Finding the Elusive Work-Life Balance

October 17, 2011

This article is written by Leo Babauta, I hope you find it helpful :0)

How do you find a balanced life when you’re overloaded with work?

How do you switch off work when you’re away from the office?

The answers to these very common questions are elusive. It’s never an easy thing. But once you do find this balance you’ll find enormous benefits: more enjoyment of life and better relationships and less stress and a better quality of life overall.

A reader recently asked:

“I’d love to hear advice on how people who work full-time jobs can still manage to attain a well-balanced life. Especially in roles that give you sales targets, monitor you, and can be very stressful. I know it’s best to switch off after working hours, but sometimes (as humans) it is tough.

In Hong Kong, part-time jobs don’t pay well here and are tough to find, and full-time jobs often require overtime and are very stressful (it’s the Hong Kong norm to squeeze out as much as you can from an employee). In this corporate jungle, a part-time would be a perfect job for me (say 9-3 everyday); however it’s very hard to find jobs like that – it’s just not how the job market here is in Asia.

So how does one keep their calm and be grounded and still make time & energy for family, friends, myself, hobbies, interests and let’s face it – sanity? How does one learn to ‘not keep goals’ when that is what is expected from 8:30 a.m.-6:30 p.m. 5 days a week? It’s tough to be 2 different people at work and outside of work.”

That’s a tough one. I should note that in many countries — including the U.S. — this is a common problem even if it’s not as pronounced as in Hong Kong (for example). We all face these problems whether we’re employees or self-employed or free-lancers or own our own businesses.

I’ve created a life where balance is intentionally built-in but it hasn’t always been that way. I’ve worked in the private sector (in the news industry) where they try to squeeze every bit out of employees and we were often asked to work longer hours without compensation. I’ve worked in demanding public service jobs where working into the night and weekend hours (again without more pay) were the norm. It wasn’t easy finding balance.

But don’t despair. Change is possible. These days I have created a life where I work less but on things I love. I make time for staying active and getting outside. I make time for playing with my kids and being alone with my wife. I find time alone for reading and walking and thinking. And as I do these things work isn’t always on my mind.

I have a few key tips that should help no matter what your work situation:

1. Set a time to shut off work. Working all day and night means you are nothing but your job. Your life belongs to your employer (or if you’re the employer then your life belongs to your employees or customers). Take ownership of your life — find variety and ways to burn off stress and find enjoyment in life! Start by setting a time each day when you shut off work. Whether that’s 5 p.m. or 5:30 or 6 or 7 or 9 p.m. Some of you can set it even earlier if you start earlier — say 4 p.m. or something like that. Set that time and make it happen. After that shut-off time you will not do work or check email or think about work.

2. Find something to immerse yourself in after work. What do you love doing besides work? Do you love to read or run or play sports or hang out with friends or play with your kids or build model ships or play games? If you don’t already have a passion then pick something that sounds fun and give it a try. It doesn’t have to be expensive — it could be as simple as hiking around your neighborhood or volunteering at a charity or helping friends with household projects. Schedule it as soon after work as possible. And while you’re doing it try to completely immerse yourself. Don’t think about work — only think about the after-work activity.

3. Learn to be mindful and present. It’s not easy to just switch your mind off work but it’s a skill you can learn over time. The way to learn this isn’t to try to block work from your mind — it’s to learn to bring your mind back to whatever you’re doing after work. It doesn’t matter what you’re doing: it could be household chores or exercise or talking with someone or taking a bath or eating. Whatever it is … that’s all you want to focus on. Your mind will inevitably slip into something else. That’s OK. Bring it back gently and without reprimand. Slowly with practice you will get better at being present. Which means your work won’t always be on your mind.

4. Take breaks at work. Not everyone will have this flexibility but it’s worth doing if you can manage it. Basically if you’re working for 8 or 10 hours you don’t want to do it non-stop. You need to find balance even at work. So at least once an hour get up and walk around. Get outside if you can and take a walk. Stretch and massage your shoulders and get your blood moving. Do some squats or pushups if you want to start getting fit. Talk to someone. Drink water. Eat fruits and vegetables. Your break just needs to be 5-10 minutes but it’s important.

5. Increase your skills while at work — to prepare for leaving work. If you are very skilled at what you do then you become worth more. In fact it’s often possible to quit your job and start your own business if you’re good enough. And it doesn’t take a lot of money to work for yourself — you can start a business with practically no money. I started mine while still working full time: my job funded my startup business. Even if you don’t go into business for yourself you’ll be worth more with a high skill level. So devote your work hours to learning and perfecting your work skills.

6. Find ways to increase your income while decreasing hours. As your skills increase your value increases. Slowly pick jobs or projects that earn more money per hour. This often means changing jobs but it might be a promotion or change in roles. It could mean starting your own business or becoming a consultant. If you already have your own business or work for yourself then you should slowly be picking jobs or business projects that pay more for every hour you spend working on them. By increasing income you can decrease hours and free up more time for yourself.

7. Learn that you are not defined by work. You can be happy without your job. Your value isn’t completely tied to your work. For example: I’m a writer but it’s not the only thing I am. I’m also a father and husband and know that those are my most important roles — not my role as a writer. I am more than that as well: I run and read and learn and help others and am constantly experimenting with life. I can do things other than my job and be fulfilled. So can you. And once you discover this you’ll free yourself to find a life outside of work. Then balance is simply a matter of logistics — you just need to make it happen by taking small steps.

Small steps is always the answer. You don’t need to be perfect at shutting off work or being present or pouring yourself into something after work. You just need to start doing it and in doing so you’ve already started down the road to balance.

 

 

Read more on Leo’s blog  http://zenhabits.net/about/

 

Wanted to share with you an article I enjoyed on yoga and childbirth….

August 10, 2011

What Childbirth Taught Me that Yoga Never Could – by Kimberly Johnson

A few years ago I ran into a good friend, fellow yoga teacher and yogini, who had just had a baby.  When I asked her how the birth went, her eyes bulged and she said,

“NOTHING can prepare you for it.”  “We are so NOT prepared for it in this culture…  I don’t know, maybe if I had worked in the fields my whole life.”

I took this to mean that without a lifetime of squatting and a connection to the cycles of nature that a connection to the earth offers, we (read: all modern women) are pretty much screwed. 

Another thing I understood at that moment was that I could throw out any notion I had that my yoga and meditation practice would help me in the labor process.

Something in me already inherently knew that. So when I was pregnant and everyone kept saying, “oh labor will be a breeze for you, you are so flexible and you know how to breathe.” “You’re a yoga teacher, having a baby will be so easy for you.” Or “you are such a calm and relaxed person…”,  I just politely smiled and repeated to myself, “do not believe this; don’t you dare believe this.”

Years later, my own experience of childbirth proved to me that there is indeed no preparation for childbirth. Birth does what yoga can only attempt to do-  to show us who we are in the raw, unadorned state- our complete power and vulnerability simultaneously.  Birth shows us our fragility, elicits humility and shows us that as much as we like to think so, we are not in control. As much as we plan everything, or plan nothing, we can be sure that things will not go exactly as we expected.

If you were one of the blessed ones with a quick birth and no labor pains, surely you suffered some pain breast-feeding or a few sleepless nights. No one gets out of birth or parenting unscathed and ego intact. Everyone confronts feelings of inadequacy- how can something that seems like it should be so natural be so difficult?  Everyone has moments of feeling incompetent and ill-equipped as well as moments of deep intuitive understanding. No one is exempt from the experience of painful separation and profound connection.

The law of impermanence, anitya, has never been more obvious. Just as you think your baby has established her own schedule, everything is turned on its head by a night of gas, the coffee you drank, teething, or for the more likely reason—the unknown. We want to think of this new being as a machine, wanting some clockwork regularity in eating and feeding.  Then we could plan; then we could understand or we could take a decent shower or go to the bathroom calmly for Christ’s sake. WE could figure it out.  Your mother, your doctor, your neighbor all have theories for every sound your baby makes, every red bump that appears on her skin- all in an attempt to explain away the insecurity and unknown territory. We all confront the difficulty of not-knowing and our impatience with uncertainty.

I have never felt anything so powerful (a new life entering the world) and at the same time so normal (babies are being born every second around the world). Birth shows us that we are not who we thought we were- we are so much more and so much less.  The things we used to do to make ourselves feel good- shower, put on makeup, practice yoga, make love to our partners- all require time, relaxation and some vacant mental space.  As new mothers, we have none of those. And so we encounter friends in the street looking haggard.  We do a 30 second downdog at the kitchen sink.  We write our partners notes telling them we love them, but we have no energy. And for a lot of new mothers, we realize for the first time that we need a lot more than we have to give. We have to learn to ask for help and truly receive. We have to claim our new identity of caretaker to our child and potentially relinquish or set aside our identities of wife, daughter, granddaughter, friend or professional.

Where yoga gives you bite-size chunks of difficulty and intensity to digest at your own pace, birth shoves it down your throat. The lessons of impermanence, surrender, letting go or non-attachment, which may have previously been contained to our mat come barreling at us at an alarming rate. Our body literally splits open; one heart becomes two. In one magical moment, the veil between worlds lifts. But it is not just the veil that lifts, our whole pelvis reshapes or our belly is carved open to allow the passage- our body, our home, our physical reality forever transformed.  We welcome a new life to realize that there are two things being born- a child and a mother.

The moment a child is born, the mother is also born. She never existed before. The woman existed, but the mother, never. A mother is something absolutely new. ~Rajneesh

As the mother, we experience a death as well as a birth and a rebirth. We are unprepared for all these changes. How could anyone be prepared to lose their identity, to enter into a symbiotic relationship and to grow into a new identity all at once?

In the death to our old identity, we have to let go of what it is we want and when we want it.  Our sense of asmita– of I-ness- is shaken and reformed. Now we have to put things on hold, let go of our agenda, and stop trying to get things done, because the immediacy of the basic needs of our child trumps our desire for order.

These moments of dropping it, of forgetting about the dishes and sitting down to play with the baby are the moments when the yoga happens.  True yoga, albeit unglamorous, happens in the everyday–when we stop trying to arrange and plan so that we can fit everything in and realize that true attention to our new baby is all that is required of us to experience connection. And what is yoga if not deep connection, surrender and sweet unconditional love?


Kimberly Johnson is a yogini nomad who recently put the earth boots on for motherhood. After a lengthy love affair with India, she was relieved to fall in love with Brazil, a Brazilian and now lives in Rio de Janeiro with her 3 year old Brazilian daughter. She leads retreats on the most beautiful place on earth- Ilha Grande, an island with 100 beaches and no cars, leads teacher trainings, and tries not to pronounce Sanskrit with a Portuguese accent. Rearranged by childbirth in every way, she travels, teaches and learns about what yoga has to do with womanhood. She just released a CD of mantra Saudades da India.

The Ayurvedic Diet

October 20, 2010

It has been rightly said that ‘Health is Wealth’. If there is one simple rule for being happy, it is to be healthy and fit. In today’s fast paced life, where stress levels are continuously mounting, it is very easy to neglect your body, adopt unhealthy eating habits and fall prey to a restrictive lifestyle. And this is where the importance of Ayurveda Diet is truly felt.

While food is to humans what petrol is to a car, there is no denying the fact that incorrect eating habits and eating the wrong kind of foods can adversely affect your body and can do more harm than good.

Since time immemorial, the concepts of Ayurveda (the science of life) have held their ground, introducing individuals to a healthier and optimum lifestyle. According to ayurvedic principles, the human body is one of God’s most sophisticated creations on earth that needs to be at a perfect equilibrium with nature to function well. In order to achieve this balance, it is essential to opt for an ayurvedic lifestyle that assists you in eliminating impurities from your body and gives prominence to eating the right kind of foods, at the right time and in the right manner.

Ayurveda Diet Is For Everyone
No matter what stage of your life you may be in, it is never too late to switch to an Ayurveda Diet. It has been seen that people who have embraced Ayurveda diet plans into their lifestyles and have altered their daily routines for the better are experiencing a complete & healthy assimilation of their mind, body and soul.

It is highly recommended to consult an Ayurvedic Doctor who will devise the best Ayurveda diet plan for you taking into consideration your age, body / constitutional type or doshas (vata, pitta & kapha) that require balancing, gender and the current toxin levels (ama) in your body etc.

Here are some simple general tips that you can follow to introduce positive elements of Ayurveda Diet into your daily life:

1.Improve Your Digestion:
Improper or disruptive digestion is one of the main signs of an unhealthy lifestyle and poor eating habits. Stomach disorders can be treated easily if you alter your eating style.

* Eat fresh, well cooked and healthy food everyday.
* Don’t skip meals.
* Try to eat all your meals at the same time daily.
* Don’t over eat.
* If you have a weak digestive system (kapha), opt for lighter foods that can be digested easily.
* Avoid eating between meals as it can hurt your digestive cycle.
* Stay away from stale food.

2.Opt For The Right Kind of Food:
In general, the following food items should be included in –

Ayurveda Vata Diet – Grapes, Bananas, Lemons, Strawberries, Onions, Carrots, Cucumber, Potatoes, Rice, Wheat, Almonds, Cashews, Chicken etc.

Ayurveda Pitta Diet – Apples, Mangoes, Watermelons, Brocolli, Mushrooms, Zucchini, Barley, White Rice, Kidney Beans, Freshwater Fish, Cottage Cheese, Cheese etc.

Ayurveda Kapha Diet – Apples, Berries, Cherries, Raisins, Cabbage, Garlic, Egg Plant, Spinach, Potatoes, Red Lentils, Split Beans, Eggs, Ghee, Ginger, Garlic, Fenugreek etc.

Eat natural and whole foods.
Stay away from food items that are frozen or canned.
Avoid such food items that contain preservatives, added colours or flavours.
Make a special effort to eat seasonal food items which are available only during those seasons. These include seasonal fruits and vegetables.

3.Satvic Food is Good For You:
These include green leafy vegetables, fresh seasonal fruits, almonds, rice, honey and easy to digest food items.

4.Include 6 Basic Tastes in Each Main Meal:
These include sweet, sour, salty, bitter, pungent and astringent. It is said that doing so helps to create an optimum balance within the body.

5.Herbs And Spices:
Include herbs and spices in your diet as they help in improving digestion, as well as cleansing the body.

Always remember that Stomach is the Shrine of the Divine so treat it with respect and love and it will give back to you in the form of good health. Make the right choice, choose an Ayurveda Diet and move towards a healthy and happy life. And yes, an ayurvedic lifestyle does promote weight control.

Ayurvedic Weight Loss
Many individuals, especially those belonging to the younger generation are extremely cautious about what they eat, lest they gain weight and this is one of the reasons why most of them end up being slim but very unhealthy.

However, such is not the case with those who embrace Ayurvedic Weight Loss principles which propagates

* Eating healthy food that balances your constitutional doshas.
* Eating food on time and not missing any meals.
* Eating wholesome food that satiates your hunger and doesn’t leave you hungry or too full.
* Exercising regularly.
* Going for walks.
* Reducing stress and positive thinking.
* Yoga and meditation.

If you have wanted to lose weight for a very long time, you should give Ayurvedic Weight Loss a chance – the healthiest weight loss diet and cleansing plan available today.

Taken from:
http://ayurvedadiet.com/

The Spirit Messenger

August 6, 2010

When you feel a gentle breeze
Caress you when you sigh
It’s a hug sent from Heaven
From a loved one way up high

If a soft and tender raindrop
Lands upon your nose
They’ve added a small kiss
As fragile as a rose

If a song you hear fills you
With a feeling of sweet love
It’s a hug sent from Heaven
From someone special up above

If you awaken in the morning
To bluebird’s chirping song
It’s music sent from Heaven
To cheer you all day long

If tiny little snowflakes
Land upon your face
It’s a hug sent from Heaven
Trimmed with Angel lace

So keep the joy in your heart
If you’re lonely my dear friend
Hugs that are sent from Heaven
A broken heart will mend

The Placebo Effect is Getting Stronger

April 6, 2010

Hi!

I’ve just seen the article below “The Placebo Effect is  Getting Stronger” and thought that it could be of benefit to you.

It includes some of the wealth of  research now available, that validates what yogis have been saying for 1000s of years – that our attitudes and beliefs, our hopes and our expectations, all play a part in our own healing.

Enjoy!….

Sarah Oakley

The Placebo Effect is Getting Stronger

From 2002 to 2006, the number of drugs that were axed after Phase-II clinical trials (volunteer trials) increased by 20% because the drugs couldn’t beat the placebos they were compared against.

More recently, in 2008, a new gene therapy for Parkinson’s disease failed against the placebo. Similarly, in March 2009, Eli Lilly withdrew a new drug for schizophrenia because the placebo effect was double that expected. Also in March 2009, Osiris Therapeutics’ new drug for Crohn’s disease was also withdrawn due to a high placebo effect.

What is going on?

There are a few forces that have generated the increase. The first is powerful advertising. Advertising plays on the mind; the very vehicle of the placebo effect.

The Pharmaceutical Industry have hugely increased their advertising expenditure in the past 20 years. Many years ago, drug advertising was little more than a few posters on the walls of surgery waiting rooms. Now, big pharma have created powerful ads that are so effective that patients taking drugs in the west really expect something to happen when they take them.

Now the act of taking any drug in the west brings with it powerful memories as well as even more powerful unconscious associations generated by the advertising that ensure that taking a drug has an effect. But the downside, not for the patients but for the industry, is that the same applies when they take a placebo. Expectancy is a key element of the placebo effect. The same memories and associations are activated that ensure that taking a placebo heals too. Ironically for the drugs industry, as advertising gets better so too does the placebo effect.

The second reason is that there is a growing flux of drug testing now taking place in developing nations. In these trials, poor people who are often deprived of medical care are suddenly able to get the drugs they need. Many are desperate, and have high hopes for the drugs they receive as well as high-level belief in them. Their perception of rich nations is people enjoying state of the art drugs and healthcare into their very old ages.

But hope and belief are also key elements of the placebo effect. Thus, placebos in poor countries often do better than they would do in other countries. And since the global placebo statistics are made up from trials everywhere in the world, the statistics from the poorer nations lift the overall placebo rate up a few points. Thus, as more and more trials are carried out in poor countries, the higher the placebo effect will get.

You could say, with the fancy advertising and trials in developing countries, that the pharmaceutical industry has, ironically, been responsible for elevating the placebo effect. With similar irony, it was my own personal experience as a scientist in the pharmaceutical industry that propelled me into studying the power of the mind over the body.

Another reason for the increase is due to an increase in the use of drugs to treat ‘psychological disorders’. In the past 20 years, there has been an increase in the number of conditions being diagnosed as ‘psychological disorders’. Pharmaceutical companies have ploughed increasing millions of dollars into their research and development.

But many of these psychological disorders involve areas of the brain that are also involved with our beliefs, expectations, hopes, thoughts of rewards, and how we understand and relate to each other. And these are the same areas that are active during a placebo response. Thus the placebo effect is unexpectedly high for conditions like depression.

For example, a 2008 study of Prozac (fluoxetine), Effexor (venlafaxine), Serzone (nefazodone), and Seroxat (paroxetine) covering 35 clinical trials that involved 5,133 patients found that the placebo effect accounted for 81% of the effect of these drugs.

Thus, as more people are diagnosed with psychological disorders and the number of drugs used to treat them increase, the ratio of drugs for psychological disorders compared with all other drugs increases. And since they have a high placebo effect, the overall placebo effect also increases.

It’s a similar story with cardiovascular diseases. As cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the west, in large part due to western dietary and lifestyle habits, drugs to treat it dominate the drug market. But drugs for cardiovascular diseases also have a high placebo effect, which many believe is due to the strong brain-heart link. So as our diets and lifestyles worsen and our hearts pay the price, the drugs used to treat us ensure that the placebo effect is kept high.

Doctors/physicians have a hand in the increase too. Many are now much more aware that the placebo effect is not just a nuisance, or all in the mind, as was once thought, but that it is a real pharmacological phenomenon that produces physiological change in the brain and body. Thus, many doctors treat patients with more empathy and assurance than before. Empathy and assurance also activate the placebo effect. As doctors show more care and confidence, patients get better faster, even when they are taking inert medication.

Consider, for instance, the results of a British Medical Journal paper that reported on 200 patients who had either been given a positive or a negative consultation by their doctor.
For approximately the same medical conditions, the doctors told the patients what was wrong with them and that they would get better in a few days. Accordingly, 64% of them did get better over the next 2 weeks. But for the other half, the doctors told the patients that they weren’t sure what was wrong with them but to come back if they haven’t got better. Only 39% of this group got better…..64% versus 39% and the only difference was in how the doctor acted. For the first group, there was more empathy and confidence.

There is a last unexpected factor that also increases the placebo effect. It’s difficult to quantify the degree of influence it has, but it’s sure to be exerting an increasing force. It’s us! Or at least, it’s our increasing knowledge of the placebo effect and our growing faith in our own capacity to affect our bodies.

In the past few years, research into the placebo effect has delivered a powerful new message. It is that our thoughts, beliefs, our hopes and our expectations impact our brains and our bodies. MRI studies now show beyond doubt that this is true. Recent brain research shows release of dopamine in the brain when Parkinson’s patients are given placebos, for instance. Other studies show release of the brain’s own version of morphine when people are given placebos instead of painkillers. And MRI scans of patients given placebos instead of Prozac show activation in the same areas of the brain.

One of the leaders in the field of placebo research, Fabrizio Benedetti, a neuroscience professor at the University of Turin School of Medicine and member of the Placebo Study Group centered at Harvard, recently wrote:

“The placebo effect has evolved from being thought of as a nuisance in clinical pharmacological research to a biological phenomenon worthy of scientific investigation in its own right.”

This kind of research is filtering into the public domain through the mainstream press, which raises everyone’s belief in the power of the mind. Popular general-public-focused books that discuss the mind-body connection, like ‘How Your Mind Can Heal Your Body’, ‘It’s the Thought that Counts’, ‘The Biology of Belief’, and ‘Molecules of Emotion’, also add to this.

So as our collective awareness that the mind affects the body increases, it’s sure to elevate the placebo effect even more.

The good news in all this is that we are beginning to recognize that we are not exactly powerless. Our own attitudes and beliefs, our hopes and our expectations, all play a part in our own healing.

A general, healthy way of being, then, is to cultivate a more positive attitude towards all that life throws our way. It might just help us live longer, healthier lives, and when we do get sick it might just help us recover faster.

by David R. Hamilton Ph.D.
http://www.drdavidhamilton.com

“How to Spring Clean your Mind”

March 3, 2010

As I get into the task and rid my abode of unwanted clutter I feel both immense satisfaction and relief.   This has got me onto thinking… why not make March the month when I spring clean my mind?  A month where I delve into the depths of my pantry and my mind!

How on earth would I do that? I hear you say, and  I’d say through meditation.  I’ve got my diary out and I am dedicating an hour a day for the next two weeks for meditation.

Why Meditate? Meditation is used to open and clear the mind, as well as for healing purposes.  As a form of alternative medicine, meditation brings about mental calmness and physical relaxation.

I wonder whether some of you are cringing at the thought of sitting cross legged and in silence for longer than 30 seconds.  Stop right there!  This is one way to meditate and a good way, but is a pretty advanced practice if your mind is quite busy.  So forget sitting crossed legged if it is awkward for you, to burn incense if the smell tickles your throat, or to chant dulcet tones if the words have no meaning for you. These are practices I enjoy and will use but they are entirely optional.  Meditation has many forms, only the theme remains the same creating clarity through calm.

So to me watching your breath is meditation; listening to the birds is meditation; walking the dog is meditation. As long as these activities help create peace of mind, they are effective meditation.

I will see the world as it is, I will accept the world just as it is, and in the clarity of that awareness, I will see the peace, harmony, laughter and love

Deepak Chopra

Warning! Like the spring clean, as we look underneath the surface many of us will realise the depth of clutter to be removed.  But with regular meditation practice comes unprecedented fulfilment – felt not only by yourself but those around you.

Much like the spring clean, all you need to do give is time, and the resolve to make space for activities in your life that create peace of mind.  Please do let me know how you get on.

Yoga: Home practice advice

December 6, 2009

Going to yoga classes is really fun but what about the days when you can’t make it to class, can’t afford a class or your usual classes have broken up for a Christmas break?  On these days, it’s really nice to do some yoga at home.

So for those of you unable to make the step from attending class to sun saluting at home, here are here are 8 tips to get you started on a well rounded home practice….

Enjoy! Sarah O x


1: Same time, same place

Schedule a regular time and place to practice.  Personally I find early mornings the easiest time to stick to. It is said that it just takes 3 weeks to form a habit.  So schedule a weekly yoga plan that is realistic and maintainable, and then write it in your diary, stick it on the fridge, tell your other half about your plan, or do anything you think may help you stick to it for the first 3 weeks.

2: Create a Satisfying Practice

Regardless of what you actually do, make sure that your practice is an expression of how you are feeling in that moment.  So if you’ve just got off a plane perhaps make your practice a more gentle restorative practice, or maybe you’re feeling very wound up after an argument at work in which case channel that energy into a more physically challenging practice.  This will help create a more satisfying practice and thus help give you the impetus to practice again tomorrow.

3: Warm up: Sun Salutation

The sun salutation can be the core of a home practice.  Learn this sequence of postures and you always know where to start when you put down your mat.

Click here for a Sun salutation video that you can follow:

4: Choosing appropriate Asana (Postures)

To create a well-rounded practice, you should include one or more postures from each of the posture groups.  The basic groups are:

– Standing poses:  includes poses like triangle pose, warrior poses, and tree pose.

– Arm balances:  such as crow pose and plank pose.

– Inversions:  legs up the wall pose is a good place to start. Or more advanced inversions such as shoulder stand, plough and headstand (I do advise you learn these from a qualified teacher as they are more advanced).

– Forward bends:  the most common being paschimottananasana (seated forward bend)

– Backbends: such as cobra, locust and bow pose.

– Restorative postures: such as child’s pose, down dog, shavasana.

–   And Twists: Twists can be performed sitting or standing in between all posture groups.

5: Sequence your practice

When starting your practice it is best to practice the pose groups in roughly the same order as my list above.  Standing poses first, inversions, forward bends, backward bends ending with restorative poses.  Twists can be fit into the practice as you feel the need

As you move forward with your home practice, you may well find that there are areas that you want to focus on.  For example the shoulders or the hips, and this may well change week to week.  Do go with that feeling and add variations and longer holds to specific groups to target specific areas.

6: When to Counter Pose

Always remember to pay attention to the effects of a pose before you choose the next pose. If you choose a counter pose, be careful not to move to the most extreme opposite movement right away. Instead, proceed gradually toward that movement, using several intermediate movements to get there.

7: Awareness is Key

No matter how you pace your practice or what postures you choose, please keep in mind that the point of practice is not just simply to become more adept at the poses or to improve your health. It is about awareness.   If your home practice draws you deeper into such awareness, it will achieve its most important purpose-and it will also create a momentum of consistency and a sense of accomplishment, pleasure, and well-being.

8: Always end with at least 5 minutes relaxation

You deserve it!

For further information:

The books I would recommend are The New Book of Yoga by Sivananda Vedanta Centre and Yoga Mind and Body by the Sivananda Vedanta Centre

The SKY TV channel I would recommend is the Body in Balance channel 275

Laugh often. Dream big and Reach for the Stars!

November 17, 2009

Hi!
Three simple things… laugh often, dream big and reach for the stars!
Just a little post today to make you smile 🙂

Laugh often…..

This you tube clips is really funny!

 

Dream big……

Reach for the stars….

“Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss it you will land among the stars.” Les Brown

Set intentions in Yoga…. they really work!

November 11, 2009

Hello!  How are you?

My lovely yoga students know that I often invite you to set an intention at the beginning of class.  I have just read an article by Deepak Chopra (a legend!) that explains my intention behind this and the power of subtle action.

It think that it’s a great article, so I have included it below…. enjoy!

Hope to see ya soon!



Why subtle action is a powerful tool to change your energy – by Deepak Chopra

Recently I’ve been discussing how to change your energy. Many problems—physical and mental—seem to come down to a person’s beliefs, habits, lifestyle, moods and emotions. We use the words “positive” and “negative” to describe people we know, yet modern medicine hasn’t been able to find the source of these factors. There’s plenty of data to prove that people who undergo traumatic events, such as being widowed or losing a job without warning, suffer from lowered immune response. There are countless studies linking stress and poor health.

In my book Reinventing the Body, Resurrecting the Soul, I suggest that the missing link is energy—a term that appears everywhere in Eastern medicine, from the life energy called Chi in Chinese medicine to Prana in Ayurvedic medicine from India. The important thing, however, is to find out for yourself if you can change your energy. In fact, there are ways that do not depend on esoteric beliefs or aligning yourself with Eastern medicine.

The most powerful tool for changing your energy is subtle action. This is nothing more than having an intention that your body can respond to. When you lift your arm, your body is responding to an intention. We’re used to that kind of mind-body link, yet subtle action goes much deeper. Experiments with Tibetan monks who have meditated on the value of compassion have proved that their brains actually change. The area of the prefrontal cortex associated with higher functions, like compassion, light up stronger in these monks than in any other tested subjects.

In daily life, feeling love and sending it to others is a subtle action. Experimenters at Harvard have shown the immediate effect of love on the body. Subjects sat in a room to watch a film of Mother Teresa and her work with abandoned children in Calcutta. The images were deeply moving, and clearly the audience was touched. At the same time, their breathing rates and blood chemistry changed, revealing greater calm and less stress. All these responses are controlled by the brain.

How Subtle Action Works

1. You go inside and make your intention known.
2. You believe in getting results.
3. You don’t resist the process of change.
4. Your body effortlessly shifts at the physical level.
5. You repeat your subtle action until you have mastered the change you desire.

The Tibetan monks accomplished all these steps. They meditated in order to make contact with higher consciousness (Buddhists wouldn’t use the word soul). They sat quietly, trusting that they would reach their goal. They diligently practiced their discipline, keeping the goal in sight. Through subtle action alone, using no effort or physical struggle, compassion flowed into them. (I am reminded of a famous saying in India that wisdom isn’t something you learn, it’s something you become.)

Sitting quietly in a meditative state, you can intend anything—love, success, peace, kindness—that you want in your life. Then you let it go so that the invisible organizing power of the body, and the entire universe, can work for you. Don’t force or strain. Don’t use this technique as a shortcut for winning the lottery. Amazing things can happen through subtle intention, but for that to happen, you need to really contact the level of awareness where energy exists. This takes time, but it is well worth it. You will feel the first effects by a lessening of negativity and worry, which are stale residues of energy that isn’t flowing as freely as it needs to.

If subtle energy really does have power, then a subtle action—one entirely located in the mind—should be able to create much greater change than a gross action. There’s another Tibetan meditation called Tumo that protects the body from the elements. Monks who practice Tumo can sit in caves overnight at sub-zero temperatures clad only in a thin silk robe, and at dawn they emerge unharmed. The secret, according to Western medical observers, is that the monks have raised their internal temperature by as much as eight degrees Fahrenheit, which requires a specific area of the brain (the hypothalamus) to respond.

Body temperature is ordinarily an automatic response, yet through subtle action a person can move this response at will. Biofeedback experiments with ordinary people in the West have followed this example. Subjects are asked to focus on a small patch of skin on the back of their hand and to will it to grow hot. Without long practice, many could raise their skin temperature enough, simply through focused attention, that a red patch appeared on the back of the hand.

In short, the possibilities of subtle action have been proven over the ages, yet it is also an exciting new area for anyone to explore today.

Deepak Chopra is the author of more than 50 books on health, success, relationships and spirituality, including his current best-seller, Reinventing the Body, Resurrecting the Soul, available now. You can listen to his show on Saturdays every week on SiriusXM, Channels 102 and 155 (US stations).

Yoga and Cancer

November 1, 2009

I’m so pleased I captured this guy on my camcorder today.  He (Neil Patel) is clearly on his purpose. Very inspirational talk to inspire us to believe in our dreams. So powerful.  So brave.