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My Blog

November 2010

Be full of thanks...not just turkey

I started to write a blog for this week and kept failing…it was another “don’t over stuff yourself this Thanksgiving” kind of post.  For some reason the words were not flowing.  Inspiration did not strike.  Another topic started to bubble up inside me, one that seemed more important than weight control issues and nutrition.  Gratitude (defined as an appreciative awareness and thankfulness) kept coming to my mind.  I started to think about all the wonderful things in my life.  I am so blessed to have supportive friends, a rewarding career, food to nourish me, clothes to keep me warm, a beautiful apartment to come home to, family to call on, and a loving partner to share it all with.  An overwhelming sense of gratitude filled me and I felt deeply content.  It changed my mood for the entire day….but it is not always easy to tap into that feeling of gratitude.  It can be challenging to recognize the “good.”  We often concentrate on what we don’t want in our lives, instead of bringing the awareness to what we do want and have. We often focus on our dislikes and fears, instead of our delights and dreams. What happens when we replace the negative thoughts with positive ones?   Here are some ways you can tap into the gratitude high…

Dedicate your yoga practice
Because yoga and gratitude are both forms of awareness (one an appreciative awareness, the other mind body awareness), they seem to compliment each other well.  Try dedicating your yoga practice to someone or something you are grateful for.  It could be a friend, loved one, the earth, your health, or maybe just life in general.  Decide what you are dedicating your practice to before you begin.  Hold the image or that person or thing in your mind.  As you move and breathe your way through the asanas try to keep your focus on that image.  Bringing such an intense awareness to this object or person can enrich your experience on the mat and cultivate a deeper mind body connection.  If you don’t practice yoga try dedicating any daily task to your object of gratitude.  You can dedicate a workout, run, or a meal and still feel a greater sense of fulfillment after completing the task.

Meditate using the Pushan Mudra
The term mudra often refers to a symbolic hand gesture that evokes a certain state of consciousness.  There are mudras to aid in all kinds of physical and mental states and aliments.  The Pushan Mudra refers to the Hindu Sun God or the god of nourishment.  The mudra is done by placing the index finger, middle finger and thumb of the right hand together, and placing the middle finger, ring finger, and thumb of the left hand together.  (See illustrations)  Sit in a comfortable position with the hands resting on the thighs palms facing up.  Meditate on all the ways you are nourished and provided for, inside and out.  Try to do this for 15 minutes or for 5 minutes 3 times in a day.  Maybe even use the affirmation “I thankfully accept everything that is good for me, let it have its effect on me, and release everything that is spent.”

Make a gratitude list
Write out a list of things you are grateful for. Try to write down everything, big and small. Include things that have shaped the course of your life (for me-parents, schooling, and my partner David). Add small things that you often overlook (for me-coffee, warm baths, and the smell of chimney smoke in the winter).  By focusing your mind on the positive things in your life you will be more likely to maintain a positive outlook and less likely to focus on the negatives.  Many believe that when you express gratitude for something you will get even more of that thing, so write your list everyday even if you are repeating yourself.  You will not only improve your mood, but you may attract more things to be grateful for.

Express your gratitude to others
There are people in our lives that contribute to our well being every day.  Take a moment to tell these people that they are appreciated.  It can be a phone call, email, a card in the mail, or maybe it’s just a simple “thanks” to the guy that made your latte. You will bring a bit of joy into their day, and in turn it will bring a bit of joy into yours.

Enjoy your holiday, give thanks for all of life’s blessings, and spread the joy!

…and practice portion control. ;) 

Yoga Curious?

The other day I had to visit a doctor because I have been experiencing pain in my hip. When I told the doctor that I practice yoga he said "Yoga? What, like, stretching?"  I was surprised that a doctor of medicine, with all his years of education, had such limited knowledge of the yoga practice.  I quickly put myself in check, like a good yogini, and decided not to judge him for it.  Instead I reminded myself that many people don't have personal experience with yoga.  It is a common misconception that yoga is simply stretching and that flexibility is a requirement.  I can't tell you how many times I have heard someone say "I can't do yoga. I'm not flexible."  Not true.  If you can breathe you can do yoga.

Keep in mind, I am a personal trainer as well as a yoga teacher, so I work with a number of clients who prefer to sweat it out in the gym instead of on the yoga mat.  There are many ways to climb a mountain, right?  I support any attempt to better one’s self…but I will take this opportunity to share some info and express my love of yoga hoping that others will give it a try and love it too.

There are many ways to define and practice yoga, so I will try not to write a dissertation.  I will give you a simple, strait forward description of what yoga is to me.  If you want a more in depth explanation I would suggest learning about the 8 limbs of yoga
The term “yoga” means to yoke, to join, or to unify, as in creating a union between body and mind.  Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras refer to yoga as “the stilling of the waves of the mind. “ And the Bava Gita calls yoga “skillfulness in action.”  To me, yoga is a way to keep my body and mind healthy and happy.
Benefits of Yoga:

Asanas (postures) keep the body strong and healthy. There are thousands of asanas that work every part of the body, inside and out.  They strengthen muscles and joints, detoxify, and align.  They keep internal organs, glands, and the entire nervous system in tip-top shape.  Posture is improved.  Endurance is improved. Longevity is increased.  Another perk—yoga increases flexibility as it tones the muscles, so the result is a long lean look, free of bulk.  That is part of why I love the practice. I would be lying if I said keeping a lean, sculpted body was not part of why I practice yoga, but knowing that it keeps my insides working properly adds to my sense of well being.
Pranayama (breath) keeps the body cleansed and revitalized.  Add pranayama deep breathing techniques to your asanas and you will be able to stay focused, alert, and stress free.  There are breathing techniques used specifically to cool, warm, energize, relax, and purify the body.  Creating awareness of the breath also connects you to the present moment.  If you are thinking about your breath you are not living in the past or the future. You tap into the here and now. The best part is that you can breathe deeply on or off the mat.  You will often hear me take a deep breath when I am running late, and it really does help, I promise.

Meditation and positive thinking create a sense of happiness and inner peace.  This is the aspect of yoga which often gets overlooked.  The western way of thinking sends us into the yoga studio with goals that relate to the physical body.  We practice the asanas to stay in shape.  We breathe because we are told too, but without creating a mind-body connection you don’t get the full benefit of the yoga practice. It’s like memorizing the words of a poem, but not knowing the poem’s meaning.  Once you make the mind body connection it you can tap into a deeper understanding of compassion, love, and ultimate enlightenment.  To learn more about the benefits of meditation check my previous blog post, Meditation for Beginners.

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