Category Archives: HEALTH

Discovering Your Dharma (your true life path)

 

Discovering Your Dharma

Dharma Wheel

Probably one of the most commonly asked questions in life is “why am I here?” This line of questioning originates from our True Self and leads us to look beyond the world of ordinary appearances. It provides us with the opportunity to discover the divinity that lies within.

There isn’t an exact or accurate single English translation of the Sanskrit word dharma, but it can be paraphrased as “right (or righteous) living”. Dharma is the path we are meant to travel, the life we are meant to live; in general as a human being, but also as an individual with a particular set of lessons to learn, experiences to have, and gifts to share. In a nutshell, our dharma is also our mission in life.

The physical/mental/emotional vehicle we manifest is unique to each of us and is meant to fulfill a purpose only we can accomplish, this is our dharma. Discovering our dharma can be a bit of a laborious task, but once we learn to adapt and live in our dharma’s harmonious flow we become aware of our awesome potentiality. Discovering and living our dharma enables us to create a destiny that includes as much joy and happiness as we want because we remain aligned with our spiritual domain. Here we may discover a different dimension of reality, the unlimited source of all creation and manifestation.

The discovery or realization of our dharma takes some effort in the beginning and for some this can be a time of struggle. But underneath all our worldly aspirations we will eventually find that there has always been something calling deep inside. This becomes clearer as it becomes obvious that our dharma is what “upholds” and “sustains” us as individuals. Each of us is destined to serve a certain need in the universal scheme of things. The significance of an artist is just as important as that of the president. Each and every path has an equal value because they all serve a unique purpose. Whether our purpose is to be an entrepreneur, an artist, an activist, a yogi, a spiritual leader, a parent etc. we must believe in that purpose and not get sidetracked. Additionally, we also need to accept that our purpose is fluid and can change over the course of our life or even the course of a day. Spending time in deep reflection or meditation is helpful in tuning out the “noise” and listening to the call of our personal dharma.

Discovering, accepting, and finally enjoying your own personal path is a not only a great achievement, it’s also a wonderful blessing. When guided by the spiritual wisdom of our dharmic path, we are granted the privilege of stepping into a higher vision of our life, seeing it as an expression of divine universal creative spirit.

From this superior viewpoint, we can look at ourselves with a more objectivity. We can even observe our faults, mistakes and shortcomings without beating ourselves up over it. Knowing our inherent greatness trumps the “ego/self” and increases our self-respect while setting a solid foundation for exploring, refining, and weeding out any aspects of our earthly expressions that are not in harmony with our True or Higher Self.

Take a few moments and say the following words: “I am great exactly as I am.” Say this phrase a few times out loud and then repeat the words mentally with each in-breath and each out-breath for a few minutes. It’s a great place to start.

*Rae Indigo is ERYT500

God Bless the Child of a Dysfunctional Family

Although this post is a bit of a departure from the norm on my blog, recent circumstances and an increasing awareness of the prevalence of this wide-spread problem have prompted me to speak out.

When can a family be called dysfunctional?

According to this web-page in Psychology Encyclopedia: “A family whose interrelationships serve to detract from, rather than promote, the emotional and physical health and well-being of its members.”

A family can be considered dysfunctional if they are living with conditions that interfere with healthy family functioning. Most families do have some periods of time where functioning is impaired by stressful circumstances (death in the family, divorce, a parent’s serious illness, etc.). But, healthy families tend to return to normal functioning after any of these crisis pass. In dysfunctional families, however, problems tend to be chronic and children do not consistently get their emotional/mental or even physical needs met. Negative patterns of parental behavior tend to be dominant in their children’s lives and the children reflect this, often carried to an extreme.

How do healthy families function?

A powerful quote by psychologist Elvira Avetta Ph.d.: “Respect is the Holy Grail of functional families. All people in the family, brothers to sisters, mothers to fathers, parents to kids must be respectful as consistently as possible. Being considerate of each other is the tie that binds, even more than love. I think too much emphasis is put on love in general. I’ve heard of many atrocities done within families in the name of love but never in the name of respect. Just about all the things on the list come out of respect first.”

Healthy families are not perfect by any means; they may have occasional bouts of yelling, bickering, misunderstanding, tension, hurt, and anger; but only a fraction of the time they spend together. In healthy families emotional expression is allowed and accepted, even encouraged if there are no harmful intentions. Family members will freely ask for and give attention. Rules and expectations tend to be made explicit and remain consistent, but not entirely uncompromising or rigid allowing for some flexibility to adapt to individual needs and particular situations. Healthy families allow for individuality; each member is encouraged to pursue his or her own interests, and boundaries between individuals are honored.

  • *Children are consistently treated with respect, and do not fear emotional, verbal, physical, or sexual abuse.
  • *Parents can be counted on to provide sufficient care for their children. Children are given responsibilities appropriate to their age but are not expected to take on the weight of parental responsibilities.
  • *Finally, in healthy families everyone makes mistakes; mistakes are allowed. Perfection is unattainable, unrealistic, and potentially dull and sterile.

Types of dysfunction

Kansas State University’s Counseling Services web-page claims: “There are many types of dysfunction in families. Some parents “under-function,” leaving their children to fend for themselves. Other parents “over-function;” never allowing their children to grow up and be on their own, or learn to accept responsibility for themselves and their actions. Other parents are inconsistent or violate basic boundaries of appropriate behavior.”

There are also many other influencing factors that may need to be considered, to many to cover here. Parents need to realize how greatly they affect their children’s behavior. Children are like sponges; they soak up everything a parent does and model or incorporate what they see into their own lives, sometime to the point of acting it out.

Children of Parents that are separated/divorcing/divorced…

When parents are separated or divorced there’s a new set of challenges for the child. It is extremely important that both parents are on the same page as far as setting the right examples for their child or children; in spite of their personal estrangement from each other. Negative examples will most likely be detrimental to a child’s development and more often than not will lead to bad behavior.

“In the best interest of the child” is the cornerstone of family law in most of North America. This basic principle (with very few exceptions) insists that children benefit from the continued involvement of both their mothers and fathers after separation or divorce. The problem is,  there are parents no longer “together” that not only don’t have their children’s best interests at heart, but rather have an overwhelming urge to “get back” at their ex, or ex-to-be spouse; and sadly they’ll use their own children to do it. And they do this by demanding huge amounts of support (financial and otherwise), using the children as pawns, airing their complaints via social media, disparaging the “other”, and playing games with access to the child. Some go so far as to inflict damage through parental alienation or go the other extreme, parental abduction of the child/children; both of which are a type of vigilante justice.

What separating parents don’t seem to realize is there are very real consequences of dysfunctional divorce or separation that affects the mental, emotional, and developmental well-being and behavior of the child. Additionally; the effects of divorce trauma becomes more pronounced the longer the proceedings drag on. And to a small child, two, three or five years in their life is a huge percentage of time.

How does divorce/separation trauma affect children?

Penelope Leach, A leading parenting guru and author of the comprehensive international bestseller “Your Baby and Child” says: “Children are being used as weapons in the marital war when actually they are its victims.”

Children have been known to suffer a wide range of dysfunctional behaviors including aggressiveness, fighting, hostility, anxiety, depression, hyperactivity, loneliness, and self-esteem issues. In preschoolers these behaviors often lead to frequent illnesses, severe shyness, low self-esteem, hitting, biting, trouble in pre-school or daycare. Later on this can develop into to even more serious problems, such as stealing, lying, nightmares, eating problems, self-harm, bedwetting, poor school results, being ‘too perfect’, drug and/or alcohol abuse. If these patterns persist into adulthood, victims may find themselves crippled in their ability to have trusting, productive, relationships with family, friends or the community at large.

Parents can work together to resolve many of these issues. If disagreements and arguing among parents is done fairly and with maturity, a child can actually benefit from seeing how conflicts are peacefully resolved. Verbally aggressive, threatening, intimidating fights are extremely hard on developing children. They tend to blame themselves for their parents’ arguments and as a result may be traumatized for years to come. These children commonly develop low self-esteems and may even behave violently toward other children or adults. Dysfunctional families breed dysfunctional children that often repeat the behavior learned in their future relationships.

*Rae Indigo is ERYT500

How to Live Like a Yogi

Living the life of a yogi doesn’t mean you have to carry your mat with you and roll it out every chance you get. Neither do you need to live in a cave or wear a loincloth; you don’t even have to be all that flexible. There are many misconceptions about how true yogis choose to live their lives and some of the greatest yogis ever might not have even known what a yoga mat is. Here are some commonalities that yogis throughout antiquity shared with those alive today.

How to Live Like a Yogi

Start your day with a sunrise

  • *Rise and shine. Get up early in the morning and accomplish something, even if it’s just watching the sun come up. Simply watching the sun rise helps you remember that the world is a mysterious place and although it sometimes seems chaotic there is a great sense of harmonious order and you are part of the symphony. Marveling at something beautiful in nature is also an awesome way to start your day. By doing this we learn to appreciate life and all its inter-connectedness and learn to grateful for just being alive. The fact that you are alive today is a miracle in itself. So, yogis think about connection, and appreciate all life.
  • *Remember to nourish your body well with good food that suits your dosha. The food you eat gets digested and then becomes part of you and you become part of your food. When you choose your food, also consider the amount of energy and work went in to finding and preparing that food. Everything affects the food you eat; the amount of hands that have touched it or the miles it has travelled or maybe the just how the power of the sun created it or made it grow. Regardless of whether you or someone else prepares your food, assure that the food been made with love? A yogi always does their best to make wise choices for their body.
  • *Get in the habit of spending some quality time every day in contemplation and/or meditation. Don’t fall prey to rushing through life not even considering where you’re going. Set your intention for each day. When you do this your life will naturally become clearer and have more meaning.
  • *Be kind, exercise empathy. The first commandment of a true yogi’s practice is to be kind. Start by being kind to yourself and then be kind to others. The Dalai Lama has been quotes as saying that his religion was kindness. It is possible for us to be kind all day, every day.
  • *Look within. Yoga is a journey of the self finding the Self. Even the purpose of the physical aspect of yoga (asana) is not necessarily to make you bend further, but to use the poses (asanas), techniques and sequences to rid yourself of toxins and harmful elements that contaminate your inner, spiritual life and bring you closer to your true benevolence. Self-knowledge is one of the greatest of all spiritual practices. In this practice we learn to trust our own inherent inner wisdom, stop blaming the (outside) world for our situations and ultimately break completely free from our habitual identify with negative thought patterns.

So, start this practice today and begin to live like a true yogi: Be kind, nourish your body, cherish nature, and contemplate yourself and your connection to the world and those around you.

*Rae Indigo is ERYT500

Yoga Should Be Fun Too!

Yoga Should Be Fun Too!

Lighten up your practice

Most people tend to be little too serious about their yoga asana practice, but adding some fun to their routine (or sequences) helps them to relax and lighten up.  All across the US, yoga teachers and their studios are now recognizing that a bit of humor can help a yoga businesses thrive, not only by attracting new students but also by keeping them coming back. Students and teachers both to laugh and they soon realize that it helps them relax their muscles, surrender to their practice, and take themselves, and their practice less serious.

There are even scientific studies that show that laughter has the very similar effects as asana practice. They have both proven to lower blood pressure, reduce the production of stress hormones, boost immunity, and reduce pain, plus the actual physical act of laughter can be easily be looked upon as a form of spontaneous Pranayama (yogic breathing).

So, just how can you use humor improve your yoga asana practice? The Sanskrit word for play is leela and when we infuse leela into our yoga sessions we get more creative and broaden our possibilities.  Humor helps us laugh off those poses we can’t seem to get right and helps us to take delight in them when we finally do get them right; it also helps us brave asanas that we’ve never approached before.

Whenever we’re laughing, we are present with the moment and leela can also help us achieve one of the core purposes of yoga which is to stay focused on the here and now.

Successful yoga teachers like to spice up their business with an occasional laugh or two and here are some tips that you can use to help your students “enlighten up.”

  • – When the opportunity presents itself, tell a short joke or relate a funny story, just keep it light easy so doesn’t feel forced.
  • – Facial expressions can often bring an element of silliness to an otherwise awkward situation.
  • – When your students arrive, greet them with cheerful smiles and a friendly hello or welcome.
  • – Add bright and colorful décor to your studio, and watch your students come flocking back for more. Bringing in as much natural light (especially sunshine) as possible makes the space even more cheerful.
  • – If you see someone is having a hard time with a certain pose, tell them to check in the corner of their mouths, there’s probably a smile hiding there.
  • – Have your students introduce themselves to their neighbors before the beginning of class and then encourage them to partner-up, both on and off the mat.
  • – A slight bit of innocent misbehavior and free expression in class often makes practice more fun and playful.
  • – Don’t forget to laugh at yourself, it nurtures joy in yourself and by showing that you are responsible for your own happiness and healing you’ll be able to transmit that message on through your teaching practice.

Yoga asana practice should be a transformational experience, helping students to achieve calm and balanced minds, while they build strong and flexible bodies. But remember to keep your philosophy simple by reminding yourself that yoga should also be fun!

*Rae Indigo is ERYT500

Yoga – The Only Exercise You Need!

A common question people ask is “what else do I need to do to get enough exercise other than practice yoga?” The answer to this question is; nothing! Yoga supplies everything a body needs to function at its very best.

Here are some reasons why:

  • Yoga is efficient as well as effective. Why spend so much valuable time at a fitness center or gym working each part of my body separately when it’s possible to do it all at once with yoga? Lifting weights isn’t going to make your arms any stronger than holding up the weight of my own body while in a yoga pose. And since nearly everything you do in yoga engages your core, from core-centric asanas (poses) to sequencing (moving from pose to pose), engages your core to stabilize your body. Plus, in different inversions and arm balances, yoga can help you to raise your heartbeat, strengthen (and lengthen) your muscles all at once. How’s that for being efficient and effective?
  • Yoga can count as cardiovascular exercise. Various forms of yoga where dynamic sequencing (sun salutations is a good example) is practiced with sufficient intensity, duration, and frequency a great deal of cardio benefit will be achieved. Try a few sun salutations or any flow sequencing at a good, steady pace, while matching your breath to your movement and you will contribute to your overall cardiovascular fitness.
  • Yoga can help you to lose weight. Studies have shown that yoga plays an especially intriguing role in the area of weight control, and the key mechanisms lie in yoga’s stress-reducing power and its ability to change your mind along with your approach to life. Stress is known to create changes in food-seeking behavior, including increased consumption of foods high in sugar and fat, which may generally lead to obesity. As much as yoga provides the many benefits typically associated with conventional exercise, it is also equally effective at reducing stress. Yoga teaches you how to appreciate your body and that steers you in the direction of fueling your body with nutritionally dense foods rather than processed/junk foods.
  • You can do yoga almost anywhere and it saves money. Without the expense of pricey equipment or gym fees it doesn’t have to cost you a penny and you can do it at home, in the park, even on the road. All you need is the desire to strike a few poses.
Yoga – The Only Exercise You Need!

You can do Yoga almost anywhere

So if you’re one of those people who feels the need to chose one form of exercise over another, why not chose the one that saves you time, saves you money, gives you all the physical benefits of exercise, makes you feel great, reduces stress and helps you lose weight?

And finally…Yoga has passed the test!

One of the first studies ever done in the United States that examines the relationship between yoga and fitness was conducted by researchers at the University of California at Davis. During this study they tested the muscular strength and endurance, flexibility, cardio respiratory fitness, body composition, and lung function of 10 college students, before and after eight weeks of yoga training. Each week, the students attended four sessions that included 10 minutes of pranayama, 15 minutes of warm-up exercises, 50 minutes of asanas, and 10 minutes of meditation. After eight weeks the students’ showed very respectable increase in…

  • Muscular strength had increased by as much as 31 percent
  • Muscular endurance by 57 percent
  • Flexibility by as much as 188 percent
  • And VO2max (maximal oxygen uptake) by 7percent

Until recently, very few scientists had considered whether yoga could improve fitness when compared to conventional exercise. Now that the facts are in, that’s beginning to change.

*Rae Indigo is ERYT500

Navigating the Roller Coaster of Life

Navigating the Roller Coaster of LifeWho doesn’t sometimes feel like they’re up one day and down the next; whether it’s trying to keep your personal and family life on an even keel, dealing with financial issues in a tough economy or even dealing with the current social/political climate, it often seems like we’re on a wild ride. All of us experience challenges and develop all sorts of worries and concerns in the course of our lives, and in today’s hectic world it may feel like it takes the strength of Hercules to navigate the complexities of our technologically-advanced, humanistic and existentially-struggling culture.

One day everything in our life appears to be going along just fine and then, wham!, some disturbing situation hits you like a ton of bricks, your emotions go up, and simultaneously your intelligence goes down. Perhaps you say or do things you’ll regret and your life gets knocked out of balance. A prolonged sense of uncontrolled emotions can cause a great deal of dysfunction in your relationships, regardless of whether they’re personal or professional. Irrational emotions affect those around us and when we’re all dealing with “high” emotions, it’s like we’re all one big dysfunctional family trying to make our own way. This is when it’s time to step back, so that everyone can connect logically and compassionately again.

There are steps that can be taken to avoid the emotional “teeter-totter” of daily living, including; adapting a healthy diet, starting a regular exercise program and spending time with supportive friends. One very effective method of dealing with emotional and mental stress, anxiety etc. is a consistent yoga and meditation practice. Yoga keeps the body and the nervous system strong and the prana (life force) flowing, while helping you to be more centered, relaxed and able to “roll with the punches.” Meditation allows for quiet reflection, relaxation, plus a clear recognition and understanding of what is truly meaningful. Even during those times when you can’t avoid life’s fluctuations by stepping into a neutral zone, you can still find ways to move smoothly through those periods, maintaining a calm, cool and centered state of being.

Navigating the Roller Coaster of Life

Spend time with supportive friends.

Whether we’re pondering decisions or actually making choices based on life’s situations, we still need to exercise control over ourselves and our reactions. We might be surprised on how much more power we have over our “ride” than the roller coaster analogy allows. Maybe instead of a roller coaster ride, a better metaphor for life is a “journey.” The word “journey” is defined as something that suggests travel or passage from one place to another, and it is inevitable that as we move forward from one day to the next (literally) we are met with challenges of one sort or another. Some of these challenges are quite pleasant and exciting while others are difficult and pose more of a struggle. But all of our challenges are part of the journey – my journey or your journey – nonetheless, we must go through them. It is how we perceive and then handle them which will enable us to choose the paths we take on our journey. It is also very important to remember we have the ability to make decisions each and every day concerning the direction our journey will take.

*Rae Indigo is ERYT500

 

Adapt a Plant-Based Diet for Optimal Health

Adapt a Plant-Based Diet for Optimal Health

Eating like a king!

If you are among those people who are looking for the optimal diet that will make you look and feel younger, lose unwanted pounds, prevent disease and live a happy, healthy and long life, you are not alone. No need for any expensive and exotic supplements either, the answer is quite simple. Adapting a nutritious plant-based diet is not only easier than you think, it’s delicious and will do wonders for your overall health while it trims down your waistline and your wallet.

Research has conclusively shown that people following a plant-based diet weigh less, have fewer chronic diseases and live longer than their animal-product eating counterparts. Multiple scientific studies have found that vegans/vegetarians are still slimmer than meat eaters despite consuming the same amount or more calories every day. An additional benefit of plant-based eating is that plant foods are generally less expensive than animal products. And that’s not counting the costly medical treatments needed for the various chronic diseases caused by the typical American animal-based diet. Everyone can also feel good about adhering to a plant-based eating regime because it is better for the environment and animal welfare.

Fruits and Vegetables are the Kings and Queens of a Plant-based Diet

Regardless of what you eat, fruits and vegetables should be the cornerstone of your diet. Fruits are a near perfect source of vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, fiber and water. Vegetables contain some of the most potent anti-cancer foods and are extremely nutrient-dense, which means more nutrients and fewer calories. It is nearly impossible to overeat if you’re eating only vegetables. Using broccoli as an example, you’d have to eat 22 cups of raw broccoli florets to get the same amount of calories found an average T-bone steak. And as far as protein goes, most people would think broccoli contains little or no protein. Wrong! Calorie for calorie broccoli contains about 75% as much protein as beef – According to the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service’s Nutrient Data Laboratory database, 100 calories of broiled beef, top sirloin steak has exactly 11.08 grams of protein and 100 calories of chopped, raw broccoli has exactly 8.29.

Fresh is always best, but frozen or properly prepared canned fruits and veggies are also healthy, as long as they are not covered heavy sauces, syrups or oils. Eat a wide variety of fruits and vegetables in unlimited quantities, including a broad range of colors, textures and flavors.

Whole grains, nuts and seeds are also included in a healthy plant-based diet. Whole grains are a good source of fiber, carbohydrate and protein. Products made from 100 percent whole wheat, along with rice, corn, millet, sorghum, rye, oats, barley, buckwheat, quinoa, spelt and are all examples of healthy whole grain foods. Various nuts and seeds are some of nature’s best ways to consume healthy fats. A handful a day will provide all the necessary fat-soluble vitamins; without the saturated fat and cholesterol found in animal foods.

A note of caution: Eating a plant-based/vegan diet (no animal products) doesn’t necessarily equate to a healthy diet, despite what many believe. It is possible to be on a completely plant-based diet and still be eating unhealthy foods. For example, you could eat French fries every day or lots of white bread, rice or pasta and you would not reap the benefits of a plant-based diet. Plus there are tons of “junk,” processed and adulterated foods that are totally plant based. Fried foods are a good example, even though an onion is a healthy cancer-fighting plant food, eating deep fried onion rings do more harm to the body than good. Many potato chips often contain more artery-clogging saturated fat than potato. It’s also important to avoid refined carbohydrate products like cakes, pastries, candies, cookies, which generally contain added sugars. Also avoid all drinks with high sugar content and especially those that contain artificial sweeteners. These types of foods have often been so highly processed that it’s difficult to recognize the original plants or plant foods that they came from. Finally, steer clear of trans-fats, saturated fats and hydrogenated (or partially hydrogenated) oils they are unhealthy and are easily stored as fat in the body.

Adapt a Plant-Based Diet for Optimal Health

Mmmmmm!

In summary: Eat plants and plant-based products exclusively. If you stick to that, you’re likely to be very healthy. And if you’re like most people who are transitioning to a vegan diet there’s probably plenty of things you might feel you just can’t give up. But the truth is you can, just do one food type at a time, try going a week, and after that week you may decide to go two or three weeks and after a month or so your body and appetites will adjust and you may find you won’t miss it at all. This will give your taste bud a chance to change, and given ample time; change they will.

*Rae Indigo is ERYT500

Yoga Counteracts Stress & Anxiety

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) affects 6.8 million adults, (3.1% of the U.S. population), in any given year, with women being twice as likely to be affected; this, according to the Anxiety Disorders Association of America (ADAA). The exact cause of GAD is elusive but there is plenty of evidence that both biological factors and life experiences, especially the stressful ones, are major contributors. And, GAD is only one of a variety of anxiety-induced diseases and disorders defined by the American Psychological Association, which include “Panic Disorder” & Agoraphobia and an exhaustive list of other phobias such as Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Social Anxiety Disorder and common depression. Together these disorders account for many more millions of Americans’ being treated each year placing an untold burden (and expense) on the healthcare system. Fortunately there is a treatment that is found effective for almost every single disorder listed and that is yoga practice.

The human nervous system is responsible for regulating reactions to perceived stress. It can be divided into two parts; the Central Nervous System (composed of the brain and spinal cord nerves), and the Peripheral Nervous System which includes the autonomic nervous system which we can look to specifically for stress regulation. This autonomic nervous system’s job is to run all the involuntary functions of the body (breathing, heart rate, digestion, endocrine (hormonal) release, etc.). We don’t have to think about these things the body just does them. The autonomic nervous system is further broken down into the Sympathetic Nervous System (which initiates the stress response), and the Parasympathetic Nervous System (which induces the relaxation response).

Opposite the relaxation response is the ‘fight or flight’ response (aka, hyper-arousal, or acute stress response). This response is left over from our ancestral past when we had to use huge amounts of adrenaline in times of real danger, like when we were about to be eaten dinosaur. In more modern times, this same response is often activated with any “perceived” threat, either real or imagined. As soon as the brain receives a signal that there is some “perceived” danger, it begins releasing a series of chemicals like a chain reaction. These chemicals can negatively affect every organ and system in the body, especially when they’re not vital to our survival, and subsequently be the cause of many disorders and diseases.

Back to Yoga practice; outlined in many yogic texts are some very simple tools that can be used to counteract these chain reactions, and modern science is beginning to mimic these teachings that were once found only in ancient and esoteric texts. The 1st of these tools is to create a quiet environment, both inside and out. There’s way too much to distract us from what is going on in our bodies these days, from television to video games, traffic, work demands, computers and cell phones and the list goes on and on. When we consciously chose to create an environment of stillness and peace, then we have taken the first step toward combating stress, anxiety and all the resulting disorders. According to Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras (Raja Yoga), creating this type of environment can be form of meditation in and of itself.

When our attention is taken away from distractions (including thoughts) we are able to focus on one singular thing and integrate “diffused” attention into a calm, steady one-pointedness that helps us find our natural balance. Once the mind has focused on one point (through concentration), the state of meditation can be entered into with ease. Whenever our mental state has become calm, the physiological responses of the body spontaneously follow, and the chain of stressful reactions is broken and we are empowered to choose our response instead of reacting to it unconsciously.

Over the centuries many yoga teachers and gurus have recommended the practice of developing a sort of “objective” state of mind, often referred to as developing a “witness” mentality. As we develop this witnessing self, we can undermine anxiety when it arises, plus we can consciously create a different chain reaction within the body/mind, one that is positive and calming. There are certain brain neurotransmitters (like endorphins) that have anti-anxiety and anti-depressant effects, and as we consciously build those neural responses to different stimuli, we eventually reach a point where nothing can faze us. Regardless of how insane the world is, we stay balanced. This is the message of all the ancient sages of the yogic tradition.

Of related interest, click on: Managing Anxiety with Pratipaksha Bhavana

*Rae Indigo is ERYT500

Ayurveda – The Basics

The Sanskrit word Ayurveda comes from two root words which mean life principle and knowledge. It is a tatpurusha word (a compound of two words in the Sanskrit language  “ayus” and “veda”). “Ayus” means life and “Veda” means knowledge or science, so when the two words are combined they translate to, “Knowledge of Life” or “Science of Life.” Ayurvedic medicine is permeated in Indian culture, and its purpose is to care for the body, sense organs, mind and soul. It is the oldest known systematic health care system in the world and dates back to Vedic times. Many of the practices of Ayurveda are incorporated into the science of yoga.

Ayurdeva is based on a healthy lifestyle which believes in taking preventative measures that eliminate the environment that disease needs to spread and be sustained within the body. Only when the body is out of balance can disease take hold. According to Ayurvedic medicine, there are three “humors” which control all bodily processes. Symbols of these three humors can be found in the modern symbol that many Western doctors use to depict their practice. In Ayurvedic medicine and yoga these three humors are called Doshas. A Dosha is an element that generally causes the body to become imbalanced. From the Sanskrit, the word Dosha translates as, “deviation.” The three Doshas are named Vata, Pitta and Kapha, and they can stand by themselves or be combined to cause various states of imbalance (or balance) in the body.

Vata is viewed as a combination of the space and air elements. Pitta is considered the fire element and Kapha represents the water element. When the body is free of disease these three elements are in balance so that none dominates another. However, over time one of the Doshas often begins to rule the personality and this causes the body to become imbalanced. Whichever Dosha is more dominant for a person determines their basic constitution. Nearly every person is believed to be ruled by at least one (or a mixture) of these three Doshas. Ayurveda attempts to bring the Doshas into balance using herbs, yoga and other practices so that disease cannot occur in the body and there are historical references for the use of herbs and herbal cures in all four of the Vedas, especially in the Rig Veda.

Ayurdeva also describes seven Dhatus or “body tissues.” From the yogic standpoint of meditation and contemplation, these seven are encountered, explored, and set aside as not being the Self or Atman, as is done with the other inner aspects. The Dhatus are reffered to as not Self in the Atma Shatakam by Adi Shankara.

The Dhatus are essentially liquids in the body that control different aspects of the body and are developed through metabolic refinement via both the application of herbs and the practice of yoga. Yoga is an essential component to most Ayurvedic treatment.

The Dhatus are as follows:

  1. 1. Rasa: The nutrient fluid (plasma) which forms the base of blood.
  2. 2. Rakta: Oxygenated blood cells which are the foundation of living tissue.
  3. 3. Mamsa: Muscle tissue which provide strength and forms the vital organs.
  4. 4. Meda: Fat that lubricates and insulates the body, especially the joints.
  5. 5. Asthi: Bones and cartilage which act as the body’s frame and support.
  6. 6. Majja: Bone marrow responsible for filling up the bones and supports Ashti Dhatu.
  7. 7. Shukra: Tissues and juices that help reproduction, including sperm and ovum.

These basics of Ayurveda are only a starting place for students of Ayurveda and yoga. Experienced doctors of Ayurvedic medicine can often simply feel the pulse of a patient and know which Dhatus are out of balance. The doctor can also look in a patient’s eyes to determine their predominate Dosha (constitution) and then recommend appropriate changes in their diet and/or lifestyle.

Regardless of its origins, as a result of the ancient science of Ayurveda, innumerable people have been healed. Everyone from cancer sufferers to those afflicted with the common cold can look to this ancient healing technique as an effective alternative to allopathic remedies.

Of related interest, click on: Ayurveda & the Three Doshas

*Rae Indigo is ERYT500

Finding Peace in Today’s World

Finding peace in today’s world can be a challenge for most of us due to our work schedules, hectic lifestyles and daily responsibilities, so here are a few tips based on yoga science and philosophy that may help… First, try getting back in touch with your body. Generally when we’re not feeling peace, it’s because we’re not feeling much at all, instead, we’re thinking. And when we’re engaged in thinking we start believing all our non-peaceful thoughts, plus we’re likely to be feeding them with our energy. A great analogy is an American Indian legend that goes like this…

If we stop feeding the thoughts, and start feeding peaceful feelings instead, the thoughts will fall away by themselves. The most basic feelings originate with physical sensation, so that’s why it’s a great place to begin. Practice some yoga asanas (poses), go for a walk or a hike outdoors, take a hot shower, or simply lie down and consciously breathe into every part of your body. You’ll soon feel peace return and replace the negative thoughts that were preventing it.

Once we are actively feeling our body, going beyond our thoughts becomes quite simple. We shift our focus and become the observer, bringing our awareness to whatever we feel in our body allows us to notice our thoughts without them affecting us. This empowers us to be released from them, and remain as a witness, observing them as an outsider, without involvement. The observer in each of us can watch these thoughts and let them pass, just like clouds in the sky. We’ll then become a victor over thoughts instead of a victim.

Next, don’t be so hard on yourself. If you have a problem concentrating (perhaps you fall asleep) during traditional seated meditation, try a standing, or better yet, a walking meditation. Or learn to chant mantras as part of your meditation, for many who practice meditation they bring an instant feeling of being immersed in peaceful sensations.

Activate the power of positive thinking. Replace thoughts that make you stressed with ones that do the opposite. When you’re back in touch with your body, the observer in you can easily identify a negative or non-peaceful thought and fire-up the power of positive thinking.

Another helpful method of finding peace is to visualize a peace-inducing figure (Buddha, Gandhi, Jesus, Mother Theresa, etc.) and start up a conversation with them whenever you feel stressed or disturbed. Ask them, how would they deal with your present situation? You may be amazed at what you hear!

You can also immerse yourself in the present moment, the “now.” If you do, you’ll find that peace is inherent in each and every moment, especially when you’re able to use any of the mindfulness tools available to help you become totally immersed there. By sharing in the present moment you’ll become saturated with the sensation of peace.

Give yourself permission to go deep into the pursuit of joyful bliss. Bliss is what happens when we go beyond the mind’s active nature. Bliss and joy are the result of entering into the “Self” that exists beyond all thought. It’s the peaceful bliss that nourishes and endures.

And last, but not least, practice acceptance. Acceptance doesn’t necessarily mean giving up (or giving in), or that we have settle for less than we deserve. It means that in any given moment, we can choose peace over resistance and watch how that transforms our experience. Suffering is a choice, and so is peace – which one will you choose.

Of related interest, click on: Locating the Source of Stress & the Way of Yoga

*Rae Indigo is ERYT500