The Three R’s Workshop: Relax, Rest and Rejuvenate!

Stress seems like an inescapable part of life. Work pressures, family issues, health concerns, financial troubles…..does it ever stop?! With so many things coming at us, it is no wonder our “fight or flight” reaction kicks in. Unfortunately, an overactive Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS) on “red alert” can leave us tense, anxious and unable to sleep at night.

If you are looking for skills that will help you tone down an overactive SNS and activate the soothing powers of relaxation of the Parasmpathetic Nervous System (PNS), please join me on Friday, October 25th at 7:30 p.m. for our “Relax, Rest and Rejuvenate” workshop at Radiant Joy Yoga in Uxbridge.

This yoga workshop will provide you with the skills to tap into the wisdom of your body, balance your autonomic nervous system, quiet your mind and achieve deep relaxation, rest and rejuvenation.

Let the healing power of your body flourish when you are able to fully rest and deeply relax. Leave this workshop with the skills you need to detach from the stressors in your life, and embark on an inner journey leading to Relaxation, Rest and Rejuvenation.

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Questions? Fill in this form for and I will get you answers!

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Why meditate?

Meditation

Compassion for yourself and for others

Stressed? Depressed? Chronic pain and inflammation?

Researchers have found that meditation not only reduces your stress levels and calms you, it can also reduce inflammation in your body and boost your immune system.

The result? A decrease in depression; less inflammation; less pain; fewer infections; better physical health.

Sound waaaaaay out there? Click on this link to check out a short video on “Compassion Meditation” by WebMD and see what you think!

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Endorphins: Boost your mood, reduce stress and get trim!

heart1At our HeartBeats Yoga workshop this weekend, I talked about “ENDORPHINS” – the happy hormones that are produced when we exercise hard enough to get our hearts pumping and get a little sweaty. Research shows that endorphins boost happiness (yes – beat the winter blahs!!), reduce stress levels, decrease joint pain, enhance your immune system and reduce appetite. Pretty amazing, eh?

People who run are familiar with a “runner’s high” – that positive emotional state brought on by a surge in their endorphin levels. But you don’t have to be a runner to boost your endorphins – any activity that gets your heart rate up for a sustained period of time will achieve the same end.

So, what exactly are endorphins? To be more accurate, endorphins are really brain Brainchemicals known as neurotransmitters. There are at least 20 different types of endorphins, which are found in the pituitary gland, in other parts of the brain and throughout your nervous system.

Endorphins are a natural, non-addictive and healthy way to elevate your mood, beat the winter blahs and get fit. Whether its one of my HeartBeats yoga classes, running, snowshoeing, cross country skiing, Zumba, BellyFit –  whatever – get your heart rate up and feel the joy that comes from exercise and endorphin boosts!

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Thank you for supporting North House at Karma Yoga!

Radiant Joy logo

A BIG thank you to everyone who came out to my Karma Yoga class at Radiant Joy Yoga on Friday night! The night may have been foggy, but the sun was shining in all of your hearts!

Because of your generosity and support, we were able to donate $200 to North House Transitional Housing!North House is a charitable organization that helps families in North Durham, Ontario, Canada who are on the verge of homelessness. Through subsidized housing and life skills training, North House helps people get back on their feet, restores their confidence and assists them in becoming economically productive once again.

Karma Yoga is good for your body and good for your soul. Thank you to those who were able to come out and share their abundance with others who are in need!

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Eight weeks of meditation can change your life!

Meditation

Eight weeks of meditation can change the way you process emotion

In my yoga workshops, I have mentioned that brain imaging technology demonstrates that there are changes to brain activity as a result of meditation.

This YouTube video, by Dr. Ward Plunet, a research neuroscientist at University of BC,  presents the results of his most current work on meditation, brain activity and emotions.

Fascinating information that backs up what the ancient wisdoms have been teaching:  you can direct your thoughts, and by doing so, influence your emotions. If you can take five minutes – check it out!

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Searching for Happiness – Notes from our workshop

Notes from: Searching for Happiness
Yoga Workshop
November 18, 2012

Many thanks to those of you who were able to join my workshop on November 18th! As promised, here are some notes from our time together. I hope you enjoyed our yoga practices, and that some of them will support you in your journey towards the inner self – our source of inner joy, peace and wellbeing.

Hope to see you again on January 20th, for our FREE “Go With The Flow” workshop!

PART ONE: THE ROAD TO HAPPINESS IS FILLED WITH MANY WRONG TURNS
As we discovered in our “mind games”, the brain means well, but in trying to make life easier for us (eg. fill in information when it is missing; interpret information when it is confusing; alter our memory based on the last few minutes of the experience), it often feeds us information that is quite deceptive.

External reality is a construct, therefore happiness derived from the environment can potentially be a construct too.

In terms of our day to day living, much of the deception that goes on is to help us conduct our lives with minimal regard for ordinary things. We can then concentrate on the things that require more cognitive processing. So, for example, as we look at the world, we don’t have any blind spots – or do we?

We take for granted that what the brain is telling us about the external world, is accurate and correct, but as you just found out in our games, it is NOT.

Therefore if we are seeking happiness outside of our selves, in the external world that our brain has constructed, beware of the messages your unconscious mind is giving you. By trying to make life easier for you, it may also preventing you from experiencing what is really there.

We are wired this way – no point in denying it or trying to fight it. But knowing that this can and does occur, is the key to awareness and more clarity.

When we meet someone new, or have a different experience, or see a sight we have never encountered before – can we experience it with fresh eyes, or will we automatically allow our brains to categorize it into something or someone we have met before. Will we allow our brains to do a “Been there, done that” or will we open our senses to a fresh experience?

Can we inhibit the unconscious chatter of the mind and connect with our deep, inner awareness so that the conscious mind directs our thoughts, instead of our thoughts directing us?

PART TWO: ARE YOU THE PASSENGER OR THE DRIVER EN ROUTE TO HAPPINESS?

Guided Visualization
Practice being the driver – sit in a comfortable position, close your eyes and do the guided visualization we shared. You can choose whatever setting you prefer: the stream in a sacred grove; a mountain top; perhaps the ocean.

Select a place that is meaningful to you, and connects you with your inner self. Breathe deeply and use all of your senses to help you reach inward and be still. Let your thoughts come and go without engaging in them. Experience a connection with your inner self, your conscious mind, where you can always find peace, joy and well-being.

The Happiness Formula
The fields of neuropsychology and neuroscience have been trying to sort out the question of what makes a happy person happy. Is it nature (genetics) or is it nurture (environment)? To see what effect genetics and environment have on happiness, they have studied thousands of identical twins as well as thousands of fraternal twins.

They discovered that our predisposition for Happiness is 50% genetic. Fifty per cent of our “biological set point” as they call it, is inherited.

But that leaves another 50% that can be changed. Of that, 10% of our “happiness” can be attributed to the circumstances of our life and may or may not be something we can alter (eg. poverty, disability, sickness, war, etc etc). The final 40% cent is under voluntary control.

If we don’t learn to assume control of that 40%, we are merely the passengers in the car on this trip of life, destined to arrive at whatever destination our genetics determine for us.

PART THREE: LET’S GET IN THE CAR AND DRIVE
Researchers have actually discovered that when people focus their awareness on certain thoughts, such as in meditation, they can see the corresponding area of the brain light up with synaptic activity. But what is even more interesting than that, after just eight weeks of meditating, the actual density of the synapses and the grey matter in that area of the brain, INCREASE, making it easier for those thoughts to occur the next time. Hence the expression, ” What fires together, wires together.”

Moving Meditation
For some, it is difficult to just sit and visualize or meditate. If you are like me, your body gets twitchy, and the mind soon follows. Combining the thought, the breath and the body however, are an effective way of grounding your mind and focusing on a particular intention while connecting with your inner self. You can do this with eyes open or closed, whatever is comfortable for you.

We practiced 4 different moving meditations:
1. Lying on your back doing Dirga breathing with So Hum mantra
2. Sitting up with legs crossed: Inhale (raising arms on inhale; lowering on exhale) for Joy and Sorrow
3. Sitting on heels: Inhale love; Exhale fear
4. Standing: Inhale gratitude; Exhale control

Asanas:
To open up the heart centre, limber the thoracic spine and embrace a sense of abundance
• Mountain Pose (engage bhandas)
• Warm up Half Sun Salutations (4)
• Modified full Sun Salutations
• Triangle; Warrior 2
• Modified Moon Salutation
• Hanging Forward Fold
• Child Pose: breathe air into the back of your heart centre to receive love

Nadi Shodana (Alternate Nostril Breathing)
For balancing the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems and balancing Nadis (Pathways of energy):
• Ida: left side, Chandra, feminine energy; parasympathetic nervous system
• Pingala: right side, Surya, masculine energy, sympathetic nervous system

With Mudra and pinching off nostrils:
• gently close Right nostril; start by inhaling Left nostril
• gently close L nostril; exhale R
• inhale R
• gently close off R nostril, exhale L
• inhale L

That represents one set; repeat this ten times to balance your energy and find calm.

Law of Relativity (and it’s not Einstein’s – but it is brilliant!)
Neuroscientist believe that we assess our happiness by comparing ourselves to others.

That is why the Penn State General Happiness Scale contains a question that asks you to compare yourself to your peers, with respect to, “How Happy Are You?” Because we determine in part, our happiness compared to others.

Bruce Hood, in his book, “The Self Illusion” talks about our social identity and how we come to perceive ourselves through the Looking Glass of “us” and “them” or “us” living in this particular set of circumstances.

It seems to be part of the human condition for us to assess our levels of happiness by comparison; unless otherwise defined, happiness for many people is a relative state rather than an absolute condition. But by comparing ourselves to others, and relying on our external environment for positive emotion, our happiness is vulnerable to changes in other people, things, and circumstances around us. And since nothing remains constant except change, we are bound to experience unhappiness as long as we hitch our happiness to things outside of ourselves.

How do we steer the car? By going inside ourselves, centering our thoughts, and therefore our emotions, on our inner nature – that part of us which is always calm and joyful.

Pushpum Meditation (Flowers of the Heart)
Our final meditation helps us to focus on our inner selves, and nurture attitudes that create peace and love in our lives. In short, what makes us happy.

Imagine each of these as a flower. Inhale the thought; pause; on the exhale, plant the flower in your heart, using the mudra we learned.

Ahimsa – no harm
Pratyahara – control of the senses
Metta – Loving Kindness
Kshama – Forgiveness

Santi – Peace
Tapas – Fire, Discipline
Jhaman – Wisdom
Satyam – Truth

Inhale: bring all your fingers in to touch your thumb – Pushpum
Exhale: plant all the flowers in your heart

May you find love, laughter and joy in your inner journey!

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November Yoga Workshop, “Searching for Happiness”

HAPPINESS – is it an elusive feeling, or is it part of our essential being? The Dalai Lama believes that happiness is so important, it is the very purpose of our lives. But how do we achieve lasting happiness, and where do we find it?

On November 18th from 1 pm to 2:30 pm, I will be holding another workshop at the Radiant Joy Yoga studio, and our topic this time is, “Searching for Happiness.”

This workshop will begin to explore the concept of happiness – what it is, where to find it, and how we can go about developing our capacity for joy, peace and inner serenity. Integrating positive psychology research, neuroscience and yoga, we will share practical approaches that will enhance our ability to uncover the essential source of happiness inside each of us, and open our hearts to greater joy.

Please join us as we practice asanas that energize the heart centre; breathing techniques that get us in touch with our prana (life force); and meditations that nurture our gratitude and sense of well-being.

No yoga experience is required – just bring your curiosity, an open mind and a willing heart.

If you are interested in sharing this exploration together, you can register here

Hope you can join us as we search for happiness!
Bette

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Yoga for Stress: Ten Tips for Managing Your Stress

Thank you to all who attended the “Yoga for Stress” workshop. As promised, here are the “Cole’s Notes” from our session together!

Tip #1: You are not your stress
We cannot control the things that happen to us, but we can manage our reactions to those situations, people, events. Instead of living in a constant state of an aroused sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight), complete with increased levels of adrenaline and cortisol that result in irritability, tension, inflammation, decreased immune responses, build up of fat around the belly, insomnia, high blood pressure, we can find ways to stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest) and lower cortisol levels, lower blood pressure, ease tension and inflammation, enhance the immune system
and encourage deep, nourishing sleep.

Tip #2: You are not your thoughts, or your emotions
When stressful things occur, we spend a lot of time thinking about them. Our minds spin around and around, often going over the problems over and over again. For every thought we think, an emotion is generated.

But, we are not our thoughts, or our emotions. There is something in us that is greater than that, and if we move our attention away from our endlessly chattering minds, we can re-connect with a deep inner peace.

The experiment we tried – of observing, labelling (not judging) and then releasing our thoughts and or emotions showed us three very important things:

1. Thoughts generate emotion – positive and negative – and your body can’t tell the difference between a thought and what is actually occurring right now. For your body, it is exactly the same thing.

2. You can control your thoughts, and therefore you can control your emotions.

3. If you can control your thoughts, who is doing the controlling? The answer is the self-aware consciousness that lies deep within us; that part of us that is always peaceful, calm and joyful.

How do we tap into that inner calm?

Tip #3: Lose your mind by grounding your body
How to stop the “monkey mind”? Use our bodies and our breath to focus our awareness on the present moment. If we can, through regular practice, learn to pull our awareness away from the endless brain chatter and focus it on our bodies, we discover that the chatter begins to quiet.

Tip #4. The Breath of Life
• Dirga Breathing
• Ujaiyii breath
• Linking breath and movement exercise (Inhale love; Exhale fear. Inhale compassion; Exhale judgement)

Tip #5: Live in the present moment and love what it is
By practicing regularly, we develop our ability to be mindful of what we are thinking, feeling and doing and more importantly, we develop tolerance and compassion for the experiences we are having. We also learn to be “with” discomfort and not identify with the unpleasant sensations; we can be feeling them, acknowledge them and not react to them. We love where ever we are in our practice; we are perfect just the way we are. No comparisons, no competition, no striving. Just breathe and be.

Top #6: Use asanas to ground and centre us
These asanas promote the calming effects of the parasympathetic nervous system, and help to centre us. Do whatever your body tells you is right, and don’t push yourself- accept yourself:
• Tadasana (Mountain pose)
• Warm up with half Sun Salutations
• Warm up with beginning of Moon Salutation
• Uttanasana (Hanging Standing Forward Fold)
• Prasarita Padottanasana (Wide Legged Forward Fold)
• Trikoasana (Triangle)
• Virabhadrasana II (Warrior 2)
• Vrksasana (Tree pose)
• Chandra Namaskara (Moon Salutation)
• Dandasana (Seated Staff)
• Paschimottanasana (Seated Forward Fold)
• Janu Sirasana (One-legged Forward Fold)
• Baddha Konasana (Cobbler’s Pose)
• Jathara Parivartanasana (Reclined Twist)
• Pindasana (Embryo Pose)

Tip #7: Stop Perseverating; Start Appreciating
Research into neurophysiology has shown that “What fires together, wires together!” To put it another way, the synapses (the places where thought impulses are transmitted) in the prefrontal cortex – actually show increased activity, and more importantly, more of them, when people meditated regularly, the areas of the brain involved in emotional balance or regulation, showed increased activity – or firing.

But what is really interesting, is that after a period of regular meditation (just eight weeks), the number of synapses and the grey matter in these areas actually increased. In other words, you can physically change the geography of your brain in a positive or a negative way.

So watch your thoughts – they are not only generating emotions, they are changing the geography of your brain, making it harder, or easier, to experience love or suffering and to influence the way we feel about the things that are happening in our lives.

The ancient yogis knew this without the benefit of MRI’s and PET scans – that what we regularly focus on becomes the reality. So, if we allow our thoughts to “peat and repeat” unpleasant thoughts, we begin to have more of them. If we dwell on the things that generate the stress response in us, we actually encourage the stress response to continue.

Tip #8: Moon Breathing
Chandra Bedhana breathing with 4/6 count: 10 times

Tip #9: Turn Your World Upside Down To Help Your Life Turn Right Side Up
• Legs up wall with mantra Om Santi

Tip #10: Surrender to the flow of life
Guided meditation from Deepak Chopra “21 Day Loving Heart” Meditation Challenge”. The link to purchase this and the other meditations is: http://www.chopracentermeditation.com/bestsellers/LandingPage.aspx?bookid=170

Note that there will soon be a new, FREE 21 Day Meditation Challenge by Deepak Chopra, starting on November 5. Here is the link: https://www.chopracentermeditation.com/Bestsellers/LandingPage.aspx?BookId=172

Bonus Tip #11: Detach from your outcomes
Let go of the attachment to the results of your actions. Pursue with passion those things that ignite the fire in you, but release your attachments to the results of those actions because they are out of our control. The self-delusion of control causes us great stress and suffering as we attempt to wrestle our lives into the results we want. Let go and be at peace with what is; not what we want it to be.

Choose one or two of the techniques and practice them every day, even if it is only for five minutes or a few breaths. It will make a difference in your life – and your stress. Many thanks again to all of you who attended the workshop; I truly hope that some of these tips  resonated with you and help bring you closer to the consciousness within you that is peaceful, calm and joyous.

Our November 18th workshop is, “Searching for Happiness.” Please join us from 1:00 to 2:30 at the Radiant Joy Yoga studio as we explore ways in which yoga can enhance your joy, bring more contentment into your life, and attract abundance with every breath you take. I hope you can join us.

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It All Comes Down To Paper Clips

Our barn caught on fire ; a lot of the content was destroyed. Now we are heaving out piles of things that are melted, charred or torched. If they were just material items, this would be so very simple.

But many of these items are more than just “things”. The toy box held our son’s laughter as a child; the pine table was the place we joined everyone together over dinner; the golf clubs were the promise of a future hobby; the Christmas tree and lights were all the holidays we have shared together as a family; saddles, bridle and tack were remnants of summer days spent riding dusty back roads.

But fire is not sentimental and it ravaged all those memories and promises. Heaving everything into a huge pile, we now toss out all the debris that linked us to the past and hinders us from moving on.

Then, like a fever, this urge to cleanse has permeated all the physical and psychological corners of our lives. Suddenly, closets and shelves are divested of clutter that has piled up over the last 30 years. Even books, my particular sacred cow, are no longer safe from scrutiny. Clothes, shoes, knicknacks, items gifted and re-gifted, ancient decorations,  souvenirs of distant places  – all once treasured and now relegated to dark, dusty recesses – are headed for the dumpster.

In fact, it’s getting to the point that if my husband stops moving for very long, I might decide he is scrap and heave him onto the pile.

Reports, background references, articles, research – my filing cabinets have been filled to capacity with paper that has not been touched in years. But today most of their hanging folders swing empty, because three bins of documents went out, along with all of the hours and hours of work that went into their preparation or review. Those projects, that work  – is Done. Gone. Finished. Letting go of that paper was like letting go of the the past.

Somehow, subconsciously it seemed that if I held onto the material things of the past, I could hold onto all of the good memories and emotions that went along with them. Perhaps even retain my youth, my son as a wee child, my dreams for the future.

But it wasn’t true. My memories are an intrinsic part of who I am today. I am not the clutter, junk and files that clog up my house; I am the result of my experiences. I can throw out the material representations of my past; but I will forever retain the accumulated essence of all that I have become.

As file after file hit the recycling bin I found myself salvaging large, black, fold-back clips. Out of all the things I kept, from all the hours of research and days of writing final reports – all tedious tomes of recommendations and observations – the only items that seemed worthwhile keeping were the paper clips. 

Research, reports and recommendations stale date very quickly. Paper clips on the other hand, are useful forever.

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Our big BBQ – minus the fun and the food!

Our barn fire is definitely proving to be an experience of no small proportion in terms of financial and philosophical change.

I have posted pictures of the damage on my Facebook page.  Next time we have a BBQ of this size, I will be sure to have the burgers and beer on hand!

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