This pandemic has influenced our daily work flows and routines.
No matter the circumstance, it is apparent that our world here has shifted. This takes a toll on our physical and emotional health. To adapt to this COVID-19 world a lot of us are spending more of our day in front of a screen, in a stagnant seat, doing what must be done to get through this.
Hands up, if you can relate to that compressed feeling in your low back after a day at your computer? What about the tightness in both your hips and hamstrings? A tension headache resulting from your neck being pulled towards your screen? What about a shift in your posture?
Fortunately for us there are some shapes that can be utilized to help lessen the pain from sitting throughout the day. A restorative yoga sequence aims to move the spine in all directions, through gentle twists, back bends, inversions, and forward folds.
Each pose has a different benefit. For example, a twist helps to balance our energy and digestive fire, detoxify the organs, and improve circulation; an inversion improves circulation and promotes lymphatic drainage; a forward fold squeezes blood and waste out of the abdomen, improving circulation and digestion; whereas, a backbend returns fresh blood and nutrients to these organs.
These movements aim to calm the body, activating the portion of the nervous system that is responsible for resting and digesting (parasympathetic nervous system). Who wouldn’t benefit from a gentle way to destress going into 2021?
So let's explore some basic restorative yoga poses that can be done in the comfort of your own home, morning or the evening, to help offset “computer posture.”
Simple Restorative Yoga Sequence:
Props needed: a flat surface, a bolster pillow or pillow with a long sturdy shape, and two blankets/towels.
Restorative Backbend ~ Supported Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose): 10-15 minutes.
Come to a seat on the ground. Place the bolster long ways behind the lower back (right up against the sacrum to provide enough support to lower back). Lower onto the bolster, bringing the feet together forming the shape of a diamond with your legs. Bring arms to the side and allow the chest to open up. Take a few nourishing breaths. Option to place a towel underneath the knees for additional support.
Benefits of this pose: lowers blood pressure, helps open up the mid back and chest, countering the posture in a chair.
Restorative Inversion ~ Viparita Karani (Elevated Legs up on a Wall). 10-15 minutes.
Come to a seat facing a wall, place a towel/blanket underneath lower back to prop up/support back, this is optional based on comfort. Extend feet up against the wall. Have a soft bend in the legs. Relax hands to the side, can use a small pillow behind the head for added comfort. Note: legs can be placed closer together.
Benefits of this pose: allows the mind to settle, lowers blood pressure, provides fresh blood to heart. Beneficial for varicose veins/spider veins, helps with excessive fluid retention, brings the blood and lymph fluid that pools in the legs back to the abdomen, providing fresh blood flow to limbs afterwards.
Restorative Twist ~ Elevated Twist on Bolster. 3-5 minutes each side.
Come onto your back, place the bolster/pillow to the left of the left leg. Keep shoulders rooted on the ground while bringing the right leg over to the left side to be placed on the bolster. Keeping the left leg straight, bring hands to the side to open up the chest. Take a few nourishing breathes, repeat on the other side.
Benefits of this pose: stretches the small muscles in the spine releasing pressure on the intervertebral discs. Opens the lungs, and diaphragm, improving our ability to breath and activate the calming portion of our nervous system. Counters the compression in the spine of sitting all day.
Restorative Forward Fold ~ Supported Upavistha Konasana (Seated Angle Pose). 3-5 minutes.
Bring the legs out into a wide legged stretch and place the bolster/pillow in front of you. Gently lower tummy, lungs, and head down on bolster, feeling the contact of the bolster against your abdomen. Place more blankets/pillows underneath if you need to be higher off the ground. Option to place blankets under the knees for further support. Take full, deep breaths from pelvis to collarbones.
Benefits of this pose: soothes the mind, and calms the nervous system. Helps to alleviate tension headaches, improves circulation to the abdomen, digestion, and respiration as blood pressure begins to decrease.
Note that these times to remain in each pose are a recommendation, modify for your own schedule and comfort. Restorative yoga is meant to be comfortable, if you find discomfort, modify and adjust until you are comfortable using blankets, towels and pillows.
Here is a short video from Sky of Sky Yoga and Wellness, sharing some simple postures that can be done in your chair throughout the day while working at your computer to minimize spinal pain.
About Sky Corbett-Methot
Sky Corbett-Methot is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist and 500 hour yoga and meditation instructor that also teaches prenatal yoga, postnatal yoga, and yoga with baby classes. She is a holistic wellness coach that combines a unique “just for you” approach that utilizes movement, meditation, and nourishment to enhance vitality. Sky is a volunteer with the HWB Vancouver free clinic where she assists with guided meditation and nutrition. Find out more about Sky and SkyYoga & Wellness at: https://www.skyyogawellness.ca or follow her on Instagram @sky_the_dauntless
January is Alzheimer's awareness month. Due to this, our Tip Tuesday today focuses on brain health and a bit more information on Alzheimer's disease.
Alzheimer's disease is a common type of dementia, or decline in intellectual function. Once considered rare, this disease is now known to affect as many as 5.3 million people in the US (Alzheimer's Association). It afflicts 10% of Americans over the age of 65, and as many as 50% of individuals over 85 years of age. This disease does not only affect the elderly, but may strike as early as the age of 40.
Some of the common warning signs of Alzheimer's include:
1.Difficulty with familiar tasks.
2.Slipping job performance (if still working).
4.Confusion of place and time.
5.Lack of judgement.
6.Problems in abstract thinking.
9.Changes in personality.
10.Lack of initiative.
In Alzheimer's disease, memory and abstract through processes are impaired. It is considered an irreversible and progressive disorder in which critical parts of the brain are deteriorated - this deterioration may precede measurable symptoms by as much as 20 years.
There have been studies done that have shown digestive malabsorption problems in individuals with Alzheimer's - leading to chronic nutritional deficiencies which may play a significant role in the pre-clinical phase of this disease. Additionally, studies have shown low levels of antioxidant vitamins such as A and E and the carotenoids within Alzheimer patients. These vital nutrients act as free radical scavengers, and chronic deficiencies may expose brain cells to increased oxidative damage.
In the attached graphic, you can see some helpful herbs for brain health that assist with supporting neurotransmitters and can potentially mitigate oxidative damage, and increase mental clarity and stamina.
A more in-depth picture of the herbs can be found below:
Ginko (Ginko biloba)- Also known as Maidenhair tree, Ginkgo is considered to be an energy and cognitive enhancer, neuroprotective, adaptogenic, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, brain/blood flow enhancer, circulatory stimulant, and nutritive. It is said to improve the brain's metabolism of glucose and oxygen and the usage of acetylcholine (ACh - a neurotransmitter and neuromodulator). It is said to promote blood flow to the brain, and to improve memory, concentration, cognitive, and overall brain function, making it a specific in cases of cognitive decline, dementia, and Alzheimer's disease.
Water Hyssop (Bacopa monnieri) - This herb is traditionally considered to be a cognitive and memory enhancer, nerve and brain tonic, mild adaptogen, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, cardiotonic, and bitter. Considered in cases where there is a need to improve memory and concentration, mental performance, and cognitive function and learning. It is considered to be a specific in Alzheimer's and also in Parkinson's disease as well as other types of issues where impaired mental function is present. Its constituents include steroidal saponins which increase protein kinase activity and protein synthesis in the long term memory brain region. These constituents also are said to have a reputation for increasing circulation in the brain and also to balance gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA) and glutamate in the brain, which in turn promotes orderly nerve firing.
Gotu Kola (Centella asiatica) - This herb is considered to be a nervous system tonic, central nervous system relaxant, adaptogenic, anti-inflammatory, detoxifier, blood tonic, bitter, digestive, and a peripheral vasodilator. In regard to brain health it is said to promote longevity and to increase memory and concentration. It is traditionally used for mental and physical exhaustion and stress, but is also considered a specific in Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's, and ADHD. Its root is rich in amino acids (alanine, serine, aminobutyrate, asparte, glutamate, histidine, lysine, and threonine, and is rich in anti-inflammatory flavonoids. It is also considered a detoxifier when it comes to heavy metals and heavy metal deposits stored in fatty tissues.
Wood Betony (Stachys officinalis/Betonica officinalis) - A beautiful herb considered to warm and gladden the heart. Wood betony has a long standing relationship with brain and mental health and was used in medieval times for depression and melancholy. While this herb is not considered a specific for Alzheimer's, its helpful actions should not be ignored. It is considered to be a nervous system and general tonic, alterative, bitter, and circulatory tonic. It is used to both strengthen and relax the nervous system and to promote circulation to the brain and improve memory. It is excellent for stages of anxiousness and confusion brought on by various types of dementia and is used traditionally in states or irritability, nervous tension, depression, stress, anxiety, hysteria, and disturbed sleep. Often times this herb can be used when other serotonin balancing herbs cannot as it does not use the same pathways and has less contraindications than its close friend, St. John's Wort.
Siberian Ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus) - This herb is excellent for bringing up energy levels without being overtly stimulating. It is considered to be a general and adrenal tonic, adaptogenic, antitoxic, immunomodulator, immunostimulant, immunoprotective, anti-inflammatory, circulatory stimulant, vasodilator, and bitter. Traditionally it is used in states where one needs to increase mental alertness, memory, concentration, energy, endurance, and resistance to states of chronic and acute stress. In in vivo studies it was shown to decrease adrenal hypertrophy and corticosteroid production. It was also shown to reduce the extent of the fight or flight reaction and reduces the exhaustive effects of long term stress which may accompany many Alzheimer's patients in early stages of the disease.
As with all of the herbal information we post at HWB, the above is not meant as a means of diagnosis or treatment. The herbal information is not intended to replace advice or prescription drugs given to you by your doctor. If you have a medical issue, please see your medical doctor first and foremost. Also, please do not self dose on herbs, please see an appropriate practitioner to review dosage and potential contraindications as not all herbs are appropriate for all individuals.
The month of January is heart health and stroke awareness month in the US.
How lucky for us as lovers of plan medicine that we have access and understanding of herbal allies that can assist in maintaining good cardiovascular function. Paired with regular exercise and a responsible diet, these herbs are stellar partners in the maintenance of cardiovascular wellness.
The graphics is a large green box with the headline of Herbs for Cardiovascular Health.
January is heart and stroke awareness month in the US. Issues associated with cardiovascular health and stroke are considered long term medical conditions in which the heart and circulatory system are chronically impacted. Though some cardiovascular issues such as high blood pressure do not often cause direct symptoms when it first appears, it can be a major risk factor behind coronary artery disease, stroke, heart attack, atrial fibrillation, chronic kidney disease, and many other potentially life altering illnesses. Along with diet and exercise, there are herbs traditionally used to help general cardiovascular health.
Affectionately known as the blood master! Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) is known for its ability to help lower blood pressure by its effects on peripheral circulation and its ability to be tonic and toning to blood vessels. It is specific to situations with high blood pressure and is also used in situations where thrombosis may be present.
This powerful herbal ally is a cardiovascular champion! Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna/oxycantha) acts upon the S node of the heart to help maintain typical rhythm without making the heart perform harder. It is specific in issues with tachycardia and angina, and helps to lower blood pressure.
Not just for cooking! Garlic (allium sativa) can flavour your food and lower your blood pressure. Garlic is one of the easiest cardiovascular herbs to get. It helps reduce cholesterol and lower blood triglycerides and is specific in situations with arteriosclerosis. It is protective to the heart and helps with age related vascular changes.
A champion diuretic! We all know this pesky weed as dandelion (Taraxacum offinale). When it comes to diuretics, not much in the herbal world can beat dandelion leaves. It is traditionally used to help lower high blood pressure, to assist with issues from congestive heart failure, and is also an excellent tonic and has anti-cholesterol qualities.
Don't say "Nay" until you've tried it! Often used in big cities as a decorative tree, Horse Chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum) has a long standing history in herbal medicine for cardiovascular issues. It is specific for venous congestion, and edema, it is a potent vasodilator and is tonic to the valves of the veins. It is specific in reducing the danger of heart attack and potentially reduces the risk of deep vein thrombosis.
Lowering blood pressure is so hot right now. This is another kitchen based herb that is easy to use and potent in its actions. Cayenne (Capsicum annum) helps stimulate proper circulation, is used traditionally to regulate blood pressure and also has a natural blood thinning affect in therapeutic doses.
This herb is most commonly used in the various needs of women's health. However, Motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca) can be a potent helper when it comes to blood pressure. Most commonly, Motherwort is used traditionally when blood pressure is raised from stress. It helps balance and tone the nervous system and is considered a cardiotonic. Also considered helpful in heart palpitations from stress.
Its not a blueberry! Although the two look very similar and are both rich in antioxidants, Bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus) is another traditional herb used in cardiovascular health. It is considered specific in venous insufficiency and is an excellent tonic and considered to be vasoprotective.
As a precautionary: Do not use this information as replacement for medications or advise from your medical doctor. If you would like to use herbs please see an appropriate practitioner.
The monograph of the week this week is Hibiscus, also known as Roselle, Jamaica, Wanjo, Omutete, Zobo, Bissap, Ketmie Rose, Rosella, Serreni, Rosellahanf, Carcade, and many others. Click the button below to download this monograph in PDF form.
A big thank you to Janelle Farkas of HWB NEPA for the monograph.
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HWB NEPA: https://www.facebook.com/HWB.NEPA
An Interview by Shari Shepard
Speaking with Shaela Noella makes you want to slow down and catch your breath, nothing seems to betray her calm.
After spending nine months fundraising and gaining community support from Herbalists without Borders, Shaela journeyed through Mexico to learn about the concept of curanderismo (the art of curing); from Tijuana, to Mexico City, Oaxaca, to the Yucatan Peninsula, with the help of friends and translators along the way, Shaela sought out elders to share their medicinal wisdom with her.
Before and during her trip, “things just fell into place. I had so much support from HWB and from my community.” Shaela mentioned. The impetus for her quest was a question posed by the name of her new musical group: Las Curanderas, (women healers), when a member of her band raised the issue of cultural appropriation in the naming of her group. From this Shaela was inspired to do some deeper soul searching.
“It sounds funny now, but I wanted to ask Curanderos what they think about Las Curanderas.” That’s how the Curandera Project was born. However, her reasons for going to Mexico were also more personal - “My father is Spanish, Pueblo and Apache,” she says reflectively. “It’s also about self-discovery. It put me on an introspective path.”
Curanderismo is a mixture of healing traditions practiced by Spanish Catholics, practitioners of Santeria, and the indigenous healing ways of North, Central, and South America reaching back to the prominence of the Inca, Aztec, Maya, and indigenous people of the Southwest. In regard to western traditions, the influence of Catholicism on curanderismo can be seen in the observance of a duality between good and evil, of black magic and white magic, that wasn’t there before. “But there are a lot of curanderos that don’t believe in that aspect,” Shaela says. Shaela’s goal is to pave the way for others to learn from the Curanderas and to establish a connection so others can go back and continue learning. “I’m inspired by connecting wisdom and cultures across the border. There are no borders for music, education, wisdom. I want to honor that we’re more connected than disconnected.“
Shaela makes note that there is a sense of urgency to learn as much as possible before the knowledge of the Curanderos dies out. “All of the curanderas I learned from were in their 60’s, 70s, or 80s. The sense from them was ‘God-willing, if I’m still alive. Then yes, come back to learn.’”
Shaela’s visit was only meant to last a few weeks, but when the Coronavirus pandemic brought the world to a halt, she and her companion found themselves stranded in Mexico indefinitely. “We were stuck down there but it was an opportunity to learn even more. I was learning but not as intensively until the quarantine.” When asked what she carries with her from her experience, she pauses, before stating several things without hesitation:
“All the different ways people live. Trusting more in the elements as power tools for healing. Trusting more in myself and my journey. Faith in humanity - community is pretty powerful.”
There’s that calm lightness again. Is it any wonder that over hundreds of miles navigating new and familiar territory with friends and strangers alike, that her journey was anything but powerful?
While the Curandera Project is currently on hold, Shaela still hopes to share her experience with the wider community as a documentary.
To other herbalists and questers she says “Believe in your dream and that you’re completely worthy of it. Then follow it.”
Maybe at the root of that calm is a solid faith in others and in life to connect us across borders that don’t really exist, and across generations with arms open wide.
For more information on Shaela Noella or La Curandera Quest, please enjoy this video post.
You can also follow her at:
Shari Shepard has had a love for wild things since her first summer spent in her grandmother's garden in Alabama. She is a writer, wanderer, teacher, ritualist, and musician. She comes from the sea spray and redwoods of the Ohlone lands, now widely known as the San Francisco Bay Area by way of the Chattahoochee River Valley once stewarded by the Muscogee. Her herbal learning is influenced by the Wise Womxn tradition, western herbalism, the root workers of the southeastern United States, andsh West African traditional medicine. She credits the plant world for opening up a doorway to deeper understanding about her ancestral lineage and for helping her step on the hard yet rewarding path of healing the traumatic loss of cultural identity caused by the colonization and captivity of her ancestors.
Her favorite medicine food is ginger, her favorite tea is Tulsi, and her favorite tree is the Sweet Gum.
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