Tension and Being Authentic

“Tension is inevitable when we live a lie and try to appear different from how we actually are. We don’t want to appear vulnerable or needy. We don’t trust that we are fundamentally enough as we are, even with our struggles and shortcomings….
We unknowingly adopt a mask and mistake it for our real face, assuming that our chronically tense and armored body is natural.
It is normal, perhaps, but not natural”

~ John J Prendergast. Taken from “In Touch”

Most of us assume that tension is normal. When we recognize it, we also know that releasing it makes us feel better. Perhaps we go for a massage or attend a restorative yoga class. We feel better afterwards.  Yet the tension always comes back.

What if the tension we feel is more than the everyday stressors of a busy demanding life, a bad boss or sitting too long at the computer?
What if taking time to understand and connect to our body opens up new meaning about our relationship with it, and gives us a deeper knowing?

In John Prendergast’s book “In Touch” he explores the wisdom and intelligence of the body and how we can literally feel authenticity in ourselves and others. I am a big fan of his work and how he guides people to a place of inner knowing and attunement with their body, mind and spirit.

Next time, you notice tension. Ask yourself “Am I being true to myself or could I be wearing a mask?”
There may be more work to be done than an occasional massages and yoga class.
Getting to know and understand the intelligence of our body, releasing the tension, and relieving stress every day is the best gift you can give yourself for living authentically and being well.

Namaste

* Yoga and Your Brain

I came across this article from Angela Wilson at Kripalu on the latest research into how yoga affects our brain and mental health.

yoga changes the brain

“With the steady rise in the number of people practicing yoga in the USA —from 13 million in 2007 to more than 20 million today—researchers have begun to focus their attention on how yoga actually changes the brain. The results echo what many of us experience: Studies show that yoga increases relaxation in the brain, improves areas of the brain that help us manage pain, and protects us against age-related decline. Together, these benefits begin to reveal the scientifically validated effects of yoga practice on brain health.

Yoga Floods the Brain with Relaxation
To investigate why yoga induces feelings of calm and peacefulness, Dr. Chris Streeter and her research team from Boston University set out to discover whether practice helps our brains produce more GABA, a neurotransmitter that increases feelings of relaxation. When we don’t have enough GABA in our brains, we feel anxious or depressed; medications such as Xanax work by upping GABA levels.
To answer this question, the team had one group of subjects do yoga for 60 minutes, while a control group read for an hour. Both groups were scanned in the MRI pre- and post-intervention. Would yoga release more GABA in the brain than reading?
The results were an unequivocal yes. The yoga group had a 27 percent increase in GABA, while the readers had no increase. But to rule out the possibility that any type of physical movement can increase GABA levels, Chris ran a second study, comparing the effects of yoga with those of walking. Again, the yoga practice showed greater changes in GABA levels in the brain. Not surprisingly, the increase in GABA was correlated with self-reports of decreased anxiety.
Studies such as these suggest how yoga might be used as an adjunct treatment to mental-health conditions such as anxiety and depression, and point to how yoga positively impacts the brain.

Read more of this article here.

I love how science shows that mindfulness and the practice of yoga are so good for our health and wellbeing.

* Life is Like … a chunk of cheddar cheese

Life is like … a chunk of cheddar cheese

chunk of cheddar cheese

It is magnificent and remarkable! Yep – I love it that much ❤

Look after it or it will become blue and moldy

When taken care of, it can last a surprisingly long time

It gets sweaty sometimes and smelly too

It is resilient and survives shredding, grating, melting and crumbling

Make something of it

Experiment with it

Savor every moment of it

…. Don’t let it go to the dogs 😉

* Insights from my Kripalu YTT 500 Teacher Training – Mod 4

When I was at Kripalu last week I met amazing teachers from the world of physical therapy, structural therapy and nursing, as well as wonderful yogis who teach and inspire a diverse range of people.

You don’t have to be fit, flexible and under 40 to do yoga or enjoy all its benefits! But it is important to find a teacher with experience and skill to avoid injury or making your condition worse… That is why I attended this module.

I have acquired more knowledge and skills for safely teaching people of all sizes; those recovering from illness; moms-to-be; kids; seniors and people with disabilities; people impacted by trauma, depression or anxiety and a large population of shoulder and back pain sufferers. For the yogis out there I also learned about how to support people in rebalancing their doshas and bringing mind body and spirit into harmony.

Val's yoga class

This module was called Teaching Special Population Groups, but it seems to me that most people I come across fall into the one or more of the above categories.  The norm is in fact special. I like that 🙂

The main theme was to support whoever comes into a yoga class with compassion and skill.

The supporting theme that became evident early on is that sitting is bad for your health and well being. We are a chair culture and it isn’t doing our bodies any good.

Lee Albert said that sitting is the new smoking! Its bad for everyone’s health. If you want to find out more about his perspective as an Integrated Positional Therapist, then there are lots of tips on his website.

Our bodies were built for walking, squatting and lying down. Sitting on a chair or in the drivers seat for extended periods of time creates misalignments that lead to chronic back pain and shoulder issues, as well as other health problems.  Specific yoga poses can counteract this … and lead to better alignment and healthy backs and shoulders.

Yoga has its roots in spirituality and the journey to oneness, but it has evolved into an amazing tool box full of tools that can support every body in bringing peace of mind and physical well being.

I feel grounded in this knowing, yet am excited to share these new perspectives with my yoga peeps.

* Breathing to Let Go

letting go

Every inhale brings in new life, nourishment and energy.

Every exhale is a release and letting go.

Our breath reflects the ebb and flow of life itself.

This quote stood out for me today:

“Sometimes you don’t realize the weight of something you’ve been carrying until you feel the weight of its release.”

When you find yourself tense, overwhelmed or feel the weight of the world on your shoulders. Take a moment and connect with your breath.

Do you notice that there is a slight pause at the end on the inhale as you hold onto the air? This holding on creates more tension in our body and it feels so good to release some of it in this simple exercise:

Take a nice big inhale and then sigh on the exhale. Really focus on the noise you can make when you breath out! Make it loud and long. The biggest and best sigh in the world.

Next, If this feels good, bring your shoulders up to your ears on your inhale and then release them down your back on the exhale.

You may want to bring in some shoulder rolls now. Inhale raising your shoulder up and then exhale releasing forwards. (3 times) Then inhale raising them up and exhale releasing them backwards (3 times).

The weight of the world is being lifted off your shoulders. As you practice this can you feel the burden releasing?

…and breathe ❤

 

* Your Breath is How you Live your Life

Do you know how are you breathing right now?

Take a moment and simply notice your breath. Perhaps place your hand on your navel and the other above your heart.  Notice the movement as you inhale and exhale.

breath awareness

We breathe in and we breathe out. And for the most part we take it completely for granted.
Until something happens such as asthma, a cold, allergies or worse. When we notice it is difficult to breathe we appreciate it so much more.

How we breathe is not only a reflection of the health of our lungs, but also a reflection on how we live our life.

Did you know that our breath is connected to our emotional state?

When we feel:

Panic – It is short, fast, shallow breaths. Trying to get more air in by speeding up.

Anxious – It is shallow breaths seeking more reassuring air.

Tense – We hold onto the inhaled air, pausing at the top of the inhale before we let it be released, sometimes with a sigh.

Anger – It is long forced inhales and exhales. Fueling the flames like a bellows.

Calm – It is slow and steady breaths becoming shallower with relaxation.

Happy – It is long inhalations and long exhalations. Slowing it all down.

Did you also know we can change our emotional state by changing our breath? We can bring mindful awareness to our breath and create the emotional state that we seek.

Practitioners of Meditation and Yoga have done this for millennia – using awareness of the breath to come into the present moment, and bring about a more relaxed and centered state of being.

Science shows that when we slow the breath it signals to the brain and the parasympathetic nervous system that everything is well. No need to be on guard … its okay to relax and restore your natural balance.

So if we want to alleviate stress and become calm, slowing the breath works!

Try counting between 4 to 6 in your mind for each inhale and exhale. It can really make a difference. Why not set aside a few minutes and try it for yourself. It may feel awkward and take some practice but your body, mind and emotions will thank you for it.

Bringing awareness to our breathing is such a valuable guide to how we live our lives in that moment. With awareness of this comes choice. Please click here to explore more about your breath.

If you want to live your life fully then practice breathing fully.

Namaste

* Water Those Roots

Here we go … with more gardening metaphors for life. Lets face it,  you can’t keep a grateful gardener down 🙂

water those rootsAs I watered my pots yesterday I realized that we take the blooms for granted and sometimes forget that its important to pay attention and water those roots. Plants need their roots watered so they can be their best. The strongest trees and the best flowers come from the strongest roots.

Just like our plants, we have needs that have to to be taken care of first if we are to grow strong and be our best selves.
Once our basic survival needs* are met, we have higher needs that are important for us to grow into being our best. These needs can take the shape of feeling loved in our closest relationships. Being counted on by our dearest ones. Being respected by colleagues. Being recognized at work. Being encouraged by friends. Belonging to a great community.  Being free to make our own choices. Making time for rest and relaxation. Being able to express our thoughts and share our talents.

We rarely stop and look at our needs. There is a bit of a stigma there. After all … we don’t want to be seen as needy … right?

We may also judge others who are needy. Which often reflects on how out of touch we are with our own needs….

It can be a touchy subject, as acknowledging our needs makes us feel vulnerable.

Human needsBut needs are at our very roots. From the basic needs to survive with food and water, to feeling loved, to expressing our authentic voice in the world. We all have needs. They are part of being human.
We need these roots watered in order to grow and bloom fully. When those roots aren’t being watered, we become driven by the needs that aren’t being met. Just like plants, we can become weak and over extended…. or invasive into others’ space to take what we need from them.

Needs are part of a human condition. When we get them met, we can embrace our humanity and be fully authentic in the world. We can relax and get on with living fully 🙂

So take a moment here and consider how you can water those roots of yours.

I’ll be exploring more about our needs and getting them met in future posts.

 

* Survival needs include air, water, food, shelter, sleep and security.