Body by Yoga, Enlightenment by Hammock?
Bend is an outdoor enthusiast’s paradise. There’s truly epic amounts of mountain biking — hundreds of miles of singletrack, actually — right in my backyard, along with spectacularly scenic road rides. If you’re into water sports there are dozens of high alpine lakes to paddle tour if you’re into a tranquil setting with stellar views. For more exciting water play, ride the Deschutes or Umpqua rivers by raft or white water kayak. Even in downtown Bend where the Deschutes river calmly meanders through town, you’ll find dozens of Stand Up Paddle-boarders intermingled with lazy rafters, reclining on any manner of flotation device. Just north of Bend Smith Rocks State Park offers world-class rock climbing in a breathtakingly beautiful setting. And this year, after a record winter snowfall, even skiing is still an option on Mt. Bachelor, although you’ll have to schlep your own way to the summit before dropping in.
It seems as though summer arrived a bit late this year, although I’m no stranger to the long, dark Pacific Northwest winters. Though generally considered mild, the temperate rainforest conditions means long periods of heavy cloud cover. Combined with the low angle of the sun in the sky in northern latitudes, many in the Pacific Northwest are vitamin D deficient (up to 95% by some estimates). In fact, many doctors now recommend 3-season supplementation for all NW residents. A supplement containing 4000IU/day is the current tolerable upper limit intake recommended by the Institute of Medicine’s Food and Nutrition Board for healthy Americans to maintain adequate levels of vitamin D.
Why Sweat It?
There is growing evidence that many conditions may arise from chronically low vitamin D levels. Inadequate vitamin D levels are associated with:
* Muscle weakness
* Chronic pain
* Multiple Sclerosis
* Autoimmune disease
Vitamin D deficiency is often implicated in Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). This acronym is not meant to be ironic, however it is true that those who suffer from SAD experience a significant drop in mood during the darker months of the year. Light therapy and vitamin D supplements are common prescriptions for this disorder. In fact, an increase of vitamin D in your life and diet may provide a nice lift to your mood if you suffer from other forms of depression, such as dysthymia (chronic, low-level depression lasting two years or more).
Hammock Yoga Helps Vitamin D Production
It’s a natural impulse: seeking the warmth of sun not only to enjoy outdoor activities, but also to balance being indoors or under a grey canopy for so much of the year. Like solar-powered batteries, we do seem to get our energy charged by being in direct sunlight. Given all this evidence for boning up (pun intended) on vitamin D, it’s certainly time to head outside! But as much as we crave outdoor activities, it’s equally important to allow the body and nervous system some vital down time to recharge as well. Here’s how you can do both:
- Get hammock.
- Find trees.
- Secure hammock.
- Get in hammock.
- Take nap.
That’s all there is to it! But to get the most out what I call “Hammock Yoga”, make sure you rest there for 20-minutes, minimum. Expose face, arms and legs to sunlight. If you feel in danger of falling asleep and burning, set an alarm. Suncreens block up to 95% of our ability to manufacture vitamin D, and such a short amount of time without sunscreen won’t likely result in skin damage.
While swaying in your hammock, visualize yourself soaking vitamin D in deeply—like a salve that carries ease and lightness as it seeps into all the soggy, dark, depressed or painful places. Really see yourself starting to radiate from within. Imagine storing all this incredible energy deep in the very marrow of your bones, there to serve you another day. Enjoy the simple feeling of being alive in the moment and let that appreciation also soak in.
I also recommend yoga asana practice outside when weather permits. The fresh air and vitamin D absorption will go far to helping re-balance seasonal fluctuations of energy. Just take care not to overheat if practicing in direct sunlight.
Uma Kleppinger is a professional therapeutic yoga and meditation instructor, with a specialty in Hammock Yoga. For a more contemplative and individualized approach to creating mental and physical wellness with yoga, visit bendyogatherapy.com