5 Ways Students Can De-Stress During Finals

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By Nadia Hopkins, Adjunct Professor of Yoga & Mindfulness

You went to sleep at 4am. Now it’s 7am and your alarm is sounding from your phone in some unknown location – probably under the couch where you passed out under a stack of papers, a half-full bag of tortilla chips and your laptop. Waking up seems like an insurmountable task, but it’s time to write ten more pages, try to get to the gym and submit everything that’s due before 5pm.

For the past week, the hours of cramming have overflowed from one day into the next. You’re not sure what you’ve eaten. Whatever it was was most definitely chased with coffee. And more coffee. It’s finals week.

Over the past five years, I’ve had the honor of teaching yoga and mindfulness courses at some of our region’s best schools – Haverford College, Temple University, Villanova University, and Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine. Their mindfulness/yoga classes provide students a real opportunity to take care of themselves during the semester and learn supportive self-care practices. They also provide students a space to vent and be vulnerable about the ways their habits in college can be super self-destructive. The state most people are in during finals week is often the most debilitating during a time when they need to do their best performing and finish strong.

Yes, care of yourself seems like a last priority when so much is being asked of you. But, more than your laptop, your textbooks, all your notes, etc. … YOU are your best asset. The better you care for yourself, the better everything will work out for you.

So, here’s a quick compilation of five SIMPLE ways you can take expert care of yourself during crunch time. These address some of the patterns I’ve seen across thousands of students in the past five years.

1.) Let Your Eyes Rest:

Sleep is the number one biggest challenge for most students. If you CAN get eight and take naps, you should. It’s best for the body to go to bed around 10pm so it can do all the restoration work it needs to (which starts around 10:30pm). So, try to go to sleep and wake up around a similar time each evening. And, build yourself ten minutes in every three hour period where you simply shut your eyes and let your senses rest. This will recharge you and also avoid headaches and eye strain. Discovery Magazine establishes that visual processing takes up to 30% of processing power of the cortex (vs. 8% for hearing and less for other senses). Resting your eyes also rests your brain proactively. I’m also a big fan of gamma classes if you’re spending a lot of time staring at screens (who isn’t?).

2.) Drink (MORE)Water

Hydrate Yourself. Dehydration takes a massive toll on the body and leads to headaches, fatigue, misdirected hunger, short temper, indecisiveness, confusion and irritability – not things you really want to experience when you’re working in groups, presenting a thesis or even trying to concentrate. Aim to drink 4-6 ounces (about a mug full) each hour. Trick yourself into drinking more by stashing larger quantities of water in places you spend a lot of time. A hydrated body spends less time and energy working to stave off the effects of dehydration, and more time supporting you in your study. Also make sure you are eating regularly and with variety.

3.) Take Longer Inhales

At least once an hour, but ESPECIALLY if you’re starting to feel pressure, close your eyes, reset and take five enormous inhales. Long exhales will naturally follow. The brain needs the precious oxygen from your inhales to function optimally. Think about breathing like fueling your internal supercomputer. It’s working for you right now non-stop. Like you wouldn’t drive a car long distances on empty, you don’t want the brain on long cram sessions without its fuel. Breathing deeply with your eyes closed also calms the body and clears the mind. If you get to five breaths, try for ten and increase as time allows.

4.) Innovate and Excavate

One of the things that students tell me most often is that they feel obligated to people, groups or distractions during this time – a roommate who is freaking out, a friend who’s somehow done all their work and wants to grab lunch, a peer asking to borrow your notes last minute … the list goes on. Feel comfortable prioritizing your OWN schedule and responsibilities first. Excavate anything from your life that isn’t completely necessary – decide if you REALLY need to run to Bed Bath and Beyond for a new bathroom rug or binge watching epic fail videos. If you’re constantly distracted in your home, dorm or apartment, or you can’t stop checking your phone every 18 seconds (the actual average for students!), innovate to a new space. Study outside or at a café you love. Play relaxing music in the background. Change your lighting. Innovate your environments so you can be comfortable getting to it.

5.) Make a Commitment and Let People Know

Share this dedication with your friends and family. So many students suffer silently. I had several conversations this semester with my students who were genuinely distressed and perplexed that, with all they had accomplished in their lives, they were unable to do simple self-care rituals and felt like they were flailing and failing. Let people know you’re really focusing on doing things differently! Ask for support. Let people rise around to uplift you: bring you an extra bottle of water or a tea, leave you alone when they could be bugging you with unnecessary things, remind you to close those eyes! One of my students decided to make herself a daily calendar and share it with her roommates. It included study time, gym time, sleep time, rest time, and also time for fun here and there so she kept the week lighthearted. It encouraged her roommates to do the same, and they collectively had a much different experience of a successful finals push.

Most importantly – have a good time with all this. You’re in school or college to absorb and enjoy the knowledge you’re receiving. Think about the things that really worried you a year ago – can you even remember them? The same will be true of this time once it’s passed.

Stress is often an illusion we create as a response to feeling inadequate or limited. You are plenty adequate and unlimited! Remembering this helps you let go of punishing yourself and your body because of stress. Equip yourself with these simple de-stress practices and let finals week be one of ease, presence and success.  Here’s to yours!

Nadia Hopkins is an adjunct yoga and mindfulness professor, co-owner of Prana Das Yoga and a forever student of cultivating peace.


3 Ways to Relieve Allergy Symptoms Naturally

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It’s Spring. This time of year SHOULD be one of pure love of nature, return to the outside and soaking in the sun.

But, for those of us with allergies, going outside can seem like pummeling through a gauntlet of particle-packed pollen invaders, dust drudgery and an unfair onslaught of antigens. The symptoms of congestion, wheezing, runny eyes and sinus infection cloud what would otherwise be a euphoric experience of this much longed for season. It’s sort of like how the layer of apocalyptic shopping frenzy, endless traffic and material excess put a real layer of discomfort over the holiday season. Spring is about expansion, not congestion.

(For a full video tutorial on overcoming your Allergies Naturally, check out our online workshop!)

While popping some over-the-counter solution might give you temporary relief, it’s temporary. Allergies used to crush me every April, so I know relief is a magical experience. Being able to take a full breath following days of sounding like the little engine that could is almost incomparable.

But, most over-the-counter meds only treat your symptoms, and you’ll be back for more immediately after it wears off. That’s a pricey dependency. And, the long-term side-effects of taking these drugs – particularly true of steroids and antibiotics – can be as harmful to your body as your allergies feel.

So that you can look forward to all the great outdoors have to offer this year, here are three quick suggestions to help you find relief fast AND support your body’s overall vitality:

  • Be Your Body’s Guard: Get extra sleep, drink more water and STOP touching your face. Rubbing your eyes complicates the sinus saturation. Use the same care of yourself as you would if you had the flu – your body is compromised and working extra hard to keep you in balance. COOPERATE already and take it easy so your body can divert extra energy and resources to keeping you healthy.
  • Flush Your Face: There are several yogic practices that keep the sinus cavities, eyes, throat and mouth contaminant-free. I chronicle them in this week’s online workshop, including how to hurdle the intimidation of the Neti Pot. Think about this like giving yourself a much-needed bath to clear your airways and relieve congestion. With the layer of particles cleared, the body can relax and let the immune system return to normal.
  • Reduce Inflammation: Aromatherapy is a powerful way to ease the feeling of having a 500-pound gorilla behind your nose. Pure therapeutic essential oils are designed to pack the inflammation fighting power you need without pharmaceuticals. Look for ravintsara, eucalyptus, tea tree and even basil for best results. You can diffuse, drip a few drops on a tissue and rest with it over your face, or grab yourself an inhaler. There’s a whole session on using Aromatherapy the correct way in our series.

If you still feel stuck and stopped up, avail yourself of a holistic specialist or additional education. Allergy symptoms can often be alleviated or even eliminated completely with the use of natural support.

Remember, your body is designed to heal itself, so the more quickly you shift into supporting it in its efforts, the better you’ll feel now and far into the future so you can explore the great outdoors again.

If you’d like a full overview of these methods AND more as well as which essential oils work best, how to perform cleanses and products that will become best friends, visit this week’s online video course with Nadia so you can learn on your own time and find the relief that you deserve.

Meet Lisa Talbert, Then Just Relax

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A long-time practitioner at PDY (and for many years prior) Lisa is a pillar of our community. She completed her 200-Hour last year and is currently enrolled here towards of 500-Hour Certification. Meet Lisa below and don’t miss her Relax & Restore class Mondays at 4:30pm. 

Lisa says,:

“I graduated with a fine arts degree and I taught at Moore College of Art for many years. Along with my interest in the visual arts, I was a ballet dancer since I was eight years old.

I was first introduced to yoga about 30 years ago after a serious injury to my foot caused by a fall that ended my dance ambitions. Yoga has been part of my life ever since. I was fortunate to have learned Ashtanga early on with Dee Silver. I began a daily mysore practice with Manju Jois.  Ashtanga was a good fit for me because it is structured and requires discipline, very much like ballet that way. Over the years I have practiced many styles of yoga with so many amazing people. Yoga is transformative and it has supported me throughout my life.

Currently I am practicing Mysore with Elizabeth Sitzler and I am working toward my 500 hours at Prana Das. I am excited about becoming a teacher of yoga but even more excited about how much I have yet to learn. When I am not practicing yoga I am teaching life skills to teens and young adults with Autism, teaching art, painting in my studio, growing orchids, cooking or hanging out with my family. I have two sons and a loving husband.” 

Welcome Jen Janesh to the Weekly Schedule!

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You’ll be as excited as we are to practice with Jen on Wednesdays when you come to her weekly Prana Vinyasa class at 9:30am. We love her special style and light-hearted approach to asana.

Jen’s Yoga journey began with curiosity; she was seeking to try something new in the realm of the physical, something that was more than just another mundane gym workout, that was more like play rather than work. Yoga quickly became the answer. In 2008, Jen’s yoga journey began at a Bikram Yoga studio in Columbia, MD and her curiosity led her quickly to Charm City Yoga (now YogaWorks) in Baltimore where she eventually  completed her 200-hour teacher training under Kim Manfredi in 2011. Jen is passionate about teaching vinyasa style classes, heavily influenced by the Ashtanga Yoga tradition.

Beyond the mat, Jen has a driving passion for holistic wellness as it relates to whole body, mind and spirit. She has been studying and engaged in holistic healing for over 10 years and is continually learning and practicing- a perpetual student! She gains inspiration from all the wonderful people surrounding her and passionate about teaching yoga as a way to heal and come to life.

Jen moved to the Philadelphia area from Baltimore in 2016 with her husband, Andrew, and their two children, Marley and Xavier. Jen currently manages the Wellness Department at MOM’s Organic Market.  She enjoys many other forms of physical activity (surfing, rock climbing, hiking, running, biking), playing with her friends and family, spending time outside, cooking & eating nourishing food, traveling, and getting crafty.

How to Live Mindfully: A Conversation with Monika Brass

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Monika set out to work at the United Nations, but ended up on a three-year journey in a Tibetan Buddhist community, which changed the trajectory of her life and reset her mindset. Now a highly-regarded teacher of mindfulness and meditation, Monika shares some of her most personal insight with those looking to detox their minds and start living from the inside out.

Two Opportunities to Study with Monika:

Finding Peace in a Frantic World: An Eight-Week Series – Monika’s upcoming workshop, “Finding Peace in a Frantic World,” has six spots open for those looking to free themselves from the frenzy, ground and keep a constant connection.

Six spots remain. Claim Yours here. 

OR Learn more about Monika’s work and book an individual session with her at www.pranadasyoga.com/mindfulness

Detox Your Mind. Upset Your Mindset.

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How do you quiet a constantly chattering mind?
What would it be like to stop overthinking everything?
How can you release the frenzy?
How can you find some PEACE in a crazy day-to-day?
In this Vlog, Monika Brass gives you the fast track to what works and what’s bogus in the Mindfulness world and presents an 8-week course that offers you an opportunity to shift your trajectory.
This special course is limited to a small group of 10 individuals dedicated to making some important mindful life changes.
Course Details: 
 Join this 8-week journey of transformation, learning the best mindfulness meditation and stress reduction techniques. We will be following the book Mindfulness: An Eight-Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World by Mark Williams and Danny Penman.

Excerpt from the book:

“Everyday life is so frantic and full of troubles that we have largely forgotten how to live a joyful existence. We try so hard to be happy that we often end up missing the most important parts of our lives. In Mindfulness, Oxford professor Mark Williams and award-winning journalist Danny Penman reveal the secrets to live a happier and less anxious, stressful and exhausting life. Based on the techniques of Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT), the unique program developed by Williams and his colleagues, the book offers simple and straightforward forms of mindfulness meditation that can be done by anyone.”

Monika adds her own unique experience having studied and lived in a Tibetan Buddhist community for 3 years. Monika taught this 8-week mindfulness course through the Mindful Stress & Anxiety Management of Philadelphia and brings it to you on the Main Line.

This 8-week Mindfulness Course includes options for one or three private sessions.

FPFW Workshop Series ($350) includes:
The book Mindfulness: An Eight-Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World
Guided Meditation Recordings
Group Sessions with an Experienced Teacher
Assignments to take Home

Upgrade your experience for more individualized attention for your specific needs and goals.

FPFW Workshop Series Bundle ($475) includes:
The book Mindfulness: An Eight-Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World
Guided Meditation Recordings
Group Sessions with an Experienced Teacher
Assignments to take Home
Plus One Private Session

FPFW Workshop Series Premium Bundle ($725) includes:
The book Mindfulness: An Eight-Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World
Guided Meditation Recordings
Group Sessions with an Experienced Teacher
Assignments to take Home
Plus Three Private Sessions

Expect the Unexpected: The Answers Are Within

By | Yoga | One Comment
Start with your heart.
As February is a month about opening the heart, we are sharing some great stuff from our teachers on social media intended to help you refine and progress heart opening postures, be fearless in your pursuit of connection and follow your inner compass.
Make sure to follow us on Instagram and Facebook to get all the exclusive content!
This video chronicles Derek’s tumultuous journey being true to his dharma. The obstacles of injury and pain spurred him to seek mastery of the practices of yoga. His message to you is that the answers you seek are deep inside, and the will and ability to uncover them are priceless. Your best is yet to come.
Leave a comment and let us know what your journey has been like! And, make sure to subscribe to our Youtube channel for more videos and educational content.

Dropbacks: A Curved Line Towards Enlightenment

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A Posture Practicum on Dropbacks
By Nadia Hopkins

It’s taken me about 15 years to do a dropback like I did in this week’s video. That means the 33 seconds you (assumedly) will spend watching me manage not to faceplant at the end of this dropback have been in the making for thousands of hours since the turn of the century.

I’m at a miraculous place in my practice where I just have a lot of appreciation and gratitude for the entire thing, especially things I use to describe as dislikes. Things are STILL really challenging for me. I rarely feel flexible. There’s usually something bothering me like a toe or a shoulder. I don’t make progress at the same rate as others do. My pants always get twisted at the ankles.

I can say concretely that I’m finally in love with all of it. The postures I’m working on now in Intermediate have me uncomfortably yet safely dancing at my edges, making centimeters of progress every day. The tea’s hot. Our community is both humble and hilarious, so it’s never dull.

But, it is the internal shifts that are especially motivating and inspiring. More often than not, I can let go of judgment of myself, let my mind be still for long periods of practice and remain acutely present and thorough, especially when I’m in an unfamiliar space. These are practices far more vital than getting your foot at the right angle. Over time, we start to see every aspect of our experience as a piece of the cumulative path to freedom. Especially when we’re uncomfortable.

As February is a month about opening the heart, we will be sharing some great stuff from our teachers on social media intended to help you refine and progress heart opening postures. We chose dropbacks to start because they ask so much of us – mental, emotional and physical concentration and deep trust. You have to trust deeply in your ability to be present, in your teacher not to drop you, in the breath to go there with you and your body to support you. I feel strongly that working on dropbacks has silently developed these new and welcome mental/spiritual attributes for me.

The descent has not always been this controlled. As proof (and hopefully as inspiration that change is possible!), I’m including these pics from 2014, when I publicly faceplanted a dropback. At the time, I felt confident that I was going to pull it off, and that confidence took me to an edge I couldn’t move beyond, so I leapt. Without my arms. It seems like an obvious thing to do – use your arms. I got lost in the pose. It’s the whole disoriented-and-upside-down meets not-present-and-partially-terrified sensation that crops up when we’re fighting instability. (I had to go to a board meeting after practice, which was unfortunate).

As the postures get more complex, we’re asked to double check our practice comprehensively to make sure we haven’t been skimping, knowingly or unknowingly. Turns out I had, and it was a quick lesson with long-term staying power. You have to be even more dedicated to learning and earning postures as you advance. There’s no leaning on previous progress. It is your ability to be exceptionally present with yourself that prevents leaping blindly and hoping for the best. That presence is where the wisdom lies, and the path forward. Yoga is so elusive – when we think we have a sense of it, we find it’s actually nothing like we were perceiving it, and that trait allows us to continue to pursue it as a lifelong companion, falling in love newly every day.

Great things take great preparation and much humility, as the path is intense. Humility asks us to be still and commit to the discomfort, which is ultimately a huge relief. Avoiding the discomfort lets it remain AND creates dissonance while we fight it. In yoga, you must respect what the postures ask of you and conform to them if you want to obtain the benefit.

May you try and also receive the many gifts of having done so bravely.

My final tips for Dropbacks?

  • Practice regularly (4-5 times a week, even if some are short practices)
  • Always do your backbends in a sequence, unless you’re injured. Then, modify so you respect the injury but keep your momentum.
  • Only practice this posture with a teacher to start. Need a great one? Come to Mysore in the mornings and let Elizabeth work you towards it gradually.
  • Take your time – getting there isn’t much different than going there, so ease in. The real wisdom is in the ability to control your descent, not just stick the landing.
  • Correct your breath, connect with your breath – it’s your best ally.
  • Remember that progress doesn’t always come in big doses.
  • Use your arms, not your head 🙂

It is true that you are what you practice, so today I’m happy to be sharing this with you. Please leave a comment and let us know how YOU are challenging yourself to open the heart this month.

See you on the mat.

Bhujapidasana Breakdown with Elizabeth Sitzler

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Elizabeth breaks down this challenging arm balance – the first arm balance in the Primary Series of Ashtanga Yoga. Learn tips and tricks for entering the pose safely, lowering yourself to your head or chin and exiting the pose into Bakasana gracefully and with ease.

As always, the practice makes your progress, but if you equip yourself with these tools, you’ll be in a great position to achieve this asana. Learn more about the Prana Das Mysore Program at www.pranadasyoga.com/mysore