1. Yoga Helps you Discover Meaning in Life

    March 1, 2014

    Yoga Helps you Discover Meaning in Life

    by Melisa Marsett

    Have you ever thought why yoga gains popularity every day turning into one of the most popular spiritual practices? The person who is deeply in love with yoga will immediately answer this question. In addition to incredible health benefits, yoga gives at least general understanding of the meaning of human life. Yoga helps to find answers on the range of important questions that occur every day in the thoughts of people seeking for truth and the real purpose of our existence.

     

    Meaning in Feeling

     

    What’s the most important thing in life? Where and how we live our lives? According to yoga, we live in so-called “I”, we live our lives in our own feelings and everything else has no real relation to life. As strange as it may sound, but our life is our feelings, mood and emotions. When we have a good mood, we are inspired by everything – the world around us, people, atmosphere and even things. When we have a bad mood, nothing can force us to feel pleased and satisfied, even the most “valuable” and vital things which usually lead to happiness. When we are happy, the whole world is in harmony, everything brings joy to us, and vice versa.

    Therefore, generally speaking, the meaning of our life is to be happy. In other words, the meaning of life is to experience the feelings which give force, pleasure and joy. No matter how rich we are, money, power, houses, cars and sex mean nothing if all these do not please us. At the same time, if we live in harmony with the Spirit and experience the feeling of joy and life satisfaction, we will be happy even living, for example, in a cave and eating one spoon of rice per day. To improve the statement that the meaning of life is hidden in our feelings, we only should to look closely at our everyday life and feel the influence of our emotions.

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  2. How Yoga Can Improve Your Creativity

    August 25, 2013

    On Yoga and Creativity

    by Edward Lakatis

    Creativity is an important element in any job. However, there are really certain jobs that may require more of it than others. Inventors, artists, musicians and scientists are only a few examples of these kinds of jobs. Individuals who choose to pursue these career paths come to realize that to continuously do well in their fields, they constantly have to churn out new ideas, new concepts, and new works. Inventors have to come up with new inventions all the time, musicians are pressured to come up with a different kind of sound that would appeal to the masses, and artists who successfully think up unique ways to make art are the ones who are usually given more opportunities to show their work. Being creative, for these people, can spell the difference between failure and success.

    With that being said, it is important that these people take the time and effort to invest in their creativity. They have to constantly look for ways to harness their creativity, whether it be incorporating a new activity, or making a major lifestyle change such as altering the diet. This is where yoga comes in. Unknown to many, yoga is actually an excellent tool for creativity. Doing yoga can do wonders for one’s creative process. Allow us to explain how yoga can make a difference.

     

    Yoga encourages mindfulness

     

    People who do yoga can attest that there is always effort involved to be more mindful, and to notice more things. From observing how the body is positioned, to how it moves from one posture to another, up to paying attention to the breath, as well as the thoughts that go through ones head, yoga is all about mindfulness. After one achieves this state of mindfulness, yoga encourages a detachment from images and words that are normally associated with certain emotions. And in a way, isn’t this what being creative is about- letting go of old norms, and finding a fresh new approach to things? Once the minds gets used to this kind of thinking in the yoga studio, it can progress and take it out into the real world, resulting in more creative ideas.

     

    Yoga achieves a relaxed yet alert mind

     

    We all have those moments when our minds are so full of different bits of information that there doesn’t seem to be any room for new ideas to develop. This is a classic sign of a stressed out mind. When the mind is stressed out, ideas stop flowing, and the person ends up stuck in a creative block. This is where yoga becomes a great tool to relax the mind. Yoga exercises teach the mind to slow down and relax. By relaxing, it is given the opportunity to recharge and realign itself. The great thing about yoga is that even if the mind is in a relaxed state, it is still continually moving and thinking. It has to have a level of alertness to process the poses and the breathing. A level of alertness is equally important in the creative process, because if the mind is too relaxed, it may stop working altogether! Yoga gives the mind the balance to flow and make room for idea generation, but also makes sure that it is constantly functioning.

     

    Yoga Teaches Patience

     

    Not many people realize it, but the process of creativity relies so much on patience. For a creative idea to fully blossom, there must be nothing short of an alignment of all the perfect elements. Many creative ideas are born because the inventor’s state of mind is right, the timing is right, and something or somebody comes into his life that contributes to the overall idea. Waiting for all of the stars to align requires a lot of patience, and many may give up because they cannot be bothered to wait. However, if one is involved in an activity that encourages patience such as yoga, then he will not mind the wait so much, and the perfect idea can come about in its own perfect time.

    There may be different ways of upping person’s creativity, but yoga is one of the easiest ones to get into. It is available in many different places, and also has great variety. No matter what one’s lifestyle is, or their level of expertise, there should be a yoga class and style that will suit them. It would definitely not hurt for individuals that constantly struggle with being creative to give yoga a try. It just may be the perfect activity to get those creative juices flowing.

     

     

    Author’s Bio: Edward Lakatis run and writes for Idea Design Studio, an invention development and marketing company. He is passionate about all things related to creativity, invention, and helping other inventors realize their potentials. More of Edward’s writing can be found on http://ideadesignstudio.com/

    Image Credit: Lululemon Athletica – www.flickr.com/photos/lululemonathletica/5725279112

     


  3. 7 Most Notable Benefits of Yoga

    August 15, 2013

      benefits of yoga

    Do you frequent the gym and you are looking to expand your fitness horizons?  Are you an exercise newcomer struggling to find a place to start? Are you a yoga skeptic and have never taken the plunge to actually try a class? The truth is, yoga has many benefits and has the potential to bring a whole new level of health and wellness to your life.  Read on to discover seven significant benefits yoga can bring to you and has already brought to countless others. Let’s move past the stereotypes that say yoga is for hippies, people without any sense of athleticism and individuals with the ultimate skills in flexibility.  The fact of the matter is, and has been proven, that yoga is for everyone.

     

    • Optimism Yoga has a natural ability to increase levels of GABA, or gamma-aminobutyric acid, a neurotransmitter present in the brain which lowers anxiety and gives people a sense of calm and general well being. If you are naturally a more stressed and anxious person, yoga has the potential to truly change the quality of your life by helping you to relax and go about your days more calmly. In a sense, yoga can be a natural form of antidepressant.  Just as depression medications increase GABA levels, so does yoga.

     

    • Pain Relief  When you are in pain, the last thing you are likely thinking about is exercising.  But wait! Incorporating yoga into your life as a part of your daily regimen can actually lower chronic pain.  How? There are “markers” in your body called Cytokines which indicate you are holding inflammation in that area.   After practicing yoga regularly, these cytokines decrease and you are left with less pain. Yoga has also been shown to lessen arthritis and fibromyalgia pain.

     

    • Quality of Sleep Regular yoga practice is known to cure several conditions, some of which include insomnia or abnormal sleeping habits. Yoga helps people to unwind and de-stress at the end of the day. When you feel more relaxed and have a clear mind, getting a quality night’s sleep is much easier.

     

    • Calmness Yoga is often times considered an alternative medicine practice offering a refreshing mind-body healing approach.  Yoga combines physical and mental disciplines to help yogis achieve peacefulness of both body and mind.  Post yoga, you are left feeling relaxed and better able to manage stress and anxiety.

     

    • Posture  Poor posture can be attributed to the presence of many undesirable health conditions such as varicose veins, pinched nerves, heart strain and belly fat.  Many problems related to posture are caused by long hours spent each day at one’s workplace, hunched over a computer.  The good news is, many yoga poses help to counteract your tendency to slouch, increase your body awareness and, in turn, improve your posture.  There was once a (false) belief that yoga actually makes people taller.  While this is not exactly true, yoga can noticeably improve your posture, making you appear taller and thinner. Talk about a nice, simple confidence boost!

     

    • Strength Can yoga build muscle? During a yoga class, you are required to hold your body in positions in which you must support yourself for considerable lengths of time. You build muscle tone by holding and supporting your own body weight, much like you do during conventional strength training exercise. Practicing yoga can lead to improved balance, flexibility, strength and range of motion. With this, you’re at a much lower risk for injuring yourself in other physical activities or in your daily life.

     

    Depending on what you are looking to get out of Yoga, there are many variations of yoga practices that can provide you with the specific benefits you are looking for.  All in all, yoga can be a great addition to any physical fitness routine no matter your fitness level or goals.

     

    This is a guest post by Strauman Chiropractic based in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  As the premier Minneapolis chiropractor, Strauman provides auto accident treatment, treatment for herniated discs, holistic care, kinesiology, physiotherapy and whiplash care. 

    Image Credit/Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/yogamama-co-uk/3794867064

     


  4. 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


  5. 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