by Hope Zvara | Mar 25, 2020 | Working With Hope
This month, I am brought to a place and opportunity to see myself, my beliefs and intentions in another light. From others eyes yet, again in a new fresh way! The old me would have been horrified to experience this, to even behold and know what others thought of me. But yoga has so graciously offered me the opportunity to see things as they are through my own eyes and the eyes of others.
We are all connected, someway, somehow, and how we got here is still yet to be a mystery. Science has its “theories”, religions have their take and probably many more than I can even consume in one sitting of information on. Regardless of how we got here, why we are here and who or what keeps us here, ultimately, all of “this” here on this Earth is something to be experienced, taken in and both enjoyed and learned from.
From dead-ends to a personal connection with the world
Some say that it was in my blood to become an addict, to struggle at some time in my life from depression, because my past family has had that struggle. Maybe I did fall into that cut-out, or maybe it was just how the cards fell, unrelated to my family and their DNA. But what I know was no mistake or coincidence was that yoga found me. And the kind of yoga that sought me out were exactly the kind of yoga that I needed to move forward from the DNA dead-end, from the continuous circles of nowhere-ness that was once my life.
Yoga allowed me to shape and mold my own beliefs and values based on what the world could and has offered me; my limitless potential that I have been shown. The “union” that yoga has so kindly offered me, with myself, with my family, and Copper Tree, and the known and unknown world that surrounds me is priceless. What I come across again and again is that as much as we try to “know” this mystery, put science to it (even yoga) – some things will never be able to be explained. For me, I would hope it to always stay that way.
A simple connection
I find myself constantly reading, researching and studying and all this information is wonderful and amazing. However, none of this has ever yet to outweigh my own personal practice on my mat, and the integration of myself into this world that surrounds me. In the last 6 months (probably more), evaluations and criticisms of all kinds surround the yoga community, both at large and in-house. I have had now many opportunities to sit and meditate and reflect on these questions and remarks to find myself coming back to the same answer again and again. “WE ARE ALL ONE”, whether we come from one maker or that we are simply one existence – isn’t it in the end really the same thing? In yoga, we use the word “ATMAN” which means Brahman which means “universal consciousness” or “God”. Funny to me how those two definitions can be used interchangeably in a text older than the dirt your house was built on, yet we can’t seem to grasp the simplicity of the connection. We as educated peoples know almost too much and we miss the entire point.
Grow, experience life, and discover your self with yoga
What I hope for all those who have an opportunity to know yoga and those that choose to come through Copper Tree’s doors, is an opportunity to discover something within themselves that they may not have known before. Grown somehow, found the ability to get off the high horse and step into the rawness of life – where you don’t need to know the answer. And there is no separateness. We can all just “be” regardless of language, culture, beliefs.
Yoga may not be a religion; however, it is a lifestyle and in part a belief in something greater than ourselves – whatever that may be. Don’t let simple words get in your way of experiencing something quite amazing… Yourself.
And as a yoga teacher and a student of life I am simply sharing what I have been so graciously been given…
by hope | Mar 11, 2020 | Working With Hope
Meditation is an approach to training the mind. It’s just like how an athlete trains their body for a game.
Even though the thoughts of meditation can seem challenging, it is actually pretty simple. First, you choose something to focus your attention on. Once you’ve decided on your focus, the goal of meditation is to keep your attention on it for as long as possible.
So, why should you meditate? Well, meditation has been proven to temporarily alleviate stress, strengthen the mind to cultivate inner peace and improve your overall mental well-being.
The Benefits of Meditation
The benefits of meditation are limitless. In my opinion, meditation is the most valuable activity you can engage in to improve your self-awareness. Self-awareness means recognizing what you are thinking, feeling, and doing when you are doing it. It is a practice of mindfulness, which is the idea of being 100% present and engaged in whatever you’re doing–free from distraction or judgment.
A recent article by Healthline identified the following 12 health benefits of meditation:
- It’s a good way to manage stress
- Minimizes anxiety
- Improves self-image and promotes a positive outlook on life
- Increases self-awareness
- It can be practiced anywhere
Just as there are many different reasons why people meditate, there are also many different types of meditation.
Types of Meditation
Just as there are many different reasons why people meditate, there are also different kinds of meditation. Breath awareness or mindful meditation, is by far my favorite. It helps to reduce stress, anxiety, and anger, and sharpen your concentration and attention skills. When you become more mindful, you are able to accept your thoughts and feelings without judgement. Overall, meditation is about finding awareness and achieving peace in whatever way works best for you.
Here are some great meditations to help focus your mind and relax your body:
1. Mindful Breathing Meditation
Mindful breathing meditation gives you an anchor—your breath—on which you can focus when you find yourself distraught by a stressful thought. Mindfulness distances you from your thoughts and feelings, which can help you work through unpleasant feelings rather than becoming overwhelmed by them. Clear your mental clutter, relax and renew with this 30-minute guided meditation audio.
2. Centered Breathing Meditation
A heart-centred breathing practice focusing on developing appreciation, love and connection all on the waves of your breath. Centered breathing guided meditation uses simple counting to help focus the mind and relax the body.
3. Body Scan Meditation
Body Scan Meditation is designed to help you develop a mindful awareness of your bodily sensations, and learn to release the stress in your body and mind. This mindfulness practice can help to reduce stress, improve your overall well-being and decrease aches and pains. This body scan meditation audio will guide you through gentle exercises to guide you to deeper body awareness.
If at first you don’t succeed, keep trying! Just like many of the other things you set out to do in life, the effort you put into meditation will be directly reflected in your success or lack thereof. When you learn to enjoy the process itself—and work to get better at it—then you are more likely to keep at it long-term and give yourself the best possible results.
by Hope Zvara | Mar 4, 2020 | Working With Hope
Muscle cramps can seriously cramp your workout. One minute everything is fine and then suddenly, out of nowhere, a muscle cramp rears its ugly head.
A cramp is a sudden, involuntary muscle contraction that sharply tightens and shortens a muscle. It’s usually temporary and non-damaging, but can be very painful. Cramps are a nightmare – but they’re common, especially during exercise.
But, why do muscle cramps happen anyways?
Although the exact cause can be a challenge to pinpoint, cramping is often the result of muscle overuse or strain from exercise, dehydration, mineral depletion within the body, and heat. Despite the various reasons these pesky cramps happen, the million-dollar question is: Are they preventable?
The answer is yes, there are things that you can do to help lessen your chances of suffering from muscle cramps. Prevention is key!
Muscle Overuse or Strain
If you are going from no movement to sudden, extreme movement, your body may not be happy to go along for the ride–especially if you are expecting it to go from zero to sixty in an instant. When it comes to exercise, consider the value of a warm-up. Yes, something to help bridge the gap between your sedentary life and the point at which your body to get moving. Foam rolling and gentle, dynamic movements let your body’s tissues know that there is going to be a more, intense movement to come. This may not eliminate that pesky pain but it can greatly reduce its chances of occurring.
Water makes up about 60% of your body weight. Your body needs water to survive. A lack of water in your body can lead to dehydration. Dehydration is a condition that occurs when you don’t have enough water in your body to carry out normal functions which can make you tired, have less energy, and cause muscle cramps.
To prevent dehydration, you need to drink an adequate amount of water each day. There are many different opinions on how much water you should be drinking every day.
The rule of thumb is you NEED to be consuming 6 x your body weight in ounces of water per day, or roughly half your body weight in ounces. The more active you are, the more water your body is going to need. Consider adding a drop of lemon essential oil, fresh strawberries, or cucumbers to your water to help your body absorb the hydration more effectively. So, drink up–water that is–to keep those muscle cramps at bay.
One way to stop cramps is to eat enough of these key nutrients: potassium, sodium, calcium, and magnesium.
Potassium is a critical mineral for muscle contraction. It’s often a go-to fuel for those who like to hit the gym. Other sources of potassium include apricots, oranges, lentils, salmon and sweet or baked potatoes with the skin.
Magnesium is a key mineral for relaxation. Foods containing magnesium include avocado, nuts and seeds, bananas, whole grains (brown rice, cereal), dark chocolate, and dried fruit. Who doesn’t love a good excuse to buy some chocolate?
All too often we are worried about getting too much sodium. However, in all honesty, your body needs sodium. And, if you exercise, you are most likely losing quite a bit of that essential mineral. So, it is important to consider replenishing your lost sodium with a healthy post-workout drink, a vegetable juice drink, a few carrots, or even some pretzels.
Calcium is critical when it comes to developing and maintaining strong bones and muscles. Although milk is often the go-to for people when they think calcium, consider selecting yogurt, kale, broccoli, tofu, or almonds instead. They will also provide with you a great source of calcium and have less sugar when compared to milk!
If you do find yourself suddenly under attack from a muscle cramp, the following exercises might provide you with some relief.
- Stretch — Engage in light stretches that are focused around the muscle groups that are cramping.
- Massage — Lengthening the cramping muscle by using gentle massage techniques may help reduce the duration and severity of the cramp. A foam roller is also another great option to use!
For more information on how to maintain your health with exercise through diet, send us an email or scroll down and send us a message!
by Hope Zvara | Feb 28, 2020 | Simplify Your Life, Working With Hope
Have you ever said to yourself, “My life is a mess and I have no idea how to fix it”? Well, you are certainly not alone. We all have mental clutter and distracting thoughts that take our focus off of our priorities.
I think we all have had a feeling of hopelessness at one time or another in our lives. The truth is, life gets messy sometimes.
Sometimes you might feel like your life is such a mess that you don’t even know how you got there. You don’t think you are going to be able to handle it any longer and the thought of trying to dig yourself out is too overwhelming to even consider.
For fifteen years, my life was messy. It was a constant tornado of highs and lows. I was living a secret life.
Mental clutter pulls us out of the present moment– anything that keeps you from thinking straight. All that mental clutter takes up so much space that we hardly have any room left for what we’re meant to do.
Having spent my fair share living at rock bottom, I know firsthand that there is hope. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. However, YOU have to be willing to step up, show up, and get uncomfortable in order to make change happen.
So, if your knee-deep in a messy life or you feel like you might not have anywhere to go, I welcome you to join me in clearing the mental clutter once and for all.
5 Steps to Clear Mental Clutter
1. Put Down the Instant Gratification Devices.
Growing up with technology has made us dependent on the idea of always being connected. Information, entertainment, and communication are only a click away all day, every day. I recently read that an addiction to social media and the “likes” (so to speak) you get on these social media sites give you the same endorphin boost as someone who is suffering from an addiction to drugs, alcohol, etc. So, put down your devices so that you can truly experience life around you rather than just document it.
2. Enjoy Nature.
When is the last time you stepped outside and just took in a big breath of fresh air? The blue skies, the singing birds, the refreshing breeze–all of these things help to restore your mental clarity. Stepping away from life’s distractions gives us the opportunity to enjoy what is in front of us more fully. Goodbye mental clutter!
Don’t think of meditation as some big and scary monster. It’s actually the opposite. Meditation changes brain function and helps to improve focus. Meditation is simply a matter of you stopping for a few minutes and breathing, unplugging and reducing yourself to nothing more than every inhale and exhale. Even if it just for a few minutes. Step into a mini oasis with me for just three minutes a day with my 3 Minute Meditation. Clear your mind, focus your thoughts, and open yourself to a fresh new perspective.
4. Join A Community.
My FREE online Facebook community, Daily Dose of Hope, is dedicated to helping others purposefully excel through the messiness of real-life, both on and off the mat. This group is about reclaiming the health and well-being of all its members, inspiring each member to see they are worth it and assisting in the cultivation of each person becoming the best version of themselves!
5. Clear Your Mind.
When your mind is in overdrive, sometimes you just need to hit the reset button. My 3-Week Clearing Mental Clutter Mini-Course shows you how to banish your mental roadblocks by recognizing what they are and how to do something about them. Weekly affirmations help to keep you on track, short mindful movement sequences to help you step into your body fully, and a private accountability group helps to support you in clearing the mental clutter and creating monumental clarity. What are you waiting for?
Your journey awaits. What are you waiting for? After all, you are well worth it.
by hope | Feb 7, 2020 | Fitness Friday, Working With Hope
Learn Cherry Picking Warm-Up. This video is a part of our Asana Video Library
training materials for both students and teachers where the forgotten art of
simple movements is explored.
The old me, some twenty years ago felt the deep need to both impress others while simultaneously trying to share parts of myself that were wounded and needed healing for nothing more than to be free of the burdens of carrying them around daily.
Roughly ten years ago I was spun out on a journey to better understand how the body moves as I was not getting the teachings nor explanations I was looking for inside the yoga world. Constantly hearing phrases like “That’s normal”, or “It will get better with time“, and my favorite “do what feels right for you“, seemed like scapegoat responses for a lack of real understanding about how the body moves and why students were feeling the things they were.
Now don’t get upset, I’m not summarizing everyone. But in my personal experience, teacher after teacher, training after training, the why’s, and how’s were continually left out of the what’s and when’s as it pertained to teaching yoga and experiencing poses.
The art of teaching warm-ups and looking at a student and seeing where their challenges were, even if they wouldn’t share them, was something I wanted to refine even more. Why do they walk like that? Why does their shoulder hurt and ever seems to get better? How is it they can do this yoga pose, but not that one? And how do I convince students to value basic moves and sequences as that is what they also need and not just the complex poses and fast-paced moves?
More than ten years I spent studying outside the yoga world to better understand how the body moved and why. Stepping back onto the mat I had a fresh new perspective and a deep understanding of the why’s and how’s I was lacking prior. Tailoring my language and eloquently sequencing my classes to work from the ground up helped students navigate their own bodies and I began to see a shift in my students making better choices all on their own as to what they choose to do when it came to asanas.
How did this happen?
I began to connect their every day living to what they were feeling. I gave them the control to choose with real parameters to gauge their progress pose to pose. Warm-up to final asana. Connecting the dots to how and where the could be doing the very things they are learning in their everyday life.
The Cherry Picking Warm-Up and many others became a means to when they walk up from a long sleep or stretch at their desk. And by doing the very warm-ups like Cherry Picking and dozens of others on the mat, it began to give them confidence and permission to do them off the mat. Because truly, what good is yoga if you don’t carry it with you into your everyday life?
Stepping outside the yoga arena and stepped into a whole new beautiful world of functional movement. It excited me in so many new ways. Mainly because, for the very first time in my entire life, I began to understand the body, it’s parts, and how these parts move.
As a yoga teacher and movement specialist, I find it critical to incorporate basic movements no matter how unfancy they are in your classes. The whole idea of a warm-up is to “warm-up” the body for more detailed movements. And having taught tens of thousands of students over the last nearly twenty years I have noticed a common thread of students lacking the basic abilities to do everyday movements.
Benefits of incorporating warm-ups (like Cherry Picking Warm-Up) into your yoga practice:
- Walk with full range movement in their knees and ankles
- Fully reach overhead without pain
- Bend forward without rounding
- Walk with a full hip extension, not just flexion
- Rotate their torso when turning to the side
- Move their neck side to side without pain
- Walk on various surfaces with bare feet pain-free
- Squat, reach or bend freely
Watch the Cherry Picking Video Now HERE
Benefits to Practicing Cherry Picking Warm-Up:
-Melts the fascia in and around the shoulder
-Stretches the side (lateral) body
-Stretches the lower back
-Stretches the obliques and lateral hip
-Gets you breathing
-Expands the lungs
-Is a basic life movement everyone should be able to do
**BONUS** If you haven’t watched the video yet, it will take you through step by step how to work through the pose as a student and a teacher. Take note of the variety of positive cues and direct references so you and your students can get the most out of this pose.
And if you love this video on the Cherry Picking Warm-Up and want more don’t forget to check out the “How To” video on how to do High Lunge safely and effectively!
Love these teachings? Hop over to HopeZvara.com and head on inside the Mindful Movement & Yoga Online Studio
I’ve said it a million times, how you do things, even yoga asana things matters. So let’s start by honoring the need and art of warm-ups and get you reaching high and feeling great in your everyday life!
by hope | Feb 3, 2020 | Working With Hope
Recovery from an eating disorder or any addiction can feel like an uphill battle. Admitting you need help is the first step. However, what comes after that is usually everyone around you telling you what you should do.
How you should act.
What you should or shouldn’t eat.
What you should stay away from.
What therapist you shouldn’t see.
What book you should read.
And for anyone who has been struggling with addiction, directives like that can surely trigger a relapse.
I struggled for years trying to step into recovery, only to find myself drowning in a sea of failure. The harder I tried, the more I felt like I was failing. Not meeting everyone’s expectations of what they think recovery should be like.
So I hid my progress, or should I say lack thereof. I felt like the fear of failure on top of being an addict was just too big to uncover. So I lied. I lied to everyone around me on and off for years that I was in-fact “better.”
I want to let you know that there is hope. You can do this. And it all starts with you deciding that you have had enough.
Coming to a place where the fear of judgment is outweighed by the fear of living with an eating disorder. A life cut short because this could eventually kill you. That was my greatest push. I didn’t want to live this way. I didn’t want a family, to be married with kids, living in secret, Living a lie. I didn’t realize it but I had observed addiction in my household growing up. I had observed co-dependency not knowing it. I took it on as “normal behavior.”
For a big part of my life, I didn’t think it was fair that I didn’t get a choice in the matter. But I wanted a choice for my kids, and the biggest truth… I didn’t want to die.
I believe that conventional wisdom may have your best interests at heart. But unless you have actually struggled with this kind of hell, seeking help itself, and then receiving it can be overwhelming. It’s a struggle all it’s own.
The following tips are my suggestions to consider as you work fully into recovery. What I did, what worked for me, and what I hope for you to consider so you can live the life you have always dreamed of.
1. Say It Out Loud
For years I couldn’t even get myself to say it out loud. That I had a problem and that I needed help. What I recognized is if I couldn’t even say it to myself, how was I going to say it to someone else? Today, look at yourself in the mirror. Look in your eyes and compassionately tell yourself “you can’t do this alone anymore, you need help. I have an addiction, and I deserve a future without this addiction”.
The first time I said this, I could barely get the words out. I was so ashamed. So afraid. But also so relieved. For several years I kept talking to myself in the mirror. So I could hear and see me. Eventually, those conversations turned into forgiveness, and conversations on how to move forward. Working to stay positive is essential. Try using affirmation exercises or mantras to help curb the negative inner voices.
2. Make A List
Addiction can make you short-sighted. It can, in the moment, leave you unable to see the future. It can also fog the past.
You weren’t always like this. You have also done a lot of great things. You are a good person, despite what your addiction mind says to you.
So today make a list of all the things you are good at. All your talents, gifts, and reasons why people love you. I had so many talents I wasn’t giving myself credit for. I was a great writer, amazing with kids, super creative, and later on, a pretty kick-ass yoga teacher. I had many gifts, but my addictive mind made seeing those things (especially in the heat of the moment) very challenging.
So make a list. Do not hold back. Everything you can think of. Even if in your head, mid-sentence your addictive mind says “that’s not true”. Don’t believe it.
Call this journaling. Or simply and officially putting out to the universe how you are an amazing person. Hang this list on your mirror and read it every day.
3. Allow Yourself to Feel Whatever You Feel
I was overwhelmed, and to be honest, I felt a lot of guilt. Part of addiction is guilt. Guilt for what you did or didn’t do. How you may have felt that things went a certain way because of you. And the overwhelming feeling of not being able to control them.
I had a lot of anger, frustration, and grief when I began to step into recovery. I was very angry with family members. And yes, very angry at myself. It appeared that everyone kept telling me to forgive this person, don’t blame that person. It’s not their fault.
But here’s the thing. I was not at a place in my recovery to be able to do that. I had spent 10 years perfecting the art of not feeling. Now I was beginning to feel all this stuff, and here are outsiders telling me that those feelings aren’t fair to others.
So I’m telling you as someone who has been there and made it successfully to the other side: Feel what you need to feel. Don’t attach to it. But give yourself permission to be pissed off. Mad. Happy. Sad. Angry. Whatever. Those are your feelings and you are entitled to them.
There will come a time when you are at a place where you can now do something with them. You have felt them enough. And now you don’t feel the need to have them. That will be the time to look at forgiveness, or releasing, or allowing yourself to see your situation with family or friends in a new light. But please know, it is okay to feel what you feel.
4. No One Expects That You Can Do This Alone
I had in my head for years that I needed to do this all by myself. And I was wrong. Not only does no one expects you to do this alone, but it is 100,000 times more difficult to do it all by yourself. I thought I had something to prove to myself, or my parents, or my husband. But the truth is, the only proving I needed to do was that I would do anything to get my life back.
So I am going to ask you what I asked myself, “How bad do you want it?” Once you decide that, everything becomes an option. I realized I could not do it anymore on my own. And that pushed me to a place where I finally opened up to my mom that I was not better, and needed help.
I cried when I told her this. I felt both humiliation and relief. I was free. Free from this life. Finally, I could really get better.
Sending myself to an out-patient treatment was the best decision in my recovery. I needed to be with others who were struggling like I was. But also I needed accountability, ideas, and a place to be honest. When you enter into specialized eating disorder treatment programs, the entire game can change for you. It did for me.
5. Buddy Up
I didn’t realize this until I entered into out-patient treatment, but having someone there that “gets you” and understands your situation without judgment was pivotal in my recovery success. I would come home from treatment and go back into my life. Although my family knew I was in treatment, it wasn’t like I could or even felt ready to open up about how I was feeling or when I was struggling.
Through outpatient treatment, I connected with a woman named April. At the time, we lived an hour apart, but that didn’t matter. She got me. And we made a pact to call each other when we were struggling. When it was hard. When we felt alone. When we just wanted to use food, or our additives to punish or run away. Calling her helped me step over hurdles that I struggled with for years.
Letting April into my life changed everything. It helped me feel safe. It reminded me that I wasn’t alone. I felt no judgment with her. I believe everyone needs a buddy, a sponsor, someone in their corner. Someone that is just there for you. That gets you. That has been in your EXACT shoes. I want to encourage you to find that.
6. Try Yoga
Yes, I am serious. I would not be here if it wasn’t for yoga. I found yoga before I found treatment for my eating disorder. And Yoga taught me how to feel. Yoga taught me how to be still. Yoga taught me how to be patient. Yoga taught me how to feel, and not be afraid of what I felt.
When I came to the out-patient treatment, I realized right away that I was further along than many of the women there. Not because I thought I was better than them. But because I had a different perspective. I had done quite a bit of work that I didn’t even realize prior to treatment.
I don’t suggest choosing yoga over treatment. But I do whole-heartedly believe that yoga can be the difference between making deep changes to truly live addiction-free and the lesser.
If you don’t choose yoga, choose something that asks you to be quiet. That challenges you to get uncomfortable in a safe place. Something that allows you to come as you are. That may mean shopping around for the right style or teacher. Now almost twenty years after embarking on my yoga journey, it still serves me. It still uncovers aspects of my addiction and recovery. I am so grateful to dig in because I have a lifelong toolbox I call yoga to help me.
Never Lose Hope
Despite all the obstacles and unfortunate circumstances that I was handed at an early age, I overcame them. Every time I was beaten down, I kept getting back up. I never lost hope. I never gave up. Deep down I always knew I could get through this.
Sometimes that voice was faint. That spark small. But even at my lowest of lows, I never lost hope. I believe that if you are alive and breathing on this earth, there is still a purpose for you. Your life still has value to contribute.
Today, it is because of trudging through addiction into recovery, overcoming the loss of my daughter, and facing adversity in my personal and professional life that I get to stand here and offer gratitude for my life. And at the same time help others find their light and develop tools to help them shine.
It’s the “how” and “why” I created the HOPE Process: Helping Others Purposefully Excel. How I built a toolbox of tools that actually work. I want that for you. I believe in you.
An eating disorder is a serious and sometimes fatal disease. But they are treatable, and there is hope. With the right tools, support and perspective on life you can do this. Everything I have created in my professional life is because of what I have been through. I am actually grateful for it.
Yes. You heard me.
The thousands of classes taught, trainings led, book and blogs written, and my newest program coupled with online coaching is all because of my journey.
Practices for a Positive and Productive Life Masterclass – All of these things are for people just like you. Because I know what it’s like to struggle. To feel like no one gets you. To feel like you just want to give up. Don’t give up. Never give up. Never lose hope.
Why? Because I am living proof that believing you are worth it, is worth it.
A Message From Hope
An eating disorder is a real and complex mental illness. It is something that no one should ever have to face alone. I 100% believe in every suggestion above. However receiving proper treatment from a qualified professional is above everything essential and necessary for your health, safety, and future. If you do not know where to reach out, orr if you cannot afford treatment, connect with National Eating Disorders Association Hotline for help.