meditation

Using Yoga and Meditation to Cope with Addiction

Addiction is a brain disease, but the repercussions of addiction affect much more than just the brain. Biologically it affects your brain, it affects your body physically, and it affects your soul emotionally. For those who are recovering from addiction and working to remain sober, it’s important to be hyper-aware of your body and mind in order to get healthy. Overcoming substance abuse is a marathon, not a sprint, and requires constant inventory of emotions, feelings, and your body. Utilizing yoga and meditation can be a great tool in this endeavor since these activities also affect the mind, body, and soul and keep a full body and mind inventory in the process.  

For the Mind

Ultimately, addiction starts in the mind. There are many factors that come into play when dealing with addiction such as environment, biology, and brain development. A person’s environment and social surroundings has a lot to do with the beginning of substance abuse. Living in a home with substance abuse or in an area where substance abuse is common increases the chances of addictive behaviors. Some addicts are also predisposed to addiction due to having a history of addiction in their family or if they were young when they began using. Not only does substance abuse become a natural behavior if they start using early, but since the brain isn’t quite developed yet, the chemical compounds of the drugs being used and their role in the brain alter its development.

Yoga increases both serotonin and dopamine, which is also what happens while using drugs. They affect the reward centers and mood, which is why using substances make you feel good and are difficult to quit using. When dealing with addiction recovery, yoga can be used in place of this craving. Once the brain connects serotonin and dopamine release with yoga instead of drug use, it’ll really help the brain to recover more effectively.

Using Yoga and Meditation to Cope with Addiction - Yoga Travel Tree
Using Yoga and Meditation to Cope with Addiction - Yoga Travel Tree

For the Body

Addiction is also a very physical disease and it can have a negative effect on almost every system in the body. Addiction can have an effect on body weight, muscle mass, strength, and stamina. Tooth loss, gum disease, lung disease, heart disease, liver damage, kidney damage, stroke, convulsions, and infection are all physical risks that can stem from substance abuse.

In recovery, it’s important to focus on both physical and mental health. Yoga might not be able to help many of the more serious ailments caused by addiction, but it can help with overall health and wellness. In terms of obtaining a healthy body weight, regaining muscle mass, and increasing strength, and stamina, yoga improves these aspects of health that may have been negatively affected by substance use.

Whereas a more intense cardio or strength workout might be more difficult for those recovering from addiction, yoga is a great low impact exercise that focuses on strengthening the body as well as the mind. You’ll build muscle mass and flexibility while increasing heart rate and lung capacity. The physical damage done by substance abuse may not be able to be repaired, but focusing on relaxing and adaptable exercise like yoga can help to work towards a healthier lifestyle that doesn’t involve substance abuse at all.

For the Soul

Addiction affects the soul. There are many aspects to addiction that involve emotions and self-worth that are incredibly difficult to heal from. Not only is the brain recovering from addiction, but so is the body, and the soul. The brain recovers biologically and learns to rewire its communication and reward centers. The body recovers by detoxing and flushing out toxins and rebuilding physical health. The soul recovers by being held accountable for actions, asking for forgiveness, and forgiving yourself.

Many things happen in the brain when recovering from addiction, and some of the things that can be the most difficult to recover from are the shameful aspects of addiction. Recovering addicts tend to suffer from anxiety and depression stemming from guilt associated with using. Coping skills are extremely important to obtain in addiction recovery and yoga and meditation can be a vital aspect to this part of recovery.

Yoga offers so much more than just the physical perks of exercise. Unlike many workouts, it offers a mental piece of mind as well. Meditation can be a major aspect to yoga and many classes focus on clearing the mind and focusing on positivity. Those practicing yoga will focus on understanding the things their body can do and watch the progress being made, which can be incredibly empowering to those battling addiction. Seeing positive change that you’ve created is really rewarding for those working hard to change the mistakes they may have made while using or questioned their ability to stay clean.

Yoga is an exercise for both the body and the mind which are two things that are in a sensitive state during recovery for many addicts. Yoga and meditation keeps you healthy while focusing on living a healthy and positive life. While maintaining sobriety, it’s essential to focus on these positive aspects of recovery that may help the negative side of recovery. Utilizing yoga as a coping mechanism during this time will offer another tool towards recovery for the mind, the body, and the soul.

Author Bio
Author Bio

Author bio: Chelsy Ranard is a writer from Montana who is now living in Boise, Idaho. She graduated with her journalism degree in 2012 from the University of Montana. She enjoys yoga, talk radio, and cold coffee. Follow her on Twitter!

7 Tips to Create a Peaceful Meditation Space

  If meditation is a part of your life or if you want it to be, you need to create a special space for your meditation. Having a space designated to meditation will remind you each day to make time for it, eliminate distractions that might interfere with your practice and create a space where you can recharge and renew your body and mind.

So, if you’re ready to make a special space for your meditation practice, find out how to get started with these tips.

Choose an Area

If space allows, an entire meditation room would be a great getaway, but is not necessary. Dedicating a corner or area of a room to be your meditation space will work just as well.

Consider the amount of foot traffic going through the area to ensure that when you are meditating, you will not be interrupted. Use a bamboo screen or curtain to separate the area from the rest of the room to create a unique space solely for your relaxation.  

If there is no space inside, try creating a space in your garden or backyard. An outside space creates a great connection to nature and is usually a distraction-free zone. Weather may interfere with this space though, so be cautious.

The most important thing is that your space is separate from the rest of your home but remains inviting and comfortable.

Eliminate Distraction

Make your meditation space a strictly no-technology zone — No phones, TV or tablets. Items like to-do lists, magazines, laundry baskets and other work should not be in your sight while in this area. It’s also a good idea to tell anyone else in the house that when you are in the meditation area, they should avoid interrupting you if possible.

You want to be able to focus on your meditation and relaxation. Distractions will take away from the feeling of peacefulness that you are trying to achieve. Do all you can to give yourself an uninterrupted meditation session.

Simplify

When it comes to a meditation space, less is more. A few basic and simple items in your area will create a serene and relaxing space. Consider a meditation pillow, a yoga mat or blanket, a small table for an altar and a throw rug.

You can also add a few other items that are personal to you — things that make you smile and feel relaxed. Just try to keep the space cluttered to set the tone for decluttering your own mind.

Activate All of Your Senses

Add an item that will stimulate each of your senses. For smell, add incense or a candle. For sight, bring in a painting or statue that means something to you. For touch, some mala beads or a stone to hold during your meditation will calm your hands. For sound, you can add quiet and calming music or use wind chimes for a more natural sound. For taste, keep a small glass of water nearby to replenish yourself after or during your meditation.

Having something for each of your senses will allow you to focus on your mind and body during your practice.

Invite in Mother Nature

Meditation is about connecting to nature and the Earth. Adding a small item will give you the healing that nature provides. Try a small plant, bamboo shoot, sand, shells or a small water fountain.

The touch of nature will connect you to the world around you and bring your meditation practice full circle.

Choose Lighting and Colors to Achieve the Mood

You may choose to make your meditation space bright and vibrant or you may choose to go serene and calm. Whichever you decide, make sure your lighting and color choices help foster the feeling you want.

If you want a brighter and cheerful area, you can let in natural light, use bright lights and choose vibrant or pastel colors. If your style is muted, use dim lighting and darker colors. If natural light still comes in, use a sheer fabric to diffuse the light and make a darker room.

The color of the area affects your mood and the lighting will set a certain tone, so make sure both are helping you achieve the meditation mood that fits you.

Meditate

Screen Shot 2016-02-01 at 7.21.09 PMNow that your area is created and decorated, don’t forget the most important step: Use it. Set aside a time each day or week to use your meditation space. Also, make sure to keep your space clean and dedicated only to meditation.

The best thing you can do when creating your meditation space is to make it unique. However you want your space set up, be sure that it invites you in, makes you feel at home and creates a feeling of relaxation for you. The space is for you, so do whatever you want to make it your own.


 

Megan Wild is a ½ home designer and ½ writer. She loves finding inspiration from the outdoors and the places she travels to. When she’s not DIY-ing a project, you can find her chronicling her adventures on her blog, Your Wild Home.

 

How Spending Time with Nature Can Boost Your Awareness

  Sometimes answers we are looking for are right in front of us, but in a busy daily life, absorbed in routines and habits; it is easy to become blind.

When is the last time you have really listened to yourself?

When was the last time you allowed yourself to do nothing but observe?

To cultivate a deep awareness of your surroundings?

To surrender yourself to the present moment?

 

If you now tell yourself that you do not have time to sit still and cultivate awareness, you are among those who need to do so the most!

Taking time to meditate, will give you that time.

A useful meditation exercise is to find a quiet place in nature.

 

Look around you.

What do you see?

What are you drawn to?

When you have found that thing that attracts you, ask it, “What is your secret?”

Then listen with your heart.

What are the sounds, what are the shapes, what are the feelings that reach you?

Observing nature can grant you more than just a pretty view for the eye. Nature is full of wisdom.

 

Take for example the ocean.

Let’s ask the sea together, “Dear ocean what is your secret?”

The answer of the ocean:

“I have so much to give from. There is enough of me to be of service to all: plants, animals, and human beings. I invite everybody in, and surround them with my presence. I am a source of life, a source of food, a source of joy. I cool you down when you are warm, I let you ride me, and I let you explore my endlessness. You can float on top of me and use me for transportation, or you can dive into me and feel me more closely. You can stare at me as long as you like. I share my beauty with you, and keep nothing for myself.

I am the glue that holds the world together. I touch all continents, and without judgement, I offer everybody what I have to give. I reach up and fade into the infinity of the sky.

My waves will sing you a lullaby to keep you calm, but sometimes they play heavy metal. Opposites must be balanced.

Though I can be caring, and carry you far, I forge respect.

I show my essence in various disguises. I take on many forms. I can be still as a mirror. I can be powerful. My strong waves can carve out the sand of beaches with my force. I can turn into playful rings. I can sway softly, or wave brutally. I can even go through the body of a whale, be blown into the sky with force, fall back home and return to the shape I had. I can be dark, blue, turquoise, green, brown, white, and red. Sometimes I mirror the colors that surround me. Sometimes I put on my silver dress and dance in the moonlight. Yet, it is always me. I am the same, no matter how I look and what I act like.

You can likewise take on different shapes, and still be you. Your outer can change, whilst your inner essence stays intact. As I can, you can embrace and be valued for all the forms you take on. Each form of you has a specific quality, you just need to figure out which.

And like me, you can make yourself available to the world. You can without judgement give what you have to offer. Make yourself useful, appreciated and limitless.”

 

Thus, dedicating a bit of time in nature with nature can be very rewarding.

If you're lucky, you become aesthetically recharged, learn about yourself, and find guidance to live rather than just moving along through life. Natures greatest gift is awareness.


 

Screen Shot 2016-01-15 at 9.46.52 AMMaria is a RYT200 and Reiki II practitioner from Yandara Yoga Institute. She has practiced since she was a teenager, but as she moved to a bigger town in 2011 she discovered that yoga is much more than asana practice. In 2014 she began to practice daily, which transformed her life. To Maria yoga is philosophy, mantras, meditation, and ethics. Yoga is a life style. It is a choice to be a happy and loving person. Last but not least, yoga is an art form. It is a way to find elegance and to connect with the inner self.

Besides from being a yogini, Maria is a master student of social anthropology, a travel enthusiast, and an amateur cook and blogger. Connect with Maria on Facebook!

Featured Image via: Clare Jim

Yoga and Hypnotherapy: A Winning Combination

Yoga is good for your all around health–physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. Everyone knows about the good effects that yoga has on your stress levels and on your immune system. The combination of physically challenging exercises, meditation and breathing methods can go a long way to balance your life in these stressful times.

When yoga isn´t enough

meditating

But there are times in everyone´s lives when yoga isn´t enough. Especially when you realize that you have developed certain habits which turned out to be harmful. These negative feelings, behaviors and thoughts can follow you around during your whole life, if you don´t find the right instruments to fix, or “deprogram” them. That is why we want to promote a method that is extremely effective, easy to learn and does not require any fancy equipment or expensive advice by a therapist.

Hypnotherapy and self-hypnosis as yogic practices

During hypnosis the body and mind are in a very deep state of relief and relaxation. Now is the time when one can get directly in touch with the subconscious, which knows the inner source of even our most secret thoughts and uncontrolled behaviors. The goal of self-hypnosis is to “talk” to this subconscious and achieve transformation.. The physical and mental relaxation that comes with a good yoga practice opens the door for this healthy communication, which is a powerful way to get rid of destructive habits.

Hypnotherapy – what is it good for?

There are certain behaviors in all of us that we know are not good for us. We all know we should live healthier, be more active and think more about our loved ones. Then there are addictions like smoking, eating too much or doing hard drugs. For most of these habits we don´t really have an explanation. Only our subconscious knows the deepest sources of these bad habits and self-destructive behaviors. This is where hypnotherapy comes in. It can help to address these unwanted habits but also to successfully get rid of psychosomatic stress that shows itself in diseases like migraine or a weakened immune system, etc. Hypnotherapy can work directly at the inner source of these symptoms. By transforming oneself, the individual becomes free from these stress related symptoms and the unwanted behavior.

How to Learn Hypnotherapy as a Yogic Practice

Yoga takes the body to a state of deepest relaxation which is the most important condition for self-hypnosis to work. Different methods like autosuggestion or visualizations help to activate the process. Also ” Sankalpa“ (conception or idea ,notion ) can be of great assistance to healing. It is strongly recommended to find a teacher to learn hypnotherapy and not try it without guidance. The most effective way to learn it is as a yogic practice, because a teacher will eliminate the risk of learning a wrong practice, which could have disastrous consequences on the mental health of that person. A teacher can guide and assist you during the process of learning how to heal yourself.


 

Author_Sohail_EbadyDr. Sohail Ebady M.D. created Patanjali Institute to impart yoga and hypnotherapy to students who wish to become effective healers. He has been a yoga teacher and hypnotherapist for over 20 years and recognized the need for these sciences to be intertwined.

 

Essential Elements of a Yoga Flow

Image Credit:  Matt Madd


 

As a yoga teacher, there’s plenty of room for creativity within your sequencing. How you put different poses together and why you choose to put them that way will ultimately define your teaching style and attract a certain type of practitioner. There are some essential or traditional elements to a flow, especially when you’re starting out and learning how to sequence your class – elements that leave the student feeling well rounded mentally, physically, and emotionally. You can imagine that a class is like a story, with a similar flow to that of a movie. In most movies, we have the introduction, which leads to the rising action. This brings us to the climax, falling action, and finally the resolution.

How does this relate to yoga? In class, we take students on a journey – a mindful, soulful, physical, emotional journey. Students experience a roller coaster of emotions throughout a yoga class, and the structure is a nice way to effectively and safely take them on this journey, with all its highs and lows, a slow introduction, a physically and mentally challenging middle, and closure at the end to tie it all together.

I was trained in YogaWorks style sequencing and per our training, there is a certain style that the Vinyasa Yoga Flow classes tend to follow, which is one I find to be very fulfilling and well-rounded. The following guidelines will derive from that inspiration but with my own words. Classes I take are typically 90 minutes so it allows for all elements of the following – most classes in typical studios these days tend to be 60 – 75 minutes, so you have to adjust the times according to your needs. Please note these guidelines generally wouldn’t apply to certain styles of yoga like Yin/Restorative, Iyengar, or Ashtanga.

1.  Tuning Inward and Focusing (5 minutes)

Most people come to yoga and bring the rush of their day with them. It’s important to take a few moments to acknowledge the beginning of practice, the quieting of the mind and body, and the coming to the mat. Here you will teach: breath work (or pranayama), how to focus the mind inward, and skills to help students stay present in each moment, regardless of the external situations (or poses). You can invite students to set an intention (like staying present with each breath) or you can talk about the theme or peak pose for the class. Some poses that you can start with are Savasana, Balasana, Tadasana, or supported bridge pose.

2.  Warming Up the Body (20 minutes)

This is a place for a cardio-intense full-body start to get the breath and blood flowing and the muscles warm. It's well-known in most athletic or bodywork communities that a cardio warm up is essential to accessing different parts of the body and performing more efficiently throughout the practice. Think Salutations here (all kinds – Sun, half, As, Bs, Cs, Moon, with variations!). Core and abdominal work can be added here as well.

3.  Warming Up/Teaching The Parts You’ll be Focusing On (30 minutes)

Here, you sequence together a different kind of warm up. Some teachers teach the skill and introduce easier poses that open and strengthen areas that will be needed for the peak pose. For example, if you’re taking student towards handstands, you’ll want to teach core engagement and warm up the shoulders and chest. You’ll introduce certain actions/areas (called component parts) in these more accessible poses that will be used later on to build to advanced poses. Sequencing actions or movements needed in the body to access harder poses are also taught in these easier poses. This helps to create muscle memory while the practitioner is able to maintain a calm and steady mind and breath versus when they are in a challenging position. You will include many variations of poses here including hip/shoulders openers, downward facing dog variation, chaturanga dandasana, and more, leading to standing poses. You can take spins on Sun Salutations by adding elements related to your focus for the class. An example is adding Utkatasana Twists in Sun Saluation B if you're working on detoxing, or add humble warrior in Virabhadrasana I if you're working on opening the shoulders and hips. Then you can lead into more standing poses like Trikonasana, Virabhadrasana II, and Prasarita Padottanasana variations. Depending on the level of class you can throw in transitions to Bakasana and Sirsasana II (tripod headstand) from a number of poses.

4.  Peak Pose and/or Inversions (5 – 15 minutes)

Within your standing series of flows, you will lead students to the peak pose (maybe ardha chandrasana, natarajasana, or bird of paradise). If you are teaching inversions, you will break after to the wall and teach inversions that you have been building up to. Think also forearm stands, headstands, dolphin, forearm plank, and side plank.

5.  Backbends (5 – 10 minutes)

Time for Bridge pose, wheel pose, camel pose, locust pose… take your pick or choose a few! By this time, students should be warmed up in the shoulders, thoracic spine, and hip flexors in order to access these poses. Think Urdhva Dhanurasana, Ustrasana, or Salabhasana.

6.  Cool Down/ Resolution (10 – 15 minutes)

This is the time when you bring it to the ground for your seated poses - think cooling poses like Shoulder Stand, final meditation & breath work, and everyone’s favorite pose: Savasana. Think Pigeon variations, happy baby, halasana (plough pose), or Marichyasana C.

General Tips to Consider

  • Ask students about any injuries or pregnancies before class and be aware of your students’ safety foremost. Adjust your class when necessary to fit who showed up that day. Also, base your instructions on what you see in the room.
  • When guiding through standing poses, in general, it’s advisable to start with easiest poses to hardest poses. This would be externally rotated --> neutrally rotated --> twisting poses.
  • Within categories of poses, move from easier poses to harder.
  • Compensate between poses and bring the spine back to neutral in between. For example, a Tadasana between a backbend and a forward bend. Speaking of, the combination of the backbend with the forward bend is known as “counter poses”, taking the body in opposite directions to achieve balance.
  • Twists also complement backbends. They release the body after a backbend, and they also warm up the body for the backbend and vice versa.
  • Take students into child’s pose after most inversions, and encourage students to take child’s pose and downward dog in between and during series instead of constantly doing flows, especially when they stop breathing.

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Sanskrit 101: The REAL Meaning of "Asana"

Image Credit:  Salvador Fornell


It’s become common to see Sanskrit names of poses on social media posts and in articles written by yoga practitioners. For a beginner, it can seem super overwhelming to see long strings of letters that look unfamiliar and to try to remember them! However, learning the Sanskrit pose names can add a deeper level of meaning to your yoga practice, and often inspires practitioners to delve into the philosophy and history of the yoga lineage.

Where do Pose Names Come From?

Many of the poses are named after animals, Hindu gods, religious figures, or mythological characters. Developing an understanding of these can help a practitioner learn about where yoga comes from, why we practice it, and how to move beyond just the physical aspect. One of the first things people realize about Sanskrit when they begin to learn about it was that since Sanskrit is not written with the same characters as English, there are many ways to spell things. You might see different forms of spellings depending on who wrote it, such as savasana versus shavasana or danurasana versus dhanurasana. It’s a choice in phonetic translation, so there’s no right or wrong version but it can get confusing when seeing a spelling other than the one you’re used to.  Try to figure out the pronunciations and common spelling differences. In the savasana/ shavasana (a.k.a. Corpse Pose) example, the difference is the use of the letter h but the two are pronounced the same way. Some people choose to use the “sh” spelling, but it’s very common to see just the letter s and have the “shhh” sound implied.

Why do Some Poses Have More Than One Name?

Another important thing to note is that since there are many different schools of thought in yoga, sometimes you’ll see certain poses being called by different names. An example is “chakrasana” which is a name used for a backbend in Iyengar yoga (a.k.a. Wheel Pose). However, in traditional Ashtanga yoga this name is given to a transitional movement in which one does a backwards roll over the shoulders. Postures having multiple names is an intimidating thought when considering how many poses there are in yoga. Luckily, most have a name that’s most commonly used and when in doubt you can always just describe it in English.

So What Does "Asana" Really Mean?

We’ll start with the term “asana” which is part of most of the Sanskrit pose names. “Asana” is defined as any of the yogic postures or movements, but literally translates to “seat.” It’s said that originally the only posture in yoga was a comfortable seat taken for long periods of mediation. Eventually the other postures were developed to help find ease in sitting for so long, and to assist with opening the mind to a meditative state. The postures are used to increase hip flexibility so one can sit crosslegged, and to stimulate the chakras and nadis (allowing for energy body throughout the body). “Asana” is a very thought-provoking term, since thinking of each posture as a place to find the meditative “seat” or state of mind brings the practice away from just the physical movement and begins the journey of the mind looking inward. It also reinforces the idea that a practitioner should try seated meditation in addition to practicing postures.

Here are some easy posture names to start practicing, and look for our next Sanskrit basics article coming soon! Trikonasana, a.k.a. Triangle Pose Uttanasana, a.k.a. Standing Forward Fold Dhanurasana, a.k.a. Bow Pose

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The Importance of Self-Love, No Matter What

Let’s talk about Self-Love and loving yourself no matter what. It’s a super important concept that most people completely ignore - and yet it can be the single most important step to getting what you want in life. Whether it’s about your next level in fitness, health, or career - without self-love, you’ll be stuck.

As a mom, I have always felt that if the oxygen masks came down on a plane, there is no way I could put mine on before my kids. It just felt all wrong to me to even entertain that idea.

Women especially put everything (partners, employers, careers, kids, friends, family, chores) before themselves. And when you are a "people pleaser," you end up feeling burnt out, "letting yourself go," maybe depressed (or bouts of depression), and you are harder on yourself than anyone else.

All people - women, men, kids - need to truly learn to love themselves before they can truly care for and deeply love others. 

I know you may not agree with me as you are reading this - so I want you to read this book: "Love Yourself: Your Life Depends On It”, by Kamal Ravikant. It will take you 30 minutes to read the entire thing, but it is crucial to understanding this concept of self-love.

After reading this book, I do believe I would put my own mask on first. Because if I can’t breathe, I can’t save them. I am a firm believer in self-care and self-love. Having gratitude and appreciation for where you are right now, AND where you want to go. What you did or did not do today - have gratitude. When we focus on the good feelings, more good happens. In addition to reading the book, try this super simple exercise I learned from Carmen Marshall, one of my mentors:

Before your feet hit the floor in the morning, count 5 -10 things you love about yourself and/or are grateful for.

..and before you fall asleep, do the same thing.

It will change how your days, weeks, months, etc unfold; you will wake up excited for the day; and amazing things will happen in life.

One more quick story: 

Darren Hardy told this story when I heard him speak a couple of years ago and I want to share it with you.

He was annoyed with his wife of many years. They had kids, busy lives, and he felt like she had changed and become very annoying, high maintenance, and he was feeling like maybe he didn't love her anymore....

So he decided to try something.

He's a smart guy, and realized maybe he needed to change HIS perceptions. So every day for a year, he wrote down 1 thing he was grateful for about his wife or 1 thing he loved or appreciated about her.

In a couple of weeks, he noticed his wife had changed! She wasn't so annoying and he was feeling more in love with her.

He kept doing this and gave the journal to her for her birthday. I'm sure you can imagine how much she loved it.

In doing this, he realized, she didn't magically change. SHE had no idea he was focusing on appreciating her more. BUT in the practice of appreciation, he focused on the GOOD and the good expanded.

You owe it to yourself to do the same thing. 

 


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Tara Hantske is a Holistic Health Coach + Wellness Business Mentor, Pure Barre Teacher, and Mom. She helps women all over the world cultivate a healthy lifestyle and business that allows them to live what they love. Connect with Tara on Facebook, Instagram, and her website.

     

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The Power of Positive Thinking

Most of the stresses and insecurities we suffer from are caused by our own thoughts. Have you ever observed your thoughts? How many times a day do you become frustrated? How often do you criticize yourself and self-doubt? I used to experience these negative thoughts daily and I envied the people who seemed to have their life together. What have I done wrong? Why me? I asked myself these questions frequently and never figured out why I was so miserable until I started experiencing the effects of positive affirmations. The more I became aware of my thoughts, the easier it was to ignore them. The problem was my perspective not my existence.

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Negative thinking is a hard habit to break, but I promise you if you genuinely try to change your thought patterns, you will not suffer from the vicious egoistic mind. Negative thinking consumes and distracts you; think about when you’re in a heated argument…your anger grows so strong that you can feel it boiling inside of you and you can’t think or focus on anything else. You may find it hard to start or finish tasks because you think you don’t have the strength, but I am here to tell you that you most certainly do. Here are a few things to incorporate in your daily life to benefit your physical and mental health.

  • Being happy is a matter of choice. It is really that simple. If you notice negative thoughts arising, simply observe what the voice in your head is saying and try to identify the root of this feeling. Do not try to avoid the thought, but instead, immediately take the mind to an elevated place, transform your thoughts into something positive. This can be as simple as changing your thought from, “I cannot do this” to “I can do this.”
  • Be grateful. There is always something to be grateful for, no matter how awful we may feel. Make a daily list of things you are grateful for and how they benefit you, you’ll soon begin to see that everything around you is a gift.
  • Positive affirmations. These are most effective using the “I am” principle, for example: I am strong. I am confident. I am balanced. I am generous and forgiving, etc.
  • Take some time for yourself to do something you love. Make time for silence, slow down, and take a breath. We tend to live very busy, fast paced lives that often deplete our energy. A yoga practice, meditation, reading a book, or any activity that helps you feel relaxed gives us an opportunity to unwind and recharge.

Choose to make these changes today! Practice positive thinking and never

give up. This isn’t something that happens overnight, you need persistence and the willpower to retrain your brain to see the good in all things. Just remember, think well and you will be well. Enjoy life!

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Mindfulness 101: Ten ways to be Mindful (and Happy) in Your Daily Life

  Meditation and yoga are practices that help you to engage in mindfulness . Increasing mindfulness is important for good psychological health. The true transformation from yoga and meditation is when the practice is applied beyond the classroom. It is when the mindfulness is extended towards other areas of life bringing the internal to external situation, where your mind and body tend to be more on "autopilot" and react.

To create change in your life it is important to become aware of the autopilot or “monkey mind” that develops unhealthy habitual thought processes,  so that you can learn to “snap out of it” and change your self.

Mindfulness can help you interact with your life so as to create space to release bad habits and develop a deeper perspective into the functionality of your day-to-day actions.

You can increase the sense of autonomy over your thoughts. When practiced, mindfulness makes opportunity for more love and can generate feelings of bliss, joy and unity within your personal self and your connection with your external environment.

Through journalling, art, therapy, yoga, meditation and travel, I have delivered myself outside of my comfort zone in analysing aspects of my body in movement, my mind in thought, and my existence as a human being within the world. Taking in mantras to train my brain to think differently from my environment, and to release past thoughts that engage me, I have discovered aspects of my life that I generally get cornered into my auto-pilot. From focussing on presence,  I have drawn from the practice of mundane situations, instead of allowing myself to get lost in thought.

When practicing mindfulness, along with yoga and meditation, these tips  can help to remind yourself to “wake-up” from your mental chatter at all times of the day. I have developed this list of moments to help remind us of when to switch up the mental routine so as to create a more relaxed and focussed in experience of life.

1. Wake up with Gratitude

When waking up in the morning, whether it be with an alarm, a pet or a child, we have the ability to attach ourselves to mental patterns right as our consciousness opens up. Whether this be pressing the snooze button or waking up quickly because one is late for work, take the opportunity to presence yourself. Take the time to rejoice in the experience of a new day. One minute of lying awake, but not being quite yet awake, can presence yourself to set up a more calm, mindful and appreciative day.

2. Engage with Food

Most religions discuss the need to give thanks and blessings before eating food. At a psychological level, this act is proven to relax the body, allowing for better digestion and feelings of satiation. This helps to manage your relationship with food, whether it be thinking negative thoughts about your body, helping you not eat your food too quickly, not eat enough, or even to overeat. Developing a positive, more mindful attitude about your food consumption, no matter what your relationship is with it, can bring a sense of gratitude and awareness in the full enjoyment of a meal.

3. Listening

When someone else is speaking, this is your opportunity to be present and to open your ears and actually hear what they are saying. Not only is their information valuable to your experience (whether you agree or disagree), they are teaching you something about yourself.

On another level, while listening to the news, advertisements or music, this is where mindfulness is key. These are great sources for discovery in societal manipulation and can seep into your subconscious if you are not mindfully aware of the words and their influence.

4. Media and Entertainment

When watching a movie or reading a book, you engage with your imagination and project into the reality of an experience that is not entirely your own. This engagement can inspire and uplift us but can also be damaging to self-image, create idolization of celebrities or feelings of comparison within your present life experience. Media is a way to engage with the public in entertaining certain ideals or fantasies about our world. Such as with social media and the virtual reality of identity, mindfulness is important to engage with these entertainment tools healthily and in complete understanding of the truth behind them.

5. Repetitive Patterns

When living in the same place for a long period of time, I notice I develop repetitive mental patterns. Just like travelling to a school I used to attend, feelings and memories of nostalgia combine into my experience. Walking into a certain room triggers mental habits, sitting at the same workspace every day, walking to the store, engaging with friends and family are repetitive patterns that you can wake up to, to find mindfulness in the experience. There are new things happening every day, whether it be the seasons changing, the lighting of the sky, or a freckle on another person’s nose. These discoveries, no matter how small, can change the mundane experience of repetitive patterns in your mind and bring you outside of your accustomed auto-pilot.

6. Standing in Line

The goal of mindfulness is to be present to your thoughts and to your experience. The best spot to practice meditation and mindfulness is while standing in line. How do you interact with the people around you when you are waiting, are you ‘with’ the experience or are you waiting for it to be over?

7. Troubleshooting Technology Problems and Repairs

This is an aspect of life that we all seem to abhor; cancelled plans, flat tires, computer upgrades/crashes, loosing internet connection and troubleshooting device failures can be limiting experiences we all wish to avoid. This is exactly where you can find the opportunity to practice mindfulness, patience and presence to the purpose of which you engage with your technology.

8. Travel

What happens when you are in a traffic jam? What pace do you take when you walk down the street? You travel constantly throughout the day, from one thing to the next, and in these moments your mind can project into the future of where you wish to be. Being mindful of travel is just a way to learn to plant your feet on the ground, look around, breathe and show gratitude to the portions of our lives in which we traverse from one experience to the next.

9. Speaking and Remaining Silent

Taking the time to become aware of the words that you use, helps to create better mantras for your life. Things such as gossip, negativity and complaining can catch up to your psyche and reveal things about yourself that you wouldn’t completely agree with when heard later. Do you ever hear what you’re saying or wish you had said something different? Take in the time to slow your words. Find the space for breathe. Sometimes silence can be the most powerful tool, but also, presence yourself to the moment to direct a greater authenticity in your communication with others and cause for a better use of your words.

10. Experiencing Loss

At many points in life we experience feelings of loss, of losing or misplacing something. This is when the mind can be frantic as it experiences the lack of control in life’s circumstances. In these moments, it is important to focus on the breathe, to relax the mind and allow for time to pass in order to create space for the truth to come up.

Funny thing about the monkey mind is that it is much more trustworthy than we realize, going with the flow and becoming mindful of our autopilot can bring us to a more natural, innate sense of intuition and internal discovery.

 

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The Ancient Movements of Dance and Yoga

The discovery of dance and yoga

When I first stepped into a dance class, I felt extremely self conscious. Whether it was that I was too old, too tall or too chubby, my own self confidence went on for years feeling like, and pretty much being, the awkward girl at the back on stage at the yearly dance recital. Still though, I’ve always loved to dance and kept picking it up again throughout the years, signing up for classes and generally feeling like I was sucking at it.

As I got into yoga and meditation in my early twenties, I came into an understanding of long-held emotional patterns within my body that kept me from achieving my goals in life. Words and feelings of stress and self-consciousness were slowly worked out through Vinyasa series and Pigeon poses. Deep meditations uncovered unhealthy mental patterns, and yoga workshops helped me to journal new mantras and healthier mindsets. All of this uplifted me into a more graceful, relaxed and pleasantly optimistic individual.

And once again, in time, I went back to my first love; dance.

If yogis are defined as flexible, then try to see them get loose and dance. The two ancient practices of dance and yoga have carried throughout humanity since the beginning of time while differing greatly in perspective and experience.

Both offer a physical release and satisfaction in gains towards enlightenment while differing greatly in practice and appearance. Yoga stands out with written texts in philosophy, seeking inner peace through the discovery of the mind, an internal self-discovery. Dance interacts with the environment artistically in form through a cultural significance in experience of music and expression. I’ve taken to asking some educators on dance and yoga, to figure out exactly what brings us to fully let go into each practice mentally, spiritually and physically.

The Draw of the Physical

“I remember losing my mind and dancing at school dances, in battles, where the smell of sweat and the enveloping bass took over my body and soul before I turned 10. I have been chasing movement and sound ever since.” Rise Ashen, a practiced house dancer, DJ and yoga instructor.

Each practice helps to develop body consciousness. Learning from your left to right, you teach your body how to float, whether it be jumping through to bakasana, (crow pose) or nailing a smooth quick step on the floor. They both enhance your daily experience through aiding the body in evading injury and obtaining balance and grace.

Yoga develops consciousness to bend safely and balance. Dance helps lighten the feet so you can catch yourself quickly if you are to fall. Both help to engage the core, strengthen and engage the body in physical movement.

Intensity of the Mental

“I started dancing at age 3, I call dance my first language. At 19 yoga found me, I took it on like a form of therapy, movement as meditation. I loved the discipline, the structure and challenge of astanga yoga.” says Amber J, owner of Misfits Studio in Toronto.

There are high days and low days in life, while dance and yoga keep the balance throughout. The leg and arm movements mimic one another in each form. Dance and yoga are moving through history with great discovery and development internationally. Whether it be Breaking or Russian folk dance, Anusara yoga or restorative, the body positions transition the same but always uniquely different.

The Vitruvian Man, by Leonardo Davinci, shows a man within his full range of motion. What I believe brings up the life changing movement within the man through any position he could potentially take, is meditation. Meditation is the focus point within the movement of the extremities. The challenge of yoga, is the focus on relaxation and alignment; with dance it is about connection to the music and personal style.

“Repetition, the beginner’s mind, just copying… it is not pleasing to the ego, it is not comfortable. There are no colourful belts or badges, no diplomas, it requires commitment and hard work and it is not easy. Yoga and dance are amazing practices, they require crazy commitment and in so many ways they are deep and wide ranging.” says Rise. He has been teaching dance for around six years and yoga for two. “When we start to develop an art form it is really hard on the ego. We have a vision inside of what we want to create, but our taste is better than our aptitudes. The Nataraj depicts Shiva as a dancer because dance is the ultimate destruction of the ego. You have to rebuild from nothing and to feel like nothing isn't very easy.”

As I took my yoga philosophy into my dance classes, I began to lose my mind. In Osho, it is a form of meditation to dance wildly to allow the body to feel its existence, and then to sit in meditation. The feeling of embodying music completely is exhilarating and yet also very scary. Sitting in meditation afterwards, heavy breathe and sweat dripping, transcends beauty and connection with the divine.

Connecting to the Source

Each are an individual vibration, while yoga has seemed to have tumbled out of the mountains, dance has grown its roots deep from the earth.

“I feel empowered in my body in movement while deeply connected to source. I allow the breath to be the rhythm that I ride… It is a blessing that finds a unique way of moving organically and it just comes to me. I am grateful every day that I get to teach the magic of movement.” says Amber J.

When I turned my attention more closely to the cultural art form of dance, I began to notice some incredible similarities between it and yoga. No movement was created by any specific person, yet throughout the years, yoga and dance have been exchanged between the bodies of teachers for generations.

Each practice has touched many, some seeking to bring a closer connection to God. Whether it be at a Native American Pow Wow or viewing traditional Sufis Whirling, both hold a form and structure in respective lineage.

The Energy of Dance

Amber J describes “The ways in which yoga and dance are similar are many to me. I find being both a dancer and a yogi, its that desperately we all want to dance. I think this is partly why yoga has become so popular. It is freedom, expression, re-connection and riding the journey of grace.”

It is a wonder why humans are so expressive while we dance. We can express anything in this artform... happiness, sadness, anger and the continous struggle in seeking a healthy escape to personal mental, physical and spiritual freedom and peace. The jail cells birthed Brazilian martial art and dance form of Capoeira through coping through the rough times.

“Every ounce of energy we put into dance comes back to us if we stick with it. Just like yoga, it is a great cultural gift that is handed down from the dancers before… I can’t imagine life without it…” Rise reveals.

Both practices are in the expression of present time through the mastering of bodily form while addressing still world culture and history. All I am learning at this point is that you have to ditch trying to find the balance, to find your balance in yoga and dance. I learn and continue to learn to let go and be inspired by the movement and the music to find and deepen my soul. There'll always be someone better than me as well as someone worse and it most often will not always be easy, but I have to keep trying. To me each practice together are about pushing through the difficulties and the mental nuances to enjoy the simple freedom of the body within each movement, leaving the mind to relax and just be with what is.

 

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