Smile, my favorite medicine!

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If you ask pretty much anyone who knows me to describe what I’m like, you’d possibly get an answer like “happy person” or a “contagiously goofy smiler”. This is something that I’ve heard about myself since I was little, and I couldn’t ask for a lovelier description. I might not be the prettiest duckling in the row and I might have few lines in the corners of my eyes, permanent marks of my happiness, but what the hell? If my wrinkles come from smiling in the sun, than I don’t care.

Smile, the universal symbol of happiness, the sign of infinite love in our hearts!

I love smiling! I love that moment when I’m looking into someone’s eyes and they smile back at me. I love the sense of balance that smiling gives me. I honestly believe it’s the most powerful, yet most underrated ability we possess. And that most of us don’t even realise what we can achieve by smiling more often.

If you’ve been to my yoga classes, you know that I equally remind you guys about the importance of breathing and the importance of smiling. Even when your limbs are shaking in a warrior pose, I keep telling you to smile, to trick the brain to think you’re enjoying the moment. The power of smile!

Don’t believe me? Try it out. Just close your eyes for a second, you might feel neutral right now, but bring a smile to your face, maybe try visualising someone/something that makes you smile. Can you feel it? That lovely fuzzy feeling in the bottom of your belly rising. Can you feel the energy change as you turn the corners of your mouth upwards? Still not feeling it? Well, go to a mirror and look at yourself, and smile! Don’t force the smile, but allow it to arise, feeling the cheeks rise and the eyes smile too. Maybe wink to yourself and whisper ” You are spectacular”. Can you feel it now?

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Smile? Hot or Not?

Sadly, I have heard and read few times now, that if you want to look younger you should stop smiling. If you want to seem more successful or physically imposing don’t expose those pearly whites. And to avoid horrible photos, you shouldn’t smile, as they bring out all the wrinkles! I curse in chosen situations… but WTF! Absolute bollocks! I think that a frowny face just doesn’t suit anyone. Smile just generally makes people look more attractive, and even research has proven that we find others more attractive when they are wearing a smile. They are more approachable, forgivable,  friendly and trustworthy.

Smile to Feel Good!

Striking a smile makes you feel better! Studies show that smiling releases serotonin – a neurotransmitter that produces feelings of happiness and wellbeing. One smile stimulates the human brain the same amount as eating up to 2000 bars of chocolate, how cool is that? “Smile and you feel happy, you feel happy and you smile!” Even when you’re not feeling great, fake it till you make it, try smiling, genuinely, and see how you feel! While at home, walking around or standing in line, I tend to smile, doing my own little research. Observing what happens within me when I’m smiling regardless if I’m feeling happy or down, and also observing how people react to me when they walk by. I highly recommend it. No matter what’s going on in your life, smile! So often we battle through our days, struggling, waiting for something to happen to cheer us up, forgetting that we are our own cheerleaders.

Smile Smile Smile!

Tap into your superpower now, make yourself and the people around you feel better. Get out there groover and smile your socks off! Smile at yourself, smile at others, lovers and strangers! Do whatever makes your soul sing and do it with a smile on your face!

Love and light

Diana

The Power of Shinrin-Yoku

Yesterday I was sitting and chatting with my sister and a friend about the power of nature. About the harmony and balance that nature can offer us when everyday life gets too overwhelming and stormy.

One of my favourite hobbies in nature is Shinrin-yoku or “forest bathing”. You might have heard me speaking about this on our yikes (yogic hikes) several times. Shinrin-Yoku is the art of connecting with nature through our senses. This practise has helped me find even a deeper connection with nature and also the wisdom of forest. Forest, that has always been like a second mother to me… a sacred place, the paradise of healing, that never fails to to fill me with a sense of wonder and happiness.

What is Shinrin-Yoku?

Shinrin-yoku was developed in Japan during the 1980s and has become a cornerstone of precautionary health care in Japanese medicine. Researchers in Japan have established scientific proves on the health benefits of spending time in forest and now their research is helping to establish shinrin-yoku and forest therapy throughout the world.

I just cannot help but love the concept of it! If a person simply visits a natural area and walks in a relaxed way, there are calming, rejuvenating and restorative benefits. While walking we smell, we see, we touch, we taste and we hear the nature. It truly helps to open the senses, and every walk is a unique experience. Great thing about forest bathing is that it’s pretty much possibly where ever there’s nature, either it’s forest, a city park or beach, these all are great natural environments that help us open up our senses.

Benefits of Shinrin-Yoku:
For past several decades there have been many scientific studies that are demonstrating the healing effects of simply being in wild and natural areas. The scientifically-proven benefits of Shinrin-yoku include:

  • Boosted immune system functioning, with an increase in the count of the body’s Natural Killer (NK) cells. Part of our immune system’s way of fighting cancer.
  • Reduced blood pressure
  • Reduced stress
  • Improved mood
  • Increased ability to focus, even in children with ADHD
  • Accelerated recovery from surgery or illness
  • Increased energy level
  • Improved sleep

How to get started?

First of all, leave the technology behind! Yes, phones, cameras, etc. You don’t need any devices where you’re going. Allow your body to be your guide. Learn to listen to yourself, follow your nose. Let it take you to the place where you feel comfortable, where you can heal. Don’t rush! Remember this is not a hike. The slower you go, the more you can notice things. Don’t plan! It doesn’t matter if you don’t get anywhere, cause you’re not going anywhere. You are just going to walk aimlessly, calmly, opening up your senses, your eyes, ears, nose, mouth, hands and feet, allowing the nature to get in.

Shinrin-Yoku is all about reconnecting, sensing the nature. So feel your surroundings, gently stroke a tree trunk or a leaf, feel the texture, dip your toes in a river, or just lie down on a grass. Take in a deep breath and taste the fresh air. Smell a flower, or the nature around you in general. Open your eyes to what’s around you, to sunlight filtering through the leaves or to forest bursting into green at spring time. Listen to the water flowing over rocks, the birds or the breeze. Cross that bridge to happiness by opening up also your sixth sense, drink in the beauty of the forest, bathe in the peace and tranquility.

Yikes!

Sometimes we just struggle with slowing down and have forgotten how to stand still. Sometimes we need a guide to help us to get connected again, and that’s what we do on yikes. I will offer exercises and instructions to use senses to connect, help to unlock the power of forest. It doesn’t matter if you are fit or not, we don’t rush, merely we learn how to let forest in again. Also a guide will plan the trails, so it takes away the stress of thinking about the destination or trail, allowing you to enjoy, reflect and pause.

Find the upcoming Yikes here:

https://www.dia-yoga.com/yike-yoga-hiking

Love and light

Diana

Nature – My favourite yoga studio

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When ever I feel I need to charge my batteries, when I feel stressed or anxious, I head to nature. Away from man built concrete jungle, away from the wi-fi signals and the competitive city life. The landscapes, aromas and the sounds of nature helps me to forget the worries and chores. I’ll lay myself down on grass or sand, and I take a deep breath in – the positivity, self-confidence and my balance is back.

Nature gives me the exact same things that yoga does – the silence, the calm and the sense of unity. Both of them offer me the chance to stop and to be present. Either I’m on my yoga mat or hiking in the woods, I’m breathing with consciousness,  I’m taking time to listen to my body, it’s needs, it’s edge, and it’s time to have that precious pause. So why wouldn’t I merge these two things? Why wouldn’t I take my yoga where it first came from?

To share my passion for yoga outdoors has luckily taken off. More and more people start to grave that deep connection with nature, more and more people are taking their yoga mats on a hike. I’m eager not to only teach yoga poses and yogic philosophies, but also bring to people’s lives a hint of buddhist teachings and the magical practise of Shinrin-Yoku, forest bathing. I’m eager to show people what it feels like when you take yourself back to your native habitat and give your soul the ultimate spa treatment.

Yiking = mindful hiking, yoga, walking meditation, pranayama. This is something that I have created, a combination that offers people – who enjoy yoga or hiking – something deeper. A practise that allows us to connect with nature in more powerful way. Nature’s prescription to cultivate more calm in our lives. More info about Yikes on: https://www.dia-yoga.com/yike-yoga-hiking

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Even though we live in a country with such breathtaking nature, we have lost our courage to step off the beaten track  …getting ourselves to hills and forests seems beyond the reach. Studies are showing how urbanization is linked with increased levels of mental illness, how allergies and chronic illnesses are on the rise cause we spend 90 percent of our time indoors, mainly attached to screen. The fact, that being in nature has such incredible benefits, from increasing the activity of cancer-fighting cells to lowering blood pressure and stress hormone, seems to be easily forgotten, when thinking of “comfort” after a day in office. According to studies also memory and attention span increase by 20 percent after being outside for two hours or longer. And if we add yoga to that – flexibility, mobility, clarity, awareness of body and mind, focus – we are talking about making superhumans… if we only make the effort.

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I challenge you! Pick a preferable spot in nature. Take off your shoes if possible. Root yourself. Practise some half sun salutation, some side bends and gentle twists to awaken the muscles and spine. When you have opened up your body, just stand and enjoy your breath for a moment. Enjoy the elements of nature, the natural beauty around you. Bring your hands on your belly, take a deep breath in, feeling the diaphragm and ribcage expand, and then slowly exhale, deeply and completely. Eyes gently closed, keep breathing, envisioning your senses opening, exhaling the busyness of your mind. While working your breath, remind yourself that the trees breathe in as you breathe out. You are part of the nature, and that is just freaking beautiful!

Half sun salutation and morning swim on sunrise at Nuuksio National Park, Finland.

Love and light

Diana

How to make time for yoga?

It’s 6 am, the alarm clock freaks you out on a cold winter morning. You push the snooze button, every five minutes, for nine times, thinking that it will give you all you need to be ready for this day. In 45 minutes you crawl out of the bed, feeling even more tired than before. You are running late. You’ll get the coffee started, jump into clothes, while getting the mascara on. Multitasking at the best… drinking the coffee while driving to work, thinking about the hundreds of chores that you have piled up for today. Dinner, bills, kids, etc.

Sounds familiar? Would you be feeling little less stressed, little more centered, calm and focus, if you would have taken a few minutes to find your breath? Would you feel more energetic if you had done couple of sunsalution while the coffee was dripping?

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I think one of the main problems about making time for our yoga, is that we actually think of yoga as something that needs to be fitted into our life, instead of thinking of yoga as something that is our life. Also a problem is that we think of being a yogi as somehow less than being a partner, or a employee, or a student or a friend.  I know I might sound like a broken record, but I do really believe that yoga is much more than touching the toes- It is a way of life, practise that is not only physical, but also emotional, spiritual and mental, practise for self-transformation. Something that gives us much more than it takes.

How often do we think that the day will be or has been too hectic or stressful for a yoga class? It is so easy to look at that yoga class as another chore on our to-do list, but in reality, the moment we feel the life getting too hectic and stressful is the moment that yoga has most to offer. When we commiting to a yoga class, we should commit like we commit to a date with our best friend. Unfortunately very often the commitments we make to ourselves seem less important than the commitments we make to others, and that sucks! We need to love ourselves and show up for the precious time we get to spend with our beautiful SELVES!

And maybe we don’t always have that time, or finances to make the class, but that’s where the “yoga as a way of life” kicks in. The major focus of yoga is not the postures at all and most of my personal practise happens off the mat. Not saying that I wouldn’t be an ultimate asana-addict, but focusing only on posture practise, is like studying only one subject at school, never finding out that there is a world of knowledge in all the other classrooms.

Here is my favourite tips for Yoga of the Mat:

I love, love, love to practise yoga nidra before I jump to bed! (Here is a link to my yoga nidra recording , and there is heaps more on Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EGGqQ8TWPbM&t=349s)

Gentle hiking in nature with complete awareness and sense of presence, grounding myself by standing bare feet on grass feeling the earthly energy.

Reading yoga-related literature,  listening to podcasts.

Instead of lounging on sofa, try sitting on the floor in bound angle pose while watching the “Game of Thrones” 😉 Why not try standing in mountain pose or why not even in tree pose while queuing in shops (my personal queuing pose at the moment is standing pigeon… slightly disturbing but so good for my piriformis). There are limited occasions to “strike a pose” off the mat.

When waking up, don’t check the phone first thing, but give yourself a gentle spinal twist, and feel the energy starting to flow, feel the digestive organs waking up, When you release your twist there will be a rush or fresh blood that will flood your digestive organs with fresh oxygen and nutrients. Twists are wonderful postures also if you deal with stress or anxiety. These postures will help you to decrease feelings of anxiousness. The stored tension is released in the body as you twist, which can have a positive effect on your mental state.

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As my final words for today’s little blog, I recommend you to let go of utter control. Every day is different! We cannot make it to every class, every day, so choose your yoga. Go to a class one day, go for a meditative walk to a beach on another, read some motivating yoga literature and feel the gratitude wash over you as you rise your hands towards the sun in the early morning hours to salute the new day. This type of daily yoga commitment might sound different to what you had in mind, but let’s get real, that’s all pure-organic-soulful-disciplined-intentional yoga. Yoga isn’t just a perfectly aligned warrior pose, but it’s part of you! And the moment you open your eyes to that, you can find the light of yoga, learn to express your yoga with your every action, thought, speech and breath. Become a yogic being.

Wishing you all a yogalishious day!

Love and light

Dia