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Happy New Year, folks!


As 2020 commences, and we have the inevitable resolutions that come along with a new year, I’d like to share some strategies that have been useful for me in sticking with the changes I wish to make in the new year.
The first strategy is a simple and obvious one: choose attainable goals. Small, bite size things you can do that you will actually succeed at. Failed resolutions out number successful ones, but there are simple ways around that.


Firstly, it’s helpful to apply resolutions targeted to specific goals, such as towards your health, exercise, study, sleep, or behavior. As well, I like doing things that include numbers, because when you count (such as minutes or repetitions) you can see if you’ve reached your goal.


For example, for a resolution towards health or diet, you could make a simple resolution to drink one glass of water first thing in the morning before doing anything else. That small addition has been shown to lead to greater dietary improvements by behavioral economist Dan Ariely.


If you have a hard time practicing yoga regularly, make a resolution to do five sun salutations five days per week. If some days you do more, that’s great. But set a minimum bar, not a maximum, and stick to the minimum. Who knows, over time, your minimum might expand naturally.


If you don’t practice yoga but do other exercise and have a hard time sticking with it, make a simple plan. For example, with cardiovascular exercise, you don’t need to do a whole lot for it to be effective. Try 25 jumping jacks, 25 pushups, 25 squats, and perhaps 25 seconds of mountain climbers five days per week and you’ll be pretty well situated. Or choose a reasonable amount of just a few exercises that you can do regularly.


My particular desire this year is to read more and finish the books I start. I’ve made a resolution to read 25 pages per day. So far so good. I started in December (a little early) and have finished five books since then and am feeling pretty good about myself for that!


If you want to start or keep a meditation habit going, you can use the idea in some of the yoga texts that moments of concentration added together equal meditation. Each time you bring your mind to concentrate on one breath, or one mantra, it equals one moment of concentration. So, if you are looking to start or keep up with a meditation practice, you could start by trying to do 25 moments of concentration on either each breath, or on a mantra. It takes several minutes to do so, and if you do it in a relaxed manner, pausing slightly between each moment of concentration to remind yourself what you are doing, your mind can stay relatively thought free during that practice. An easy mantra to use is the So’ham mantra, inhaling the sound “so” and exhaling the sound “ham”. This is a contraction of “sah” and “aham,” which means, in Sanskrit, “I am That.”


By repeating any of your resolutions on a regular basis, your activity gets wired into your brain through neuroplasticity, and that becomes a new pattern of behavior for you. If you can keep any of your resolutions up for at least five to six weeks, they start to become automatic as they become a part of you, and thus are easier to maintain.


Another way to look at resolutions is through the Sanskrit word sankalpa, which means a resolve (like a resolution), an intent, a vow or determination to perform a ritual or observance, or a conception or idea formed in the mind or heart. Remembering why we formed the resolutions that we do, on a regular basis, can sometimes be the best support we can find within us for actually sticking to them. It can keep us going when we start to lose steam.


If you look at a resolution as a vow, we can also find vows as the foundational practices of Ashtanga Yoga, the five yamas, which were described by Maharishi Patanjali as the maha vratas, “great vows.” These can be observed (to a certain degree) by anyone, anywhere, born at any time, who is desirous of spiritual liberation… or if not desirous of that, then perhaps of just trying to be a good person. Here is a great commentary on the great vows. 

January 8th, 2020

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Why Do Yoga Teacher Training
From the outside, my life seemed picture-perfect. I had a promising career and made it to the company of my dreams, a beautiful place to live and a large social circle.
But here’s the thing. If you’ve lived long enough, you find out that things aren’t always what they seem.
My superpower was the ability to hide how I felt: stressed, exhausted, and constantly depressed and anxious.
As the years went on, my body and mind started to give me warning signals that I wouldn’t be able to keep this up. I constantly ignored and suppressed the signs until the soft beeps turned into loud sirens.
Committing to yoga teacher training was one of the first times I made a decision just for myself and not to please anyone else. It was the start of what would be one of the greatest journeys of my life.
I want to be very clear: focusing on the practice of yoga is not easy.
It has put me face-to-face with my past trauma, unhealthy belief systems, and destructive patterns. I have broken down and sobbed on a mat more times than I can remember.
Although this process has been painful and at times, extremely difficult, yoga has also shown me what’s possible in my life.
I have made such beautiful friendships and cultivated a sense of community. I got the tools to put myself first. I learned to fully love. I discovered how to heal.
Now, I am a trauma-informed yoga teacher with a dedication to making yoga accessible for all bodies and abilities. What I’ve gained in myself, I hope to give back to others.
Instead of feeling constantly empty, there is hope.
I’m crafting the life of my dreams, and yoga helped me get here.


Breathe will be hosting a Yoga Teacher Training Information Session on December 15th. Click here to attend and meet Program Director Margot Stokreef.

December 10th, 2019

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Injuries are apart of participating in sports, but luckily the body has the amazing ability to heal itself. The body’s innate ability to create chemical reactions and cellular metabolism are the back bone to our body’s healing ability. Science has allowed us to understand how this works and consequently how to manage injuries. This article will highlight the type of injuries that can occur, the phases of healing, and the basics on how to handle these type of injuries.

Injuries happen to all types of tissues. A muscle strain is when muscle fibers tear, usually due to forcibly stretching a muscle actively or passively. Tendinitis is inflammation of the tendon itself due to an acute irritation, whereas, tendonosis is inflammation of the tendon as a result of repetitive overuse.

To find out more about how injuries happen and how you can proactively prevent and treat both acute and chronic injury, like and Osteopath read more on the Breathe Blog. A sprained ligament is usually due to an acute incident which causes ligament fibers to tear. Bone fractures are when the bone tissue is compromised, which results in a simple or compound fracture.

When tissue is damaged, the body goes through a predictable sequence of healing – the 3 phases of healing are the inflammatory phase, the fibroblastic (repair) phase, and the long term process. The inflammatory phase is generally the first 3-4 days where the site of injury is red, hot, swollen, and there’s a loss of function. The inflammatory phase is a result of cellular injury, which leads to altered metabolism and chemical mediation. The fibroblastic phase begins around day 3 and takes up to 6 weeks. The fibroblastic phase is called the repair phase because it is the period where cells proliferate and regenerate, leading to a scar formation and the repair of the injury. The last phase is the long term process, which lasts 6 weeks to years and focuses on strengthening the injury by applying appropriate stress and strain on the scar. It’s critical that injured structures are exposed to loads progressively to increase strength, facilitate the remodelling and realignment of fibers and help with the range of motion.

When these injuries occur the athlete should look to “POLICE” their injury – an acronym that stands for Protection, Optimal Loading, Ice, Compression, Elevation. Protection can be broken down into examples like shielding the injury by using a cast, using a sling or crutches to take load off the joint, and preventing joint movement by using a splint or cast. It’s especially important to unload the injury site when dealing with acute soft tissue injury. Optimal loading is the stage when rest should be replaced with a balanced, incremental rehabilitation to encourage a fast recovery. Icing plays a vital role during the inflammatory stage because it freezes out nerve pain, decreases the metabolism and secondary injury, and prevents further swelling – ice does not reduce swelling! The best method of icing is to have a combination of ice and water in a plastic bag compressed on the injury site, and follow a regimen of “10 minutes on 10 minutes off”. Compression helps to limit the amount of blood flow to a region by up to 95% if tied tightly and 60% if loosely wrapped. Lastly, elevation can help reduce blood flow to the site of injury, but it must be at least 30cm above the heart. Elevation reduces blood flow up to 20% when it’s 50cm and 25% when the injury site is 70cm above the heart.

By understanding the type of injury and the phases of healing, health practitioners can help facilitate a healthy recovery. If you are dealing with any type of injury or pain, please seek professional advice.


September 18th, 2019

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Acupuncture being performed on shoulder

One of the most common complaints I hear from clients is how stressed they are. This is true for people coming in for all sorts of reasons, often not even related to those stresses!

It seems that our lives are now so full that we are living in a state of low level (and sometimes a high level) “fight or flight”. We are always focused on what is right in front of us, and therefore long term priorities fall to the backburner. 

This is sometimes referred to as being “sympathetic dominant,” but in Chinese Medicine, we think of this as stagnation. As we continually incur ongoing stresses, bodily energy gathers up, waiting in the ready for some kind of action. In this gathering mode, though, it is stagnant—not moving freely as it normally would, to be used as needed by various bodily functions. 

This response can be natural and good: if you are about to run a race, give a presentation at work, or have an altercation with a sabre tooth-tiger. If it becomes too constant, however, the de-prioritized functions will start to weaken, or even crash.

This can lead to other kinds of health complications, such as:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia and poor sleep
  • Digestion problems
  • Tension and body pain
  • Headaches
  • Women’s health issues (such as menstrual disorders or menopause symptoms)
  • Acne and other skin problems

While it is clear that constant stress can have far reaching negative effects, most of us cannot weed every bit of difficulty or jaggedness out of our lives. Work, family, money: these have stressors built-in. The solution, then, lies not in changing the stressful input, but in managing bodily reactions better. In order to become less reactive to stress, in order to manage stress-related symptoms, the body must switch over from the sympathetic “fight or flight” to the parasympathetic “feed and breed” (also known as “rest and digest”) mode. I often think of this state as the “healing mode.” In Chinese Medicine we understand this state as one where stagnant energy is unblocked, so that it can circulate smoothly through the body. When energy is regulated and moving well, it is optimal for self-repair.

Acupuncture is a particularly effective to help manage stress and help reduce reactivity because it can provide short-term symptomatic relief, and also be used preventatively to manage stress, anxiety and all the related issues. 

Acupuncture can help you take control of your health and keep anxiety at bay—allowing you to rest, relax and heal. With regular acupuncture treatments, you can retrain the negative patterns caused by acute and chronic stress, and start addressing problems at their root.


August 15th, 2019

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