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The Power Of Negative Thinking & How To Think Positive.

Like seeds, the negative ideas grow in your mind and keep you in their vice. When something triggers them, they sprout forth and ruin our sunny day. Through meditation, however, we can develop two solutions to reverse our negative thoughts and self-talk.

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Do you ever have down days? Of course – we all do. It is a part of life. But, are you aware of what’s causing this? Why are things great one day, fine the next, and gloomy the day after that? In this blog, we’ll explore the factors that drive our ups and downs so that you can recognize your own patterns and prevent another ruined day.

The answer behind our mood swings is often quite simple – negative thought patterns. Maybe you’ve recognized this when you’ve been in a bad mood and noticed feelings of jealousy, insecurity, or fear. Beneath those feelings is where we can find the patterns of self-doubt and negative self-talk that drive us, unconsciously, to bad moods.

We pick up these patterns from different sources – maybe, for example, it’s something your parents said, something that was drilled into you like, “You’ll never be a success,” or “You’ll never be good at this,” or “There’s no value in doing that. You should focus on this in life.” On the other hand we pick up negative thoughts from culture, from society, and even from those we love the most. For example, maybe a close relationship went bad, and someone said some really negative things to you. Because, you care deeply for that person, or you did, you absorb that negativity, granting their comments merit.

Using Meditation to Counteract Negative Thinking

Like seeds, the negative ideas grow in your mind and keep you in their vice. When something triggers them, they sprout forth and ruin our sunny day. Through meditation, however, we can develop two solutions to reverse our negative thoughts and self-talk.

The first is through the use of our intellect. In meditation or the yoga philosophy, the term intellect signifies your discriminating mind, your ability to discriminate between what’s true and what’s false. 

If someone had put it in your mind that you’re no good, for example, you might continue with that belief dragging you down forever. Through the practice of meditation, however, you will come to the realization that that is incorrect – “I am a good person.” Meditation enables us to embrace the power of our minds and use reason to eliminate our negative thoughts and patterns.

The other way that yoga philosophy teaches to combat negative thought patterns is to counter them with their opposites. To understand this concept we can use the imagery of waves where a positive thought wave counters the oncoming wave of a negative thought, restoring balance and evenness of mind by cancelling each other out. This process involves really identifying what’s going on in your mind and then bringing in an emotion, feeling, or thought that would cancel out the negativity.

If a negative thought pattern involves how angry you are at somebody, for example, then the way to counter that feeling would be thoughts of forgiveness. For the feeling of hatred towards someone else or even yourself, the opposite thought would be unconditional love. For self-doubt – confidence. 

You can also incorporate imagery for this exercise. If you doubt yourself, for example, and you see yourself as weak or lacking a certain capacity, you could visualize yourself as powerful, even introducing the imagery of a mighty elephant that can get through anything. 

The ability to meditate and incorporate these techniques allows you to shift your pre-conceptions and negative ideas about your emotions, yourself, and others. You will find that confidence in yourself feels so much better than doubting yourself, as forgiving others feels so much better than holding on to anger. It often takes just one or two times of realizing these patterns and shifting our response before it becomes easier to identify and eliminate our negative ways.

To practice these techniques in your meditation practice, you can use the prompt below to guide you through the process of developing your intellect to discern truth from falsehood and using positive affirmations and emotions to restore balance to your mind. You can record yourself reading the meditation, read it to yourself during your own meditation, or take turns reading it to a friend. Whichever way you choose, begin your meditation as you normally would and invite these exercises in when you feel relaxed and at ease.

How To Think Positive Meditation

Bring to your awareness a challenge that you’re currently facing or a situation or circumstance that poses a challenge. 

The source of our challenges is usually within us, so through a little bit of reflection, observe what’s making it a challenge: 

Do you have to let go of something?

Are you attached to something?

Are you afraid of something?

Ask yourself: what’s causing it to be a challenge or what qualities do you need to overcome it?

You may recognize that you are afraid or attached or insecure.

Invite this feeling’s opposite such as security, confidence, or courage.

If you’re not really sure what the challenge is but you know that there’s a quality that you need to cultivate to get through this circumstance or situation, then focus on that quality, inwardly repeating the quality as you breathe in.

Now, visualize the challenge and the quality resolving the situation. Imagine the situation as you want it to turn out. Use your imagination to feel the positive quality growing within you.

Focus on your breath, the positive quality, and the visual images of you overcoming your situation.

In the process of ending your meditation, move your mind back to your outer senses, your sense of body, sense of the room, but inwardly hold on to your sense of self and whatever inspiration or energy you got from the different visualizations and techniques.

With time and practice, you will root out your negative thoughts and develop a discriminating intellect free from falsities about yourself and others. 

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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Benefits of Good Dental Hygiene: How Oral Health Affects The Rest Of You.

Did you know that your mouth is a gateway to your body? The state of your oral health can offer clues about whole-body health and reveal symptoms of various illnesses.

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Did you know that your mouth is a gateway to your body? The state of your oral health can offer clues about whole-body health and reveal symptoms of various illnesses.

Filled with countless bacteria, your mouth acts as the entry point to your digestive and respiratory systems. Without a proper oral health regimen to keep bacteria under control, microorganisms from the mouth can cause infection in other areas of the body, especially if the immune system is compromised by medication or disease. 

Moreover, many illnesses can negatively impact oral health by reducing saliva flow and altering the balance of the mouth’s microorganisms. This can lead to oral infections such as periodontal (gum) disease and tooth decay. Health conditions and systemic diseases that can be caused or complicated by poor oral hygiene include:

  • Diabetes — Gum disease is more frequent and severe among individuals with diabetes since higher glucose levels in the mouth can encourage bacterial growth. The illness can also impair blood flow to the gums, which makes them more susceptible to infections. 
  • Respiratory conditions — Certain bacteria from tooth plaque can be pulled into the lungs, causing pneumonia and other serious respiratory diseases. 
  • Heart disease — Some research suggests that cardiovascular disease, strokes and clogged arteries might be linked to infections and inflammation caused by oral bacteria. 
  • Pregnancy — Pregnant women with periodontitis may be at increased risk of delivering preterm or low birth weight infants. 

Simple habits such as brushing and flossing your teeth daily, as well as scheduling regular cleanings by your dentist, can optimize a healthy mouth-body connection. To learn more ways your oral hygiene and overall well-being are linked, see the accompanying guide. 

The Health Connection Between Your Mouth & Body

The Health Connection Between Your Mouth & Body was created by Grove Dental Associates

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Teresa Tuttle is Marketing Director for Grove Dental Associates, a multi-specialty group dental practice in Chicago’s western suburbs. With more than 30 doctors and 50 years of practice experience, Grove Dental’s offices stay on the cutting edge of dentistry to better serve patients.   

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How To Stop Negative Thoughts & Emotions.

I’m sure you have had that experience of seeing the effect that your own thoughts have on your mood and state of awareness. When you start to observe your mind, one of the things you will observe is negative thinking patterns: self-doubt, jealousy, insecurity, fear, etc.

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I remember when I was in high school, I noticed that some days were good days, and some weren’t so good. I couldn’t figure out why. I just knew that some days I felt great and other days not so much. At that time in high school, I wasn’t very conscious of my mind – it was just an overall mood. 

As I started to become interested in meditation, I started to notice more of my thought patterns. I realized why some days are really up days and some not so much, and it had a lot to do with the thoughts that were going on in my mind. 

I’m sure you have had that experience of seeing the effect that your own thoughts have on your mood and state of awareness. When you start to observe your mind, one of the things you will observe is negative thinking patterns: self-doubt, jealousy, insecurity, fear, etc.

It’s one thing to realize where the negative patterns came from –maybe it’s something your parents said, something that was drilled into you – “You’ll never be a success,” or “You’ll never be good at this,” or “There’s no value in doing that kind of thing. You should focus on this in life.” 

We can pick it up from a lot of places including our culture and even from a close relationship that goes bad. When some of the things that someone says to you are really negative, but you care really deeply for that person, you absorb what they say. 

Strategies For Dealing with Negative Thoughts

In the philosophy of meditation, there are two basic ways to deal with the negative thoughts. 

The first is through the use of your intellect. Sometimes you think of intellect as, “Oh, this person’s very intellectual” as if they were just thinking of abstract things all the time. In meditation and yoga philosophy, we use the term intellect to signify your discriminating mind, your ability to discriminate between what’s true or what’s false. Say someone put it in your mind the thought that you’re no good. You would go through life with that thought in your head. Through the practice of meditation, developing your intellectual mind, your discriminative mind, you would come to the realization that that is incorrect – “I am a good person.” That clarity of thought would eliminate the negative thought through the use of the power of your mind, your ability to discriminate truth from falsehood.

The other way which is recommended in yoga is that when one thought wave comes – let’s say a negative thought – you counter it with an opposite thought-wave. We have one wave coming this way and another is going against it. When they meet, they cancel each other out, and you have evenness of mind!

So, for example, if the negative thought patterns that are going on involve how angry you are at somebody – how much you hate them or even hate yourself, etc. – then the way to counter that is with the opposite which would be love, unconditional love. If the thoughts or emotions are about anger towards someone, then the opposite wave would be forgiveness, and that would cancel out the anger. This involves identifying what’s going on in your mind, and then bringing in an emotion, usually, that would cancel it out. For anger or upset-ness, the opposite would be forgiveness. For doubting yourself, confidence. 

You can also incorporate imagery. Let’s say you doubt yourself, so you visualize yourself as weak, and feeble, without capacity. The opposite, then, would be to use imagery and see yourself as a powerful tiger or a big, powerful bear, or an elephant that can get through anything. Using your ability to meditate, you free your mind from pre-conceptions and change how you see yourself as well as your emotions; in that process, you realize how good it feels to shift your old patterns.

Confidence in yourself feels so much better than doubting yourself. Forgiving people feels so much better than holding on to anger. It just takes one or two times of realizing that and then it’s so easy to push through those things or to cancel them out.

Again, when dealing with your thought patterns, there are two meditation techniques that will help you to overcome the negative thoughts and emotions. The first is to develop your discrimination, separating truth from falsehood; and the second is the idea of bringing in the opposite thought or emotion to balance out whatever you’re being challenged by.

Try these out and see if they make a difference in your life!

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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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Spiritual and Other (Mis)Adventures On and Off the Grid.

There’s a saying, and the title of a wonderful book by Jon Kabat-Zinn: “Wherever you go, there you are.” My own bad habits and lack of spiritual discipline had followed me from the city to the remote mountain cabin, and back into life in a new city. To change the way I felt about my life, I didn’t actually need a radical change in scenery, but a commitment to live the way I wanted to live every day.

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Everyone has an escape fantasy—perhaps it’s a life of endless surfing in Bali, or running a vineyard in the south of France. Six years ago, I left my job as a yoga teacher to lobbyists and lawyers in Washington, D.C. in pursuit of my own escape fantasy: modern homesteading in the Colorado Rockies. I had probably read too many books about a simple life in harmony with animals and nature—so many, in fact, that I thought that’s what it was really like: part Little House on the Prairie, part Walden, part Charlottes’ Web. I had never so much as grown a tomato on the balcony, but believed in a life more homemade, more ideals-driven, and more spiritually profound than I thought the city could offer. So, what came next?

Buying 36 acres and a cabin in the middle of nowhere, Colorado, one heart-stopping hour’s drive on a backcountry mountain road away from a tiny little town. And dragging my reluctant husband, my two-year old son, and the baby in my belly—due in six months—along for the ride. Of course!

I was idealistic to a fault, to my detriment, to the annoyance and sometimes infuriation of everyone close to me. There was much I rejected about the city: the rampant exploitation of people and the earth to fuel a consumerist model of economic growth, the attachment to stress as a status symbol; the traffic and air pollution. Through hard work and food self-sufficiency, I believed I would finally fulfill my desire to do more good and less harm to this living planet while cultivating the ability to be deeply present that, despite my job as a yoga teacher, was lacking for me and my family in our city life. My meditation practice had only shallow and scattered roots—I had tried so many methods, and had drifted away from the path as much as stayed on it. As a condo-living city dweller, I lacked all connection to dirt, and believed that the natural environment and my spiritual practice were somehow fundamentally linked.

In place of forgettable character-themed birthday parties and high-pressure schools, I wanted my children to hold day-old chicks in their hands and live their whole lives with wild places imprinted in their memories. We would trace the fine pinpoints of constellations instead of the coarse fog of light pollution; our imaginations would be fed by the narratives of animal and plant life unfolding around us, not the manufactured dramas of television. We would know that real food isn’t packaged in plastic because our hands had coaxed nourishment from the ground.

As my husband and I quit our jobs and packed up an entire life’s worth of city accouterments, I convinced my dad to go in on the venture because I knew he longed for fiery orange sunsets backed by a vast, mountain scape on a piece of land he could call home. The 36-acre homestead brimmed in my mind’s eye with wonder and potential. I could build a yoga yurt set against the breathtaking mountain vista and bring students for classes and retreats: a combination sustainable homestead/yoga and spiritual center. Possibilities were endless.

I found that I no longer needed to-do lists; the first year of homesteading goals were etched plainly in my mind: Grow the biggest, best food garden ever. Raise all kinds of animals, humanely, for milk, meat, eggs and wool. Hunt, dress, catch and freeze game and fish. Knead, bake, can, sprout and ferment every manner of food I knew—and more that I didn’t. Fix, patch, sew, darn and knit. Form instantaneous and lifelong bonds with neighboring homesteaders. Transform a family marked by anxiety and convenience-addiction into a resourceful, hardy, multigenerational mountain household. Love every minute of it.

People grow food and raise animals all over the world, I told myself. I was tough and outdoorsy. I had read all about modern homesteading. I had this—no problem. Right?

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As it turns out, homesteading was nothing—nothing at all—like the glossy magazine photos of pretty women in stitched aprons with broad smiles and a fiddle in one hand, a skillet apple pie in the other. Instead, cold penetrated every fiber and left our cheeks permanently frozen and raw—until the heat came. That brought its own dry form of suffering. Spiders dropped from the many crooks and crevices of our picturesque cabin onto our pillows at night. Big spiders. Food gardening, begun with starry-eyed optimism, soon proved technical, rife with battles between human and small mammal—not at all like my fantasies of communing with a giving earth. The farm animals we tried to keep were threatened by fox, bobcat, snake and bear. I soon felt more—not less—scattered and discombobulated than I had in the city. Presence eluded me, and my yoga and meditation practice languished in the dust of all the chores and worries.

Isolation proved the toughest burden of all.  By seeking a closer bond with my husband, our son, the baby to come, and with my father, I had unwittingly isolated us from everyone else. I had imagined a community of homesteaders on the mountain—though no evidence had existed for them—and when that proved the stuff of fantasy, we were left mainly looking at one another. Ironically, without a wider interpersonal safety net, even those closest family relationships were strained because we needed the village, or city—the social ecosystem that provided inspiration, comic relief and technical support to the many endeavors of life. The 36 acres of untamed mountain beauty and the picturesque little cabin began to feel more like a prison than a vehicle of liberation.

There was also the incident where my husband met me at the door with a gun because he thought I—noisily wresting bags and parcels out of the trunk of our car—was a bear breaking into the garage. And so sooner, rather than later, we pronounced ourselves unfit for the job of homesteading—we fled.

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I should have been devastated by the loss of a dream. Our financial burdens mounted under the humiliating shadow of having to move ourselves and our son into the upstairs half of my in-laws’ home in Orange County. My husband and I were both unemployed for over a year, our second baby was due imminently, and Orange County—with its tangle of freeways, chain stores, and affluent suburbs as far as the eye can see—was the last place I would have imagined living. Yet there was peace in my heart, at long last, in compromise.

Ideals are just that—to strive for, not to be realized all at once. After giving homesteading my all, and failing pretty spectacularly, I realized that I’d rather be happy than righteous. And for me, happiness is both an inside and an outside job: working on that steady connection to my center through asana and meditation goes hand in hand with finding a community and a place to feel at home. Here, at last, in San Diego, I’ve journeyed further than ever along the path of cultivating both the inner sources of contentment, as well as the community of like-minded yogis and natural-living folks that inspire and support me.

I’ve learned that life is messy and full of wrong turns. The world doesn’t conform to my ideals. I may never wake up and say, this is the culmination of everything I’ve ever wanted. For as long as I could remember, I’d had a sense that finding the right city, state or country, the right property and house, the right way to earn a living, the right community, would signal, now my life is starting for real. But no, I realize, life is here and now, happening under my nose. I couldn’t be truly present with my spiritual practice in Washington, D.C., nor did I find the lasting peace I sought in the country. But that wasn’t the fault of either place. It was my own. And it could be changed.

There’s a saying, and the title of a wonderful book by Jon Kabat-Zinn: “Wherever you go, there you are.” My own bad habits and lack of spiritual discipline had followed me from the city to the remote mountain cabin, and back into life in a new city. To change the way I felt about my life, I didn’t actually need a radical change in scenery, but a commitment to live the way I wanted to live every day—with wonder and appreciation for my abundant blessings, with deeply rooted presence for myself, my family, and my yoga students. After all these years of talking about the benefits of gratitude and meditation, and of practicing them on and (mostly) off, I finally find myself with the motivation, and the ability, to practice daily.

***

While trying to live my dream, I discovered that I’m not as alternative, nor as tough, as I thought. And that’s actually alright. I’m a person with ideals and contradictions. Accepting life as it is—and myself, as I am—inclusive of all the flaws, while stumbling along half-blind: that’s a more realistic view. When my kids are older, I’d like to give homesteading another try, but in a more incremental way, and in a place that suits me better.

Meanwhile, there’s much I can do in a city like San Diego that I couldn’t do on the mountain: walking my kids to school, and biking to work. Bartering goods and services with those in my community so that we can all have more while buying less. Shopping local. Maybe experimenting with a little urban homestead in my postage-stamp North Park yard—because although I’m done with the full-tilt rural homesteading fantasy for now, I’m not done searching for our good life. We could have a small organic garden and a few hens. Maybe even some bees, and a couple of milking goats (the city of San Diego permits two miniature goats on single-family lots)—when we’re ready. And one day soon, I’m pretty sure we will be.

 

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Danielle Simone Brand (aka Danielle Brand-LeMond) is a mother of two, a die-hard idealist, and a breaker of conventions. An instructor of Flowing Yoga and Prenatal Yoga at Pilgrimage of the Heart and elsewhere, she has been teaching yoga since 2003, and practicing since 1996. She holds a BA from Dartmouth College and an MA from American University and has worked as a staff writer, an academic editor, and a researcher on issues of international conflict resolution. Having grown up in suburban Hawaii, Danielle had no practical rural skills, nor any reason to believe she could handle a true Colorado winter. All she had was her yearning for a homemade life for her family—and the willingness to write about it. Her memoir manuscript about following that dream is entitled, A Good, Good Life: Misadventures (Almost) Off the Grid.

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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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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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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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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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Health Benefits of Massage & Spa Treatments

Massage is an ancient technique and is practiced in many traditional medicine systems. One of a number of hands-on practices…

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Massage and spa treatments offer an opportunity to be pampered and soothed in pleasant surroundings. Many people enjoy these treatments as a way to “get away from it all.” While many of these treatments have cosmetic effects, some also provide health benefits.

What is Massage Therapy?

Massage is an ancient technique and is practiced in many traditional medicine systems. One of a number of hands-on practices collectively known as bodywork, massage has long been known to have benefits for the musculoskeletal system. In traditional healing, it is also a way to deliver herbal medicines through the skin or from inhaling the essential oils mixed into the massage oil. Massage may include stroking, pressing, tapping, kneading and other tissue techniques as well as the use of heated stones, joint manipulation and stretching exercises.

Different Types of Massage

There are dozens of different forms of massage.

  • Swedish massage– one of the most common forms; it uses long strokes of muscles and tissues. The masseuse adjusts the pressure from light to firm depending on the client’s preferences and needs.
  • Deep tissue massage — as the name implies, this type of massage targets tissues and muscles under the surface layer of skin. This is designed to realign tissues and loosen the fascia, or tight covering over the individual muscles, and requires very firm pressure.
  • Neuromuscular therapy– combines massage with techniques to mobilize stiff and painful joints or correct muscle imbalances.
  • Shiatsu– blends mild caresses with direct pressure on individual pressure or trigger points to help relax and relieve pain.
  • Thai massage– combines massage with yoga-like postures, which can help loosen the joints and correct skeletal alignment. The massage therapist may use hands, feet, legs and knees to position you correctly during the massage.

The Many Health Benefits of Massage Therapy

Some of the effects of massage have been well-studied, while others rely on anecdotal reports. There is no question that massage can relax you and help to relieve stress. Research has shown that massage can:

  • Reduce fatigue
  • Relieve multiple sclerosis by reducing pain and tight (spastic) muscles
  • Reduce pain and anxiety in post-surgical patients for chest or abdominal surgery or any kind of surgery that is related to muscles or ligaments. It is also an effective treatment for those with general myalgia
  • Lower blood pressure, with the effects lasting up to 72 hours in one study.
  • Relieve tense muscles and reduces spasms; it has been found
  • Relieve chronic pain conditions and migraine headaches.

Researchers have even found that Swedish massage can increase a type of white blood cells that help protect against viruses.

What are Spa Treatments?

Although massage is probably the most common and popular spa treatment, others include facials and body treatments such as waxing or salt scrubs and body wraps with seaweed or minerals. A spa might also offer more advanced services like a chemical peel or laser therapy or permanent hair removal with electrolysis. Manicures and pedicures are also common, and many spas also offer additional services such as hair cuts, styling, coloring and makeup.

Health Benefits of Spa Treatments

The health benefits of spa therapies have not been as well studied as massage. However, there is evidence that regular spa visits are correlated with fewer sick days, better sleep and fewer hospitalizations. For example, exfoliating the skin with scrubs and similar treatments helps remove dead skin cells and may improve circulation and lymphatic drainage. Hot tubs and other heated therapies can relax muscles and help relieve chronic pain. Simply being pampered in a spa can promote the release of the “feel good” chemicals called endorphins, which in turn can help reduce stress.

If nothing else, a spa is a place to get away. For many people it is the ability to disconnect from the outside world that is most important. Being pampered and coddled doesn’t hurt, either. The best way to find out if massage and spa therapy work for you is simply to try it.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sarah Biel is a popular well recognized health and lifestyle expert. Sarah is well qualified in her field and is passionate about the well being, and mental state of her clients. Sarah works at Sukhavati Ayurvedic Retreat and Spa which offers life changing treatments based on ancient healing practices.

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Examples Of Companies Using Mindfulness: How It Affects Their Bottom Line

In today’s working environment, many of us spend more time at work…

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Photo by rawpixel.com on Unsplash

In today’s working environment, many of us spend more time at work than we do at home. Often thrown together with a group of people that we’ve never met before, we’re expected to work, collaborate and be productive in an environment that’s largely alien to the way we have historically built communities. It’s therefore no surprise that things don’t always go smoothly, and research suggests that the hours we spend at work are the least happy of our lives.

At the worst end of the spectrum are the horrors of workplace bullying, overbearing managers and internal conflict, and at the rosier end of the corporate rainbow is indifference, a lack of caring and reduced productivity. In an increasingly knowledge based economy, the success of a business is inherently linked with the mental dexterity, motivation and collaboration within its workforce. Poor working relationships and any subsequent stress can erode these very attributes, spelling disaster for the future performance of a business.

In an attempt to address these issues, new perspectives on employee wellbeing have been emerging over recent years, with mindfulness programs the seemingly “go to” solution for many organizations.

In simple terms, mindfulness is Buddhist tradition that focuses on moment-to-moment awareness. The practice of being mindful is to be aware of yourself and your surroundings, observing your thoughts without judgment or criticism. By acknowledging that these thoughts are transient in nature, you can start to appreciate that you are not your thoughts, and you have a choice about whether to act on them or not.

Backed by an increasing wealth of scientific evidence, business owners have been implementing a variety of mindfulness wellbeing initiatives throughout the corporate landscape; but do they actually work, and does it make a tangible difference to the bottom line?

In order to answer the question, it’s important to consider that the cost of stress on a business is twofold. First, there’s the direct cost that stress has on associated medical conditions, and according to the World Health Organization, stress is estimated to cost American businesses $300 billion a year.

Secondly, there’s the cost associated with a lack of creativity, reduced performance and productivity. While the latter is often much more difficult to quantify, there are organizations who have measured the impact of mindfulness, and the various effect that it’s had on their organization.

Aetna

Aetna is an American managed health care company that sells a variety of health insurance plans to its 46 million customers. Before he became CEO, Mark Bertolini almost died on a family skiing holiday, and during his recovery he used a combination of yoga and meditation to help manage the pain. The results were so profound that he fundamentally changed the way he viewed his recovery, and it inspired him to make a variety of health and wellbeing initiatives available for Aetna’s 50,000 employees, including free yoga and meditation classes.

With two mindfulness programs launched in 2010, Aetna collaborated with Duke University, eMindful, and the American Viniyoga Institute in order to study and understand the impact the wellbeing initiatives had on the organisation.

According to the research, participants showed significant improvement in perceived stress levels and various heart rate measurements, demonstrating that their bodies were better able to manage the various stresses that naturally occur during the working day.

The research also showed that highly stressed employees incurred an additional $2,000 per year in health care costs. With health care costs that total more than $90 million a year, the mindfulness initiative not only reduced the cost by 7 percent (a saving of $6.3 million per annum), but productivity gains amounted to $3,000 per employee.

General Mills

Janice Marturano was appointed by General Mills in 1996 as part of the organizations’ legal department, heading up policy work around trade regulation. After becoming embroiled in a £10.5 billion acquisition that lasted 18 months, combined with the sad loss of both parents during this period, the pressure and strain became too much, and Janice was left emotionally and physical drained.

After being offered an opportunity to attend a meditation retreat – led by Jon-Kabat-Zinn – the 6-day experience was the start of a daily meditation practice that she has continued ever since. With improvements in focus, emotional resilience and her overall quality of life, Janice decided to bring her lessons in mindfulness to General Mills in an ongoing pursuit to remake an entire corporate culture.

Now, more than 500 General Mills employees have taken part in the organizations’ mindfulness wellbeing program, and every building in the campus contains a meditation room, complete with yoga mats for employees to grab a few minutes of relaxation throughout the day.

Since the introduction of the program, the company’s reputation improved – with Leadership Excellence Magazine ranking it the best for developing leaders in 2012 – and after taking one of their seven-week courses, 80% of senior executives reported a positive change in their ability to make better decisions, and 89% saying they became better listeners.

Overall, the wellbeing program has helped employees to become more empathetic with each other, promoting a happy, healthy and engaging environment that’s viewed as a great place to work, 

Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF)

Mindfulness has been a core theme for legal firm HSF for more than 10 years. Murray Paterson is the head of learning and development, and initially designed the mindfulness program to help support employees who frequently work in a highly pressured and stressful environment.

With many employees working long hours, and with an emphasis on detailed, accurate work, mindfulness was seen as a valuable technique that would help focus employees attention and improve the quality of work produced.

To date approximately 200 employees have gone through the 6-week mindfulness program that includes weekly mindfulness sessions for anyone who wants to drop in, a weekly hour and a half session learning how to work more effectively in the office, and a daily 10 minutes guided practice via a pre-recorded message.

Available to everyone, from senior executives to new, junior employees, some of the results from their internal research include:

  • 12% increase in employee focus
  • 10% increase in employee performance
  • 10% increase in employee efficiency
  • 17% increase in employee work/life balance
  • 11% increase in employee communication skills

According to Murray Paterson, there’s a strong correlation between their mindfulness practice and reduced feelings of stress, and employees are working in a way where they feel calm and focussed on the task at hand.

The variety of Mindfulness initiatives, from both large and small organizations, is reshaping significant corners of the corporate world. While many businesses will still value profits above all else, mindfulness initiatives are proving that supporting the wellbeing of staff and increasing quarterly profits aren’t mutually exclusive.

Does your business need a wellness program at work to ensure happy, healthy and productive employees? Pilgrimage Yoga Online specializes in workplace wellness and mindfulness, and has the skills necessary to coach beginners on the skills and practices necessary to stay balanced at work. Contact us today at sujantra@pilgrimageyoga.com to learn more about our workplace wellness specialities.

BIO: This post was written by The Minded Institute, a world leader in the development and implementation of yoga therapy and mindfulness programs for those with mental health and chronic physical health problems.

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Kirtan Yoga Music: 5 Do’s and Don’ts of Singing Kirtan

I have been chanting and singing Kirtans since I was first introduced to it by my grandmother

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I have been chanting and singing Kirtans since I was first introduced to it by my grandmother in the early 1980s. Her soft tender hands would hold my little hands and off we would walk to the nearby Kirtan center in India. The format was slightly different than what we experience today here in the west. It was a much more traditional style of singing – Kirtans with long lyrics, Indian folk and classical melodies, only traditional Indian instrument such as Tabla drums or Mridamgams.

I moved to Los Angeles area in 2002 and started exploring yoga studios and Kirtan centers. It was fascinating for me to see how western Kirtan leaders combined their own flavor of music with ancient mantras and chant and created beautiful melody. Here in the West, lyrics are short so that people can easily chant and sing back. Since then my spiritual singing practice has taken me to hundreds of Kirtan gatherings – from large festivals to small intimate gatherings, I have experienced it all.

Kirtan is a call and response style of singing that originated in India and became popular around the 12th century. There is a lead singer who introduces a chant or mantra at a low tempo. Participants respond back. There are typically some instrumentalist to help get the music going. Harmonium, Tabla drum, Mridamgam drums or Guitars, Sitars etc Once everyone is comfortable with melody and lyric, lead singer slowly builds up the tempo and music gets more intense and fast. People typically start clapping and break into a joyful dance. There is this feeling of buzz that people often relate to after Kirtan.

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In my experience, I have noticed people smiling, giggling and much more relaxed after Kirtan. Here are the five Do’s and Don’t’s of kirtan.

DO’S

  1. Bring Your Heart

Kirtan singing is not a private activity. When you attend a Kirtan you will encounter lots of people – some chatty, some quite, some overly gregarious, some serious and everyone else in between. Come with an open heart. We all have our own life story and experiences that make us what we are. We all have different personalities. Embrace it with all your heart. It’s not necessary to stress or feel discomforted by the variety. It is what makes us unique. By allowing others to be themselves openly and freely, it opens a window of opportunity for us to do the same.

  1. Open up your voice

Look, I totally understand that you may not be the best singer in town. Neither is the person next to you or the one next to him/her. When we sing together your voice is not going to be the only voice. In Kirtan, voices merge together to create one sound. It is the singing together that mattes. Contribute yours. Make the experience count by singing out loud. Remember there are musicians, lead singers, other participants etc. We’re all in this together, so sing your heart out.

  1. Keep your ego away

This is a hard one for all of us. If you are a trained musician, don’t get all worked up if someone next to you is singing out of tune. It does not matter. Kirtan singing is not about technical singing at all. It is about sharing the melody and love that music creates. If you happen to be the Kirtan leader, try not to create Kirtans with intricate melodies or odd time signatures. You can keep them for your solo/band performances. Kirtan should to be simple and soulful. The idea is to encourage everyone to sing and participate, no mater how it looks or sounds.

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  1. Be in the present moment

This is a pretty obvious one. Nonetheless, it’s easy to let our mind wander off to the stuff we want to forget about—that nosy co-worker, that guy in red Mercedes who cut us off, that person who gave us a left handed compliment and said “you look so nice with your makeup on.” Hmm what did she mean by that?

Let it all go and fade away. Although I am a firm believer of not suppressing your inner voice and thoughts, Kirtan is not a place to think about these. On the contrary, you participate in Kirtan to get such clutter out of your mind. The best way to do that is to become interested in participating fully in the kirtan experience, so that it’s possible to be in the present moment and enjoy.

  1. Embrace new words

Whether you are attending your very first Kirtan, or if it is your 154th, you will encounter words that are new and difficult for you. Kirtans are mostly written in Sanskrit – a foreign language that is not only new to you but is pretty darn hard even for people from the land where it originates from – India. So it is totally okay to skip a word or replace it with something that fits (as long as it is appropriate!) If you don’t get it the first time, try again. Kirtan singing is repetitive. The lead singer is going to be singing the same line again and again and again. So you will get plenty of chances to catch up. Be patient with yourself and people around you.

DON’TS

  1. Don’t beat yourself up

Really- isn’t that the entire idea of Kirtan? Don’t sweat it if you sing something wrong. You can observe and learn the next time. Don’t panic if you don’t know what the hell you are singing. Go with the flow- or don’t go- just let it flow.

  1. Don’t let your Kids go wild

Parents, guardians, grand-parents – I love kids and have my own. If you want to bring your kids to a Kirtan, remember to take care of them and keep them with you. Kirtans are not play dates or a time for them to start learning a new instrument. I enjoy being around kids and feel they can benefit greatly from Kirtans and meditation. However, as parents we need to teach them that Kirtan sessions are supposed to be a place where all participants are relaxed in meditation. Be mindful of others and either book a baby-sitter or talk to your kids about what to expect from a Kirtan before heading out.

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  1. Don’t feel pressured to sing

I know I said above open your voice and sing. This is by no means a legally binding statement – you absolutely don’t have to sing if you just want to come, relax, and listen. Some people gain the same feeling of joy and meditation without uttering one word. If that’s the kind of person you are, don’t feel compelled to sing. The important thing is to be surrounded by the sound waves and energy. A lot of people find it easier to concentrate by singing but there are also those who feel more comfortable as a fly on the wall—a silent participator. If you are able to connect with your inner self and avoid distractions without singing and you don’t want to sing, then by all means, don’t sing.

  1. Don’t be uncomfortable

Typically Kirtan singing involves sitting down on the floor and singing for a couple of hours. If you are not used to it, there is no obligation for you to follow it. Bring a folding chair, yoga block or whatever you need to be comfortable. You don’t need to suffer and think about your knee pain while participating in a Kirtan. It will distract you from singing and be counter-productive.Be comfortable, be present.

  1. Don’t stand right in front of others

This one is my favorite. I have a good friend who always posts pictures of people behind who stand right in front of her and block her view during Kirtans. You may say, what is there to see in Kirtan- it is mostly dark anyway. But the person behind you might want to look at the lead singer, the musicians or other sites in the room. Being able to make eye contact with our surroundings, can help keep us focused and tuned in to what the singers are saying. Some lead singers make hand gestures to help cue the audience when to sing. If you’re a tall person who loves to stand, perhaps the back of the room is a better choice.

Would you like to explore the wonderful world of Kirtan? Here in San Diego, Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga offers weekly kirtan in normal heights on Thursday nights. You can also study with us right here, at our online studio, and learn the basics of kirtan chants and see videos of kirtan performances. We hope to see you soon!

 

 

Author Bio: Kamini is a Kirtan and Indian Classical Singer based in LA area. She is the author of Kirtan eBook Indian Ragas for Kirtans. Kamini’s Kirtans bring out her deep spiritual background. They are extremely mystical and magnificently divine. People are left mesmerized by her angelic voice, her intricate improvisations, her odd meter rhythms and most importantly her radiant warm smile. For more information and to stay in touch, visit her website or facebook.

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How To Maximize Athletic Performance With Minerals: Magnesium Edition

Are you feeling exhausted or getting unusual muscle cramps during workouts?…

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By Brian Bishop

Are you feeling exhausted or getting unusual muscle cramps during workouts? Have you eaten enough but still find that you lack the energy to move the way you want to?

It could have something to do with magnesium.

What Is Magnesium & Why Is It Important?

Magnesium is an essential mineral that the body needs in large amounts in order to produce energy. It participates in over 300 bio-chemical reactions on a cellular level, and its primary role is to balance the body’s ability to function properly by acting as enzyme co-factors (agents that allow enzymes to do their job better). One of magnesium’s vital roles is in the chemical reactions that generate adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which is the fundamental unit of energy inside our cells.

The organelle in each cell responsible for producing ATP are the mitochondria, which are small power generators that convert oxygen into ATP. A key benefit of magnesium is its ability to help produce more mitochondria during exercise, which ultimately means more ATP and more sustained energy.

There are two ways to become a high performing athlete:

1. Increase the total number of mitochondria

and

2. Increase the efficiencies of the mitochondria

More magnesium in our diets can set off a chain reaction by increasing mitochondrion in the cells, which facilitates the creation of more ATP, which we experience as stamina, endurance and strength.

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How Does Magnesium Help Improve Performance?

To increase exercise performance, cells must be able to consume more oxygen. This is known as ‘oxidative capacity’ and is the ability to breakdown oxygen in your muscle cells via the mitochondria, which we now know is crucial in the development of ATP, which is essentially our biochemical way of storing and using energy in our muscles. This means that to be an efficient athlete, we must produce more ATP than we are consuming. Otherwise we will feel muscle fatigue, tiredness and may even experience muscle cramps.

How To Maximize Both Magnesium & Mitochondria

Studies have shown that exercises like high-intensity interval training (HIIT) can increase the development of new mitochondria. This is done by cloning the cells via enzymes that require magnesium as a cofactor. Low magnesium levels reduces our ability to make new mitochondria and thus our ability to maximize exercise performance diminishes.

Here are daily optimal magnesium intakes for women and men:

  • Women – 310 mg
  • Men – 420 mg

Try out these sources for incorporating more magnesium into your diet:

  • Dark, leafy greens like kale, spinach, collard greens.
  • Fruits like avocado, banana and figs
  • Nuts like sesame seeds, almonds, walnuts, and cashews
  • Beans
  • Dark chocolate

 

About The Author:

Brian_bioBrian Bishop is a true health and nutrition enthusiast. He loves to read, watch and listen to anything about health. He is the best nootropics guide as he is always experimenting on himself for best results. Brian wants to share his knowledge so others can enjoy the benefits.

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Meditation Podcast E57: Nurturing Self-Love

Nurturing Self-love. Honoring your mind’s tranquility and your life’s purpose (dharma)…

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The Pilgrimage of the Heart Mediation Podcast is a recorded broadcast of Sujantra’s weekly Tuesday night meditation class held in San Diego California. Each week Sujantra introduces a new topic related to meditation and leads the class through various types of meditations including: visual concentration, yogic concentration, breathing techniques, chanting and much more.

Ep 57: Nurturing Self-love. Honoring your mind’s tranquility and your life’s purpose (dharma).

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6 Surprising Benefits of Yoga

Those who practice yoga regularly probably find this title a little surprising in itself. Practitioners often speak…

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By Sally Holland

Those who practice yoga regularly probably find this title a little surprising in itself. Practitioners often speak of the many benefits that yoga brings to their lives – a greater sense of calmness, new opportunities for social interaction, a boost in self-confidence or enhanced physical fitness, and many more. But beyond our personal experience with yoga, there are many documented benefits for body, mind and spirit as well. The next time you speak to someone who doubts the extent to which yoga can change their life, mention these recent scientific findings:

1. Yoga reduces stress

Studies have shown that the regular practice of yoga reduces stress hormone levels, improves mood and battles fatigue, even in life-changing challenges such as breast cancer. Yoga is currently recommended for those who experience chronic stress and is a popular supplemental therapy in a wide range of settings, including rehabilitation centers and counseling sessions for individuals with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and eating disorders.

Peace and Serenity

2. Yoga encourages compassion for others and ourselves

In Buddhism, there is no distinction between compassion for others (being kind and understanding with someone, no matter the circumstances) and self-compassion (being kind and forgiving with ourselves). The yogic frame of mind involves self-acceptance, which elevates us to a higher plane than mere self-confidence. Confidence enables us to be proud when we achieve great things, yet self-compassion is more important because it encourages acceptance even when we have failed to meet our own or others’ standards.

3. Yoga can help with back pain

A recent study published in January 2017 in the Cochrane Library found that yoga may lead to a reduction of pain and increased functional ability in people with chronic, non-specific back pain. Other studies have shown it can help with chronic neck pain, and even migraines.

4. Yoga can help battle anxiety

Anxiety is one of the most common mental conditions on a global scale, and is characterized by the constant arousal of the fight of flight reaction. During an anxiety attack, individuals can feel dizzy, think they are having a heart attack, or have a full-blown panic attack which involves hyperventilation. Hyperventilation is caused by rapid inhalation (flooding one’s system with oxygen). This is why someone having a panic attack is often given a paper bag to breathe into. Yoga can help with this because it places great importance on controlled breathing (pranayama). This type of breathing instantly lowers the heart rate, thus being of great use to stop a panic attack from arising. An interesting report published in the International Journal of Yoga Therapy, shows that yoga helps those who suffer from anxiety, who also tend to worry constantly and get locked in patterns of negative thinking. These types of thoughts are often linked to the past or the future. Yoga is very much a mindful activity, which involves ‘being in the here and now’, focusing on aspects such as breathing and the correct performance of asanas.

5. Yoga can help stave off depression

One study shows that Sudarshan Kriya yoga (which is centered around breathing) can alleviate symptoms of severe depression in individuals who do not respond well to antidepressant medication.

6. Yoga can help with arthritis

Studies have shown that yoga is safe and effective for people with arthritis, bringing significant improvement in mood and symptoms. In one study carried out by scientists at John Hopkins Medicine, it was found that eight weeks of yoga classes improved the physical and mental health of people with knee and rheumatoid arthritis. Compared to a control group which did not practice yoga, those who attended the sessions had a 20% improvement in pain, mood, physical functions and vitality! They were also able to increase their walking speed and complete more physical tasks at work and at home. Chair yoga in particular is very useful for those with limited mobility, since it provides them with the support and sense of safety.

A considerable body of scientific research has focused on the many benefits of yoga. Over the past decade, many more findings have been made. These include yoga’s ability to stimulate brain function, improve the quality of life of people with certain types of heart disease, encourage mindful eating, reduce pain associated with fibromyalgia and so much more.

If you have never tried yoga before, discover how it can change your own life after just a few sessions.

 

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Meditation Podcast E46: Peace in Every Human Life

Peace in every human life. Meditation on creating peace in your heart and life…

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The Pilgrimage of the Heart Mediation Podcast is a recorded broadcast of Sujantra’s weekly Tuesday night meditation class held in San Diego California. Each week Sujantra introduces a new topic related to meditation and leads the class through various types of meditations including: visual concentration, yogic concentration, breathing techniques, chanting and much more.

Ep 46: Peace in every human life. Meditation on creating peace in your heart and life.

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Philosophy Podcast E35 – Death and the Sheaths of Life

Death and the Sheaths of life… Exploring the philosophy behind death and reincarnation…

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Explore the spiritual philosophy of India and see how it applies to your own life and situations. Host Sujantra McKeever of San Diego, CA, is the author of 5 books. He leads you on a journey to the East that ends up back in your own backyard. We hope you find an insight that truly hits home.

Ep 35 – Death and the Sheaths of life… Exploring the philosophy behind death and reincarnation.

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Running 3100 Miles for Inner Peace

The Self-Transcendence 3100-Mile Race is held annually on a concrete footpath around an 883-metre block…

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Running 3100 Miles for Inner Peace

An Interview with Grahak Cunningham from Australia by Sujantra

 

The Self-Transcendence 3100-Mile Race is held annually on a concrete footpath around an 883-metre block in Queens, New York. Founded by Sri Chinmoy, it is the world’s longest foot race. Runners are given 18 hours a day, from 6:00 a.m. to midnight, for 51 days, to run a minimum of 60 miles a day to complete the distance. Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga asked Australian motivational speaker, author and four time finisher of the Self Transcendence 3100 Mile Race, Grahak Cunningham, three questions.

grahak1
 

Why do you run in this event it?

I often ask myself the same question when I am having a difficult day! My running career up to the 3100 was pretty uneventful. I started running when I was 19. I progressed from shorter distances to ten-kilometre races to half-marathon and marathon events. I entered my first ultra on a whim (47 miles) in 2005 aged 28, which was the day after I had done a marathon. It wasn’t easy but after finishing I started to think about multi-day running.

“If we have self-belief we can do anything provided we put our heart and soul into it.”

I heard about the 3100 and watched a friend finish. Inspired, I knew I had to do it one day and consoled myself with the ridiculous thought ‘I did a 47 mile race and a marathon the next day. If I had to I could probably do that all over again, across a number of days.’ I basically shelved the idea of running the 3100 but then Sri Chinmoy, perhaps noticing my interest inwardly to do the race, asked me a few times if I had run the 3100. When a Master asks something like that he is doing a few things: indicating you have the capacity, suggesting you would benefit tremendously spiritually if you do it and of course helping you inwardly every step of the way if you do decide to compete. I prepared, planned, trained and entered at age 30. Finishing the race was a real turning point in my life. It showed me that it really is possible to go beyond our limits—if we just try. I think if we have self-belief we can do anything provided we put our heart and soul into it.

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Do you do Yoga?

I do a lot of breathing, meditation and visualization techniques in the race so that for me is yoga. Often the runners will do different Asana’s to stretch, de-stress or get rid of tightness and soreness. Inspired by them I did try it more and more. I am actually injured at the moment so I have taken it up seriously. I love it and despite being injured, yoga has made me probably the most flexible I have ever been. My favorites are the shoulder stand, head stand and cobra to dog.

You have written a book, Running Beyond the Marathon. Can you tell us about the book?

The book aims to share some of the things I have learnt along the way to completing the 3100 mile race four times. The book helps show the connection to the spiritual and the physical and meditation and running. Hopefully it illustrates to the reader that we can achieve anything in life. Here is an excerpt: “Life itself is a challenge and no achievement worth striving for, whether it is athletic, career-based or personal, is going to come easily to anyone. First we have to work hard and only then can we get the reward and the feeling of achievement that comes with it. If life were easy, if we were handed everything on a silver platter, there wouldn’t be the same sense of satisfaction.

“It is not human nature
To enjoy what we get
With no effort.”
-Sri Chinmoy

 
Completing 3100 miles on foot is tough. To cover the immense distance, to conquer negative thoughts, pain, doubts and despair, takes inner fortitude and a desire to extend yourself. You have to willingly go outside your comfort zone and do whatever it takes to keep moving forward. The Self-Transcendence 3100 Mile Race, for those who want it to be, is a spiritual journey of self-discovery, of reaching towards our limitless potential.

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Every step was taking me closer and closer towards my goal. The feeling I got from bettering and improving myself, reaching miles way beyond my previous personal best, far outweighed the physical and mental difficulties I faced. Soldiering forwards through days five and six my overall total was 342 miles. An average well below what I needed to finish. It had been a hard slog to get to the start. The hours of preparation and thousands of kilometres training maybe wasn’t enough.”

Thanks for talking to us today Grahak, your adventures are a real inspiration!
 
beyond_marathonOne of Australia’s best motivational speakers, keynote speakers and performance trainers, Perth resident Grahak Cunningham is an ordinary Australian who dared to dream. He book Running Beyond the Marathon is available on Amazon.com.

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Philosophy Podcast E19: The Banishment Of Sita [Ramayana]

Queen Sita is banished by King Rama for a wrong she never committed…

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Explore the spiritual philosophy of India and see how it applies to your own life and situations. Host Sujantra McKeever of San Diego, CA, is the author of 5 books. He leads you on a journey to the East that ends up back in your own backyard. We hope you find an insight that truly hits home.

Ep 19: Queen Sita is banished by King Rama for a wrong she never committed…

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Yoga Sutras – Om

When I meditate I always begin and end my practice by chanting Om…

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When I meditate I always begin and end my practice by chanting Om. It’s like stepping through a portal. I usually chant it several times until I really feel a strong connection/punctuation… I chant it externally. Then I chant it internally. The vibration in my throat stops but the vibration in my heart-universe continues.

The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, expounded upon by Swami Vivekananda (also see) in his book, Raja-Yoga, particularly addresses the use of the syllable Om in aphorism 27 (The word that manifests Him is Om.) and 28 (The repetition of this (Om) and meditating on its meaning [is the way]).

Tom on Harmonium

What is God’s name?

I find it interesting that try as we might, it is impossible to put a definitive name to ‘God.’ Every thought in the mind has a corresponding word, a symbol. Thought and word are inseparable. If the symbol (word) corresponds to the thing signified then we are assured that there is a valid relationship: the symbol can then conger the thought. However, many symbols, many words can represent the same thought.

Vivekananda posits that there might be hundreds of words for ‘God’ across the globe. But there must be some underlying generalization that can be distilled from all these names. There must be some common ground in all these names. That common name would then best represent them all.

Patanjali suggests the common ground is Om.

Notice a variety of ‘God’-names: God, Yahweh, Jehovah, Allah, Brahma, Shiva, Buddha… notice that each name contains the syllable, ‘Ah,’ closely corresponding to the first part of the pronunciation of the syllable Om (or AUM, Ahh-Ooo-Mmm). Speculating that someone from England might not recognize the Pakistani or Japanese word for ‘God,’ for example, never-the-less both might be familiar with Om and would recognize the underlying thought. It’s interesting to note that many ‘God’-names are preceded by adjectives to qualify them, like Personal God, Absolute God, Christian God, etc., limiters. Yet Om requires no qualifiers, having around it all significances.

PYO

Repetition of Om and Meditation on its Meaning

Whether vocalized or silent, repetition of Om creates vibrational energy in our bodies, minds and in the universe. As we have already determined Om to be divine, Vivekananda equates chanting Om to be, “…keeping good company with the mind.” And he suggest that, “One moment of company with the holy builds a ship to cross this ocean of life: such is the power of association.” So we repeat Om and meditate on its meaning. Om is the foundational expression for ‘God’ in this context. It is an utterance without qualification. The more it is repeated, the more it is considered, the greater the association and, “Thus light will come to you; the Self will become manifest.”

Swami Vivekananda

Swami Vivekananda (Image via Wikipedia)

Vivekananda really pushes the idea of keeping good company, specifically, good company with the purity of ‘God’ by virtue of repetition and meditation. We all have the old scars and wounds. We each have within us the potential for the greatest good or the greatest evil. Keeping evil company (thought, word, deed, associations, etc.) is like picking an open wound. It will manifest as a festering lesion. Repetition and meditation on the meaning of Om will bring to the surface those perhaps latent good impressions and qualities and build a strong foundation for introspection and the destruction of obstacles, those negative qualities which hinder our spiritual growth.

Chanting Om is as foundational as is breath. Ujjayi breathing is simply chanting Om using only the breath, foregoing vibrating the vocal chords.

When I first began my yoga life I truly thought the breath work was kind of trivial and silly; such a simple, almost inconsequential thing. I really didn’t see any real practicality about it. Most studios I frequented rarely chanted Om at the beginning and ending of a class. It was only that I was a singer that it finally dawned on me that breath control was so vital a part of the practice. My ‘home’ studio, Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga Studio in San Diego, CA (my  employer) has always chanted Om at the beginning and ending of each class, one of several practices that endeared me to the studio.

Make the practice of chanting Om a daily endeavor.

Consider it’s meaning. Om is the unqualified expression of the divine. Let it spring forth from your heart as the first, the only and the last vibration… Be Om.

 

 

Featured image by MAMJODH, license.

 

 

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A Nudge towards Vegetarian

If you have been on the fence about adopting a vegetarian diet only watch Forks over Knives if you want to take the plunge…

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Forks Over Knives

If you have been on the fence about adopting a vegetarian diet watch Forks over Knives if you want to take the plunge.

I was looking for a documentary recently on Netflix and came across the 2011 film and was captivated. I like science and the film is built around the lifetime work of two pioneering doctors, who both discovered the significance link between nutrition and health. Another way to phrase it was they both discovered the significance between certain diets and heart disease and cancer.

Bottom line: they both live and teach the importance, both personal and planetary for a plant-based diet.

Forks Over Knives

A Plant Based Diet

Forks Over Knives presents a strongly persuasive, scientifically backed argument for the health and life benefits of a plant based diet. That is defined as a diet of fruits, vegetables, tubers, whole grains and legumes. Yes, you could say that is a vegan diet, though that word rarely comes up in the film, as there are subtle differences. To get a sense of those nuances I suggest watching the interview with Teekhnata Metzler, who has a Ph.D. in Holistic Health and is one of the senior instructors at Optimum Health Institute in Lemon Grove, CA.

Forks Over Knives centers around a group of doctors and their success in treating a wide range of diseases through a plant based diet. The movie also draws on a number of significant studies that have been done in the United States, India and China. The studies are conclusive and compelling.

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Awareness through Yoga

Yoga teaches us to look at ourselves and our actions with a clear mind. In that clarity arises which can then be the fuel for change. Every breath is precious and the yogi does all she can to sustain and nourish the life force. Diet affects our body, mind and emotions.

Cancer and Diabetes

The movie is well made and has a series of story threads running simultaneously which keeps the learning curve high throughout the film. From studies in China involving 65,000 people to 24 patients given less than a year to live, their story is our story as we all share the human body.

Give the film a watch and see what it does for you!

 

 

 

 

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Getting Vegucated

This 2011 documentary is described on Amazon as “a guerrilla-style documentary that follows three meat- and cheese-loving New Yorkers…

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On Amazon and Netflix

This 2011 documentary is described on Amazon as “a guerrilla-style documentary that follows three meat- and cheese-loving New Yorkers who agree to adopt a vegan diet for six weeks and learn what it’s all about.” The follower and director is Marisa Miller Wolfson who has created a great film that explores the vegan lifestyle. Her self-deprecating humor helps introduce the topic and draws in the viewer.

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This film relies on humor and a strong ethical and humanitarian point of view to make the argument for a vegan diet. The movie chronicles the cruelty of the meat, fish and dairy industries and takes three New Yorkers on a journey into a vegan lifestyle. The lifestyle includes food, fashion and life decisions.

Vegucated

Forks over Knives

Like the film Forks over Knives this movie explores the science of the vegan diet and our planets needs while at the same time it diverges from that movie and explores the vegan lifestyle. It lets people know Oreo cookies are a thumbs up for the vegan. It’s an interesting juxtaposition: one film holds firm to strict dietary guide lines while the other makes a case for eating whatever you want so long as it does not involve animals.

Both films rely heavily of the China Study and feature T. Colin Campbell and his groundbreaking work with a plant based diet. Both films also make it quite clear that we are “…killing the planet with our growing meat and dairy habit.”

Einstein

It is fascinating to watch the three participants as they go through the transformation of understanding the impact our societal eating habit is having on the planet. They visit an animal sanctuary and slaughterhouse in the same day and the contrasts are compelling.

For me one of the highlights of the film is a quote by Einstein: “”Nothing will benefit human health and increase the chances for survival of life on earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet.”

 

–Sujantra

 

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Embracing Surrender

I remember being in my early 20’s, just at the embarkation point of my spiritual journey, and cringing each time I saw the word “surrender.”…

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The Surrender Experiment by Michael A. Singer

“Our surrender to God’s Will
Is our mightiest power.”

Sri Chinmoy

 

I remember being in my early 20’s, just at the embarkation point of my spiritual journey, and cringing each time I saw the word “surrender.” To me it meant weakness and giving up; not being courageous and letting go of free will. I wanted nothing to do with surrender. Divine Love made sense, albeit it felt, a bit abstract; even devotion had sweetness to it. But surrender: pass.

The Surrender Experiment

Singer on Oprah

Michael Singer lives his life, or so his book The Surrender Experiment tells us, on the principle of surrender. His story is one that shows the incredible journey life has in store for us if we can just let go of what we want and let Life take the lead. You can see Singer on YouTube: Oprah likes his writings and interviews him.

When I was 20 and contemplating surrender I was looking at only half of the picture. I was thinking only of the act of not asserting my will. What I forgot to contemplate was: if I let go of my small ego desires then who is going to be driving the ship? Singer’s answer is simple yet profound: Life. And Life, according to Singer has some incredible plans for us.

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He goes from living in his Van to operating a 300 million dollar a year business all the while letting go of his wants, wearing his pony tail and meditating an hour each morning and evening. In between there are “coincidences” that are mind blowing and inspiring at the same time.

Sri Chinmoy

My own spiritual journey eventually led me to a teacher, Sri Chinmoy; who described his path as that of love, devotion and surrender. Surrender, it turns out, is one of the keys to spiritual growth. Surrender to the greater force of Life and hang on for the ride. The Surrender Experiment will inspire you to let go that much quicker!

 

–Sujantra

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Daily Acts of Kindness – An Interview with author Suzie Abels

The message is any act of kindness done daily (mindfully/consciously) creates a benefit to both giver & receiver alike…

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What inspired you to write this book?

My inspiration to write “Kindness on a Budget,” came from my twin brother, Jamie, who said “Sue, you need to write this all down because its important and will help other people SEE what is possible in daily acts of kindness.”

Secondly, from the “Secret Garden” I started long ago, off a service road, that united so many people from every background imaginable in search of , perhaps, “connection.” I wrote the book for ALL of them too. 🙂

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What is the theme of your book?

The theme of my book is daily acts of kindness, which can be a word, a note, a gesture, and/or a gift. The message is any act of kindness done daily (mindfully/consciously) creates a benefit to both giver & receiver alike and therefore, I humbly believe, energetically raises our precious planet’s frequency & vibration.

Kindness on a Budget

Who did you have in mind as you wrote your book?

In writing this inspiring & uplifting little book, I had in mind all the people on our precious planet & how important sharing the gift of spreading kindness daily is.

I was deeply blessed & honored to spend time with my greatest influence & spiritual teacher Yogi Bhajan who always said, “Unless you see God in all, you can’t see God at all.” He was right on!

How has your study with Yogi Bhajan influenced your life and teachings?

My close connection with my Dear Dear spiritual teacher Yogi Bhajan influenced my life & teachings profoundly. Yogiji would tell me as a young woman in her late 20’s thatYogi Bhajan I was a “fully conscious being,” Of course, then I did not fully understand the implications of his sharing & yet I felt his words to be true even then. He would often have me in his living room as a guest with 10-12 people and ask me what I thought of someone. I would answer what I saw and then after would be told by many I should not have answered!

Yogi Bhajan was training me to be confident enough to withstand the push/pull of the Ego wanting to hide into the background.

I believe he gifted me with strength, courage and an unbridled heart that he recognized was kind, even if I wasn’t sure at times.

Yogi Bhajan was an Aquarian teacher. He was strong, fierce, commanding, gentle, loving and for me the kindest person I had ever known all the days of my life then and now.

I could write volumes & volumes of the impact Yogi Bhajan had on me as a student, mother, wife and community leader.

What mostly pierced the finer lining of my heart’s soul was his steadfast commitment to me, Peter—my husband, my 3 children— Zach, Haley & Riley and that I just be steady or in my grace which took me 2 decades to embody!

In my early 30’s I was Yogiji’s informal gardener for his Los Angeles properties, Yoga West and The Guru Ram Das Ashram. He would say” Suzie, when you garden, it connects the heavens on Earth.”

I never missed one moment with Yogiji to say thank you, to sit near him, hug him, learn from this vastly DIVINE & RADIANT soul…as shy as I was in some ways, I just knew in my heart our time was super special.

My husband, Peter, and I never really knew the details of the titles of who Yogi Bhajan was until many, many years after his passing. I suppose its because it didn’t matter because he was just this exceptional and magnificent being who mattered to me, my husband, Zach, Haley & Riley.

He was kind to the core with a heart of solid platinum infused with the rarest gem stones undiscovered on our planet. That is who he was for me. I felt at home just hearing his voice and no I didn’t fully understand why, yet trusted my heart that would have traveled by donkey for endless miles to be near this deeply kind-hearted soul, my spiritual teacher.

I was honored to address the Los Angeles Guru Ram Das Ashram/Sangat during Gudwara on Sunday, October 4, 2015 on the very Dharmic message of kindness as it pertains to both my book’s contents and our world. As tremendously nervous as I was at this somewhat daunting task as a non-turban Westerner, I KNEW Yogi Bhajan would expect me to do it from my heart.

Suzie Abels

At first, I was visibly shaking scanning the room and seeing so many of the people I treasured and saw frequently when Yogi Bhajan was alive. I drew strength and comfort seeing Guru Singh, Guru Johda, Kirtan Singh, Manjit Kaur, Dr. Allan, Siri Simran, Mahani…so many people I shared the journey with which by no means was the easiest route I could have chosen to trek down!

I finished sharing about the value daily acts of kindness has on all of us and after the close of gudwara  we all sat in the langar hall next door. People shared with me that “we really needed this message that you delivered from the heart.” I just said thank you and for a few brief moments felt as if Yogi Bhajan was right next to me, the whole time, just as he was all those years and I wept in gratitude.

I asked the Sangat (community) to please join me in a prayer Yogiji gave in 1998

“My soul, bless me, be with me. Energize me so I can face the world with the strength of the Spirit. Save me from duality, give me the reality and royalty, so I can face my world in peace and tranquility. May this journey of life be completed with love and affection, kindness and compassion for all living things.” ~ Yogi Bhajan 1-23-1998

Sat Nam.

What do you say to people who become discouraged with all of the war and anger in the world?

Healing is possible with one person doing their own inner work and mindfully & consciously committing to daily acts of kindness.

I am more & more sure that this may be the answer to so many of our world problems because when one is serving another through kindness, all things become neutralized and therefore peace is possible.

What is your own daily spiritual practice?

As soon as I am awake before getting out of my bed I say thank you, thank you, thank you as “an attitude of gratitude is the highest yoga,” (Yogi Bhajan) and therefore sets the energetic stage for the day.

I next take a fairly cold shower and do sadhana which consists of prayers, chanting and meditation in front of my very large Tratakum picture of Yogi Bhajan.

What last thoughts would you like to leave our readers with?

Try doing just one act of kindness daily. See, feel and become consciously/mindfully in tune or aware of how much better you feel despite whatever challenges or hardships you are facing. Notice the softening or dropping deeper into your heart. Your soul, I believe, will say thank you.

In gratitude for this opportunity to share with all of you today.

May your days be blessed with the sweet ambrosial nectar that is delivered to the hearts core when one is kind on a daily basis Dear Ones (S.E.A)

 

Suzie (Harijot) Abels

Suzie Abels is a beacon of love and giving for her family, friends and community. She lives life to its fullest, opens her heart to strangers and loved ones alike and has left a lasting footprint of inspiration on her path to spread kindness. Residing in Orange County, Suzie is the devoted mother of Zach, Haley and Riley and the proud wife of Peter.

http://suzieabelsauthor.com/

Twitter: @IntuitiveSuzie

Facebook: Kindness on a Budget
Suzie’s book Kindness on a Budget is available on Amazon.

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Review: Michael Stribling: A Better Place

A Better Place is the first album from keyboardist/composer Michael Stribling in several years. It was worth the wait for A Better Place, an album sure to…

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by Kathy Parsons

A Better Place is the first album from keyboardist/composer Michael Stribling in several years. I was introduced to Stribling’s music back in 2007 with Out of the Darkness, Into the Light and have reviewed (and enjoyed!) six more of his albums since then. After becoming a licensed marriage and family therapist, Stribling worked in the mental health field for many years, returning to music in 2005 during a transitional period in his own life.

Inspires and Uplifts the Human Spirit

The mission statement of Leela Music sums up Stribling’s goals with his music: “to help others in their journey toward wholeness through the gift of music, by creating works that inspire and uplift the human spirit. (Leela means ‘divine play’).” Stribling’s albums have always been visual and spiritual, but A Better Place seems to come from the heart of someone very much at peace with himself and his life. Using keyboards and synths, Stribling creates music that tells a story using a broad range of instrumental sounds and rhythms. The fourteen tracks on this album are diverse and range from ambient and floating to more uptempo rhythms that invite toe-tapping and moving your body to the beat. It is a pleasure to have Stribling’s music as a backdrop to other activities, but I think it is even more effective when listening with eyes closed, letting the beautiful waves of sound envelop you.

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Happiness and Carefree Spirit

A Better Place opens with “First Light,” a piece that begins with the sound of birds chirping contentedly and then goes into a peaceful and colorful depiction of early morning light. Fully orchestrated as the birds continue to sing in the background, the music gently coaxes us to a place of warmth and tranquility. “Looking Up” begins with a quietly ambient introduction/prelude that picks up the tempo considerably about a minute in. This wonderful piece overflows with happiness and a carefree spirit – my favorite track! “Winter Encounter” moves in quite a different direction, but is still very soothing and peaceful. The music paints a picture of icy stillness in all of its splendor – another beauty! “Dream Waves” is hypnotic with its smooth, ambient flow – a mind massage!

Ambient and Dreamy

The next several tracks continue in an ambient and dreamy mode with a varied palette of musical instruments. The title track is a bit more dramatic and symphonic, although still very peaceful and warm. “Quiet Certainty” takes us back (or moves us forward) to more melody and an infectious rhythm. I love the titles for “Dust Yourself Off” and “Time for Bed, Sweetheart,” both very soulful and heartfelt pieces. “Ever Onward” is light and breezy, and seems to reflect on the power of love  and positive thinking/living – a great way to end the album!

It was worth the wait for A Better Place, an album sure to take you to a better place, if only for an hour or so! Recommended!

Michael’s Website     Amazon     iTunes     CD Baby

Kathy Parsons writes music reviews and interviews artists for MainlyPiano.com.  She is a regular contributor to the Pilgrimage Yoga Online blog.

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10 Ways to Sleep Soundly

Having trouble getting a good night’s sleep? Mental stress from life and work often makes it hard to get a good night’s sleep. Meditation, physical exercise,…

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Having trouble getting a good night’s sleep? Mental stress from life and work often makes it hard to get a good night’s sleep. Meditation, physical exercise, nutrition and yoga practice, are ideal ways to balance stress and sleep soundly.

In Sleep the Mind Taps into Higher Consciousness

Sleep is a magical time when our mind taps into higher consciousness and the soul comes to the fore, says spiritual yogi Paramahansa Yogananda.  “In sleep, the astral life forces are withdrawn not only from the muscles but also from the sensory instruments. Every night each man accomplishes a physical withdrawal of the life force, albeit in an unconscious way; the energy and consciousness in the body retire to the region of the heart, spine, and brain, giving man the rejuvenating peace of subconscious contact with the divine dynamo of all his powers, the soul. Why does man feel joy in sleep? Because when he is in the stage of deep, dreamless sleep, unconscious of the body, physical limitations are forgotten and the mind momentarily taps a higher consciousness.”

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Here are some sleep suggestions for those suffering from sleepless nights.

1. End use of computers, TV, and handheld devices an hour prior to sleep time

The blue light from your electronic devices shuts down the production of melatonin, a major sleep hormone that we produce at night.

2. Reduce Caffeine

It takes 4-6 hours or more to metabolize caffeine, which prevents a helpful sleep-promoting chemical called adenosine from working. Several hours before sleep avoid wine, alcohol, red bull, coffee, chocolate, chicken and soda.

3. Exercise regularly

Exercise regularly and you’ll sleep easier and more soundly. Whether you’re jogging, swimming, playing tennis or working out at the gym, exercise is a great way to feel and look your best, and you’ll also promote a great night’s sleep.

4. Watch your diet

Foods helpful for sleep include cherries, which contain melatonin, a chemical that helps control our body’s internal clock, says Keri Gans, a registered dietician in New York City and author of The Small Change Diet. Bananas are helpful because they contain natural muscle-relaxers magnesium and potassium. Sweet potatoes provide sleep-promoting complex carbohydrates and contain muscle-relaxant potassium. When combined with complex carbohydrates such as whole-wheat toast or crackers, cheese and dairy products can help bring about the onset of sleep. Carbohydrates release insulin which promotes the movement of tryptophan into the brain. Tryptophan then converts to serotonin and melatonin, which are sleep-promoting neurotransmitters.

5. Cool the Room

At night our core body temperature drops and this tells the brain it’s time for sleep. Sleep with a room temperature of between 62 and 70 degrees.

6. Meditate

Right before sleep try a guided conscious relaxation tour and relax to beautiful images of nature and the comforting sound of guitar music. If you enjoy the relaxing sound of the flute combined with nature scenes, this short meditation video may help. Or listen to music like “Edge of Eternal” and find a peaceful calm.

7. Yoga

Make Halasana the last thing you do before sleep. It’s a pose done while lying on your back. Set yourself up to create a strong base in the back of your shoulders and arms, just as you would in Salamba Sarvangasana (Shoulder Stand). Kick your legs overhead and press your toes into the floor behind you. Stay in the pose for up to 5 minutes and slowly draw the legs back over head and return them to the floor. This pose is therapeutic as it calms the mind. A calm mind reduces stress and anxiety.

8. Alarm clocks should be heard, but not seen

Avoid visually bright-screened alarm clocks and ticking wall clocks. Keep your wakeup devices out of mind and sight and let them do their jobs at the appointed times.

9. Pristine quiet

If it’s too noisy where you sleep, try wearing earplugs. If your spouse’s snoring is keeping you awake, there are medical solutions you can try. If snoring is an issue, you might try a “bedroom divorce”.

10. A comfy mattress

Find a mattress that is firm or soft enough for you. You’re going to be sleeping on a mattress for an average of 7 years. So find a one that is comfortable and supportive.

How are you dealing with sleepless nights?

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4 Summer Drinks That Will Keep You Slim

Oscar Wilde stated “Everything in moderation, even moderation.” and this couldn’t ring truer in our current balance-obsessed culture…

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by Sara

Is maintaining balance stressing you out?

 

Here’s 4 summer drinks that will keep you slim without going to extremes.

Oscar Wilde stated “Everything in moderation, even moderation.” and this couldn’t ring truer in our current balance-obsessed culture. I’ve always tried to approach health without going to extremes but like most twenty-something females living in Southern California I’ve definitely done my fair share of experimenting with juice cleanses and strict vegan or gluten free diets. In the end I’ve found that the best way to maintain a healthy weight is to value mindful balance and let go of perfection.

As a personal chef and food-documentary junkie, I have my fair share of opinions when it comes to eating. There are some things I won’t touch like soda or artificial fruit juices. Other times, I throw out the rulebook and enjoy some delicious French cheese on baguette with a glass of rosé for dinner! Quality over quantity and moderation over deprivation.

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Learning to approach health without going to extremes will be incredibly helpful in the long run. If maintaining balance is stressing you out, you’ll likely never receive the benefits of a moderate lifestyle!

Most people associate the holidays with packing on the pounds, but summertime, with its weekly BBQs and sugary drinks, can put a serious damper on your weight loss plan. Instead of reaching for that soda, try these delicious drinks that will increase metabolism, detoxify your body and curb your appetite. You’ll find yourself shedding a few pounds easily, in a completely healthy way!

Metabolism Tea

Metabolism Boosting Iced Tea

A simple cinnamon, ginseng or green tea can stabilize your blood sugar, boost your metabolism and detoxify your system. Keep a pitcher in your fridge and enjoy unsweetened or add a small amount of raw honey when the tea is still warm.

Breakfast Smoothies That Fill You Up

A morning smoothie can be a great way to get a serving or two of fruit in before you start your day. Adding a tablespoon each of flax seeds, chia seeds and hemp seeds will provide enough fiber and protein to suppress your appetite and fill you up until lunchtime. Try this simple and delicious green smoothie.

Green Smoothie

De-stress with Adaptogenic Herbs

Did you know that chronic stress can lead to increased cortisol levels which trigger hunger and keep you from losing weight? Adaptogens are ancient herbs that can help improve your body’s hormonal responses and balance the adrenal system. Ashwagandha, Ashitaba and Rhodiola can help stabilize hormones and keep your body in balance. Try this simple recipe to reduce stress and lose weight.

Fat Burning Apple Cider Vinegar

When insulin levels spike, fat is more easily stored in the body. Apple cider vinegar can help to stabilize your blood sugar and suppress your appetite. While some choose to take a shot of the vinegar straight, I prefer a smoother approach by adding a tablespoon of ACV to a glass of half water, half freshly squeezed grapefruit juice. Drink a glass an hour before each meal to curb the appetite and improve digestion.

A long-term healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables will almost always lead to successful weight loss and it never hurts to go for a few walks or do a bit of yoga or strength training, too. The secret is to find joy on the path to your goal weight and always focus on lifestyles changes rather than quick fixes. Incorporating healthy ways to hydrate into your day-to-day life is a great place to start!

 

SaraSara is a health food enthusiast and has been practicing yoga for over ten years. She currently works as a personal chef and as Natural Lifestyle Specialist for Purtylife.com.

Photo by Vince Marcial.
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Mosquitos Biting? Try a Natural Bug Repellant

Did you know that dusk or dawn are the times when mosquitoes are most active and most bites occur? If you’re practicing yoga outside…

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Did you know that dusk or dawn are the times when mosquitoes are most active and most bites occur? If you’re practicing yoga outside in the early morning or evening, it’s not the male mosquitos that you have to worry about – it’s the females that are out for blood.

Mosquitos Use Scent

Mosquitos finds their prey using scent, exhaled carbon dioxide, and chemicals in a person’s sweat. If you do get bit, you’ll know it by the red bump and itching resulting from the body’s reaction to the mosquito’s saliva.

Here’s an essential oils recipe for avoiding painful and annoying bites from Jennifer Freitas at The Truth Beauty Company .

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 Ingredients*

 

  • 2 oz of Sweet Almond oil – or some other neutral carrier oil, like Jojoba or grapeseed.
  • 20-25 drops of Lemongrass, Rosemary, Tea Tree, Eucalyptus, Cedar, Lavender, Clove or Mint (not 20-25 of each but TOTAL – sometimes, I like to do a blend to achieve a smell I enjoy; for example, I don’t really enjoy the smell of tea tree so I might use 5 drops of that and 20 of lemongrass).

 

Mix the carrier oil and the essential oil drops in a dark colored glass. Shake it up and presto! Natural Bug Repellant. I find I only need to apply a few drops to my pressure points – the crease of my elbows, the backs of my knees, on my neck and behind my ears. No bugs seem to bother me.

To be honest, I can’t tell you the science of why these essential oils work to repel the mosquitoes but I know they do!! I have been hiking in a heavily wooded area, after a rain fall at dusk (worst time EVER if you want to avoid bites) and did not get ONE bite!!

Say some of these pesky pests do get to your lovely skin – what to do in order to speed healing and to stop the itch? Some of these suggestions with ‘drawing out’ properties may be effective.

 

  • A paste of baking soda (made with warm water) left on the bite for a few minutes should help with the itch;
  • Activated charcoal (which you can buy in a capsule form). Break one open and sprinkle the contents on your skin, cover and keep bandaged for a day;
  • Clays – used in the same way as the activated charcoal;
  • Vinegar – soak a cotton ball and apply it to the bump and keep it there until the pain subsides;
  • Of course this list contains Aloe Vera! It is such a super star for all skin injuries and issues. In this case, Aloe is very helpful for removing the heat that comes with bug bites – very soothing, almost instant relief!  It will also help with the swelling and even aid in the healing of the wound;
  • Onion – as if having an itchy bug bite wasn’t bad enough – now you will smell like onions too! Oh well, all in the name of skin saving! All you need to do is take a fresh slice and place it on the bite, until the itching subsides;
  • Honey – another skin superstar with multiple uses! It will help with the swelling and honey actually possesses natural healing abilities that make it great to soothe the inflammation. Just rub the area with a little of this sweet goodness;
  • Salt. Similar to the baking soda paste, all you need to do is take a bit of finely ground salt and mix it with a bit of water until you have a thick paste – and apply it directly to the bite.

 

How do you manage mosquitos where you live?

*Use caution with essential oils as they should be diluted before being applied directly to skin, and be advised that some essential oils can cause skin reactions.  

NOTE: If there is serious swelling, muscle cramping, breathing problems, headache, nausea, fever or fainting as a result of a bug bite, you should seek medical attention.

Image courtesy of Praisaeng at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

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Exclusive Interview with Unity Director Shaun Monson

Pilgrimage Yoga founder Sujantra McKeever recently sat down with Shaun Monson, the writer, creator and director of Unity, an enlightening new film…

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Pilgrimage Yoga founder Sujantra McKeever recently sat down with Shaun Monson, the writer, creator and director of “Unity”, an enlightening new film set for release in August.

Sujantra: I watched your entire film and was very motivated by it. At the same time, to watch a film such as Unity, it’s not pleasant in terms of what we usually think of as entertainment. It really takes attention and determination. I’m wondering what you would say to people to energize them, to take the time to watch a film such as yours.

Shaun: It’s interesting that you have all these different mediums such as literature, music, film and that each medium sort of has these unwritten rules that they have to follow. And perhaps the content of Unity would be better suited for books where we are more prepared to read statistics or philosophy or whatever the case may be. Movies have been hijacked by entertainment and not much else. But there is this genre called documentary film, which is nonfiction film, and there’s no revelation there, but I’m glad it exists because you can be a little more honest. Sometimes it’s a little harder to take, so what happens when you’re editing these films, like Unity you start debating how much truth to put into it and how much truth to take out of it because you have to think of the audience. That’s a long answer to your question, but I think it’s important to see that stuff. Like the saying goes, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” Why turn away from it? Why label it positive or negative? If we really want to be honest with ourselves then we should be willing to have one genre in the canon of filmmaking that allows us to look at stuff like this, and that is the documentary.

Solutions For Humanity’s Problems

Sujantra: I’ve been a vegetarian for thirty-five years and I’ve watched a lot of films that present stark imagery but from many of them I’ve walked away with a feeling of hopelessness. There are these huge corporate power structures that we can’t do anything about, but from your film I came away with a feeling of hope because you kept juxtaposing the problems but you also presented a lot of solutions.

Shaun: Mankind, humankind is coming up with solutions. There’s a great quote in the film from Martin Luther King, Jr., “The arc of human history is long but it then does a tour of justice.” So we are seeing that we are evolving and we are less and less brutal and savage as we evolve. At one point in time we used to crucify people in Rome on the way to the gates of the city, we don’t do that anymore as you walk into a city. And slavery is abolished, women have the right to vote, and now this topic of equal rights and gay marriage are on the forefront. All these issues are coming to a head. We are getting more and more accepting of everything. That’s very hopeful to me. And the treatment of animals and the environment. And yes, you can look at a series of only negative images but if presented in a proper context you will see the great strides we are taking as human beings so it gives me hope.

Underwater ocean scene

Sujantra: Speaking of the growth of humanity, I like the section of the film where you take us from the Roman Emperor who created some human rights to the Magna Carta to the Declaration of Independence. One thing you don’t often see in films is that you put energy into and highlighted the United Nations and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Could you talk to that a little bit?

Shaun: It was part of a longer piece but I thought the animation was a great embodiment to encapsulate the human struggle to respect one another, which was the original formation of the UN right after WWII or right around that time. People get into political arguments about this or that on the surface, but at its base you can see we are trying to find a way of diplomacy with one another of getting along, of working together. This comes back to the main focus of the film that we are not the same but equal. This is the main take-home message of the film, not the same but equal. I think if that alone somehow got through to the world, that one simple phrase, ‘not the same but equal.’ Just imagine the world we live in if people understood that. We are not the same but equal. Just think of the effect that would have on the planet. Think of it in just the smallest terms like road rage, the food we eat, construction, rainforest, wars, I mean, not the same but equal. That simple principle could come through to people and create an entirely different world.

Sujantra: As the creator, writer and director of this film, where does your creative process start in a gigantic undertaking such as this? Is it one simple idea you want to get across and it grows from there? How do you do it?

Shaun: I guess every filmmaker is different. They say a movie is born three times, once in writing, once in shooting and once in editing and it’s true. Documentaries are a little different because I wrote all the text and was comfortable with the text going into the project. In a documentary we are interviewing people and going out shooting footage but it’s not like scenes from a script that you’re specifically shooting. It’s happening live, or your licensing footage or getting newsreel footage and creating a collage. It kind of evolves as you’re making it. The text was there from the beginning. What inspired me to make this film was a question as to why we can’t seem to get along or what we come up with seems to better our lives but it doesn’t seem to stop us from wanting to kill each other. And that nagged at me a lot. I started looking at history and all the inventions throughout the ages whether it was literature, science, technology, yoga, veganism or any number of things humanity’s come up with and still there’s this collision we have with one another. It occurred to me that I don’t think anything we invent will stop us from killing each other. I don’t think the new Hubble telescope will do it, I don’t think a new quantum physic equation will do it. I think something has to awaken within us. I was interested in that and I wanted to shine a light on this inner shifting and that was sort of the genesis of it. Then of course I felt a bit overwhelmed and thought maybe it should be a book instead of a film but I felt the visual would be more effective so I started assembling it together, step by step.

The Evolution into Homo-spiritus

Sujantra: I remember well part of the film when you’re talking about how all of these things we’ve created have not provided a solution and yet you talk about the emergence of homo-spiritus, the being with conscious spiritual awareness and I was really thrilled to see Ramana Maharshi in the film because I’ve read him quite a bit. So those teachers do point us to forms of practice to help us achieve the transcendence you’re talking about.

Shaun: Right. I didn’t come up with the term “homo-spiritus.” I interviewed a man named David Hawkins. He’s since passed away. I had the opportunity to interview him twice. He’s written several wonderful books. Probably the best known is Power vs. Force, where he talked about how Hitler used force, which is a very brief encounter of force, but Gandhi used power. The interesting thing about power is that power will endure long after the person has passed away. We still speak about Gandhi or hear about Gandhi or teach others about him, and this shows how his power endures and that force is like a rocket. It has propulsion but it can only take you so far before it runs out. I had the chance to interview him twice and he also talked about how the spirit is the highest evolution of physical consciousness of mortality. I thought it was good to show human rights evolution over the ages and also the physical evolution from Cro-Magnon and the Neanderthal all the way up to this capacity of homo-spiritus. We know it exists because if you look at Gandhi who was a contemporary of Hitler, there is two beings right there living at the same time in the world that personified opposite ends of the conscious spectrum. So that capacity exists. It doesn’t mean we have to be bad or we have to always be primitive or always use force, it also shows that we can be like homo-spiritus. That capacity in the human being exists. That potentiality is very interesting to me. We have to cultivate that in one another.

Moral Consideration for All Beings

Sujantra: I think that came across really strongly in the film, which is great. You talk about the key idea of the moral consideration for all beings, that we are all one. A big part of your film was when you got into the body section about we are what we eat. It seems to me that that’s something that’s starting to catch on in our society. My nephew who’s going into high school this year is required to read a book about healthy eating, getting away from chemicals and getting back to natural food.

Shaun: There was talk early on about the body section when I was cutting and we were testing the film in focus groups. Some of my colleagues, who are backers of the film, the body section would always say this was a tough one because that’s where some of the animal footage was. Some of them felt it was out of place, it’s almost like this “come on kids, let’s eat our fruits and vegetables ” section of the film suddenly. I fought to keep it in because this is an entire kingdom of beings that are drastically, absolutely affected by humankind. It seems if we are going to talk about the expressions of life, the expressions of being, then we couldn’t just remove an entire kingdom of beings. Even so, the movie is ninety-eight minutes long and I think there are only fourteen minutes of animals, and really no blood. I couldn’t leave this out because we do affect other life forms. I think it’s healthy for people even if they feel a bit squeamish sometimes. It’s odd actually because we have way more war footage and human destruction footage than animal footage. Rarely, if ever, am I asked about the human violence in the film because we are so accustomed to it. It’s the animal footage that people go “Oh I don’t know if you should show this stuff,” meanwhile we have executions and horrible stuff. I find that very interesting. This always comes up, this concern. Even with exhibitors this concern came up. I find that to be a strange contradiction. We fictionalize or romanticize violence or romanticize pain, which we see a lot of times in TV shows or even on the news. So that’s okay, but actual pain shown in a documentary may not be politically correct. I think this kind of dialogue is actually very healthy.

polar bear

Photo by Alastair Rae(https://www.flickr.com/photos/merula/) License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/legalcode)

Sujantra: I also like the contrast between showing people in suffering and pain and then showing people in meditation, you showed some yoga postures and I think that’s something else we are seeing in our society, the awareness of yoga.

Shaun: Yes, definitely. It’s great and encouraging. It’s hopeful.

Spiritual Practices

Sujantra: Hopeful. Yes. Do you have any specific practice you do in your own life that refreshes you or gives you a fresh surge of energy?

Shaun: A couple different kinds, not just one. I have dogs; I’ve rescued a lot of dogs, so just living with animals I get to see their personalities or expressions, or their little nuances that I find to be a marvel. I think it helps ground me in nature. I also love to surf and I enjoy just going out, sitting on a board in the ocean and connecting with nature that way.

New Style of Release for the Film

Sujantra: The way you’re releasing the film is very unique in my experience. Can you explain how you’re doing it and why you’re doing it that way?

Shaun: Movies are released so many different ways nowadays; they are released in theatres or as a digital download. It’s just so different from how it’s been before. This idea of a very limited release is sort of an event release on a wide scale is different from independent films from even last year, just one year ago. Getting that traditional limited release, let’s say, five theatres only maybe in big cities for one week for a full run or what they call a split-run, which would be maybe a couple times a day for a week. It’s just a week to see if it attracts attention and then maybe it goes away if it doesn’t or it expands to twenty or thirty theatres. We are trying something new and quite different with a one day release but in twelve hundred theatres in the U.S. and another five hundred theatres overseas. That is not a decision I made, that’s something the distributors and exhibitors are thinking of experimenting with. They call it “event cinema.” We add extra content that you can’t see online. For instance, someone will introduce himself only in theatres, he will do it in-show and out-show on camera which is part of the screening you saw. There will be a panel discussion at the end from our premiere up in Los Angeles. It’s just something new that we are doing and I am curious to see how it does as well.

Sujantra: That’s great. It’s a great film and I hope lots of people go out and watch it.

Shaun: Thank you so much.

Sujantra: All the best of luck to you. Thank you so much, Shaun. If you’re ever in San Diego, stop by our yoga studio, Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga and the vegetarian restaurant, Jyoti-Bihanga

Shaun: I’ll keep it in mind when I’m in that part of the world.

Sujantra: Okay, thanks a bunch, Shaun.

Shaun: Thanks so much, have a great day.

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Ramayana Series – Turning Within

In these explorations of the Ramayana I hope to help you deepen your spiritual growth and understanding…

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In these explorations of the Ramayana I hope to help you deepen your spiritual growth and understanding.

Ramayana—“Rama” is the name of the hero and the heroine, his wife, is Sita. . “Yana” means the tale of, or the journey of. The Ramayana is the story, tale or journey of Rama.

“Listen my friend, I love this Ramayana. We now live in the third age of time and Rama lived in the second age of the world. Ramayana has long been standing above all other stories. You must look up to find it. Valmiki put the deeds of Rama into musical verse. He clothed them in the sound of singing. Before Ramayana there was no poetry on earth.”1

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Valmiki is our first character. He is the one who writes the Ramayana. “As a young man, Valmiki searched through the world seeking open friendship and happiness and hope. And finding none of these, he went alone into the empty forest where no man lived to a spot where the Tamsa River flows into the river Ganga. There he sat for years without moving. So still that white ants built an anthill over him. There Valmiki sat inside that anthill for thousands of years with only his eyes showing out trying to find the true, his hands folded and his mind lost in contemplation.”

Valmiki, our first character and author of the Ramayana, is a young man searching throughout the world for happiness and true friendship. He holds these ideals in his heart and searches the world and can’t find them. I think that is something we can all relate to, in that we look at life and it’s filled with a lot of painful experiences, even though in your heart you hold this feeling or hope that there can be true friendship or true love. What we meet in the experience of life is often so painful.

Valmiki can’t find any of these so he decides to retreat in, deep contemplation and meditation. In a sense you can say that’s what you do in the daily practice of meditation. The world is full of challenges and your daily meditation is your ability to pull away from the world and free your mind. You turn your mind inward and allow it to sink back into perfection or into itself. Indian philosophy asserts that our consciousness has perfection in it. Our minds spread out into the world and take everything in and create our multifaceted experiences that can be really challenging. With meditation you’re able to turn your mind inward and trace back to that pure essence.

Mountain Lake

The Ripple Effect

“His mind lost in contemplation, then one cloudy winter’s day at noon the heavenly sage Narada, the inventor of music, born from Brahma’s mind flew from heaven down to earth. He knelt in front of Valmiki and said, ‘Come out. Help me.’ ‘ It’s too cold’, replied Valmiki. ‘Away with the worlds where a little pleasure costs a lot of pain. Don’t make trouble for me.’ ‘ Would I ever?’ said Narada? ‘See how life goes by with every creature doing what follow his nature’. Narada knelt and looked deep into Valmiki’s eyes. ‘Master, what can I say to inspire you to action’? Valmiki said, ‘Just name me one honest man and then I will move’. Rama said, ‘Narada. Now, come out of there.’”1

The Ramayana is multidimensional. Valmiki is on earth and Narada, who comes down from the heavens and seeks Valmiki’s help. We are told he’s the inventor of music and born of Brahma’s mind. In Indian philosophy, there are three main aspects of existence: Creation, Preservation and Transformation. Those are personified in Brahma, the Creator, Vishnu the Preserver and Shiva the Transformer. Brahma is the creator and Narada is born from his mind. Normally when we think about birth, we think birth from a body. Here’s a more subtle birth, born from Brahma’s mind. We bear things from our minds. We create a poem from our mind or we conceive of plans and then we act them out.

“Who is Rama?” said Valmiki. Narada answered, ‘Rama rules as king in Ayodhya. He is born of the solar race and is a descendent of the sun. He is brave and gentle and firm in fight. By Rama’s command his adorable queen Sita is being brought here in the forest in a chariot and though she suspects nothing yet, here she will be abandoned. Unless you comfort her, she will drown herself in the river Ganga. And kill as well her two unborn sons by Rama’. ‘What did she do wrong?’ asked Valmiki. ‘Nothing’, answered Narada, ‘Sita is innocent and blameless. She has lived as Rama’s queen for nearly 10,000 years. Before that, Rama saved her from great danger by wondrous and incredible deeds. And now behold one of the terrors of kingship that Rama must let her go and banish her because his people talk against her. Get up and save her life and let her live here with you and your companions and make and measure words the song of Rama and teach it to her two sons.1

Rama is born of the solar race, a descendent of the sun. This is also seen in Greek mythology a lot. Mortals mate with great energies, with the sun or the wind and give rise to some of the great heroes, like Hercules. We are interconnected with these great energies. We are human but we also have that great spirit inside of us.

Sita’s been banished by Rama and she’s going to be abandoned and starts to hear the Ganga, the river, murmuring to her, “jump in, jump in, take rest, find peace.” In the order of the universe, this can’t happen. Narada has come down to convince Valmiki to do something, to take action. Valmiki listens to this, and Narada implores Valmiki to let Sita live with him and his companions and to make and measure words the song of Rama (which is the Ramayana) and teach it to her two sons.

“’I have no companions here’, said Valmiki. ‘You have now. Coming here I sang a friend gathering song. Valmiki I’ve seen other skies than these, other worlds and other friends. People are counting on you and I can hear the chariot from Ayodhya with Sita approaching the Ganga.’ Valmiki said,’ I have no skill in any craft, even in words.’ Narada was silent then he spoke. ‘There, listen. I hear the chariot stopping. Right now, here they come across Ganga in a boat. Or will you also forsake Sita from fear of other people? Look she has discovered she is lost and the boat is launched back without her. Hurry, there the sunlight comes behind the dark clouds. There, the river goddess begins to whisper unseen bells over Sita and makes her swift flowing waters seem a warm, safe home. Act now, Valmiki. Call out and the rest will follow.’”1

It’s a beautiful idea: the friend gathering song. A beautiful hermitage pops up around him because of Narada’s song. Narada says, “I’ve seen other skies, and I’ve seen other worlds. People are depending on you.” In our own lives, our actions, our thoughts, our meditations effect a lot more than what we perceive in that moment. Every decision we make, every action we take, creates a whole interconnected chain of events. The more consciously we can take our actions and make our decisions, then that affect rolls out further and further down the road. The ability to see that our actions affect more than ourselves in that moment creates an expansion of awareness. Valmiki can’t see it, even though he’s the hero and has to take these actions and perform heroic deeds. He’s the one being called to action but the one calling him can see the bigger picture. 

Mountain Trail

We Are Our Own Hero

We are the hero of our own lives, we are the ones who have to step forward and take the heroic action. If you look at your own life, what do you have inspiring, guiding or motivating your actions and decisions? If it is television, the newspaper or things that aren’t that expansive of consciousness, then your decisions are going to be influenced by those things. You can energize or inspire yourself by the books you read, by meditating, and focusing on your spiritual journey. You can inspire yourself and bring into your own life the characters that help you see the bigger picture and inspire you towards action.

A good way to look at it is through the laws of attraction and manifestation. What you keep clearest in your heart, for example in meditation you’re bringing in a certain quality, holding that quality in your heart, that intention, that energy you hold in your heart is going to bring into your life the things that are connected to that. Again, spending time in meditation or good spiritual reading will keep your mind in that space and draw that to you. One of the teachings from the Indian philosophy is when the student is ready, the teacher will appear. In the same way, when you bring yourself to a certain level, when you get yourself ready, then the teacher you need in that moment is going to come into your life. The more refined you can make your energetic output; the more you accelerate your growth because you’re clear and focused.

  1. Buck, William. Ramayana. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1976. Print.
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