Life is an opportunity, benefit from it. Life is a beauty, admire it. Life is a dream, realize it. Life is a challenge, meet it. Life is a duty, complete it. Life is a game, play it. Life is a promise, fulfill it. Life is sorrow, overcome it. Life is a song, sing it. Life is a struggle, accept it. Life is a tragedy, confront it. Life is an adventure, dare it. Life is luck, make it. Life is life, fight for it! – Mother Teresa
Tag Archives: becoming the best you
I had a student last week ask me if yoga can help you lose weight. Well, sure, but maybe not in the typical way we look at weight loss.
Yoga asana burns some calories, builds muscle, calms the nervous system and helps us live in a rest/digest mode rather than fight/flight mode. But more important for weight loss, I believe yoga helps us look deeply and compassionately at ourselves and see patterns of behavior that are helpful and hurtful to us.
As we grow in our practice, we naturally desire to take better care of ourselves. We make better choices about what we eat, what we think, what we consume (movies, books, news), who we hang out with, getting good sleep. If we have used food as an emotional or mental crutch, we start to make behavioral changes and begin to use food solely for fuel/medicine. When we are anxious or stressed or depressed or lonely or angry, rather than use food to stuff the emotions, we allow the emotions to move through us and out of us. Rather than over eating junk food, we take a walk, garden, meditate to alleviate our mental health issues.
Obviously, if someone has a deeply engrained pattern of overeating, this change takes a lot of time and effort – and much self-compassion along the ride.
So, yes, yoga helps with weight loss because it helps us slow down, live in the present moment, and connects us to the part of ourselves that has an insatiable desire to live and feel well! We feel our best when we are at an appropriate weight for our body and lifestyle. We feel well when we eat real food and build a diet that works for our individual constitution.
This simple breathing meditation has been incredibly helpful for me and I thought it may be helpful to you, too!
Start becoming aware of your breath and create a slow, deep, even inhale and exhale from your nose. It may be a for a count of 4, 5, or 7 – we all have a different breath cycle, so make it your own deep even breath. As you inhale, meditate on “Serve”. As you exhale, meditate on “God”.
As I move through each moment of my day, I go back to this breathing meditation. When anxiety fills me, or my heart becomes heavy, or my mind starts it’s incessant chitter chatter, I go back to: Inhale Serve, Exhale God. Everything slows down. Crystal clarity returns. Worry resolves itself. Stress melts away. I step back into my true purpose – in each moment, Serve God.
Hello there – I posted a few yoga videos on my YouTube Channel.
I hope this helps yoga practitioners feel well and stay tethered to the peaceful place inside yourself regardless of what’s going on in the world.
With Peace, Love, Inner Light,
Inspired from an article by Eric Barker and neuroscience researcher Alex Korb
Sometimes we get into these “moods” and it feels like our whole being has a desire to stay stuck in a negative emotion. We know we aren’t being our best versions of ourself, but can’t seem to shift back into positivity, peace, and calm.
The best thing to ask yourself:
What am I grateful for?
Gratitude affects your brain at the biological level. Gratitude boosts the neurotransmitter dopamine.
The benefits of gratitude start with the dopamine system, because feeling grateful activates the brain stem region that produces dopamine. Additionally, gratitude toward others increases activity in social dopamine circuits, which makes social interactions more enjoyable…
Gratitude boosts the neurotransmitter serotonin.
One powerful effect of gratitude is that it can boost serotonin. Trying to think of things you are grateful for forces you to focus on the positive aspects of your life. This simple act increases serotonin production in the anterior cingulate cortex.
Sometimes life gets really messy and negative and it’s hard to find one thing to be grateful for – and guess what, it doesn’t matter – it’s the slowing down to think about gratitude.
It’s not finding gratitude that matters most; it’s remembering to look in the first place. Remembering to be grateful is a form of emotional intelligence. One study found that it actually affected neuron density in both the ventromedial and lateral prefrontal cortex. These density changes suggest that as emotional intelligence increases, the neurons in these areas become more efficient. With higher emotional intelligence, it simply takes less effort to be grateful.
Gratitude is a ripple effect – it helps you feel happier and, if you express gratitute to other people in your life, it extends into those relationships.
As I lay here in Savasana, I come into stillness and surrender.
I allow myself to feel completely supported…
Because I am supported.
By something far greater than anything anyone can imagine. God.
I relax into the comfort of being supported and connected to God.
Inhaling, and God approaches me.
Holding the inhalation, and God remains in me.
Exhaling, and I approach God.
Holding the exhalation, and surrender to God.
I allow my whole body; physically, mentally, emotionally, energetically – to surrender.
Surrendering my little “s” self so that I may live in my higher “S” self.
To see clarity in God’s purpose for my life.
Breath by breath, moment by moment.
From the moment I was born until the moment I die, using the breath to come back into the simplicity of life lived through God’s plan.
From Kripalu Yoga by Richard Faulds
Each of us is a lake of love, yet strangely enough we are all thirsty. – Swami Kripalu
The full flowering of emotional health is the capacity to live in a web of authentic and caring relationships. As your heart opens, your capacity for empathy expands and relationships take on more meaning. Close relationships allow you to be real and genuine, sharing whatever you are feeling. They are also a place where you can listen deeply, understand another’s experience, and express true caring. When your heart is open, even casual interactions can be intimate and meaningful.
As a result of the bumps, bruises, and very real traumas of life, and through a tenancy to focus on cognitive processing, many adults suffer a loss of emotional sensitivity. The flow of feeling through our internal networks breaks down, stifling communication between body, heart, and mind. What causes this breakdown is not known. Yoga points to energy blocks that impede the free flow of life force. Psychology refers to trauma, undigested experiences, body armoring, and the suppression and repression of feeling. Neuroscience posits that overwhelming emotions may get stored in the body’s cellular memory, causing neuropeptide receptors to shrink in size, decrease in number, and leave us dull and desensitized.
Regardless of the mechanism, many of us have unconsciously erected barriers that block strong emotions like anger, sadness, grief, and loss. Sometime, or perhaps many times in the past, we were angry or hurting and for whatever reason were unable to feel and express it. Years later, we still brace ourselves from feeling it through chronic muscular tension, defense mechanisms, and patterns of behavior that dull our ability to feel. It is impossible to block only “negative” feelings, and this strategy has a notable side effect. It prevents us from feeling pleasure, happiness, and joy. If we can’t hear the low notes, we can’t hear the high notes either. Inhabiting a narrow band of feeling not only limits us individually, it restricts our ability to connect with other people. When severe, it can leave us isolated, lonely, and unable to create and sustain intimacy.
To make matters worse, there is a strong tendency for this state of affairs to spiral in the wrong direction. Suppression is like holding a beach ball under the water. As the beach ball grows in size, more and more effort is required to hold things in place. Pressure builds within the psyche and we become reactive, carrying around an emotional charge and apt to fly off the handle by responding to situations with too much intensity. Bottling up emotions also agitates the mind, and we lose clarity. Acutely aware of the pressure, we are often in the dark on what is causing it, or how to alleviate it. All this makes the prospect of opening up to feeling even more threatening, so we clamp down harder still. The path to opening the heart starts with reversing this process and regaining the ability to feel.
What Are Feelings?
The term feelings covers a lot of real estate. Feelings are the colors, textures, and tones of your response to the world around you. When you are in touch with your feelings, life is vivid and real. Cut off from your feelings, life occurs as dry, hollow, humdrum, and meaningless. You may find it helpful to distinguish between two types of feelings that arise during yoga practice, sensation and emotion. Sensation is the raw physical experience of being in a body that pulses with life and is equipped with five senses. It includes the ability to sense the body’s position in space, feel movement, and identify differences in warmth and cold, tension and relaxation, heaviness and lightness. It also includes the visual images, sounds, textures, tastes, and smells associated with the outside world. Mediated by the cerebellum and brain stem, sensations are basic messages essential for our safety and survival.
What Are Emotions?
Emotions, on the other hand, are richer, meaning-laden feelings that seem too occur at the interface of body and mind. While the biological basis of emotions is not yet fully understood, it is clear that emotions are processed by different parts of the brain – the amygdala, hypothalamus, and limbic system – known to play important roles in decision-making and memory.
Emotions convey a wide range of important messages. The flow of emotion is not an occasional occurrence, as suggested by the phrase getting emotional. The emotional system is working all the time to sustain a familiar emotional tone that governs mood, colors thought, and helps us act appropriately. A consistently angry or sad person has often grown so accustomed to their emotional tone that they are unconscious of how it impacts their behavior and their reception by others.
Emotions are complex and sometimes confusing. It is not uncommon to flip-flop between opposing emotions in response to a situation. You may be happy that you got a promotion at work, but sad that a hard-working colleague was passed over. You may feel genuine warmth for a loved one, yet be enraged at how they are treating you. You may be elated to have accomplished a major goal in life, but feel overwhelmed by yet another hurdle looming on the horizon. To further complicate matters, your emotional and cognitive response to a situation may conflict. Thoughts and feelings can diverge in different directions, leaving you confused and needing time to sort things out.
Kripalu Yoga teaches you how to hear and honor the full range of emotional messages flowing through you. By listening closely, most practitioners discover that their body is far from a mindless brute. Dancing for joy, or sobbing with sadness, the body is highly sensitive and profoundly wise. It is the seat of an attribute as old as the hills but only now being recognized as: emotional intelligence.
Kripalu Yoga offers a way to safely reclaim your ability to feel. It is based on a simple but powerful truth: you do not need to do anything to change or fix your emotions. You just need to stay present in your body and ride the waves of whatever feelings arise during practice. Sensations and emotions are messages conveyed in the language of feeling. You can learn to receive the message and let it go. With each message received, you grow in self-awareness and a layer of tension melts away.
During practice, uncomfortable or even painful emotions should not be rejected. Instead of evidence that you are doing it wrong, their presence is a strong indication that you are doing it right. There is simply no way to free yourself of an emotional burden without feeling the weight, bit by bit, of what you have been carrying. Buried emotion rises from the subconscious and unconscious to be fully felt, pass through you, and leave you lighter and wiser. When you really catch on to this, strong, painful, and even neurotic emotions become your light in the darkness. Watch them enter your consciousness. Feel them in your body. Breathe into them. Notice as the sensations shift and change. When held in the light of awareness, what was feared as an obstacle often befriends you and reveals a profound secret.
Inspired from Yogi & Author Stephen Cope
Most yoga practitioners can attest to having a similar experience: While practicing asana, feeling a wave of energy arising during a pose. Muscles ripple and dramatically open. Feelings begin to overwhelm our whole being, and turn raw, real. Maybe it’s sadness, grief, elation. After the experience, we feel better: quiet, present, and soft. This is the real secret of yoga – the practice of being present for experience.
Through yoga, we find an orderly, safe, contained technique for making forays into our deeper inner world within ourselves. We first learn to have a full experience of feelings in the body, learning to tolerate the depth, range, and realness of this life force moving in us. We learn how to ride the wave – to be present for the wavelike movement of energy – acknowledging, experiencing, and bearing the inner world of sensation. Through this experience, we can shed the layers that are preventing us from living our best truest version of ourselves. We can cultivate a deep bond with our bright inner light – our wholeness.
Riding The Wave – The Technique (Breathe, Relax, Feel, Watch, Allow – repeat)
- Breathe – to connect with the wisdom of prana (life force) is conscious breathing – using full yogic breath, or diaphragmatic breathing. The breath immediately penetrates the frozen structures within ourselves. Yoga postures done with conscious breathing are ten times more powerful than they otherwise might be. Because the breath is the switch that integrates the emotional prana-body with the physical body, postures done with conscious breathing open parts of the body that may have long been shut off from the life force. When the wave of breath moves into these exiled areas, the results can sometimes be instantly dramatic. The breath opens our emotional body and through it we can experience a deep reintegration of exiled sensations, feelings, thoughts, and memories.
- Relax – Muscular tension in the body prevents the flow of energy, sensation, and feeling, keeping areas of the body defended against the wave of energy. Even in the more strenuous postures, find parts of your body that you can relax, while still keeping your body safe and while continuing your full yogic breath. This automatically shifts our entire energy experience. It grounds us – what appear to be dense and solid thoughts and feelings become permeable to the wave of energy. We break up locked areas, our inner world becomes transparent to us, and we feel alive again. Relax and keep relaxing.
- Feel – Feeling in this technique is an active state. It doesn’t mean just “having feelings” – it means actively moving toward sensations, the energy, the emotions – and then moving into them. Breathe into them and develop an acuity of our awareness by feeling the whole range of sensations – their color, their texture, their intensity, their mood. We let go of our evaluations and judgements and focus deeply on the sensations without telling any stories to ourselves about what’s happening. We develop a curiosity – where in the body is the feeling most intense, what is the exact texture – are there patterns of movement? As we bring more awareness to exiled aspects of our energy body, we open these previously unconscious areas to the flow of prana. More consciousness results in more wave of life experiences – allowing life to happen.
- Watch – When we watch, we develop our witness consciousness – the zone of neutrality, where we aren’t choosing for or against any type of experience, but we are just being with experience exactly how it is. As we develop witness conscious, intuition arises – a knowing that cannot be experienced through the mind alone. Our attention is focused on “how is it” – not “why it is” or “do I like it”. Witness conscious is worth every ounce of effort to develop.
- Allow – we begin to surrender to the wave of sensation, feeling, and energy. We develop a remarkable freedom to let life as it is touch us, because at our core, we know that everything is already OK. We relinquish our resistance. We don’t have to “make” the wave of life happen – we can just “let it happen”. We don’t have to understand it. Insights may come later, and they often come when we stay present in the experience. This allowing is where life can change us – there’s an amazing sense of freedom – a deep letting go of our grip on life. This kind of surrender requires a willingness to be changed. A willingness to trust life, and to keep our awareness on the energy in motion instead of trying to understand what is happening.
Breathe, Relax, Feel, Watch, Allow – Repeat.
When you accept you are here for a limited amount of time, you will find yourself paying more attention to your heart’s wisdom – what feels good, what makes you happy – rather than what your head and intellect tell you to do or what others demand of you. Don’t wait for a disaster to awaken you! Let your untrue self die – and give birth to yourself. – Bernie Siegel
By Pandit Rajmani Tigunait, PhD
Complete mastery over the roaming tendencies of the mind is Yoga. (Yoga Sutra 1:2)
The mind is a repository of all our thoughts, feelings, and memories. It is a storehouse of our likes and dislikes. We see the world – and ourselves through the eye of our mind. When the mind is clear and peaceful, we see the world as bright and peaceful. When the mind is convoluted, our understanding of the world and our relationship with it becomes equally convoluted. Our concepts of good and bad, right and wrong, depend on the quality of our mind, as do our likes and dislikes. The quality of our mind, in turn, shapes our thoughts, speech, and actions.
Memories pertaining to our deeds and experiences are deposited deep in our mind. These memories – subtle mental impressions – agitate our mind from deep within. Propelled by these impressions, the mind thinks and acts. Impressions and the thoughts and actions propelled by them are endless. That is why we find our mind constantly chasing one object after another. It has almost forgotten how to be still and be aware of its thoughts and actions.
The mind is disturbed because deep within the elements of attachment, desire, anger, fear, and doubt are active and the mind is operating under their influence. The mind is stupefied – dark, dense, and dull – because deep inside the elements of worry, grief, dejection, and hopelessness are active and have rendered the mind inert. The mind is distracted because disturbance and stupefaction are mingled with enthusiasm, courage, motivation, clarity, and purposefulness – and all these elements are randomly active. As a result, the mind is partly focused and partly dissipated.
A mind caught in any of these three states lacks clarity. It has no confidence in it’s own powers and privileges. It is indecisive and only halfheartedly willing to act on its thoughts and ideas. It seeks validation from external sources. When propelled by a disturbed, stupefied, or distracted mind, our endeavors, no matter how noble, bear little fruit. The fruit they do bear is invariably tainted by doubt, uncertainty, and fear.
This is where the quest for (samadhi) a perfectly still state of mind begins.
The mind becomes one-pointed when the elements of purity, clarity, and peacefulness are active deep within. Acting under the influence of these elements, the mind regains its power of illumination (sattva). A one-pointed mind is stable. It no longer grieves over the past nor worries about the future. The elements of disturbances, stupefaction, and distraction have been put to rest. The mind is serenely active and flowing peacefully inward.
Now the practice of Yoga, in its truest sense, has begun.