I’ve been practicing yoga for close to two decades. The awareness and grounding it offers has steadied me through cross-country moves, crazy deadlines, tragic breakups, getting married and becoming a mother. Yet when I had the second of my two kids in just over two years, I gave up all forms of mind-body practice cold turkey. I just couldn’t take on anything that wasn’t directly related to keeping those kids alive and cared for.
At some point in your yoga practice, you’ve probably been asked to set an intention or San Culpa. Setting an intention is a wonderful way to start your practice, your day, or any new beginning, but in doing so it’s always good to step back and ask why you’re doing it. What is intention? What does intention mean to me?
Everyone has a story about why they took their first yoga class and why they keep coming back. Most involve a desire to slow down, release tension, or recover from an injury. Mine is no different.
I took my first step onto the mat to learn how to let go of tension before it turned into an ulcer, as my lifestyle at that time was very fast-paced and stressful. Little did I know that in taking my first step on the mat, I would not only learn how to tune into my breath and strengthen my body, I would learn that I had the power to transform my life by gaining a clearer understanding of the mind-body connection.
Recently, my husband Andy and I were jolted out of deep sleep at 5 am by a huge CRASH. We jumped out of bed to investigate (with me grabbing slippers and a flashlight). I assumed a bear had climbed onto the front porch table to get at the bird suet (not the first time).
As the only humans living on a two-thousand-acre estate, we are surrounded by wildlife and are accustomed to myriad nature sounds. Many nights we listen to the primal howls of coyotes, which I love. (Sometimes I even howl along with them!) We know our seasonal birds by their calls and occasionally hear an owl in the night whoo-whoo-whooing.
As an auditory person and lifelong environmentalist, this is heaven for me. It was just a short time ago I needed a sound machine (of nature!) to help me sleep in New York City, with all of its jarring, man-made sounds. (I swear the garbage trucks have amplifier speakers.)
It’s no wonder the number-one complaint of city dwellers is noise. Chronic, debilitating noise is more than just an annoyance — it plays a huge factor in our quality of life. Studies confirm that noise and stress are closely related to our health, and I am always surprised that more people don’t plug their ears (like I do) when a subway car rambles by.
What we hear transforms our brains and our lives. That’s why it’s critical to take control over your ‘personal soundscape.’ Customize your home environment as you would a beautiful soundtrack to create a haven of soothing sounds (and sights and smells). Here are a few tips to do that:
What is addiction? How does it feel to be an addict? What does it look like? Is there a way out, a place BEYOND ADDICTION? These critical questions and the way we answer them make the difference between living a life enslaved to destructive behaviors and one of freedom and expansion.
Most people are familiar with addiction to drugs or alcohol, but addiction takes many forms and it is everywhere around us, all the time. At its very core, addiction is any behavior you continue to engage in despite the negative consequences it brings. If we take the time to really look at ourselves and at the world around us, we don’t have to look hard to see it. Addiction is the root of some of the biggest challenges our society faces today. For example, the medical pandemics of childhood obesity, type 2-diabetes and heart disease are preventable lifestyle diseases driven in large part by addiction.
As an addict you feel stuck, incapable of giving up that thing that you “need” to survive, to function. It twists your thinking, your experience of the world. Addiction leaves you lying to your friends, to your family, to yourself. Being an addict is like being in a small dark room where the only exit seems to be locked from the outside.
The truth is that there is a way out, a way BEYOND ADDICTION. Though neither easy, nor a road one travels alone, a life beyond the grips of addiction is very real. At one time I was stuck in that downward spiral, but after 21 years of recovery I am living proof that an expansive and vibrant life beyond addiction can and does exist.
It’s hard to believe that it was only a few weeks ago that we were contemplating the end of the world. Not only did we survive the apocalypse, we survived the holidays!
Now the conversation is all about ‘New Year = New You!’ and making huge life changes now!
I prefer to work with the earth’s gentle cycles as my guide. For me, the winter season is for hibernation and quiet contemplation … a time to go deep ‘inside.’ It is a time for rest (with so many hours of darkness) and for reflection, a perfect time to tap into dreams and journal.
When we attune ourselves with the seasons, we allow our inherent natural rhythms to flow, which are easy to follow and feel good about.
Did you know that the brain has the same chemical reaction to sugary and fatty foods as it does to cocaine or nicotine? According to Dr. Pam Peeke, author of The Hunger Fix, the chemical reaction happens before you even eat the food — all you have to do is think about it!
Dr. Peeke recently appeared on GaiamTV.com’s Gaiam Inspirations to talk about America’s food addiction and how to retrain your brain to make healthier choices. Dr. Peeke’s interest in the topic of food addiction started because of the way her patients talked about food. “I can’t get off this stuff.” “The withdrawal is killing me.” They sounded like drug addicts, and she started to wonder if there was a connection between food and addiction.
She found that there’s a very striking connection — and the same centers of the brain are involved that regulate drug addiction. And, she says, don’t think for a second the food industry hasn’t figured this out.
Happy New Year! Isn’t it wonderful that we all get to start a new time in our lives? This is the perfect time to open to the emerging “you”!
As I was doing my morning practice, I began to envision my new year. During my meditation I called in the life I want to create this year. I don’t like goal-setting and resolutions because I do not believe they create enough synergy for my life. I like the possibilities that come in the forms of what I am creating and manifesting through the expansion of my consciousness. Moving into a new year from that place allows me to fully understand that I am “creating” the life that I live.
I, like so many, thought meditation was something only others could do. Others, for example, without quarreling children, looming deadlines or hips that mutinied at the thought of the Lotus Position. Those with minds that didn’t race like a toddler on Red Bull.
Although I wanted to be someone who meditated, I wasn’t someone who meditated.
Someday, I would tell myself, imagining that glorious future when my children, work schedule, muscles, joints and mind would finally and fully cooperate.
But while I was waiting, the research piled up. About how meditation improves memory. Boosts the immune system. Lowers our resting heart rate. Makes us calmer. Happier. Healthier.
I wanted some of that. Not later but now.
In theory, evening is a glorious time of day — a time to eat and spend time with loved ones and then unwind before bed. In reality, though, it’s often a stress fest – feed the kids, put the kids to bed, answer some emails, fall into bed. Or simply lost time – eat whatever, channel surf, cruise the Internet, then look up and wonder how it got to be 11:30 already.
Luckily, it doesn’t take much to transform your evening hours into the respite they ought to be. Here are four of my favorite tips for a peaceful evening. I’d love to hear yours!