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How to Let Yoga Make 2008 Your Best Year Ever!

How to Let Yoga Make 2008 Your Best Year Ever!
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    People today, are under fire.

    Relentless stress, longer workdays, fewer vacations, destructive nutrition and an epidemic of inactivity have led to an adult generation plagued by chronic pain, fatigue, disease and frustration. In search of an answer that does not require a lifetime of medication, many have turned to complimentary and alternative medicine and more conscious forms of movement.

    For many, yoga has led the way.

    While more than 16 million people practice in the U.S. alone, though, that’s still barely 5% of the U.S. population and participation worldwide is dramatically lower. This wouldn’t be such a big deal, but for the fact that a huge chunk of nearly everything the hundreds of millions of non-yoga-practitioners in the developed-world complain about can be substantially alleviated by some aspect of the practice.

    Yoga works, plain and simple.

    The combination of breathing techniques, movement, mindset training and, if desired the exploration of the more spiritual, subtle-aspects are nothing short of transformational.

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    In fact, the benefits of these modalities are so promising and cost-effective, larger-scale studies are now underway, some funded by the National Institutes Of Health. A sampling of the currently published research includes:

    • Yoga More Effective For Back Pain Than Therapeutic Exercise & Self-Care (Annals 2005 Dec 20;143(12):849-856)
    • Yoga Effectively Treats Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (JAMA 1998 Nov 11;280(18):1601-3)
    • Yoga Yields Weight Loss In Middle Age (Alternative Therapies In Health & Medicine; Jul/Aug 2006)
    • Yoga Helps Reduce Anxiety & Depression (Altern Ther Health Med. 2004 Ma-Apr;10(2):60-3, Soc Behavioral Med Ann Mtg; March 1993; Am J Psychiatry 1992; 149:936-943)
    • Yoga Reduces Risk Factors For Cardiovascular Disease (JAMA. 1998;280:2001-2007, J Assoc Physicians India 48(7):687-94 2000 Jul, J Altern Complement Med. 2005 Apr;11(2):267-74)
    • Yoga Lowers Pre-operative Anxiety & Stress (AACN Clin Issues. 2000 Feb; 11(1):68-76)
    • Yoga Reduces Frequency & Severity of Migraine & Tension Headaches (Int J Psychosomatics 36, 1989, pp 72-78, Neurology India 1991 Jan; 39(1): 11-8)
    • Yoga Effective Complimentary Treatment for Type II Diabetes (Proc XII Ann Mtg Res Soc Study Diabetes India 1984, Diabetes Res Clin Pract. 1993 Jan;19(1):69-74))
    • Yoga Reduces Risk Factors For Diabetes Mellitus (J Altern Complement Med. 2005 Apr;11(2):267-74)
    • Yoga Decreases Severity of Asthma (Pneumologie. 1994 Jul;48(7):484-90)
    • Yoga Accelerates Healing of Psoriasis Lesions (Psychosomatic Medicine, 60, 5: 625-632)
    • Yoga Reduces Stress During Cancer Treatment & Recovery (Psychosomatic Medicine 62:613-622, Supportive Care In Cancer Mar 2001; 9(2):112-23)
    • Yoga Effective At Reducing Stress (J Alt & Comp Med. 2005; 11(4): 711-717)
    • Yoga Effective At Treating Stress In Fibromyalgia Patients (Gen Hosp Psychiatry 15(5):284-9 1993)

    So, if you’re looking for a single activity to add to your routine in 2008 that boasts the ability to impact every aspect of your life, why not make it yoga?

    Beware, though, choose your yoga carefully.

    Before you rush out and dive in, you should know that there are more than 20 major schools or “styles” of practice today and many of them offer radically divergent experiences. Some, like ashtanga, vinyasa or power yoga provide a strong, flowing dynamic experience that can range from mildly to extremely rigorous. Others provide more of a gentle, restorative effect.

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    All approaches have value, but before beginning, it’s important to:

    • Identify what you are looking for from the practice,
    • Assess your physical condition and limitations and potentially seek input from your health-care provider,
    • Consider the type of setting you’d feel most comfortable in (gym, studio, retreat, home), and
    • Think about whether you’d prefer a group or a more private experience.

    Once you’ve sussed out your preferences, it’s time to explore local yoga options.

    Here is a brief summary of the major types of yoga you’ll run into and the general experience they’ll offer:

    • Vinyasa/Power/Flow/Ashtanga/Jivamukti – rigorous, flowing, dyamic practice, rooted strongly in movement, postures and breathing exercises. May be extremely challenging and generally also provides a great workout. Different teachers may bring in more or less of the subtler-side of the practice
    • Iyengar – more static, but still very physically challenging experience, with a strong emphasis on precision and alignment, holding postures for an extended time and very little movement.
    • Anusara – similar attention to detail as Iyengar, but more movement and focus on mindset and the energetic side of the practice. Less movement than Vinyasa, but more than Iyengar. May be highly challenging.
    • Integral/Sivananda – Very traditional experience, rooted more in the subtler-side, study of traditions, philosophy and scriptures, breathing and energetic work, with less emphasis on postures.
    • Hot/Bikram – set of postures and breathing exercises performed in a super-heated environment (105-degrees +) . The heat makes this a very intense experience.
    • Kundalini – experience taps strongly into the subtle-side in an effort to release the body’s lifeforce and allow it to travel up the spine. Strong emphasis on breathing, chanting, interaction and unique set of movements and postures
    • Hatha/Kripalu/restorative – balanced emphasis on breath, meditation and postures, many of which are designed to release physical imbalances and holding patterns in the body. Generally, a gentle experience, not tailored o those looking for a strong exercise-experience, but highly-valuable nonetheless.
    • Viniyoga/yoga therapy – individualized experience that is tailored to the precise diagnoses and needs of the individual. Most often done on a private basis, though, some classes may be found.
    • YogaFit – begun as fitness-classes, based on modified yoga postures, YogaFit is the designated yoga at a number of large health-club chains.
    • Hybrids – Yogilates – yoga and pilates, Tai Yoga – yoga and massage, Yoga boxing/Spinning – yoga and indoor cycling

    Once you’ve determined your general yoga preferences and noted which styles of practice sounds appealing, search for the local setting and type of class that feels right to you and commit to trying it out. A great resource to learn more and find yoga in your local neighborhood is the beginner’s area at YogaJournal.com.

    And remember, the nature of the experience, even at the same studio or gym, can vary fairly dramatically, based upon the skill, ability, experience and personality of the teacher.

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    So, even if your first or second experience do not immediately resonate with you, be sure to explore a few more teachers, styles or settings, instead of simply writing off a practice that has the ability to make your life a calmer, more energized, less painful, more enjoyable place to be.

    Wishing you all an incredible 2008 ahead!

    PS – This list is by no-means all-inclusive, so feel free to add to my list or share your thoughts, stories and ideas in the comment section below.

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    Namaste (Sanksrit for the light in me honors the light in you)

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    How to Control Your Thoughts and Become the Master of Your Mind

    How to Control Your Thoughts and Become the Master of Your Mind

    Your mind is the most powerful tool you have for the creation of good in your life, but if not used correctly, can also be the most destructive force in your life.

    Your mind, more specifically, your thoughts, affect your perception and therefore, your interpretation of reality.

    I have heard that the average person thinks around 70,000 thoughts a day. That’s a lot, especially if they are unproductive, self-abusive and just a general waste of energy.

    You can let your thoughts run amok, but why would you? It is your mind, your thoughts; isn’t it time to take your power back? Isn’t it time to take control?

    Choose to be the person who is actively, consciously thinking your thoughts. Become the master of your mind.

    When you change your thoughts, you will change your feelings as well, and you will also eliminate the triggers that set off those feelings. Both of these outcomes provide you with a greater level of peace in your mind.

    I currently have few thoughts that are not of my own choosing or a response from my reprogramming. I am the master of my mind, so now my mind is quite peaceful. Yours can be too!

    Who Is Thinking My Thoughts?

    Before you can become the master of your mind, you must recognize that you are currently at the mercy of several unwanted “squatters” living in your mind, and they are in charge of your thoughts. If you want to be the boss of them, you must know who they are and what their motivation is, and then you can take charge and evict them.

    Here are four of the “squatters” in your head that create the most unhealthy and unproductive thoughts:

    1. The Inner Critic

    This is your constant abuser. He is often a conglomeration of:

    • Other people’s words; many times your parents.
    • Thoughts you have created based on your own or other peoples expectations.
    • Comparing yourself to other people, including those in the media.
    • The things you told yourself as a result of painful experiences such as betrayal and rejection. Your interpretation creates your self-doubt and self-blame, which are most likely undeserved in cases of rejection and betrayal.

    He is motivated by pain, low self-esteem, lack of self-acceptance and lack of self-love.

    Why else would he abuse you? And since “he” is actually you– why else would you abuse yourself? Why would you let anyone treat you this badly?

    2. The Worrier

    This person lives in the future; in the world of “what ifs.”

    He is motivated by fear which is often irrational and with no basis for it.

    Occasionally, he is motivated by fear that what happened in the past will happen again.

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    3. The Reactor or Trouble-Maker

    He is the one that triggers anger, frustration and pain. These triggers stem from unhealed wounds of the past. Any experience that is even closely related to a past wound will set him off.

    He can be set off by words or feelings. He can even be set off by sounds and smells.

    He has no real motivation; he has poor impulse control and is run by past programming that no longer serves you, if it ever did.

    4. The Sleep Depriver

    This can be a combination of any number of different squatters including the inner planner, the rehasher, and the ruminator, along with the inner critic and the worrier.

    His motivation can be:

    • As a reaction to silence, which he fights against
    • Taking care of the business you neglected during the day
    • Self-doubt, low self-esteem, insecurity and generalized anxiety
    • As listed above for the inner critic and worrier

    How can you control these squatters?

    How to Master Your Mind

    You are the thinker and the observer of your thoughts. You must pay attention to your thoughts so you can identify “who” is running the show; this will determine which technique you will want to use.

    Begin each day with the intention of paying attention to your thoughts and catching yourself when you are thinking undesirable thoughts.

    There are two ways to control your thoughts:

    • Technique A – Interrupt and replace them
    • Technique B – Eliminate them altogether

    This second option is what is known as peace of mind!

    The technique of interrupting and replacing is a means of reprogramming your subconscious mind. Eventually, the replacement thoughts will become the “go to” thoughts in the applicable situations.

    Use Technique A with the Inner Critic and Worrier and Technique B with the Reactor and Sleep Depriver.

    For the Inner Critic

    When you catch yourself thinking something negative about yourself (calling yourself names, disrespecting yourself, or berating yourself), interrupt it.

    You can yell (in your mind), “Stop! No!” or, “Enough! I’m in control now.” Then, whatever your negative thought was about yourself, replace it with an opposite or counter thought or an affirmation that begins with “I am.”

    For example, if your thought is, “I’m such a loser,” you can replace it with, “I am a Divine Creation of the Universal Spirit. I am a perfect spiritual being learning to master the human experience. I am a being of energy, light, and matter. I am magnificent, brilliant, and beautiful. I love and approve of myself just as I am.”

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    You can also have a dialogue with yourself with the intention of discrediting the ‘voice’ that created the thought, if you know whose voice it is:

    “Just because so-and-so said I was a loser doesn’t make it true. It was his or her opinion, not a statement of fact. Or maybe they were joking and I took it seriously because I’m insecure.”

    If you recognize that you have recurring self-critical thoughts, you can write out or pre-plan your counter thoughts or affirmation so you can be ready. This is the first squatter you should evict, forcefully, if necessary:

    • He riles up the Worrier.
    • The names you call yourself become triggers when called those names by others, so he also maintains the presence of the Reactor.
    • He is often present when you try to fall asleep so he perpetuates the Sleep Depriver.
    • He is a bully and is verbally and emotionally abusive.
    • He is the destroyer of self-esteem. He convinces you that you’re not worthy. He’s a liar! In the interest of your self-worth, get him out!

    Eliminate your worst critic and you will also diminish the presence of the other three squatters.

    Replace him with your new best friend who supports, encourages, and enhances your life. This is a presence you want in your mind.

    For the Worrier

    Prolonged anxiety is mentally, emotionally and physically unhealthy. It can have long-term health implications.

    Fear initiates the fight or flight response, creates worry in the mind and creates anxiety in the body.

    You should be able to recognize a “worry thought” immediately by how you feel. The physiological signs that the fight or flight response of fear has kicked in are:

    • Increased heart rate, blood pressure, or surge of adrenaline
    • Shallow breathing or breathlessness
    • Muscles tense

    Use the above stated method to interrupt any thought of worry and then replace it. But this time you will replace your thoughts of worry with thoughts of gratitude for the outcome you wish for.

    If you believe in a higher power, this is the time to engage with it. Here is an example:

    Instead of worrying about my loved ones traveling in bad weather, I say the following (I call it a prayer):

    “Thank you great spirit for watching over _______. Thank you for watching over his/her car and keeping it safe, road-worthy, and free of maintenance issues without warning. Thank you for surrounding him/her with only safe, conscientious, and alert drivers. And thank you for keeping him/her safe, conscientious, and alert.”

    Smile when you think about it or say it aloud, and phrase it in the present tense; both of these will help you feel it and possibly even start to believe it.

    If you can visualize what you are praying for, the visualization will enhance the feeling so you will increase the impact in your vibrational field.

    Now take a calming breath, slowly in through your nose, and slowly out through the mouth. Take as many as you like!

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    Replacing fearful thoughts with gratitude will decrease reactionary behavior, taking the steam out of the Reactor.

    For example:

    If your child gets lost in the mall, the typical parental reaction that follows the fearful thoughts when finding them is to yell at them.

    “I told you never to leave my sight.” This reaction just adds to the child’s fear level from being lost in the first place. Plus, it also teaches them that mom and/or dad will get mad when he or she makes a mistake, which may make them lie to you or not tell you things in the future.

    Change those fearful thoughts when they happen:

    “Thank You (your choice of Higher Power) for watching over my child and keeping him safe. Thank you for helping me find him soon.”

    Then, when you see your child after this thought process, your only reaction will be gratitude, and that seems like a better alternative for all people involved.

    For the Trouble-Maker, Reactor or Over-Reactor

    Permanently eliminating this squatter will take a bit more attention and reflection after the fact to identify and heal the causes of the triggers; but until then, you can prevent the Reactor from getting out of control by initiating conscious breathing as soon as you recognize his presence.

    The Reactor’s thoughts or feelings activate the fight or flight response just like with the Worrier. The physiological signs of his presence will be the same. With a little attention, you should be able to tell the difference between anxiety, anger, frustration, or pain:

    • Increased heart rate and blood pressure; surge of adrenaline
    • Shallow breathing or breathlessness
    • Muscles tension

    I’m sure you’ve heard the suggestion to count to ten when you get angry—well, you can make those ten seconds much more productive if you are breathing consciously during that time.

    Conscious breathing is as simple as it sounds; just be conscious of your breathing. Pay attention to the air going in and coming out.

    Breathe in through your nose:

    • Feel the air entering your nostrils.
    • Feel your lungs filling and expanding.
    • Focus on your belly rising.

    Breathe out through your nose:

    • Feel your lungs emptying.
    • Focus on your belly falling.
    • Feel the air exiting your nostrils.

    Do this for as long as you like. Leave the situation if you want. This gives the adrenaline time to normalize.

    Now you can address the situation with a calmer, more rational perspective and avoid damaging behavior.

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    One of the troubles this squatter causes is that it adds to the sleep depriver’s issues. By evicting, or at least controlling the Reactor, you will decrease reactionary behavior, which will decrease the need for the rehashing and ruminating that may keep you from falling asleep.

    Master your mind and stop the Reactor from bringing stress to you and your relationships!

    For the Sleep Depriver

    (He’s made up of the Inner Planner, the Rehasher and the Ruminator, along with the Inner Critic and the Worrier.)

    I was plagued with a very common problem: not being able to turn off my mind at bedtime. This inability prevented me from falling asleep and thus, getting a restful and restorative night’s sleep.

    Here’s how I mastered my mind and evicted the Sleep Depriver and all his cronies.

    1. I started by focusing on my breathing—paying attention to the rise and fall of my belly—but that didn’t keep the thoughts out for long. (Actually, I now start with checking my at-rest mouth position to keep me from clenching.)
    2. Then I came up with replacement strategy that eliminated uncontrolled thinking—imagining the word in while breathing in and thinking the word out when breathing out. I would (and do) elongate the word to match the length of my breath.

    When I catch myself thinking, I shift back to in, out. With this technique, I am still thinking, sort of, but the wheels are no longer spinning out of control. I am in control of my mind and I choose quiet.

    From the first time I tried this method I started to yawn after only a few cycles and am usually asleep within ten minutes.

    For really difficult nights, I add an increase of attention by holding my eyes in a looking-up position (Closed, of course!). Sometimes I try to look toward my third eye but that really hurts my eyes.

    If you have trouble falling asleep because you can’t shut off your mind, I strongly recommend you try this technique. I still use it every night. You can start sleeping better tonight!

    You can also use this technique any time you want to:

    • Fall back to sleep if you wake up too soon.
    • Shut down your thinking.
    • Calm your feelings.
    • Simply focus on the present moment. 

    Becoming the Master of Your Mind

    Your mind is a tool, and like any other tool, it can be used for constructive purposes or for destructive purposes.

    You can allow your mind to be occupied by unwanted, undesirable and destructive tenants, or you can choose desirable tenants like peace, gratitude, compassion, love, and joy.

    Your mind can become your best friend, your biggest supporter, and someone you can count on to be there and encourage you. The choice is yours!

    Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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