1. Yogaspire: A Practice of Positive Psychology and Yoga

    July 12, 2013

    yogaspire

    by Dr. Tal Ben-Shahar and Megan McDonough

     

    Yoga and positive psychology are not usually used in the same sentence. Positive psychology is, after all, a science—and a recent one at that. It uses research and data to come to conclusions about what makes people flourish. Yoga is a practice that is thousands of years old and although some would call it a science, it is not defined as such in western academia. Like positive psychology, the practice is meant to elevate. What would it look like to combine the body-centered approach of yoga postures with the science-based approach of positive psychology?

     

    Defining Yoga

     

    The word “yoga” comes from the Sanskrit root yuj, which means “to join” or “to yoke.” Basically, the practice is an integration of all aspects of self.

    A great definition of yoga came from Amrit Desai, a yogi who said, “The practice is when what you think, say, and feel are aligned.” Interestingly enough, this is similar to how Gandhi described happiness when he said, “Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.”

    This connection of aligned thinking and action is very important, and we’ll come back to it in a bit.

    As for yoga, many equate it with the physical practice. The word conjures images of extremely flexible people in amazing postures. However, classical yoga describes an eight-fold path that spells out guidelines for living a meaningful and purposeful life. One of those eight paths is “Asana”, the Sanskrit word for physical postures. These postures are designed for physical well-being and are used for developing concentration, attention, and awareness in preparation for meditation.

     

    The Effects of Yoga

     

    You can see in magazines today the popular image of the very flexible yoga practitioner. Yet, the physical flexibility is nothing compared to the mental flexibility that yoga builds. There are two aspects of yoga that cannot be captured in a fancy photo: being mindful of experiencing the posture, and expanding your awareness beyond what first captures your attention.

    In the physical practice of yoga, one focuses attention on the very real and tangible body (Where are my arms and legs in this posture? Am I holding unnecessary tension in my neck? What is that strange sensation in my shoulder?) Then the practitioner expands awareness into even finer layers, perhaps being aware of the breath, of attitudes and thoughts, emotions arising, the interplay between the ground and the feet, or the relationship to the teacher or other students. In this way, the practitioner connects body and mind, consciously paying attention.

    We can expand this directed attention to focus on our psychological state in addition to our physical state. At Wholebeing Institute, we call this practice Yogaspire.

     

    Yogaspire

     

    Let’s come back to the idea of aligning thought and action. Research in psychology points to a reciprocal relationship between attitudes and behaviors, and it seems clear that attitudes affect behaviors. We usually seek the company of those we find engaging and avoid those who fail to excite us. If I like self-help books and find cooking tedious, I am more likely to gravitate towards one section of the bookstore rather than another. A deep love of golf is likely to take me to a driving range, whereas fear of rough physical contact is likely to drive me away from the football field.

    The relationship between attitudes and behaviors goes beyond our likes and dislikes, influencing the course of action we choose. Psychological research and observations point to a reciprocal relationship between attitudes and behaviors: not only do our thoughts affect our actions, what we do also affects how we think.

    Attitude (in the mind) and behavior (through the body) creates a self-reinforcing loop. Yogaspire makes the link between the two more explicit by being mindful of what one is doing (physical postures) while consciously cultivating a desired state of mind (psychological state).

    For example, in the mountain pose in yoga, we can be aware of our physical body standing strong and tall, feeling our heart lifting up, and we can extend that sensation to include our psychological state by mentally repeating “I am grounded and strong.”

    How you sit, stand, walk, and use your physical body has an impact on your psychological state. Does your physical position right now give you some clues to your psychological state? What happens when you change your posture, purposely picking a position that for you epitomizes the desired state?

     

    Research

     

    What does research say about how a yoga pose like mountain affects our psychology? According to Amy Cuddy, a researcher at Harvard University, even a quick two-minute pose has a direct impact on you—both in terms of hormonal changes (attitudes in the mind) and on the subsequent behavior (actions through the body).

    In this study,* participants’ mouths were swabbed at the start of the protocol to test saliva for the hormone testosterone, which is associated with power and confidence, and cortisol, the stress hormone. After the swab, they were asked to strike either a low-power pose or a high-power pose for two minutes. As you may have guessed, the low-power posers took up less space by crossing arms and legs protectively and curling the spine. High-power posers, in contrast, took up lots of space. Think of Wonder Woman with her legs wide and hands on her hips, or the big executive with feet on the desk and fingers intertwined behind the head.

    At the end of two minutes, the saliva was tested again and participants were asked if they wanted to make a bet with the $2 they were given. They could keep it (a safe bet), or gamble with a roll of the dice (riskier, but with a good 50/50 chance to double their money).

    After only two minutes, the high-power poses caused an increase in testosterone compared with low-power poses, which caused a decrease. High-power poses also caused a decrease in cortisol compared with low-power poses, which caused an increase.

    In other words, taking up lots of space with your body increases the power hormone and decreases the stress hormone. It changes—at least for the duration of this experiment—your physiology. These changes affect decisions, actions, and behaviors. High-power posers were more likely than low-power posers to focus on rewards—86.36 percent took the gambling risk while only 60 percent of the low-power posers took the risk.

    Finally, high-power posers reported feeling significantly more “powerful” and “in charge” than low-power posers did. As the researchers state, “Thus, a simple two-minute power-pose manipulation was enough to significantly alter the physiological, mental, and feeling states of our participants. The implications of these results for everyday life are substantial.”

     

    For more information on yoga and positive psychology, including a free 7-day Yogaspire course, visit www.yogaspire.com

     

    *Carney, D.R., Cuddy, A.J.C. & Yap, A.J. “Power Posing: Brief Nonverbal Displays Affect Neuroendocrine Levels and Risk Tolerance.” Psychological Science 21.10 (2010): 1363-368.

     

    About the Authors:

    Dr. Tal Ben Shahar Dr. Tal Ben-Shahar, CLO of Wholebeing Institute, is an author and lecturer. He taught the largest course at Harvard on “Positive Psychology” and the third largest on “The Psychology of Leadership”—with a total of over 1,400 students. Author of Happier: Learn the Secrets to Daily Joy and Lasting Fulfillment, he consults and lectures around the world to corporate executives, the general public, and at-risk populations on topics that include happiness, self-esteem, resilience, goal-setting, mindfulness, and leadership.

     

     

    Megan McDonough Megan McDonough, CEO of Wholebeing Institute, is the award-winning author of Infinity in a Box: Using Yoga to Live with Ease and A Minute for Me: Learning to Savor Sixty Seconds. Mastery of “how to get from point A to point B” is Megan’s trademark, whether it’s leading the entry of Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health into online learning, speed-launching a first-of-its-kind worldwide virtual conference, or teaching thousands of people to live with ease and clarity based on their own internal compass.

     

     

     

    Image Credit: Marketing-Deluxe


  2. Yoga Therapy For Addiction

    June 23, 2013

    Yoga Therapy for Addiction

     

    There are many different techniques and methods that can be used to help individuals during recovery from drug addiction or alcoholism. One new type of therapy that makes use of ancient practices is yoga therapy. Participants who use yoga during recovery find that it provides a sense of calm, improves their spiritual connection, and offers them the opportunity to get in shape physically. These benefits are all things that can improve the individual’s life and also greatly assist in recovery.

     

    Yoga Provides Relaxation and Balance between Mind and Body

     

    Yoga helps patients manage their emotions more effectively by promoting relaxation and self-peace. Yoga has been known to decrease depression and anxiety, reduce outbursts of anger and fatigue, and lessen confusion. A core value of yoga is self-control, which is practiced by training the mind to direct the body. Patients who struggle with addiction are able to decrease their compulsive behaviors by practicing yoga. Yoga helps the mind and body to work in synergy, by fostering self-discipline and concentration during movements.

    The overall sense of calm that yoga participants experience helps patients who are in recovery accept the challenge of sobriety, and to patiently work toward a new life. “Yoga and meditation do several things, and perhaps one of the most important is that they allow individuals to cope with stress better,” an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, Sat Bir Khalsa, said. “At the core of a lot of addiction is a search for that kind of relief from the stressful world.”

    This type of addiction therapy has been proven to help individuals overcome addiction. Excersize acts as a stress reliever and a mood enhancer, both of which can aid in recovery. Individuals who participate in exercise such as yoga are generally stronger mentally and physically, and even after one session they become more capable of tackling the challenge of sobriety.

     

    Developing an Inner Strength

     

    Yoga also assists in recovery by enabling a patient to connect spiritually with themselves and their god. Yoga encourages participants to focus inwardly and address their underlying issues. The practice of personal assessment and growth allows patients to identify the reasons they fell into addiction. Yoga helps individuals feel empowered to overcome the challenges that lead them to addiction. Like the 12 step method, yoga helps individuals develop an inward strength that comes from being personally and spiritually connected to a higher power.

    One group of residents in yoga therapy in Boston were featured in a NY Times article. They told the newspaper that they are encouraged every day through their program. One instructor tells them every day, “Tap into your breath to deal with the unknown. Whatever hurts, whatever bad energy you have in your life, you can let it go here.”

    Patients respond well to yoga therapy, and the effect is a strong motivation to continue in sobriety. “The teacher always says how you’re a good person and to love yourself. That makes you feel good about yourself, and you want to stay clean,” said one patient.

     

    Author Bio: Bethany is a blogger in recovery who hopes to help those still suffering with their addiction.

    Image Credit: Angela Kukhahn (flickr.com/photos/kukhahnyoga/6052362466)


  3. Raise Your Confidence and Reduce Pressure with Meditation

    June 22, 2013

    benefits of meditation

    by Colin Zauner

    There are many situations in your daily life that can contribute to pressure, anxiety, stress, and loss of confidence. If you want to raise your self confidence and alleviate pressure, all you have to do is adopt meditation in your daily routine.

     

    Meditation is just one of the most effective anti-stress remedies when done regularly. Meditation state could be facilitated by different techniques which include visualizations, affirmations, breathing, mantras, and many others. Though it can be difficult at first, regular practice will make meditation effortless.

     

    To boost your self confidence, you should learn about affirmation meditations. This is done in a sitting position. You must be relaxed and comfortable, while closing your eyes. You can choose a daily affirmation and it must be said [silently] in an engaging voice. Do this for ten minutes, and don’t forget to observe proper breathing.

     

    You can also do visualizations. Try to visualize yourself in a confident or self-assured state. This is something that you can do every day and almost anywhere. If you are busy at work, you can squeeze this into your schedule without difficulty. I know some people who, to release work stress, schedule a 5 min slot for silent meditation every 2 hours when in the office.

     

    To be able to learn everything about yourself and your go deep into your thoughts, you have to practice mindful or present moment meditation. This is an ancient technique, and it is one of the most effective relaxation tools that you can find.

     

    Meditation also helps you to maintain your inner energy (read on Qigong to see how to improve and increase your energy), here is what you can do:

     

    ·    Spend more time with people having positive energy and positive mindset

     

    ·    Calm your mind and meditate. While you are in a relaxed state, you must try to feel the energy that is flowing inside your body. Visualization can serve as your protective shield.

     

    – You can also increase your energy levels through meditation. There are various ways to reduce pressure and increase positive energy. Just sit still and pick a quiet place inside the room or office. Hang out with positive and energetic friends and avoid the ‘energy vampires’ – negativity draws energy away. You also need to spend more time outdoors. This is your chance to ease the stress and burdens of daily living. Enjoy the sun and fresh air as you stroll at the park or go shopping.

     

    Meditation should be effortless and it is a great opportunity to do nothing. There are many mindless activities that you can do prior to meditating. For instance, you can stare at the starry sky, read magazines, take a walk, and even watch your favorite TV show.

     

    Did you know that laughter is one of the best things that can elevate energy levels? This helps the body in boosting the levels of endorphins (or “good hormones”) and it decreases stress or anxiety.

    Start practicing meditation today, your mind needs as much relaxation as your body.

     

    Author Bio: Colin Zauner is a blogger and health and fitness enthusiast, who works at AllWorkoutRoutines.com. His research and writing focus mainly on full body workout routines and exercise dvd reviews.

    Image Credit: Mark Sebastian

     


  4. Self-Awareness through Kundalini Yoga

    June 6, 2013

    self-awareness through yoga

    by Rebecca Junck

     

    “Kundalini Yoga consists of active and passive asana-based kriyas, pranayama, and meditations which target the whole body system (nervous system, glands, mental faculties, chakras) to develop awareness, consciousness and spiritual strength.” —Yogi Bhajan

     

    What is Kundalini Yoga

     

    An ancient form of yoga, Kundalini is one of the more spiritual yoga practices. It’s also known as the yoga of awareness, as it focuses on increasing self-awareness and delivering an experience of your highest consciousness. Its emphasis on breathing, meditation, mudras and chanting takes it beyond the physical performance of the poses.

    Kundalini energy is one of the pillars of yoga and is included in one of the earliest yoga scriptures circa 2nd century BCE. It’s been practiced in India since then and has only recently gained popularity in the west.  In 1969 Yogi Bhajan immigrated to America and founded 3HO (the Healthy, Happy, Holy Organization) in Los Angeles to begin teaching Kundalini yoga to a new broader audience. Today it’s practiced worldwide and has attracted such celebrity followers as Russell Brand, Reese Witherspoon and Miranda Kerr.

    Difference from Other Forms of Yoga

     

    Kundalini is more relaxed that most other types of yoga such as Vinyasa or Ashtanga. Although all yoga is spiritual, Kundalini really focuses on your self-awareness and consciousness. If you’re looking for an up-tempo experience, stick with Bikram or Vinyasa. If you’re looking for a slower pace, chanting and spiritual teachings, try Kundalini.

    A typical Kundalini yoga session includes specific sets of postures (asana) that target a specified part of your body, with a focus on meditation, breathing exercises (pranayama) and chanting (mantra).

    Often grouped together with Hatha yoga, there are some noteworthy differences between the two when it comes to the poses:

    Hatha combines a number of poses that are aimed at stretching and strengthening your muscles and stimulating your internal organs. The postures incorporate sitting, standing and lying down poses, such as cobra, bow, locust and cat.

    Kundalini has far fewer poses than Hatha and they are all sitting poses, including the lotus, the rock and the hero.

    What to Expect in Your First Class

     

    A class begins with a short chant Ong Namo Guru Dev Namo (“I call on the divine teacher within”) in order to tune the channel of your mind. It’s a way to bring the whole class together and connect with the tradition of Kundalini yoga.

    Next there will be a warm up that improves flexibility and stretches the spine. The main section of the class is called a kriya – a pre-determined sequence of exercises that focuses on a specific area of the body (arms, legs, and torso) in order to strengthen and help them release toxins. The class ends with a meditation followed by the blessing song “May the Long Time Sun Shine Upon You”.

    The Benefits of Kundalini Yoga

     

    All physical activity has benefits for your body including increased vitality, weight loss/control and increased muscle strength. Kundalini includes these as well as:

    • Helping to better the functioning of your cardiovascular, lymphatic, nervous, digestive and glandular systems.
    • Heightening your 5 senses – sight, smell, hearing, touch and taste – and increasing their sensitivity.
    • Helping to increase your sense of confidence and well-being that comes as you make your journey of self-discovery of your inner self and relaxed mental state.
    • Increasing your control of yourself, overcoming anger and resentment more easily to find inner calm.
    • Strengthening your immune system that will keep you healthy and well.

    Because it has such positive effects on both your mental and physical states, Kundalini has increased in popularity in recent years. Perhaps it’s a sign of how busy life and society has become that we seek out opportunities to promote positive thinking and center ourselves. Or perhaps we’ve only just discovered it.

    Whichever type of yoga that you choose, it’s important to remember that your goal is to improve your overall wellness, health and life. In fitness classes and sports it’s easy to compare your progress with those around you, quietly judging yourself. In yoga, you get to be selfish. Remember that your classmates aren’t paying attention to whether you nailed the last posture or how deep you go into the poses – they’re too busy concentrating on themselves.

     

    Author Bio: Rebecca is a digital yogi trying to find balance in today’s hectic world. She writes about nutrition, exercise, and holistic and healthy living at Healthy Living Online.

    Image Credit: yogamama.co.uk


  5. Yoga poses for Calming your Mind

    May 16, 2013

    Yoga poses for Calming your Mind

    Yoga poses are called asanas in Sanskrit. They are positions in yoga that help in the overall, harmonious well-being of the body and mind.

    These postures help in increasing the body’s flexibility and over time can be an efficient way to lose weight and tone the body. They also help in increasing our power of concentration and help us relax. Yoga embraces all individuals. People of all ages can perform these asanas. Yoga has no side effects. Only care needs to be taken to ensure that very young children and aged persons do not hold the yogic postures for very long. Pregnant women and menstruating women must also avoid practicing yoga. A trained yoga instructor is also very essential to be able to learn the right way of doing yoga.

    Asanas can be of different types. Seated asanas, Standing asanas, Core asanas, Back Bend asanas, Arm Balance asansas, Twisted asanas, Inversion asanas, Supine asanas and Relaxation asanas. Thus there are asanas for the entire body – from head to toe. These asanas are combined with specialized breathing techniques for maximum effect.

    A few important points have to be kept in mind before performing them. The stomach should be empty. The mind should be relaxed. The body at no point should be trembling. No external force must be applied to the body and the breathing needs to be extremely controlled. Yoga has to be performed on the floor but it is necessary to have either a yoga mat or a towel to protect from shocks and injury. For best results asanas must be done on a regular basis, that is, for at least 45 minutes every day.

    The core asana in different schools of yoga is the Surya Namaskar or the Sun salutation. This Sun Salutation is a holistic asana that blends twelve different poses into one long exercise that has a positive impact on the entire body.

    Warm up poses in yoga are very important as they prepare the body for the yoga session. The main warm-up poses include eye exercises, neck exercises, shoulder stretches and lifts and the Cat Pose or Bidalasana.

    standing - Yoga poses for Calming your Mind

    Seated poses are the classic postures that are beneficial for relaxation, but also have other curative powers. The main seated poses include the Easy pose or Sukhasan, the Child Pose, the Lotus Pose, the Hero Pose, the Garland Pose, the Seated Forward Bend pose and Full Boat pose.

    Standing poses make you aware of your body and posture and form the root of body balance and body alignment. The Tadasan or the Mountain Pose is the root of all standing asanas. Other basic standing poses include the Tree Pose, the Warrior Pose, the Chair Pose, the Triangle Pose, the Crescent Moon Pose, the Half Moon Pose, the Standing Forward Bend Pose and the Hands to Feet pose.

    Supine poses are essentially those asanas that are performed with the back on the floor. The Pavanamuktasan or the Wind Relieving pose, the leg raises, the leg pulls and the leg reclining lunge are main supine poses.

    The Dog Pose, the Bow Pose, The Bridge Pose, The Cobra Pose, the Wheel Pose, the Locust Pose and the Fish Pose are the main Backward Bend asanas. They help in fortifying the back and spine, increase flexibility. They also give a good stretch to the limbs. Those with back problems should refrain from doing these or should consult a trained specialist before attempting them.

    Backward Bend - Yoga poses for Calming your Mind

    Twisted poses are mainly beneficial for the back and spine, but also help in abdominal stretching. The Sage twist or the Marichyasana and the half spinal twist or Ardha Matsyendrasana are main Twisted asanas.

    Balance poses and Inverted poses such as the Head Stand, Shoulder Stand,
    Hand Stand, the Crane Pose and the Plough Pose help in increasing bodily balance and also strengthen targeted body parts. These are very often very advanced poses that can be performed after having followed a rigorous yoga program

    The Cool down poses or the Relaxing poses help finish off the session and help in calming the mind and making the mind one with the body. They are also called regenerative poses. The Savasan or the Dead Corpse pose and the Final Corpse pose are the main finishing poses.  For details for yoga poses kindly visit http://www.yogawiz.com/yoga-poses.html

    Images Credit: Lululemon Athletica


  6. The Benefits of Yoga for Seniors

    May 12, 2013

    Yoga for seniors

    by Jamica Bell

    Yoga has become increasingly popular over the last decade. In addition, it has also been proven to provide health benefits for people of all ages. In fact, there are now specialized classes available for two drastically different age groups: senior citizens and infants. The senior classes place an emphasis on obtaining positions that will help reduce feelings of fatigue, pain and stress. By enrolling in one of these classes, mature adults will be taught about the best yoga positions for their specific needs.

    According to wellness experts, there are several poses that work best for seniors: One-Legged Wind Releasing Pose, Staff Pose, Chair Pose, V Seated Forward Bend in a Chair, V Pose, and Relaxation Pose.

    Individuals interested in obtaining the positive health benefits associated with yoga should sign up for a yoga class as long as their doctor agrees that they are physically capable of starting a new exercise routine.

    The Perks of Doing Yoga

    This 5000 year old art form provides many physical benefits for those who participate in it on a regular basis, but it also offers several emotional benefits as well. Yoga is well-known as an exercise that provides people with a cathartic release from any pent-up emotions, making it ideal for anyone struggling with depression. In fact, many doctors will recommend yoga as an alternative treatment for certain physical and emotional ailments, and most people report positive results. The following attributes are just a few of the physical benefits of this peacefully exercise:

    • Aids in control of blood sugar in diabetes patients
    • Improves respiratory function
    • Improves arthritis pain
    • Boost bone density and prevents osteoporosis
    • Enhances balance
    • Fosters sleep quality
    • Diminishes pain

    Choosing the Right Class for You

    Whether you prefer an environment that is candlelit and meditative or instructional with higher impact, there are many options for whatever class best fit your personality If you want to take a yoga class with people in your age range, you can call a local yoga school and ask them if they offer a senior course. Additionally, if you are currently utilizing the services of an assisted living provider, you can ask them to help you find the best yoga options in the area. Major cities may provide mental wellness programs that may be more accessible than some rural cities. For example, senior living Birmingham communities have made great strides to ensure the senior citizens in their locale have ample access to quality mental wellness.

    What Should I Expect?

    When you first begin doing yoga, you can expect to have a little bit of difficulty getting into some of the poses, but your instructor will help you position your body correctly. As with any other new exercise program, it is possible that you will feel sore the next day. However, if you stick with it, you will soon begin to experience the many rewards of doing yoga.

    Is Yoga for Me?

    Anyone who wants to feel better both physically and mentally should definitely consider enrolling in a yoga class. If you are feeling hesitant because it has been a long time since you have enrolled in an exercise program or if you have never been physically active, it is important for you to remember that it is never too late to change your life. By signing up, you have made the first step to get in better touch with yourself and your spirituality. There are yoga courses that are designed for all experience levels, and a professional instructor can also work with several different physical limitations to ensure that you get the most out of the experience.

    Yoga’s popularity has grown so quickly because so many people have discovered that it truly helps them in several different ways. To take advantage of this lower intensity workout to improve your life, you should consult with an assisted living provider, hospital, or doctor’s office for a list of schools that offer senior classes.

     

    Author Bio: Jamica Bell is a contributing writer for several blogs and is an advocate for health and wellness. Chateau Vestavia is a senior living Birmingham community dedicated to providing wellness, comfort, and peace of mind to its residents and their loved ones. In addition to assisted living, they also provide independent living and memory care.

    Image Credit: yogamama.co.uk

     


  7. On Psychological Benefits of Meditation

    April 22, 2013

    benefits of meditation

    Image Credit: Lululemon Athletica

    In the world we live in we value goals and getting the best results. It therefore might look like a paradox that people turn to meditation. Sitting in silence is not very productive one might think. But is this true? Do benefits of meditation compensate the value of time you lost sitting? Absolutely! Your mental health and well-being are priceless. We live to be happy and meditation is the path to happiness. Let’s have a look at some known meditation benefits.

    Better control and concentration

     

    Concentration is important to make the most out of your day at work. It allows you to do more in less time and use your time more efficiently. The Power of focus increases when you meditate regularly. The new found focus can be used for meditation but also for all other activities that ask for concentration like sports, making music or a day at work. When you have negative thoughts often or think you cannot control your own thoughts, meditation can very well be beneficial to you. It teaches you to control negative thoughts that arise and even stop them entirely. An unruly mind can come under control through meditation, which will create more peace of mind and enable you to achieve your goals. When you get irritated easily by situations you cannot control the solution is not to avoid these situations but to take distance from it. Everybody needs to wait in line sometimes, nobody likes a train delay but you cannot help it that these occasions occur. The solution to these problems is to detach yourself from these situations in your mind. You need to try to see things in the right perspective. A great benefit of meditation is that you’ll be better able to detach from unfortunate circumstances and the negative thoughts they cause.

    Improve your health

     

    Many studies have proven that meditation has health benefits. For example, when you feel less stressed you are a lot less likely to develop heart disease. Meditation teaches you to switch off from negative thought patterns and worries. By spending 15 minutes a day you will calm your mind and feel more relaxed overall. Our society is getting more and more aware of the link between physical health and our state of mind. Inner turmoil is often the reason for physical ailments. Because meditation stills the mind it can be a great step to avoid stress related ailments.

    Happiness and creativity

     

    It is fair to say that everybody seeks happiness. Happiness can be found in your own mind but if there is no peace of mind you will constantly be under attack from negative thoughts, no matter how successful you are. The act of stillness and simply being will create a happier self. An unexpected source of happiness arises when you meditate. In other words, happiness does not only depend on outer circumstances but your inner attitude is much more important. Your thinking mind often worries about the future or the past and sometimes even both. This takes out a lot of energy that covers up your creativity and spontaneity. Maybe you think you have no spontaneity or creativity but you have more potential than you think. We need a quiet mind to access these sources of inspiration. Your creative potential can be unlocked by living in the present moment.

    Find your purpose in life

     

    If you want to know more about the point of your existence in life, meditation can help greatly. Most of us look for external events and people to learn about themselves. When you really want to know more about yourself however, a journey inwards is also needed. Meditation provides us with a better understanding of ourselves and thus a greater understanding of life itself. New and neutral perspectives on life will be unleashed without our egoistic perspective. The answer ‘who am I’ can be answered by doing meditation.

    The first few attempts of meditation will not get you there. Meditation takes consistency and perseverance as it takes time to tame the mind. Reading about meditation alone is not enough. You really need to experience it to get a deeper feel for it. Therefore: give meditation a try because the benefits are plenty!

     

    This is a guest post from Paycare, a leading insurance company that specialises in employee wellbeing, corporate health and healthcare recovery.

     

     

     


  8. The Psychological Benefits of Tai Chi and Qigong Practice

    April 21, 2013

    Tai Chi

    Image Credit: Garry Knight

    by Dan Kleiman

     

    The evidence is in that slow movement, coupled with body awareness not only has astounding health benefits but amazing psychological benefits as well. Recently, the Los Angeles Times published a story about the widespread use of slow movement , awareness-based therapies, for the treatment of pain brought on by “…cancer and cancer treatments, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis and other diseases and conditions, in pain clinics and integrative medicine centers. These treatment plans include such routines as Tai Chi and Hatha Yoga.

    One of the main reasons that programs such as Tai Chi, Qigong and Yoga are so effective in managing pain is that the exercises help to relieve the depression often caused by chronic pain, greatly improving the quality of life. Continued practice not only keeps depression at bay but also improves confidence. In the above-mentioned study patients with chronic low back pain took a 12 week course of Hatha Yoga had significantly less problems with depression and disability than the standard care control group did. The same study using Tai Chi in treating the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis reported less pain, stress and a much greater awareness of their body and more confidence.

    Medical experts are divided as to why these treatments are so effective. The most common consensus among researchers however is that the exercises encourage parasympathetic relaxation responses that reduce the stress response, inhibit inflammation, promotes immune functions and stimulates healing. They believe that the slow, deliberate movements extend the benefits of cardiovascular exercise to a much deeper level, drawing on previously untapped resources.

    The graceful, choreographed movement sequences of Tai Chi, called the “solo form” begin the process of merging mind, body and spirit. While learning solo form Tai Chi, students learn to feel different internal qualities and their outward manifestations. These different “energies” are called the 13 Postures of Tai Chi. As you perfect the 13 Postures, you are better able to relax: you sink your energy, lengthen the spine, relax the joints and muscles and calm the mind.

    When combined with appropriate breathing exercises, in which the breath is in harmony with the movements, the internal musculature of the shoulders, lower back and legs will open , with each breath taken. This promotes stillness, sensitizes the mind to both internal and external perceptions, suppresses jagged, hurried thought processes and raises the spirit.

     

    Later on, students more to two-person exercises called Push Hands. In Push Hands, you engage in extension and retraction movements in response to another person. You learn to neutralize your fight or flight response by grounding the other person’s force, in a gradual, non-threatening, systematic progression of exercises.

    In this video, you can see how our typical response is to either tense up or run away when we are faced with a threat: http://youtu.be/dbt1nC9jypI

    Tai Chi trains you to respond in a completely different way. You learn to “sink your chi”, staying grounded, present, and connected to the reality of the situation when you are faced with a mental, emotional, or physical challenge.

    In Tai Chi Push Hands, you learn that forcing a situation to resolve in a pre-determined way won’t work. Instead, you have to go into each encounter “grounded” and “listening”, or engaged and with an open mind. The big difference with Tai Chi, though, is that you do practices that help you learn this idea in your body. It’s not just something you tell yourself.

    Where your solo form practice helps begin the healing process by gradually eliminating chronic pain, stiffness and/or depression, interactive practices allow you to go deeper into the psychological dimensions of your relationships with people all around you.

    Push Hands exercises also address problems with visual perception and balance, by introducing resistance, reaction time, and sensitivity to outside factors. There are currently many studies, and more being currently conducted, that illustrate the many health benefits, both physical and psychological that students of Tai Chi, Qigong, and Yoga receive. These exercises have been shown to not only be great for preventing illness and promoting psychological well-being, but more and more medical professionals are exploring ways to integrate these traditional practices into treatment programs for their patients.

     

    Author Bio: Dan Kleiman teaches Tai Chi and qigong to adults looking to slow down, relax, and improve their health. Try more of these practices through Dan’s free email-based course and you will have more energy in the next 30 days than you’ve had in the last year. http://dankleiman.com/get-moving/


  9. Top 7 Benefits of Meditation: How does it Help Your Body?

    April 19, 2013

    meditation

    There are different ways to achieve a peaceful and happy life. One of the things that you can consider is meditation. Meditation is known to be very effective in soothing person’s mind and maintaining a good psychological and physiological health. In this article, we will talk about 7 main benefits of meditation.

    Relieves stress

    One of the things that can make you healthy is the absence of stress or ability to handle stress. When you are meditating, you are slowly releasing yourself from stress. This is one thing that can help you go on with your everyday work without carrying loads of negativity caused by stress. Spending some time meditating can make you get every single piece that is causing stress out of your system. It is a very important activity that is proven to relieve you from the negative effects of stress.

    Improves the function of the brain

    Meditation can help you clear up the mind and make it function well. The activity encourages your brain to focus and disregard all types of disturbances. This can make you think clearer about your goals and helps you make better decisions. The mind is connected to the body. When the brain is healthy, you will surely have a healthy body. If the brain can relate to the world with positive attitude because of meditation, it can also bring a positive effect to your body.

    Helps heal depression

    Meditation is done in order to achieve peace of mind and focus. People who have anxiety and depression can be treated with the help of meditation. When a person is experiencing anxiety and depression, he needs sometime to understand how he can gain peace within him through meditation. Your emotions can be balanced with the help of this activity. People who have been doing meditation are found to become emotionally stable.

    Helps fight high blood pressure

    One of the advantages of meditation is its ability to eliminate stress that can cause high blood pressure. It encourages relaxation that is highly recommended for people who are experiencing high blood pressure. Few moments spent meditating will surely help you go away from stress that can cause undesirable effects to the blood pressure. The relief that it can give to you is very important. Though you need to consult your doctor for the treatment of your high blood pressure. Meditating is just something that can help maintain low blood pressure.

    Increases your immune system

    Being in a relaxed state allows the body to regenerate and build the immune system. This is effective for people who are experiencing terminal illnesses such as cancer. It is proven by studies that most cancer patients can increase their level of survival with this activity. Cancer cells can increase when the person is stressed out. With the help of meditation, you are increasing anti-cancer agents inside your body that can be very important in combating diseases.

    Helps avoid heart disease

    Heart diseases can be caused by the environmental factors such as stress and problems. With this, it is recommended that people should be avoiding stressful moments in order for them not to acquire any disease related to the heart. When it comes to avoiding heart disease, one should understand that taking a deep breath and meditating can help make the heart function well.

    Helps in the treatment of bowel problems

    If you are experiencing problems like constipation, meditation and relaxation can be a part of the treatment. This is something that researchers have found out. It also aids in problems related to bloating.

    The seven things presented above are just few of the helpful effects of meditation. If you want to be healthy, you need to consider your diets (e.g. medifast diet), and the peace inside you. Sometimes, meditation is a better cure than diet.

    Author Bio: Collin Zauner is a former collegiate athlete as well as a health & fitness enthusiast who writes on topics such as diets, diet reviews, exercise, general health, and nutrition for Diet Brand Reviews.com.

    Image Credit: yogamama.co.uk


  10. Discover The Power And Benefits Of Meditation

    March 23, 2013

    meditation

    Image Credit: Cornelia Kopp

    by Regina Sutherfield

    Meditation is the practice of calming the mind and focusing on stillness in order to relax, soothe the spirit and gain balance. Anyone who is looking for a way to get in touch with their inner self, find peace and serenity and develop the power to tackle life’s problems can benefit from this ancient practice.
    Meditating comes in many different forms but the most important thing to remember is that is simple to accomplish. Different people offer insights into various techniques and methods, and there is no right or wrong way to go about meditating. Some people practice for hours a day while others just need 15 minutes to get in touch with their spirit and develop a sense of peace and calm.

    The aim of meditation is to let go of thoughts, worries, anxieties, fears and doubts and just simply relax and empty the mind.

    The benefits of meditation

    Meditation has limitless benefits that can range from relaxing and unwinding from a long day to addressing health issues or deep emotional scars. Learning the various techniques can help anyone to connect with their spirit and discover the treasure of peace and wellness that lies deep within.

    Meditation can reduce stress an anxiety as well as promote better health. Many sufferers of chronic pain, high blood pressure and other ailments report feeling better after spending a few minutes a day quieting their minds and touching their souls.

    Whether using candles or relaxing music, creating a special place that is free from distraction and full of tranquility can promote a more focused and intentional experience.

    The Best Practices

    One of the great things about meditation is there are no wrong or right methods. What works for one person is not necessarily the best option for another. Some popular techniques to choose from include:

    -Deep and slow breathing.
    -Repetitive chanting.
    -Sitting on a mat or the floor with legs crossed and focusing on a candle.
    -Closing the eyes and concentrating attention on a particular tranquil image or scene.

    Adding quiet music or scented candles can also help to create an environment that will help to calm the mind and refresh the spirit. Anyone who wants to awaken their soul, honor their body and learn how to be in the moment can find effective techniques by attending classes, using at home videos, and researching tactics online.

     

    Meditation Is a Discipline

    One of the biggest obstacles that people face when learning how to meditate is developing the discipline of being still and at peace. It takes practice and commitment, but a whole new realm of possibilities can be awakened once it is mastered. Meditation should be a fulfilling exercise, and the only way to unlock its true potential is to try different methods until the right ones are discovered.

    Learning from some of the greatest spiritual teachers of our time can be helpful with finding the right techniques that will be easy to put into practice.  Meditation can improve mental well-being and can be effective in the treatment of anxiety and depression.
    The keys to peace, health lie within us. Dedicating a few minutes every day to be still and simply “be” can unlock your hidden potential while promoting balance and overall well-being.

     

    Author Bio: Regina Sutherfield practices yoga and meditation to improve her psychological and physical well-being.  She wrote this article on behalf of Gaiam TV, an online healthy lifestyle service that provides streaming videos for guided yoga and meditation practice.