Escape Winter with UpLIFTing Retreat

Join the LIFT (Leading India’s Future Today) Associate Board’s young professionals for a morning of yoga and meditation that will be good for your mind, body, and soul.

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Yoga, led by instructor, Maria Miles, will stretch and strengthen our bodies. Guided meditation, led by long time LIFT volunteer Deb Wilson, is sure to relax the mind and warm the soul.
Come out and focus on inner peace while supporting the students of LIFT!*

All are welcome, no previous yoga or meditation experience necessary. Please wear comfortable clothing and bring your water bottle. Light refreshments will be provided.

Saturday February 20th
10:00 AM – 12:00 PM
711 W. Monroe Chicago, IL, Room ABC 123

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*Leading India’s Future Today (LIFT) is dedicated to developing leadership excellence in motivated and talented youth in Tamil Nadu, India. LIFT provides quality education and a home environment for youth with high potential who would typically be denied schooling due to limited access to resources.  LIFT students and staff are committed to transforming their society from within to help combat poverty, unemployment, and disease.  Learn more about LIFT, Chicago’s non-profit organization http://lift-foundation.org/our-programs/

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YogaWorks Guest Post: 5 Yoga Poses for Jump-starting a Home Practice Sequence yoga

We’ve had this lingering intention…the intention of rising with the sun and doing yoga to get the day started right.  This intention turns into slapping the snooze button for 30 minutes and then grumbling out of bed.  As the sun’s coming out a little more these days, we thought we’d seek some expert advice on a sequence that might give us the structure we need to make daily yoga a habit!  Enter Sarah Ezrin, a Los Angeles based yoga teacher,  Lululemon brand ambassador, purveyor of joy, and our guest yogi!  Sarah also teaches for YogaWorks and the online MyYogaWorks platform which offers over 500 online classes and 24 hour access so you can get that at home yoga guidance.

Sarah offers 5 starter poses to help us and you build your home practice!  Pictures are courtesy of photographer, Julia Heredia, are were taken during Sarah’s Costa Rica retreat (jealous….).

5 Yoga Poses for Jump-starting a Home Practice Sequence by Sarah Ezrin

  1. Child’s Pose – Child’s pose is no child’s play.  A great posture for grounding one’s energy, it creates a conscious shift inward as one is literally folded in upon themselves.  Come to kneeling on the floor big toes together, knees slightly apart and sink the hips back toward the heels, laying your belly over the top thighs.  This pose can be restful with the arms relaxed by your sides or made more active with arms forward reaching energetically.  Elevate the head with a block or even stacked fists is as it will align the spine and create space for the neck and shoulders.  Feel free to repeat throughout the sequence as needed.

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  1. Cat/Cow Breath – Open the heart and awaken the core with this pair of postures.  Practiced dynamically (meaning moving with breath) this set warms up the spine.  Start in a table top position, aligning wrists under and shoulders and knees below hips.  On an inhalation, create a backbend by lifting the chest bone up towards the ceiling and gently taking the gaze up, back of the neck long.  Exhale round the back tremendously by pushing the palms into the floor and hollowing the bellybutton.  Gaze toward the naval.  Repeat five times (with an inhale/exhale counting as a single rep) following the natural flow of breath.

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  1. Downward Facing Dog – Probably the most notorious of yoga poses, no practice is complete without a down dog!  Lengthen the spine and release the entire back body, which gets stiff from hunching over those iPhones.  Start in a table top position, pressing the hands evenly into the floor.  Tighter shoulders will benefit from having the hands slightly wider than shoulder’s width.  Curl the toes underneath and begin to lift the knees off the floor while extending the hips up and back.  Start with the knees slightly bent and work lengthening the spine.  Straighten the legs and press the heels toward the floor.  You are looking to create an inverted “V” with your body.  If the spine feels rounded, the lower back or hamstrings (muscles at the back of the legs) may be tight, so keep the knees slightly bent to get more length.  Make a long spine priority over straight legs.  Beginners may experience wrist pain.  Be sure the entire hand is pressed into the floor at the knuckles and fingers lengthen forward actively.

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  1. Reverse Warrior – Feel both beautiful and strong with this expansive standing pose.  Tone the outer hips and lengthen the inner legs, while the added side stretch expands the lateral body improving breath. Start in a wide stance, arms out shoulder’s height and feet as wide as the wrist (about a leg’s distance).  Turn the right leg out from deep within the hip and the back leg and hip facing inward slightly.  Bend the front knee until the thigh is level to the floor, tracking the front knee and ankle.  This is Warrior 2.  On an inhalation, lean back placing the left hand lightly outside the left leg and stretching the top arm overhead.  Hold for eight full breaths or play with the pose dynamically moving in and out from Warrior 2 with breath.

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  1. Supta Baddha Konasana – Often, the most potent poses in yoga are the quietest.  Soothe the mind and nervous system, while also releasing the hips.  Start lying on the back with the knees bent and feet flat onto the floor.  Allow the inner knees to fall open like the wings of a butterfly and gently place the soles of the feet together.  Pulling the heels inward toward the groin will create a stronger release of the inner thigh.  Rest one hand on the heart and the second on the belly for more grounding or take the arms overhead and grab elbows to stretch the side body.

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Just for the record, #5 is a Chi Organic Girls go-to pose for relaxation.  Check out this sequence to find your zen (and maybe find a reason to get out of bed earlier) or share your favorite yoga sequence with us.

5 Easy Tips for Mental Wellness

Ok, so does anyone feel like they just took off their NYE party hats and watched January fly by? February is coming up in a few days and one of the themes of the month is heart health (Ya know, Valentine’s day and all that).  Apart from the physical care of your heart through healthy foods and exercise, another lesser thought of factor is caring for your emotions (stress, loneliness, depression and the like).  We so often focus on the physical and often ignore our mental health needs!  Our friends at the Rooted Center are guest posting this week to share ways we can minimize stress, check in with our emotions and improve our mental well being to make this February full of self care.

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Guest Contributors
Shruti Sekhri of Rooted Center
Dr. Katie Ray, DC
Heather Fraelick, LMT
Heidi Shimko, LAc MSTOM, NCCAOM BOARD CERTIFIED, ACUPUNCTURIST, REIKI MASTER

When it comes to all over well being it seems as if a lot of us are focused on working out or improving our diet.  When we gain weight or get sick, we turn to medicine or again to focus on our physical health.  What if taking the time to nurture our mental health and well being could help prevent weight gain and other health issues?  Mental wellness is just as important as exercise and nutrition, because when we are stressed, our cortisol levels spike which causes a slew of health issues.  When we are stressed, we may not get enough sleep, we turn to emotional eating, and we simply don’t feel well.  Here is how we can help lower stress and improve our allover well being with mental wellness tips!

1) What is the importance of mental wellness?

Mental wellness is pervasive and impacts our physical health, intellectual capacity and our relationships.  When our emotional life is out of balance, it can manifest into physical ailments (we’ve all heard about stress caused illnesses), it can drive us to make reactive decisions that are driven from hidden emotions rather than clarity, and it can cause us to have unhealthy relationship interactions.  By practicing mental self-care, we can reverse these undesired results and instead gain self-confidence, self-worth, and greatly improve our quality of life.

2) How can we become more aware of how we feel?

The first thing that we have to do is set the intention to become more aware.  Once we have that, then we have to give ourselves permission to allow any feeling to be OK – in other words, we have to let ourselves know that we don’t have to judge if we are good or bad for feeling the way that we do.  This creates the safe space for us to start feeling what we feel.

Once we have the safe space, we can have some tools to dig in: 1) put an alarm on your phone twice a day and ask yourself – how am I feeling?  Where do I feel it in my body?  How is my breathing 2) do some stream of conscious journaling – that means just write anything that comes to mind even if it makes no sense 3) Try to just grab a set of pastels and start doodling on some paper and see where it leads you.

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3) What are some ways to cope and deal with stress?

Stress is pervasive and it can actually even be stressful to try not be stressed.  The first thing to do when you’re feeling stressed is to stop what you’re doing and take a deep breath.  Then, see if you can go for a 10 minute walk.  If that’s not an option, start doodling or journaling to find what is creating your stress.  A lot of times, when we know what is creating stress and anxiety for us, the knowledge itself starts to release us from it.

4) What holistic health practices also help maintain a mind body balance that can help with mental wellness?

Some key practices that help our mind and body stay connected and drive towards mental wellness include acupuncture, reiki, chiropractic care, massage therapy, aroma and essential oil therapy, yoga, nutritional balancing, and certainly talk-, equine-, or art- therapy.

5) What are 5 things we can do daily to maintain a healthy mental state?

1)    Schedule time for ourselves – even if it’s 10 minutes (you don’t have to stress about how much or if it’s enough)

2)   Set alarms on your phone to check in with how you are feeling

3)   Notice how you are breathing and see if you can extend your breath once in a while

4)   Spend time talking to someone who gives you empathy rather than advice. Advice is good, but to feel understood is paramount.  In fact, see if you can find an accountability buddy and just text each other one thing that you did for yourself that day

5)   Take a moment to find something you’re grateful for every day

Oh and treat yourself sometimes!  Rooted Center is hosting “Be Your Own Valentine”  on February 7th from 4-7 pm to give you a chance to Love Yo’ Self with mini spa treatments, expressive art sessions and more.  The $25 dollar suggested donation goes to NoStigmas.org.  NoStigmas is a global non-profit movement utilizing Peer-2-Peer connections to promote mental wellness and prevent suicide.  Their individual approach provides education, support systems and access to mental health resources at no cost. 

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#Run10Feed10 First 10k Run Recap!

This past Sunday, I ran my first 10k with Run 10 Feed 10 and Women’s Health…and boy are my gams tired!  I did it!  And next time, I’m dragging Monica to run with me.  My popular co-blogger had yet another wedding to attend that day.

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And what did I learn from the fab event?  For those of you moving from 5ks to the next step up, know that it is possible to be ready in 4 weeks!  This is coming from someone who used to hate running.

Amateur 10K tips:

1) Don’t stress!  There was plenty of people walking and taking breaks.  Your first 10k should be enjoyable and don’t feel guilty if you have to pause to catch your breath.

2) Get enough sleep.

Ya’ll know Halloween is coming, yeah?  So I had a lil pumpkin carving party the Saturday eve before and maaaybe stayed up a bit too late.  You need your full body strength to be at optimal performance so go to bed on time!

3) But not too much sleep.

Ok, so rookie mistake.  My anxiety got away with me and while I woke up at 5:30 am, I went back to sleep until 7:30 and then had to pull a Ferris Beuller’s day off and ramp myself into my workout clothes and on to the highway to get to the start line 5 minutes after the race started.

4) Take in the scenery

Running outside in Chicago is a treat (no tricks here).  Other than dodging goose poo in a small section, the race jaunted along the picturesque Chicago lakefront.  The continually varied foliage and fauna…oh and the Grub Hub running team with their hotdogs and turkey shaped hats…is way more interesting than staring at the wall while on the treadmill.

5) Revel in your results (and the after party)!

My time wasn’t super fast but I have gained about 2 minutes of speed since I first started running.  Women’s Health put together a sweet after event with a post race yoga, free post race fuel (Nestle Choco Milk, Bagels and fruit), athletic massages and beauty touch ups from Panasonic.  I was surprised to see Allison Sweeney of Biggest Loser there as well.  She gave out the post race awards, none of which I won.  Maybe some day!

Thanks to Women’s Health for allowing me to contribute to this spectacular event.

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#RUN10FEED10: Help End Hunger AND Shape Your Booty

It’s not hard to love such a beautiful city like Chicago in fall.  The leaves are changing and the weather is cooling. Not everyone gets to stay cozy warm, however.  The Chicago Coalition for the Homeless estimates there was about 138,575 Chicagoans who were homeless in August of this year. It can be overwhelming to figure out how we can best help people who are in need. One way, however, is very simple! Stretch your legs and run to provide meals to people who are hungry.  Join Kate as she tests her speed at the RUN10, FEED10 race on October 19th, 2014.

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Women’s Health and FEED are partnering for the RUN10 FEED10 10K race series to motivate consumers nationwide to help fight domestic hunger. RUN10 FEED10 has raised over 2.5 million meals to support the cause, and in 2014 the bar is set even higher. The concept behind RUN10 FEED10 is simple: run a 10K and feed 10 hungry people in your community. Timed 10K races will take place in New York, Chicago and San Francisco. Those living in Boston, Los Angeles, Denver, Phoenix, Atlanta, Houston, Minneapolis, and Washington D.C. can participate in one of the Women’s Health “Fun Runs,” and if runners don’t live in one of the RUN10 FEED10 host cities, they can still participate by registering at RUN10FEED10.com to run a 10K in their hometown.

The series kicked off in New York City on September 21, 2014 with thousands of participants running down the West Side Highway for the timed race ending at Pier 84 at Hudson River Park. In the Chi, we will jaunt down Belmont harbor along our gorgeous lakefront and be greeted at the end with a post-race wellness festival. This post race celebration will feature yoga sessions, nutrition, beauty consultations and great giveaways from sponsors.

Feeling intimidated?  Kate has only run 2 5Ks before so she googled to figure out if she could make it through the entire race without yelling uncle and lying down on the pavement.  Self.com has an awesome 4 week training plan to get your booty in gear or you can sign up for training plans with Women’s Health and Run10 Feed10.  Doing a 10k will also flex those glute muscles and burn an odd 600+ calories (about 9 snack size Halloween packs of M&Ms, yup!). Good prep to don that sexy Pumpkin Spice Latte costume (or sexy wizard or sexy sexy…whatevs your wearing).

Not ready to run? You can still help by donating or even shopping at popular retailers like Nike and Gap from the comfort of your sexy couch.

Ready to join Kate and register or share your cash?

Sign up today at www.run10feed10.com!

 

Image from Run 10 Feed 10 Website

Image from Run10 Feed10 Website

Relax with an UpLIFTing Retreat!

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As the weather grows chillier and your work load picks up, it becomes essential to practice self-care.  We love opportunities where we can treat ourselves and retreat from the overstimulation of life WHILE helping others.  Next weekend you can do just that!

Experience an upLIFTing yoga session and contribute to children in need.   LIFT (Leading India’s Future Today), founded in 2004 in Chicago, opens a world of possibility for its students.  LIFT supports a holistic learning and leadership development program for boys and girls in Tamil Nadu, India.  LIFT educates children, creates leaders and transforms communities of highly motivated, underpriveledged students.  Learn more about LIFT at www.liftusa.org

The event will feature a ohm-some yoga class with mini Luna bar snacks to refresh yourself after your workout.  Strap on those ultra comfy yoga pants and get ready to relax on the mat! http://lift-foundation.org/uplifting-retreat-2014/

 

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