by Rini Sampath

An ancient tradition that originated in India, yoga has now become a trend of western culture. Though it is tempting to brand yourself as a yoga aficionado after just one or two classes at your local gym; some people, like Rocky Heron, devote their entire lives to this practice.

As the founder of Yoga with Rocky, Heron’s goal is to touch many lives through his transformative program.

“My mission is to connect with other people on this journey of conscious expansion — to study, learn, practice, and share the tools that help make life the enjoyable and exhilarating experience that I know it can be when we are connected with ourselves. It feels good to play a role in that process for people. It is part of what makes my life enjoyable,” said Heron. 

Initially, Heron planned to pursue a career in acting. But life’s path took quite the turn when he took his first yoga class. From the fast-paced world of theater to the peaceful world of yoga, Heron now teaches full-time. But it’s an understandable switch: both the performing arts and fitness use the body as a powerful medium.

Heron advocates for people to incorporate yoga into their lives for myriad reasons.

“It teaches me how to practice the art of doing anything well, including how to live my life. Curiosity, discipline, study, effort, knowledge, playfulness, commitment and focus are all required and cultivated through the practice of yoga, all of which are required to carry out any task with skill,” he said. “I find yoga extremely practical in that way. It’s also really fun and makes you feel amazing.” But apart from fitness, Heron’s sparkling personality is seen through the multitude of other activities he engages in.

“I’m also a singer/songwriter, so playing and singing with my guitar really is so enjoyable for me,” he said. “When I’m not teaching, I can usually be found swimming in whatever river I can find, eating Thai food, surprising someone with an unexpected card trick, or laughing with friends. A perfect day for me would involve all of those things.”

As Heron continues this enriching journey of helping others gain peace, we can take some of his wise words into account when we rise each day. He said, “The chance to witness more of my desires coming into manifest, many of which are about my life, the planet, and the people who I care about is why I rise. I’m motivated when I consider the incredible people that I’m fortunate to teach and practice with, many of whom would be quite disappointed if I slept through my alarm.”

Visit Rocky Heron at his website, yogawithrocky.com.

by Constantina Konugres

As the relaxing days of summer slowly start to dwindle, it’s important to keep calm and carry on as the rush of school, work, and a new season begins. Though easy to become overwhelmed with fall’s fast pace, keep in mind our fun, quirky tips and find yourself decompress and stress less even in your most hectic moments.

1. Be Snappy: Grab a camera, your iPhone, or buy a disposable and take some time to snap a picture as you go out and explore. Doesn’t matter if you’re in the office or at the Empire State Building, solely capturing the little things in life with a camera can make a big difference. Not only does taking pictures brighten your mood, but so does surrounding yourself with photos. Snap shots of friends, family, or even the lady bugs crawling in your garden can put in your happy place even if you’re not at the ones you see in the pictures.                                                                                                                                                                                                                   

2. Get Smelly: Natural scents increase your brain’s oxygen flow–boosting energy, immune function, and positive emotions. Tired and stressed from work? Take a whiff any citrus scent and have your energy soar. Need to calm down? Pat lavender oil on a hankerchief to keep with you and smell during the craziest moments of your day.

3. Channel your Inner Picasso: Even if your ceramic plate turns out to look more like a ceramic bowl, don’t fret! A perfect piece of art is not necessary when trying to reap from the benefits of creativity. According to Cathy Malchiodi, author of The Art Therapy Sourcebook, “The actual process of making art can alleviate emotional stress and anxiety by creating a physiological response of relaxation.” So grab a paint brush and remember to have fun, not worry about the end product of your project, and expect a lower blood pressure and heart rate to compliment your craft.                                                                                                                                                                                

4. Soil Yourself: Need a boost of serotonin? Head on over to your backyard and start gardening! Soil contains Mycobacterium vaccae, a gentle bacterium which increases the production of serotonin in the brain, improving mood, calming stress, and enhancing the immune system. Raise some home-grown fruits and veggies or sow a bed of flowers for an eco-friendly way to decompress.                                                                                                                                                                                                      

5. Break Out: A sweat, that is. By moving your body, you are increasing your overall health, mood, and production of endorphins (your brain’s feel good neurotransmitters). Almost every form of exercise alleviates stress so hit the gym, pavement, or even your local dance studio and expect all your worries to vanish the moment your body breaks a sweat. Just make sure your workout is something you love, and not dread, and your daily step will be as peppy as a your SoulCycle instructor.                                                                                                                                                                                                                         

6. Be Thankful: Even if everything seems to be going wrong with your day, take a second to pause, think of something that makes you happy, and thank the person who gave you that joy. Giving thanks for the positive aspects in your life has a calming effect and also serves as a reminder that others appreciate you. Not only does being appreciative give you perspective, it also makes others feel good, too.

7. Be Silly, Too: We’ve all heard that laughter is the best medicine and it’s no joke- a good laugh has great short and long term benefits when it comes to calming down. Laughing boosts your intake of oxygen-rich air, stimulates your heart, lungs and muscles, and ups your brain’s endorphins. Laughter also relieves tension and increases your heart rate and blood pressure, which actually helps cool down your stress response. Long term benefits of laughing include: improved immune system, pain relief, a better mood, personal satisfaction, and a good sense sense of humor!                                                                                                                                                                                                                             

8. Don’t Forget to Breathe: No one forgets to perform the body’s most important function: breathing. What many do forget is the importance of breathing the right way. While deep breathing decreases stress, shallow, upper chest breathing actually increases your body’s tension. Reduce your short breaths by conciousing breathing through your diaphragm and abdominal. This will control your nervous system and encourage your body, soul, and mind to relax.                                                                                                                                                                                            

by Rini Sampath

Sometimes, the sights and sounds of your morning run or jog can get repetitive. Your neighbor’s mailbox. The same paved pathway adjacent to a busy road. The whirr of car motors.

But what if you could take all of that out and have the most organic running experience of them all? Thanks to Into the Wild OC Trail Runs founder Alison Wenster, that dream is coming to life.

“The best part about being a race director is coordinating events that bring people together for health and fitness.  I want our races to be a fun experience that motivates people to set goals and reach them.  If you don’t have fun or it doesn’t bring you happiness or a sense of accomplishment you will not continue doing it,” Wenster said.

Into the Wild OC Trail Runs takes individuals to exciting locations like Blackstar Canyon and Limestone Canyon where they challenge their bodies to traverse steep mountains and thrilling landscapes. What began as one race in March of 2011 at Irvine Regional Park has evolved into seven races at a multitude of places. What makes Into the Wild particularly unique is that they have tapped into land that is nearly untouched — like at the Irvine Ranch Conservancy — so that runners have an adventure unlike any other.

“Trail running starts in civilization and then takes you out into quiet, tranquil and beautiful land that most people will never discover,” ” said Wenster. “I love the scenery, the terrain, the peacefulness, the mud on my feet, the sound of trickling water, the snow, the rain, the relaxation and getting lost in thought. Before you know it the concrete jungle is gone.”

It’s no wonder that Wenster loves organizing Into the Wild’s events — she has always adored the outdoors.  She stayed active in her youth through sports such as swimming and her passion for running began early on. Today, she enjoys committing to the Ironman triathalon.  From her native state of California to her years spent in Europe, Wenster’s life has always involved trips to new places. Helping others find happiness in exploration has brought satisfaction to her own life.

“The goal for Into the Wild OC Trail Runs was to bring awareness to our local parks, trail running and to give everyday athletes the motivation to sign up for a race, set a goal and achieve it,” said Wenster.

Though she is a busy mother with plenty of other responsibilities, we are thankful Alison Wenster has made time to pioneer this enriching new pastime. Are you interested in participating in one of her runs? Take a moment to check out their website and sign up for a run this fall! http://www.intothewildoctrailrun.com/