Benefits of Private Yoga Lessons.

If you’re thinking of pulling the trigger on private yoga lessons, a good start would be to reach out to potential teachers and screen them for a right fit. A great yoga teacher for you is someone who makes you feel comfortable and understood. You should feel safe to confide in them, ask them questions and to listen to what they have to say.

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Here’s a scenario: You walk into a group yoga class and ten minutes in, you’re already confused. Right foot here, left arm there–it’s all a big jumbled game of Twister to you. Not to mention your left hip has been bothering you for a while and you have a pinchy feeling in your wrist everytime you bear weight on your hands. Anatomical terms go straight over your head and you aren’t sure what version of a pose to do, especially since the students around you have customized their practice and are all doing slightly different things.

Group classes are great once you’re confident that you can choose the right option for your body at the right time. It’s fun to move in a group setting when class leaves your body feeling and working better afterwards. But for many people, group classes can be a tricky place to figure out the next best thing to do. After all, yoga teachers are teaching to a composite mix of all the bodies in front of them. It’s likely that not every cue the yoga teacher says will apply to you, and it’s even more likely that there are cues that would apply to you but that the teacher isn’t saying.

Sometimes in these cases, the best thing to do is to reclaim your responsibility for your body by working one-on-one with an experienced teacher.

In a one-on-one setting, a teacher can give you their full attention and can customize all of their language to your specific circumstances. Not only that, but they can customize the positions to your body and movement history, which means you aren’t getting a yoga class that was planned out in their notebook for a theoretical group–you are getting a practice customized to what you need to work on in order to see the strength, mobility and stability that you’re likely attending class for.

Working individually with teachers restores some power back into your hands. Whereas a group class is more like a monologue where the teacher instructs and the group follows, a private yoga lesson gives you the chance to stop and ask questions and follow-up on things that you might otherwise move right through in a group setting.

It’s not just that you’ll get a customized movement experience in a private setting. You also get the chance to learn and explore new concepts, check your understanding and find new ways to apply it. Because of this, your progress will likely happen much faster, with less roadblocks and frustration.

While a private yoga lesson may cost more than attending a group class, it will yield more and better results in the long-run, which may ultimately save you money over time.

A good private yoga teacher will be able to assess your movement and talk you through that assessment so that you understand areas for improvement.

If you’re thinking of pulling the trigger on private yoga lessons, a good start would be to reach out to potential teachers and screen them for a right fit. A great yoga teacher for you is someone who makes you feel comfortable and understood. You should feel safe to confide in them, ask them questions and to listen to what they have to say.

If you’re in the San Diego area, you can start by emailing info@pilgrimageyoga.com, where our studio managers will be able to recommend different teachers to you based on your background and goals. If you’re outside the SD area, private yoga lessons can also be conducted via Skype, Zoom or other video conferencing platforms. You will want to make sure to set up your web-cam so that your teacher can easily see your movement, and the benefit of this option is that you can participate from the comfort of your own home. If this sounds like the right option for you, we invite you to check out our partner’s Digital Yoga Privates at Yoga In Your Living Room, where Brentan specializes in digital private yoga and helping people feel comfortable in a digital environment.

At Pilgrimage Of The Heart Yoga, our approach to private yoga lessons includes a physical fitness evaluation. We work with you the way a personal trainer would, by evaluating your current range of motion and assessing for opportunities to improve strength, mobility and stability. We start by testing your body’s way of moving, talking about your history with movement and injuries, and ultimately devising a movement road-map designed to help you improve in all areas. After working together for a period of time, we re-test your movement to monitor improvements and changes to ensure that you are always getting the most from your private yoga experience.

Email info@pilgrimageyoga.com today to get started!

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Design 101: How to Achieve the Perfect Feng Shui Interior Design.

Feng shui is popular in the interior design. The main goal of placing everything where it should be is creating an atmosphere that will affect your mind, stress level and comfort – without you even noticing it!

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Feng shui is popular in the interior design. This art of creating a space that’s detailed and organized turns every home into the most comfortable space you could live in. Apart from that, it also creates energy that can’t be manufactured in any other way. Such a natural flow is always welcomed, especially if you want to live a healthy life and dedicate your time to taking your life to the next level. The main goal of placing everything where it should be is creating an atmosphere that will affect your mind, stress level and comfort – without you even noticing it!

Let the sunshine in

An abundance of natural light is essential for achieving good Feng shui energy in your home, so always try to keep your curtains open. Sunlight is good for getting our energy levels up and it’s so much better than light fixtures. People living in a bright space feel more relaxed, and their mood is more natural. That’s why you can notice the change in your mood as soon as you open up your space to natural light, and this will soon become a part of your daily routine.

Apart from that, it’s recommended to keep the windows open as well because of the fresh air. This is sometimes hard for people to get used to, but fresh air is important for lots of things, including great energy in our home. It keeps us fresh and energetic, minimizing our constant tiredness.

The placement of the bed

You’ve probably never thought about how your bed should be positioned and which direction it should face. There’s one rule you need to start following first: never place a bed below the window, because it needs a much safer structure. Instead of that, place your bed on the opposite side of your door, but never directly facing it.

You should also avoid having a mirror in your bedroom and, as much as we all like playing dress up in there, this will create negative energy, so it’s better to avoid having mirrors. It goes without saying that all the electronics also shouldn’t be anywhere close to your bed because they aren’t good for your rest and sleep cycle, which means you should keep them in your home office or a dedicated working area instead.

Feng shui décor

Having a bookcase in your home is more than recommended because not only can this addition serve as an effective space divider, but it will also encourage your learning process. If you don’t have that many books, you can always add different types of Feng shui decorations and fill up space. Different scented candles and sticks will be perfect for creating a relaxing atmosphere too, but it will also blend in perfectly with the rest of the décor.

When it comes to textures, you can play with different natural materials and create an appealing and sophisticated interior. By using different floor rugs, you’ll create a space that’s rich with materials and a sense of comfort which is exactly what you need in a relaxing home. Don’t forget to use different colors as well – with the earthly tones leading the way, of course – because colors play a major role in a Feng shui design. Avoid bright colors or too many colors in one space because that will have the opposite effect from what you’re looking for.

Yoga and meditation

Practicing yoga is a vital part of a healthy lifestyle, and if you have a space that’s already decorated and organized in accordance with the Feng shui principle, there’s no reason not to introduce it into your life. If you’re already a fan of yoga, you know the importance of having a space that’s dedicated to health and peace, which is exactly what this design will provide.

If you like to meditate, you’ll need a corner specifically designed for meditation, because changing the area where you meditate too frequently is far from good. Due to that, think about a space in your home where you’ll feel relaxed and won’t be bothered by your family members. Many people choose their bedroom because of the tranquility it provides and all the positive energy that’s already in this space. Consider an area that you can tailor to your yoga session or meditation process, and get everything you need in just one place.

Once you start using Feng shui principles in your home, you’ll notice a positive change they bring into your life. Sometimes it’s not just about the furniture we use in our living space, but about positioning everything and organizing our home so that it’s comfortable and practical. With all these changes, you’ll soon want to introduce more and more healthy things into your lifestyle, and this is something that’s going to benefit you and the quality of your life.


About the author


CHLOE TAYLOR is an art historian and recreational ballet dancer. Her biggest dream is to travel the whole world and take stunning photographs of beautiful places. She also enjoys learning and writing about home design, since she is crazy about aesthetics. She is a regular contributor to Smooth Decorator
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A Guided Visualization Meditation For Inner Strength: The Elk.

Take a few more cycles of breath here and visualize the magnificent elk at your third eye chakra in the middle of your forehead and repeat to yourself: I am strong, I am powerful, I am connected to all things.

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Imagine you’re walking along the ridge of a snowy mountain on a sunny day in January. The sky is a solid dome of royal blue, enclosing the path where you walk in an idyllic alpine globe. The air is cold on your cheeks, but you’re dressed warmly and you feel snug and comfortable. You love hiking in the mountains and feel at peace here.

You share the mountainside with statuesque pine trees lightly dusted with snow, and the playful chattering of birds. The leaves of the aspen trees flutter in the breeze, making the whole mountainside appear to quiver.

As the path bends to the right, you look up at the rugged cliffs slated with snow, like white stair steps sparkling in the brilliant sun. As the path narrows and begins to climb, you slow and shorten your stride to keep from slipping on the loose rocks. You pause to take a breath and look up to where the path leads.

There staring down at you is an enormous elk, standing on the lip of the cliff. You inhale sharply, the bite of chilled air fills your throat. The elk’s head is raised and his antlers reach out like strong branches of a tree. The dark wooly mane and muscular flank strike an imposing, imperious presence. Dark eyes assess you curiously and you stare back, completely captivated by the strength and beauty of this great animal. Surprisingly, you are not afraid. In fact, being in this powerful animal’s proximity you feel a profound sense of safety and even kinship.

Drawn by a mysterious force you begin to climb the steep ridge toward him, and you marvel at your own courage. You climb the loose rocks as strong and sure-footed as if you too were born on this mountain. Once level with the great animal, the tracks of your boots mark the snowy path companionably beside his two-pronged hoof-prints. You regard each other for awhile in what feels like a timeless dimension.

The elk then lifts his large head toward the sky and bellows deeply. You close your eyes and feel the resounding vibration in your chest. You breathe in a quality of strength, power, and connection as the sound reverberates throughout the mountainside and echoes down to the valley below. A sense of oneness with the elk fills your heart and with all living things that make this mountain residence their home.

When you open your eyes, the elk is gone. In his place, nothing but the blue-dome sky, the gentle breeze and chirping of birds. You stand still, breathing in the wonder of the moment and feel quite changed, stronger somehow, more centered and at ease.

You begin to make your way back down the mountain to your cabin at a comfortable pace, finding no reason to rush. You feel a deep sense of reverence with these wonders of nature. The shadows of the trees on the snow grow longer as the sun begins its slow descent, the air crisp and still.

You imagine a warm bowl of soup and freshly baked bread waiting for you back at the cabin, sitting in your favorite chair next to a vibrant fire in the hearth. You breathe in a sense of gratitude simply for being alive.

It occurs to you that the qualities of strength, power and connection the elk imparted were already within you, to be called upon whenever you need them, the elk was there simply as a powerful reminder of your inherent gifts that need only to be noticed, recognized, embraced.

You understand so fully now that you are connected to the strength and power of all things in nature.

Take a few more cycles of breath here and visualize the magnificent elk at your third eye chakra in the middle of your forehead and repeat to yourself: I am strong, I am powerful, I am connected to all things.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Judy Hansen completed her 200-hour yoga teacher training at Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga. She teaches traditional mat-based classes as well as chair yoga and beginning meditation to seniors. She is particularly drawn to guided visualization meditation techniques for the immediate access to the expansiveness of our imagination and creativity, and believes that when we transport the mind to a place of beauty and serenity, bolstered by symbolic imaging and the power of intention, we can bring positive change and healing into our lives. Judy is a published poet and dedicated journaler. 

The mind cannot tell the difference between an actual, ‘real-life’ event and a vividly imagined one.” 

Denis Waitley, counselor to Olympic athletes and Apollo astronauts

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How Does Oil Pulling Work? A Dentist’s Perspective.

To learn more about the efficacy of oil pulling, you need to review how the process emerged. This ancient Ayurvedic process recently has received testimonials in the press. Both celebrities and social media users have proclaimed the practice, and stories abound that oil pulling or “toxin” pulling cures bad breath, whitens and cleans the teeth, and reduces the inflammation that leads to gum disease.

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Have you ever wondered if oil pulling works?

If so, you are not alone.

In fact, I get this question quite often from my dental patients in San Diego, and this question seems to be on the rise. To say the least, there are over 54,000 searches regarding the word “oil pulling” on a monthly basis:

So if you are wondering if oil pulling will help your dental hygiene, let’s find out!

 

An Introduction to Oil Pulling

 

To learn more about the efficacy of oil pulling, you need to review how the process emerged. This ancient Ayurvedic process recently has received testimonials in the press. Both celebrities and social media users have proclaimed the practice, and stories abound that oil pulling or “toxin” pulling cures bad breath, whitens and cleans the teeth, and reduces the inflammation that leads to gum disease.

In fact, in Charaka Samhita, an ancient Ayurvedic text on Indian medicine references oil pulling and it benefits by stating –

“It is beneficial for the strength of jaws, depth of voice, flabbiness of face, improving gustatory sensation and good taste for food. One used to this practice never gets dryness of throat, nor do his lips ever get cracked; his teeth will never be carious and will be deep-rooted; he will not have any toothache nor will his teeth set on edge by sour intake; his teeth can chew even the hardest eatables.”

– Charaka Samhita Ch V. 78 to 80.

This supposed miracle cure-all involves swishing an organic oil, such as sunflower oil, coconut oil, or sesame oil, in the mouth for around 20 minutes. However, just like most natural remedies, these claims and the practice, itself, does not enjoy the support of the scientific community.

But, as an open-minded dentist, I wanted to know if this was a good or bad thing for my patients.

 

Does Oil Pulling Get Rid of Plaque?

 

Proponents of oil pulling state that swishing the oil around in the mouth gets rid of plaque. However, dentists, as well as most dental patients, know that plaque can also be eliminated by –

  • Rinsing with a mouthwash;
  • Chewing a sugar-free gum; or
  • Simply rinsing the mouth with water for about 20 minutes each day.

All of the above options work to increase the saliva and keep plaque from sticking to the teeth. Dental patients often find it easier to rinse with an alcohol-free mouthwash—one prescribed by the American Dental Association (ADA)—that is available in various flavors or strengths.

While Ayurvedic oil pulling may get rid of some stubborn plaque, you still need pressure from a dental tool or aid, such as floss or a toothbrush. You might say that chewing on a twig can do the same thing too. This technique is yet another ancient way to remove plaque from the teeth. In fact, chewing on a twig is even more ancient than using oil for dental health.

Twigs as a toothbrush? Don’t believe me? (see a 3,000-year-old toothbrush)

According to the ADA (American Dental Association)

 

If you want to know the exact stand the ADA takes on oil pulling, you can reference the following quote, summarized as follows:

Currently, . . . no reliable [evidence suggests] that oil pulling reduces cavities, whitens teeth, or improves oral health. . . . Based on the lack of scientific evidence, the [ADA] does not [prescribe] oil pulling as a . . . practice. The ADA [recommends] . . . [brushing] twice a day . . . with a fluoride toothpaste and [flossing] between the teeth [daily]. . . .” The ADA also advises that patients do not use tobacco. . . .”

Nevertheless, studies  (Pubmed returns 54 research papers) are still being conducted about the efficacy of oil pulling. Some researchers admit that oil pulling may have beneficial effects. Therefore, some of the scientists are not completely ruling out this hygiene practice, or believe that the public has succumbed to some type of oil pulling hoax.

For example, one study compared oil pulling with the use of a chlorhexidine mouthwash. Chlorhexidine mouthwash is a prescription rinse that features antibacterial properties. These properties prevent the formation of gum disease. However, the same rinse can also cause the formation of brown stains on the teeth. Therefore, this type of mouthwash can only be used short-term.

Comparing Oil Pulling with the Use of a Chlorhexidine Mouthwash

The comparison of using this short-term rinse and oil pulling following:

 

While oil pulling is not contraindicated for use in other diseases or by pregnant women, a chlorhexidine mouthwash should not be used when a person is sick with another disease or during pregnancy. Experts recommend that children, 5 years or under, should not oil pull.

 

How to Do Oil Pulling Correctly?

 

Oil pulling should be performed in the morning, or before eating. If you are wondering if oil pulling before or after brushing is preferred, you should always practice oil pulling before brushing.

Here Are Some Steps To Follow

  1. You should take about 10 ml or one tablespoon of organic oil.
  2. The solution should be swished around in the mouth for around 15 to 20 minutes before spitting it out.
  3. Never swallow the oil, as it may contain bacteria and toxins.
  4. Follow the practice by rinsing, and brushing and flossing the teeth, as usual.

Because regular oil pulling also combines the practice with routine flossing and brushing, scientists suggest that oil pulling can be used as an adjunct to dental health. One study that appeared in the International Journal of Health Sciences supports this conclusion.

According to researchers, a number of studies have been performed that support the use of oil pulling. This published study supports the use of oil pulling in developing countries or in remote locations, where toothpaste, toothbrushes, or mouthwashes are limited. In these instances, scientists suggest that oil pulling can provide a cost-effective option for supporting dental health.

Does Oil Pulling Really Work?

 

Given that oil pulling for teeth receives the support of some dental patients and is questioned by others, scientists still need to review all aspects of the practice. As noted, usually three types of organic oils are typically used for oil pulling teeth whitening or oil pulling for cavities ( sunflower oil, sesame seed oil, or coconut oil). Many people like to use sesame oil or prefer to find the best coconut oil for oil pulling purposes.

While you can receive the same bacteria-fighting advantages with organic oils, such as sunflower oil or sesame oil, you have an added benefit when oil pulling with coconut oil. That is because coconut oil contains lauric acid – a substance well-known among doctors for its anti-microbial properties.

By using coconut oil, you may even prevent tooth decay. While it may not reverse a cavity that has formed, the oil will reduce the strep mutans bacteria that are found in saliva and plaque. These bacteria may  lead to the development of cavities.

You may ask, “Does oil pulling work for growing back receding gums? Or, do receding gums grow back from oil pulling? While you may not see the re-emergence of gum tissue, you can tighten and condition the gums. As noted, this adjunct form of treatment is not the cure-all for tooth and gum health. However, it does support regular flossing and brushing – at least that is what the current research supports.

 

Oil Pulling – How Often Should It Be Done

 

When you first practice oil pulling, or if you decide to take up the routine, you may wonder how you should begin. After all, swishing oil in your mouth for 20 minutes can become quite time-consuming, if not tiresome.

To acclimate yourself to the process, start the activity by spending five minutes a day swishing the oil. You will remove a good deal of bacteria after just five minutes. Also, if your jaw begins to ache, you need to slow your pace. You do not have to use a lot of force. Gently swish, suck, and push the oil through the teeth for the best effect.

“Less Is More”

Because you should never swallow the oil, spit out the oil if you find you have too much in your mouth. Again, you only need to use about a tablespoon. Remember, “less is more,” when it comes to swishing. Also, never spit out the oil down the sink, lest you be plagued with a clogged drain. Simply spit out the oil in a trash can after you are done.

 

Final Thoughts

 

The before and after benefits of oil pulling seems to be encouraging for some people, but, there isn’t enough scientific research to back up these claims. As long as dental patients follow the practice by also brushing and flossing teeth regularly, oil pulling may benefit some people who decide to try this practice.

Any dentist will tell you that you should never replace oil pulling with brushing and flossing and routine dental visits. Once more, this alternative approach to tooth and gum care supplements the benefits you receive from brushing, flossing, and using a  mouthwash each day.

My sincere hope is that this helped clear up some confusion regarding “oil pulling” and oral hygiene. If you have any questions I practice dental care  in Carmel Mountain at Smiles By Design San Diego with Over 400 Five Star happy patient reviews.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Dr. Javaheri has participated in extensive research and has been published by the National Institute of Health (NIH) and the UC Davis Medical Center. He is a graduate of the prestigious NYU college of dentistry and helps patients with their cosmetic dentistry needs in San Diego, CA.

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How To Improve Mindfulness & Integrate Into Your Daily Routine.

A major aspect of mindfulness is noticing what you do as you’re doing it, a skill that hours of scrolling tends to negatively impact. Try to build habits that ground you in what you’re doing in each moment.

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Right now, mindfulness might seem like a buzzword.

Myriad brands have incorporated mindfulness into their messaging, and everyday there seems like a new app that caters towards helping one achieve a “mindful practice” in their day-to-day life.

 

But mindfulness isn’t a just buzzword—it’s vitally important to maintaining personal wellness. You also don’t need to buy a bunch of new products or eat a certain brand of yogurt to achieve it. Mindfulness can be incorporated into your life for free, and with a little bit of practice, you can build lasting habits that’ll make you a happier and healthier person.

Here are some of  tips on how to bring mindfulness into your day-to-day life:

 

No Screens Before & After Sleeping

A major aspect of mindfulness is noticing what you do as you’re doing it, a skill that hours of scrolling tends to negatively impact. Try to build habits that ground you in what you’re doing in each moment. A great way to start is by putting away smartphones and other electronic devices an hour before bed, and trying not to touch them again until an hour after you’re awake. 

 

 

Notice What You Spend Money On

 

If you’re anything like me, you’ve watched Marie Kondo’s new show. If you haven’t, it’s all about pairing down one’s belongings to only the things that “spark joy.” This approach isn’t only useful when you’re purging your home and in the throes of organizing, it’s also extremely useful when you’re shopping. Think carefully about each purchase, whether big or small. If something makes you happy, why? Make sure everything has a unique and productive purpose. This means thinking about the impact of your purchasing decisions.

 

By the same token, don’t be too hard on yourself when you’re determining what that purpose is. For example, if you’re shopping for home decor, and you happen upon a quilt that makes you happy because the patterns or colors delight you, that’s enough. Things don’t have to have some big, grand reason behind them… but they do have to be authentic.

 

 

Focus on Gratitude

 

Gratitude isn’t an attitude we stumble upon, it’s an attitude that requires cultivation. Take some time out of your day—maybe at lunch, or during some downtime after work—and consider the things you’re thankful for. I find that writing it down in a notebook or journal is particularly helpful, especially since you’re able to return to previous pages and see what kinds of trends emerge. But do whatever works for you. If just thinking it through alone helps, then that’s your strategy.

 

 

Eat Intentionally

 

With our increasingly busy schedules, this can be one of the most difficult steps to integrate habitually. When you’re eating a meal, notice every bite. Don’t rush through it, trying to get fuel into your body. You may also find that you’re hungrier (or less hungry!) than you thought. This is essential to getting in touch with your body, and a cornerstone of healthy eating habits more generally. You don’t have to be perfect and get it right all at once, either. Next time you grab a bag of potato chips, savor each bite. Taste the salt, enjoy the crunch. Even pay attention to the crinkle of the bag. See how it changes the experience, if it changes it at all. When you’re eating, commit to doing just that one thing.

 

 

Pay Attention To Breathing

 

This can be done anywhere. Breathing practices are commonly implemented in meditation and yoga classes, but there’s no reason you can’t keep your breathing in mind during exercise or at your desk at work. In moments of stress, or moments where the world seems to be going too fast around you, take a minute to just breathe. One deep breath in, and one deep breath out. If you’re interested in going slightly more in depth, set some time aside before bed, or first thing when you wake up to work on breathing practices. To begin, search “pranayama”—there’s a wealth of breathing practices available on our site.

 

Meditate

Meditation is the big one, isn’t it? It’s the tip that you’re going to hear no matter what, especially if you’re thinking about mindfulness. Meditation looks a million different ways, and it’s all about finding what serves you most effectively. If it seems overwhelming, try to start with guided meditations. Not only are there dozens of free apps on Android and iOS that can help if you use Bluetooth on your commute, but there are also free YouTube videos. Meditations can also have different intentions too, like meditations geared specifically towards sleep, focus, or calmness. Explore it, and try it at different times. One great time to meditate is right before you wake up—it’s a great way to get you started for your day.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Sam Casteris is an avid writer and explorer of all things travel, mindfulness, and financial health. You can find more of her work in her portfolio

 

 

 

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A Complete Poem Analysis of Emerson’s Brahma.

Brahma was written by Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882), a spiritual and intellectual giant of American history. In this 16- line poem we are able to explore significant foundations of Eastern and Western philosophy.

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The essence of spirituality and Hinduism is synthesized in the poem Brahma by the American philosopher, writer and poet Emerson. This poem touches on essential themes of metaphysics and spirituality while simultaneously being applicable to our daily lives.

 

Brahma was written by Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882), a spiritual and intellectual giant of American history. In this 16- line poem we are able to explore significant foundations of Eastern and Western philosophy. Emerson and his fellow Transcendentalists, including Henry David Thoreau and Bronson Alcott, were among the first in America to explore the crown jewels of Indian philosophy: the Upanishads and the Bhagavad-Gita. The Bhagavad-Gita dates back to before the time of Christ, and recounts the conversation between the spiritual teacher Krishna and his heroic disciple Arjuna on the battle field of Kurushetra in ancient India. The Upanishads may well predate ancient Egypt and weave spiritual lessons into timeless stories including the tale of Nachiketas journeying into the realm of death to atone for the sins of his father. In Nachiketas discussion with Yama, the Lord of Death, the mysteries of life and death are revealed.

 

These two source writings can provide a lifetime of inspiration. Swami Vivekananda, one of the first Indian yogis to come to America, first speaking at the Parliament of Religions in Chicago in 1893, carried with him two books from India. One was the Bhagavad-Gita.

 

Take a slow read through the poem written by Emerson in 1856, five years before the start of the Civil War, and then we will explore the main themes and see how we can apply them to our lives.

 

Brahma
By Ralph Waldo Emerson

If the red slayer think he slays, 
  Or if the slain think he is slain, 
They know not well the subtle ways 
  I keep, and pass, and turn again. 

Far or forgot to me is near;
  Shadow and sunlight are the same; 
The vanished gods to me appear; 
  And one to me are shame and fame. 

They reckon ill who leave me out; 
  When me they fly, I am the wings;
I am the doubter and the doubt, 
  And I the hymn the Brahmin sings. 

The strong gods pine for my abode, 
  And pine in vain the sacred Seven; 
But thou, meek lover of the good!
  Find me, and turn thy back on heaven.

–Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

I will take one stanza at a time in order to unravel the depth and beauty of this poem.

 

First Stanza: The Eternal Nature of the Soul

The poem speaks in the first person. It is the voice of one who has reached the pinnacle of spiritual illumination. The insights echo first hand experiences of illumined saints and sages from all traditions while the imagery and framework are from Hinduism. It is also the voice of Brahma, who in the Hindu religion is the ultimate God. Hinduism has many gods, just as the Bible has many saints and angels and archangels; but the supreme God in Christianity is the Father and in Hinduism the word used is Brahma.

The red slayer can represent anyone who kills and the message of the first stanza is that death is not the end of existence. Most people live in constant fear of growing old and death. We fear pain and the idea of non-existence. Our society pushes death away from our eyes while glorifying youth. Death is a transition to a more subtle realm and from the careful observation of the death process we can learn so much. The red slayer is also symbolic of Kali the Hindu goddess of death and transformation. She is often portrayed carrying a sword with blood dripping from it; hence the red-slayer.

Emerson approaches the immortality of the soul both from the vantage point of he who thinks he can destroy others: the red slayer, and the vantage point of she who fears death. The “subtle ways” referred to is the subtle existence of the soul, which is hidden from the view of most people because their minds are bounded by material objects.

 

Second Stanza: Non-Duality

The second stanza is from the same point of view but this stanza reflects the viewpoint of one who has transcended duality. The four dualistic conceptions that no longer affect the speaker are far/ near; remembered/ forgotten; shadow/ sunlight; vanished / appearing; and shame / fame.

Dualistic thinking emerges from undifferentiated consciousness. Through meditation and deep prayer one can enter the realm of pure consciousness. In that state there is no duality; hence fame and shame are the same.

Think of a glass of water. The water is one entity. If you shake the glass there will be waves and water will splash, that is the moment of duality. If you see only the splashes you will think of the water as separate units but if you know the source you will know that ultimately all the water is one. It is the same with shame and fame. They appear different yet at a deeper level they are both the same: human experience from which we grow.

The second stanza points to the idea that ultimately the differences we observe in ourselves and the world dissolve as we begin to understand that our mind itself is the creator of what we perceive and the differences we observe.

The same principle applies the physical world: that which was lost can become found and that which was near can become far. What is far from one person can be near to another. Hence reality depends on our vantage point and how we relate to our vantage point is determined by our minds, not by any external control system.

 

Third Stanza: All is God

These four lines speak to the idea that all activity, efforts and results are ultimately the same energy. I am reminded of the story of a man who had been though a troubled time and he looked back upon his journey and saw his footsteps in the sand and thought, “Why did God leave me all alone in this time of trail.” God’s voice answered back, “Those are my footstep, I carried you through the challenges.”

Hopefully we get daily inspiration to read, exercise, pray and do other things that give us joy. We think it is us who need to create the inspiration. The poem says that ultimately all comes from the Source. There is no difference between the seeker, the prayer offered and the God who hears it. The poem says, “I am the doubter and the doubt.” Normally we think of ourselves as separate from our thoughts and our thoughts separate from the world. This stanza says that ultimately all is one and that the Ultimate energy is in the each aspect of our devotion and aspiration: “And I the hymn the Brahmin sings.” Brahmins are the priestly class in Indian society.

 

Fourth Stanza: The Meek Shall Inherit the World

The final stanza proclaims the majesty of the “meek lover of the good.” Brahma says that many long to enter the ultimate realm of existence but that it is the individual who is meek and loves goodness that will be able to enter the realm of the truly sacred. This echoes Jesus’ teachings from the Sermon on the Mount.

Notice the last line, “Find me and turn your back on heaven.” The insight here is that heaven is a conception in our minds, a thought based dream, a hope, that we carry with us. In experiencing the realm of Brahma the seeker goes beyond the world of thought and has the direct experience of the Ultimate Reality. At that time one goes beyond ideas and conceptions and hence can “turn your back on heaven,” and instead be in the Ultimate.

In Conclusion

It is important to note that Emerson was not writing from a theoretical or solely scholarly vantage point. In his essay Nature Emerson recounts a mystical experience that he has while walking through the woods on afternoon: his third eye, the mind’s eye of internal vision, opens up and he describes the experience of being able to see in all directions, and to see the cosmos spinning.

He wrote: “Standing on the bare ground, — my head bathed by the blithe air, and uplifted into infinite space, — all mean egotism vanishes. I become a transparent eyeball; I am nothing; I see all; the currents of the Universal Being circulate through me; I am part or particle of God.”

This transcendental experience is open to each one of us. It only requires that we spend time contemplating the meaning and significance of our lives. Prayer, meditation, yoga and other spiritual practices can accelerate our ability to access this level of awareness.

 

Sujantra McKeever is the founder of Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga in San Diego, which serves over 1,000 yogis a week, and also helped create Pilgrimage Yoga Online. He is the author of five books on eastern philosophy, success and meditation. Sujantra studied meditation with spiritual teacher Sri Chinmoy and has lectured on meditation and yoga in over 30 countries.

 

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How To Reduce Pores & Have A Cleaner Face.

Why do pores get enlarged? Besides genetic factors like oily skin, there are lifestyle factors to consider such as sun exposure, age and heat. If you experience large pores in just one area of the face or even across the entire face, you may be interested in the following tips to reduce pores and enjoy a cleaner looking and feeling face.

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Enlarged pores allow dirt, dust, and oil to get trapped inside and create problems.

 

What kind of issues appears when pores get clogged? It may cause a range of symptoms from pimples to acne to blackheads.

 

Why do pores get enlarged? Besides genetic factors like oily skin, there are lifestyle factors to consider such as sun exposure, age and heat. If you experience large pores in just one area of the face or even across the entire face, you may be interested in the following tips to reduce pores and enjoy a cleaner looking and feeling face.

 

Don’t allow oil to accumulate on your face

 

Pores can get larger and clogged due to oil accumulations. Our skin produces special oil that keeps it moisturized and protected, but if we allow oil build-ups on our skin, it may end up clogging the pores. So make sure to clean your face properly and remove excess oil. Clay masks are great for this particular job; just don’t use them on a daily basis as they may dry up your skin.

 

Clean your skin in depth the right way

It is very tempting to try and remove those pesky blackheads with your nails, but you should stay away from such habits as they can damage your skin.  You can really injure yourself and break the skin if you try to squeeze a blackhead out, so it’s best to utilize better methods. Instead, try blackhead removal masks that use charcoal to bind toxins and clear out pores.

 

Try Retinoid and Glycolic Acid Products

 

Retinoid refers to vitamins that are used in special skin care products. They usually come in the form of creams and lotions and they have the purpose of shrinking pores and keeping skin tight and toned. This type of product is recommended for people with oily skin, in the majority of cases, helping them shrink down pores and minimize the chances of acne outbursts to occur.

 

Additionally, you may want to try cleansers or products that contain glycolic acid. This particular acid is known for diminishing the surface of pores and preventing dirt and oil from getting trapped on the inside. At the same time, glycolic acid stimulates the production of collagen, which is required for the youthful and plump appearance of the skin.

 

Use adequate UV protection products on your face

 

Sun exposure is one of the main factors that lead to enlarged pores. Using high UV protection on your face is the best way to make sure that the sun’s rays will not affect your pores. Thus, opting for products with a high level of protection, like SPF 30, will keep your pores looking nice and tight even during a sunny day. Not to mention that this UV protection will prevent the premature aging of your skin, caused by frequent exposure to the sun.

 

With these simple strategies in place, your face should start feeling better in no time. The gist is: USe special ingredients to keep your face clean and then protect it throughout the day. In other words: Take care of your face the way you would a good friend.

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4 Cool Historical Facts About Yoga.

Yoga’s history is multifaceted, beautiful, and even a brief knowledge can enhance your yoga experience as well as your favorite pair of yoga pants. So before you head out to your next yoga class, check out the 5 coolest facts about yoga history.

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The business of yoga is booming. Since the 1990s, yoga has become a multi-million business, and a wide variety of companies and individuals have even patented certain yoga styles and sequences. Hardly a day goes by where we don’t see some aspect of yoga advertising a product, whether its a mobile phone or clothing. Yet, in spite of the immense popularity of yoga, its fascinating and surprising history often gets overlooked or oversimplified. Yoga’s history is multifaceted, beautiful, and even a brief knowledge can enhance your yoga experience as well as your favorite pair of yoga pants. So before you head out to your next yoga class, check out the 5 coolest facts about yoga history.

 

 

1)  The Word “Yoga” Has a Fascinating Etymology

 

Yoga. This little word may sound unassuming but it is bound up in complex history and multifaceted meanings.  Its meaning reaches back thousands of years to a Sanskrit word (yuj) that either translates to “union” or “to hitch up” and is, interestingly, related to the word “jugular.” The English term and practice entered English culture  around 1820, with the British exploration of India. So what, exactly, is being yoked? According to history, the term refers to the yoking of a conscious subject with a Supreme Spirit in order to reach an ecstacy condition.

 

 

2) The Mother of Yoga

While the history of women and yoga is murky and debatable, the “mother of yoga” in the West is widely considered to Indra Devi (1899-2002). She is considered the mother of Western yoga because she  was the first woman “allowed” to study with Krishnamacharya (the “father of modern yoga”) in 1937. Once Krishnamacharya accepted his only female student, he encouraged her to spread his teachings. Being married to an diplomat, Devi was in a prime position to do just that. Eventually, she became the first yoga teacher in Los Angeles and her clients included, among many others, Greta Garbo. Sine the pioneering efforts of Devi, many other yogini have helped bring yoga to over 36.7 million practitioners in the United States. Devis would also likely be proud that currently 72% of women U.S. practitioners are women.

 

 

3) Ralph Waldo Emerson Told Henry Thoreau about Yoga

While Henry David Thoreau holds many titles, including abolitionist, naturalist, and beloved American philosopher, being a “yogi” probably surprises most people. In fact, Thoreau discovered yoga while visiting his friend and fellow American transcendentalist Ralph Waldo Emerson. Thoreau saw lying on Emerson’s desk a very interesting book titled Manusmriti, which was a book of Hindu law. Thoreau was hooked.

 

Thoreau says of the book that “I cannot read a single word of the Hindoos [sic] without being elevated.” He was particularly attracted to the the “solitude and the meditative life in general” and began practicing yoga while living near Walden Pond. The area–and no doubt practicing yoga– inspired Thoreau to write his now classic and famous literature.

 

 

4) The First Book Ever Written is about yoga.

 

What topic could ever inspire the first book created on earth? Of course, it would be yoga. The oldest known text in the world, The Rig Veda contains thousands of hymns and Sanskrit mantras that were used to invoke courage, peace, prosperity, health, and wisdom. This ancient book sets the foundations of yoga and provides both a spiritual and philosophical foundation for the development and spread of yoga.  The first of the Vedas, this ancient text dates back to at least 1500 B.C.

 

 

Conclusion

The history of yoga is as fascinating as it is mysterious. It is beautiful, ancient, sometimes murky but always captivating. While many people practice yoga with little (or no) knowledge of its history or how it spread to the Western world, familiarizing yourself with its roots can be extremely rewarding. After all, as yoga practitioners, if we want to be a an upright, strong tree, we first must establish strong roots.

 

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Karin holds a master’s degree in English and rhetoric and has been a university writing tutor and writing instructor for many years. She loves researching, reading, and writing. An admitted adrenaline junkie, she married her skydiving instructor and loves to go adventuring with him and their 4 kids.

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Will Yoga Fix My Posture? How to Fix Your Posture with Yoga.

Good posture should keep your body aligned. This starts with squared shoulders, but also includes a straight back, open chest and feet flat on the ground. No muscle should be twisted or have extra pressure placed on it. Generally speaking, good posture feels good. Let’s lean into the top medical reasons why yoga can improve your posture.

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Quick poll: are you reading this article hunched over? It’s ok, I won’t tell anyone. These days, we’re all guilty of “computer slouch” or “text neck” when reading online. But bad posture isn’t just unattractive – it can lead to aches, cramps and pains, especially in your lower back and shoulders.

 

If you’re looking for a way to ditch the droop, you should consider signing up for yoga. Yoga has a wealth of evidence-based health benefits, among them improved posture. Your chiropractor will be overjoyed.

 

 

 

What’s good posture anyway?

 

Good posture should keep your body aligned. This starts with squared shoulders, but also includes a straight back, open chest and feet flat on the ground. No muscle should be twisted or have extra pressure placed on it. Generally speaking, good posture feels good.

 

Let’s lean into the top medical reasons why yoga can improve your posture.

 

 

  1. Boosted awareness

Yoga uses a holistic mind-body approach towards exercise. Besides stressing the importance of relaxation and breathing, yoga also teaches body awareness through “poses.” With each pose, a typical yoga instructor will ask the group to focus on various physical aspects, including position, function and movement. Studies show that yoga-trained groups have better awareness of their bodies than non-trained groups. Yoga can even help students maximize body function, on par with therapies such as the Alexander technique.

 

This boosted sense of perception goes hand-in-hand with improved posture. The more you’re aware of your posture, the more likely you’ll adjust it during the day.

 

 

  1. Focus on alignment

Yoga poses also emphasize alignment correction of hands, wrists, arms, and shoulders. This sense of proper structural alignment is great for improving posture. As poses are adjusted for optimal positioning, students get in the habit of ideal alignment and are able to hold poses correctly and for longer amounts of time.

 

This directly corresponds to improved posture over time. Even outside the yoga studio, students retain the habit of proper alignment and are likely to correct their slouch at the office or at home. You can even follow these tips to correct and cultivate body positioning.

 

 

  1. Core strengthening

Yoga is also linked to building core strength. Studies suggest that yoga enhances student’s core stability and core muscle function. These muscle groups are directly involved in controlling the lumbar spine, which is essential for achieving good posture. By boosting core strength, students will receive greater back support and may even see relief from lower back pain. With core muscles engaged and strengthened, your posture is sure to shine.

 

 

  1. Enhanced upper body and trunk

Studies also point to yoga as a big enhancer of upper body and trunk strength. In particular, trunk strength is related to posture control. By boosting these postural muscles, students train themselves for greater endurance and resistance.

 

Trunk strength is also key for balance, as seen in a recent study about falls in elderly people. When elderly people performed trunk exercises, they saw greater stability in their lumbar spine and better posture control.

 

 

  1. Maximum flexibility

Yoga also promotes greater flexibility in those who practice it. Flexibility is key in posture control because it aids in balance and motion range. This is good news for your posture, since flexibility can reduce muscle stiffness and tension. Moreover, by training full motion range, yoga can help strengthen your postural muscles and prevent back injury.

 

 

Yoga poses for good posture

 

 

Now that you know the benefits, let’s look at some good yoga poses for improving your posture.  

 

 

  1. Backbends

Yoga poses that incorporate backbends, including locust, cobra and sphinx poses, are great for strengthening postural muscles. They also enhance alignment by keeping the shoulders, head and back in the right positions. In addition, they promote flexibility in important postural regions.

 

How to do cobra pose: Lie down on your stomach with your hands square with your shoulders. Now, engage your core to lift up the arch of your back by pressing down on your hands. Ideally, keep your arms straight and your gaze up.

 

 

  1. Mountain pose

Mountain pose is a simple but effective standing pose to focus on alignment and be aware of your positioning. It’s also good training for balance and stability.

 

How to do mountain pose: The idea with mountain pose is to find the most neutral position while standing. Your feet should be squared with your hips and your weight balanced (not leaning forward or back).

 

 

  1. Upward/downward dog

Both upward and downward dog poses are excellent for posture for different reasons. While downward dog focuses on abdominal muscles and your core, upward dog also conditions the muscle group along the spine. This muscle strengthening is perfect for improved alignment, core strength and upper body boosting.

 

How to do downward dog: Starting on your hands and knees, lift back your pelvis so that you make an upside-down “v” shape with your body. Extend your spine and be sure to align your body.

 

 

  1. Chair pose

Chair pose also works the muscle group along the spine, as well as your hip and buttock muscles. Thus, this pose is great to increase core and trunk strength, as well as balance.

 

How to do chair pose: Once in a standing position, raise your hands and bend your knees into a sitting position. Your feet and knees should stay together.

 

 

  1. Planks

Finally, planks are great for core and upper body strengthening, including abdominal muscles and the muscle group along the spine. It’s also key for alignment, as the body must be squared for maximum results.

 

How to do planks: Get into a push up position, but keep your arms straight, your back flat and your eyes down. Engage your core as you hold this position.

 

 

 

Other posture boosts

 

 

As you can see, yoga is a great option for fixing your posture. If you’re looking for other posture boosts, you might consider contacting a chiropractor. According to a chiropractic doctor in Anchorage, one-on-one sessions can help you adjust your posture, as well as restore position, enhance flexibility and reduce pain. With a professional, you can create holistic care for your posture that includes both yoga and chiropractic, just like this doctor did.

 

Overall, we hope yoga and other posture strategies help you ditch the droop in your posture!

 

 

About Dr. Brent Wells

Dr. Brent Wells is a graduate of the University of Nevada where he earned his bachelor of science degree before moving on to complete his doctorate from Western States Chiropractic College. He founded Better Health Chiropractic & Physical Rehab in Alaska in 1998. He became passionate about being in the chiropractic field after his own experiences with hurried, unprofessional healthcare providers. The goal for Dr. Wells is to treat his patients with care and compassion while providing them with a better quality of life through his professional treatment.

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Printable Inspirational Quotes About Life.

Print out this poster of inspirational quotes about life. Perfect for hanging at work or at home to keep your mindset going strong!

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Inspirational Quotes Infographic By Norm Reeves

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Renee Descartes’ Contribution to Yoga.

Rene Descartes (1596-1650) is one of the foundational philosophers and mathematicians of Western Civilization. His most famous line is: “I think, therefore I am.” Think he did, and following the natural light of reason he journeyed into the depths of the human psyche. His quest therein crosses paths with yoga philosophy.

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Rene Descartes (1596-1650) is one of the foundational philosophers and mathematicians of Western Civilization. His most famous line is: I think, therefore I am.”

 

Think he did, and following the natural light of reason he journeyed into the depths of the human psyche. His quest therein crosses paths with yoga philosophy, which is rooted in Eastern philosophy, in particular he veers in the direction of Advaita Vedanta, a philosophy most notably expressed in the 20th century by Ramana Maharshi.

 

Ramana Maharshi (1879-1950) invigorated the teachings of the Indian teacher Sharkaracharya (8th Century) who reinvigorated the ancient Indian philosophy of Advaita Vedanta. These teachings find their parallel in Idealism, which asserts the primacy of the consciousness of the observer as the basis of reality. This is closely linked to Subjectivism, which says that our individual mental activity is the only thing that is absolutely certain.

 

 

How Descartes Intersects with Yoga

 

Let us imagine that Descartes travels forward in time, from his time, which he would admit to being a quite legitimate possibility, and winds up in southern India in 1936 at the ashram of Ramana Maharshi. We travel back in time to witness the meeting. The two men begin to discuss the ultimate nature of existence and quickly realize that they share an analogy and teaching, which offers insight into the nature of knowledge and the intellect of human beings.

 

The analogy they have in common is that of an individual being asleep and dreaming and yet not knowing they are asleep and dreaming.  Another way of stating the key element of this example is that we cannot distinguish between waking and dreaming because both states are created by our minds and our minds create our individual reality. Unless we discriminate carefully we tend to belief everything that our senses and thoughts convey to us.

 

Descartes uses this example to instruct us that we cannot trust our senses in our quest for ultimate knowledge because the senses do not always perceive even common truths. For example: the fact that we are actually asleep dreaming, whereas we think we are being chased by tigers through a forest. Descartes asserts that if we cannot trust our senses in one case we should never trust them in our quest for ultimate truth.

 

Ramana Maharshi uses the dream analogy to illustrate that the mind creates our reality and since this reality is always shifting: dreamscapes changing as well as waking scapes changing, we must look elsewhere to find the changeless reality. He asserts that only that which does not change is real. Some refute this saying that although the dreamscape is constantly shifting not so with the waking state. Observe carefully the world around you and you will see constant change. The sky, oceans, society, people, your thoughts and on and on. Nothing stays steady. Dream is short and waking is long but both are in flux. Add to that the fact that your and point of focus and hence personal reality is always shifting.

 

In their discussion the two men would hopefully agree that whereas Ramana says he is helping people to find the changeless and Descartes is helping them to find pure knowledge, they are both essentially talking about the same thing.

 

In the quest for truth Descartes doubts what his senses convey to him. Ramana looks at all that is generated by the mind and says, “Neti, neti, not this, not this,” as he searches for that which is unchanging. They both advocate eliminating false knowledge in the quest for true knowledge.

 

Given this shared starting point and dream reality, do Descartes and Ramana point us in the same direction from there?

 

Ramana says that the next step is to feel and realize that amidst all the change between dream and waking there is one thing that is constant: the sense of self. The awareness of the “I” that is having the experience; regardless whether it is a dream or waking reality there is always me at the heart of it. Ramana says to sink into that sense of self and therein you will connect with ultimate reality, the reality of being which transcends the mental fabric of mind. Ramana suggests that as thoughts and emotions arise we observe them and ask ourselves, “To whom has this thought arisen?”  The answer is, “To me.” One can then ask, “Who am I?” That is the inquiry that leads to the substratum of reality.

 

Descartes does not codify the process as succinctly as Ramana, who had a 200 + years of human evolution to draw upon.  Admittedly the concept of human evolution does throw some confusion into our time travel meeting as Descartes gets to go forward in time but still has his thought process from 200 years back.

Descartes does though arrive at the same understanding. He comes to the realization that the only certain thing is that he exists and is the thinker and observer of all his thoughts. Thus he says, “I think, therefore I am.” It is the essential awareness of the self at the center of all.

 

Ramana might say, “I observe, therefore I am.”

At the core of both statements is the essential awakening to the awareness that “I am.” This awareness transcends the ego identification wherein our sense of self is linked to thoughts, possessions and achievements: I am a Democrat, I am a good person, I am a rich person, I am the fastest runner, etc. The realizations of Descartes and Ramana point us to find ultimate knowledge and happiness in the profound awareness of our existence. The process requires diligence and plenty of quiet time, but is well worth the effort.

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How to Beat Holiday Stress & Keep That Festive Cheer.

It’s a busy time of year, but the holidays don’t have to be synonymous with stress. Keep that overwhelming feeling at bay by eating right, exercising, learning to say no, and making time for yourself. With the right attitude and a little bit of effort, you can truly experience holiday cheer.

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The holiday season is upon us and that means plenty of time spent with family and friends, way too much food, and memories to last a lifetime. However, the holidays can be chaotic as you try to keep up with gatherings, shopping, cooking, and baking, all while maintaining that festive cheer. To avoid becoming the town Scrooge, here a few ways to keep the stress at bay.

 

Trust Your Gut and Treat It Well

 

When the holidays arrive, it seems that cold and flu season hitches a ride, which means you should be proactive about staying on top of your vitamins and supplements. However, did you know that your overall health actually starts in your gut? Your gut is full of bacteria, and they all play a part, but two in particular (Lactobacillus helveticus and Bifidobacterium Longum) have been shown to help reduce the level of stress hormone in your body as well as your stress reaction. Consider giving yourself a healthy gift this year and add these supplements to the mix.

Another way to take care of your gut microbiome is to be mindful of what you are putting in your body. The saying you are what you eat holds true in that what you put in your mouth can affect your waistline and your mood. Resist the temptation to overindulge on sweet treats and holiday leftovers that you’ll stress over later, resulting in negative effects like acid reflux, cramps, and gas. Opt instead for whole foods, and be sure to eat fermented foods like yogurt, kefir, kimchi and sauerkraut to really boost your gut health

 

Don’t Skip Exercise

 

All that running around during the holidays might make you feel like you ran a marathon, but exercise needs to be done in an environment where you can focus on your body and mind. Doing so enables you to get the most benefit out of your exercise, which is the production and release of endorphins. According to Healthline, “They can trigger a positive feeling in the body, boosting mood and reducing feelings of anxiety and stress.” A gym workout is one way to get exercise, but there are other options too such as walking, jogging, biking, or playing sports. Another form of exercise worth a try is yoga. Whether you are a beginner or a yogi, break out the mat and breathe your way through the holiday season. Yoga is the ultimate mindfulness practice, helping you to stay present, uplifted, energized, and worry-free. If you are new to yoga or simply prefer guidance and support at your fingertips, find an online yoga community such as Pilgrimage Yoga Online.

 

 

Learn the Power of No

 

Saying no isn’t something that comes easy, but never is its power more evident than during the holidays. As Hello Giggles puts it, “It’s in our nature to be socially obliging, even at our own expense, and the word “no” feels like confrontation that threatens a potential bond,” leading you to feel overextended, overwhelmed, and stressed. Perhaps you feel as though saying no is rude, but it can be said in a respectful manner. Say something like: “I wish I could, but I can’t take on anything else this week” or “I’d love to, but I’m a little overextended at the moment.” Most importantly, you should never feel guilty for saying no.

 

Make Time to Relax

 

Although this is a busy time of year, there are actually plenty of opportunities for fun and relaxation. Get in the spirit by putting on your coziest pajamas and listening to your favorite music or binge watching holiday movies. Find unique activities to try that don’t involve immersing yourself in the chaos that is the mall. Perhaps you could go for a sleigh ride, go caroling, look at holiday lights, or volunteer. You could even make relaxation a new holiday tradition where the family designates an event-free day to rest and recharge in whatever way works for them. If you are crunched for time, take comfort knowing there are ways to relax that take no more than five minutes of your time – just check out this list for proof.

 

It’s a busy time of year, but the holidays don’t have to be synonymous with stress. Keep that overwhelming feeling at bay by eating right, exercising, learning to say no, and making time for yourself. With the right attitude and a little bit of effort, you can truly experience holiday cheer.

       

 

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How to Design Your Yoga Room at Home.

While heading to a yoga studio works for many of us, we have have other needs that make attending studio classes impossible. Maybe we’re introverted or have a busy schedule or need to be home with the kiddos and to take care of our chores. If you like the idea of being able to practice yoga whenever the mood strikes you, you may want to design your own yoga room at home. While you’re planning yours, try to consider the following aspects.

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While heading to a yoga studio works for many of us, we have have other needs that make attending studio classes impossible. Maybe we’re introverted or have a busy schedule or need to be home with the kiddos and to take care of our chores. If you like the idea of being able to practice yoga whenever the mood strikes you, you may want to design your own yoga room at home. While you’re planning yours, try to consider the following aspects.

 

Find Your Practice Area

 

 

The only requirement for your space is that you’re able to comfortably move your limbs in all directions when you’re lying down, seated and standing. Your space doesn’t have to be huge, you just don’t want to end up with a sense of claustrophobia. If you like to practice yoga with friends, of course, you’ll need a bigger room.

 

Many aspects of our space are up to each individual person. For instance, you may love practicing over a carpeted floor, which can give you extra padding for weight bearing postures. Or you may find that carpeted floor is too soft, which may motivate you to find a harder surface, whether you’re changing locations or placing a plank of wood under your mat.

 

Finding a suitable space can require creativity, which is part of the fun! If there’s nowhere in your home that’s suitable for a makeshift yoga room, why not create or build your own? You could install a decorated used shipping container or a roomy shed in your backyard – as a bonus, your yoga room will then be away from any indoor distractions.

 

You might be surprised at where you can find space in your home, too – perhaps if you rearrange some of your furniture, you’ll be able to create a dedicated space to practice yoga, if not an entire room. It’s important to stick to the same location for your yoga sessions, as doing so will help to keep you focused and may increase your motivation. Keeping your yoga mat rolled out will also serve to invite you to practice when your mind is on other things.

 

Curate Your Space

 

 

The only real essential that you need in a yoga room is a mat; other than that, what you choose to decorate with depends on your own preferences.

 

You might like to bring in a computer, so you can watch videos or listen to mantras, music, or white noise, or you might prefer to stick to a set of speakers to which you can connect your phone. Perhaps you prefer to practice in silence, in which case you won’t need any sound equipment!

 

Whatever you choose to place in your yoga room, try not to overwhelm it with clutter; a minimalist space will help you much more in achieving mindfulness. If you are repainting, choose a light shade for your walls. It’s worth avoiding mirrors and other distracting objects, but if you’re religious, you might like to have a statuette to bring you peace, while if you have trouble remaining calm, you might want to bring in an object that soothes you, such as candles, incense or meaningful chotchkies.

 

 

Control the Mood

 

Relaxing is much easier when you can control your lighting. For this reason, it’s a good idea to install dimmer lights so you can adjust the lighting at an appropriate setting depending on the time of day and the weather. You can also rely on candles to set the mood; they’re particularly good for meditation. If you like the idea of natural light, you’ll have to choose a room with large windows; rest assured that if this isn’t an option for you, good quality lighting will do almost as well.

 

Practicing yoga at home is a great way to both avoid a commute and to ensure that you’re able to indulge regularly. Try to set yourself a routine, either in the mornings or after you get home from work, and enjoy the freedom and peace that having your own home yoga room can give you.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Johanna Cider is passionate about living and writing about a healthy, eco-responsible lifestyle. She turns to lavender-scented candles, relaxing music, and a few minutes of yoga to unwind after a long day. Discover more about Johanna on her Tumblr page: Musings of Johanna.

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How To Choose the Right Yoga Mat For You.

If you’re looking for a good yoga mat, it can be an overwhelming experience, particularly if this is your first time. Modern yoga mats are made from various materials and sold in a variety of sizes, colors, and thicknesses. Typical mat prices vary from ~$25 all the way up to $100 or more. With an investment like this, it’s always good to ensure that your yoga mat checks off your priorities, whether those priorities are having some light weight or having something with extra cushion or even having a mat that’s extra long or wide.

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Choosing a yoga mat goes beyond color, pattern and aesthetic appeal. Your yoga mat should be capable of providing the right amount of support and comfort to make your yoga sessions easier. For those who carry their yoga mat to the studio or when traveling, it also needs to be light, easy to carry around and compact. And for many, it’s also nice to have a yoga mat made from eco-friendly materials.

If you’re looking for a good yoga mat, it can be an overwhelming experience, particularly if this is your first time. Modern yoga mats are made from various materials and sold in a variety of sizes, colors, and thicknesses. Typical mat prices vary from ~$25 all the way up to $100 or more. With an investment like this, it’s always good to ensure that your yoga mat checks off your priorities, whether those priorities are having some light weight or having something with extra cushion or even having a mat that’s extra long or wide.

In this guide, we will explain each of these aspects and more, which will make the process of choosing the ideal yoga mat for you a bit simpler. Closenberg, a yoga mats distributor, says, “When it comes to picking a yoga mat, there is a certain criterion you need to follow.” And since most of us can’t simply try out a mat before purchasing, it’s these things you’ll want to keep in mind as you make your selection.

Choosing The Right Yoga Mat

Materials

The materials used to make a particular yoga mat will determine its texture, sponginess, stickiness, and eco-friendliness. Most yoga mats sold these days are made of either vinyl or rubber. If you’re looking for a long-lasting, durable yoga mat, then go for vinyl yoga mats. Vinyl mats tend to last very long and can take a lot of abuse from all those yoga classes. However, vinyl mats have been criticized for not being eco-friendly. Meanwhile, rubber yoga mats usually have cotton and jute in them which make environmentally friendly, but the mats will feel less spongy. There are mats made of cotton, and these yoga mats tend to be thin and eco-friendly. They provide less support when compared to vinyl or rubber mats, but cotton mats are great at absorbing sweat and increases grip when wet. Yoga mats made of jute offer similar features like cotton mats, but jute being more fibrous, it is slightly rougher than cotton and absorbs less moisture.

Texture

The texture of the mat depends on the amount of traction it has. If you’re someone who tends to sweat a lot during yoga, a grippy mat is ideal for you to prevent you from slipping. If bumpy textured mats aren’t your thing, then choose a smooth mat that can absorb moisture. For slippery individuals, also consider using a yoga towel or even regular towel laid out over your mat during practice.

Thickness

There are three main mat thicknesses: 1/4″ thickness, 1/8″ thickness, and, 1/16″ thickness. The differences among these three thickness levels are significant. If your yoga mat is too thin, you may experience some discomfort on your knees and joints while performing certain poses. If the mat is too thick, maintaining balance and holding a pose will become problematic. We think a yoga mat with 1/8″ thickness is perfect for most people. This level is the most commonly used thickness and has the ideal combination of performance and portability.

Size

A standard yoga mat typically measures 24″ x 68″. There are also mats that measure 72″ and 74″ in lengths, with some yoga mats being as long as 84″.  Most yogis will nicely fit on the most standard-sized mat, but if you’re taller, then you need to buy a yoga mat that is extra-long. To know which length of mat you should buy just place your hands and feet on the mat. If they’re securely on the mat, then the length is enough.

Price

Whether you buy a vinyl, rubber, or cotton yoga mat, try to get the most out of it.  For the most part, standard-sized vinyl yoga mats are a bit expensive than most other mats. The price of the mats also depends on the materials and thickness. Additional features like antimicrobial treatments or patterns/designs on the mats will cost you extra. To make things less complicated, we suggest you choose a yoga mat that matches your level of dedication, personal taste, and experience.

Our Recommendations:

Affordable Choice: You can many inexpensive mats from retailers like Target or Walmart. Yoga mats from these stores range from $10-$50 and available in various colors and patterns.

Best Value Choice: Gaiam offers a nice collection of yoga mats ranging from $21-$90 online. The price will vary depending on the length, thickness, and material.

Premium Choice:  If money isn’t a problem, and you want the best yoga mats, then opt for Manduka yoga mats. These premium quality yoga mats are more expensive than Lululemon but come with a luxurious non-slip fabric-like finish.

About Author:

Katrina D. Keller is a well-known blogger who has a wide variety of interests. She loves to do Yoga and meditation daily. To know more about her you can visit her website https://bestinyoga.com.

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Best Yoga Studio Interior Design Ideas for New Studio Owners.

By utilizing appropriate interior design ideas in the form of practical lighting solutions, appropriate spatial organisation and fun accessories, you will be able to provide a yoga experience that will give your students a soothing atmosphere to get in shape, inquire deeply and reap the physical and cognitive benefits of a long-term yoga practice.

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You’re planning on opening a yoga studio but you are unsure where and how to start. It can be challenging to figure out the potential expectations and needs of your future students.

By utilizing appropriate interior design ideas in the form of practical lighting solutions, appropriate spatial organisation and fun accessories, you will be able to provide a yoga experience that will give your students a soothing atmosphere to get in shape, inquire deeply and reap the physical and cognitive benefits of a long-term yoga practice.

There are now interior design trends that can turn any yoga studio into a true oasis of peace and relaxation. In order to help you pick the best ones, we have singled out our favorite design must-haves for the ideal yoga studio. Let’s take a look and get inspired.

 

Lighting

 

The amount and type of lighting can benefit your patrons immensely when utilized properly.

If you’re able to find a space with large windows, it will allow for more natural light to fill the space and create an inviting atmosphere during the day. However, you also have to pay attention to the fact that your students require privacy, so it’s vital to opt for decorative frosted window film which will allow natural light but preserve the privacy students often need to fully engage in their practice.

Switching your incandescent light bulbs with neutral white LEDs is the perfect way to go. Not only is this an energy-saving solution, but these bulbs won’t cause your visitors eye strain or awful migraines and turn their lessons into a real nightmare. Lastly, make sure to invest in dimmer switches and adjust the brightness according to your students’ wishes.

Finally, feel free to explore other yoga studio lighting ideas until you discover what will allow you to create the ideal workout environment for your visitors. Apart from focusing on the type of light bulbs and their specifications, you will need to take your patrons’ point of view into consideration and place the lighting fixtures so that they provide enough light in all parts of the room for a variety of situations and atmospheres.

  • Try warm lighting for a relaxing atmosphere
  • Take advantage of natural light, but make sure to preserve the privacy of the room
  • Install dimmers for full lighting control
  • Play around with lights on the ceiling, lights in sconces on the wall, salt lamps, candles, etc.

Eco-friendly building materials

 

Nowadays, yoga studio visitors are extremely conscious about preserving the environment and stay up to date on eco-friendly trends. It  has become increasingly important to invest in sustainable options while you’re designing your studio, such as bamboo, linoleum, natural stone and other recycled materials. Yoga students not only want to be in space that has been curated according to environmental best practices, but they also want to experience the ambiance of nature.

If you’re in a position to change out the floors in your yoga room, bamboo is not only perfect for creating a comfortable floor for working out but it is also more water resistant than hardwood so all the sweat that drips on it won’t cause any moisture damage.

Lastly, consider adding natural stone on the wall as decorations which will add an earthy, natural touch to your studio and tie the whole place together.

Here are several more ideas on how to green your studio without major renovations and thus appeal to your eco-conscious audience.

  • Stick with environmental best practices when curating your studio
  • Add natural wood and stone as furniture pieces, flooring, wall pieces, etc.
  • Combine different natural materials to provide a natural ambiance

Colors

 

When it comes to finding the perfect color palette for your yoga studio, consider not only your branding, but the type of atmosphere students are looking for when entering a yoga studio.

Some yoga studios make the mistake of using vibrant and oversaturated colors which can alienate those who are looking for peace, clarity and simplicity. Try using light pastel shades and natural earthy tones which positively affect everyone’s mood and energy during yoga practice.

For instance, beige walls have a truly calming effect and when matched with turquoise accent walls, they can promote positive, focused thoughts and help everyone get the most out of their sessions. What’s best, there are now easy-to-use color palette generators you can use to find the best paint schemes for your studio.

  • Stick with earthy and natural tones including white, beige, and pastels
  • Use a color generator tool to choose your accent colors, and use these colors in all your branding material for the studio (website, fliers, business cards, etc.)

Quality Air

Having pure and fresh air in the studio is one of the key factors for creating the ideal space for yoga sessions. Mainly, better air quality means that your students won’t be at risk of suffering from allergy attacks and respiratory difficulties which will allow them to enjoy each class to the fullest.

Allergens like pollen and dust mites are common. Therefore,successful yoga studios are often dedicated to using the latest air quality enhancement technologies. The same goes for other studios from all around the world, including those in Australia, which all use efficient air conditioning  to provide clean air and eradicate pesky allergens.

Lastly, even though essential oils, incense, scented candles and plants can add freshness to the space, you need to know that they can also cause breathing difficulties to those allergic to them. With this in mind, ensure that you check with your students if they suffer from any allergies so that you can eliminate any possible threats.

  • Maintain the air quality in your studio with air purifying systems, fans and circulation
  • Opt for small plants that clean the air, and place them strategically to not disturb students who may be allergic
  • Be aware that students can be sensitive to incense, essential oils and scented candles. Ensure that if you are using these products to use them prior to yoga classes and fan out the room for a light scent.

Introduce greenery

 

These days, you certainly won’t find a modern yoga studio without loads of greenery. The reason for this is that plants help tie contemporary design elements together and can quickly turn an average space into a real healthy sanctuary by purifying the air and enriching it with oxygen.

For example, you can go for potted small trees like a dwarf lemon or a Ficus which will create a natural setting and make the studio feel more welcoming. On the other hand, for a different kind of look, you can opt for a Rubber Plant or a bamboo palm which will immediately transport your customers to a distant exotic location and turn their sessions into a treat for the body and mind.

 

Reception Area

Last but not least, every great yoga studio needs a lounge area where people can come to prepare or unwind before class. In a perfect world, you would want to have refreshments prepared for the customers so that they can stay energized, and individual lockers where they can leave their belongings.

If this is not realistic, having water and hot tea options are usually affordable and attend to students’ needs. In lieu of lockers, you can opt for cubby spaces both in the lounge area and inside the yoga room in case students don’t want to leave their belongings unattended.

Don’t forget, your lounge area has to have appropriate decoration in the form of motivational posters and paintings of remote areas of the world so that new students can get a wonderful first impression. Of course, this doesn’t have to be the only option. Instead, you can organize a small shopping area where customers can browse through your very own branded mats, t-shirts or even yoga-themed books. This will further reflect on you positive ratings and help you attract more customers. Lastly, if you want to add a more personal touch to the interior, think about hanging pictures of your yoga teachers and students on the walls. This will contribute to an intimate and warm atmosphere.  

Keep in mind that all senses need to be catered to in your studio so you should definitely get some scented candles and incense to create an atmosphere that will captivate your visitors.

  • Ensure that you have a large enough reception area to accommodate students entering and leaving the studio.
  • Install cubbies or lockers for students to leave their shoes, coats and personal belongings
  • Offer rental mats, hot tea, water and small snacks for students who need a pick-me-up before or after class.
  • Consider that your reception area is often the student’s first impression of the studio. Decorate accordingly to both welcome the students and introduce them to what makes your studio such a special place to practice.

 

As you can see, creating the ideal modern yoga studio is not so difficult after all. All it takes is willingness to research modern design trends and get to know your customers preferences and needs. Good luck with your project!

 

CHLOE TAYLOR is an art historian and recreational ballet dancer. Her biggest dream is to travel the whole world and take stunning photographs of beautiful places. She also enjoys learning and writing about home design, since she is crazy about aesthetics. She is a regular contributor to Smooth Decorator

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Yoga Rules for Life: The Theory & Practice of Sexuality in the Context of Yoga.

What does yoga have to do with sex? Everything, because yoga has something to do with everything and sex has everything to do with being human. Our sexuality is a part of our identity. Yoga is the exploration of identity and ultimately leads us beyond our identity formed by thought and into our identity connected to the infinite.

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Sexuality is one of the cornerstones of our lives. It permeates our biology and hence our thoughts.

 

Our culture and media, which is a reflection of our shared interests, is constantly broadcasting sex and sexuality, oftentimes to influence our behavior.

 

Theory of Sexuality

 

What does yoga have to do with sex? Everything, because yoga has something to do with everything and sex has everything to do with being human.

 

Our sexuality is a part of our identity. Yoga is the exploration of identity and ultimately leads us beyond our identity formed by thought and into our identity connected to the infinite.

 

Our sexuality is part of our body. Our bodies are part of the continuation of our species and hence procreation and the raising of children are ingrained in our DNA.

 

Yoga is the exploration of our body. We become aware of our bodies through the practice of the physical postures of yoga: asanas. The asanas make our bodies strong and supple allowing for the natural flow of energy.  

 

Body, mind and emotions are intertwined. By opening and strengthening our bodies we allow for the natural and holistic expression of our sexuality.  

 

Sexuality affects our breathing. Yoga involves the awareness of breath and breath regulation. Through breath awareness and control we can become aware of our sexual energy and its intrinsic nature in our being.

 

Practice of Sexuality

 

The essence of yoga is to become aware of our deepest nature. The practice of yoga involves bringing stillness and hence the power of observation to all parts of our being. In the stillness of observation we are able to realize and utilize the vast storehouse of energy that is inside the biology and psyche of each of us.

 

This stillness is achieved through many means: mantras, breathing techniques, visualizations, meditation and exercise.

 

Yoga is traditionally thought of as having eight limbs. The first branch involves moral and ethical observations and one of these is brahmacharya, which is the observation and utilization of our sexual energy. Brahmacharya is often translated as celibacy.

 

In order to explore celibacy we do not need to take a lifelong vow of celibacy or live as a hermit in a cave. Amidst all our activities and various interpersonal relationships we can observe and learn about ourselves by observing the sexual energy in our lives.

 

Try maintaining calmness and observe the sexual energy without physically or mentally reacting to it. In this stillness, however long it lasts you can observe and learn about yourself.

 

There are many forms that sexual energy can take. It is in essence the force of creation. Try channeling your energy into different facets of life:  business, friendships, artistic pursuits etc.

 

All aspects of yoga will help you to do this: the postures, breathing exercises, meditation and study. Brahmacharya is not a moral judgment about sexual energy being good or bad. Rather it is an exploration, a scientific experiment, and a journey into the essence of the most powerful force in creation.

 

The sexual force is depicted in mystical art and literature as a snake that is coiled up at the base of the spine. Often called the kundalini, it is the power of nature, which for most human beings resides in the energy centers below and around the navel. The snake is awake but the energy is used in satisfying our base desires: lust and cravings for power, name, fame and wealth.

 

We also find the snake in the mythology of the Garden of Eden. It is the snake, the sexual force, experienced in the form of pleasure that leads Adam and Eve to a new relationship with the world in which they live. Sex with another changes our lives and destiny.

 

The mystical imagery of enlightenment often depicts this kundalini snake as awakening and winding up the spine until it reaches the brain: the top of the spine, the crown chakra. It is then when the yogi is awakened; when you are awakened!

 

 

 

Sujantra McKeever is the founder of Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga in San Diego, which serves over 1,000 yogis a week, and also helped create Pilgrimage Yoga Online. He is the author of five books on eastern philosophy, success and meditation. Sujantra studied meditation with spiritual teacher Sri Chinmoy and has lectured on meditation and yoga in over 30 countries.

 

 

 

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Relaxation Techniques While Driving: How to Use Your Commute Time to Amplify Your Zen.

For those of us forced behind the wheel each morning, there has to be a better way to spend those minutes than stressing about the day ahead. Luckily, commute time can also be used as impactful alone time, maybe one of the only times you get to be alone all day. Turn stress into stress relief.

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Most people don’t enjoy commuting to and from work. The minutes spent idling on the highway, the last minute gas station stops before your morning meeting, spilling coffee down your shirt!

 

For those of us forced behind the wheel each morning, there has to be a better way to spend those minutes than stressing about the day ahead. Luckily, commute time can also be used as impactful alone time, maybe one of the only times you get to be alone all day. Turn stress into stress relief.

 

Be intentional about what you do during your commute to and from work with these easy tips. Here’s how:

Meditate

 

Practicing meditation on your commute is a great way to set a positive tone for the workday ahead. While this can be particularly difficult for those who have overly-anxious minds or those utilizing public transportation to get to work, there are methods to finding mindfulness and inner peace at this critical part of the day.

 

There are many different types of meditation, perfect for different types of people. Start by meditating a few minutes before you leave the house–this can be as simple as taking a couple of deep breaths or a moment of silence in bed before you get up or as you sip on your morning coffee. Not only will this bring you a sense of calm, but it’s a good way to focus and ensure you drive safer. Meditation apps such as Headspace or Calm are great resources for beginners or those who just want a little more guidance. They have diverse levels of structure, from breathing technique and guided prompts.

 

Once you get in the car (or on the bus or on the train), take a moment to establish your posture. On your commute, pop your earbuds in or sync your phone to your car speakers so you can ride along with the app. Another alternative is to listen to meditative music or use noise-canceling headphones that can create a tranquil bubble and block out the distracting world around you.

 

Listen to Positive Influence Podcasts

 

Most commuters travel at the same time, making that hour or so in the morning extra busy and stressful. Change your mindset so that instead of this chunk of time feeling like a waste, it can be a time to learn and live a healthier life. Listening to a podcast will help your brain focus on relaxing and let the surrounding traffic and people melt away.

 

Holding Space by Dr. Cassidy Freitas is a great podcast that breaks down the scary barrier to mental health and therapy by sharing stories and connections of the human experience. Selfie is another helpful podcast that explores topics like eating healthy, getting enough sleep, and balancing the body, mind, and spirit.

 

You’ll learn something new every time you tune-in during this time of the day which will help you look forward to your commute, instead of despising it. iPhones and Android phones both have built-in apps that let you download and save podcasts to listen to whenever you’d like, making them accessible both in the car or on a train that may lose service.

 

Use the time for Self-care

 

Another great use of this time is to practice self-care. Often times, our own feelings and mental state of being get pushed back behind the needs of work, family, and friends.

 

If you take a bus, train or subway, start by packing a journal that you can write in every day on your commute. The act of writing is mindful and meditative without actually meditating. Ask yourself to write out a list of everything you’re grateful for if you don’t know where to start. You’ll find that the pen takes over as soon as you start to let go and be honest with yourself.

 

Remind yourself what is truly meaningful to you in life and let your brain clear of all the clutter to come in the rest of the day. Other things to note are simply a to-do list, goals for the week, long-term goals, and even just daydreams. Physically releasing onto a piece of paper is therapeutic by having yourself let go of emotions but could also help you gain a new perspective on your life and what you want.

 

If you drive to work, take advantage of the voice-recording app found on iPhones and Androids to record your thoughts and feelings. You can also take advantage of this time to reach out to your loved ones–write them an email or text about how much they mean to you and wish them a good day. If available, call them up while commuting to check in. This is both a productive and relaxing use of commute time.

Do What Brings You Joy

 

Depending on how you commute to work, pack or download a great book for your commute that you can read as a distraction from everything going on around you. Chances are you’ve memorized your commute down to the minute, so you’ll have no trouble getting to work on time (instead of getting lost in the story).

 

Bring along a pen to highlight favorite passages that you can return to later in the day if things become overwhelming.

 

Adult coloring books are also super fun and are known to help reduce anxiety. If you can find a seat on a train, break one of these out and let your stress levels decrease as you color away.

 

And finally, there’s nothing like turning up the sound system on your favorite song. Listening to music can help boost your mood, to create a specific playlist to turn on while commuting. Add songs that are upbeat, loud, and fun for your trip to work, and more mellow, calm songs for your trip home to help you unwind. These songs can be your anthems (instead of an annoying alarm clock) and help you head into work with a positive attitude.

 

And there you have it. The next morning you hop in your car to head to work, try one of these surefire ways to get in the zone for your big day ahead. What are some ways you’ve turned your commute into quality time with yourself?

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Sam Casteris is an avid writer and explorer of all things travel, mindfulness, and financial health. You can find more of her work in her portfolio

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A Guide to the Benefits of Different Types of Meditation. [Infographic]

An infographic featuring 5 different styles of meditation and their benefits, including mindfulness, visualization, focused meditation, movement meditation and spiritual meditation.

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This infographic was created by Culinary Teas

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How To Motivate Yourself to Workout & Eat Healthy.

We start a workout plan and stick to it for a while, but then our motivation soon dwindles and we get back to the old, unhealthy ways. And it keeps happening. It starts off well, but then we run into an issue and we keep missing out more and more workouts until we stop completely. The same thing happens to our diet, and then we’re back to square one, frustrated that we can’t seem to stick to a schedule.

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While we all understand the gist of why physical activity and a good diet are important, how we’re supposed to incorporate them into our routine is another matter.

 

We start a workout plan and stick to it for a while, but then our motivation soon dwindles and we get back to the old, unhealthy ways. And it keeps happening. It starts off well, but then we run into an issue and we keep missing out more and more workouts until we stop completely.

 

The same thing happens to our diet, and then we’re back to square one, frustrated that we can’t seem to stick to a schedule. Well, don’t worry. There are a few things that you can do to create a healthy lifestyle for yourself and stick to it. If you want to know more, read on.

 

Simplify your plan

 

If your plan involves you getting up at 6 AM every other morning to get to the gym and following a complex diet with too many restrictions, it’s going to fail. Unless you have an insane amount of willpower and determination, plans that require you to turn your life around probably just won’t work. What you need is a plan that’s easy to stick to and that doesn’t require you to sacrifice too much. Get yourself a planner, then sit down and write all your obligations down. See where you can easily fit in a workout, see when you can afford the time to cook something, and really schedule everything you want to do. Do a home workout on the days you can’t make it to the gym, and create simple meal plans that don’t involve too much cooking.

 

Introduce a five-minute rule

Promise yourself that you’ll do at least five minutes of your workout. Even when you feel really lazy and really tired, promise yourself this: “I’ll just put my clothes on and exercise for five minutes.” Doing only five minutes is a lot better than doing nothing, and it can really help you train yourself to have a routine that you crave to do every day. Besides, maybe it inspires you to push past those five minutes and finish a whole workout.

 

Get some nice clothes

Clothes can inspire you! It’s kind of nice to admire your own booty in a pair of hot leggings. You can observe your progress the more you work and feel proud of your accomplishments. As long as you’re comfortable, you can also look cute.

 

Prepare meals in advance

This is the absolute best tip for people who hate cooking or don’t have the time to cook. You can make great meals for the whole week if you prepare them in advance. Do it on Sunday, just before the work week starts – chop up veggies, boil a few eggs, roast some chicken, prepare some homemade granola bars for snacks. As long as you’ve got a good stove like the one from Bosch slide-in range, you can make everything in no time at all and get all your cooking done in one day. Meal prep is the best way to ensure you always have a healthy meal on your hands, so you never have to reach for greasy food or a sugary snack to sate your craving.

 

Eat more delicious whole foods

Bear in mind that diets are not supposed to feel awful. They can actually be quite satisfying, especially if you pick fresh whole foods. The problem is that we’re used to additives in junk food so much that we’re addicted to that taste, but if you let your gut rest and eat healthier things–mostly plants, lots of water–then you’ll start realizing how good it actually is. Stick to unrefined, unprocessed foods (particularly vegetables) because this will give you a whole load of awesome nutrients that will help you reach your fitness goals.

 

Find a buddy or a support group

It’s easier to get passionate about fitness if you have someone who’s going to share your burden. See if any of your friends want to start a health journey with you, and then push each other to keep getting better.

 

Change up your exercise

Hey, if something gets boring you can always change it up. You can find excellent fitness resources here, and we recommend that you make full use of them because they don’t cost a dime and they’re an easy way to switch up your routine. Also, consider signing up for a sport or a dance class. Something that you really enjoy, and something that will motivate you because you’ll be learning a useful skill in addition to getting fit.

And most of all, find a way to enjoy your fitness journey. Don’t commit to things that you hate. Instead, make sure to create a solid plan that you’ll enjoy and that won’t leave much room for making excuses.

 

About the author: Tracey Clayton is a full time mom of three girls. She’s passionate about fashion, home décor and healthy living. Her motto is: “Live the life you love, love the life you live.”

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Lifestyle Changes To Improve Health: Small Changes You Can Make to Boost Your Health Every Day.

Everyone can improve their health in some way, but many of us aren’t sure where to start. Extreme fitness routines and fad diets require us to shift our daily schedule too much, making them difficult to keep up. Instead, in order to reach our goal of sustainable health and wellness, it can be as simple as making small but significant alterations each day that don’t feel like a sacrifice.

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Everyone can improve their health in some way, but many of us aren’t sure where to start. Extreme fitness routines and fad diets require us to shift our daily schedule too much, making them difficult to keep up. Instead, in order to reach our goal of sustainable health and wellness, it can be as simple as making small but significant alterations each day that don’t feel like a sacrifice.

Practice Good Sleep

A full night of quality sleep can help your memory, minimize symptoms of depression, and sharpen your attention. It also reduces inflammation, aids weight loss efforts, and combats daytime fatigue. If you have trouble getting to sleep at night, you may benefit from proper sleep hygiene techniques. According to Tuck.com, there are four important ingredients for a good sleep: darkness, quiet, comfort, and a cool temperature. In addition to this, you should go to bed at the same time every night and create a healthy bedtime routine to follow. For example, try meditating or reading a book before bed instead of scrolling through social media on your phone. Also consider not eating for at least two hours before bedtime. This allows food to move further in the digestion process so that our night sleep isn’t spent digesting–it’s spent repairing and building.

Pay Attention to Nutrition Information

The nutrition facts labels on food are there to help us follow a healthy diet, so pay attention to them! By looking at the label, you can compare foods to find those that are lowest in saturated and trans fats, cholesterol, sugar, and sodium. Limiting these ingredients in your diet will help you maintain a healthy weight and avoid chronic lifestyle diseases. Nutrition labels also indicate foods that are nutrient-dense, helping you meet your daily nutrient requirements without excessive calorie intake. Look for foods that contain 10-20 percent of your fiber, iron, calcium or essential vitamins when shopping. Additionally, check the ingredients list to avoid additives and preservatives.

 

Once you know what you’re eating, you can begin to assess how different combinations of food make you feel. Current nutritional research is showing that there is not a one-size-fits-all optimal diet for all people. Some people feel better on a high-carb/low-fat diet and others thrive on a high fat/low carb diet. The biggest consensus in nutrition is limiting our intake of refined sugars and flours, and to eat a variety of dark leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, brussel sprouts, kale, etc). Beyond that, it’s up to each of us individually to pursue education and test different foods to see what their impact is on our energy levels, mood, and inflammation.

Get Moving Whenever Possible

Too busy to exercise? That’s not an excuse anymore! You can exercise in short bouts of 10-minute intervals throughout the day instead of carving out the time in your schedule for longer workouts. Research suggests that you’ll receive many of the same health benefits as you would from one continuous period of physical activity. As long as you aim for 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise each week, you’ll meet American health guidelines. Go for a brisk walk during a break at work, do a quick bodyweight workout while you’re waiting for dinner to cook, or start your morning with a refreshing yoga routine.

Develop Healthy Habits for Stress Management

Stress is one of the biggest threats to our health these days. It plays with our hormones, overworks our physical body, and creates long-term psychological issues. Managing stress in healthy ways — whether by taking up an exercise regimen or finding hobbies that help lower and manage your anxiety levels — should be a priority in your life. However, avoid turning to drugs or alcohol to cope. Not only are these substances detrimental to our health, but also they can worsen stress and anxiety in the long run. Drinking is particularly risky for women, as research has revealed that women who consume at least one drink per day have a higher risk of developing breast cancer. Yoga, specifically, is a great way to lower cortisol levels in the body and reduce nervous system activity.

Think More Positively

Negativity can undermine your attempts to improve your health as you face feelings of helplessness and hopelessness. Positive thinking, on the other hand, can help you avoid bad habits, form healthy relationships and enjoy greater self-esteem. Positivity involves looking at the world with a greater acceptance of the challenges you experience. Although cliché, it’s about making the best out of every situation, good or bad. Of course, it can be difficult to change deeply-rooted thought patterns. This is where yoga and meditation can be beneficial, helping you focus inwardly on your own self-talk so you can make a more conscious effort to replace negative thoughts with positive ones.

 

As you implement some of these changes in your own life, remember why you’re doing it. Do you want to improve your body image? Wake up with more energy? Boost your productivity at work? These goals can be the motivation you need to fuel every small effort you make toward greater health.

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Addiction Treatments That Work: Hunger Hormones Could Aid Fight Against Addiction

There are many different treatment methods and beliefs of approaching the sensitive topic of addiction, but some experts believe one recent discovery in particular, may hold the key to curbing addiction rates and ensuring a better future for generations to come.

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The Persistent Problem

How many times have you heard about someone who was struggling with alcohol or drug addiction? It’s a very common occurrence as substance abuse continues to harm thousands of users and their loved ones.

Researchers and health advocates have quite the task on their hands as they try to combat the ever-growing problem of addiction. Substance abuse is a serious concern and not something to take lightly. Many lives are lost, and a lot money is spent as a result of prolonged alcohol and drug use.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the costs are high. Every year, the combined costs of addiction to alcohol, tobacco, and illicit drugs exceed more than $740 billion. This includes hefty price tags that are related to lost work productivity, health care, and crime that result from substance abuse.

In 2011, tobacco abuse created $168 billion in health care costs alone, while alcohol accounted for $27 billion and prescription opioids cost $26 billion. These numbers keep going up as the opioid epidemic grips our nation. More and more lives are lost to substance abuse, and  new users try alcohol and drugs for the first time.

The CDC keeps track of the substance abuse problem as Americans  are adversely affected by substances that can destroy and devastate their lives. In 2016, over 64,000 people in the U.S. died from drug overdoses alone. This includes both prescriptions and illicit drugs, which are far too easy for people to get their hands on these days.

 

Chronic Health Problems

One of the huge challenges is that prolonged and persistent use of these substances causes chronic health problems. From a poor physical appearance to heart and liver failure, there are countless health risks when it comes to abusing drugs and alcohol. That’s why researchers and medical teams are working  to come up with better ways to treat addiction and save lives.

There are many different treatment methods and beliefs of approaching the sensitive topic of addiction, but some experts believe one recent discovery in particular, may hold the key to curbing addiction rates and ensuring a better future for generations to come.

The Society for the Study of Ingestive Behavior brought together some of the brightest minds and discovered a connection between the gut hormones, such as Ghrelin and Amylin, involved in obesity and overeating with the hormones that lead to addiction. These researchers believe that this accomplishment could open doors in the world of addiction treatment, as the same hormones that trigger the body’s feelings of hunger and fullness are also at play in drug and alcohol addiction.

 

New Findings

This could be the breakthrough that so many advocates and health officials have been hoping for. Researchers shared their confidence that we could soon see new and improved addiction treatments, as there are several drugs that affect gut hormones with FDA approval or awaiting the go-ahead from government officials.

Scientists have long understood that the human body reacts a certain way to satisfactory feelings like eating or drinking. These new findings point to hard-working hormones that could be causing the addictive feelings.

Gut hormones tell the human brain to regulate dopamine signaling, which affects a person’s decision to seek out pleasurable behavior or rewards, whether that be eating a certain food, drinking alcohol, or taking drugs.

If you think about it, this explains why food and water become less or more appetizing and appealing depending on how hungry or thirsty you are. Drugs use the same dopamine circuits within the brain, so it’s likely that gut hormones could trigger different rewarding effects this way.

In other words, a person’s addiction is made possible by hormones that make them enjoy and ultimately crave the feeling and sensations they experience while under the influence. Dr. Lorenzo Leggio and other members of the NIDA and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism  say a hunger hormone from the stomach called Ghrelin could increase the reward factor of alcohol very similarly to the way it heightens the reward value of certain foods. In a series of experiments and studies, researchers from the NIAAA/NIDA partnership found that Ghrelin encourages alcohol consumption in people with an addiction to alcohol.

With these recent discoveries, medical professionals can apply the new learnings to their treatment programs. Perhaps by targeting these particular hunger hormones, doctors could reduce the many feelings associated with addiction. There are other gut hormones that may play a role  that tell the brain when someone has eaten enough food and is full.

Multiple animal studies have found that medications that increase the activity of these hormones lower the rewarding feelings of drugs and alcohol. Researchers are excited about the possibility that giving an addicted person certain medications could influence their hormones in a way that reduces addictive tendencies as naturally as possible.

 

Renewed Hope

At the end of the day, advances in medicine, and especially medical research could be game changers in substance abuse treatment. Discoveries and observations can open up new doors for a better addiction treatment .

Much more research will need to be done in the coming years regarding hunger hormones and their role in addiction, but for right now, it’s always in your best interests to stay current on what’s happening in this part of society.

If you, your family, friends or coworkers are struggling to cope with drug or alcohol addiction, know that you are not alone and there are plenty of dedicated resources and researchers out there ready to help you make the best choice. Organizations like A Better Today Recovery Services exist to lend support and guidance to those in need of assistance during the tough journey of addiction.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jenn Mullin is a freelance writer, focusing on social, economic, and political issues. Her inspiration is writing about topics which provoke thought and start conversations surrounding important and controversial issues.

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How To Keep Your Bones Healthy & Why Bone Health Should Be a Top Health Priority As You Age.

This article is a practical guide to bone health, which will not only go over common bone ailments, but will also include actionable ideas that you can implement in your lifestyle to keep your bones healthy and strong, especially as you age. 

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You fall down and hear a snap! Your bone just broke and you’ll have to be hospitalized for more than 3 months.

This scenario highlights the importance of bone health as we age. My name is Mitravinda Savanur, and I am a nutritionist specializing in food science.  I’ve written this article as a practical guide to bone health, which will not only go over common bone ailments, but will also include actionable ideas that you can implement in your lifestyle to keep your bones healthy and strong, especially as you age. 

 

How Bones Work

Did you know that your bones are alive?

Some new bone is made while old bone is broken down all the time. When you are relatively young and fit, your body makes bone at a quicker rate than it loses it. This leads to a steady rise in bone mass until you hit a peak at about 30. After this, the creation and loss of bone continues but the loss of bone is a little quicker than the creation and thus the overall bone mass reduces.

Osteoporosis is a condition where your bones lose their strength, become brittle and can easily snap. It develops slowly over a long period of time and hence is caused when you don’t produce enough bone or you lose bone too rapidly to be replaced or both.

The chance of your developing osteoporosis depends on the amount of bone mass you have developed by your peak and how quickly you lose it after that. If you have a lot of bone mass by 30, then the chances of your developing osteoporosis reduce considerably.

 

Strategies for Healthy Bones

 

 

Exercising – Helps With Bone Formation

A high or low-impact exercising regimen with weight-bearing exercises will help you create and maintain your bone density.

Weight-bearing exercises will create some good stress on your muscles which will put additional pressure on your bones. This pressure will then help you gain bone quicker than you lose it and so your bone strength will increase over time.

Some examples of high-impact exercises are-

Jogging, hiking, tennis, dancing, skipping and so on.

Some low-impact but beneficial exercises which are especially suited to older people are –

Walking, cycling, stair-step machines.

 

 

Good Diet – Creates Bone Strength 

A good, balanced and nutritious diet will serve you and your bones well.

A diet which is rich in calcium, vitamin D, fruits, vegetables and milk will make your bones healthy and strong.

Along with these, avoiding excessive smoking or drinking will help a lot.

You should also include vitamin K2 in your diet as a supplement because this greatly increases bone health.

K2 has the added benefit of decalcifying your arteries.

 

 

Regular Testing –  Know The Condition

Bone mineral density tests are used to measure the mineral content of bones. 

The heel of the foot is usually tested for measuring the mineral density. This is because this bone is similar to the hip bone which is very prone to breaking.

Based on the tests and their results, your physician will recommend more tests or certain lifestyle changes that might be necessary for you to continue having a healthy bone health-filled life.

 

 

Physical Therapy – Preventative Measure 

While there is no cure for osteoporosis, it can be prevented, it’s progressed slowed and your overall bone health can benefit from physical therapy.

For example, a therapist might help you improve your bone health by designing an exercise regimen which improves your posture, balance and stability.

Therapy will also be handy in the worst case scenario where you’ve broken a bone.

If you have osteoporosis, you can contact your doctor to see whether they think therapy can help you or not.

 

At-Risk Populations

 

Research has shown that women are at a higher risk of developing osteoporosis than men.

 

Estimates have shown that out of the 10 million people with osteoporosis in the USA, 8 million are women.

This is mainly because of the effects of menopause where the bone protecting hormone (estrogen) levels decrease very rapidly. This can be prevented by giving healthy amounts of calcium to women when they are growing so that they will have no issues with bone density later on in life.

 

 

Mitravinda Savanur is a Nutritionist at DietChart with a doctoral degree in Food Science and Nutrition. She is a teacher, researcher and an author. Her passion for the subject prompted her to start writing blogs on various nutrition-related topics such as Diet Chart for Weight Loss, Health Benefits Of Green Tea, etc. Through her blogs, she wishes to help people gain a deeper understanding about the relationship between food, nutrition, lifestyle and health.

 

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Tips for Ideal Driving Posture.

7 adjustments for ideal driving posture. Iimplement them on your next ride!

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Infographic courtesy of Norm Reeves West Covina, Honda

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Using Yoga and Meditation to Overcome Addiction.

Western medicine tends to favor the view of addiction as an inherited disease that requires external treatment in the form of medication, cognitive behavioral therapy, and rewiring the brain to think differently. The western approach focuses on the affliction and supports a person in the practice of new behaviors, whereas yoga and meditation focuses on the cause of the suffering itself and supports a person in the practice of new behaviors.

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Addiction is an insidious disease that isolates the victim; both from themselves and from others. While treatment options are available to help people reconnect and rebuild relationships with those they have hurt due to addiction, there still remains a great need for helping individuals find themselves and heal the inner pain or longing that lead them to addiction in the first place.

 

According to Ken Griffin, founder of the Buddhist Recovery Network, addiction can be, “in itself … a misguided spiritual search. Many people who don’t see themselves as spiritual find that when they get sober they have some longing in them, and that their addiction, in one form or another, has been longing for a connection.”

 

Indeed, in the 12 Steps, the foundation of Alcoholics Anonymous, multiple textual references to spirituality are made, although none point to meditation or body-mind connection as integral to the process of healing. While many have found success within the 12 Steps, some struggle accepting the spiritual underpinnings and overt references to God found within the text. This is where yoga could play an important role. Addiction is a form of “checking out” with reality, the ultimate form of escapism. Whereas yoga and guided meditation is the ultimate “checking in” with reality, requiring you to be present and focused on the moment.

The 12 Steps and Yoga

There are many parallels to be found between the 12 Steps and eastern practices such as yoga and meditation. For one, self-acceptance is the first of the 12 Steps, wherein individuals are asked to accept that they have lost control over their drinking. The 4 Noble Truths of Buddhism also ask followers to accept the nature of reality, that there is suffering, that there is an origin to suffering, that suffering will end, and that there is a reason the suffering will end. Similarly, the 12 Steps asks followers to be mindful of their drinking, stating that anyone can get sober and stay clean if they practice “rigorous honesty”. Rigorous honesty can be interpreted as honesty with yourself and with others, or in other words, an existential honesty or mindfulness of reality.

Looking Forward vs. Looking Inward

Western medicine tends to favor the view of addiction as an inherited disease that requires external treatment in the form of medication, cognitive behavioral therapy, and rewiring the brain to think differently. The western approach focuses on the affliction and supports a person in the practice of new behaviors, whereas yoga and meditation focus on the cause of the suffering itself and supports a person in the practice of new behaviors. They’re similar but different. In western medicine, addiction is treated as existing outside of the person, as an ailment of the body. In Eastern philosophy, attachment to pleasure and aversion to pain is seen as a constant, meaning addiction is just an imbalance of what is normal.

How Yoga and Meditation Support Recovery

Yoga and meditation are an effective means to help someone on the path to sobriety, but they are no substitute for the clinical assistance of a registered treatment center. The tools and methods you learn during yoga can help assist you in drug and alcohol recovery by helping you manage stress, control your thinking, and improve your overall quality of health. Whether you choose to recover through therapy, the 12 Steps, meditation, or perhaps a combination of all three, the ultimate goal is to achieve spiritual well being and happiness. The important part is to keep working and find a method that works for you. As Buddha told his students: “There is only one mistake you can make on the path to awakening, and that is to stop.”

Matthew Boyle is the Chief Operating Officer of Landmark Recovery, a drug and alcohol recovery center. He has been working in the healthcare space for 7 years with a new emphasis on recovery. Before his ventures into healthcare, Matthew graduated from Duke University in 2011 Summa Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Arts degree. After Duke Matthew went on to work for Boston Consulting Group before he realized where his true passion lied within Recovery. His vision is to save a million lives in 100 years with a unique approach to recovery that creates a supportive environment through trust, treatment, and intervention.

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Music & Introverts: Kirtan For People Who Don’t Like Singing In Public.

Before I got into it, Kirtan was my idea of a personal nightmare. Holding hands and singing with strangers? No thanks. Off-key, offbeat, and uncomfortable were three words I would use to describe the experience.

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Before I got into it, Kirtan was my idea of a personal nightmare. Holding hands and singing with strangers? No thanks. Off-key, offbeat, and uncomfortable were three words I would use to describe the experience. After a while, though, Kirtan became one of my favorite parts of the several months I spent at a yoga teacher training center in New Zealand. I never thought I’d say it, but it’s one of the things I miss most from that experience.

 

Kirtan, as I practiced it, is a call-and-response song or chant. We would all sit in a circle with one song leader at the front playing the harmonium. Each time the leader sang a phrase in Sanskrit, the rest of the circle would repeat it back to her, building in volume and tempo each time around.

 

Members of the circle were encouraged to play shakers, drums, tambourines, and any number of other small instruments lying around. Some people got up and danced in the middle of the circle. Some clapped. Some silently swayed back and forth. Kirtan is a deeply personal experience.

 

Similar to how I learned to like yoga, my journey to appreciating Kirtan was slow and steady. It started reluctantly and tentatively, and before I knew it I was looking forward to evening Kirtan almost as much as I looked forward to breakfast the next morning. By the end of my time at the yoga center, Kirtan was one of my favorite parts of the entire program.

 

Introverts & Events

 

Events like Kirtan sessions can be stressful for anyone new to the practice — but perhaps especially for introverts, who are often uncomfortable in social situations that require participation and have the possibility of attracting attention to them. During Kirtan, it’s kind of unavoidable that you make yourself at least a little bit vulnerable. By participating in the singing and beat making, you put yourself out there and make your presence known.

 

For introverts, it can be tempting to recede into the shadows and not sing or participate at all. During my first few Kirtan sessions, which were required for my teacher training certificate, I wished to be anywhere else — “Give me goat yoga,” I thought, “Give me anything else.” I even considered faking illness to get out of it.

 

As an introvert, I had to take a critical look at how introverts experience events like Kirtan to figure out how I could come to love it. What was it that made me so averse to the idea? I found that the turning point came once I had the courage to develop a role for myself. Once I had a role, I had an extra reason to go and found the confidence to have fun with it.

 

Finding a Role

 

My role came in the form of a hand drum. I had taken a few drum lessons years before but didn’t remember much. Luckily, I have always had a pretty good sense of rhythm. So one night at Kirtan, I picked up the hand drum and started banging away. “I’m just going to go for it,” I thought.

 

Apparently it worked, because after that night I became the designated drummer of the group. People asked me to show them how to play, and I wondered why it had taken me so long to pick up the drum in the first place. I think the change was when I decided to focus on myself and my own personal fulfillment rather than what other people were doing or thinking. I never led a song myself, but I went to every session and found great enjoyment in it.

 

The Payoff

 

I ended up loving Kirtan, and even entertained the idea of starting a local group now that I’m back home. Given how yoga affects the brain, it should have been no surprise that something related like Kirtan could leave me feeling energized and invigorated. I was happier when I participated. It was a good lesson for me to learn to not just let life pass by as I sit on the sidelines, even if it means enduring a period of discomfort.

 

Giving Kirtan a chance also made me realize that stress isn’t always bad. Sometimes, a bit of stress is the catalyst you need to elevate yourself to the next level. In my case, I was able to transform myself into a Kirtan-loving hand drummer. You never know how something will impact you until you give it a try.

 

Lettie Stratton is a writer and urban farmer in Boise, ID. A Vermont native, she is a lover of travel, tea, bicycles, plants, cooperative board games, and the outdoors. She’s still waiting for a letter from Hogwarts.

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How To Create a Relaxing Bedroom Sanctuary.

Inviting a sense of serenity to your bedroom will not only fill you with peacefulness, but it will also contribute to your well-being. For instance, according to different studies, clutter can make you feel stressed and even cause lack of sleep. However, if you’re mindful of your bedroom design, you’ll be able to create a soothing sanctuary that will promote wellness and better sleep.

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Inviting a sense of serenity to your bedroom will not only fill you with peacefulness, but it will also contribute to your well-being. For instance, according to different studies, clutter can make you feel stressed and even cause lack of sleep. However, if you’re mindful of your bedroom design, you’ll be able to create a soothing sanctuary that will promote wellness and better sleep.

Get rid of clutter

A cluttered environment will make you feel cramped and claustrophobic in your own retreat, so make sure to create an open, organized bedroom. Decluttering your sanctuary will give it a fresh look, make it seem bigger and fill it with an atmosphere of positivity. You should keep your bedroom design simple, removing unnecessary items and neatly arranging everything from your closet to your nightstands.

 

Key Takeaways:

●       Keep your surfaces clear

●      Remove unnecessary items

●      Organize your closet

 

Clean it thoroughly

Since your bedroom is your personal area for relaxation and regeneration, it should be completely healthy. Thus, you should clean it properly and regularly, tackling all the hidden corners and dusty spots. Make sure to wash your sheets and other fabrics at least once a week. Furthermore, you should pay special attention to your area rugs because they can be home to a high level of toxins and allergens. Finally, when cleaning your bedroom retreat, make sure to use healthy cleaning products or solutions that you’ve made on your own.  You can check the Environmental Working Group’s report on some of the most harmful cleaners that you should avoid.

 

Key Takeaways:

●      Wash your sheets once a week

●      Deep clean your rugs

●      Avoid toxic cleaners

 

Improve your air quality

 

The quality of your indoor air can affect your sleep and your general state of mind. Purifying your bedroom from airborne pollutants is an essential step that will help you make your bedroom healthier. Aside from opening your windows regularly, you should introduce an effective air purifier that will cleanse your bedroom from even the tiniest particles. Introducing houseplants can also help you improve your indoor air quality while also creating a soothing natural vibe. Peace lily, Aloe Vera, English Ivy and Boston Fern are just some of the plants that you need in your bedroom.

 

Key Takeaways:

●       Open your windows

●      Add an air purifier

●      Decorate with plants

 

Approach your bedroom design with mindfulness

 

When designing your bedroom, and other parts of your home, you should find different ways to give it a mindful refresh. Every design element that you use can have a major effect on your mood and health, so you should be careful with your decorations and other design choices. After embracing a mindful approach towards decorating, you’ll be able to create a true Zen-inspired sanctuary, perfect for relaxation, rejuvenation and meditation. This entails carefully planning your bedroom design, including your furniture arrangement, materials and colours that you use and even seemingly insignificant details such as scents and shapes. For instance, according to Feng Shui, each shape represents a certain element (square=earth). Using a single shape excessively can create an elemental imbalance, which can affect the general atmosphere in your space. Therefore, you should be mindful of the design elements you use and how you use them.

 

Key Takeaways:

 

●      Plan your furniture arrangement

●      Introduce soothing scents

●      Be mindful of shapes and objects

 

Pay special attention to your bed

 

Not only is your bed the focal point of your room, but it’s also the spot where you go to sleep and wake up every day. Thus, it becomes obvious that your bed is one of the crucial elements that affects your quality of sleep and, thus, your health. Everything from its position to its decorations should be carefully planned. According to the Indian Ayurveda and Chinese Feng Shui, placing your bed so that your head faces the south or the east can improve the flow of energy and ensure better sleep. You should also simplify your bedroom embellishments – a lovely throw cover and a few cushions can be enough to elevate your bedroom décor without disrupting its visual balance.
Furthermore, your mattress is another element of your bed that you should pay special attention to. The quality of your mattress will undoubtedly affect your sleep quality and your back health. If it doesn’t provide you with appropriate back support, you’ll wake up every morning feeling tired. You should also have enough space to find the right sleeping position. Therefore, if you believe that your current mattress isn’t right for you, you should consider choosing a new breathable king mattress that you can customise depending on your needs and sleep habits. This way, you’ll make sure that you get quality sleep every night.

 

Key Takeaways:

●      Place your bed strategically

●      Keep your bed decorations simple

●      Invest in a quality mattress

Remove technology

 

A cosy, healthy and tranquil bedroom sanctuary shouldn’t be burdened with technology. By eliminating electronic devices, you’ll create a true ambience of peacefulness. Furthermore, you won’t be exposed to harmful blue light that can interfere with your sleep cycle. So, bid technology goodbye and welcome tranquillity instead.

 

Key Takeaways:

●      Remove electronic devices, especially phones

●      Don’t use technology at least an hour before sleep

 

Soften your lighting

 

Appropriate bedroom lighting is another factor to keep in mind when designing a cosy sanctuary. It should be adjustable, enabling you to change the mood depending on the time of day or your needs. In the evening, it should be subtle and slightly dimmed so that you can fall asleep more easily. During the day, it should have plenty of natural light that will open and brighten up your bedroom. Finally, you should also consider introducing blackout curtains that will help you block off street lights that may be disrupting your sleep during the night.

 

Key Takeaways:

●      Install dimmers

●      Maximize natural light

●      Introduce blackout curtains

 

Be careful with colors

 

A soft palette of muted tones or neutral shades is the most suitable choice for a bedroom. Brighter and more vivid shades can be overwhelming and energising, which isn’t appropriate for a bedroom environment. Subtle blues, greens, soft greys and beiges are the best option because they will have a calming effect, helping you relax and unwind. By introducing them to your bedroom, you’ll create a true atmosphere of tranquillity and serenity. Of course, you can add a pop of colour for accent details and decorations, giving your bedroom your unique personal touch.

Key Takeaways:

●      Avoid vivid color

●      Use soothing tones, such as blue and green

 

Transforming your bedroom into a soothing, healthy retreat is one of the simplest and most effective ways to promote your health and well-being through design.

 

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Goat Yoga at Sugar Sweet Farm in San Diego.

If you want to combine spiritual centering with unrestrained giddiness then I recommend Goat Yoga at Sugar Sweet Farm in Encinitas.

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If you want to combine spiritual centering with unrestrained giddiness then I recommend Goat Yoga at Sugar Sweet Farm in Encinitas.  Once you get off the freeway, the serene and winding country roads begin to set the mood.  You’ll pass ranches, sprawling haciendas, and lots of eucalyptus trees. Once you arrive at the farm you are greeted and checked in by the charming Elizabeth Sugarman, proprietress.   A pebbled walkway leads you through orchards to the animal pen where goats of all sizes and breeds romp, eat and prance about (I so love the prancing!). A goat named Cowboy actually jumped up, in a single bound, atop a four-foot high fence to extend a bleating hello.  

After a bit of animal socializing we walked over to the yoga “studio,” a re-purposed tennis court with umbrellas for shade, and bales of hay around the perimeter.  We set up our mats and were instructed to put all belongings that we didn’t want eaten, out of the way. The instructor was introduced and we seated ourselves in Sukhasana (seated cross-legged pose), closed our eyes and began the journey.  And then the goats came in. We were forewarned that these critters are curious and friendly, and not to hold back the laughter. There were about ten goats of various sizes and two very young ones that just joined the herd yesterday. The babies were passed around during the class for cuddling.  We were given instruction on how to hold them – one arm securing the chest and the other around the bum and keep them level. I didn’t want to let mine go.

Once when I was supine preparing for cobra, I felt four little cloven hooves on my back.  It was Minty, an adorable black and white youngster with a garland of flowers around her neck.  Fake of course, or they would have been eaten. You can’t help but giggle. In downward facing dog, I came face-to-face with upward facing Dagmar.  There were buckets of grass around the studio for them to munch on but Gretel preferred a mat and Cowboy preferred a delicious knot on the back of someone’s yoga top.  The goats’ favorite pose was pigeon. It gave them a real opportunity hop aboard. There were 4 or 5 young girls who acted as goat wranglers and clean-up squad when nature called.

 

Periodically, sliced carrots were scattered around and the sound of stampeding hooves was hilarious.  In addition to the goats there were also a couple of llamas in the mix – Bon Bon and Tootsie. The farm also had horses, two sweet dogs, guinea pigs, and chickens.  

At the end of class as we relaxed in Shavasana, lavender scented wash towels were distributed, and I saw a red-tailed hawk flying overhead.  The instructor was a rock star for conducting a very novel yoga experience with a million distractions.

 

Namaste – eh- eh- eh – eh.

 

WRITTEN BY PATRICIA STALEY: “The harder I work, the luckier I get.”

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5 Health Tips for Seniors to Stay Golden in Your Golden Years.

Aging into your golden years is a beautiful part of life. It means retiring from your career, no longer raising children and living your best life. But getting older also means having to take better care of your health, both physical and mental. As you age into your senior years, improve your quality of life by taking control of your health. Here are 5 tips to get you started!

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Aging into your golden years is a beautiful part of life. It means retiring from your career, no longer raising children and living your best life. But getting older also means having to take better care of your health, both physical and mental. As you age into your senior years, improve your quality of life by taking control of your health. Here are 5 tips to get you started!

 

Prioritize your health.

Make regular doctor visits for tests and evaluations, take preventative actions and never ignore symptoms. The “wait and see if it goes away” approach might have worked in your younger years, but it won’t work in your senior years. Waiting could lead to diseases spreading or getting worse. Maintaining a healthy weight, not smoking, eating well and exercising are the most controllable things you can do to prevent health issues from developing. Don’t forget about your mental health and the invisible illnesses that lurk inside. Just because a disease doesn’t cause physical damage, doesn’t mean it’s not there. Add a mental health professional to your list of doctors to see regularly.

 

Focus on eating clean.

Older people tend to have more heart and blood sugar problems, weaker bones, and higher risk for disease, so it’s important to eat heart-healthy food with balanced nutrition. Your body is more easily affected by fried foods, red meat, sugar and alcohol than before. Your aging body needs more nutrients to be healthy. This is the time to consume more vegetables and water, but don’t rob yourself of cheat meals. Living your best life should involve occasional indulgences.

 

Find an exercise that works for you.

Whether you’ve always been a fitness buff or just getting started, regular exercise is important for your brain and body. If you’re not an athlete or if you have joint and mobility problems, you can stick to low-impact exercises such as yoga, swimming and walking. Many senior centers offer fun group classes like Zumba and line dancing so that seniors can enjoy these workouts without having to keep up with their younger counterparts.

 

Adopt a companion.

As we get older, we see less of people. Our friends might not be as mobile, and our family might be busy with their own lives. If you’re living alone, a companion animal can be beneficial for easing loneliness, stress, anxiety, depression, and other mood disorders. For those who enjoy caring for others, a dog can fill the void that children once filled. You get to care for someone while having constant companionship, and your dog gets to have a best friend to love. If you qualify for an emotional support dog, you can travel with your pet and live in homes that usually don’t allow dogs.

 

YOLO

Do things that you love or have always wanted to try. Wear a bikini on the beach, take a trip to that bucket list location, pick up a new hobby, go to a Rolling Stones concert, become an actor or move closer to the beach. You’ve dedicated most of your life to other people, so now you should dedicate your life to yourself. Don’t let anything stop you from living out your dreams.

 

Before you enter the aging stage, have a retirement plan that will support your financial and living situations throughout the remainder of your life. Set up a healthy living arrangement, whether it’s a grown child’s home, assisted living or your own home. Get a good medical insurance plan through private insurance or Medicare. Have a substantial retirement fund from savings, investments, or passive income. Most importantly, take care of your mind and body for an optimal quality of life.

 

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How to Plan Your Meals for Healthy Weight Loss.

The best weight loss plans consist of a healthy balanced diet along with a well-designed exercise routine. You certainly don’t need to starve yourself to reach your goal weight. Sometimes the simplest changes in your eating habits can make a world of difference to your physique. The following exercise and weight loss tips will help you lose weight quickly and healthily.

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The best weight loss plans consist of a healthy balanced diet along with a well-designed exercise routine. You certainly don’t need to starve yourself to reach your goal weight. Sometimes the simplest changes in your eating habits can make a world of difference to your physique. The following exercise and weight loss tips will help you lose weight quickly and healthily.

 

Create A Healthy Eating Plan

 

When conducting your diet meal plan to lose weight, one of the first things to do is cut out processed or packaged foods, as most of these foods are high in salt, sugar and fat. Make sure to cut out any sugary drinks from your diet like sweetened tea and coffee, juices, soft drinks and alcohol.

A healthy weight loss diet should primarily consist of fresh, whole foods. Whole grain carbs, healthy fats, and mineral rich foods are all important components of a healthy diet plan. Ideally, each of your meals should include a protein source. A good protein diet helps to build lean muscle and curb your hunger. Protein can be found in a range of foods such as fish, nuts, eggs, lentils and lean ground beef. It’s also wise to fill up on fresh veggies twice a day. The fiber and antioxidants present in vegetables can reduce levels of inflammation in the body, which can lead to healthy fat loss.

 

Don’t Skip Breakfast

 

While it may be tempting to skip breakfast when you’re trying to lose weight, this is never the right diet strategy to take. Skipping meals, in general, slows down your metabolism and can leave you craving a binge later on. Eating a hearty breakfast every day will keep you full, energized and satisfied, helping to minimize any cravings. This is a great way to start the day off right and slim down healthily. A well-balanced breakfast has a mix of lean protein and healthy fats (e.g eggs, beans or yogurt), plus fiber (e.g. fruits or whole grains).

 

Go for Regular Walks or Jogs

 

A combination of a good diet plan and a regular exercise routine is always the best way to lose weight. To ensure you burn those extra calories, make the commitment to take regular walks or jogs every day, preferably in the evenings. Evening walking can be particularly beneficial for weight loss because metabolism can often slow down towards the end of the day.

Doing about 30 minutes of aerobic exercise or even some quiet yoga in the garden before dinner may help to increase your metabolic rate for at least a couple hours. If you need some motivation to walk every day, consider buying a Fitbit to keep count of your steps, and try to beat your previous score each time.

 

Discover New Healthy Foods

 

Food that’s great for you definitely doesn’t have to be boring!  At any time in the year, you should be able to find fresh vegetables and fruit that are delicious cooked or raw. The vibrant colors of vegetables such as carrots, spinach, peppers and tomatoes are a visual testament that they are bursting with nutrients – so encourage your family to fill your dinner plates with brightly-colored red, orange, green, and yellow vegetables and fruit.

Don’t forget about the goodness of foods with mono- and polyunsaturated fats – such as omega-3-rich salmon and avocado – as well as the fat and nutrients in healthy portions of nuts (which are technically fruits). When you are more mindful about what you eat and appreciate the wonderful benefits that nutritious fresh fruits and vegetables provide our body, you will feel more relaxed about your choices and enjoy your meals more!  Less stress equals an easier weight-loss journey for you.

 

 

Johanna Cider is a New Zealand-based writer who loves writing about all kinds of fitness and healthy living topics. She enjoys running and including yoga in her daily workouts. Visit Johanna’s Tumblr page to know more about her.

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Mindful Interiors: How to Give Your Home a Mindfulness Refresh.

Not only will a mindful remodel help you design a more tranquil home that celebrates moderation, simplicity and nature, but it will also help you appreciate your space more and create a connection with your surroundings.

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Mindful living teaches you to appreciate the beauty of each moment and embrace serenity in your life. If you are setting out on a path of mindfulness, you will likely transform all areas of your life into natural peace and beauty.

This approach can include transforming your home into a mindfulness-inspired retreat that will fill you with peacefulness. Not only will a mindful remodel help you design a more tranquil home that celebrates moderation, simplicity and nature, but it will also help you appreciate your space more and create a connection with your surroundings.

Embrace Serene Colors

The power of colors is certainly not underestimated in a mindful home design. On the contrary, if you want to create a Zen-like vibe in your home and design a space that will help you be more mindful of the world around you, you need to introduce carefully picked shades. In a mindful home, the colors of nature, such as soft greens, clean blues, rich browns and other neutral tones, are an emblem of serenity. They will help you create a simple, understated base for other design elements while also introducing visual balance and peacefulness. Muted tones, chalky finishes and faded tones can all work together perfectly in designing a mindfulness-inspired sanctuary. However, a pop of dark, moody tones like deep purple or dark charcoal can encourage meditation and mindfulness, so don’t hesitate to use them.

Go Zen Where You Can, Especially the Bathroom

Designing a soothing bathroom retreat is another great way to invite mindfulness to your life. Taking some time to indulge yourself and appreciate the moment you’ve taken for yourself will fill you with tranquillity. Creating a bathroom with a Zen vibe will provide you with a calming retreat where you can do that. You should opt for a minimalist design, install subtle lighting and soothing colours. Natural accessories and calming fragrances are also welcome in a Zen-inspired bathroom.  

Optimize Your Bed

 

Your bed is an area for relaxation and your personal sanctuary where you can unwind, recharge your batteries and get ready for a new day. Thus, it’s important that you have a bed that inspires relaxation and comfort. You can go with a low ensemble bed that will be in the spirit of a Zen-inspired style. It’s important that your bed provides you with a feeling of comfort and ensure that you get quality sleep. You can go with Wabi-sabi inspired sheets that have a slightly wrinkled look. This will give your bed a cosy, lived-in look and help you create a calming ambience. Finally, you should take the time to make your bed every morning instead of just rushing out. Not only will this leave you with a beautiful bed, but it will also give you a moment before you go on with your daily duties.

Blissful light

Becoming more mindful will inspire you to embrace the flow of energy in your home. Letting sunlight permeate your home will not only make it seem brighter and more open, but it will also energise your space and have a positive impact on your mood. Thus, you should use every opportunity to welcome natural light to your home, open up your windows and feel the warm rays of sunlight. However, you should also be mindful of your artificial lighting and avoid fluorescent lights that may cause depression and anxiety. Instead, you should go with subtle LEDs, adjustable dimmers and intimate candles to create a warm, welcoming atmosphere in your home.

 

Go Natural

Adopting a mindful lifestyle will teach you to be aware of your environment and establish a deeper connection with nature. Therefore, you should adopt such an approach when designing your home and implement natural elements. Greenery will help you open up your space, make it more enjoyable and relaxing and elevate your home décor. Natural materials, on the other hand, will give your home an organic touch and fill it with a soothing natural vibe. Wood, stone, clay, marble and cork will help you design a nature-inspired retreat with timeless appeal. You can use them for authentic features, flooring, furniture pieces and decorative details, letting their flair and texture come into focus.

Stay Organized

Designing a mindful home means paying attention to what items you use and how you use them. Instead of just letting clutter pile up, you should remove it and use hand-picked items in your home. Introducing items with a specific purpose will help you appreciate them more. Furthermore, clutter can have a negative impact on your mood, making you feel overwhelmed and cramped in your own home. You should take time to declutter your space and create an open and airy atmosphere. However, you need to prevent clutter from building up, so make sure to keep your surfaces clear and your items neatly arranged.

Your home should be a place of tranquillity and serenity where you’ll be able to appreciate every moment that passes by. Thus, you should embrace these simple elements and bring mindfulness into your home.

 

CHLOE TAYLOR is an art historian and recreational ballet dancer. Her biggest dream is to travel the whole world and take stunning photographs of beautiful places. She also enjoys learning and writing about home design, since she is crazy about aesthetics. She is a regular contributor to Smooth Decorator

 

 

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How To Like Yoga: Stories From A Reluctant Yogi.

The benefits of yoga, from reducing stress to increasing compassion, greatly outweighed any discomfort I felt about plunging myself into the yoga world head first. You don’t need special clothes or an Aum tattoo or any certain level of flexibility to do yoga.

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I had always liked the idea of being a yogi but could never quite picture myself fitting into the peppy, Lululemon-clad hordes of Zen-seekers that I saw in perfect headstands as I passed by the windows of the many yoga studios in my neighborhood.

Everyone looked so flexible and intimidating, so I’d keep walking and do a few stretches in the morning on my own, wondering what it would be like to join in on yoga as a group experience.

So when I decided to spend a year working and traveling in New Zealand, I surprised myself by signing up for a month-long yoga teacher training course on the North Island. I told myself that this was my year to learn about the things I was interested in but had never tried — and that included yoga and meditation.

 

Why Do It?

 

In addition to the many benefits of exploring a new culture, I looked forward to specifically dedicating time to pursue yoga and meditation with no excuses — no more saying, “I’ll do it later” or “maybe next month.” I knew about how stress affects our health, impacting circulation, anxiety, and weight, and knew I could benefit from some stress-relieving routines like a regular yoga practice.

 

I didn’t trust that I had the personal resolve or discipline to make myself develop a yoga practice on my own, so I hoped that the month-long intensive would make the habit stick so I would have an easier time continuing it when I returned home.

 

What Was Yoga Teacher Training Like?

 

I was immediately drawn to the incense wafting between rooms, the bells of mindfulness tolling throughout the day, the brightly colored yoga mats splayed out on any and every surface big enough, and even the obtrusive sound of the harmonium that could be heard from across the grounds.

 

However, as an introvert who generally doesn’t like an audience, I was pretty apprehensive about the actual yoga teacher training thing because you’re training to be a yoga teacher, which, you know, inherently involves an audience.

 

But it turns out that group yoga is not as intimidating as I thought. Don’t get me wrong — I definitely considered escaping many, many times. The night before I had to lead my first yoga class in front of my peers, my partner had to talk me out of booking a taxi to get me out of there immediately.

 

And yet — everyone was very supportive along the way and often experiencing the same level of nervousness that I was. Everyone was more focused on what they were doing rather than looking at the person on the mat next to them. It seems obvious now, but this was such a road block for me to getting into yoga in the first place that it felt like quite a revelation once I figured it out.

 

Between learning yogic theory, practicing asanas, performing ancient yogic cleansing techniques, singing kirtan, guiding meditations, and cooking traditional Indian meals, there wasn’t much time to ask myself, “what the heck am I doing here?”

 

My Takeaways

 

As yoga, meditation, and kirtan became parts of my everyday existence, I couldn’t believe it had taken me so long to give these things a real try.

 

At first, when I learned we’d be doing kirtan every night, I experienced an unparalleled dread. Singing? In a group? No thanks, I’d rather poke my eyeballs with a hot stick. It’s funny how things work out, because kirtan ended up being my favorite part of the entire month — a place where I could let go and discover an unknown talent for drumming. Who knew?

 

Several years removed from this experience, I still incorporate things I learned during my yoga intensive month into my life, like when I’m feeling anxious at work or tight and sluggish from too much sitting. A quick and basic series of poses or a few minutes of regulated breathing exercises do wonders for my well-being, and I’ve been able to share these techniques with friends and family.

 

The benefits of yoga, from reducing stress to increasing compassion, greatly outweighed any discomfort I felt about plunging myself into the yoga world head first. You don’t need special clothes or an Aum tattoo or any certain level of flexibility to do yoga. As long as you do it for you and focus on your inner transformation instead of your outward appearance, you won’t be a reluctant yogi for long.

 

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Lettie Stratton is a writer and urban farmer in Boise, ID. A Vermont native, she is a lover of travel, tea, bicycles, plants, cooperative board games, and the outdoors. She’s still waiting for a letter from Hogwarts.

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3 Yoga Poses to Improve Posture.

How’s your posture? Do you spend hours a day sitting down at a desk hunched over a computer or paperwork? Most of us, at least for part of our day, do just that.

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How’s your posture? Do you spend hours a day sitting down at a desk hunched over a computer or paperwork? Most of us, at least for part of our day, do just that.

Tension creeps into our muscles, tightness and knots fill our necks, shoulders and backs. Sure the idea of 90-minute yoga classes seems lovely, but for those of us time-poor, stressed out individuals, it’s a luxury we are rarely afforded.

 

The Yoga Solution for Improved Posture

 

Do a few minutes, every day or every second day, or once a week, if that’s all you have time for. Here are three, simple poses for every body type, age, and skill level to do every evening. They can be done in just a few minutes and I guarantee you’ll feel more relaxed, have less tension in your body and sleep more soundly than before. What have you got to lose?

 

Ragdoll Pose:

This one is amazing for relieving tension in the lower back from all that slumping in your chair. It also gives a nice stretch and lengthen to you hamstrings and neck muscles. It’s as easy as can be.

Simply stand with your feet hip width apart and fold your body forwards. Be sure to bend the knees as much as you need to, let the belly hang loose (not a hard ask, am I right?) and let the head and neck relax. Hang out here for a few, deep breaths. You can grab opposite elbows if you like, or simply let the hands rest wherever is comfortable.

Optional extras for complete release of tension:

Open and close your mouth a little to relieve tension in the jaw (you would be surprised how much builds up with there and no one can see how ridiculous it might look). Then shake your head in a ´yes and no´ fashion, which releases into the neck. A final addition that feels amazing is to interlace your hands behind your back and let them fall forward. This releases deep into the chest and shoulders. Feeling better already? I told you so!

 

Pigeon Pose:

This little beauty gets right into those tight hips, giving a beautiful stretch to the glutes and the hip muscles. And trust me, these need tending to.

With one leg straight behind the body (knee on the ground) have the other leg bent at the knee, running along the ground at a 45° angle. If you want you can remain sitting upright (better if you are more stiff) otherwise you can fold your body over your front leg and relax. Depending on flexibility, it might feel nice to rest have a pillow handy and to rest your head on a pillow. Breathe deeply and enjoy. Swap to the other leg after a few minutes. If hips are especially tight, pop a pillow or rolled up blanket under your hip so it’s not floating in the air and has some support.

 

Spinal twist:

This pose is heaven on tight shoulders, as well as providing upper and lower back release. It really gets into the nooks and crannies of the spine and is pure bliss after a stressful day!

Lie on your back and draw one knee into your chest, then let that knee fall over your body the opposite side and rest on the floor. Take arms out to the side, or rest opposite arm on the bent knee to a little extra oomph! Relax, breathe and enjoy! Do the opposite side when ready.

These simple poses will have you in a blissful state in no time, or at the very least, significantly more relaxed that before

This sequence works perfectly just before going to sleep, but could also be done at lunch times, as soon as you arrive home from work, or any other time you have five minutes to spare. **It could also be drawn out to a longer session and you could stay in each pose for a few minutes, making sure to come out of them slowly and consciously, and finish with a glorious shavasana to make for a longer yoga session.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Written by Stephanie Johnson, yoga teacher and blogger. For more information on the author, check out her blog at https://stephaniejohnsonwriting.wordpress.com/ or connect with her on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/stephj_inchile/?hl=en

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Ishvara Pranidhana Practice & Examples: Worship God In Your Own Way.

This last niyama, worship of God, is ishvara pranidhana. Genuine worship is any practice that moves our awareness more deeply into the Divine.

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Ishvara pranidhana, loosely translated as ‘devotion to God’, is one of the foundations of the yoga pracitice. It is one of the five niyamas. This ishvara pranidana practice was descibed in the Yoga Sutras over 2000 years ago. Ishvara pranidhana practice and meditations can transform your consciousness.

 

Ishvara Pranidhana as a Practice

 

Yoga is a tree with eight aspects. The first two of these branches are the yamas and niyamas, which are moral and ethical injunctions, and form the foundation of all other aspects of yoga.

 

The yamas and niyamas are: non-harming, truthfulness, non-stealing, sexual purity, non-receiving of gifts, inner and outer purification, contentment, mortification, spiritual study and worship of God. This last niyama, worship of God, is ishvara pranidhana. Genuine worship is any practice that moves our awareness more deeply into the Divine.

 

The other aspects of the tree of yoga are physical exercises, breath control, consciously turning the senses within, concentration, meditation and samadhi.

 

Through the practice of yoga we can become conscious of our eternal nature. It is from our eternal aspect that we develop our sense of God. Eventually, in the yogic journey, we each need to think and feel the Divine in a way that draws our longing to experience God. Once we have a sense of the Divine then we can worship God in a way that resonates with us. This can include karma yoga, prayer, meditation, visualizations, mantra and anything else that connects you with That from which your sense of self has emerged.

 

To elevate into the practice of ishvara pranidhana is to make a significant stride in your yoga practice because it involves conceptualizing and feeling God and igniting your heart and emotion into your practice. Finding your unique conception of God: with form, without form, masculine, feminine, young, old etc. This is called your ‘chosen ideal.’

 

Examples of Ishvara Pranidhana

 

I was raised a Roman Catholic so my first conception of God was that of an old man who sat in judgement of human souls and either cast them to hell or lifted them to heaven. This conception created fear in me but may have been very helpful for learning the feelings of right and wrong and the concept of punishment…for eternity!

 

I attended a Jesuit highschool. The Jesuits are an order within the Catholic church who are very contemplative and scholorly. Two classes that especially impacted me at Saint Ignatious in San Francisco were Contemplative Prayer and Mediation and The Bible as a Historical Work. Both of these classes helped me to move away from a world view of absolutes and towards an understanding of the subjective nature of reality.

 

In the prayer and meditation class I learned to feel a living spirituality within myself that was not dependant on the conceptions of others. The ideas of others movitated me but it was the feelings in my own heart that were moving me forward. This is the idea of ishvara pranidana: finding your own love and devotion towards your spiritual journey.

 

Every journey has a destination and the word God, is often used as the destination of the spritual journey. As much as many religious organizations and fundamentalists thinkers would like us to think otherwise; God can mean many different things to different people. This makes perfect sense as we each view our lives through the unique lens of our personal experiences and cultural upbringing. Hence Jesus, Buddha, a river, or a mandala, or anything else of our choosing can each be God. Is that not the true meaning of religious freedom?

 

Devotion to your own highest ideals will lift your yoga practice to new heights. Have the courage to conceive of God in a way that resonates with you and find ways to connect with that feeling in your own heart and life. You will soon find yourself soaring to new heights of realization.

 

Sujantra McKeever is the founder of Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga in San Diego, which serves over 1,000 yogis a week, and also helped create Pilgrimage Yoga Online. He is the author of five books on eastern philosophy, success and meditation. Sujantra studied meditation with spiritual teacher Sri Chinmoy and has lectured on meditation and yoga in over 30 countries.

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Zen Bathroom Design Tips: Add a Little More Tranquility to Your Life.

A proper Zen bathroom will make you want to linger there a bit longer, just like you do in a spa.

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Who can say that they don’t need a bit more peace and tranquility in their life? We live in a hectic world and lead rather hectic lives, and we usually manage to relax and enjoy some peace in the comfort of our homes. We often see bathrooms as small sanctuaries and like to relax there, but if the space is cluttered, it’s very difficult to do so. This is why we’re offering you easy tips to turn your bathroom into a Zen-inspired sanctuary.

New colors

One of the best ways to feel peace is to turn to nature and find inspiration there, so we advise you use natural color schemes. The best choices are the colors that allow you to recreate the feeling of open spaces: green, sand, black, taupe and grey are among the most popular hues. They are very neutral and allow you to add a touch of unexpected, such as bright orange or ruby red. The key is to add these hues in small doses: towels, soap dispensers and cabinet handles. Earth tones will invoke peace and allow you to relax, but a bit of your favorite bright shade will make the space more inviting and familiar.

Light up

Light is very important in the bathroom – it allows you to see better when you’re applying makeup or fixing your hair, but it can also help you relax. Plenty of natural light is always a good idea. Skylights and windows are more than welcome, but you will also want to protect your privacy and have shades and curtains there too. Dimming lights are also great because they allow you to keep regular lights and dim them when you want to take a long, relaxing bubble bath. Having some candles close by is also nice, as these add a romantic touch. 

Spa luxury

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The key ‘ingredient’ to creating the Zen-like atmosphere in a bathroom is to be able to create a sense of luxury and serenity. A proper Zen bathroom will make you want to linger there a bit longer, just like you do in a spa. We might not all be able to afford a Jacuzzi, but marvelous stone bathtubs will give you a similar feeling and won’t cost a fortune. Baths are better for relaxation because you can enjoy long, luxurious soaks, and you can light a scented candle and add a few drops of essential oils or Dead Sea bathing salts.

 

The smell of peace

There’s no point in doing a bathroom remodel-makeover if it smells unpleasant – you will not want to spend a minute there longer than it’s absolutely necessary. Aromatherapy will help you complete your bathroom transformation into a Zen sanctuary. You should try using some of the known invigorating scents, such as lemon, mint and eucalyptus, or something soothing and relaxing such as lavender, sandalwood, or perhaps thyme. Jasmine and rose water will make you feel like you’re in an exotic garden. Candles are the simplest solution, but you could also choose potpourri or a small oil diffuser.

Embrace minimalism

 

It’s easy to notice that minimalism and Zen somehow come hand in hand – stress is often caused (or amplified) by clutter, and by embracing minimalism you’re opening up the space and ‘inviting peace’ in. Your toiletries can be kept away in a cabinet and neatly organized so you can always easily find what you’re looking for, and all those old toothbrushes, empty shampoo bottles, and used expired makeup products should be thrown away. Make it a rule to keep your phone and laptop out of the bathroom too – you might think that you can reply to that email while you’re in there, but we’re sure it can wait for a few more minutes.

People hesitate to do a bathroom remodel because they fear it’s going to cost too much and take a lot of their time. When you make a good plan and organize your time, however, you will discover that you can easily create a Zen bathroom without a huge investment of time and money. A spacious, clean and neat space will feel like a real sanctuary where you will be able to find inner peace with ease.

 

CHLOE TAYLOR is an art historian and recreational ballet dancer. Her biggest dream is to travel the whole world and take stunning photographs of beautiful places. She also enjoys learning and writing about home design, since she is crazy about aesthetics. She is a regular contributor to Smooth Decorator

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What Are Adaptogens & How Do They Work?

Adaptogens are a unique class of plants that can have particular healing abilities. They may be able to help balance, protect, restore your body, and normalize psychological functions.

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Have you ever heard of “adaptogens”? They sound like something out of a science fiction movie, right?

Something like, “Our defenses are crumbling! We need to release the adaptogens!”

But they’re very real, and they can do wonders for your body.

If you’re not sure what adaptogens are, where you can find them, how you should use them, when you should consume them, and more, then you’re in luck.

We’re about to teach you everything you need to know.

Adaptogens: The Basics

Adaptogens

Adaptogens are natural, non-toxic healers.

In fact, it’s quite possible you’ve been consuming adaptogens your entire life without knowing it, unwittingly reaping adaptogenic benefits.

We’ll stop here for a minute, because we know what you’re thinking. Adaptogens aren’t the newest, hottest wellness trend that’s come to stake its claim over beet juice smoothies, rose water, and quinoa.

Adaptogens are more than a trend. They’ve been a part of medicine for centuries.

Simply put, they can be described as natural substances that work with a person’s body to help them adapt (hence the term “adapt”ogen) to the various challenges of life. Most notably, they’re said to help your body regulate homeostasis and return to its natural balance, especially when it comes to stress.

That’s the 30,000 foot view. Now let’s get into the nitty gritty.

Adaptogens: The Nuts and Bolts

Our bodies have a built-in fight-or-flight system that is triggered in response to stress. This system is incredibly useful in emergencies or when we’re threatened and need to take immediate action.

Cortisol is released, which then triggers the adrenal glands and sympathetic nervous system. Blood pressure is increased and your digestive secretions are restricted. Essentially, your body readies itself to either run or to stand and fight.

Unfortunately, we increasingly live in high-stress environments in which we encounter stressful situations multiple times per day. The meeting with the boss. Driving through heavy traffic. Dealing with irate customers. Caring for a screaming baby.

Each of these stressors triggers our fight-or-flight response, releasing a flood of cortisol through the body. Our bodies weren’t designed to handle so much cortisol, and it can lead to the adrenal glands failing, stress on the digestive tract, and rapid aging.

Cortisol levels and stress are only meant to exist in your body in short bursts — as a hormonal response designed to protect you in survival situations. Adaptogenic compounds (whether in food or in herbs) help mitigate the body’s stress response and get your adrenal system back into balance while overcoming adrenal fatigue. These compounds keep your body at a balanced level.

A natural ally to your body, adaptogens can help your body deal with persistent stress and fatigue, and help get you back to proper, functioning order. They work with your body to help regulate hormones and adjust your cortisol levels over long periods of time to help regulate chronic stress.

You can think of them like a thermostat for your body. When your stress “temperature” begins to rise, adaptogens can support your body as it comes back to its normal levels. They can help keep stress hormones from running rampant throughout your body.

For example, studies of Panax ginseng, a well-known adaptogen, have suggested that it can be significantly helpful in reducing the body’s overall response to stress. The same goes for numerous other adaptogens.

But that’s not all. Adaptogens also may boost your immune system, help you manage a healthy weight, increase your physical endurance and your mental focus, reduce discomfort, reduce cortisol levels (which contribute to stress), and encourage a balanced mood.

Adaptogens: Sources

Consuming Adaptogens

Adaptogens are a unique class of plants that can have particular healing abilities. They may be able to help balance, protect, restore your body, and normalize psychological functions.

The list of helpful, healing adaptogens is long – so long we can’t possibly include all of them in this article. But, we’ll list out of a few helpful adaptogens you can utilize in your daily routine.

In fact, you might already use some of these without knowing how much you’re helping your mind, body, restoration, and balance.

Some of the most popular adaptogenic herbs are things you’ve probably heard of, such as:

  • Ginseng
  • Basil
  • Mushroom
  • Rosemary
  • Aloe
  • Licorice root

Others, you might not be so familiar with include:

  • Rhodiola
  • Astragalus root
  • Ashwagandha
  • Milk thistle
  • Bacopa
  • Schisandra
  • Moringa oleifera
  • Gotu kola
  • Ginseng eleuthero

These adaptogens can be consumed in a variety of ways, including food and supplements. The main point is simply to start getting a number of these adaptogens in your diet, especially if you find yourself constantly under stress.

Adaptogens: In Your Diet 

Adaptogenic Herbs

Adaptogens that are most notable for helping lower or balance your cortisol are compounds like rhodiola rosea, ashwagandha (indian ginseng), milk thistle, asian ginseng, holy basil, and panax ginseng. You’re probably going to be challenged to find ways to include milk thistle in your diet, meaning you’ll need to consume it in supplement form.

However, adaptogens can be present in food as well. Just like the herbs and other compounds, there are specific foods that can contain the healthy adaptogens your body can benefit from. Add basil to your meals to gain adaptogen benefits, eat specific kinds of mushrooms, or spice up your dishes with rosemary.

Additionally, consider things like ginseng tea and other herbal mixes. The goal is simply to find numerous ways to get adaptogens into your diet, whether it’s through supplements, food, or mixes.

And while most adaptogens can be used individually, many herbalists prefer to blend them together to create an even more potent effect. In essence, they stack the benefits on top of each other.

A Few Cautions With Adaptogens

The benefits of adaptogens seem endless, but knowing what they are and what they can do for you doesn’t answer a few of the remaining questions you probably have about the compounds.

For example, when should you take them? How do you know how long you should take them? In what amounts should you take adaptogens?

The positive thing about adaptogenic compounds is that there are only a few instances in which you can overdo it or they can cause you harm. In fact, one of the driving features of adaptogens is that they’re safe and non-toxic.

However, it’s possible, however, that some herbs can cancel each other out when taken together. For example, if you’re taking an herb that stimulates you and one that helps you sleep, the effects will probably cancel each other out.

It’s also possible that some of the herbs should only be used for limited amounts of time or once every few months. Herbalists and doctors often recommend rotating the adaptogens you use every few months.

As always, it’s important to check with your doctor before you start taking any form of medication or herbal remedies. Some herbs and foods that contain adaptogens can interact with other medications you’re taking, so ensure that you’ve approved any new herb or botanical with your doctor before you consume it.

Additionally, consider reading The Botanical Safety Handbook, which contains all the information you need to know about adaptogens.

If you’re breastfeeding, use particular caution. While no adaptogens have been shown to be of any concern for breastfeeding children, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re safe. Again, talk to your doctor.

Adaptogens and You: Final Thoughts

Natural Adaptogens

If you’re thinking about about adding adaptogens into your diet, you might find yourself wondering, “Do I really need them?” The answer is both, “Yes,” and, “No.”

You don’t need them in the sense that you need an antibiotic to treat a particular infection. You do need them to help you body stay in balance amidst the constant stresses of life.

It’s important to note that adaptogen supplements don’t treat specific conditions. Rather, they help boost your overall well-being. Instead of wondering if you “need” them to solve a problem, ask yourself if taking adaptogens can help you feel better, more balanced, less stressed, and healthier?

Ask yourself how you feel. Is your digestive tract functioning to the best of its ability? Do you have a healthy appetite? Is your skin vibrant and healthy? Are your stress levels easily manageable? If you answered no to any of these questions, it’s possible you’re a candidate for adaptogen inclusion in your diet!

Adaptogens help adjust your body’s stress response and keep it at a desirable level, similar to how you’d adjust the temperature from becoming too high or too low.

If you want to keep your body in balance, adaptogens might be the perfect solution to add to your diet and supplement plan!

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Yoga and Brain Function: How Yoga Affects the Brain.

You know yoga is good for your body, but did you also know it’s good for your brain? All types of workouts can positively impact mental health, but yoga seems to be particularly good at positively affecting the brain.

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You know yoga is good for your body, but did you also know it’s good for your brain? All types of workouts can positively impact mental health, but yoga seems to be particularly good at positively affecting the brain. This goes for the pranayama (breath control), asana (postures), and meditation.

 

According to Dr. Jonathan Greenburg at the Massachusetts General Hospital as well as Harvard Medical School, yoga has been effectively used to treat insomnia, eating disorders, anxiety, depression, and other mental diseases and illnesses. He says it helps to increase the sense of self-control and well-being and has been well received in mass populations such as prisons. Dr. Greenburg attributes this largely to yoga’s ability to control stress. “We know stress is a very fertile ground for many physical and mental ailments,” he explains. No wonder yoga (or stress reduction) can work wonders for mental health.

 

Consider the research featured in the Frontiers in Immunology journal, which suggests that yoga actually decreases inflammation that can happen from chronic stress. Yoga has the ability to lessen stress while helping you get a better perspective on reality. It’s a type of healthy coping mechanism, though in most yoga classes it’s simply called getting your zen.

 

The pranayama aspects of yoga can also help because it’s tapping the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis of the brain. Also known as the HPA axis, it’s in charge of your sympathetic nervous system. This nervous system is where your fight or flight instinct takes place. The parasympathetic nervous system is the system that tells you everything is okay and that you can relax. Ultimately, yoga has been shown to minimize the SNS while increasing the PNS. This can mean lower blood pressure and heart rate, according to Greenburg. Your brain is always asking your body for cues of what to do—and the other way around, of course. You’re a machine, and your brain is at the helm. It could use a little help, and yoga might be the key.

 

So, why not work on optimizing the PSN around the clock? Too much of anything isn’t good for you. You’d be chill, but pretty non-functional. That’s why meditation isn’t recommended 24/7. You need balance, which is also what you often hear in yoga class, and that includes between the PNS and SNS. Dr. Amy Wheeler, who is on the board for the International Association of Yoga Therapists and also a professor at California State University, says that yoga is all about teaching your SNS that it doesn’t need to be on constantly. You need to be alert and focused without having to go into your fight or flight instinct. Calm yet alert is the goal of yoga and should be the goal of life.

 

There’s also evidence that yoga can help your brain as you age by reversing the signs of aging. A study in the International Psychogeriatrics journal revealed that those 55+ who have cognitive impairment enjoyed significant differences in memory retention after only three months of yoga. A control group was used, and the non-yoga group showed no changes in memory, but also no changes in depression symptoms. According to Dr. Greenberg, meditation can make a big difference in the brain because it has been shown to increase self-related thinking and awareness. However, it’s the memory that he’s particularly interested in. “After eight weeks of meditation training, research found that the hippocampus, which is involved in learning and memory, developed more gray matter density,” he points out.

 

It’s true—we can actually increase the brain matter simply through the yogic practice of meditation.

 

There’s also the influence of yoga in recovering addicts, particularly in an era of an opioid epidemic when the elderly are at particular risk. Yoga has been effectively used to both wean people off of opioids as well as soothe withdrawal symptoms. The effects of substance abuse on the brain can be severe. However, protecting this damage through yoga intervention and perhaps reversing the damage can be possible. Overall, studies have shown that yogis responder calmer to challenging events. Dr. Greenburg suspects it’s because those who meditate have a bigger “right insula,” which is the part of the brain linked to awareness. When stressed, knowing how you’ll react can prevent you from overreacting.

 

Yoga has been a popular form of natural “medicine” for thousands of years, and with good reason. It can be used as a tool to not only grow the body but also the brain. Since the human body is an interlinked system, it simply makes sense to treat it entirely with kindness.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Joshua Butcher is an ex-addict and founder of the Ohio Addiction Recovery Center. Since his recovery began, he has enjoyed using his talent for words to help spread treatment resources, addiction awareness, and general health knowledge.

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Simple Car Yoga Poses to Do While Driving.

Breathe deep with stress busting car yoga with this PDF of simple car yoga poses to do while driving. Developed in collaboration with Toyota San Diego.

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We all know that driving can be stressful. Whether we’re driving to work, running errands, or even embarking on a cross-country road trip, extended time in the car means lack of physical movement for our bodies, potentially shortened breath from seated in a slumped position, and stresses that come with unexpected traffic, driving behavior, etc.

Try out these tried and true exercises the next time you’re on the road to add more balance to your day.

Thank you, San Diego Toyota, for collaboration on this project. We hope these poses and techniques make your daily commutes more peaceful and enjoyable!

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A Breakdown of Self Inquiry and Ramana Maharshi’s I AM Meditation.

The I AM technique of self-inquiry as taught by spiritual teachers such as Ramana Maharshi is profound and accessible if learned properly. The spiritual teachings of Ramana Maharshi abound with spiritual insights for both the beginner and advanced seeker.

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The I AM technique of self-inquiry as taught by spiritual teachers such as Ramana Maharshi is profound and accessible if learned properly. The spiritual teachings of Ramana Maharshi abound with spiritual insights for both the beginner and advanced seeker. Everyone’s practice of meditation and self-inquiry will be benefited from the reading of Ramana Maharshi’s writings.

 

Exploring the I AM Technique

 

Let’s explore the I AM technique for self-inquiry and its roots in the very make up of the human mind.

The technique is rooted in the idea that the essence of each being is the Self and that this awareness of the Self is possible for all. Ramana says that this sense of self is always with us, though the feeling is vague. The I AM technique is the remembrance of the Self. We become lost in thoughts and forget our essence. In Talks with Ramana Maharshi page 164, he writes, “Thoughts rule the life. Freedom from thoughts is one’s true nature—Bliss.”

The basis of the I AM technique is explained by Ramana, on ,  page 160 of Talks,  “The sense of body is a thought; the thought is in the mind, the mind rises after the “I”-thought, the “I”-thought is the root thought, if that thought is held, the other thoughts will disappear.” Holding on to that “I”-thought leads us to the essence of our sense of being: I AM. Read my first blog on Ramana Maharshi for more details on finding that feeling.

I first came across the I AM self-inquiry technique when I moved to San Diego to attend college in 1980. I had moved from San Francisco to fulfill my dream of becoming a surfer—I was heavily influenced in my early teens by the Gidget movies of the time! The other possibility I held out, and another storyline in a movie of the time, was to move to New York and work at the United Nations. I was intrigued by the idea of the nations of the world coming together to solve problems with intelligence and dialogue rather than the caveman mentality of physical violence.  

The mind is a mystery to western sciences, but to Ramana Maharshi it is something understandable, accessible and able to be transformed. The reason the I AM meditation technique is so effective is that it is rooted in the foundational structure of the mind.

In Ramana’s first writing, Self-Inquiry, written in 1901, he notes, “This inquiry into the Self in devotional meditation evolves into the state of absorption of the mind into the Self and leads to Liberation and unqualified Bliss.” I take “devotional meditation” to mean meditation rooted in feeling, sensation and emotion. The Self is rediscovered, for it is never lost, through a profound awareness of our own existence. Self is a feeling.

I traveled to Ramana Maharshi’s spiritual community in 2006. I have read numerous books of his. With insights culled from his writings I posit three primary aspects of mind that develop organically, to a greater or lesser extent, in all human beings.

One of these aspects of mind is the foundation for the I AM technique. Another leads to meditation on images, sounds and the like. The third leads to discrimination, which is the foundation of jnana yoga. Understanding these foundational aspects of mind will help you in observing your own mind and practicing the I AM meditation.

These three aspects of mind develop their basic functioning organically, as they are rooted in the survival instinct. They are developed to their highest potential by conscious effort. Lets start with the creation of mind. Ramana says, on page 20 of The Collected Works of Ramana Maharshi, “…there exists an entity known as the ‘mind’, which is derived from the subtle essence of the food consumed…” So it matters what we eat!

 

3 Aspects Of The Mind

 

Now to the three aspects of mind. Firstly there is the I AM consciousness, by which we are aware of our own existence. This sense of our own being is always there but most cannot quite put their finger on it. Ramana says on page 156 of Talks with Ramana Maharshi, to a seeker: “You are hazily aware of the Self. Pursue it. When the effort ceases the Self shines forth.” The gateway to the Self is this core I AM aspect of mind. We always have the vague sense that we exist, but most times the pure joy of the feeling of existence is covered by the fabric of mind that creates our sense of reality.

This second ability of mind is to hold a sensation or thought. This holding gives sensations and thoughts a feeling of permanence. We create the world in which we exist through this magical power: the thought of an apple, a memory from the past, a vision of the future or even the idea that you are the physical body.

It enables us to create a sense of the world around us and allows us to create identifications of ourselves as the various roles and activities that we do in the world. This aspect of mind leads to meditation and concentration techniques where one focuses on something such as a sound, mantra, mandala, chakra, quality or other points of focus. Ramana says that through these concentration techniques the mind gains strength, but he also notes that the experience is still rooted in thought and hence impermanent.

The third ability of mind that emerges is the capacity to hold in the mind multiple sensations and thoughts, and compare and contrast them. This last ability is described by Ramana with wonderful simplicity on page 20 of The Collected Works of Ramana Maharshi, “To think whether a certain thing may be eaten is a thought-form of the mind. ‘It is good. It is not good. It can be eaten. It cannot be eaten’: discriminating notions like these constitutes the discriminative intellect.” Through personal effort this aspect of mind leads to the ability to compare ethical and moral options and ultimately to distinguish the eternal from the transitory. This is the least developed aspect of mind in most individuals.

Through the proper use of the I AM method of self-inquiry we reconnect with our core mind and from there connect into the Self. To learn this technique I advise reading at least 4 books by Ramana Maharshi. His writing will give you a basis for understanding and practicing self-inquiry. Give yourself quiet time each day to concentrate upon his writings, interspersing reading with concentration, breath awareness and mediation.

I AM awareness, which we all have, yet are not fully conscious of, can become a conscious experience. When that occurs it is the state of Samadhi and Liberation.

 

Sujantra McKeever is the founder of Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga in San Diego, which serves over 1,000 yogis a week, and also helped create Pilgrimage Yoga Online. He is the author of five books on eastern philosophy, success and meditation. Sujantra studied meditation with spiritual teacher Sri Chinmoy and has lectured on meditation and yoga in over 30 countries.

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An Overview of Divine Feminine Goddess Archetypes.

The archetype of Mother includes other references or meanings.  There is an awe and mystery about the divine feminine that includes mother but also includes other forces that act upon us in our psychological and biological forms.  

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Everyone has a mother: all embodied beings are born, and to be born means to have a mother.  To have a human mother means to have a relationship to a person who brought us forth out of her body, who cared for us when we were at our most helpless and vulnerable. We were utterly helpless as infants: if she had not protected us, we would not be here.  For most of us, she smiled at our open gaze and spoke sweet words to us. She wrapped us up when we were cold, and comforted us when we were hurt or frightened. Above all, she fed us and kept us warm. The experiences that we had at the beginnings of our lives have created our deepest memories and associations. These are the bedrock of our conscious and unconscious lives.  Mother is the womb, the home, the beginning. She is the nest: we learn, we live with each other, we share our lives and livelihoods because we began our lives with a mother.

We all have a deep psychological imprint of mother.  Our biological makeup is designed to interact with a mother, even while still in the womb.  Much of this is instinct, built into the structure of our bodies and nervous systems. In fact, this primary relationship is the foundation of individual consciousness.  Mother is more than a biological entity, a creature that gives birth to us; she may not even be female. Males may function as mothers in certain circumstances, as may other family members or relatives. In nature, beings are born in all sorts of ways, and not necessarily through a biological female. A certain kind of male frog, for example, receives the eggs from the female frog and then incubates the eggs and tadpoles until the baby frogs are born from the male’s side pouch. For humans, Mother is an archetype: the relationship with a mother is part of our innate psychic makeup.  We find someone on whom we can “project” the image and function of the Mother, whether or not that person happens to be a biological mother.  In this sense, we create our mothers as much as our mothers create us. We smile or cry or demand care of our mothers, and they respond as best they can. When the process of mothering goes as it should, she remains at the center of our psyche.  She is the great being who has brought us physically and psychologically into this world.

Never mind for a moment that in our time and culture, the category of “mother” does not carry the universal meanings that it once may have had.  Real mothers can have problems with parenting. Many people have issues or problems with their parents, or have misgivings about the mothering role that they themselves are expected to play. When our relationship with a mother is damaged or incomplete, we may feel damaged or incomplete as human beings. We may develop trust issues or suffer emotional traumas or a stunted ability to love others. This said, shortcomings in real mothering are not necessarily relevant to a meditation on mothering itself.  Mothers give birth to each one of us. We have all been protected, nurtured, and taught by mothers. All multicellular beings have been born from mothers. This is true even for the many organisms that are born from eggs. Even so-called “bad” mothers took care of us when we were at our most vulnerable and most helpless. On some preconscious level, we all remember this.

No beings come from nothing.  Life produces life, and life nurtures life.  Life survives only by the grace and protection of mothers. This truth is timeless and sacred – and it may not be confined to just this life.  Motherhood may be an aspect of having multiple lives. If you can accept the idea that there are more lives to live than just this one, then we have all been mothers.  We have all given birth to other beings. The Buddhists like to say that there have been so many incarnations of every being in every conceivable situation and circumstance, that in the countless eons of time, every one of us has been a mother to every other one of us. And every one of us has had every other one of us as a mother.  All of us are related to everyone else through being mothers.  We are all linked in a most intimate and interdependent way. This is a sacred and beautiful concept. If it seems preposterous or silly, just accept it as a poetic conceit.  Meditate on it. Contemplate it.

 

Mother as Devi, the Goddess

 

On a cosmic or universal level, we can relate to Mother as a sacred being — as Devi.  Devi, a term from the Hindu religion and philosophy means goddess. It is one of the terms or metaphors used when discussing the divine.  Perhaps most importantly, Devi is the archetype of the Mother as a primordial symbol in all cultures and at all times. It signifies the feminine aspect of divinity, god, or consciousness. What exactly is connoted by the term “feminine” depends upon what religion, philosophy or spiritual disciple you are referring to.  It has a renewed resonance in new age circles, invoking Celtic mystery goddesses, Hindu deities like Kali or Durga, ancient Mediterranean goddesses like Astarte, Aphrodite and Hecate, earth mothers, and gentle healing feminine archetypes of all descriptions.

The archetype of Mother includes other references or meanings.  There is an awe and mystery about the divine feminine that includes mother but also includes other forces that act upon us in our psychological and biological forms.  She is Devi or Durga to the Hindus, the Universal Mother out of which all other manifestations of the goddess originate. Devi is associated with death and transformation as much as she is associated with birth and protection. In the Hindu pantheon, she is part of a trinity of divine forces that include Shiva as the destroyer, Vishnu as the preserver, and Devi, who embodies the creative or manifesting force in the universe. The Hindu concept of divinity differs from the Western notion of gods and goddesses associated with specific and limited powers and spheres of influence.

Depending upon the philosophy or religious practice or region or scripture being considered, Devi can be many goddesses. As Parvati, she is the consort of Shiva in his guise as the great Lord of the Universe.  Or she can be Kali, the process of destruction and dissolution as much as creation and preservation. The male deities Vishnu, Brahman and Shiva are metaphysical absolutes.  Their feminine counterparts are experienced as Shakti, the creative expression of the cosmic absolute.  Shiva can be thought of as the unmanifest potential of the universe, the energy substratum out of which time, space, and causality come into being: picture the image of Shiva Nataraja in His cosmic dance of creation and destruction.  Parvati can be thought of as the force of Prakriti, the manifested universe of name and form.  Think of her as she is portrayed in a Chola period bronze, infinitely full and voluptuous. She is nature: the world of the senses. Shiva and Parvati are two aspects of the same reality, in the way the West has devised the metaphor of matter and energy as two expressions of the same underlying reality.  

 

Devi as the Divine Feminine

 

Devi is beauty, as well as the creative expression of intelligence or consciousness.  The divine Mother can appear as Saraswati: it is this energy that brings poetry, music and philosophy into human life.  What would humanity be without language, sagas and songs, architecture, and mythologies?  Saraswati represents our ability to express and represent our symbolic and metaphysical universe.  As such, she makes the forms of consciousness possible: language, meaning, and the awareness of ourselves as individual ego-minds encased in the body.   As the goddess Lakshmi, she manifests as our livelihoods — as abundance, grace, beauty and charm.  She makes life possible — and bearable. The consort of Vishu the preserver, she represents material and spiritual wealth and well-being.  Finally, Devi manifests as Kali, the source, origin, duration, destruction, and negation of the world. Kali is related to Kala, or time. Ultimately, she is time, space and causation.  As such, she is the ultimate reality: another way of experiencing the Lord Shiva.

Devi is a metaphysical reality. But as a human being, I relate better to an abstract philosophical principle when it is more accessible and concrete.  In all spiritual traditions, God is made manifest in some way that is accessible to human emotion and human experience. The Divine is represented in such figures as Christ, Goddess, Buddha, Zeus, or Mother Mary.  The divine is experienced through Yahweh, Allah, Mohammed, Moses, or some other entity that possesses a name and a presence.  Personally, I like to experience the spiritual reality as a feminine presence, as Devi, especially in two forms: as Mother Kali and as Tara, the liberator and protector. Tara is the easier to approach and to understand. She is the rescuer, the savior goddess, the one who represents the boon of fearlessness.  She destroys all dangers, especially those psychic dangers of fear, doubt, and ignorance. She demands only our attention and our devotion. She is love and forgiveness personified — the ideal mother, lover and friend.

Kali is the goddess of spiritual transformation.  She is the death of the limited, ego self and the liberation beyond the illusions of time, materiality, and the human form.  She takes many forms and has many, many names. Similar forms of the goddess appear in the Buddhist pantheon as Nairatmya, or “egoless woman,” and Vajrayogini, the tantric deity of transformation and annihilation. Kali is represented as standing on top of her consort Shiva, who represents a transcendental absolute reality. She holds a sword of non-dual wisdom that cuts through illusion and falsity.  She also holds the severed head of a male demon that has had the temerity to challenge her. The head represents arrogance, ignorance and pride, as do the other 108 heads that she wears on a necklace around her head. Kali is fierce but compassionate. She is terrifying to those of us who are holding on to our illusions and resisting the realities of time, transfiguration, and our own apotheosis. She is the savior goddess to those who surrender to divine revelation.  Unlike Tara, she is not an easy goddess to accept or to love. But both are to be venerated as two aspects of the same goddess, the same divine reality.

 

Her Worship and Sadhana

 

How does one approach the Mother as divine feminine?  In one form, she is experienced in meditation as the simple presence of consciousness or awareness.  In tantric or Kundalini practice, she is experienced as internal energy or bliss. She exists in images and statues to be worshiped and meditated upon.  Finally, she exists in liturgies and prayers to the Goddess. Chanting, japa, or repeating mantras in ritualistic worship are not things that appeal to everyone.  It can be argued — and has been — that ritual worship or the worship of deities is not essential to spiritual practice. It is also argued that specific liturgies lead to idolatry and to the weaknesses and potential divisiveness of religious practice and spiritual dogmas.  It is often argued that it is better to be free of religious symbolism and ritual practice, and simply to meditate on the heart chakra or compassion or some other uplifting concept. These are all good points — and yet, the presence of the divine in one’s life is as powerful and potent an expression of our humanity as is our reason and our human love. Why would we want to deny its personification as gods and goddesses?  The meaning of Yahweh is “I AM”: ultimately, this is all that God really is.  The gods and goddesses manifest as archetypes simply because it is in our nature as human beings to manifest them.  In the words of one of my liturgies, the gods and goddesses do not exist except as a means to allow us to experience the true nature of reality.  Reality in this sense means to experience the inner and outer presence of THE PRESENCE, as my own guru once put it.

There are as many ways to experience the divine Mother as there are devotees to experience her. One way is to allow the manifestation of the divine Mother in ordinary life.  This involves a little fantasy and role playing, but don’t our jobs, marriages, trips to the supermarket and to the dentist — our ordinary life in general – call for some role playing anyway?  Our lives are devoted to fantasy and make-believe: the fact that we believe in the roles and dramas we enact is all the more reason to stop, look, and listen. All of these thoughts and opinions and make-believe are also forms of the divine manifestation. Devi is the manifestation, out of the emptiness of pure potential, of our lives and us.  As we all know, there is nothing really out there. Or, if you prefer, you can say that it is all hydrogen and specks of dust. Yet to us, our political parties, neighborhood parties, retirement parties and every other party happen day after day, throughout our lives. Where does this intense activity come from? What or who manifests it? Why not call it the Divine Mother?  She is the cosmic womb from which everything that exists, exists. In the Hindu metaphor, she is Shaki: the power or energy of the divine that appears as everyone and everything in the universe of names and forms. The Divine Mother is our lives and in many ways, she is us.

 

Shakti; Her divine manifestation

 

As devotees of Shakti, the divine Mother, we should find her sacred presence everywhere.  I remember seeing Mother Kali dancing in a shopping mall. My spouse and I were emerging from a department store in a huge shopping mall in Maryland, when I spotted Mother Kali. She was a wonderfully exotic looking black woman with waist-length hair wearing middle-eastern clothing, heavily jeweled and formidable looking. She was standing near an improvised stage by the food court, looking through a box for additional CDs. Two of her brightly dressed apprentices were slowly dancing arm in arm to entertain the crowds of holiday shoppers with a choreographed routine.  I said to my wife, “Look over there — its Ma Kali”. She thought it might be the two dancing apprentices, but they were far from the real thing, like ordinary devotees next to a master. Kali herself danced next, and the change was electrifying: a middle-aged black woman, lithe, quick, sharp, and delicate as a cat as she moved carefully and liquidly around the stage. Her dance genuinely summoned the goddess. As I watched from the upper balcony, she shot a quick glance around at the assembled shoppers. I was inwardly reciting a hymn to Kali: “It will be auspicious if she looks at me.” Her glance shot by, but I couldn’t tell if she was looking at me. Isn’t that just like all incarnations of divinity? We can never quite tell if they are really looking at us or not.

On that day, I was preoccupied with an important decision that I was soon to make — a decision that would change my life dramatically. As it usually happens, I was thinking that this was my decision to make. But, as I watched the black woman dancing, a story came into my head from a biography of Vivekananda. Vivekananda was the world-famous disciple of Ramakrishna. Ramakrishna is a great saint of modern India and a fervent devotee of Mother Kali.  Vivekananda, his greatest student, travelled extensively throughout Europe and America at the beginning of the last century, preaching brilliantly about Vedanta and Indian philosophy. His work made it possible for later teachers like my guru Gururaj to be understood in the west. Gururaj would sometimes talk about Vivekananda, and even once claimed to be an embodiment or reincarnation of Vivekananda. In the story as I remembered it, Vivekananda is concerned about restoring a ruined shrine to Kali, whom many Hindus worship as the mother of the universe. No sooner does he think this, however, then the voice of the Mother comes to him and admonishes that it is She herself that restores or destroys her own temples, not any work of the ego or the human will. God alone does everything. We can do nothing by ourselves. I myself heard a similar inward voice that day, warning me that I can decide nothing. I can do nothing. It is an illusion that I am the agent of my life. God alone acts.

 

Spiritual Surrender and Devotion to the Divine

 

This brings up the devotional attitude of surrender to the divine feminine. When we have a decision to make, some of us like to invoke Tara, Durga, Kali, Mother Mary, or whatever form of the divine Mother we are personally devoted to. If we have been doing intense spiritual practice, we can even visualize God or Devi as our guru and ask him or her what to do. The divine Mother or God or our guru may even tell us — but we are really just talking to ourselves. We may hope for some voice of higher wisdom, and we may get one, but in one way or another, it’s really just our inner selves that we are talking to.  This inner voice, or inner guru as it is sometimes called, is a tricky thing. If we are lucky, and sufficiently wise, it is our divine natures we are invoking and not just another form of the bewitching and misleading ego consciousness: this latter entity is merely the voice of our fears, doubts and illusions. It is easy to be fooled.

So, who or what is it that we invoke, when we invoke the divine Mother?  I like to think of her as everything that forms the entire fabric of our existence, both inner and outer experience.  This is the whole manifest universe of thought, word, deed, objects, and selfhood — everything. Because this world seems to exist, and furthermore, seems to exist as something that we can conceive of and even participate in, I think of it as feminine: alluring, terrible, seductive, all-pervasive, loving, powerful, merciful, forgiving, remorseless, beautiful, and empty. Empty, because ultimately, it is nothing but the ceaseless play of consciousness, without form, substance, or duration. But, this is getting too philosophical and conceptual. Mother is best experienced directly, not through concepts and ideas.  The divine Mother is not philosophy or an idea about experience, but experience itself. This is why you can see the entire manifest universe in the form of a bewitching black woman dancing in the vast shopping mall of the universe. The whole mystery of manifestation exists in each and every moment of the divine dance. Mother and I exist just for each other: God and her devotee.

While I rarely “pray” to the divine in a conventional sense, I always remember: “God’s will be done.” Like most people, I am involved in the world: I live far from some monastic ideal of renunciation and detachment. I do my spiritual practices every day, without fail, as an expression of my devotion and love.  I probably meditate and contemplate the divine reality more than most people, but I do so without expectations. The Mother is what she is — and I accept that. But it is also true that the divine Mother gives her devotees what they secretly want in their heart of hearts, with all the joys and sorrows that come with an involvement and identification with the manifest world of space and form.  Whatever we may think we want or fear, we will be all consumed by our life. It is our own nature that propels us into the world, into action and into endless activity. The divine manifests itself in the world through each one of us. That manifestation IS God, IS the Goddess. And that Goddess is no other than myself: not myself in my ego dream of separation and division, but in her true guise as the Mother itself.  Though all of my existence transpires within my own awareness, that consciousness is itself divine. It IS the Mother.

My hope — or my prayer, if you like — is that in surrendering my own illusion of individual self, I will be enacting God’s will: my submission to the Will of the embodied universe. Gururaj, after a lifetime spent actively doing all the things in the world that he was born to do — teaching, fathering, meditating, being the guru to many of his devotees — wrote a mysterious poem of resignation shortly before his death.

 

The world goes on

through its twists and turns,

I go on in its meandering ways

but I am still!

Who wants to watch

the waves of life’s ocean…. floundering

Gururaj Ananda Yogi, May 1988

 

I get shivers when I read that poem. Vivekananda too, after a very active life of teaching and traveling, came to realize a higher kind of resignation to the will of the Mother. He had done it all, and he had his fill of it.

Vivekananda (in a letter to a disciple):

“The whole world is a mere child’s play — preaching, teaching, and all included. ‘Know him to be the sannyasin who neither hates nor desires.’ And what is there to be desired in this little mud-puddle of a world with its ever-recurring misery, disease, and death?… This rest — eternal, peaceful rest — I am catching a glimpse of now in this beautiful spot. ‘Having once known that the Atman alone, and nothing else, exists, desiring what, or for whose desire, shall you suffer misery about the body?’ I feel as if I had my share of experience in what they call ‘work’. I am finished. I am longing now to get out…May Mother gather me soon to Herself never to come back any more. These works and doing good etc. are just a little exercise to cleanse the mind, I have enough of it. This world will be world ever and always. What we are, so we see it. Who works? Whose work? There is no world. It is God Himself. In delusion we call world–neither I nor Thou nor you, it is all He the Lord, all one.”

(Quoted in The Life of Swami Vivekananda, Vol II, pg. 119)

This might sound a little extreme, or even faintly negative. It doesn’t sound especially positive or “life-affirming.” But who are we to affirm life — or anything else, for that matter? Life affirms itself. The manifest universe is doing a very good job of manifestation, whether we like it or not, and we get to be included in it. After all, we ARE it. That last line of Gururaj deserves some careful meditation. Is he saying that he does or does not enjoy watching those waves of the world? Is he floundering, or is it the world that flounders? Who knows? Who cares? It’s all Mother’s doing. She’ll tell us when to come in from play.

 

The Divine Mother as Ananda; Bliss

 

Who, finally, is Mother?  Beyond divinities and symbolism, Mother consists of this mysterious union of existence, consciousness, and ineffable joy that the Advaita philosophy calls Sat Chit Ananda.  The Tibetan Buddhists call it the Dharmakaya in its formless aspect, the Sambhogakaya in its power to be aware, and the Nirmanakaya in its manifest or expressed form.  The Catholics have their Trinity, and the Jews simply state, “I AM.” This is Consciousness as Being. Awareness arises co-dependent with Shiva, the primordial Being. Without awareness, there is no activity of Consciousness.  This is symbolized by the Sleep of Brahman. The activity of awareness is experience-in-the-world, which is another way of saying that it is Mother’s manifestation as Shaki, the primordial activity and expression of consciousness.

The divine union of Shiva and Shakti is the union of manifestation and the un-manifest source.  Out of this divine union arise the self and the object of awareness.  This is embodiment, or what the tantric practitioners call mandala.  This I what I experience as Kali or the divine Mother: the universal expression of wisdom, energy, ecstasy, and knowledge.  Kali is the timeless awareness out of which Time arises. She is Formless and Un-manifest: out of her arise both the inner world of thought and perception and the outer world of objects and attributes.  She is always still and is always in motion. She is causality and Karma. She is without personality, and She is the supreme personality — the only personality, the universal “I.” Not surprisingly, she enjoys herself.  She is the enjoyer: the knowing aspect of consciousness and the experience that experiences itself. She is never without action. She is Existence, Consciousness, Bliss. She is the Supreme Self, the only self, and my true self — the “me” which manifests as personality in the world.  

Her great devotee is the 19th century Indian saint Ramakrishna,

“My Mother is the principle of consciousness. She is akhanda satchidananda; indivisible Reality, Awareness, and Bliss. The night sky between the stars is perfectly black. The waters of the ocean depths are the same. The infinite is always mysteriously dark. This inebriating darkness is my beloved Kali….”

Reality with attributes, saguna brahman, has been unanimously declared by the Vedas, Puranas, and Tantras to be Mahakali, the primordial energy of awareness. Her Energy is like the rays of the sun. The original sun is attributeless Reality, nirguna brahman, boundless awareness alone. Proceed to the Original through its Radiance. Awaken to non-dual Reality through Mother Kali. She holds the key. —

Sri Ramakrishna in “Great Swan”, by Lex Hixon, p.184

So, who is Kali?  Who can say what the Mother truly is?  We can only lose ourselves in astonishment at the beauty and majesty of this world, which she creates.  Beyond thought, beyond the mind, she is the being that looks into our eyes when we look up into hers. She is also that which looks out of our own eyes. With hope, fear and expectations, we love her, and she, through her divine grace, returns this love.  

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR, JEFFRY CARR: Jeffrey Carr has been active with meditation and spiritual practice for over forty years.  He is a Full Teacher in the American Meditation Society (americanmeditationsociety.org), a Senior Teacher in the Tibetan Buddhist Center of Philadelphia (www.tibetanbuddhist.org), and has completed a two year program in the Clearlight Meditation Teacher Training program of the Clearlight Meditation Institute (www.clearlightmeditation.org).  Carr grew up in San Diego and has recently returned after a career as an art professor at a number of colleges and universities and then as the Dean of an artschool in Philadelphia.  Some of his artwork can be seen here: www.jeffreycarr.work.  He has been a disciple of Gururaj Ananda Yogi for over 35 years, and is a long-term student and practitioner of Tibetan Buddhist and Dzogchen traditions. Carr’s interests and experience include Zen meditation, the teachings of his root guru, Gururaj Ananda Yogi, Non-dual Advaita Vedanta, Tibetan Buddhism, Dzogchen, Non-dual Saiva Tantra and emerging contemporary traditions of non-dual spirituality.

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Sujantra McKeever: An Interview with Pilgrimage Yoga Online Founder.

Sujantra now owns two Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga studios, in the heart of North Park and Normal Heights, California.  He instructs 5 classes a week at both locations, teaching all 8 aspects of yoga and exploring the relevance of this ancient art in our modern society.

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This piece is written by Molly Flores, a student at Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga in San Diego. 

In a dimly lit foyer, sunlight cascades over potted olive trees and illuminates trails of incense, seemingly swaying to its own Asana.  In the background, gentle flute music resonates in my ears and fills me with a sense of elation. The walls surrounding me are adorned with vivid paintings and inspirational sayings such as “Yoga is union” and the tables display crystals and sweet smelling herbs.  In this space, I am grounded and filled with euphoria. I close my eyes to embody the feeling entirely. I am drawn back earthside as a gentle hand rests on my shoulder but a voice does not disrupt the silence.

I have come to Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga Studio and have already succumb to it’s grace.   Sujantra McKeever, the founder and owner, stands before me with the presence of a redwood tree that has seen many seasons pass before it;  insightful and strong. His salt and pepper hair flows around his face freely and his infectious smile seems to suggest that he holds dear the secrets of the universe.  He wears loose earth-toned clothing and worn oxford loafers; the combination suggests he is a spiritual man with business to conduct. He gestures me to follow him and I am surprised to discover a den tucked away, hidden behind folding French walls in the back of the studio.  

Unlike the foyer, the den is cramped, filled with books on meditation and pictures of a small Indian man with the same infectious smile: Sri Chinmoy, a world famous inspirational leader who mentored Sujantra for 27 years.  The desk across from me is used as an altar; miniature figurines of Buddha and Hindu goddesses are carefully displayed. The desk also showcases many mementos such a group pictures and event flyers, representing a sense of family: a community of people that Sujantra’s passion has united.

As I prepare myself, Sujantra is already seated ready to explain his juourney.  His aura alludes inner-peace and this the very reason I chose to interview this man regarding his journey to self-enlightenment. As I shuffle through my notes, a look of overwhelment is obviously splayed across my face.  “Where do I begin?”, I giggle nervously. This man before me has seen so much…Without a cue, the silence is interrupted by the soft tone of a gong and just like that, his story unfolds before us.

“I was raised a Roman-Catholic, even as a boy, I had a good feeling for going to church…and I really liked that feeling of that shift between the day to day world and the sacred world.”  

Sujantra McKeever, was born in San Francisco in 1962.  As a boy, he attended cataclysm classes which evolved to a Prayer and Contemplative Meditation course while attending Jesuit High School.  During these classes, Sujantra and his peers, were guided by the priest into spiritual visualizations. “On one of those days, I had a very profound experience about my sense of self and sunk to a really deep place within myself- this was very eye opening. I had never felt that dimension before…”

Now awakened to his passion, Sujantra began to nourish his mind, body and spirit; combining physical exercise with the spiritual practice of yoga and meditation.  Running and basketball were essential to his physical routine as they allowed him to practice breath control, referred to as Pranayama. The peaceful postures (Asanas) of yoga nourished his longing for reflection and a higher sense of self.  

“What I was really motivated to deepen was my ability to meditate.”  Sujantra felt a longing to expand his knowledge and practice of meditation.  Unfortunately, the priest who had ignited the passion within Sujantra originally, was limited in his expertise and was unable to satiate Sujantra’s need for more knowledge on the practice.  

After about a year and a half of searching for a teacher, Sujantra met Sri Chinmoy here in San Diego in 1980. He was teaching a class and the feeling Sujantra left with was similar to the bliss he had experienced as a boy.  He then attended a free concert held by Sri Chinmoy in Phoenix, Arizona. A connection was made and a lifetime of mentor ship was established. Sri  Chinmoy became Sujantra’s spiritual teacher and remained so for the duration of his life, until his passing in 2007.

“I shared with Sri Chinmoy that I wanted to create a space that would be a real vehicle to convey love and inspiration for the practice of meditation and yoga and he created the name The Pilgrimage of the Heart.”  This safe space eluding love and spiritual practice started as a new age bookstore in 2006, providing literate on the practices of yoga.  From there a few yoga classes were hosted throughout the week, word then spread and many more yoga classes were being taught, with this the need for more instructors emerged.

Sujantra now owns two Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga studios, in the heart of North Park and Normal Heights, California.  He instructs 5 classes a week at both locations, teaching all 8 aspects of yoga and exploring the relevance of this ancient art in our modern society. His classes include, Beginning/Gentle Yoga, Yoga for children and Hatha levels I and II, as well as guided meditation as well as a musical meditation course. Continently, for those who can’t make it out to the studio, instructional meditation videos are now provided on www.pilgrimageyogaonline.com.

Not only had Sujantra created a platform to bridge the gap of ancient aspects of yoga to a modern group of people through his studios and website; but he has written 5 books and has lectured in more than 25 countries on the practices as well.  “ I find that the hardest job a teacher faces, is connecting with his audience, so what I’ve tried to accomplish with my lectures and writings is making meditation very accessible to people and to demystify yoga in that sense.” His writings include: Learn to Meditate, Paths Are Many Truth Is One: A Journey to the Essence of Spirituality and Religion, Ancient Wisdom for Modern Lives: The Mandukya Upanished, 7 Secrets to Super-Health, and Strategy for Success.  

As I glance down at my notes, realizing I haven’t prepared anymore questions, I am ready to improvise.  I look up, about to impose a question about his own personal practice and finding the time amidst his busy schedule; only to find that Sujantra has taken it upon himself to find the time right then.  Very clearly deep within his practice, I smile, realizing this was the most appropriate cue for the conclusion of our interview. I head for the door, feeling extremely inspired as I turn to exit I hear “I hope our practices emerge one day, Molly.  Be well.”

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Molly Flores is originally from New York and has been living in San Diego for the past 10 years. She has a busy life as a mom of two, and is deeply interested in expanding her practice and understanding of yoga and meditation. This piece originated as an interview with Pilgrimage Yoga Online studio founder, Sujantra McKeever. Molly is a student is Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga in Normal Heights and North Park in San Diego. 

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Is It Good to Do Yoga During Pregnancy?

Yes, yoga can be difficult, but the level of difficulty is entirely based on the capability and the comfort of the person who’s participating, and the classes you choose to take. In many ways, yoga is the perfect physical activity for pregnant women.

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Pregnancy showcases huge changes to our minds and our bodies. Any woman who’s ever carried a growing child over those 40 weeks can testify to this. It’s also a time that can be extremely stressful and demanding on several levels. Women are expected to prepare themselves and their families for the miracle of birth, while keeping up with their previous activities.

Sure, it’s okay to slow down, but far too many women push themselves beyond their boundaries in an effort to live up to that supermom status. The most important thing you can do for yourself during pregnancy is to understand your boundaries, and to respect what your body is telling you.

If you don’t feel like doing something, then don’t. In the same instance, it’s a good idea to embrace things that can help you relax and that can improve your physical stature.

In just nine short months, it’ll be time to turn some of the attention away from yourself to focus on your new baby. Because of this, it’s very important to embrace yourself and care for your body prior to giving birth.

Yoga is an excellent way to do this without causing yourself any additional exertion or harm. In fact, yoga has a way of calming people down and teaching them different breathing exercises that can be beneficial during the birthing process itself.

 

What is Yoga?

Most of us have heard of yoga. If you’re not familiar with the practice, then you may envision some stereotypical slender men and women folded into all sorts of contortion-worthy shapes. In truth, yoga isn’t just an exercise. It’s a way of life that focuses on connecting your breathing to your body and your body to your mind.

Not only does it improve flexibility and muscle tone, it also teaches us how to remain calm in the face of a stressful situation. It operates on the principle that all of these things come together to bring balance to both your physical and mental well-being.

Yoga is a practice; they call it this because you’re always striving to improve your knowledge and ability of the process. It’s not strenuous exercise that pushes you to constantly progress towards a heightened sense of physical strength.

Yes, yoga can be difficult, but the level of difficulty is entirely based on the capability and the comfort of the person who’s participating, and the classes you choose to take. In many ways, yoga is the perfect physical activity for pregnant women.

Yoga promotes a sense of calm and teaches us to slow our breathing down. This can be incredibly beneficial when a woman is facing the prospect of birth.

According the Yoga Alliance, “Yoga was developed up to 5,000 years ago in India as a comprehensive system for wellbeing on all levels: physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. While Yoga is often equated with Hatha Yoga, the well-known system of postures and breathing techniques, Hatha Yoga is only a part of the overall discipline of Yoga.”

 

Yoga’s Positive Impact on Pregnancy

Many women ask themselves the question, “Is it safe to exercise while pregnant?” This is a question that should always be answered first by your physician, and second by your overall level of comfort during physical activity.

Most women are able to continue with their standard exercise routine as long as it doesn’t elevate their heart rate too much or cause them to place themselves in positions that could be harmful for the baby. Starting a new and strenuous type of aerobic exercise can put too much stress on the body and end up being a poor choice for advanced pregnancy.

Yoga, on the other hand, has proven itself to be an excellent resource for those trying to continue with their physical activity. It requires the constant movement of breath while stretching and using a variety of different muscle groups.

Yoga also embraces frequent periods of rest in between postures and doesn’t necessarily elevate the heart rate in the same way that other exercises do. This prepares the body for eventual birth, increasing a woman’s ability to stretch and move with contractions. It also continues to improve blood flow and oxygenates the rest of the body. These are all beneficial to the baby, and to the woman during and after birth.

It’s important to clear it with your doctor first anytime you begin a new exercise regimen while pregnant. It’s also important to make sure that you’re working with an experienced yogi who can show you the appropriate way to do postures and to modify them for your expanding midsection and comfort.

 

Prenatal Yoga

The Mayo Clinic promotes the use of yoga to improve pregnancy and your mental state throughout the process. It does, however, advise against participating in Bikram Yoga. This is the hot yoga practice that takes place in temperatures far exceeding 100°F.

It’s a good idea to look for a prenatal yoga class. This will involve a curriculum specifically designed around pregnancy and the different styles appropriate to any physical limitations. Most of these yoga styles combine restorative and relaxation yoga practices geared towards improving flexibility and helping to promote mental clarity.

This is a great way to reduce stress and to help avoid insomnia in later pregnancy. If you’ve been used to more involved types of yoga, like a Vinyasa flow, you might want to consider modifying some of the postures and avoiding some of the more difficult inversions. Your center of gravity will change drastically, and it’s very important to remember this before trying to balance on your forearms for hollow backs.

During pregnancy, your body is going to release certain chemicals that can actually increase your flexibility—this is to enable you to better open up when it’s time for the baby to be born. You can use this to your advantage during some of your yoga practice; it can actually maximize the effects—allowing them to last long after the baby is born.

 

Modifying Your Style

The following are a few modifications and suggestions that can help to make yoga more accessible during pregnancy:

  • Always tell the yoga instructor that you’re pregnant!
  • Avoid suspensions or inversions that demand balance to avoid a fall
  • Don’t focus as much on getting your forehead to your knees during your forward folds— remember that you need room for your baby and your growing midsection
  • Back postures should be stopped or modified after about 18 weeks of pregnancy
  • Take frequent breaks, and don’t be afraid to immediately stop any posture that causes pain or discomfort
  • Pregnancy requires more oxygen and can compress the lungs— avoid breathing exercises that require you to hold your breath beyond your comfort level during this time

Continuing the Practice After Birth

Whether you’ve just started yoga, or it’s something you’ve been doing for years, it’s important to speak to your OB/GYN prior to continuing the practice after pregnancy. Make sure that you’re healthy enough for exercise, and that the stretching won’t irritate already sensitive areas.

You may need to wait for several weeks prior to participating in any physical activity. If you had a C-section or any type of difficulty during your pregnancy, it’s important to make sure that you take care of yourself before pushing for any type of physical exertion.

Yoga is a fantastic practice before during and after pregnancy. Once you’ve cleared it with your doctor, embrace the lifestyle and all the benefits that it can afford you.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jenn Mullin is a freelance writer, focusing on social, economic, and political issues. Her inspiration is writing about topics which provoke thought and start conversations surrounding important and controversial issues.

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A Breakdown of the Teachings of Ramana Maharshi.

Ramana is, in my estimation, the fountainhead of the teachings of self-inquiry that have become quite prevalent today. His basic teaching is interpreted and used by many teachers in our time.

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Ramana Maharshi taught the technique of self-inquiry as a method to reach liberation. His teachings are rooted in an ancient Indian philosophy called Advaita Vedanta. Ramana Maharshi synthesized these voluminous, obscure and often inaccessible teachings into a simple, profound and accessible technique centered on the “I AM” experience.

Ramana, who passed away in 1950 at the age of 71, advised seekers to observe the flow of thoughts cascading endlessly through the mind and to pose to oneself the simple question: “To whom are these thought occurring?” The answer is obviously: To me. The next question the seeker ask is: “Who am I?” This is the essence of how to practice self inquiry.

 

An Introduction to Ramana’s Teachings

I first encountered the teachings of Ramana Maharshi in 1980, at age 18, while attending the University of California at San Diego. I had been practicing various types of mediation for about two years. His writings inspired me and gave me clarity in my spiritual search, yet I found the technique rather difficult. It was not till 30 years later that I would uncover within his teachings a few keys that have made the practice very accessible.

Ramana is, in my estimation, the fountainhead of the teachings of self-inquiry that have become quite prevalent today. His basic teaching is interpreted and used by many teachers in our time. Not all do the same justice to his teachings and some have created questionable hybrids. Best to drink from the source if you want the purest water.

When exploring his teachings it is it is important to remember that his original words and writings were not in English. Others later translated them into English. English does not have a sufficient lexicon of spiritual vocabulary to translate word for word from Sanskrit or other Indian languages. Understanding the intricacies of a practice such as self-inquiry requires an exact understanding of the teachings.

To remedy this I suggest either studying Sanskrit or Tamil or reading at least 4 of Ramana’s books in English (different translators worked on his books) to great the feel for the spirit of his teachings.

Coming back to my college attempts at self-inquiry. After having read just a few passages from Ramana I tried the technique of observing my thoughts, then asking, “To whom have these thoughts arisen?” I would then have the thought, “They have arisen to me.” I would then ask: “Who am I.” The problem was–I felt like I was in a hall of mirrors. Whatever thought or idea would arise in response to “Who am I?” would just lead me to ask again “Who am I?” and I just kept going around and around in the carousel of my mind. It became frustrating and seemed senseless.

As “fate” would have it—I can explore Ramana’s philosophy on free will and destiny at another time!—I moved onto other meditation techniques, disheartened by the hall of mirrors effect.

Many years later I returned to the writings of Ramana in more depth, read 5 different books by Ramana, each translated by a different translator—hence my above suggestion to you—and discovered the solution to my challenge.

 

Talks with Ramana Maharshi

Talks with Ramana Maharshi is the book that unraveled my confusion. The book is a translation of talks that Ramana had with visitors to his ashram and covers a period of four years, 1935-1939. All were recorded and translated by Sri Munagala S. Venkataramiah who spoke both Tamil and English fluently.

In a discussion the visitor says that in the process of enquiry thoughts suddenly cease and then the deeper sense of I—to whom all these thoughts occur—arises as a FEELING! They ask if it is this feeling they are to focus on.

On page 17 of the book Ramana says, “It is certainly right. Thoughts must cease and reason disappear for the “I-I” to rise up and be FELT. FEELING is the prime factor and not reason.” (Emphasis is mine.)

What had happened to me in college was that in the process of asking the question “Who am I?” I was expecting or awaiting an answer in the form of a certain thought. I was posing the question through thought and sought a thought in return. But what becomes clear from the above passage is that although the question is asked with thought, what one is seeking in answer is a feeling. A feeling of Self.

Once I began to FEEL my sense of “I,” of individuality, I knew, both intuitively, and through the writings of Ramana that I was now following the thread of awareness in the direction his teaching were pointing: toward liberation.

Sujantra McKeever is the founder of Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga in San Diego, which serves over 1,000 yogis a week, and also helped create Pilgrimage Yoga Online. He is the author of five books on eastern philosophy, success and meditation. Sujantra studied meditation with spiritual teacher Sri Chinmoy and has lectured on meditation and yoga in over 30 countries.

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Mental Health Solutions for Seniors.

Humans are social beings that seek other humans from the moment they are born all the way to their senior years. Here are 6 tips for improving social integration and mental health as we grow older. 

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Humans are social beings that seek other humans from the moment they are born all the way to their senior years. However, it can be quite hard to maintain a rich social life once you get older—you’re retired and separated from your work colleagues, your physical condition stops you from participating in sports events and some of your old friends might not be with you anymore.  All this can lead to depression – that’s why it so important to have a rich social life all through your life. Here are 6 tips for improving social integration and mental health as we grow older. 

 

Say Hi to People

Being outgoing and friendly to people is a guaranteed road to happiness and a rich social circle. So, don’t hesitate to be open to new friendships and casual acquaintances. For instance, next time you go out to throw away the trash, take a look around the neighborhood. Do you see a friendly person you didn’t get a chance to talk to yet? Go say hi! And, next time you go to the farmer’s market, say hi to some regulars you’ve seen before. Some of them might be looking for new friends too and would love to grab a cup of coffee sometime.

 

Get Moving

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One of the easiest ways to maintain your social life and stay mentally healthy is to get moving! Regular exercise brings so many amazing benefits with it—it keeps you fit, improves sleep, builds stamina, reduces falls and relieves stress and depression. Additionally, if you take up an activity that requires teams or groups, you’ll get to meet new people! You can go as easy as taking a walk around the neighborhood to going to the gym, depending on your physical health. For instance, yoga is always a great choice because it has many levels of difficulty, involves groups and it keeps your body and mind active. Yoga also improves flexibility and balance, which are quite important for seniors.

 

Move to an assisted living facility

Even though it can be a very difficult decision to make, moving to an assisted living community is a great way to have a rich and active social life, especially for those seniors with complex care needs, dementia or young onset dementia. Living in aged care facilities can be an amazing experience that provides its users with freedom and independence to socialize, move and have fun AND it gives them professional assistance every time they require it! It’s a real micro-community!

 

Learn to use technology

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Computers sound like a dirty word to some seniors and they don’t want to have anything to do with them. However, once you overcome the initial shock and learn how to work the basics, you’ll see how many things you can do on that thing—the best being social networks! Joining Facebook is a great way to get in touch with old friends and distant family members and meet new people. Additionally, if dating is what you’re looking for, you must know that there are many senior dating services online!

Take a cooking class

Taking a cooking class is really a win-win situation: you’ll eat more healthy food AND meet new people. If you just recently realized you need to boost your cooking skills, find a local cooking class and you’ll meet many different people. Chat about food, tastes and your favorite meals. And, once the class is over, invite your new friends for dinner to show off what you’ve learned.

Play brain games

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Mental stimulation is a great way to stay in top shape, but doing crosswords alone is not the only way to boost brain activity. Join a chess club, go to bingo nights, organize game nights with friends (charades is a great way to activate both the body and the brain) or try reading to children. All of these will keep your brain sharp and provide you with social contact.

All of these social activities will provide you with more energy, reduce stress and depression, give you better appetite and better sleep and improve your general quality of life. So, go out there, get engaged and you’ll be much happier and even healthier!


CHLOE TAYLOR is an art historian and recreational ballet dancer. Her biggest dream is to travel the whole world and take stunning photographs of beautiful places. She also enjoys learning and writing about home design, since she is crazy about aesthetics. She is a regular contributor to Smooth Decorator

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Yoga for Opiate Withdrawal: Why Yoga Can Be More Effective Than Traditional Treatment.

When people ask the question, “Why is opiate addiction so hard to treat?” it’s because they haven’t considered a more holistic option. Holistic medicine is any type of treatment that considers the treatment of both the mind and the body equally important.

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Opiate addiction has become more than just a national epidemic, it’s become a fact of life for far too many Americans struggling with it. This isn’t just about the addicts themselves—It’s also about their families, communities, and others that care about them.

It’s no secret that our current treatment modules haven’t been particularly effective. More people are still dying from overdoses each year than they are from any other accidental cause of death. Because of this, many people are starting to turn towards alternative treatment options.

Addiction is a chronic disease that can impact anyone from any walk of life. All it takes is one introduction to drugs or alcohol for a person to start down the path of addiction. Because of this, it’s difficult to figure out exactly how to treat each person individually.

The disease has an impact on both the psychological and physiological aspects of a person. It requires a multitier treatment approach that can only be successful with the help of trained professionals.

It’s important to understand how opiate addiction differs from many of the other types of addictions that we’ve encountered.

 

A Look at Opiate Addiction

Opiates are some of the most addictive drugs in existence. This is because of the way that they mimic certain other chemicals in the brain and increase levels of these chemicals by blocking other receptors.

This creates an initial feeling of extreme euphoria and well-being. It can also instill a false sense of confidence along with pleasant physical changes. Not only do these medications block pain, they also have a profound psychological effect that many people quickly become dependent on.

This is why we’ve dealt with so many people beginning their addiction with prescription medications. They may end up with an injury or an illness that requires a prescription of some sort of narcotic painkiller.

Once they’re feeling better, many will continue to try and get these medications. If they’re unable to obtain them legally, they may turn to illicit drugs to get the same feelings. This can lead to heroin addiction, or in any number of other illegal activities.

The other thing that drives many people to continue using opiates are the withdrawal symptoms that occur during detox. As the brain becomes more and more accustomed to heightened levels of these drugs, it develops a tolerance. A tolerance means that a person must use a larger amount in order to feel any sense of euphoria.

As soon as levels of the drug start to fall within their body, their brain starts to send out distress signals. It’s no longer equipped to fill that chemical void, and a person will start to experience traumatic physical symptoms.

These symptoms can include everything from body aches to extreme nausea and can last for well over a week for long time drug users. This is only the physical repercussion of the detox period. There are any number of psychological issues that a person can develop as they try to stop using drugs as well.

 

A Mixture of the Mind and Body

Choosing to seek help for an addiction to opioids can be difficult for some people. Not only are they admitting that they have a problem and that they’ve lost control over their drug use, they’re also committing themselves to a period of withdrawal symptoms.

It’s important that they seek out a treatment center that understands the impact that addiction has on both the mind and the body. This multi-tier treatment approach is the best way to make sure that someone has a chance of success in recovery.

There’s a big difference between alternative and complementary types of addiction treatment. An alternative treatment program is one that deviates from traditional medicine. A complementary one is one that has a holistic approach to treating addiction.

When people ask the question, “Why is opiate addiction so hard to treat?” it’s because they haven’t considered a more holistic option.

Holistic medicine is any type of treatment that considers the treatment of both the mind and the body equally important.

When a medical facility adds a number of treatment options geared towards your spiritual and psychological health, then they are working as a complementary treatment program. They are using two different kinds of treatment that complement one another to provide the best possible addiction treatment available.

 

Complementary Addiction Treatment

For many people, having access to programs that have a focus on their spiritual and mental health as well as their physical health makes a huge difference. Many of these places will offer a number of different programs like animal therapy, music therapy, and even yoga that can help you to focus on healthier habits.

All of these are things that stimulate a positive chemical reaction in the brain and help to return balance to your life. Simply treating the physical aspects of addiction isn’t enough to help somebody stop using drugs and alcohol.

Many people use drugs and alcohol because of psychological issues. They could be that they are suffering from some sort of trauma and feel that drugs are the only way they can escape. Or, they could have things like anxiety or deep depression, and turn to drugs to help them feel better.

Self-medicating is the term that’s usually used for people that do this. Unfortunately, self-medicating is very dangerous and rarely beneficial. If someone is suffering from an issue like this, they need to contact a medical professional who can put them in touch with a psychologist.

When people choose to seek sobriety, they’ll need to detox both physically and mentally. This often results in a sudden onset of depression or anxiety that will need to be treated on a psychological and spiritual level.

 

Finding Sobriety

Sobriety is a definite possibility for those who truly want it. It’s important to remember that you deserve a better life, and that regardless of your problems there is help available.

Contacting a licensed treatment facility is the first step in a long road to recovery. Life can get better when you remember that you’re a unique person who has more to offer the world than just the stigma that comes along with addiction.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jenn Mullin is a freelance writer, focusing on social, economic, and political issues. Her inspiration is writing about topics which provoke thought and start conversations surrounding important and controversial issues.

 

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7 Benefits of Using a Yoga Wheel.

Props are designed to make challenging poses more accessible and accessible poses deeper. It’s no surprise then, as yoga grows in popularity, that our choices in props are also expanding. One of the newest yoga props on the market is the yoga wheel, which is the invention of Sri Dharma Mittra, and is designed to aid practitioners in opening and stretching the major areas of the body, including shoulders, chest, spine and hips.

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An Overview of Yoga Props & The Yoga Wheel

If you’ve been to a yoga class, you’ve probably been introduced to a variety of props (such as blocks, blankets, and straps) that are strategically designed to help your body find positions that might be otherwise unachievable.

Can’t touch your toes in a forward bend? Try lifting the floor to your fingers with a block. Have sensitive knees? Pad your mat with a blanket to add extra cushion. Want to experience the shoulder opening of a backbend you can’t quite do yet? Lasso your foot with a strap and work the same actions in a more accessible way.

Props are designed to make challenging poses more accessible and accessible poses deeper. It’s no surprise then, as yoga grows in popularity, that our choices in props are also expanding. One of the newest yoga props on the market is the yoga wheel, which is the invention of Sri Dharma Mittra, and is designed to aid practitioners in opening and stretching the major areas of the body, including shoulders, chest, spine and hips.

Here are seven ways a yoga wheel can aid the sustainable growth of your yoga practice.

Good for back massage

The problem of back pain is prevalent in the United States and all over the world. According to the study, around 80% of the American adults experience back pain at some point in their lives. A yoga wheel can be a useful accessory to get some back massage.

Place the yoga wheel on the ground and engage your middle back directly. Start slow and slide your spine back and forth, using the wheel.

 

Possible to perform challenging poses

There are plenty of challenging poses in yoga. By integrating yoga wheel, you can make challenging backbends possible without much effort. It’s possible for you to safely ease into an inversion naturally without abruptly forcing the backbend.

Forcing a backbend can often exceed your current flexibility, and the possibility is ruled out with the use of yoga wheel. The challenging backbend yoga positions can be performed even by beginners and intermediate when yoga wheel is integrated into the daily yoga practices.

Check out some interesting yoga poses and see for yourself how you can simplify with the help of a yoga wheel. If you have a problem with excess weight, you can also find many yoga poses that can prove to be excellent weight loss exercises.

 

Yoga wheel helps in customizing your practice

Every person has their strengths and weaknesses. The word “challenging” is a subjective word because of our unique strengths and weaknesses. Some people may find one yoga pose challenging while some may see other yoga poses challenging.

The challenges faced by the people depend on various factors. Whatever your challenges are, the use of yoga wheel can assist various practices by helping you work with your current flexibility limitations.

The yoga wheel can be used for backbends, hero poses, bridge, pigeon, and so on.

 

Encourages core work

To perform long-lasting yoga poses, one needs to have a strong core. A strong core is crucial when it comes to the protection of lower back and spine. The strong core consists of the various larger muscles group along with stabilizer and accessory muscles.

There are many muscles involved while performing various types of yoga poses. In the process of losing weight with yoga or for some other purposes, you may need to perform many different yoga poses.

A use of yoga wheel can help you strike a balance while performing various yoga poses, such as plank, tree, eagle, one-legged mountain pose, and so on. Performing these poses can further enhance your core strength.

 

Better balance

There are yoga poses that are very hard to perform. There is a very good chance that your body may lose balance in the process of performing different types of yoga poses. Many people are having problems striking a balance on the ground while performing yoga.

If you’re one of the people, who are having trouble balancing your body while performing asanas, a yoga wheel is for you. The next time you perform yoga poses, such as plant, squat, crane tree, and so on, try to include yoga wheel.

The yoga wheel helps to absorb the burden from sensitive body parts, helping you balance the body.

 

Great for inversions

There is yoga for lower back pain, and a yoga circle makes it easier to practice various yoga poses with ease. A yoga wheel can significantly improve the inversions. It provides confidence to those practicing yoga to go for pesky backbends with an assurance of safety.

The study has shown that some yoga poses can help in reducing back pain. With that said, there is also a fear of back pain if the yoga poses go wrong.

With yoga wheel, you can practice yoga poses without fear of back pain, as it offers great assistance.

 

Enhance your endurance

The yoga instructor often asks you to stay in the position as long as you can. The time you can spend on a specific position depends on your experience. However, there are times it could be even difficult for experts.

The yoga wheel assists your muscles, allowing you to stay in the position for a long period.               

Conclusion

Yoga in the United States is considered as an exercise to maintain a healthy body and mind. But some people deal with difficulty when trying different yoga poses at home. So there could be the case of you needing help when trying out various poses with yoga wheel.

It is recommended that you consult a yoga instructor who is knowledgeable to assist you with yoga poses that are difficult to perfect because an imperfect yoga pose can harm you instead of benefiting you.

Here is an article published in Huffington Post regarding this issue. However, you can get tons of benefits if you manage to do them correctly.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Margaux Diaz is writing for health, beauty, skin care, and fitness from many years. She has been consistent with her writing thus contributing exceptional and worthy articles. She is very much passionate about her work that she has devoted herself to influence and motivate others to adopt a healthy lifestyle. Connect with her Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin.

 

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Home Yoga Studio Design Ideas: 6 Interior Design Trends Perfect for Yoga-Lovers.

Yoga is an art that can be practiced anytime, anywhere. However, letting yourself go to the power of yoga in a comfortable, inspirational setting is truly a unique experience. Be sure to follow these timeless tips in order to create the yoga-inspired interior you always wanted.

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An avid and experienced yoga practitioner will tell you that you don’t need to be in a particular setting to achieve mindfulness, or practice your asanas – the only thing you need is a flat surface and the willingness to practice. But having a special place in your home specifically designed for the purpose of practicing yoga can certainly help you on your path to achieving true physical and mental strength.

While there are plenty of interior design options for you to choose from, ranging from traditional to modern and innovative, there are still several crucial steps you want to follow in order to create the perfect home environment for yoga practice. Here are the top six interior design trends that are perfect for yoga-lovers.

 

Embrace the open-space concept

Yes, commercial yoga studios are spacious for the purpose of accommodating multiple practitioners per session, but the design also has numerous other benefits. Spaciousness can allow you to release all of the negative energy more quickly than having to practice in a tiny room, with the feeling of freedom permeating your body with ease and uninterrupted fluidity.

So not only do you want to declutter your home meticulously, but you also want to embrace a semi-minimalist approach as well, as the fewer distractions you have in any room, the easier it will be to concentrate on the task at hand.

 

Introduce vibrant greenery

Yoga cherishes and nourishes your relationship with nature, helping you achieve true mindfulness with the help of calming greenery scattered throughout the household. You want to make sure every corner boasts a beautiful potted plant, so that you can rest your eyes on a relaxing image no matter the pose, no matter how much you contort your body, and no matter if you’re practicing in your bedroom, or the living room.

 

Illuminate copiously

Lighting plays a crucial role in creating the desired aesthetic appeal of your home, and it can also have a significant influence on the quality of your session. Naturally, you can practice yoga during any part of the day, but no matter if you do your asanas in the morning or late in the evening, you want to ensure the room is illuminated properly.

Make sure the room receives plenty of natural light during the day, preferably from multiple directions so that you can take advantage of sunlight no matter if you’re practicing in the morning or in the afternoon.

 

Create an inspirational view

If you are living in a house, you have the luxury of tailoring your environment to your exact liking, which means you can conduct considerable renovations in order to give your layout a unique look. In the pursuit of the perfect yoga-inspired interior design, having an inspirational view can make all the difference.

In recent years, a new and exciting design concept is popular in Australia and across the world – the concept of extending your studio, bedroom, or living room into the backyard by eliminating the wall facing it. There are some truly inspirational designs that professional architects have brought to life, so be sure to consider tearing down a wall in order to get a magnificent view from the room where you frequently practice your asanas.

Of course, renovation isn’t in everyone’s budget or interest, so the main thing to consider when setting up a space is what you would like to look at during your practice. A window? poster? Altar with candles? A good visual will add balance to your space and give you something to focus on during your practice.

 

Natural elements and striking accents

As we mentioned earlier, natural elements can make all the difference, and that’s why you want your home to boast wooden flooring, wooden shelving, storage, and even wooden window frames. Coupling a wooden interior design with greenery and a magnificent view will help inspire peace and positivity.

However, you do want to keep things interesting, so opt for vibrant accents in a variety of colors as well, such as a beautiful ornate vase, red scented candles, colorful throws, and textured blankets on the furniture.

 

Add motivational wall art

Finally, no matter the sport, no matter your experience level, motivation plays a big role in gearing your mindset towards success. So think motivational wall art in the form of a beautiful Mandala across the wall, or a lotus flower, or even framed quote art narrating the philosophies of yoga. The possibilities are numerous, so let your imagination run free and decorate your surroundings to perfectly resonate with your mind, body, and soul.

Yoga is an art that can be practiced anytime, anywhere. However, letting yourself go to the power of yoga in a comfortable, inspirational setting is truly a unique experience. Be sure to follow these timeless tips in order to create the yoga-inspired interior you always wanted.

 

 

 

CHLOE TAYLOR is an art historian and recreational ballet dancer. Her biggest dream is to travel the whole world and take stunning photographs of beautiful places. She also enjoys learning and writing about home design, since she is crazy about aesthetics. She is a regular contributor to Smooth Decorator

 

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The Benefits of Yoga & The Power of Sharing With Others.

There are currently over 20 million Americans practicing yoga. If each one of us who practices could inspire one new person to do yoga then that would double the number of Americans bringing strength, balance and flexibility to their bodies and minds.

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I first started learning yoga in the mid-1970s when I was in high school in the San Francisco Bay Area.

There was a television program that was on each week. I would go to my dad’s office on the third floor of our family home, close the door for privacy—I was a bit embarrassed by my interest in yoga–and follow along trying to put my body into these strange positions.

Unfortunately, I’ve never been very limber and most of the asanas were inaccessible to me, I could barely touch my toes, but I was able to do the breathing exercises that were part of every session.


I noticed almost immediately the positive effects the pranayama had on my state of mind. After just a few minutes of breath control, I felt empowered and calm. I was also a runner and found that going on long runs and focusing on my breathing was also a powerful way to relieve the social anxiety I was going through during high school. Yoga and running were a lot better and healthier than smoking pot and drinking beer. I was hooked on yoga and have been ever since.

Once I began feeling the positive effects of yoga I immediately wanted to share the techniques with others. It is like going on a hike and discovering a beautiful alpine lake. After enjoying the lake for myself I immediately want to share the experience with others I care about.

I found over the years at one of the best ways to explain to others the benefits of meditation is through scientific and well-documented research.

I recently came across an excellent blog that very clearly explores 18 amazing benefits of yoga. The article explains everything from the power of yoga to relieve stress and anxiety to increasing fertility through various postures and breathing techniques.

When I was first practicing meditation it was the research initiated by Transcendental Mediation under the guidance of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi—the Beatles guru—that made clear to me the power of meditation on the mind and body.

There are currently over 20 million Americans practicing yoga. If each one of us who practices could inspire one new person to do yoga then that would double the number of Americans bringing strength, balance and flexibility to their bodies and minds.

The yoga philosophy says that the state of the world is a direct result of the state of each individual in the world. It is our collective consciousness that creates the consciousness of our country and the world.

Our yoga site PYO.yoga was created to share yoga with everyone regardless of their financial status. We created our Pay As You Wish structure so that everyone can access high-quality yoga instruction in the comfort of their own home.

If you want to share Yoga with others, be a living example of the power of yoga and educate yourself on the many benefits of yoga. You will be a convincing representation of the practice. Sharing the inspiration of yoga feels great and helps to create a better world now and for future generations.

 

Sujantra McKeever is the founder of Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga in San Diego, which serves over 1,000 yogis a week, and also helped create Pilgrimage Yoga Online. He is the author of five books on eastern philosophy, success and meditation. Sujantra studied meditation with spiritual teacher Sri Chinmoy and has lectured on meditation and yoga in over 30 countries.

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Essentials for Opening a Water Yoga Studio.

When you are doing yoga in water, the poses that felt hard before are now much easier (thanks to the buoyancy effect).

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The practice of yoga is beneficial for staying in tune with your body and soothing your mind. However, that can be difficult when your joints are whining and your muscles shaking from holding sometimes complicated yoga poses for too long. When you are doing yoga in water, the poses that felt hard before are now much easier (thanks to the buoyancy effect). Plus, the movement of the water provides you with an incredibly calming effect. That’s why we foresee that aqua yoga will become even more popular in the future and opening a water yoga studio is, therefore, a smart business call. If you think so too, here is your guide about the essentials you need for an aqua yoga studio.

 

Obviously, you will need a pool

There is no water yoga without water, so for a functioning yoga studio, you will need a pool. Since one of the main purposes of yoga is reconnecting with nature, an outdoor pool will work just fine, especially if you live in an area where the climate is mostly warm. Outdoor classes intensify the yoga experience, by allowing you to breathe the fresh air and listen to the sounds and ambiance of nature. However, if the climate doesn’t allow this, indoor or covered pools are an acceptable option.

If the pool is inside…

 

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Because nature is so important for yoga, indoor yoga studios, including pools, should do their best to evoke a natural setting. Large windows that allow a glimpse of the great outdoors, and other elements that reminds us of nature, such as stone, wood, bamboo, and houseplants, can make the indoor pool a more serene surrounding for practicing yoga.

 

Creating ambiance

 

Yoga requires a warm atmosphere and an inspiring ambience. By getting LED lights for your swimming pool, you can achieve a more pleasant atmosphere, and equip your studio for working until late hours. You can go for traditional LED pool lights and lights in different colors, but if you truly want to design a calming studio, go for spa electric lights which provide the ultimate soothing effect, and use approximately 90% less energy than standard 100 watt halogen lights.

 

Think about some additional features

 

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Aqua yoga practice includes many traditional yoga poses done in a water environment and slightly adapted for the specifics of the pool. Some of the best poses to try in the pool are Warrior II, Boat Pose, Standing Hand-to-Big-Toe Pose, and Floating Savasana. Besides practicing yoga in this traditional manner, there are other additional features you can include to make the experience even better. Here are two of them:

  • Salt water pool systems are becoming a popular way to conjure the beauty and the serenity provided by the ocean. However, salt-water pools have a lot of other benefits too, including diminishing the need for using chlorine, which makes you less exposed to chemicals. Salt neutralizes contaminants in the water and disinfects it much better than chlorine.
  • Floating yoga mats are necessary equipment for “Holy Water”, a new yoga class everyone is talking about. It is a very difficult style of yoga, because it requires you to hold perfect balance on the floating mat. The water movements force you to maintain proper alignment and actively use your core muscles, which challenges your body to be more stable and strong. Getting several floating mats and tapping into this hot new yoga practice could make your classes even more popular.

 

Enough space both “in the sea and on the land”

 

Depending on how many people will practice yoga in the pool, you should determine the appropriate size. It is essential to keep in mind that one person needs a lot of space to maintain balance and perform yoga poses inside the pool. The area around the pool should also be spacious because you will need room to rest, stretch and if you want to, do some other asanas in your pool. In fact, combining water yoga with traditional yoga is a great idea, and if the size of the space allows you, you should totally go for it.

 

Just a little something…

 

In the end, regardless whether you will be teaching water yoga outside or in a covered pool, it is essential to make the entire area look peace-inducing and welcoming. Additional water features such as waterfalls, are always nice addition because the sound of flowing water can enhance the calmness. A fire pit near the pool provides a similar feel. Fresh flowers, fountains, statues and candles are also welcome, just be careful not to overwhelm the space with stuff, because clutter can have a counterproductive effect.

Practicing yoga in the pool makes a lot of sense, because the water movements make your body feel light, free and unconstrained. All of this, consequently, frees your mind, which is the ultimate purpose of yoga. To achieve all that, you will need a well-equipped yoga studio.

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Mental Health in the Workplace: How to Use Meditation to Ease Depression.

Brain scans done on meditators learning mindfulness have shown that they have decreased activity in the amygdala (a part of the brain associated with stress and anxiety) when exposed to negative thoughts.

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I first began studying and reading about meditation in the late 1970’s. At that time everything I read focused on meditation as a practice rooted in spiritual philosophy and the practice was centered on the attainment of mystical experience. I began practicing and found that it worked.

That was nearly 40 years ago. These days meditation and mindfulness have both been found useful not only for the attainment of enlightenment but also for performance enhancement, stress reduction and managing depression.

Mystical teachings lay out a simple and straightforward plan for using meditation as a pathway to enlightenment. Meditation is also a fast, easy way to clear the clutter of your mind, still your thoughts and reduce stress.  It works.

Enlightenment can take a lifetime. Stress reduction can happen in minutes. And even a few sessions of meditation can work wonders.

 

How Meditation Works

Brain scans done on meditators learning mindfulness have shown that they have decreased activity in the amygdala (a part of the brain associated with stress and anxiety) when exposed to negative thoughts.  Meditators were better able to notice negative thoughts without responding to them by getting upset or anxious.

Research has shown that adding mindfulness practice to treatment plans can help reduce the recurrence of chronic depression.  Mindfulness has also been successfully used to augment treatment of a variety of mental health issues, including post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, addiction, and others.

Depression is the leading cause of disability affecting some 7% of the population. The challenge of calming our minds can be daunting especially when dealing with depression. One of the first steps is acknowledging that we need to start.

 

Depression in the Workplace

Researchers also have measured far higher incidences of depression among entrepreneurs. In the San Francisco Bay Area, home to Silicon Valley and a highly successful talent pool of entrepreneurs, the 2-Minute Mind Check now encourages employees to take a short, mental health survey that measures where you stand on the depression scale. This initiative, organized by the ADAANAMI-SFWeWork, and Meru Health, also offers free resources to help employees manage those symptoms. 

 

 

Websites like PYO.yoga offer dozens of meditation exercises with guided visualizations and imagery (on a pay as you wish basis). Meditation apps like InsightTimer and Calm are available which allow you to learn and practice meditation in the comfort of your own home. You can also check online in your local area for meditation classes.

My journey of learning meditation was helped immensely by meeting and practicing with those who knew how to meditate. Seek out local teachers.  There are also many books available on the subject. The writings of Jon Kabat Zinn are highly recommended as he was a pioneer in identifying many of the health benefits of meditation.

 

Sujantra McKeever is the founder of Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga in San Diego, which serves over 1,000 yogis a week, and also helped create Pilgrimage Yoga Online. He is the author of five books on eastern philosophy, success and meditation. Sujantra studied meditation with spiritual teacher Sri Chinmoy and has lectured on meditation and yoga in over 30 countries.

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7 Tips for Creating a Home Yoga Space.

You don’t have to drive half an hour to your yoga studio when you can have your private retreat right in your home.

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Don’t you just love the feeling of entering your favorite yoga studio? The smell of scented candles, the calming atmosphere, the soft colors… All of these create a sense of relaxation and well-being in people. And when you combine the ambiance with yoga practice and meditation, you have yourself the recipe for a happy and healthy life. However, you don’t have to drive half an hour to your yoga studio when you can have your private retreat right in your home! Here’s how you can create a lovely home yoga studio that will be your sanctuary from the world and your oasis of well-being and peace.

1. Declutter

 

Concentrating is an impossible task when you’re surrounded by clutter. Only items that are functional and beautiful should be present in your home studio. If an object has no purpose or aesthetic value, remove it. Your visual field should be clear and free of distractions.

2. Choose the right colors

There’s a whole branch of psychology dedicated to colors and how they affect human mood and behavior, so choosing the right shade can really make a world of difference. Muted colors and warm whites are great choices because they don’t demand any attention. You can also add a splash of green with plants (they will also provide your space with clean air and extra oxygen) or calming blue with decorative elements. However, regardless of the color, make sure you choose non-toxic paints which are much healthier for both you and the environment.

3. Provide good and clean flooring

 

Since you’re going to spend a lot of time on the floor in your home studio, make sure the flooring is clean. It’s hard to concentrate when you can see dirt rolling around or if you can’t stop coughing from all the dust. So, wipe and vacuum your floors regularly. Also, make sure to choose a yoga mat that’s soft enough on your knees and doesn’t slip when wet (you might get very sweaty during your practice).

And don’t rule out carpet! Carpet can be a great flooring, especially if you have tender joints like knees and wrists that ache on hard surfaces.

4. Use music for additional relaxation

 

Auditory cues have a great effect on human behaviour, so try to include music or sound in your home yoga studio. Select something that’s helping you stay focused and calm. For instance, put on some Chinese bamboo flute music mixed in with nature sounds and keep the volume level pleasant. You can also play a yoga instruction video or dvd that will help you with your movements. Listening to an instructor’s voice can be very relaxing too.

5. Natural lighting is the best

 

Lighting has a huge effect on human mood and well-being, so pay special attention to how you light your studio. Natural light should be your first choice since it helps the release of serotonin and the production of vitamin D. Place your studio in a room with lots of windows, and schedule your sessions in the morning or when the room is illuminated with natural light. If you live on the first floor and seek more privacy, white airy cotton drapes will shield you from unwanted looks but still let enough sunlight in. However, if your studio has a serious lack of natural light you can invest in practical skylights. They will provide you with warm sunlight that will illuminate your space and not make you feel exposed to strangers looking in.

For evening sessions you will need some artificial lighting. Soft general lighting is your best choice, especially if you have dimmers installed. You can also go for candles as long as you keep them at a safe distance from your body and hair.

6. Use pleasant smells

 

There’s a strong correlation between emotion and smell, so try to bring in aromas that evoke positive feelings and relaxation in you. You can opt for burning incense or aromatherapy candles. You can also make your own air freshener from flowers, herbs and spices, whichever makes you feel good. Artificial air fresheners might be too harsh on your nose. On the other hand, avoid odors that make you feel negative emotions. Dirty laundry, dishes or strong chemical smells can all cause distractions and even make you feel nauseous.

7. Mirrors?

 

Some yoga practitioners find mirrors very distracting and they don’t want them in their private yoga studios. However, they can also help beginners observe their posture and techniques, so it’s really your call if you want to put in mirrors or not. You might find them very useful in the beginning, but feel free to remove them once you’re confident in your form.

If you love yoga, having your private home studio will make you even a bigger believer in its powers. Once you achieve harmony in your space, you’ll feel stronger and more balanced. It will allow you to practice in total peace and privacy, and not think about anything else but your body. Namaste!

 

CHLOE TAYLOR is an art historian and recreational ballet dancer. Her biggest dream is to travel the whole world and take stunning photographs of beautiful places. She also enjoys learning and writing about home design, since she is crazy about aesthetics. She is a regular contributor to Smooth Decorator

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How To Keep Up Your Yoga Routine During the Holidays.

As the calendar turns to December and the New Year, there are more and more obstacles which may prevent you from pursuing your yoga interests. Here are a few thoughts on how you can avoid letting your yoga practice fall by the wayside.

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The old maxim that it takes twenty-one days of near-continuous behavior to develop or break a habit is not entirely accurate, but it does convey the right message, which is that good habits, such as yoga, take time to develop. The true downside of that old saying is that it takes much, much less time than twenty-one days to break a good habit, such as yoga.

As the calendar turns to December and the New Year, there are more and more obstacles which may prevent you from pursuing your yoga interests. Here are a few thoughts on how you can avoid letting your yoga practice fall by the wayside.

 

Create a New Routine

 

Creating a new routine often times means getting creative. In the case of maintaining a yoga practice over the holidays, this might mean mixing up your movement habits to compliment your new schedule of holiday activities.

If at all possible, practice yoga on your own schedule, and not on someone else’s schedule. While early morning yoga works best for most people, it may not work best for you. Midday or evening yoga is just as good. While planning activities for the season, be sure and plan time for yourself.

If you attend a yoga class, there are some additional considerations. Many people join yoga classes because they enjoy the social interaction with others who share similar interests, and because practicing with other yogis provides ongoing motivation. But if the class you like is on the other side of town, it’s probably a good idea to find a closer one, at least for the holidays. Your yoga friends will understand and the new group will welcome a new student.

Because the holidays mark a time for travel, family and time off, we can find ourselves out of our habitual routines. If the yoga studio you’re used to going to is closed or far away due to travel, this can be the perfect time to initiate a home practice. For example, PYO offers online yoga classes taught by the beloved studio teachers so you can practice with your favorite teacher even if attending class is not an option.

 

Restock Your Yoga Gear

 

Finally, take a few moments every week to take stock of your yoga supplies. The holidays are a great time to refresh your stock (or give a hint to others to help you restock, cough, new yoga mat, cough). Having the right yoga gear around can help motivate you to keep with a regular practice through the holidays and into the New Year.

Keep an extra close eye on things like:

  • Your Yoga Mat: Kneeling and bending are very, very hard on your joints without a good yoga mat. Make sure that it’s thick enough to provide noticeable protection yet thin enough to transport easily. Watch for signs of wear where you normally place your knees, elbows, and hands, because these spots usually get thin first. If you’re unhappy about a certain aspect of your mat (sweaty palms, anyone?), do some research into different mat styles, textures, lengths, thicknesses, etc. (Our experts at PYO would also love to assist you in your mat search. Email your questions to info@pilgrimageyoga.com!)
  • Foot Support: Yoga can also be hard on your feet, so to relieve everyday discomfort and keep you going full speed, be sure you stretch and strengthen your feet regularly. That might involved simply rolling them over a golf ball, foam rolling feet and calf muscles, or wearing supports in your shoes for arched feet.
  • Props: blocks, straps and blankets are all common forms of yoga props. Especially if you enjoy practicing at home, these props can help make poses more accessible for your body. Props can be purchased at major retailers like Target, or can be delivered to your doorstep in less than two days with Amazon Prime. These can be great gift suggestions if your loved ones find it hard to shop for you.

 

Keep Your Goal in Mind

Some people practice yoga to find relief from arthritis and other chronic pain, some pursue physical fitness, and some pursue emotional balance. These are all legitimate goals that are within your reach if you just keep moving forward. You may not be able to flush your pain pills or be featured in a lifestyle magazine, but the difference will be noticeable both to you and your loved ones. Keep your eye on the prize.

When you maintain awareness of the motivating factors for your yoga practice, you are more likely to stick with it, especially when other life events come up.

Let Yourself Fall Out of Routine Without Guilt

 

An extra slice of pie at a family celebration is not the end of the world, and neither is an extra day off from a yoga routine. It takes a lot more than that to derail a fitness routine, so do not be afraid to take advantage of the occasional indulgence. In fact, taking time off from your yoga practice can actually be a good thing. Coming back to the practice after a break often leads to greater clarity and physical and mental gains.

No matter how you celebrate them, the holidays are really about putting other people first, stepping outside of yourself, and taking some time to enjoy life. The foundational principles of yoga, including kindness, truthfulness, mindfulness, and peace, will shine even brighter through your day to day living during the holidays. Remember that physical and emotional fitness makes life much more enjoyable for everyone, including your friends and family.
Regardless of the time of year, yoga is a great addition to your daily or weekly routine. Even though you may need to make a few small sacrifices this holiday season to maintain yoga momentum, these moves will pay off in the end.

 

Joe Fleming is the President at ViveHealth.com. Interested in all things related to living a healthy lifestyle, he enjoys sharing and expressing his passion through writing. Working to motivate others and defeat aging stereotypes, Joe uses his writing to help all people overcome the obstacles of life. Covering topics that range from physical health, wellness, and aging all the way to social, news, and inspirational pieces…The goal is to help others “rebel against age”.

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Benefits of Yoga In the Classroom (Spoiler Alert: It Helps Everyone).

Whether you’re a student, teacher, parent or administrator—the benefits of yoga in the classroom extend to an entire network of individuals.

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There are many stereotypes and clichés that surround the practice of yoga. Many people have not been able to explore the benefits of yoga because of these stereotypes, but lately, it has grown into a mainstream activity and the stereotypes that have existed for years are slowly fading. However, not many have ever thought about yoga in schools and how this could impact the performance of both teachers and students.

Here are some of the ways yoga in the classroom can leave a positive impact on the lives of students, teachers and families.

 

Enhances mind-body awareness

When students are trained to pay attention, they are able to grow the relationship between their bodies and minds. Therefore, school-based yoga is one of the ways students can benefit from the development of mind-body awareness. Also referred to as mindfulness, this awareness can impact the behavior of students in many ways. For example, when you encourage your students to undertake a 5 minutes breathing exercise that help to relax their tight stomachs instead of going for some chips, it helps them develop a behavior that largely improves their choices in life.

 

According to preliminary studies, it was noted that of children between the ages of 8 and 15 who completed a yoga program at school, four children’s low self-esteem improved, and there was an average weight loss of 2kg among all students. This led to the conclusion that classroom yoga is beneficial to students not only for improvement to mental functioning (like attention), but it also has an impact on their overall physical well-being.

 

Cultivates physical fitness

There is also a difference between yoga and mindfulness meditation, and this is the fact that yoga is also about doing physical postures. Essentially, yoga includes both mindfulness and motion. Ogden CL, Flegal KM, Kit BK, and Caroll MD (2012) conducted a study to measure the prevalence of obesity among adolescents in the U.S.. From their findings, they drew the conclusion that American children tend to get more obese over time (a period of 12 years to be exact).

Satya Prakash Purohit conducted research to establish how yoga impacts physical fitness among adolescents and the findings were that one of the benefits of yoga is it improves the respiratory function and reduces obesity risk factors. Therefore, embracing classroom yoga only serves to make the lives of the students better and this also ensures teachers have easy time while dealing with their students because they are healthier and more attentive.

 

Supports positive classroom climate and enhances teacher resilience

In addition to providing room for improvement in the cognitive ability among students, classroom yoga has also shown to help teachers. When educators are provided with yoga training focused on acquiring mindfulness skills, they gain different perspectives that positively affect moods, concentration, stress and reasoning.

What this means is that teachers are assured to have the best classroom climate. And with the good mood that comes with yoga, it becomes easy to improve the development of relationships with students. The overall effect is a better learning climate, as most of the performance in learning achieved is as a result of the resilience and ability of the teacher to deeply connect with the students and create lasting relationships.

 

Improves performance, mental state, and student behavior

The CASEL (2015) established that social-emotional learning is a function of five core competencies: Self-management, self-awareness, relationship skills, social awareness, and responsible decision-making. The conclusion of this study suggests that all schools would benefit from having programs that help students build these competencies so they are set up to succeed both personally and academically.

Part of the solution suggested that one of the ways students build these competencies is by embracing yoga and meditation, which are known to improve self-awareness, rational decision making, and emotional management. Additionally, the findings also showed classroom yoga boosts academic achievement and classroom behavior. It may lead to different positive outcomes including reduced risk of psychological disorders, enhanced cognitive performance, and improved mood.

 

Flow, integration and connection

When poses are stringed together in a yoga practice, kids are given a picture of what it feels to move seamlessly. It helps improve the awareness that movements are made up of coordinated efforts between bones, muscles, nerves, and joints. Yoga helps kids to boost that sense of feeling integrated, and to understand how their body moves in space (proprioception). Improvement in these areas has shown to improve self-esteem and confidence, which translates into more empowered social skills, both at school and at home.

 

Putting it all together

Whether you’re a student, teacher, parent or administrator—the benefits of yoga in the classroom extend to an entire network of individuals. Classroom yoga might involve bringing in a specialized yoga teacher to work with a group of students, offering yoga as a physical activity, or bringing in a yoga teacher for after school programs. If your school is in the greater San Diego area, Pilgrimage Yoga Online would be happy to work with you to develop a program and find the right yoga teacher for your needs. Contact us today to get started by sending an email to info@pilgrimageyoga.com.

 

 

SCOTT GROZA is an education expert who has been pursuing various developmental subjects that impact the performance of students and one of his latest findings reveal that yoga is an essential part of enhancing the performance of students in the classroom.

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Yoga to Overcome Addiction: 4 Tips to Jumpstart Recovery.

With more than 64,000 overdose deaths in 2016 alone, addiction is touching more lives than ever before.

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Addiction is a disease that can wreak havoc on the mind and body. Therefore, it seems only natural that a practice with mind and body benefits would help. Enter yoga. Many rehabilitation centers have been using yoga as part of their program, and yoga’s contribution to recovery has not gone unnoticed. A small but growing body of evidence supports yoga as a legitimate method to help people successfully recover from addiction.

With more than 64,000 overdose deaths in 2016 alone, addiction is touching more lives than ever before. If you or a loved one is struggling with any type of addiction, you may be interested to know that yoga can help.

Here are a few ways yoga can help with overcoming addiction.

 

1. Reduce stress levels

Stress is a major obstacle to recovery for multiple reasons. For starters, many people turn to substance abuse as a way to handle stress, so they begin the recovery process without healthy coping skills. Once they reach the Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS) phase of recovery, which occurs after physical symptoms of withdrawal subside, they may find it even more difficult to deal with stress. At this point, the brain is re-learning to regulate stress hormones without a substance. The brain reacts to drugs like painkillers and heroin by reducing its natural flow of endorphins and increasing opioid receptors. When the opioids are removed, the brain must readjust. This can be especially problematic in dealing with stress because endorphins are responsible for reducing our perception of pain. With higher endorphin levels, we are less likely to feel the physical effects of stress.

Fortunately, yoga is showing some promise in this area. An Alternative Therapies in Health Medicine study found that integrated yoga decreased anxiety-related symptoms and decreased cortisol (a stress hormone). The same study also found that all types of yoga decreased depression and stress while increasing feelings of hopefulness.

 

2. Greater understanding of self

When you’re under the influence of a substance, it’s easy to lose yourself. Recovery is all about finding yourself again. Yoga is an excellent tool for helping anyone gain a greater understanding of who they are. By paying attention to what is happening in this moment—whether it’s a yoga pose, a breathing technique, or a meditative visualization–

With a great deal of focus on mindfulness, anyone who practices yoga will get a glimpse of their mind its unmodified state. After some practice, you may find a better understanding of yourself through yoga. A Complementary Therapies in Medicine study supports using yoga and mindfulness as promising therapies for treating addiction.

 

3. Mindfulness-Based Relapse Prevention (MBRP)

Mindfulness-Based Relapse Prevention (MBRP) is an 8-week intervention that combines cognitive-behavioral strategies with meditation and mindful movement. Its purpose is to help patients get through cravings and difficult emotions, like anger or fear, without reacting.

MBRP teaches mindful movement that includes light stretching and gentle movements. A Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology study of 168 adults with substance use disorders found that MBRP significantly reduced relapses at a 2-month follow-up.

4. Solidifying healthy habits

It’s crucial for anyone in recovery to change the ways that led them down a path of addiction. This includes replacing bad habits with more productive ones. By practicing yoga regularly, the person in recovery can spend time improving his or herself each day, which reinforces positive habits.

Recovery is a long road with many twists and turns. Unfortunately, there isn’t a silver bullet that can blast this disease into oblivion. But with a comprehensive treatment program designed to heal the mind and body, there is hope. If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, know that you are not alone. Start the conversation about getting help and what the recovery path should look like.

Yoga is just one tool in the recovery arsenal, but it has shown a great deal of promise.

 

AUTHOR BIO: Joshua is an ex-addict and founder of the Ohio Addiction Recovery Center. Since his recovery began, he has enjoyed using his talent for words to help spread treatment resources, addiction awareness, and general health knowledge.

 

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Kirtan: A Weekly San Diego Music Event in Normal Heights

If you’ve never been to kirtan before, there’s a few things you should know.

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Every week, Pilgrimage of the Heart yoga studio hosts a musical meditation practice called Kirtan, which is one of the many branches of yoga.

What is Kirtan?

If you’ve never been to kirtan before, there’s a few things you should know. Unlike many other musical events, the audience becomes a very real part of the overall experience by singing with the accompanying band in a call and response format. The band will sing through the chant and then the audience responds by singing the chant in response—back and forth, over and over again.

By repeating lyrics (which are often times in the traditional language of yoga—Sanskrit), the repetition becomes a mental focal point, and this helps to reduce everyday mind clutter. This often leaves participants feeling peaceful, clear and open-minded—which are all traits of a great meditation experience.

Generally, each chant is centered on some divine aspect, like a traditional god or goddess from the Hindu faith, or a story-line from Hindu mythology. At our San Diego kirtan events, it’s important to us that all participants feel included, regardless of religious or spiritual background. We emphasize that there is no right or wrong meaning to the songs, and that the main goal of the practice is to benefit from singing out loud.

As westerners, we might have perhaps lost sight of the importance of singing, but in India, singing is considered a very primal spiritual experience, centered around vibrations. When we sing, we create vibrations within our physical body which move outward into the Universal whole. And when you think about it, singing—vibrating—feels good. Our bodies have this natural, musical engine within us; despite our inhibitions, we are built for singing.

 

Join us every Thursday night at Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga in Normal Heights for San Diego’s only weekly kirtan event.

What makes kirtan a unique music event?

What is so very special about Kirtan is that everyone in attendance is invited to sing! The audience becomes a communal chorus and very quickly each individual begins to recognize that it’s OK to sing. This can only happen when individuals feel safe from criticism and judgment, and we always do our best to support each participants’ expression of kirtan.

Many of us were raised to believe that the only people who should sing are those with special qualities, and that those who aren’t musically talented should refrain from singing for fear of scorn and ridicule. In a way, our western culture discourages singing.

However, numerous studies point out that choral singing is good for our overall physical, psychological and emotional health.

Being able to sing in public is a rare opportunity. Unlike signing up for a singing group (like a choir or a class), all you have to do with kirtan is show up. After playing weekly kirtans for over 8 years, I’ve had some wonderful experiences with newcomers who tell me that their first experience was so profound, that they love to sing but there’s no place to do so, that they will be back. I’ve watched our regulars participate almost every week for the eight years we have offered the event. It’s very easy to quickly become drawn to the practice. You recognize that your voice is a gift and has meaning.

 

Kirtan FAQ

Question: Is kirtan part of a religion?

Answer: Kirtan originates from the Hindu faith system (and other eastern traditions; Jain, Sikh, Islam, Buddhism…). Hinduism ascribes God and Goddess status to almost everything, but this shouldn’t deter you from practicing! God and Goddess status simply indicates a respect for different aspects of creation, and doesn’t represent or conflict with how God is conceived of in Western traditions. Kirtan is spiritual for spiritual people, religious for religious people, and non-denominational for those who aren’t inclined.

 

Question: What are your songs based on?

Answer: We have chants in our practice that originate from all five major faith systems (Hindu, Hebrew, Buddhist, Islam and Christianity) and also spiritual songs that mesh well with the overall concept of spiritual Self-realization. Yes, Kirtan is a spiritual, devotional practice but should not be confused that it stands for one religion or another.

 

Question: Do participants need to be “spiritual” in order to participate?

Answer: We encourage everyone to consider the divine thoughts of the spiritual traditions in whatever manner they are comfortable with. We are NOT trying to ‘convert’ anyone’s beliefs into something else. We are about celebrating cultural, spiritual diversity and understanding and about being a vehicle for each of our own individual, divine realization.

 

Kirtan Band

Kirtan songs don’t have a set meaning. Rather, participants are encouraged to explore the meaning of each song based on what makes sense to you.

How do I attend?

We invite you to attend kirtan on Thursday evenings at 8:30-9:30 p.m. All you have to do is show up; there is no registration. You can sit in a chair or on the floor as it suits you. We have songbooks to make it very easy for you to follow along and little bells for you to ring and keep rhythm (but only if you want to). The practice is family-friendly and we encourage you to bring friends.

We ask that you contribute $5.00 (minimum) to help offset the cost of live musicians. The event is free for our yoga studio members.

Happy Kirtan!

 

TOM WARNER: Tom came to Pilgrimage of the Heart in 2007 and Sujantra quickly recognized that Tom was both able and willing to organize a kirtan practice. The project changed and grew and changed again until in 2009 when the practice was a viable offering on a weekly basis. Since then Tom as lead over 400 Kirtan events at pilgrimage, only missing three practices in eight years. Tom’s love of kirtan knows no bounds and he is always striving to grow and expand the practice, offering the joy of spiritual chanting to as many people as possible.

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Improve Employee Engagement with Mindfulness Practices at Work

Big companies like Google, Aetna, and Intel know the secret to better employee engagement. So, what is it? Mindfulness.

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Lack of employee engagement in your workplace can be frustrating.

Regardless of the size of your business, it’s in your best interest to know about the current levels of employee engagement, and moreover, how to improve it. In doing so, you can take both preventative and corrective action to address it, before it starts impacting your bottom line.

 

How Job Stress Affects Employee Engagement

Stress at the workplace is higher than ever. The American Institute of Stress highlighted the leading causes of workplace stress as:

  • Workload à 46%
  • People issues à 28%
  • Difficulty of juggling work/personal lives à 20%
  • Lack of job security à 6%

Most of the workers who are stressed on the job don’t know how to manage it. As a result, it leads to the following consequences.

  • Accidents
  • Absenteeism due to complaints of back pain, stress, fatigue, and headaches.
  • Reduced productivity.
  • Higher employee turnover because workers aren’t happy about their current situation.
  • Violence in communication, behavior and actions

 

Unlocking the Secret to Better Employee Engagement

Big companies like Google, Aetna, and Intel know the secret to better employee engagement. Moreover, they’re already reaping the benefits of it. So, what is it? Mindfulness. Positive Psychology Program summarizes the benefits of mindfulness provided by experts and organizations who practice it as:

  • Mindfulness teaches you to pay attention and be nonjudgmental.
  • Mindfulness teaches you to focus on yourself, your thoughts and your behavior
  • Mindfulness increases awareness of your environment and the people around you.

 

How Mindfulness Benefits Your Company

Better employee engagement is only one of the benefits of practicing mindfulness in the workplace. The additional advantages you can expect from it are the following:

  • Better employee retention: Workers are less inclined to look for another job as mindfulness helps lower their emotional exhaustion at work.
  • Better health of employees results in lower incidences of absences and healthcare costs.
  • Better productivity¾because employees are happier and healthier!

Nowadays, many companies host corporate mindfulness programs for the benefit of their employees. Not only does it serve as a training ground for employees to learn how to manage job stress, but it also helps them acquire the skills to cope with it later on.

 

Ways to Implement Mindfulness Practices in the Workplace

Aetna provides its employees with mindfulness and yoga training programs. It is part of the commitment of itsCEO Mark Bertolini after his severe skiing accident. In an interview with CNBC in 2013, Bertolini reported turning to yoga to ease the pain he suffered from nerve damage. Because of the benefits he achieved from it, he sought to apply it to his company’s workforce. The result was lowered stress and better productivity.

If you’re a big company like Aetna, then you could consider doing the same. If not, there are several budget-friendly ideas to implement mindfulness in your workplace. Rest assured you can achieve the same results for less:

  • Take advantage of technology. Many meditation apps are available. You could provide it to your employees for free or shoulder half the cost of a subscription.
  • Hire an expert to conduct a mindfulness training program for as little as 30 minutes. You can even hold it during the office lunch break. However, you might consider paying for lunch (or at least offer a snack¾like toast and Manuka honey) to encourage employees to join.
  • Schedule yoga classes after work to teach employees how to meditate.

Mindfulness expert Pandit Dasa reveals to TechTarget the key to the success of any mindfulness program is the involvement of leadership¾this means you! That said, your attendance and participation are a must.

High-functioning employees don’t happen overnight. Achieving employee engagement requires the combined efforts of management and workers to make this happen. Hence, mindfulness practices are worth considering for the positive benefits it delivers. In doing so, your company attains greater stability and efficiency as your employees can manage stress better. Are you ready to start your own mindfulness program? Contact Pilgrimage Yoga Online’s team of experts (zach@pilgrimageyoga.com) to find out the best way to start! 

 

CHERYL CHANDOLA Director, Editing and Testing, ReadPlease.com
Cheryl conducts hands-on reviews and extensive testing of products as well as manages the editorial and testing teams at ReadPlease.com. In her spare time she runs an ecommerce store and loves spending time with her daughter and dog, Blue.

 

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Corporate Mindfulness Training: The Key To Happier & More Productive Employees

Corporate Mindfulness Programs are designed to help employers create a healthy work environment.

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When employees are constantly trying to keep up with the assigned tasks of the hour, a company’s bottom line can be as negatively impacted as morale.

Corporate Mindfulness Programs are designed to help employers create a healthy work environment that contributes to positive work-life balance, increased problem-solving and emotional skills, low employee turnover, and better productivity. The practice highlights how mental and physical fitness of the employees can have major financial benefits and improvement to morale.

 

How do I know a Corporate Mindfulness Training Program is right for my company? 

Here are some symptoms that indicate it’s time to start looking into Corporate Mindfulness Programs as a sustainable method of improving your company’s bottom line and ensuring your workers love coming to work every day:

  • Constant disputes and disagreements between employees
  • Increased absenteeism at work
  • Reports on ill-health and low-activity
  • An Increase in complaints and accusations
  • Persistent decrease in professional outcomes without concrete background
  • Reported periods of mood swings and anxiety

This article explores the different features and uses of Corporate Mindfulness Programs and the change you can expect to see in your employees, work environment and bottom line when you sign up for a Corporate Mindfulness Program.

 

What features does a Corporate Mindfulness Training Program have? 

Corporate Mindfulness Training programs are usually customized according to the requirement of the client. The program can be conducted in both a group setting or on a solo basis in order to help certain employees manage specific psychological issues at work. Each training is offered in a different package and format. An average session can last anywhere from 60-90 minutes and can be focused on a number of topics including, mindfulness, meditation, yoga, stress-reduction and more. Mindfulness programs can be conducted virtually through video chats and webinars, or on location in a large space like a conference room or auditorium. (For example, PYO offers a mindfulness program both remotely and locally to the San Diego area.)

While there are no two programs exactly alike, here is you’re likely to receive from a Corporate Mindfulness Training Program:

  • Mindfulness training sessions tailored for the workplace environment
  • Stress-reduction sessions aimed at providing employees the tools necessary to stay mentally clear at work, no matter what situation is going on
  • Yoga and movement classes geared toward enhancing mental and physical energy

 

How do I know my program representative is qualified?

They will be an experienced yoga teacher or meditation expert who has previously worked in a corporate environment and is aware of the flaws and rewards of corporate life. It is important that each representative has a thorough background in teaching meditation to beginners, as most employees may have had limited exposure to this activity.

 

What changes will I see in my company from participating in a Corporate Mindfulness Training program? 

  • Reduce stress levels of the employees
  • Higher levels of job satisfaction
  • Help increase cognitive capacity and emotional intelligence
  • Lower anxiety and backlash behavior
  • Decrease absenteeism
  • Improvement in interpersonal and communication skills
  • Better self-awareness and improved decision-making capacity
  • Better attention space and ability to concentrate
  • Hone creative and intuitive skills for developing innovative thought patterns at work

 

Pilgrimage Yoga Online is a virtual Corporate Mindfulness Training Program. The bulk of our program exists right here on this online platform, and includes access to hundreds of yoga and meditation videos, designed to do both at the office (check out our office yoga) and at home. Contact us today to learn more about starting your own program.

 

UTTAM GHOSH‘s fascination for yoga developed in childhood when he experienced the bhakti form of yoga with his grandfather. Through hard work, dedication and experience, he was initiated onto the Kundalini Yoga Path by Swami Vidyananda. Swami Vidyananda also honored him with a spiritual name as “Rishi Raj”. Uttam teaches a wide range of Transformational Kundalini Yoga, Hatha Yoga and Ashtanga Yoga in Rishikesh. He also conducts various workshops around the globe concerning meditation and yoga therapy.

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Keeping Healthy Feet: 8 Tips For Proper Foot Treatment

It is important to know how to keep your feet happy and pain-free. Here are some tried and true easy tips for healthy feet.

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It’s easy to forget about our feet. Even though they bear our entire weight every day, we still tend to stuff them into confining, heeled, pointy or dead-flat shoes, or forget entirely to clean and stretch them. Foot problems lead to discomfort and may also cause knee, hip or back pain. To prevent these conditions, it is important to know how to keep your feet happy and pain-free.

As a student of podiatry, I am interested in preventative and corrective treatment that keep our feet healthy and functioning optimally. Here are some tried and true easy tips for healthy feet.

 

1. Wash Your Feet Often

Healthy feet start with proper hygiene. Just letting the water splash on your feet is not enough. Wash and scrub them thoroughly with soap and water, including your toes. Do not soak your feet for a long time as it doing so will reduce the natural oils of the skin.

  • Scrub your feet gently with a pumice stone to get rid of dead skin cells, focusing on toes and heels.
  • Dry your feet completely as leftover moisture provides a perfect breeding ground for fungi and bacteria, which causes foul odor and infections.
  • Change your socks every day. You may also consider sweat-absorbing socks to reduce moisture.

 

2. Moisturize Daily

Apply moisturizer daily to keep your feet soft and supple. After showering, dry your feet thoroughly and massage your feet with your favorite moisturizer to keep healthy oils replenished. Consider investing in a good foot cream that contains active ingredients to keep your feet smooth and healthy. Some of the ingredients to look for are urea, shea butter, karanja oil, tea tree oil and neem oil.

Do not apply too much moisturizer between your toes. It may lead to fungal growth or infection if this area stays wet or damp.

 

3. Wear Proper Shoes

Spending the day in a pair of ill-fitting shoes can result in serious foot conditions, such as Plantar Fasciitis, Achilles Tendonitis and Charcot Foot.

  • Pick shoes that accommodate your foot arch. For neutral-arched feet, choose shoes with firm midsoles. For low-arched or flat feet, choose straight choose. For high-arched feet, find shoes with good arch support.
  • If you are looking for running or hiking shoes, look for a pair with a roll bar feature to prevent excess movement in the heel area.
  • Other features that you may want to consider are Achilles notch, padded midsole, big toe box, ankle collar, and shock absorbing feature.

 

4. Cut Your Toenails Regularly

Trim your toenails regularly and clean under with a nail brush and manicure stick. Do not cut too short as it may allow dirt and fungus to penetrate between the nail and skin, which may cause bacterial or fungal infection.

  • Cut your toenails straight, not rounded or angled at the edges, to prevent ingrown nails. Use an emery board and nail file to smooth the edges.
  • Nail polish can be applied on healthy nails. However, do not use polish on unhealthy nails. Discolored nails could also be a sign of an infection and covering the area will keep it from clearing up.

 

5. Yoga

Yoga can help in developing balanced alignment of the feet, giving you better posture and improved posture throughout your body. It can also treat and prevent various foot problems, such as plantar fasciitis, shin splints and bunions.

Yoga is a wonderful form of exercise in that it’s practiced barefoot and the foot has a specific job to do in each posture. In the course of a one-hour class, you are likely to move through poses that strengthen and stretch the feet in all directions. For example, standing and balancing postures strengthen the inner arch of the foot and stabilize the ankle bone from left to right. These poses also renegotiate the relationship between the foot, the leg, the pelvis and the spine, allowing the feet to work more optimally within the body’s framework. Other yoga poses stretch the foot by moving it in all directions and applying healthy stresses when the foot is pointed and flexed.

The elasticity of tendons and foot muscles is important to enhance body movements and avoid injury. In this way, yoga is beneficial for preventative and corrective treatment, and many people with foot pain recommend yoga for pain management and healing of plantar fasciitis and other painful foot conditions.

6. Feet Exercises

In addition to yoga, performing some feet exercises can heal and stretch your feet. Try the following to relieve symptoms of bunions, stretch ankles and calves, and ease plantar fasciitis.

  • Towel Scrunches – Sit with your knees bent at 90 degrees and keep your feet flat on the floor. Spread a towel under your feet. Scrunch your toes to take a small part of the towel. Pull it toward you until it gathers into your arches.
  • Squeeze and Flex – Sit in a chair and keep your heels on the ground. Flex your toes while inhaling. Exhale as you squeeze your toes in a fist form. Repeat five to ten times.
  • Weaving – Weave your fingers at one hand between your toes of the opposite foot. Massage and stretch your toes with a firm grip

 

 

7. Consume Plenty of Calcium

Everyone knows that calcium is essential for developing and building strong bones. However, many do not realize that bone loss or osteoporosis appears first in the feet. One of the best tips for healthy feet is to consume plenty of foods rich in calcium. Our body needs 1,000 to 1,300 mg of calcium daily to stay healthy and strong, and the following can be included in a calcium-rich diet:

  • Dark green vegetables
  • Soy beans
  • White beans
  • Edamame
  • Oranges
  • Figs
  • Almonds
  • Salmon

Get enough vitamin D to help your body absorb the calcium you need. The main source of this essential vitamin is sunlight. You can also get it from mushrooms, liver, mackerel and tuna, fortified orange juice, tofu, oatmeal, cereal and almond milk.

 

8. Prevent Communicable Infections and Diseases

There are many viral, bacterial, and fungal issues that can negatively affect both health and appearance of your feet, such as warts, toenail fungus, and athlete’s foot.

  • Wear flip flops in gyms, swimming pools, spa and communal showers to protect your feet from fungus or bacteria that may be present on the floor.

Symptoms of fungal infection include itching, burning, swelling, and peeling of the skin.

 

Final Word

These are the best tips for healthy feet. If you often experience foot pain, consider visiting a professional for a proper diagnosis as it can be a sign of plantar fasciitis, which requires being treated with orthotics and physical therapy. With good hygiene, exercises, proper diet and healthier lifestyle, you can keep your feet free from various foot conditions.

 

Amanda Roberts is a professional blogger and a podiatry student. She is an enthusiast who loves to write on several niches, particularly in foot health, including plantar fasciitis, toenail fungus, foot massage and reflexology.

 

 

 

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Sudarshan Kriya Yoga & How It Beats Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Sudarshan Kriya yoga (SKY) is a rhythmic breathing technique, derived by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, to help de-stress and remove toxins from the body.

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Sudarshan Kriya yoga (SKY) is a rhythmic breathing technique, derived by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, to help de-stress and remove toxins from the body. It’s practised through controlled breathing patterns ranging from slow and calming, to rapid and invigorating. Through these breathing techniques, SKY becomes a powerful management tool for health conditions such as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS).

 

What Is Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) is a long-term illness consisting of several symptoms including severe tiredness, feeling unwell and in some cases – pain. The causes of CFS are still unknown, but can be triggered by infections, weak immunity or mental health problems such as stress, depression and anxiety. There is no cure or agreed treatment plan for sufferers, and traditional medicine—such as painkillers—only provide short-term relief.

 

Living With Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

A typical day with CFS involves feeling depleted and tired throughout the day, possibly starting with getting out of bed in the morning. Daily tasks may involve muscle cramps and joint pain, and even simple commitments may be met with an inability to concentrate, and frequent headaches.

 

How SKY Can Help Reduce Physical Symptoms of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

SKY has become popular in helping reduce the stresses of daily life by calming the mind and body through yogic breathing exercises. This technique offers a low-cost and effective alternative treatment for numerous physical ailments related to CFS. These conditions—like muscle fatigue and aching joints—gradually diminish with SKY due to the increase in respiratory sinus arrhythmia(RSA) that occurs. When your RSA rises, so does your heart-rate variability, which has been shown to accelerate the physical recovery of high-level athletes.

 

How SKY Can Help Reduce Mental Symptoms of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

CFS can be caused by several triggers including psychological stressors, such as mood dis-orders and depression, are often linked to the onset of CFS-related symptoms. Rapid breathing combined with slow controlled breath used in SKY techniques, has been shown to greatly reduce cortisol levels, thus improving stress-related symptoms. This results in better sleep, reduced anxiety and increased mental clarity.

 

SKY Breathing Techniques For CFS

Poor breathing habits lead to constricted blood vessels and higher alkaline levels in the blood. This restricts what is known as the Bohr effect, or attaining proper levels of carbon-dioxide in the blood in order to utilize oxygen more effectively. This results in less oxygen reaching the brain and muscles, causing light headedness and lethargy, both of which are closely linked to CFS. The four breathing techniques within SKY all offer different benefits without inhibiting the Bohr effect.

There are four breathing techniques within SKY offering different benefits.

  • Ujjayi: The Ujjayi breathing technique, also known as ‘oceanic breath’, relaxes and stimulates the body and mind simultaneously. This deep rhythmic breath can help reduce the dizzying symptoms of CFS.
  • Bhastrika: Bhastrika breathing may help manage emotional issues—as well as blood pressure and heart rate—using swift, powerful inhalations and exhalations.
  • Kriya: Kriya is the practice of slow, medium and fast cyclical breathing patterns which can detox the body from toxins and purify the system.
  • Om: Extended exhalation of the Om sound through repeated chanting, provides soothing internal vibrations which helps connect the mind and body.

 

In Closing

With a slew of holistic benefits, SKY is a great option for combatting CFS. Since SKY isn’t a physically demanding style of yoga, it’s appropriate for all body-types. Despite this, it’s not recommended for pregnant women, those with extreme mental illnesses, or those going through alcohol and drug abuse. It’s strongly advised to only learn SKY breathing techniques under the guidance of a trained professional.

To learn more about SKY and find a certified instructor near you, visit The Art Of Living. Founded by SKY founder Sri Sri Ravi Shankar himself, it has all of the resource you’ll need to begin your journey towards ending chronic fatigue syndrome.

 

LANA ANDERSON is the head instructor of Yoga By Blisstopia in Blaine MN. She has a Master’s degree in Counseling and Psychological Services, and is a Certified Healing Touch Practitioner through Healing Touch International. She’s also a certified Doula through Doulas of North America(DONA), and has helped deliver over 400 babies.

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Health Issues Affecting Seniors & How Yoga Helps

With the seemingly endless pitfalls and conditions seniors tend to worry about when it comes to health, yoga proves time and again to be of benefit. This article explores some common conditions we are prone to as we age, and how yoga helps mitigate these risks.

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Vanda Scaravelli took up a yoga practice in her late 40s. She once said, “There is no age to yoga.” Thank goodness for this! As a tool for physical, mental, and emotional wellness, yoga practice is quickly becoming a go-to activity for seniors, and for good reason.

With the seemingly endless pitfalls and conditions seniors tend to worry about when it comes to health, yoga proves time and again to be of benefit. This article explores some common conditions we are prone to as we age, and how yoga helps mitigate these risks.

 

Diabetes

 

25% of seniors over 65 (roughly 12 million) have diabetes according to the American Diabetes Association—predominantly Type II diabetes. Overtime, when the body’s blood sugar levels remain high because of poor diet and inactivity, the insulin used to help metabolize glucose and move it into cells for energy no longer works. Either the cells become insulin resistant or the body simply isn’t able to produce enough insulin needed to maintain proper blood sugar balance. This can lead to a host of problems including nerve damage, vision loss, hypertension, kidney disease, and stroke, among others.

 

Much of Type II Diabetes cases are potentially reversible if not preventable with diet and exercise. Yoga practice generates enough low-impact physical activity to help seniors burn calories and exercise their heart and other muscles, while putting healthy stress on bones and joints, which also often weaken as we age. In addition, the mind-body awareness component of yoga practice may make practitioners more body aware and sensitive to the needs of their physical and mental health.

 

Alzheimer’s

 

Roughly 1 in 10 seniors over 65 will develop Alzheimer’s, with that number doubling for folks over 80. A form of dementia, Alzheimer’s is a progressive and degenerative disease where the cells in the brain and the neural pathways connecting them become damaged and die off. The primary culprits for this damage include plaques and neurofibril tangles in the brain that starve cells of the nutrients they need to live. This damage leads to memory loss, confusion, agitation, difficulty with making decisions, and more debilitating behavioral symptoms.

While some younger adults under the age of 65 develop Alzheimer’s, the biggest risk factor is increasing age. Researchers are not totally clear why older adults are most afflicted by Alzheimer’s but they believe some age-related brain changes like atrophy (shrinking), inflammation, production of free radicals, and mitochondrial dysfunction might contribute to damage that leads to Alzheimer’s. There is currently no cure for reversing those developments. However, researchers have found that reinforcing brain health and strengthening cells and synapses may lower the risk of developing Alzheimer’s.

 

Therefore, activities that exercise fine motor skills, learning new skills and languages, as well as social interaction and conversing with others are just some of the neuroprotective things older adults can do to stave off cognitive decline. Low-impact exercises like practicing yoga in a class with others and developing new social relationships with classmates can generate some of these beneficial properties.

 

Osteoporosis

 

Bone loss and low bone density afflict over half of all older adults over 50, making older adults much more susceptible to unexpected fractures. Women are at higher risk for bone loss post-menopause, in part because the natural process of aging which decreases the body’s production of estrogen (a hormone which aids in the development of bone density). In fact, women are four times more likely to develop osteoporosis than men.

 

A growing body of evidence has shown that weight-bearing practices like yoga (and hiking and jogging, for example) may help stop and reverse bone loss, especially when combined with sufficient calcium intake. By “stressing” bones through weight-bearing exercise, it cues a biological process in which bone cells migrate to the areas of stress and start laying down new bone to reinforce it.

 

Falling

 

Unfortunately, the most injury-related fatalities for seniors come in the form of falling. An estimated 1 out of 4 seniors experience a fall each year, many resulting in a hospital visit with bruising, lacerations, and bone fractures. One fall can take away our ability to stay mobile (and thus exercise), to live on our own, and to remain self-sufficient. After a fall, our chances of falling again increase exponentially, which means that refining balance and coordination skills as well as strengthening flexibility and muscle tone play an important role in preventing falls.

 

In-home equipment like grab bars, shower stools, and railings can help make a senior’s living environment less hazardous, while the steadying poses and strengthening movements of yoga practice (even chair yoga) can improve a senior’s ability to balance and correct their body position when they feel off balance.

 

In addition, lengthening and strengthening the spine promotes better posture and can help alleviate muscle tension and joint tightness that affects our ability to walk, sit, and move in general. This is where yoga becomes very helpful. Yoga styles like hatha, gentle, chair and restorative are all designed to move slowly and mindfully from one position to the next. Most practices are designed to lengthen the muscles and skeleton in all directions, and help establish new strength and patterns of posture.

 

Anxiety and Depression

 

Losing the ability to drive or experiencing mobility issues that require a walker or other aid can leave seniors stripped of their sense of independence and confidence. Pile on top of that a chronic condition (almost 90% of adults over 65 have at least one chronic illness according to AARP) which requires care, as well as a tendency to become isolated socially, and you have a recipe for anxiety and depression.

 

The meditation component of yoga, as well as the opportunity for it to be practiced in a group or class setting with others, make yoga a prime candidate for alleviating stress and feelings of anxiety and depression. Hatha yoga practices designed to align and calm the body have been shown to help control your body’s stress response as well as boost mood and feelings of positivity.

 

Pilgrimage Yoga Online is an online yoga and meditation studio and resource center. We have hundreds of videos with plenty of styles suitable for seniors, including chair yoga, gentle yoga, and hatha yoga. Sign-up for our 10-day free trial today.

 

 

Joe Fleming is the President at ViveHealth.com. Interested in all things related to living a healthy lifestyle, he enjoys sharing and expressing his passion through writing. Working to motivate others and defeat aging stereotypes, Joe uses his writing to help all people overcome the obstacles of life. Covering topics that range from physical health, wellness, and aging all the way to social, news, and inspirational pieces…The goal is to help others “rebel against age”.

 

 

 

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What Is A Kirtan Band? (And Other Things You Should Know About Kirtan.)

In truth, once you learn some chants, you don’t necessarily need a band… you can chant internally. This post explores the ins and outs of kirtan bands.

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Kirtan is a meditational and devotional chanting experience usually set to music. Traditionally, a Kirtan leader will sing through the chant, or a line in the chant, and then the participants/audience will sing the chant back to the leader. This happens back and forth, over and over again, in a form called, ‘call and response.’ The Kirtan band provides the accompanying music and melody.

 

The word Kirtan (kirtanam) comes from Sanskrit, the ancient language of India. It means praise or eulogy, and more casually means ‘to repeat or recite the Names’ of the divine. As the chant progresses, the mind becomes clear of mundane thoughts and is focused on the divine, creation, Creator and our place in the universe. Kirtan (chanting) is a very simple technique that can produce a very profound reconnection with the core of our being. I like to think of Kirtan as the easiest and most accessible form of meditation, especially for beginners. And in truth, once you learn some chants, you don’t necessarily need a band… you can chant internally.

 

Components of a Kirtan Band

 

In our current time, Kirtan bands come in all shapes and sizes, traditional and contemporary. A very traditional band might consist of tabla (two single-sided Indian drums), the harmonium (an air powered reed organ that looks like a piano in a box) and Karatalas or talas (small hand cymbals). Additional traditional instruments might include the tanpura (a droning, stringed instrument), the Bansuri (a bamboo flute) and the sitar (loosely—an Indian guitar).

 

The harmonium is often a staple and foundation of a kirtan band. While most harmoniums are made in India today, they are originally from Europe. The British brought them to India during their colonization in the mid-eighteen hundreds. They were easier to ship than grand pianos. The crafty Indians fell in love with them and the harmonium is now considered the prime instrument for devotional music in India.

To play the harmonium, the right hand plays the keys and the left hand pumps air through the instrument. Unlike a piano, the harmonium can create a drone sound that can play underneath an entire song.

 

Most harmoniums are made rather cheaply. Most folks in India can’t afford a quality, high-end instrument. The well-made harmoniums are few and are mostly shipped to the west. If you are thinking about buying a harmonium, find a reputable dealer in the U.S. (with a solid return policy) and really do your homework. The fancy bells and whistles, drones, scale shifters, key couplers, vibrato, etc. are very unnecessary and are entirely mechanical, subject to break down. What is most important are the reeds, the keys and the bellows.

For San Diegans: The Self-Realization Fellowship (SRF) bookstore in Encinitas has a good selection of harmoniums for sale. You can play them and find one that meets your needs.

 

Contemporary Kirtan

 

In the last couple of decades, western contemporary Kirtan bands have incorporated every imaginable modern instrument and style of musical accompaniment. Rock, hip-hop, country, techno… with guitar, bass, drum kits, keyboards, violins and computers abound.

 

Pilgrimage of the Heart has offered Kirtan on a weekly basis for the last eight years. Our band instrumentation consists of harmonium and tabla, with guitar and bass, a blend of modern and traditional. Our chants are also a similar blend. We offer chants from the Hindu, Buddhist, Hebrew, Islam and Christian traditions and also contemporary songs in the gospel, blues and folk genres which mesh well with the underlying principle of connecting with the core of our being. We have a very diverse practice while maintaining a traditional atmosphere.

Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga’s kirtan band is composed of tablas, a harmonium, guitar and bass. And of course, any other musicians we’re collaborating with.

 

Kirtan has diverged from what might well be considered a folk music, devotional practice (Bhakti yoga), into concert-like events. While these large events might surely be inspiring and entertaining, participating in one or two events of this type annually doesn’t really build a foundation for Kirtan in your regular yoga/meditation practice. Learning the foundational chants and sharing your voice with friends and strangers alike quickly becomes a desired part of your life. At its least effective, Kirtan is an hour or two of entertainment. At its height, Kirtan is a profound meditational practice that adds vast depth to your overall yoga experience.

 

Starting a Kirtan Band

 

All this being said, if you want to start a Kirtan band the first thing you need to do is learn some chants. Most of the foundational mantras have public domain music associated with them. Or you can make up your own version. Then grab a guitar (they’re easier to come by than harmoniums). Kirtan can be played on any instrument. A keyboard can be used instead of a harmonium. A cajon or bongos or a djembe (any drum) can be used instead of tabla (tabla can be challenging to learn, although we have some videos where we go over the basics). Any instruments will do. What’s important is to fall in love with the practice and to lead with your heart!

 

Kirtan in San Diego

 

Pilgrimage of the Heart Kirtan gathers every Thursday evening at 8:30 p.m. in San Diego and we currently broadcast the events on Facebook and Instagram LIVE. We are the only weekly Kirtan practice in San Diego. Our events are open to all and are family friendly. We invite you to join us and bring a friend.

Join us every Thursday night at Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga in Normal Heights for San Diego’s only weekly kirtan event.

 

Lend your voice, and enliven your heart!

 

TOM WARNER: Tom came to Pilgrimage of the Heart in 2007 and Sujantra quickly recognized that Tom was both able and willing to organize a kirtan practice. The project changed and grew and changed again until in 2009 when the practice was a viable offering on a weekly basis. Since then Tom as lead over 400 Kirtan events at pilgrimage, only missing three practices in eight years. Tom’s love of kirtan knows no bounds and he is always striving to grow and expand the practice, offering the joy of spiritual chanting to as many people as possible.

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The United Nations & Human Rights: A Roadmap For Solving Humanity’s Challenges.

What are my rights as a human being? What should I expect my government to provide me with and what is my responsibility?

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What are my rights as a human being? What should I expect my government to provide me with and what is my responsibility?
These are challenging questions that lie at the heart of most of the seemingly complex issues that face individuals, nations and inhabitants on planet earth. Yoga can help us navigate these challenging issues.
Yoga philosophy is rooted in the concepts of truthfulness, non-harming, compassion and empathy. At the heart of these teachings is a core respect for the tremendous value of each human life.
I help to organize a yearly yoga festival that celebrates the ideals of the United Nations.
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These ideals are rooted in yoga. The United Nations honors June 21st of every year as the International Day of Yoga.
An example of yoga taking form in our modern world can be found in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), which was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 10 December 1948. This declaration was created to complement the United Nations Charter by creating a road map to guarantee the rights of every individual on the planet.
The Commission on Human Rights, which was tasked with the creation of the UDHR, was made up of 18 members from various political, cultural and religious backgrounds. Eleanor Roosevelt, widow of American President Franklin D. Roosevelt, chaired the drafting committee.
The entire document is readily available online. The UDHR provides fundamental ideas and principles that, if valued and honored, would profoundly help individuals and leaders make decisive and clear choices regarding issues we currently face.

Health Care as a Human Right 

Let’s take the issue of health care.
Our current system is not meeting the simple and straightforward goal stated in Article 25 of the UDHR: “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care…”
Let’s apply this universal human right to those living in the United States by asking a few questions about the standard of living and healthcare in the United States. Does our nation value the goal of everyone having the right to adequate health and well-being? Does our government put energy and resources towards these goals? Is our national intelligence applied towards this goal?
According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness we have over 500,000 homeless in the United States. The National Center for Children in Poverty reports that over 15 million children in the United States – 21% of all children – live in families with incomes below the federal poverty threshold. Over 45 million Americans live below the poverty level. Over 30 million Americans have no health insurance.
We spend over 600 billion dollars a year on war. We spend more on our war machine than the next 8 countries combined. Are we creating something of value for humanity or perpetuating a mentality that is doomed to failure?
Mikhail Gorbachev, who was instrumental in the ending of the Cold War and the human rights that its end brought to hundreds of millions of people wrote, “The time has come to choose a new direction of global development, to opt for a new civilization.”
That new direction means reaching towards goals that serve the well-being of humanity and the rights of each human life. What is the benefit of another nuclear warhead? What is the value of a child going to sleep feeling safe and secure?
Yoga gives us each the opportunity to expand truthfulness, non-harming, compassion and empathy within our own hearts. These emotions and feelings will then give rise to actions that can begin a wave of change.
What can one person do? What steps to take? If you ignite the fire of your determination to move towards change the universe will provide you an opportunity to help with creating a new direction. Guaranteed!
Sujantra McKeever is the founder of Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga in San Diego, which serves over 1,000 yogis a week, and also helped create Pilgrimage Yoga Online. He is the author of five books on eastern philosophy, success and meditation. Sujantra studied meditation with spiritual teacher Sri Chinmoy and has lectured on meditation and yoga in over 30 countries.
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3 Tips for How To Heal After Trauma.

An estimated 70% of adults have gone through at least one traumatic event in their lives. Here are three ways a major life transition can be turned into something good.

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An estimated 70% of adults have gone through at least one traumatic event in their lives. A death in the family, a divorce, abusive relationships, accidents, or a change in living situation can all bring about depression and sadness, and many people find it hard to cope and move on.

And yet, there are several ways we can cope with these changes, and even turn them into something positive. Here are three ways a major life transition can be turned into something good.

 

Make Physical Health a Priority

In the aftermath of a traumatic event, even our most basic human instincts are muted. It’s not unlikely to find ourselves disinterested in food, sleep, movement, or companionship. However, developing sustainable routines for eating, sleeping and moving is a key factor in maintaining health and releasing the residue of trauma.

It’s important to take care of yourself during this time and make sure you get enough rest, enough to eat, and enough daily exercise. It can be difficult to find the energy to do these things, and many people feel they don’t have an appetite when they’re going through a major loss. If this is the case, start by keeping small, healthy snacks in the fridge, rather than worrying about making a big meal. Fruit, nuts, and dark leafy greens are a great start, as they’ll boost your energy and help you feel better. Scheduling these tasks is the key to ensure positive routines are created and kept up.

When it comes to sleeping and getting enough rest, consider your home environment, which has a major impact on the way we think, feel and act. If your home is cluttered, filled with unhealthy or painful memories, or lacks a place to safely retreat to meditate or relax, it may be worthwhile to make adjustments. Fortunately, this is easier than it may sound. Learn more about how to create a home environment optimal for health here.

And even if we lack motivation, it’s important to move to move our bodies everyday. Movement can reset the nervous system, help optimize organ function and stimulate psychological shifting. Consider calm wholistic practices like yoga, swimming or tai chi; or more rigorous passion practices like tennis or running.

 

Make a Connection with Others

One of the best things a person can do after a trauma is to use their experience to help others. If you’ve dealt with the loss of a loved one to cancer, or are a newly singled parent going through a divorce, you have invaluable wisdom and insight that can help others move through a similar time in their lives.

Consider starting a blog to write about your experiences, or get involved in a charity that’s related to something you’ve been through personally. It can be difficult to face the thoughts and feelings that arise on the topic of our trauma, but sometimes that’s exactly what is needed to get through to the other side.

 

Take some time for yourself

It’s important to take some time for yourself, if possible, by actually physically getting away. By completely changing routines and environments, new perspectives have space to arise. Purposefully delegate your normal daily responsibilities to those willing to help out around you, and purposefully give yourself nothing to do in a new environment.

Taking a big change and making it work for you can be extremely empowering and can help you feel more in control of your life, which is exactly what you need after going through a difficult time.

A traumatic event can stop us in our tracks and alienate us from feeling connected to all living things. These methods are tried and true to ensure that we’re releasing the residue of our traumas, and enjoying life again. It’s time to get back on that horse!

 

At Pilgrimage Yoga Online, we specialize in the field of mindfulness and meditation, offering simple to implement techniques designed to balance the movement of the mind. We know life’s many events can difficult to process, and it can get confusing weeding through the psychological layers of the mind. Meditation and mindfulness are designed to bring awareness of the present moment in the present moment, so that we are empowered to notice our thoughts as thoughts and not as realities. These tools and techniques have helped thousands of people all over the world establish a healthy mindset and live more comfortably. We’ve worked with San Diego‘s best yoga and meditation teachers to create an online yoga studio, which offers yoga and meditation classes for all people of all levels. Join us for a 10-day free trial–we’re sure you’ll love it!

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What Are The Benefits of Corporate Mindfulness Programs?

In our current information economy, how well a company is able to manage stress and  overwhelm is as important to succeeding as hitting quarterly goals.

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Large companies such as Google, Aetna, and General Mills have been early adopters of wellness and mindfulness programs for their employees.

So how exactly can mindfulness, yoga, and meditation help improve operational efficiency and positively impact your bottom line?  

In our current information economy, how well a company is able to manage stress and overwhelm is as important to succeeding as hitting quarterly goals. New estimates show that up to 22% of employers are offering mindfulness training, which means the majority are being left behind.

Here are 7 areas in which mindfulness, yoga, and meditation can benefit companies:

 

  1. Healthier Employees and Increased Wellbeing

Google employees who participated in their Search Inside Yourself Mindfulness Program reported that their emotional drain was down 34%.  A study on Pubmed showed that after two weeks of mindfulness training, participants experienced significantly less emotional exhaustion and more job satisfaction than participants in the control group. According to a study in the prestigious journal, Nature, mindfulness has been shown to activate areas of the brain associated with emotional awareness and emotional management. Another study showed that yoga led to the greatest increase in feelings of well-being, while sitting meditation led to lower feelings of self-judgement.

 

  1. Increased Creativity and Higher Performance

When Intel evaluated their wellness program, they noticed a two-point (on a ten-point scale) increase in employees having new ideas and insights, mental clarity, creativity, the ability to focus, the quality of relationships at work and the level of engagement in meetings, projects and collaboration efforts. At Google, employees reported a 32% greater ability to focus and be more effective after mindfulness training.

 

  1. Financial Savings for the Company

Aetna’s mindfulness program reduced healthcare costs by 7% resulting in a $6.3 million savings per year. Search Inside Yourself has demonstrated through 13,000 participants that wellness programs can save $3000 per year on gained productivity. Studies also show that an online wellness program can be as effective and much cheaper than an in-person program.

 

  1. Stress Reduction

Stress is estimated to cost enterprises $300 billion per year according to the World Health Organization. Not only that, but highly stressed employees incur $2000 more per year in health care costs. And with 18% of women and 25% of men reporting an increase in stress levels over the last 30 years, it’s worth finding a solution for. The World Economic Forum discussed stress as being the cause of 75% of hospital visits and mindfulness as the potential antidote.  At Intel’s Awake Mindfulness Program, employees noticed a 2 point decrease in stress and overwhelm and a 3 point increase in overall happiness and wellbeing.

 

  1. Improves Business Decisions and Prevent Investment Mistakes

According to the Wharton School of Business and INSEAD Business School in Singapore, meditation helps people resist the “Sunk Cost Bias,” which is the tendency to allow unrecoverable prior costs to influence current decisions. Mindfulness has also been shown to help with identifying when a decision should be made, gathering information, coming to a conclusion, and learning from feedback in a more unbiased way.

 

  1. Leadership, Vision, and Moral Intelligence

Google’s leadership was 29% better able to maintain calm and poise in difficult situations after they completed mindfulness training.  A study on ResearchGate shows that greater emotional intelligence has been associated with higher managerial and leadership performance. Institutes for Mindful Leadership and General Mills partnered on a mindfulness program which resulted in 93% of participants reporting that the training helped them create space for innovation, and 70% saying the training made a positive difference in their ability to think strategically. A University of Westminster study published in the Academy of Management Proceedings revealed that meditation training significantly enhanced overall self-confidence, as well as individual skills like inspiring a shared vision and demonstrating moral intelligence among senior managers.

 

  1. Boosts Mental Health and Reduces Drug and Alcohol Relapse

A recent study from University of Lund in Sweden showed that mindfulness can be as effective as traditional talk therapy for anxiety and depression. Researchers in Washington and New Mexico found those who completed a mindfulness and relapse intervention combination program reported significantly lower risk of relapse to substance use and heavy drinking; and among those who used substances, they found significantly fewer days of substance use and heavy drinking at the 6-month follow-up.

 

Pilgrimage Yoga Online’s Corporate Wellness Program

 

Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga is San Diego’s largest independently owned yoga studio, and sponsor of Pilgrimage Yoga Online, an online yoga studio featuring hundreds of yoga and meditation videos and classes.  We’ve worked with thousands of individuals across the country to reach their wellness goals, which include everything from stress relief to weight loss to being able to handle conflict to staying organized at work.

Our online wellness and mindfulness program is an affordable and effective option for companies not local to our San Diego area, and features complete access to our online yoga and meditation library, our online resource center, and personalized check-ins with a PYO program representative, who will guide you through the process of establishing and tracking your wellness goals. Based on your specific needs, we schedule and host live seminars, meditations, and yoga classes via webcast, and can work directly with your employees during these sessions. Our team of highly trained meditation and yoga professionals have hundreds of years of combined experience guiding newcomers and long-time practitioners alike through mindfulness practices that ease stress and promote well-being.

New studies are coming out daily to support mindfulness, meditation, and yoga as beneficial across the board. The results are clear: happier and well-balanced employees, higher levels of productivity, and increased soft-skills that are critical in developing functional teams, projects and more.

Mindfulness programs are here to stay. The only question is: will your company innovate and stay ahead?

For further information on an effective and affordable online wellness program, please email zach@pilgrimageyoga.com for discounted rates.

 

 

Zach Saltzman graduated from San Diego State University with a degree in Integrated Marketing Communications.  After working in Retail Management for 4 years and seeing the stress and overwhelm that employees have to deal with in the 21st century he began to study the intersection of business and mindfulness. He has been practicing meditation for 10 years and still finds it a challenge!  Some of his passions include all things health-related, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, travel, and much more.

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Where Is The Best Kirtan In San Diego?

If you’re looking for a Kirtan practice in San Diego, here’s the scoop on our city’s offerings.

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Kirtan is a meditational practice under the yoga umbrella, set to music.  It involves chanting: participants chant divine words and phrases together as a communal chorus. The basic idea is to clear the clutter of the mind’s attachment to the outer world, replacing that clutter with focused thoughts of creation, Creator and our place in the universe. To be sure, Kirtan is a devotional practice.

 

To me, Kirtan is the easiest form of meditating. Sitting in solitary silence with one-pointed focus, even for short periods of time is quite challenging. It can be daunting and downright discouraging, especially for those new to meditation.  The fact is, many who meditate repeat chants inwardly, silently as the source of focus. Chanting gives you something to do. It focuses the mind on the chant, on the underlying meaning, on the repetition, on the reminder of our higher nature. So for newcomers especially, Kirtan is a good place to start a meditation practice.

 

As old as the tradition is (thousands of years), Kirtan is still relatively unknown as a practice in the west, both within the yoga community and without. In fact, I only know of a few places around my home, San Diego, that offer this magical meditation experience. I feel fortunate to be a part of a weekly Kirtan gathering at Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga in Normal Heights, which I have led for several years now at our weekly Thursday night gatherings. We’ve had many band members come and go throughout the years, different instrumentation, and different audiences, but what I love the most is that it always feels the same–a community experiencing joy and peace together.

 

If you’re looking for a Kirtan practice in San Diego, here’s the scoop on our city’s offerings:

 

 

Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga

 

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Time: Every Thursday night 8:30 – 9:30p

Location: Normal Heights East Room

Cost: $5 donation

Sign-Up Link

The Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga Kirtan Band has been playing weekly Kirtan events for more than 7 years. Each Thursday evening we create a set list of our favorite and seasonal chants to share with the community. Participants are encouraged to sit in chairs, on the floor (with many yoga props, of course), or stand up and dance. We know that Kirtan can be a vulnerable expression for some, as it involves public singing and dancing, and we aim to provide a welcoming and non-judgmental atmosphere. Prepare to chant, and learn about some major cornerstones of yoga philosophy that are the foundational elements of Kirtan.

For our friends who live outside the San Diego area, we live stream our Kirtans through our Facebook page. Join us every Thursday evening for musical meditation!

 

The San Diego Hare Krishna Community 

 

Time: Every Sunday 5:00-6:00p

Location: Pacific Beach, San Diego

Cost: Donation

Sign-Up Link

 

The San Diego Hare Krishna Community offers weekly festival every Sunday night, featuring a number of events, of which Kirtan is a part. Whereas Pilgrimage’s Kirtan events stand alone, the Hare Krishna Community offers Kirtan as part of a larger schedule of events, including lectures and meals together. Check out their weekly schedule to find out more information!

 

Himalyan Heritage

 

Time: First Friday of the Month (subject to change)

Location: Encinitas, CA 

Time: 7:00-9:00p

Sign-Up Link

 

Led by Sundaram and Hilary, the Hamalyan Heritage Satsang encourages devotees of all paths to attend these Kirtan events. Each Kirtan is led by a variety of local Kirtan musicians and leaders. You can even sign up for their mailing list to stay up to date with new Kirtan events!

 

San Diego County Kirtan

 

Time: 2nd Saturday of the month, 5:00-6:30p

Location: First Unitarian Universalist Church of San Diego

Cost: FREE

Sign-Up Link

 

This is a monthly Kirtan practice organized on Meetup. Led by Annette Laborte, this group emphasizes the importance of being non-denominational and non-sectarian. Events are held at a local church, and participants are encouraged to feel at ease, no matter what their religious background.

 

 

I invite you to attend a Kirtan practice. It’s very enjoyable and folks depart with a heightened awareness and state of being. I so enjoy hearing comments from attendees about how wonderful they feel and what a wonderful experience they had. I’m also a bit surprised by the number of first timers who ask how long we’ve been doing the Kirtan practice. When I tell them, eight years, they are stunned.

Kirtan is an integral part of the yoga practice. The Bhakti tradition is one of the four paths in yoga to Self-Realization. It has a chapter devoted to it in the Bhagavad Gita. If you are practicing yoga, if you meditate, expand your awareness by including Kirtan into your weekly practice.

 

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Tom came to Pilgrimage of the Heart in 2007 and Sujantra quickly recognized that Tom was both able and willing to organize a kirtan practice. The project changed and grew and changed again until in 2009 when the practice was a viable offering on a weekly basis. Since then Tom as lead over 400 Kirtan events at pilgrimage, only missing three practices in eight years. Tom’s love of kirtan knows no bounds and he is always striving to grow and expand the practice, offering the joy of spiritual chanting to as many people as possible.

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Yoga for Good Posture: Correcting Text Neck.

Forward Head Syndrome, or as most of us refer to it–text neck– is a common form of postural misalignment. This article explores how yoga can help!

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According to the American Journal of Pain Management, posture has an impact on every physiological function. This includes the ability to breathe properly, hormonal functions, spinal health, blood pressure, lung capacity and more. And with 85% of the US population admitting to experiencing back pain at some point in their lives, it’s perhaps time for us to dive into our daily postural habits head on (no pun intended).

Forward Head Syndrome, or as most of us refer to it–text neck– is a common form of postural misalignment. It’s characterized by the shoulders rounding forward, the chest caving inward and the skull lunging forward of the rest of the spine.

Forward neck posture extends the upper cervical spine (think lifting the chin) and flexes the lower cervical and thoracic spine (think rounding the shoulders forward), which is a complicated way of saying it pulls and strains critical muscles attached to the spine, which can cause inflammation and tightness. Experts claim that for every inch of forward head posture, the pressure on the spine increases by an additional ten pounds.

While this is fortunately a highly correctable condition, it can be easy to dismiss as a new way of living. Our daily activities of sitting, driving and working at desks, predisposes us to this sort of condition, which means that we must make a special effort to correct the balance.

For instance, a regular yoga routine can help counteract forward head syndrome, by strengthening all areas of the body and putting emphasis on joint alignment and healthy stress. Additionally, there are other tools to choose from, such as form-fitting back braces to speed up the process of improving your posture.

 

What is Correct Posture?

 

Looking at posture with an anatomical lens, you must first understand how the spine itself is constructed. 33 bones (vertebrae) individually stacked on top of one another interlock to form what is known as the spinal column. It protects the spinal cord and essentially gives you the primary foundation for your body to be able to stand up straight, twist, bend, and so on.

Attached to those vertebrae are an array of muscles, bones, tendons, ligaments and nerves. The spine is built in four sections, each with a different number of vertebrae, and each with a different structure and function. An s-shaped curvature is the natural layout of the adult spine where the neck (cervical spine – 7 vertebrae) and lower back (lumbar spine – 5 vertebrae) have a natural curve inward towards the front of the body, and the upper back (thoracic spine – 12 vertebrae) and sacral spine (back of the pelvis down through the tailbone – 5 bones in the sacrum and 4 bones in the tailbone, some of which are fused together) have a natural curve outwards, away from the front of the body. This natural shape plays a critical role in helping you maintain balance and absorb the shock of impact when you walk, run, sit—you name it.

With this in mind, correct posture can then be defined as the spine, bones, and joints all in proper alignment when sitting and standing – shoulders over hips, chin over chest, feet flat to the ground, and natural curve of lower back supported.

 

Assess Posture and Build Strength

 

This is a simple way to assess posture. Stand with your back on the wall, and gently notice the position of the spine. Notice if there’s a tendency for the shoulders to round away from the wall, the chest to sink in at the armpits, and the skull to hang heavily forward. Then, gently open the chest and armpits to bring your shoulders towards the wall. Keep torso and abdomen gently engaged and the low ribs knitting in to each other, and slide your head back without raising your chin. In people who have FHS, because of the tightness in the neck, the head will tilt back and the chin will rise as if the person is trying to look up.

Try to keep your chin down – as if you’re trying to make a double chin. When the alignment feels right, keep the spinal arrangement and move about off the wall. Do this in repetitions as it starts to feel more natural.
 

Realign with Yoga

 

Yoga is a particularly useful form of exercise when it comes to reworking postural habits, because of its emphasis on full body movements and heightened mental awareness. All yoga poses are designed to strengthen and align the spine to its natural curvature, and there are several series of postures that are especially useful for this work:

 

Peace and SerenityStanding postures – Standing postures emphasize optimal spinal alignment, and train the arms and legs to take individual movements without disrupting the stability of the spine.

Backbends – Belly backbends like locust pose, cobra and sphynx pose strengthen the back and neck muscles, and helps open the chest, move the skull back in line with the shoulders, and move the upper back vertebrae towards the front of the body (in the opposite direction of FHS).

Forward bends – Forward bends emphasize spinal flexion (when the torso and thighs move towards each other). FHS is characterized by improper flexion of the neck, so forward folds can help re-establish the spine’s relationship to flexion, and optimize the position of each section of the spine in forward bending movements.

Twists – Twists improve the mobility of the ribs and spine, and generate more openness through the chest and throat areas. These are great poses to bring the spine back into its natural alignment.

Core/arm balances – Core work helps to firm and strengthe the foundational stablizers of the spine, which includes the lower abdomen and pelvic floor muscles. Arm balances restructure the arms’ relationship to the torso and can renegotiate incorrect shoulder placement due to FHS.

 

In our San Diego yoga studios, we’ve worked with thousands of students to improve posture and health in a number of areas. Our skilled teachers have worked with us to film hundreds of unique yoga and meditation videos, designed for students of all levels, interests and abilties. If you experience pain due to postural habits and live outside the San Diego area, join us for our online yoga classes, designed specifically for you to do at home. We’ve also filmed chair yoga classes, which can be practiced in the car, at the office and any other place we find ourselves sitting and slumping. Join us for a free 10-day trial today!

 

 

AUTHOR BIO: Joe Fleming is the President at ViveHealth.com. Interested in all things related to living a healthy lifestyle, he enjoys sharing and expressing his passion through writing. Working to motivate others and defeat aging stereotypes, Joe uses his writing to help all people overcome the obstacles of life. Covering topics that range from physical health, wellness, and aging all the way to social, news, and inspirational pieces…the goal is help others “rebel against age”.

 

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Yoga for 12 Step Recovery: How Yoga Helps With Addiction

Below are four ways yoga can treat the physical, emotional, and spiritual disease of addiction, and help you to stay on the path of recovery.

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“For me, drugs and alcohol were a solution to an emotional and perhaps even spiritual problem, a feeling literally of disease, unhappiness, and an inability to cope with life. And I think that when people stop using drugs and alcohol, they need another system or program of behavior.”

– Russell Brand, actor, comedian, writer, and recovering heroin addict and alcoholic.

 

As elucidated in the famous 12 Steps to Recovery of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), the pathway to recovery is a spiritual one (though not necessarily religious) that includes surrendering to a higher power and admitting that some things are beyond our personal control. As explained by Russell Brand, another belief system or program of behavior is required to walk the path of abstinence-based recovery from addiction.

Brand, in addition to being a famous actor and recovering heroin addict, is also a devoted practitioner of yoga and meditation, and he often credits these practices for his ability to remain substance-free.

But how exactly does the practice of yoga help to treat the feelings of “disease, unhappiness, and an inability to cope with life” that are so often the fuel of addiction? Below are four ways yoga can treat the physical, emotional, and spiritual disease of addiction, and help you to stay on the path of recovery.

 

  1. Asana (Postures)

Asana, or the physical postures of yoga, are what we in the West commonly refer to as yoga. Flexibility, patience, balance, and concentration are qualities that are cultivated as we move through and hold different yoga postures.

Child’s pose, for example, symbolizes humility, surrender, and let go to a power that is greater than ourselves. Warrior pose represents the cultivation of strength and courage in the face of challenges. Balancing postures, such as tree pose, balance the left and right hemispheres of the brain and the opposing left and right sides of the body, bringing equilibrium to both body and mind.

The qualities of strength, endurance, balance, and humility that are developed “on the mat,” in both body and mind, are qualities that can easily be taken “off the mat” and used as armor on the often perilous path to sobriety.

 

  1. Pranayama (Breathing Techniques)

Pranayama, which is the regulation of the breath, cleanses the nervous system, increases the flow of oxygen to the brain, and improves our mental clarity. A practice such as Nadi Shodana, or alternate nostril breathing, which also reduces stress and anxiety, balances the hemispheres of the brain, and detoxifies the body, and can be done in just 15-20 minutes a day. In this way, the practice of pranayama can develop the conditions that support a clear, balanced, and sober mind.

 

  1. Mindfulness (Meditation)

Mindfulness is being in a state of awareness that allows us to be fully present in the moment so that we aren’t continuously thinking about the fiction of the past and future. Minfulness is a quality that can be cultivated through meditation, which can be as simple as setting aside a few minutes a day for silent sitting (there are also plenty of guided meditations that can assist us through the process). By engaging in meditation, we gain greater control over the reins of our own lives by observing our thoughts and feelings, rather than letting them take us over.

By carving time out of our schedules to stop and meditate, we learn to respond intentionally to problems, rather than follow through on knee-jerk reactions, and this can help us avoid relapses into drug or alcohol consumption.

 

  1. Ishvara Pranidhana (Surrender to God)

The 11th step of the 12 Steps of AA, “Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out,” elucidates the connection between surrendering to a higher power (although it is up to the individual to decide what exactly that means to him or her) and successful recovery from addiction.

This practice is consistent with yoga sutra (the foundational texts of yoga) 1.23, which describes the practice of Isvara Pranidhana. Ishvara is a Sanskrit word that translates to ‘supreme,’ ‘personal,’ or ‘God.’ Pranidhana translates to ‘dedication,’ ‘devotion,’ or ‘surrender.’ As explained on jivamuktiyoga.com, “The practice of Ishvara Pranidhana… will help to cure the afflictions of the mind that cause pain and suffering, as it is designed to redirect our energy away from our selfish desires and personal dramas, and towards the ultimate pursuit of Oneness.”

As explained by Brand in the quote beginning this article, the problem of addiction is primarily an emotional and/or spiritual one. Speaking of his own experience, Brand states: “From the onset of adulthood, drugs and alcohol were just my way of coping with the world.” The reality is that the modern world can sometimes seem cold, cruel, and uncaring, and people often turn to substances to heal feelings of pain or emptiness within.

 

However, using the above four yoga practices of asana, pranayama, meditation, and surrender as an alternative system or program of behavior to heal our bodies, hearts, and minds and connect us to something greater than ourselves, we can transform the state of our lives from that of self-medicating just to exist in this modern-day world, to that of creating meaningful lives centered in well-being, happiness, and sobriety.

Pilgrimage Yoga Online is an online yoga studio featuring hundreds of yoga and meditation videos taught by expert teachers in San Diego. Our classes and programs are designed specifically for yogis and spiritual enthusiasts who are on the go, live around the world, or find it challenging to sync schedules with the local yoga studio. With thousands of hours of combined experience, our staff has seen huge success helping others create and maintain healthy habits and sustained mindfulness. Whether you’re looking for fitness, mindfulness, meditation, or even learning how to chant kirtan, we are ready to practice with you every step of the way. Sign-up today for a complimentary 7-day trial!

 

AUTHOR BIO: Hi, my name is Andy! I was born in Bogota, Colombia, but raised in Los Angeles, California. I spend my time helping others with their recovery and growing my online business.

 

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Behind The Music of Shambhu: A ‘Soothe’ Moment in a Hectic World.

“My music is ideal if you want to unwind and clear the mind. While recording my albums, I dive into my own silence so the music embodies a calm, clear, and beautiful feeling – like a vacation in sound.”

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“We are the music-makers, and we are the dreamers of dreams,”

—from Ode by Arthur O’Shaughnessy

 

“You will hear everything from jazz to instrumental folk to breezy pop to world fusion and even a hint of new age on Soothe, and it all goes down silky smooth.”

—Bill Binkelman, Zone Music Reporter

 

Music has the power to transform our lives and hence the world.

 

As I drove to work the other day my mind was spinning with all the things that were going wrong with a remodel of my new yoga studio. It was not the way I wanted to start my day. I knew just the antidote: turn on some heartfelt, relaxing music and center myself in my breathing. I chose the new album Soothe by Shambhu and it did the trick!

 

Reviewer Bill Binkelman from Zone Music Reporter describes the music: “Soulfulness runs throughout each track on Soothe like a slow, lazy brook winding its way through a forest, at times burbling over rocks, and other times flowing serenely with sunlight shimmering off the gently rippling surface.”

 

Soothe not only uplifted my own spirit but I started using Shambhu’s music as a peaceful backdrop for the yoga classes that I teach. Then I got curious about how Shambhu was able to convey a feeling of calm serenity in his music.

 

Shambhu’s adult life has been rooted in spirit. He discovered meditation in college and over time he was inspired to transform his rock style into a serene, instrumental flow that Feng Shui Mommy blogger Bailey Gaddis described as ‘mind medicine’.

 

“I was jamming with musicians in New York when I met drummer Narada Michael Walden. He had just connected with meditation guru Sri Chinmoy and his students – guitarists John McLaughlin and Carlos Santana. Narada invited me to meet his teacher and learn meditation.  Sri Chinmoy saw music as inspiration, not entertainment, and he encouraged music as a soulful  expression of meditation. 18 months later I joined and found myself jamming with Carlos who played a quiet and expressive guitar music. When he played, listeners had their eyes closed, they explored the music inside the silence, and the music expressed a calmness. When we played acoustic guitars as a duo, I could feel my soulful heart. I loved it, and I later brought that experience into my own music.”

 

 

“My music is ideal if you want to unwind and clear the mind. While recording my albums, I dive into my own silence so the music embodies a calm, clear, and beautiful feeling – like a vacation in sound.”

 

Soothe features many great instrumentalists who create a symphony of calming sound, with Shambhu at the helm on acoustic and electric guitars. Musicians include Michael Manring on bass, Jeff Haynes on percussion, Frank Martin on piano, Paul McCandless on reeds, Premik Russell Tubbs on soprano sax and wind synth, George Brooks on soprano sax, Ravichandra Kulur on bansuri flute, Kristin Hoffmann on vocals, Todd Boston on steel guitar, and Gurumurthy V on tabla.

 

Shambhu’s music invites the listener to participate in a dream for a better world, which will be created by individuals striving for their own betterment. His music is a pathway of sound into the ocean of love that each of us has within. His message is one of peace and the potential of each of us to reach into the realm of heart and soul.

 

And that brings me back to music makers and their effect on the world. I quoted from Ode by Arthur O’Shaughnessy at the beginning of this writing. Further along in his poem, written in 1888, he writes:

 

“For each age is a dream that is dying, Or one that is coming to birth.”

 

If you are local to the San Diego area, join us on Tuesday September 26th, 2017 from 7:45-8:30p, where Shambhu will be accompanying Sujantra’s meditation class. Pilgrimage Yoga offers free weekly meditations at both of its San Diego locations, suitable for practitioners of all levels. Join us for music and meditation!

 

Visit ShambhuMusic.com to listen and buy! Download the title track from ‘Soothe’ for free at soothecd.com.

 

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Hamatreya Poem Meaning: Ruminations on a Ralph Waldo Emerson Poem

Hamatreya is a poem that Emerson wrote in the mid 1800’s and expresses the reality of humankind’s relationship to nature.

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Hamatreya is a poem that Emerson wrote in the mid-1800’s.

Its message is well worth contemplation in our day and age as individuals and nations reckon with the forces of nature. Well beyond ideology or opinion, the poem expresses the reality of humankind’s relationship to nature. The core theme of the poem was taken from Emerson’s reading of ancient Hindu writings.

The poem in its entirety appears at the end of this essay.

Emerson guides us to see the futility in our boasting and pride and points towards an awareness of the cycle of life. Earth is given a voice in this poem. This awareness of earth’s living relationship to each of us is essential for any meaningful discussion of humankind’s relationship to nature.

The poem has three voices: the earth, the impartial narrator and a voice that reflects, in the last stanza, on the power of the earth’s song. The poem begins with the narrator speaking for various men of the time and their pride at possessing that which they own: their properties, orchards, dogs and families and their resounding belief in their ownership: “Tis mine, my children’s and my name’s…my trees…my hill…my dog.”

The narrator then ponders: “Where are these men? Asleep beneath their grounds.” The narrator drives home his point: “Earth laughs in flowers, to see her boastful boys/Earth-proud, proud of the earth which is not theirs;/Who steer the plough, but cannot steer their feet/Clear of the grave.” Emerson’s wisdom exposes the vain and fleeting pride of human beings when it comes to their relationship to the earth.

Emerson then ratchets up the poem to another level of intensity with a sub-section that he titles Earth-Song. In it the narrator continues in the theme of exposing the futile vanity of possession and then gives voice to the earth: “They called me theirs,/Who so controlled me;/Yet every one/Wished to stay, and is gone,/How am I theirs, If they cannot hold me, /But I hold them?”

The poem ends with the narrator reflecting on all he has heard and learnt upon hearing the earth speak:

When I heard the Earth-song,

I was no longer brave;

My avarice cooled

Like lust in the chill of the grave.

 

 

The entire poem:

Hamatreya by Ralph Waldo Emmerson

 

Bulkeley, Hunt, Willard, Hosmer, Meriam, Flint,
Possessed the land which rendered to their toil
Hay, corn, roots, hemp, flax, apples, wool, and wood.
Each of these landlords walked amidst his farm,
Saying, “’Tis mine, my children’s and my name’s.
How sweet the west wind sounds in my own trees!
How graceful climb those shadows on my hill!
I fancy these pure waters and the flags
Know me, as does my dog: we sympathize;
And, I affirm, my actions smack of the soil.”
Where are these men? Asleep beneath their grounds:
And strangers, fond as they, their furrows plough.
Earth laughs in flowers, to see her boastful boys
Earth-proud, proud of the earth which is not theirs;
Who steer the plough, but cannot steer their feet
Clear of the grave.
They added ridge to valley, brook to pond,
And sighed for all that bounded their domain;
“This suits me for a pasture; that’s my park;
We must have clay, lime, gravel, granite-ledge,
And misty lowland, where to go for peat.
The land is well,—lies fairly to the south.
’Tis good, when you have crossed the sea and back,
To find the sitfast acres where you left them.”
Ah! the hot owner sees not Death, who adds
Him to his land, a lump of mould the more.
Hear what the Earth say:—
                EARTH-SONG
          “Mine and yours;
          Mine, not yours.
          Earth endures;
          Stars abide—
          Shine down in the old sea;
          Old are the shores;
          But where are old men?
          I who have seen much,
          Such have I never seen.
          “The lawyer’s deed
          Ran sure,
          In tail,
          To them and to their heirs
          Who shall succeed,
          Without fail,
          Forevermore.
          “Here is the land,
          Shaggy with wood,
          With its old valley,
          Mound and flood.
          But the heritors?—
          Fled like the flood’s foam.
          The lawyer and the laws,
          And the kingdom,
          Clean swept herefrom.
          “They called me theirs,
          Who so controlled me;
          Yet every one
          Wished to stay, and is gone,
          How am I theirs,
          If they cannot hold me,
          But I hold them?”
When I heard the Earth-song
I was no longer brave;
My avarice cooled
Like lust in the chill of the grave.

 

 

Sujantra McKeever is the founder of Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga in San Diego, which serves over 1,000 yogis a week, and also helped create Pilgrimage Yoga Online. He is the author of five books on eastern philosophy, success and meditation. Sujantra studied meditation with spiritual teacher Sri Chinmoy and has lectured on meditation and yoga in over 30 countries.

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