Five Simple Ways to Help Our Planet

In 1992, my science teacher encouraged me when I said that I wanted to start a recycling center at our school. I left old boxes beside trash cans in every classroom, and I asked students and teachers to put paper waste in the box to be recycled (instead of in the trash can.) Twice a week, I walked around and collected all the paper for recycling. Then I asked my school board for extra-large trash cans to put outside the cafeteria so our beloved cafeteria workers could recycle kitchen waste like tin cans and glass. Remarkably, everyone participated. When we look at pollution statistics today, many people feel like helping the earth is beyond our control. It really isn’t!

Yoga and Ayurveda center around the five elements: ether, air, fire, water, and earth! The combination of these elements are what comprise the doshas—or our constitutions. If you have ever felt frustrated by a messy space, or lost your patience on a hot day, then you have experienced how your environment affects your mind, body, and spirit. Earth Day is a great day to meditate on whether or not we are in balance with the world around us. Here are five simple ways to get started.

  1. REDUCE the number of trips you take. Plan your week and minimize driving to reduce the use of petroleum products and emissions. Bike or walk when you can, and even consider choosing green hobbies like cycling, kayaking, and hiking over 4-wheeling or boating.
  2. REUSE things that you already have. Donate items instead of throwing them away. Check out online swap boards or re-sale shops to buy used goods before buying new things. Save used items that are in good condition to use later (like gift bags.)
  3. RECYCLE your trash. You may need to find trash cans, boxes, or bins to separate items in your area, but many recycling centers do not require that you separate recyclable materials. By recycling, we save a lot of money (and plastic waste) by using fewer trash bags, too.
  4. COMPOST your food waste. “Reducing food waste is one of the most effective ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Not only that, food waste is the number 1 contributor to landfills!” By only cooking what you will eat, eating leftovers, and composting organic materials like orange peels and egg shells, you can significantly reduce your contribution to global greenhouse emissions. Here is a great article on composting.
  5. CHANGE your habits. Bring mindfulness to your habits to stop buying things you don’t need. For instance, how much packaging waste would you save in a year by bringing your lunch to work or cooking for yourself instead of eating out? What if you replaced a shopping habit with a gardening hobby, or checked out books from the library instead of buying them? Mindfulness is a key component to moving toward balance.

    Simple changes really add up! Join me in meditating on how we can incorporate mindful habits into our daily routines and move closer to balance within and in the world around us.

“Earth provides enough to satisfy
every man’s needs,
but not every man’s greed.”
― Mahatma Gandhi

When Your Job is No Longer Exciting

There are times when people run into textbook scenarios in their field. I often hear folks complain about how boring these situations are– how they crave a challenge and think the only option is to leave because they are tired of the mundane. Textbook situations can actually be quite beneficial. Here’s why.

First, there’s just nothing like sharing space with others– even if that space is monotonous or difficult.

“You were overlooked because of an outside hire? Me too.”
“You’re tired of the hour-long weekly meetings that could have been an email? Me too.”
“You are afraid of returning to work after a health scare? Me too.”

There is a type of friendship that can only be forged through adversity; it is a worthwhile pursuit. Any friendship is one for which we can be thankful. So if you find yourself on a plateau, look around and see who else is there with you. Reach out to them.

The second reason plateaus are gifts is that they give us space to change the way we see things. The buttes of Monument Valley, Colorado are freestanding structures with steep cliffs on all four sides and a plateau at the top. Once you get to the plateau, you’ve seen all there is to see. This is the apex. The zenith. The highest you can go.

On the other hand, the mountains of Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado offer a multitude of stepped plateaus. You can hike up to one, step out and survey a picturesque landscape, then turn and hike up to another plateau. Each plateau is an opportunity to rest and refuel. It’s a place to stop moving upward and begin moving outward. It is an opportunity to step away from the trail and explore your own path. It’s a place to notice, to discover, and to see things from different perspectives.

Plateaus can be great; it’s all a matter of how we choose to see them. Through mindfulness, we can choose to see that being in familiar territory allows us to shut down some of the decision-making energy and choose to direct that energy toward other worthwhile pursuits such as mentoring others, networking, learning more about new developments in our field, or resting and refueling for the next project. When we accept the fact that we are where we are, we can embrace our position and use it to our advantage.

And even if the path you thought was leading to a mountain-top experience actually resembles more of a butte, resist the urge to complain. Take a moment and look around. Everything you have been through to get to this height has provided you with a learning experience and a great vantage point from which to see where you want to go next.

Reduce employee turnover, increase worker satisfaction, and increase productivity when you bring Crosswork Lunch & Learn wellness classes to your group. Contact me to get started. — Sarah

Free Class for the NC State Day of Giving

One of the greatest things that NC State has ever given the world was a stage for Coach Jim Valvano. In addition to leading the Wolfpack to a national championship victory in 1983, Jimmy V gave the Pack a hero. His passion for life, for basketball, for other people, for his faith and family, and especially for the Pack made him one of the greatest coaches in history.

Wear red and join me at 6am on March 23 as we honor the legacy of Coach Jim Valvano and his relentless optimism in coaching the Pack and seeking a cure for cancer. Our Crosswork Yoga Class for the Pack will be loads of fun and feature an invigorating, 30-minute yoga asana to start your day.

In lieu of paying for your Crosswork yoga class on March 23, please consider giving to NC State University or The V Foundation for cancer research. Why give to the V Foundation?

  • Because lung cancer accounts for more cancers than all other cancers in men and women.1
  • Because 4 out of 10 people will be diagnosed with cancer at some point in their life.2
  • Because the V Foundation awards 100% of direct donations to cancer research and programs, and the V Foundation’s endowment covers administrative expenses.3
  • Because when The V Foundation finds a cure for cancer, all eyes will be on its founder and the institution he loved: NC State University. Red and white from NC State! Go State!
(2) ibid
(3) ibid

Here is the Big Secret to Achieving Your Goal

Whether your goal is personal or professional, here are three simple things you can do to increase the likelihood of long-term success.

  • A Vision
  • A Record
  • A Reward

Casting a vision means defining your goal. Write it down, and be specific. Identify what you need to do to reach that goal. Think about which obstacles stand between you and your goal, and make a plan to avoid them. Keep your written goal where you can see it. At the beginning of each day, remind yourself of your goal. Then think on it when you have quiet times (like when you’re on hold for a phone call or brushing your teeth!)

It’s imperative to keep a daily record because you need to track how you’re doing. This may mean including a successful friend you know and trust will be honest with you. It may mean finding an food diary or fitness tracker app. It definitely includes being honest with yourself. Write down when you fail, and write down when you succeed. Failures are opportunities to identify obstacles and eliminate them in the future. Successes are opportunities to identify your wins and replicate those habits.

The last component is a reward. Sometimes the goal itself is a reward (weight loss that yields increased energy, or higher sales that bring a financial bonus.) If the goal is less lucrative, don’t skip out. Whether you reward yourself with a pedicure, an electronics upgrade, or a pint of full-fat ice cream, identifying your reward and following through means a greater chance of keeping your habit long term.

Stretch your mind, body, and soul with Crosswork yoga.

The Best Reason to Talk with Yourself

Last week I found out that an online class for which I had registered was being postponed for a few months. I felt the expected gambit of emotions: surprised, disappointed, understanding, wonder for how it would impact my plans, thankful it was still being offered at a later date… you get it. When the time arrived that I would have been in class, the disappointment returned. This time it was carrying a suitcase full of unhelpful self-talk (Sanskrit: svadhyaya.)

“I should be in class right now.”
“I shouldn’t have gotten my hopes up.”
“Of course mine would be the class that was postponed.”

Wandering thoughts are part of life; they drift in and try to take residence. Through mindfulness, we learn how to send them back to sea. Here are my 5 go-to mantras for keeping perspective when things don’t go as I thought they would.

  1. Disappointment is part of life. It happens to everyone.
  2. I give myself permission to feel emotions; I’m human.
  3. This is a learning opportunity. What can I learn?
  4. I choose to share what I am learning with others.
  5. “All things work together for my good” is one of my core beliefs. I choose to see the good in this.

That’s it! The real reason we talk to our self is to encourage our self– to meditate on constructive thoughts instead of ruminate on fruitless thoughts. We bring awareness to our intentions. We remind ourselves of the bigger picture. We extend grace. The next time things don’t go according to plan, consider some positive reinforcement– from yourself.

Identify your core beliefs and write some mantras of your own when you register for a Crosswork yoga class.

How to Take a Meaningful Retreat for Self-Reflection

When is the last time you stepped away from the hustle-hustle of everyday life to seek solitude? If you are having difficulty concentrating, taking time to yourself can help you clear your mind. If you are making big decisions, a retreat can help you bring awareness to your intentions and motivations so you can see the entirety of your situation with a fresh perspective. If you are burned out, solitude can help you rest, reconnect with your bigger why, and recalibrate.

The world is moving faster than ever before. But in spite of the frenetic pace around us, we can still prioritize time to look within ourselves. If you have never taken time away for self-reflection, then you may be at a loss for where to start. Good news! Taking time away to rest and reflect may be easier than you think. Here are 3 ways to take a meaningful retreat for self-reflection.

  1. The Stay-cation
    Ahhhh! Home! For many people, there’s no place like home. It is your castle, your fortress, and the place to let your hair down. Just staying home with nothing to do sounds like a dream. But for others, staying home isn’t the most relaxing idea because of all the distractions. Once you unplug from electronics and begin staring at unfinished projects, it can be difficult to resist the temptation to start tackling your to-do list. Whether you’re taking a single hour of solitude or an entire weekend to get some peace and quiet, the first thing you have to consider is freeing your mind from distractions.

    Other helpful things to consider include:
    > shopping for groceries so you don’t have to leave home
    > setting your email to an automatic reply
    > creating a peaceful atmosphere in your home with lighting or sound
    > placing “Please Do Not Disturb” signs on your door(s)
    > letting loved ones know you are safe and practicing solitude (so they are not concerned)

  2. Escape to the Great Outdoors
    Going outside is often a great way to get away from common hindrances to peace. You may choose a local park, a favorite hiking trail, or other outdoor space. But you don’t have to go far away to find sunlight and fresh air. Outdoor spaces that are close to home like your back yard or patio can also be relaxing. Many people tune out noisy distractions by using ear buds to listen to a book, singing bowls, chanting, guided meditation, or (ironically) sounds from nature. Other people prefer the sound of silence. If you are going outside: be safe. Make an informed plan, and let others know your plans. This helpful list is a great place to start.

  3. Find a Yoga or Spa Resort
    Travelling can be relaxing. There is an opportunity to feel truly alone. There is beautiful scenery. There is a rewarding destination at the end. The anticipation of visiting a new place or a familiar hangout can bring a thrill of excitement. “Research shows that the brain releases dopamine in anticipation of a reward.” Planning your time of solitude and anticipating your retreat could be as beneficial as the retreat itself.

    Resort spas that center around yoga and solitude can be a great fit for people who feel stressed by (or don’t have time to) plan a trip. All inclusive spas shoulder all or most of the decision making. They often have access to amazing foods that are in season, or they host renown yoga teachers. Some resorts offer other therapeutic amenities like horseback riding, wraps and facials, or massage.

    Here are a few things to consider when planning a trip:
    > Do some research. Make sure the place you visit has a reputation for safety and ethical practices.
    > Resist the urge to over-pack.
    > Having a clean, organized space can contribute to a peaceful mood.
    > Whether riding in your personal car or opting for mass transit, your travel time to a resort can also be a great time to notice your natural breathing.

How to Relax When You Take a Day Off

I regularly see people on social media asking for help with the same dilemma. It usually reads like this:

“I am on vacation, and I still can’t stop checking my phone for work. I’m afraid that if I turn off my phone, I’ll miss something big, lose an account, get overlooked on a project, lose my job, etc. How do I take time off from work without feeling guilty or stressed about missing something?”

Here’s a good place to start: what are you repeating in your mind?

“I’m just going to answer this one call; I have to.”
“Checking my email will only take one minute.”
“AH! It’s Chris! I should take this.”

Mindfulness habits can help you switch gears between work and rest. When you’re at work, you have a to-do list (whether physical or mental.) You are conditioned to operate in this mode; it’s your current habit. Rather than trying to completely re-wire yourself on your day(s) off, piggyback on your existing habit and give yourself a task for today. Maybe it’s rest. REST. Today, rest is as important as selling your product, closing a deal, stitching a wound, or teaching fractions– whatever your usual tasks are.

Write your task on a sticky note, and stick it where you can see it as a constant reminder of your goal. When fear of missing out kicks in on your day off, look to your mantra.

I value rest. I need rest. I can rest.
If I do not rest, I will burn out or get sick.
My capable team has got things covered.
I will return stronger because I refilled my tank.”

If rest is too abstract, make a list of restful pursuits.
Walk my dog in the park
Practice yoga
Play a board game with a loved one
Play golf

In a healthy relationship,
absence makes the heart grow fonder.
It’s okay if you are missed for a short time;
it indicates that you are a valuable member!

  • If everything falls apart because 1 team member is absent for a day, or someone is made to feel guilty for taking reasonable time to refuel, it is a sign that the relationship with others is unbalanced.
  • If we personally feel guilty for taking time to take care of ourselves, it is a sign that the internal relationship we have with our self is unbalanced.

The sticky-note habit helps us keep our mind’s eye fixed on our core values (or the yamas) and minimizes fear of missing out. Taking time to rest and study yourself (svadhyaya) can help you turn an abstract goal (like rest) into something tangible you can measure. It can give you the courage to speak candid truth (satya) like:

  • I understand that things are not the same when a team member is away. I did a great job delegating my usual responsibilities before I left, and I always help others when they are away. Prioritizing my health makes me a better team member.
  • This project sounds like a great opportunity, but I am going to have to pass. Have you considered asking Julio?
  • This project sounds like a great opportunity, and I am in a great place to help you with it. Let’s get started!

    Many industries move at a rapid pace, and competition is fierce. It’s true. Healthy teams are comprised of healthy individuals. Healthy relationships at work are open and honest [in the kindest, most professional, and most respectable way] about boundaries, skills, limitations, and expectations. A healthy relationship with your self requires nothing less. Support others when they need a break, and don’t feel guilty when it’s your time to recharge.

    Hope that helps!

I am ready to help your team with mindfulness and yoga in the office.
Let’s schedule a lunch & learn. Email me to get started!

Three Things to Know About Yoga & Cancer Prevention

Disclaimer: There is a lot of information about yoga and cancer, and that leaves many people wondering which information is trustworthy. I’ll go ahead and remind you that I am not a doctor or a nurse. I don’t pretend to be. I cannot tell you anything diagnostic, and I won’t be recommending anything like courses of treatment. My hope for this series is to shine light on timely information from reputable sources so that you can have meaningful conversations with your licensed healthcare providers. I also hope that talking about cancer experiences will help us tell others about cancer support that they may not know exists, like my oncology yoga classes.

We will look at three things we can learn about yoga and cancer prevention, so let’s begin by defining yoga. Yoga is too old, too rich, too deep, and too multi-faceted to be reduced to a single lineage. You will notice that yoga vocabulary comes from the Sanskrit language, which is the root of many Indian languages. In the same way that many anatomical names like cardio (καρδιο), hypo and hyper, are derived from Greek or Latin, yogic terms come from Sanskrit because yoga originates in the Indian sub-continent.

Yoga, or ashtanga, is literally an eight-fold path that includes:

  1. Asana, or a posture like Warrior 2 and Tree. While the poses themselves are beneficial, the practice of concentration between postures and devotion to regular practice are equally beneficial components of the asanas.
  2. Yama, which is your governing ethics. The 5 Yamas are ahimsa (non-violence) aparigraha (not lusting or coveting) asteya (not stealing) brahmacharya (caring for your soul) and satya (truth).
  3. Niyama, or your self-discipline toward regular practices like meditating, praying, reading scriptures, fasting, or retreating. The 5 Niyamas are isvara pranidhana (trusting surrender to God), santosha (contentment), saucha (cleanliness), svadhyaya (studying yourself), and tapas (heat, or the inner flame inside yourself).
  4. Pranayama, or breathing. You can practice pranayama on its own or incorporate it into your asana.
  5. Pratyahara, or detachment. This concept includes stepping away from your attachments in order to objectively look at yourself.
  6. Dharana, or concentration on a single point, idea, or concept. It is actively tuning out distractions to be single-minded.
  7. Dhyana, or meditation. This perfect stillness is often the goal of dharana.
  8. Samadhi, or peace that passes understanding. It is a type of transcendent joy and hope that come from being deeply rooted in and devoted to your core beliefs.

It is important to define yoga in detail because we must step outside the idea that yoga is just a series of poses. The power of yoga is beyond the physical poses; the power of yoga is beyond the physical. Yoga includes breath work, spiritual inspection, a search for truth, learning to still your mind, and many other tenets that are not always covered in an article or a yoga class.

Second, let’s look at what cancer prevention means. For the sake of this article, prevention means “the act of preventing cancer.” When considering your source of information, you may want to look at credentials. Are they licensed physicians? What type of research has been done to support their claims? How broad is their data? This may be of importance to you. As you read studies, look at the scope and sequence of their research. Which types of cancer were treated, what types of yoga were used, and the frequency and duration of the practice may be of interest to you. Always discuss things with your own physicians to see if yoga or a new healthcare practice is right for you. Some licensed healthcare providers, especially those in the field of integrative medicine, are Registered Yoga Teachers in addition to being medical doctors. This may be of interest to you when you are selecting your cancer care provider.

Last, let’s look at some data. Brilliant researchers make advances in the field of oncology every day, and that is good news! Below are some articles I hope you will appreciate.

Does Sugar Feed Cancer?
Society for Integrative Oncology, Continue Reading Article

Intake of Fiber and Nuts During Adolescence and Incidence of Proliferative Benign Breast Disease
NIH PubMed, Continue Reading Article

“Early diagnosis is important, but can you go one better? Can you reduce your risk of getting cancer in the first place? It sounds too good to be true, but it’s not. Scientists at the Harvard School of Public Health estimate that up to 75% of American cancer deaths can be prevented. The 10 commandments of cancer prevention are…”
Harvard Health Publishing Continue Reading Article

Like any illness or disease, cancer can occur without warning. Many factors that increase your cancer risk are beyond your control, such as your family history and your genes. Others, such as whether you smoke or get regular cancer screenings, are within your control. Changing certain habits can give you a powerful tool to help prevent cancer. It all starts with your lifestyle.
Medline Plus, Continue Reading Article

“How much do daily habits like diet and exercise affect your risk for cancer? More than you might think. Research has shown that poor diet and not being active are key factors that can increase a person’s cancer risk. The good news is that you can do something about this.”
American Cancer Society, Continue Reading Article

“Nerve growth factor (NGF), tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-α), and interleukin-6 (IL-6) are among the early experimental cellular biomarkers that may be used to probe the modulation of oral cancer, obesity, and neurodegenerative disorders. Yoga has been reported to influence these molecules in healthy individuals but whether their expression can be altered in patients of oral cancer by yoga intervention is the subject of this research being discussed in this review article.
– Europe PubMed Central Continue Reading Article

“Want to Try and Prevent Cancer? Then Don’t Fall for These 7 Common Myths About the Disease
Johnson & Johnson Continue Reading Article

“Given the fact that many cancers can be averted, what would it take to make the dream of prevention a reality?”
Madeline Drexler, Editor of Harvard Public Health Continue Reading Article

— Namaste

Sarah does not provide medical advice or promote any product, organization, or service. The contents on this website are for informational purposes only and are not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek advice from a licensed, qualified physician or health care professional about any medical concern. Do not disregard professional medical advice because of anything you may read on this web site. Sarah is not responsible for errors or omissions in information provided on this site or any actions resulting from the use of such information.

New Blog Series: Yoga & Cancer

I’m devoting some of my blog posts to bringing mindful awareness to cancer. How we think about cancer is a lot more important than most of us probably realize, and it’s time we started talking about it. Here’s why.

I have found that most people don’t really want to talk about cancer at all unless [or until] they have to. But at the same time, when people are diagnosed with cancer, they often wonder how it happened, why it happened to them, if it was just a genetic predisposition, or if they could have done more to prevent it. Given the option between burying our heads in the sand or being proactive, we stand to gain a lot more by being educated, intentional, and mindful in our fight. So let’s talk.

I’ll go ahead and remind you that I am not a doctor or a nurse. I don’t pretend to be. I cannot tell you anything diagnostic, and I won’t be recommending anything like courses of treatment. But I hope that as we become more comfortable talking about cancer, it will take away some of the taboo that frightens us from seeking important health care screenings that could save our life. I also hope it helps us tell others about cancer support that they may not know exists, like my oncology yoga classes.

Here’s what I will be covering:

  • Data on Yoga & Cancer Prevention
  • Integrative Health Care for Cancer Patients
  • Yoga for Those in Remission from Cancer
  • How Cancer Affects Caregivers & Communities

I hope you’ll join me!

Summer is a Great Time to Eat the Rainbow

Eating according to the rainbow is a fun way to get your daily recommended servings of fruits and vegetables. If you have been reaching for the same foods for a while, summer is a great time to change it up. Try shopping at a market you have never been to before, especially specialty food markets that focus on cuisine native to places outside North America. While you’re shopping, if you don’t know what something is or how to prepare it, don’t be afraid to ask someone!

Red – Harissa, gochujang, or kimchi bring incredible flavor to your dish.
Orange – Horned melon, persimmons & kumquats have delicate notes of bitter and sweet.
Yellow – Star fruit is juicy, and Buddha’s hand is in the citrus family.
Green – Edible seaweeds like nori and wakame are naturally salty.
Blue – Blue corn shells are a fun twist for taco Tuesday.
Indigo – Find indigo carrots with root vegetables and mangosteen with fruits.
Purple – Akebi and jabutikaba (or Brazilian grapes) may be found in specialty markets.

And for dessert? Check out cherimoya (a.k.a ice cream fruit) or black sapote, also known as chocolate pudding fruit.