Jul 20 2011

Healthy Technology for Your Kids

Megan

A team of mothers,writers and artists have put together the very first kid yoga application for the iPad. Based on the original yoga lesson plan written by Rachel Glowacki (M-HYI), children can learn and practice yoga at their own pace. In this fast growing tech world, it’s an engaging tool that helps guide children toward making healthy physical choices as they grow older. If you have children, nieces, nephews, grandchildren or any relationship with a child, download and try out this app.  Various studies around the world have shown us that exercise not only improves our physical health, but our mental health too.  If we can help children form positive exercise habits at a young age, when they become adults it won’t be necessary to fall into harmful damage control diets and fads. Talk with children about the importance of being healthy as they grow, and how yoga can benefit them at all ages. Visit www.kidsyogajourney.com to read more about the creators of this fun pocket yoga app available on Apple’s iPad and iPhone/iPod, the Android, and now Barnes & Noble’s NOOK color Reader’s Tablet.

 


Jan 11 2011

HA!

Mark Knowles

With the start of a new year Yoga Teachers, Philanthropists, Preachers, Smokers, Drunks, and maybe some normal people make lofty ideas, create great plans, and write these little blogs.  These “Spiritual Geniuses” regurgitate a few old positive wafflings like “Empower Yourself, Take Control of Your Destiny, or Get Ready to Realize your Full Potential!”  We embark upon a few things which we are sure will either 1) change our lives or 2) change the world.  I’m reminded of a saying “Know how to make God laugh?  Tell him you plans.”  If you’re like most people, God’s in stitches right now.

We spend a great deal of time deciding how our plans will effect others.  How if we could just practice yoga 6 days a week we’d make the world a better place.  We could volunteer at the soup kitchen a little, THAT would certainly make a difference.  AND we’ll go to church/synagogue/temple/mandir/shack/woods more often. 

Now, you might  ask, what’s wrong with that?  I’ll tell you.

It’s what WE want to do, not God’s will.  Please, when I say God, plug in your version of the Divine.

This means a few things.  It means that whatever plans we create are driven by: अविद्य(avidya-ignorance of true self),   अस्मिता (asmitā-ego) राग (rāga-attachment to pleasure),  द्वेष (dveṣa-aversion), अभिनिवेष  (abhiniveṣa-attachment to physical form/fear of death).  These are the पङ्च क्लेष paṅca kleṣa.  The 5 obstacles to yoga.

We may even say “God, show me your will, and I’ll do it!”.  How many times do we decide what God’s will is for us?  We try to fix an ego with an ego.  There are some beings who were so open, so receptive to the Divine’s will that they were able to truly be instruments for His plan.  Joan of Ark got explicit instructions.  Lord Buddha knew he was going to die and how, yet he knowingly ate the food that would kill him.  The great Yogi, J.C. was also such a rare gem.  They’re no different from us.  They just listened harder.   

Mahaṛṣi Patañjali says in his  yoga sūtra ईश्वरप्रणिधानाद् वा॥२३॥ ( īśvarapraṇidhānād vā- By COMPLETE surrender to God you attain His identity).  It’s known as the one step method to attain yoga, but it’s really difficult to do that.  So there’s the 2-step method(practice and non-attachment), the 3-step method(intense spiritual practice, self-study, and then surrender), and of course the favorite अष्टाण्ग (aṣṭāṇga) 8-step method.  If youre like most people you don’t recognize any of these except the last one…see?  Most of us would rather do the more difficult thing that we’ve created as God’s will than surrender.  8 steps, or 1 step.hmmmmm

This New Year try this, DON’T DO ANTHING.

A great Teacher of mine once said “NOTHING in God’s world happens by accident”, so what do I need to change? 

And if you must pray, at least listen for the answer.

ॐ शान्ति शान्ति शान्तिः

om śānti śānti śāntiḥ


Jan 5 2011

11:11, The 1/11/11 Countdown, And Sweet Relief From The Typical New Years Resolutions

Kris Ward

How many times have you suddenly stopped what you were doing––just for a split second––to glance at the clock (for no apparent reason, kind of like an impulse or reflex), and when you did, the clock read 11:11, or maybe 1:11?

 For me, it’s an almost everyday occurrence.
 
 
Now I’m not hugely into numerology (and I’m certainly no expert on the subject), but this has always intrigued me.
 
I’ve read a little bit about this phenomenon, which apparently happens to buckets of people, and there are a few theories out there. (Note: When it comes to stuff like this, I always take it with a grain of salt and use it more for entertainment than anything else. But I must admit, it is good fun.)
 
The most common theories I’ve seen say that the sightings of 11:11 and 1:11 tend to occur during times of heightened awareness and that it can be a sort of spiritual confirmation that the person being triggered to see these numbers on the clock is on the right track, aligned with her highest truth. That’s pretty cool.
 
But my favorite of all these theories is that, when the 11:11 or 1:11 appears to you, it is your wake-up call; a reminder to reflect on whatever you are doing for a moment and remember the Big Picture; to take a good look around you and see what is really happening; to see the opportunities that surround you to step into Greater Love.
 
That makes me smile.
 
Because it’s such a feel-good theory, I’ve always loved the 1/1, 1/11, and 11/11 dates on the calendar. I tend to schedule really special, fun, and transformative events and outings on these days. Which is why the Secret Sauce Society officially kicks off on 1/11/11 and wraps up 10 months later on 11/11/11.
 
In my last email broadcast, I explained how I was doing a special little countdown leading up to to the the kick off on 1/11. And that countdown begins TODAY, officially 7 days out.
 
The content I’ll be sharing as we lead up to the big day is dedicated to YOU––geared towards helping you make 2011 the most glorious, delicious, earth-rockin’ year you’ve ever had on this planet. 
 
 

So here is your first little tidbit. Take it to heart:

We’re at the origin of a brand new year. It’s like you have a fresh new ball of clay in your hands and you can mold it any which way you choose.
 
So now is the time to:
 
  • Make amends;
  • Ditch 2010’s bad habits;
  • Decide on what you really want; and
  • Map out your plan of action.
Right?
 
Not exactly.
 
You can do that, but only if you’re okay repeating the same process all over again at the end of THIS year!
 
Look back at that list.
 
You’ve attempted something pretty close to that in years previous, haven’t you? Perhaps more than once…
 
So, just for kicks, how about try something DIFFERENT this year?!
 
Instead of forcing the old, “buckle down, focus, strive, and commit to fixing what’s broken” technique, try this on for size:
  1. Find all the things in your life you have to be grateful for NOW… because what you appreciate, appreciates.
  2. As for all the OTHER STUFF, look at it and say, “Thank you for the lovely contrast. Because of it, I now know what I REALLY REALLY want… and I’m READY for it!
  3. As you define this experience, this circumstance, or this thing that you REALLY REALLY want, focus on WHAT you want, and WHY. Trust that the HOW will show up at the perfect time, in the ideal way, and that when it does, you’ll know it because it will feel so “in your flow”. Claim your desires, own them, feel proud and worthy of them… because you are.
  4. Take action as inspiration, insight, and inner hunches lead you to (never out of obligation). You really can’t get the action part wrong as long as you follow your pleasure, trust your gut, and do what excites you and makes you come alive! And if you ever hit a wall where you don’t know what to do, just engage in something… ANYTHING! And remember to be easy about it because nothing you want is upstream.
  5. At all costs, DO NOT sit and “spin”. Spinning in your monkey mind––worrying, doubting, comparing, fearing, what-if-ing––it’s never your truth. Your truth is likely right behind what scares and excites you the most. So run, don’t walk, straight towards it with an open heart.
If that’s the Secret Sauce Society for you, click here for your next step.
 
If it’s something different. Go get it.
 
2011: Take it…. take it… it’s YOURS.
 
Mmuah!
 

 

P.S. You know that teaching what you’ve just learned, discussing it, or writing down your thoughts on it helps you integrate it, right? So I suggest you do it… NOW.

Thinking about it is one thing, but expressing/sharing this desire of yours brings it another step closer to you. And I want to support you in that so spill the beans.

Leave me a comment below and tell me about YOUR “lovely contrast” from 2010, and what, as a result, you’re now SUPER CLEAR that you’re READY for now…. in 2011!! 

Read more from Kris at www.abundantyogi.com


Dec 19 2010

Mind/Body Harmony

Matthew Foley

I had a really phenomenal experience this past Sunday morning teaching a yoga class to a dance group at the College of Charleston. About a dozen people showed up for the class, which took place in a beautiful dance room located inside the brand new Cato Arts Center on the CofC campus. In preparing for the class, I did a lot of thinking about what a yoga practice might offer people who are passionate about dance and creative movement.

One of the central aspects of yoga is cultivating a harmonious relationship between mind and body. Such harmony is of course essential to creating beautiful and graceful movement in dance. In many Eastern spiritual paths, the mind and the body are seen as equal halves of an integral whole. This is the philosophy of yin and yang: things that appear to be opposites – light and dark, tall and short, earth and sky, spirit and flesh – are in fact inseparably connected with one another.

In Western culture, however, there is a very rigid division between mind and body. In the last year, I’ve stumbled upon a number of brilliant Western thinkers who have addressed this division and the disharmony is creates in individuals.

The first is Sir Ken Robinson, an expert on human creativity, who gave a brilliant address at the 2006 TED Conference on creativity in children and whether or not educational systems around the world do an adequate job of fostering that creativity. (The whole talk is worth watching, but the part I’ll be focusing on begins around the 9:00 minute mark).

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iG9CE55wbtY

During his talk, he spoke about the fact that almost all schools around the world tend to place a great emphasis on language and mathematics over the arts, particularly drama and dance. He says: “As children grow up, we start to educate them progressively from the waist-up. Then we focus on their heads – and slightly to one side.”

He goes on to describe what type of person this emphasis on head-only education creates, particularly in the form of the stereotypical academic professor: “They live in their heads. They live up there – and slightly to one side. They’re disembodied, in a kind of literal way. They look upon their body as a form of transport for their heads. It’s a way of getting their heads to meetings.”

Another brilliant thinker I’ve come across in the past year is Alan Watts, who came to popular attention during the 1960’s as an interpreter of Eastern spiritual traditions (especially Zen Buddhism) for Western audiences. In one of his talks featured on YouTube, delightfully illustrated by Trey Parker and Matt Stone, he addresses this split between mind and body that exists in the West and how it shapes our sense of self.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OAVM_Xk_o9E&feature=related

“I’ve always been tremendously interested in what people mean by the word “I” – because it comes out in curious lapses of speech. We don’t say: “I am a body.” We say: “I have a body.” Somehow we don’t seem to identify ourselves with all of ourselves. We say “my feet,” “my hands,” “my teeth,” as if they were something outside me. As far as I can make out, most people feel that they are something or other about halfway between the ears and a little ways behind the eyes, inside the head. That’s what you call the “ego.” That’s not what you are at all, because it gives you the idea that you are a chauffeur inside your own body – as if you your body were an automobile and you are the chauffeur principle inside it.”

The point that both Robinson and Watts are making is that when we identify primarily with our mind and our thoughts, we disconnect ourselves from our bodily existence. The results are usually disastrous, particularly in our modern culture. We stuff food into our mouths that are deeply gratifying to the mind (products high in fat and processed sugar) but which are nutritionally disastrous to the body. On the opposite extreme, we flock to gyms in order to sculpt our bodies into an idealized mental image of what we should like like – usually based on digitalized media images of the super skinny or ultra buff.

What is lacking is a deep listening to the wisdom of the body. Oftentimes, we only start to listen when we are forced to, usually as a result of an illness or life-threatening condition. Many people then realize that they must flip their entire life-style upside down and start living from a more holistic understanding of themselves.

Many of these people, of course, find their way to yoga classes and meditation retreats.

A great deal of the popularity of such practices as yoga, tai chi, and seated meditation are found in the fact that they help cultivate a holistic way of looking at ourselves and our place in the world. These practices are based on the realization that the mind and body form an inseparable wholeness – just as each individual human being, animal, or plant is an integral part of the interdependent environment in which they live. The process of yoga, in my mind, is a process of extending the feeling of identity outwards, away from the narrow confines of our egos, and connecting with our bodies, our communities, the planet, and the universe.

In the yoga class I taught to the dance group, I continually encouraged the participants to focus on their breath. The breath is an incredible tool for helping us cultivate mind/body harmony. Mindful breathing helps us turn down the volume on our mental noise so that the wisdom of the body may begin to be heard. A yogi or dancer can then begin to truly feel his or her body. They can begin to discover where they are tight or sore, where they hold anxiety or stress, in what movements they feel confident or terrified. This deep listening to the body can give us insight into the ways we live and in what ways we may need to change.

When the body and mind begin to move and function as one, we become more effective in what we do, we become more graceful and effortless in our actions, we become less worried and anxious in our inner lives. This is obviously helpful not just on the yoga mat or on the dance stage, but in all aspects of our lives.

So the question is… What might your body be trying to tell you? And if you start to really listen, what changes would begin to happen in your life?

~ Matthew Foley


Aug 26 2010

Meditation and Your Brain

Rae

I recently read an amazing article in Yoga Journal on “Your Brain on Meditation,” by Kelly McGonigal (www.yogajournal.com/health/2601). She teaches yoga, meditation, and psychology at Stanford University and is the author of Yoga for Pain Relief. It is so inspiring that there is now scientific evidence that your brain on meditation actually changes its structure in different regions of the brain depending on the meditation. For instance, “over the past decade, researchers have found that if you practice focusing attention on your breath or a mantra, the brain will restructure itself to make concentration easier. If you practice calm acceptance during meditation, you will develop a brain that is more resilient to stress. And if you meditate while cultivating feelings of love and compassion, your brain will develop in such a way that you spontaneously feel more connected to others.”

Meditation in the Christian faith is often read and talked about, but not often taught. Meditation is compared to learning a skill like playing an instrument or a sport. In the Message version of Matthew 6, by Eugene Peterson, Jesus say’s “Here’s what I want you to do: Find a quiet, secluded place so you won’t be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense his grace.”

Prayer and meditation are two integral practices that join or unite us to our Creator. Prayer is talking to God and meditation is listening to Him. However, they both are forms of communication and require practice, patience and time. Our brains are so complex, yet we are designed in such a way that when we take the time to meditate a physical manifestation of gray matter in the brain is produced in different regions. According to “Eileen Luders, a re-searcher in the Department of Neurology at the University of California Los Angeles School of Medicine found that increased gray matter typically makes an area of the brain more efficient or powerful at processing information.”

How do we put meditation into practice and deepen our faith? Meditation is an ancient old practice and is used in many religions to connect with God and non-religious meditation techniques link the breath or repeat positive phrases (mantras) to calm the nervous system.  When Jesus visited Martha “her sister, Mary, sat at the Lord’s feet, listening to what he taught. But Martha was distracted by the big dinner she was preparing. She came to Jesus and said, ‘Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.’ But the Lord said to her, ‘My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:38-42). Learning to be still and quiet in our inundated culture and living up to the expectations that we place on ourselves and others requires discipline.  By practicing just 10 to 90 minutes a day you can experience immediate results of calm and peaceful feelings.

This meditation was taught to me at Yogaville, an Ashram in Virginia.

Connect to God in Meditation

  1. Go to a quiet secluded place
  2. Close your eyes
  3. Draw your shoulder blades on the backside of your heart as you melt your shoulders away from your ears
  4. Expand from your heart center and smile with your collar bones
  5. Ground in through your sitting bones by pulling back any access flesh
  6. Inhale and Exhale:”Be still and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10
  7. Inhale and Exhale: “Be still and know that I am.”
  8. Inhale and Exhale: “Be still and know that.”
  9. Inhale and Exhale: “Be still and know.”
  10. Inhale and Exhale: “Be still.”
  11. Inhale and Exhale: “Be.”