Strom, Saul David Raye, Sarah Powers, Georg Feuerstein, Gabriella Giubilaro, and Tias Little. He has taught yoga at Exhale since it’s opening and has also instructed at Maha Yoga, Dance Home, and Brentwood Yoga. For Brad, yoga is a transformational and healing practice for and from the heart. This is what inspires and motivates him to share this path with others. With a background as a symphony and opera conductor, Brad has been profoundly influenced in his life and teaching by the heart-first example of his mentor, Leonard Bernstein. “Like” his page of facebook, and you will receive updates on his beach yoga classes: http://www.facebook.com/beachyogawithbrad

5 Ways to Lower Blood Pressure Without Medication

Blood PressureMany of us have, or know someone with, high blood pressure. Blood pressure medications are now the third most prescribed medication, and yet controlling your blood pressure is usually a matter of adjusting your lifestyle. Whether or not you choose to take blood pressure medication, adjusting your lifestyle will help you eliminate, minimize, or delay the need for medication.

Try adjusting your lifestyle with the following 5 suggestions. Add one at a time, and try incorporating them slowly, in a way that is most realistic and applicable for your lifestyle. Adding even a single suggestion to your repertoire will help significantly!

Exercise is an activity that will help aid many common ailments that affect our culture, and helping to reduce high blood pressure and maintain a healthy blood pressure is no exception! Aim for a goal of 30-60 minutes of moderate activity 5-6 days a week, whether this is aerobic activity (cardio exercises, walking, running, etc.) or anaerobic activityWalking (strength training), any exercise is beneficial! If this seems like a lot to start, aim for 15-30 minutes and work your way up. It is more beneficial to get your exercise throughout the week rather than all at once, so aim to spread out your activity as much as possible — you can even consider breaking up your day’s duration into multiple parts, such as 20 minutes in the morning and 20 minutes in the evening. For individuals with high blood pressure, gradually build up your activity and intensity over time, as too much intensity too quickly can be risky.

If you have severe hypertension, it is especially important to talk to your doctor before starting an exercise regimen, as there may be some exercise restrictions specific for you.

VegetablesEating a Healthy Diet, like exercise, is a strategy that will help mitigate nearly all common ailments. Again, for lowering and maintaining a healthy blood pressure, this is no exception! When your body has all the essential nutrients it needs to survive, it will function more optimally. Reduce the amount of processed foods in your diet, and instead replace them with whole foods you make yourself, as simple and close to their natural form as possible. Be sure you add a full bounty of fruits and vegetables to your diet, the latter being most important for those with high blood pressure. Additionally, you’ll want to aim to eat some specific foods that will help to reduce blood pressure: foods high in essential minerals (potassium, magnesium, calcium), a good amount of fiber, and high in Omega-3 Fatty Acids.

If you’re looking for some excellent foods to add to your cooking routine, be sure to check out: 7 Foods to Help Lower Blood Pressure.

Reducing Stress is often something ignored in our culture with a go-go attitude, but it essential for lowering your blood pressure. Besides, doing so will also help your overall well-being! Stress and anxiety can temporarily increase blood pressure, but if you’re constantly stressed or anxious, your blood pressure will also constantly be raised! Take some time out of your day to identify what is stressing your most. Family? Work? Home? Friends? Think about what you can do to help reduce stress, and then take action and reduce it as much as possible. However, sometimes we have obligations we simply cannot give up that stress us. In this case, think of some alternatives. Take up some deep-breathing exercises, meditation, try yoga, get a massage, be sure you’re getting adequate sleep, or perhaps even see someone that specializes in helping to reduce stress (such as a therapist).

Losing Excess Weight is a tremendous key it lowering your blood pressure. When you have excess weight on your body, your heart and blood vessels must work harder to simply pump the blood to where it is needed in your body. Losing even just 5-10 pounds can help significantly, but making a goal to reach your ideal weight should be a priority! If you do decide to take blood pressure medication, losing weight will also help to make the medication more effective overall. In addition, keep an eye out for where you carry your weight: carrying excess weight primarily in your midsection increases your odds for high blood pressure. Make strides to lose those excess pounds, diet and exercise are key!

Reducing Sodium and Caffeine are two methods for helping to reduce your blood pressure. If your diet is primarily based around processed foods, it’s likely it contains a good amount of sodium. Replace processed foods with whole, natural foods as described in Eating a Healthy Diet (above), and you’ll help eliminate excess sodium. Once you’ve done this, if you still find you would like salt in your diet, try adding small amounts of unrefined Celtic sea salt or Himalayan pink salt, two types of salt that contain a significant quantity of minerals other than sodium. Additionally, add foods high in potassium and magnesium to help balance the sodium content in your blood. Limit your sodium intake to no more than 2,300 mg per day.Caffeine

When you ingest caffeine, the caffeine temporarily raises your blood pressure. In the same way that stress can raise your blood pressure, a consistent stream of caffeine also means a consistently spiked blood pressure. Some people are more sensitive to caffeine than others, and thus the effects will vary. However, caffeine can also be stressful for your adrenal glands, the organs that help us deal with stress in our daily lives. Stressed adrenal glands mean a more stressed body, and stress as a whole elevates your blood pressure. Try reducing the amount of coffee, tea, and soda your ingest on a daily basis. Be mindful of how you feel, and also monitor your blood pressure as you reduce you caffeine intake to see what intake is best for you.

Incorporate these suggestions into a balanced lifestyle and you’ll start to see results, whether your goal is to lower blood pressure or maintain it. Taking blood pressure medication is largely unnecessary, especially for the long-term. Your lifestyle is key. The decisions you make are yours!

Solutions to the 3 Most Common Causes of Back Pain

Complaints of chronic back pain are not uncommon. Whether it stems from an old injury Spineor you don’t know the cause, over 80% of Americans suffer from it. In some cases, it may be extreme and need medical attention. But most back pain can be prevented or alleviated by the following three techniques. (Remember, always get permission from your doctor before starting any exercise program, especially if you’ve had an injury or sharp pain).

Problem: Tightness
Solution: Stretching! If you suffer from back pain, odds are you have tension somewhere. The most common form of stretching today is yoga. But there are oMeditation on Lakether  options…there’s Somatic Stretching, (gentle stretch and small, isolated strengthening exercises), and simple gym stretches. There are also different types of yoga and different types of stretches: dynamic stretching, active stretching, passive stretching, etc. So how do you know where to start, especially when you have a specific types of tightness or pain? It’s best to see someone one-on-one, especially to start out with. A yoga or fitness expert can give you specific stretches to do, since every body is unique, and your tight area is probably different than the person next to you in yoga class. Then you can take a group class, and even do yoga videos from home.

Problem: Weakness in certain muscles
Solution: Personal Training and strengthening exercises. No one wants to admit they have a weaknpersonal traineress. But if you’re tight one place, it means your weak in another. For every yin there is a yang, so if one muscle is working over-time, another muscle is slacking off. The tight muscle pulls on other muscles, over lengthening them and causing weakness. Strenghtening these mucles is equally important to stretching-you have to work on both sides of an imbalance. Again, working one-on-one with someone can pinpoint weaknesses and give you a road-map to your strength training. If you can’t afford to continue working with a personal trainer, you can use their suggestions at the gym or in fitness classes.

Problem: Lifestyle
Solution: Awareness. This may sound cheesy, but you have to be aware of your daily activities. How’s your posture at the computer? While your driving? When you’re at work? You can’t slouch for 12 hours a day, then expect your 1 hour workout to fix it. You have to Healthy lifestylesbecome aware of your spine in everything you do. Use the things you learn from yoga and training, and apply it to everyday life. Even be aware of your posture as you lay down to sleep-8 hours can make a big difference in your spinal health.
So remember these three elements when you have back problems, whether it be: stiffness, lack of mobility, soreness or chronic pain. Just please see your doctor before starting any program, especially if you’ve had an injury or sharp pain.

What is Yoga? And is it for me?

Yoga. Everybody’s talking about it, studio’s are popping up everywhere, and yoga clothes are more trendy than celebrity designers. But exactly is yoga, anyway? Is it a bunch of people twisting themselves into pretzels, or some kind of religious sect? And how will it help me?

Well, there’s a few different answers. Below, we’ll review some of the basic yoga facts: The definition of yoga, the different types of yoga, and how to start.

Where did yoga come from? In short, it originated in India. The earliest evidence dates back to 3,000 B.C., over 5,000 years ago. There’s evidence of yogic meditation practice in the Vedas (the sacred text of modern-day Hinduism), and in Buddhist scripture. The word “yoga” was coined in Patañjali’s Yoga Sutras, written in the 2nd century B.C.. Yoga became a practice in many Eastern religions, including: Jainism, Sikhism, Hari Krisha, Buddhism and Hinduism. Even certain Christian communities have integrated yoga and meditation into prayer. It came to the West in the 1890’s, but really gained attention in the 1960’s and beyond. Nowadays, it’s usually a straight exercise and stretch class, and although the teachers may mention “spirituality,” it doesn’t usually contain any religious elements.

What is yoga? In the West, yoga is only known for it’s physical practice. (The yoga poses, or “asanas.”) However, these poses are only one of 8 branches of yoga. This has caused some confusion in modern day classes, as a teacher may start doing some breathwork or meditation practices. I’ve heard many students complain, “What is this, and when are we going to start doing yoga?” Technically, the purpose of the poses is to prepare your spine for long periods of meditation. So the poses themselves were not technically “spiritual” or “religious;” they were a means to meditate longer, and the meditation is supposed to create a stronger union with the “source.”
Here are the 8 Limbs of Yoga:

1. “5 Abstentions” or social values (Yama)
2. “5 Observances” which include purity and study (Niyama)
3. “Pranayama” or breathwork/breath control 
4. “Pratyahara,” withdrawal of sense organs in preparation for meditation
5. “Dharana,” or concentration. Fixing attention on a single object.
6. The physical yoga poses, or “Asanas.” Literally translated it means “seat,” the seated position used for meditation.
7. Meditation, or “Dhyana”
8. Liberation, or “Samadhi.” It’s a state of ecstasy, or union of consciousness.

So any one of these practices, including non-violence or mediation, is technically practicing yoga.

What should I expect from a modern-day yoga class? If you take class in your hometown yoga studio, it’s very likely it will be an exercise class. The West has embraced the physical form of yoga, so that is the most common practice. Many people have formed their own “types” of yoga practice which may be therapeutic, stretchy, or calorie burning. Expect it to be a physically challenging workout. But, there are some teachers that embrace the other aspects of yoga. There are classes that include chanting, breathing techniques, meditation, or even dancing. It varies from teacher to teacher and from studio to studio, so my best advice is: ask! Find your local studios, and ask questions. They should be able to explain the different classes and teachers, and find a great fit.

Yoga in Big Sur

Photo by devonbrowningart.com

Who should do yoga? Is yoga right for me? If you have any kind of injury or medical condition, always check with your doctor before starting any exercise program. There have been many studies and testimonies showing the benefits of yoga, but certain injuries and conditions can be worsened. Studies have shown the benefits of yoga can include: alleviation of back pain, reduced blood-pressure, reductions of anxiety and depression, weight-loss, and stress relief.

What are the different types of yoga? There are endless types of yoga, but I will explain the most popular. Some types of yoga are derived from ancient Hindu practices, some are branded practices by different teachers.

Hatha: One of the more ancient forms of yoga, the popular “Vinyasa Flow Yoga” comes from this, although Hatha is usually a slower pace. Every class will probably vary, and it could include many poses, cleanings practices and breathing techniques.

Vinyasa Flow/ Ashtanga/ Power Yoga: Also called “Flow Yoga,” it’s a more physically demanding, fast-paced style of yoga. The poses are timed by the speed of your breath, and it usually includes many Sun Salutations (a specific series of poses). Power Yoga is a branded form of Vinyasa Yoga. It’s the most popular form of yoga in America, but be careful if you suffer from many injuries, the fast pace may not be a good fit for you. Good for: weight-loss, calorie-burning, and static muscle strength.

Therapeutic Yoga: Usually a more slow-paced class, the teacher usually uses a knowledge of muscles and joints to bring people into “therapeutic” poses. It’s often geared to help injuries, back-pain, or older clientele. Good for: relaxation, people with pain, and senior citizens.

Yin Yoga: Power Yoga is often considered “Yang Yoga,” so Yin is it’s opposite. Most poses are down lying down, and the poses are held for an extended period of time. Muscles are allowed to stretch and open slowly, instead of being “forced” to stretch with a more vigorous class. Good for: relaxation, people with pain, senior citizens, and lowering blood-pressure.

Bikram Yoga: Bikram is a guy, who branded his own type of yoga. The class is done in a heated room, usually 105 degrees. You do the same series of poses, and teachers memorize a script. Some people enjoy the repetition, as it allows them to master the poses. The body supposedly “detoxes” while you sweat, and the heat loosens the muscles and can deepen a stretch. There is also many forms of Hot Yoga, which can be any yoga class taught in a heated room. Good for: weight-loss, calorie-burning, and flexibility.

Iyengar Yoga: Iyengar is also a guy. His type of yoga focuses heavily on alignment, and uses props to assist the limitations of the body and assure proper alignment in every pose. He revolutionized the use of these yoga props (straps, blocks, cushions, bridges, etc.) An Iyengar teacher often talks a lot about anatomy and the technical aspects of each pose. This can be  great way to learn the basics of yoga, so that you take the anatomical knowledge to other classes. Good for: flexibility, injuries, and knowledge.

Forrest Yoga: This type of yoga was started by a women named Ana Forrest. Instead of warming up with Sun Salutations (as you would in a “flow” class), you warm up with breathing techniques and abdominal exercises. The rest of the class includes deep stretches and poses focused on alignment. Good for: Core strength, flexibility, learning anatomy.

Prenatal/ Mommy and Me Yoga: A prenatal class is specifically designed for pregnant women. The room is often cooler, and the teacher often leads you poses that are safe for pregnancy. Sometimes it’s combined with Postnatal Yoga, or Mommy and Me. Women bring their babies to class and practice with the baby on the mat. This can be a great community builder for parents! Good for: Keeping in shape while pregnant, stretching and feeling good while pregnant, meeting other parents and pregnant moms.

There are many other types of yoga, (Jivamukti, Anusara, Yoga Tune Up, etc.) and more are being developed every day. Classes also vary greatly from teacher to teacher, as each person creates their own sequence. You may have to experiment to find the right class for you. As a bodyworker, I love anatomy, so Iyengar and Forrest work for me. Some people love the fast pace of a Vinyasa class. And everyone needs some relaxation, so an evening Yin class can feel just right. If you don’t like yoga the first time around, try different teachers and different types until you find the right fit.

How do I start?  There are a few different options for starting your practice. I would suggest starting out with the beginner’s workshop or private lesson, so you get a basic understanding of the main names and postures. Here are the most common places you can find yoga:

  • Find a studio near you! Google the closest one and pay them a visit.
  • Check out classes at your local gym or fitness center.
  • Find an outdoor class, on the beach or in a park. You can often find them at www.meetup.com
  • Yoga DVD’s
  • Take private, one-on-one lessons from a yoga teacher.
  • Take a “yoga beginner” workshop.

What tools do I need? Usually, you just need yourself. You can often rent equipment at your local studio, but it’s good to have your own mat. (People sweat a lot in yoga, and I don’t want to think about that while I’m using a rental mat. The yuckiness interups the relaxation.) You can find mats almost anywhere (athletic stores, sports stores, target, etc.) but there are some brands that work a looooot better. I like to save money, but if you buy a cheap yoga mat, you may spend the class slipping all over the place. Here are my suggested items and brands that will get you started:

Yoga Mats: Not all mats are created equal. For high-end (non-slip, biodegradable, made from natural rubber) I recommend the Jade Harmony Natural Yoga Mat, or the Manduka PROlite Yoga Mat.
The top-of-the-line, heavy-duty swanky mat is definitely the Manduka BlackMatPRO 71-Inch Yoga Mat.
For the, er, non-natural ones…Hugger Mugger and Gaiam makes decent, economically priced mats that are also very beautiful.

Blocks: Blocks are used for proper alignment and helping you if you’re a bit tight in certain muscles. I like the Hugger Mugger 4-Inch Foam Yoga Block, but any of these cheaper blocks will do as well: YogaAccessories (TM) 4” Foam Yoga Block

Yoga Straps: Straps can be used to aid in proper alignment, hamstring stretches, restorative poses and the like. most straps are very affordable, although my favorite is the Manduka Cotton Yoga Strap.

Yoga Non-Slip Towel: For those yogis that sweat a lot, slipping and sliding on your mat can be a consistent problem (even with a great mat). You can just use any old towel and lay it on your mat, but some companies do make a towel for just this purpose. It has small rubber nubs on one side to prevent the towel from moving, and the other side is absorbent synthetic material. You can throw it in the wash, and keep your mat from getting, you know…icky. The standard is the Yogitoes Skidless Mat-Size Yoga Towel.

So now that you have a little more information, hopefully you will give yoga a try. If you don’t like it, try a different class! Stretching is so good for so many reasons…it can decrease pain, increase flexibility, help keep joints healthy, and lower your blood pressure. So go cleanse some toxins and open up those hips!

Low Back Pain Relief, Causes and Symptoms: Part 1

After years doing massage therapy the most common complaint from customers is lower back pain. I hear it from athletes, young people, older people, sedentary people, swimmers, climbers, and almost everyone else. Although the solution may seem simple (just get your low back worked on, or take some pain killers, right?) there can actually be several causes and solutions that will have lasting effects.

The pain could caused by any of three main muscle groups:

  • The “QL” (square muscle on your low back called the quadratus lumborum)
  • The Psoas (hip flexor)
  • The Hamstrings.

This video deals with the hamstrings: How to tell if their tight, how to stretch them in passivee and active ways, and how to stretch each of the three muscles that make up the hamstrings. Keep watching for the next video, but in the meantime, relax those muscles and stretch!