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What is Your Focus?

Recently a friend relayed this experience:

She was visiting her sibling and enjoys his company very much.  However, there were many other family members to visit and some of them display inappropriate behavior, and have done so for years.  She told me that nothing has changed over the years and by the time she was leaving to go home from an otherwise enjoyable visit, she was sick to her stomach.

When I think about her report of her entire visit, I would say about eighty percent of her visit was great, yet the disturbing experiences are overshadowing the positive experiences.  I venture to say, this is pretty typical of the human condition. 

In my book, I have a few suggestions that can help:

  • I always begin with centering techniques while the situation is going on, but many of us get so caught up in the moment that we forget to take care of ourselves.

 If that has happened, I would suggest the following:

  • It is helpful to review what happened so you can gain some insight. Some questions to ask might be: “What could I have done differently?” “Is there another way to look at the situation?” While reviewing and experience, don’t neglect the fact that there might have been some uplifting moments as well, no matter how insignificant. While the sweet, small events we engaged in are often overshadowed by our upsetting memories, make sure you include them in your review, and then move forward. Even forgiveness is a choice.

It is empowering to realize that you have the ability to shift your perspective.  This review is for you, so go out and enjoy your day—with no indigestion!

Let me know in the comments below how this can apply to your situation.  Are you able to change your focus to the positive experiences or do you get stuck?

Posted in: Technique of the Week

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Work + Workout

The Atlanta Business Chronicle July 20-26, 2012 cover page sites the importance of movement on employee health.  I agree.

The process of writing my book has brought stress into my body.  Even with taking breaks to stretch out, I notice that I am a bit achy and a little more fatigued.  I know this is from the consequence of sitting for long periods of time.  When I take time to stretch out my body with some simple Custom Calm movements, I reduce the stress caused by sitting.

The report emphasizes the use of “standing desks”, which is a great idea but might not be practical for many.   There are other options to help with long bouts of sitting and Custom Calm yoga stretches offer some quick results.

Work is not the only culprit.  Long road trips are difficult for many, leaving them with low back pain and overall stiffness.  Mush of the problem is that sitting tightens up the area of the hip crease, making it difficult to straighten up.

Try this simple technique to help stretch out your hip crease. This is also effective for those who have limited mobility and use a walker.

  • Stand up and hold onto something on either side with your hands under your shoulders.
  • Stand with your feet hip width apart or narrower, with your feet facing forward.
  • Step your left foot forward and your right foot back the same amount. If this hurts your low back, take a smaller step.
  • Draw your navel in toward your spine, as if you were trying to zip tight jeans. (Not that any of us has ever had to suck in our belly to do this!)
  • While holding onto either side, slowly bend at the hip and knee to bring your left knee over your left ankle (no further), keeping your right heel pressed into the floor.
  • Stand erect. It is important to keep your shoulders over your ribs and your ribs over your hips, not forward of your hips.  Keep your hips square.
  • You will feel a stretch in your back hip crease and maybe into your calf. Remember to pay attention to your body and do not overdo it.
  • Take a few breaths and come back to center, notice the difference and do the other side.

This technique and many more practice tips are throughout my upcoming book, Splash into Calm. It is the first in the Custom Calm Chronicle series.  More details will be coming soon!

Let me know in the comments below your experience with this technique.

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Mood Swing

The past few days I have woken up in a funky mood.  After trying to figure out the cause, I came up empty. Rather than going into “analysis-paralysis” I decided to stay with it and just notice how I felt. 

I went on with my day, beginning with a yoga practice followed by meditation.  When I finished my mood was a bit better but still felt kind of low.

I thought about a recent article I read about at 93 year old giving tips on living a longer, happier life.  She uses curiosity, optimism, humor and a cheerful greeting.  Her attitude inspired me to make a few simple decisions:

  • Let go of analyzing the situation.
  • Open up to enjoying my day-it is all I have.
  • Notice the simple things–I focused on the foliage with curiosity.
  • Smile, even though I did not really feel happy at that moment.
  • Choose to be grateful for my life.

Let me know in the comments below how make a shift in attitude.  What do you do when your mood needs a boost?

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Procrastination: 7 Steps to Solution

For my book I decided to write an article on procrastination. I am finding this topic challenging so I have not yet started.  This is why an article is needed!  What makes us procrastinate? 

I think much of what gets in our way is fear. We fear that we will never finish, we fear reality or we fear we never measure up.  We ask ourselves–why begin?  We tell ourselves it is better not to try then to fail—emotionally that feels safer.

When I decided to write my book, I really struggled with the fact that I never considered myself a writer, but when I began and stayed true to myself and my voice the words flowed out.

Procrastination costs us dearly.  We either put off important due dates (taxes is a popular one!) or postpone something we really want to do, leaving us frustrated, resentful and stressed out.

There are a few things that I found helpful and it will work for anything you want to accomplish.

  1. Guidance:  Find someone who can help you.  You cannot do everything on our own.
  2. Structure: Due dates and a step by step process (there can be some flexibility here) are vital.
  3. Positive people:  Surround yourself with those who are supportive.
  4. Accountability:  It can be the person giving you guidance or someone else who is structured.
  5. Keep it simple:  Easy step by step bite size pieces will work most effectively.
  6. Stay in the moment:  When your mind drifts into fear, take a breath and bring yourself back.
  7. Praise:  Each step of the way, give yourself praise for beginning.

Life is meant to be enjoyed and when take the baby steps needed to thwart your procrastination, great freedom takes its place.

Let me know in the comments below why you think you procrastinate and if you have had success in moving forward.  Give this list a try and let me know how it went.

Posted in: Technique of the Week

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Riding the Wave of Pain

When you breathe, there is a beginning and crest and then an ending.  It is like that with everything:  Sound, sensation, thought, emotions and fatigue.

Everything has a wave and when you can track it, it will help to diffuse the experience.  Riding the wave is a foundational concept in many arenas, and my focus will be on the concept from Duke University Yoga of Awareness Program.  Let’s use pain as an example. 

We tend to talk about our sensation in absolutes, yet it changes.  Even if the sensation is chronic, it still has movement. 

When you begin to notice the pain and track the different sensations associated with it you will take the emotional charge out of it.

To begin to cultivate noticing the wave, try this:

  • Find a place in your body where you are feeling sensation or pain
  • First imaging a wave and think about how it begins, crests and then lessens.
  • Now, without using words to judge it, simply track it and say what you are experiencing.  For example:  It might be a burning sensation that shifts into a stinging or throbbing.  It might move down your leg and pulse or feel hot or cold. 
  • Notice the sensation from the onset, to the crest and the decline.  You might have many of these, but there each has movement when you really pay attention.

This will take practice but the research out of Duke Integrative Medicine, supports that when we are mindful of the entire wave of sensation we take our reaction out of the equation.  Pain and it is exacerbated by our judgments. 

Let me know in the comments below if you were able to work with the wave of sensation.  Was it challenging to name the experiences without any judging description?  Feel free to share your experience.

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Improve Bone Strength & Balance

 

Balance and bone strength is an issue for many of us.  Some of us can not participate in any high impact exercise, but learning to lean  through your bones for support will help.

Yoga's Mountain Pose has many applications and you can use it as a way to improve balance and bone strength.

Try this:

  • Stand with your feet parallel to one another about hip width apart with your spine upright and if possible allow the sides of your feet to be parallel as well.
  • Look straight ahead with a soft gaze. 
  • Bring your awareness to the connection to your feet on the floor and notice the distribution of your weight.
  • Shift your weight into your left foot as if it was making an imprint in the sand.
  • Allow your body to let go into that side (your other foot is on the floor).  Stay with this for about 20 seconds.
  • Now, come back to center and notice if that leg is more connected to the floor.
  • Do the other side and then come back to center.

This is a great practice to help those wanting to improve balance or bone density as well as overall bone health.  It is also a wonderful way to draw your awareness back to the moment when you are feeling stressed.

Do you feel more stable as you stand?  Are you heavier into the floor? Let me know in the comments below what you noticed.

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Find Your Abs in 5 Steps

Engaging abdominal muscles are important for spinal support.  It is helpful to understand which abdominal muscles are most effective to engage for low back health.

Specific abdominal muscles are most effective in lowering tension in your lower spine and others lengthen your upper spine. 

The transverses, help your lengthen your lower spine. They are the weaker abdominal muscles and can be difficult to isolate. Behind the transverses muscles is the top of your sacrum (the flat bone at the base of your spine) and when you draw them in your sacrum lengthens, reducing low back compression.

To begin to find them, try this:

  1. Stand with your feet straight ahead, about hip width apart.
  2. Become aware of your low back and notice if there is any tension.
  3. Now, pretend you are trying to zip up tight jeans and slowly draw your belly in about a thumbprint below your navel.
  4. Keep your buttocks and the rest of your body  relaxed.  Try to only isolate your abs and do not over effort.
  5. Slowly draw them in, and then release them a few times.

Did you feel any difference in you low back when you activated them?  Let me know in the comments below what you noticed.  If you did not notice anything, keep practicing.

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Yoga: 5 Ways to Tell if you are Overdoing

A recent article in the Atlanta Journal Constitution focused on injuries while practicing yoga. 

The main reason is we push beyond our limitations because we pay attention only to our thoughts.  Our body has infinite wisdom, and the practice of yoga is to stay in awareness from the inside-out.  Being aware means noticing what the mind is telling you and checking in with your body.

Your body will tell you the truth and your mind will tend to judge.

 At times it is difficult to know whether you are pushing too much or you are really able to go a bit further.    Here are a few simple tips that will help.

  1. If you are comparing yourself to someone else, chances are you are overdoing it.
  2. If you are going further because a teacher told you to, you are not listening to your body.
  3.  If you cannot breathe into the pose when it is painful, then back out.
  4. If you feel a stretch and you can breathe and relax into it, then you are okay.
  5. If you feel a stretch and when you take an easy breath and you cannot release and go deeper, then you should ease out a bit.

Let me know in the comments below what you noticed.  Did you push beyond your limitations?  If so, why do you think that happened?

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Eat and Know You are Eating

Lately, I have seen articles about the positive impact of mindful eating.

The term can seem uninviting, but really eating mindfully is an invitation to deepen your appreciation and taste of food.

When we eat mindfully, we are in the moment and are better able to know when we are full.  We end eating less, aiding digestion and enjoying our food much more. 

Take a few minutes and try this:

Pick one type of food that you normally eat.  It can be a raising, pop corn, chocolate or some other snack.

  1. Take one piece and first feel the texture in your hand.
  2. Look at it on all sides.
  3. Smell it and take in the aroma.
  4. Take a breath.
  5. Now, take it to your lips and take a small bite, without eating it.
  6. Experience the flavor, texture and the effect it is having on you.
  7. Slowly chew it as you continue to experience the entire sensation associated with what you are eating.
  8. Continue to finish the piece of food in this way and notice how you feel.

Let me know in the comments below how this worked for you. Were you able to stay with the process?  Did you find out anything new about what you were eating? 

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Valentines Day: Cultivate Loving Kindness

Loving Kindness is something that is easy for those we deeply care for, but more challenging for difficult relationships.  Our feelings toward others have an impact on our state of mind and how we perceive and react to the world around us.  There are times when a loved one is ill and we need a way to get some relief from worry and fear.

Whatever the situation, Loving Kindness is the antidote for all relationships, good or bad.

It needs to be cultivated and the practice of Metta is one powerful practice to help.  Metta means friend and gentle, and the practice embodies them both.

It is a meditation that consists of repeating a series of simple phrases with as much presence as possible.  There are many phrases that can be used.  The key is that you begin with yourself.  It is hard to wish for others what you do not want for yourself.

Here are some phrases you can begin with or you can find others that you like better.

  • May I (he, she or they) be happy.
  • May I (he, she or they) know peace.
  • May I (he, she or they) be safe and protected from inner and outer harm.
  • May I (he, she or they) be free from suffering.

Try this every day for a few minutes and let me know in the comments below how it works.

 

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