Who wouldn’t want to reduce stress? Stress is the leading cause for heart disease, gastrointestinal problems, headaches, weight gain, and premature aging. It can lead to anxiety, depression, and completely dismantle our lives and yet we are largely lost as to how to combat it and often even how to see and acknowledge it.
Most of us don’t notice our stress until it has debilitated us, taking out our backs, locking up our necks, or giving us a horrible stomach ache. Once we have let the stress go that far, it is hard to bring down. A great help to managing our stress and reducing our chances of chronic illness would be to notice it sooner.
You can learn to notice the first signs of stress in your body by checking in with yourself throughout the day. Ask yourself, “how is my breathing?” If it seems shallow, short, locked up in any way, that could be a sign the body is under some stress. Quickened breath is also a clue. Look for breath position. Is it high in the chest (stress sign) or low in the belly? If breath quality/location is hard for you to access, you can check in with your vocal tone. A stressed body will often produce a high, airy voice and a calm one a full round sound.
Go ahead and check your breathing rate and position and vocal quality now! What do you notice?
Observing your breath is the quickest way to reduce your stress instantaneously. Choose a spot you feel your breath the most, like your nose, chest or belly and just watch as it comes and goes. You don’t have to do a thing. Simply observing is an art which has enormous impact. Many will tell you to deepen or lengthen your breathing. I would say to just watch. We are so quick to make adjustments but our systems know what to do to run most calmly and efficiently if we only get out of their way. Learn to be with what is and your body will thank you.
Get in the habit of observing your breathing multiple times throughout the day. You should see an immediate reduction in your stress level each time and a cumulative decrease in your stress level over time. If it helps you can even set an alarm for checking in with your breath every hour until it becomes second nature. This simple act will have a profound impact on the quality of your life and could even save it. Nothing should be stopping you from starting today.
You will find in time that you don’t even have to remind yourself to observe your breath. You will do so regularly and naturally as needed, re-regulating your system and finding peace in the moments of being one with this most subtle of human acts.
As we head into the new year I know you are all excited to bring new projects and plans to life! This is the most popular year to work on manifesting and could be a great time if you set yourself up right. Here are the 3 most popular misconceptions and mistakes people make when attempting to manifest.
Being Too Specific. There are a lot of books out there claiming you should imagine each detail of the brand new car or partner or job you are trying to bring to your life. In fact, too detailed envisioning can close you off to much bigger and better dreams the Universe has out there for you and cause you not to see the greater gift in your midst. While you should be careful to make sure you specify that your car runs smoothly and is in great working condition and that it comes easily and for right purposes to you, you don’t want to get so specific that don’t take the brand new green car your aunt just gifted you because you imagined red! You may also be holding yourself back by not going deeper into the essence of what it is you desire. Is it really the car, or is it easier transport? Is it really the freelance job or is it more time to right and make your schedule. These aren’t necessarily the same things and the Universe will deliver ALL the parts that come along with new car or job including the trouble of parking and the lack of health insurance. Go to the core and always add “for the greatest good” and “this or something better” to keep your visions pure and open. The Universe will surprise you!
Having a Completion Date. While it’s fine to say that you want to move out of the city within the next year, giving the Universe an unrealistic complete by date like tomorrow or next week for a big move will only discourage you when it doesn’t happen and stop you growing in your manifestations. While it’s true that nothing is impossible for the Universe, we are still works in progress, learning how to work with these mysterious energies for our greater good and the good of those around us. As you materialize more and more the life you imagine, you will build confidence and the ability to make bigger and bigger dreams come true at a faster and faster pace. This is what I will teach you in Bliss Book, my daily manifestation planner, out this spring! Message me to pre-order this year long guide for making dreams your reality.
Believing it Should Just Happen. Forgetting that YOU are an intricate part of turning your hopes and desires into life actualizations is a major mistake. You can visualize, dream board, and pray all you want, but if you aren’t willing to do the work, the Universe will not respond. The flip side is, She responds rapidly and strongly to even the smallest of steps done with a full heart and complete trust in Her workings. You don’t have to know how things are going to happen. You just have to trust that they will and make sure your actions aren’t telling the Universe that you really don’t want what you’ve asked for. Don’t keep dating Player Boy if you are asking for true love. You are telling the Universe that you don’t really want it, trust in it, or believe you deserve it. Our actions, however small, must support our deepest desires. Do this and all and more are coming your way!
For more on New Years Resolution, Manifesting, and Winning see last year’s blog here and follow me on facebook, instagram, and twitter where I’ll continue to share my tricks and tools.
“I’m not flexible” is the number one excuse I receive from people as to why they can’t do yoga. First of all, yoga is not something you do. It’s something that happens when the breath, mind, and body come to oneness. Being flexible is not important. In fact, being too flexible can be a hinderance.
Can vs. Should is about flexibility to stability equivalence radar. Just because a student is flexible, doesn’t mean they should go into the deepest most bendy expression of each pose. When arching and contorting compromise strength and stability, alignment, breath, and equanimity, the student has gone too far.
I often see new students looking around at longer practicing ones and whispering that they will never be able to do whatever it is they are doing, or giving a nod to affirm that the visual example they see is one they will start moving toward. This is such a dangerous and unhealthy approach. Each expression of a posture will be unique to the make-up and the needs of the student. Let the teacher be your eyes. Let your feeling body be your guide to repeating your teacher’s adjustments.
We are so eye-centric, leading with the visual in almost all things. Yoga time is a chance to quiet our gaze and awaken the nervous system. Instead of looking with the eyes, try to inspire an awareness of your whole being.Ask your body where it is in space and what it feels inside. If you hear nothing, don’t worry, just keep asking. Over time your body will start to build awareness you never knew it had.
This field of awareness is the start of yoga. It will inform all you do and all you are on and off the mat and the question of what you do with it and all your new abilities is a very important one, especially as your influence grows stronger. (Yes, one of the impacts of yoga is an increase of prana, magnetism, influence.) You may find people, objects, and opportunities coming toward you like never before. These are the instances to use your on-the-mat Can vs. Should practice in the real world.
Can vs. Should is an almost obsolete question here in the US. We seem to have decided as a culture that if it can be done, we should do it, and if it can’t we should try harder. Especially those of us with power and privilege must question the assumption that we should do everything we have the power to do. In fact as our power and influence increase we must be more mindful of each and every action.
The upheaval in Hollywood is a real reminder about using power wisely and about the choice we have to not do all we can do. For our personal practice we can start to look at this question with regards to our energy. As aspiring yogis we know that we don’t need to drill everywhere there may be oil, but we often forget what that means for ourselves. Do we have to do and be it all or is there perhaps a more equitable way to treat our energy and impact in this world? Can we, should we do less?
As you go into the world approaching this difficult Can vs. Should dilemma remember the soft gaze of your practice, and look for answers with your whole being awareness. This is the route to right knowledge. As we experience the wholeness of self, we drop into the wholeness of being which we are a part of and we come to know the ripples and we make mindful choice.
Imagine 3280 foot high glaciers, volcanoes, wide land, black beaches, fairies and trolls. Standing there, you are surrounded by gush springs impressing you with their shooting water fountains, healing hot springs and fascinating polar lights. Iceland is less than 6 hours from New York, but there you find a whole different world with incredible nature, myths and such a rare energy.
Made of lava, ice, wind and water – Iceland offers you an unique experience which passes its origin and power onto you. Everyone who has been there knows that Iceland is enchanting.
A few highlights:
Biggest volcano-island (Sorry Big Island!)
Glaciers with Europe’s biggest ice volume
Europe’s most powerful waterfall
Forces of nature and energy describe Iceland most accurately. Thanks to its special geographic position – it’s on the american and on the eurasian tectonic plate – it is connected to hot rock mass from the earth’s core. And this is exactly what you can feel!
If that has not convinced you (yet!) to visit this extraordinary island, maybe the following reasons will! Look and see:
Iceland will seduce you with it’s breathtaking scenery and many surprises.
1. Volcanoes and glaciers
The pairing of volcanoes and glaciers is a rare wonder of nature. Nowhere else will you get to witness such an impressive connection of opposites. Fire and ice aren’t just the elements of the nordic myths, they are still impressing us to this day.
2. Old legends and spirituality
Iceland is a mystical place and its residents believe in fairies, trolls and goblins. Their legends and tales are important and deeply rooted in the everyday life of Icelandic people.
3. Healing thermal springs
Iceland’s thermal springs have several benefits. Whether you jump right into a healing hot spring or bake your bread in the hot powerful earth, you will surely recharge your energy reserves here.
4. A place of confident women who follow their own ideal of beauty
“I wanted to use this opportunity to stand up for myself and the women on this planet, for young women”, said Arna Ýr Jónsdóttir Miss Island 2015 who rejected her attendance on the election of Miss Grand International. The host asked her to eat less. “It is okay to be yourself. If you like yourself, you should just say it.” We totally agree!
5. Stunning scenery you know from movies and tv-shows
Game of Thrones and The Secret Life of Walter Mitty are just two of many international movie and tv-show productions that know and use the beauty of the island.
6. Europe fell head over heels in love with Iceland in the summer of 2016
During the European Championship in 2016 it was Iceland who surprised us all. Their passionate spirit and win over England made the audience fall in love and the legendary chant gave goosebumps to every soccer-fan.
Vacation in Iceland is a combination of sustainability and regeneration.
7. Iceland stands for alternative energies and green tourism.
Iceland is one big role-model when it comes down to renewable energy and decrease of Co2. The energy supply is made by geothermic and hydrothermic energy by 81 percent and provides for electricity, heat and transportation. Starting in the year 2050 Reykjavik wants to stop using fossil fuels.
Geothermic energy is not just supplying all buildings in the city, it is also responsible for heat in the houses and the many greenhouses, as well as street lightning. And of course the thermic heat provides for all the popular outdoor pools. You won’t find a better place to enjoy eco-tourism.
8. On the trail of Jules Verne
“The journey to the center of the earth” begins with the entrance to Iceland’s volcano Snæfellsjökull. This is a story we all know of since childhood and it will clearly be the travel-read when you start the adventure of visiting Snæfellsjökull volcano yourself.
9. Wales, Iceland horses and puffins
Another fascinating aspect about Iceland is its animal kingdom. You get the chance to be with and ride on Icelandic horses, explore beautiful puffins and observe fascinating mink whales, porpoises, dolphins, finbacks, blue- and humpback whales. And maybe even the black and white marked grampus.
If you are thinking about visiting Iceland and experiencing its amazing landscape and archaic original power – 2017 is the perfect time to do it!
Because the numbers of tourists, media attention, and word of mouth are striking, Iceland is getting more and more popular which means the time is limited to explore its raw uniqueness free of mass tourism.
The best time for an extraordinary journey is NOW!
You may think it’s hard to practice in the beginning when the body is tight, but it’s easy compared to what happens when the growth spurt has past and it seems like nothing is happening. That is why a strategy for long-termed practice is so important. I spoke on this topic for Land Yoga’s Five Year Anniversary Chai Talk. These are the notes from that talk.
Patangali says in yoga sutra 1.14 “sa tu dirghakala nairantarya satkara asevitah drdhabhumih” that in order for practice to be effective it should be long termed, without interruption, and devotional.
Long-Termed means for the course of the life-time (and future life-times) until Enlightenment is attained. Any practitioner will tell you it’s the accumulation of years of practice that brings the immense benefits. It’s widely recognized that the base of the practice is the first ten years and I’ve even heard Sharath say that’s how long a student should wait before teaching.
Uninterrupted means of course without starting and stopping. The point of the practice is the practice which means we put our whole energy in and let go of expecting any specific results. Understanding and accepting this concept of non-attachment helps with not taking a “break” from practice when we aren’t getting certain expected results. We invest in the process.
Most people take their first break from practice due to illness. One shouldn’t practice the physical aspects of Ashtanga yoga if one has fever. (Other issues like colds and injuries can be practiced around.) It’s important to know that your physical practice may need to be modified or shortened during certain periods because of life circumstance. This shouldn’t stop you from getting on the mat.
The danger around taking a break even for fever is that the pause from practice causes that little window of dullness to open, sending us down a dangerous cycle. It’s amazing how even a short break in routine can knock years of habit off course! Patanjai explains it well by listing the predictable obstacles that get in the way of practice:
Illness – Dullness – Doubt
Negligence – Laziness – Cravings
Misperceptions – Loss of Resolve – Instability
You can see how these lead one to the next until the practitioner finds herself moving backward.
The antidote to the obstacles is one pointed focus. Knowing about them in advance will also help the practitioner be prepared and be able to identify when then they are activated sooner. This will help her to avoid a long slump. Patanjali suggests cultivating faith, putting great energy toward your goal, using your memory, having deep concentration, and developing crystal clear discrimination to help you to avoid obstacles. (y.s. 1:20) These characteristics will make it easy for you to know when you are not in practice because your mind has cunningly taken you off track verses because you are truly ill.
Starting practice over and over is painful and much harder than cultivating an ongoing habit. To help avoid interruptions of practice, understand early on what kind of practitioner you are: mild, medium, or intense, and practice accordingly in respect to your energy expenditure and time. It’s much better to commit to a medium level, short daily practice each day that you can promise to maintain for a lifetime than to go full force and burn out in two weeks. Think long term and know yourself! That is what the practice will teach you anyway.
Devotional means offering up your practice in service to the Highest Good, and knowing that it isn’t about you at all. You’ve been called to the practice and so you must do it. Once touched, a practitioner will always hear the call to come back. It’s much easier to know and remember that and never stop than to stop and start again. If it isn’t feeling great or looking great, that doesn’t matter because the goal is to be unattached to the results of the practice and focus only on the energy we bring to it. Each day is a new day and I look at my arms in wonder as they lift up over my head and give thanks. Finding and remembering that feeling of gratitude that came easily early on will help you too when challenges arise later.
Just like we shower, sleep, and brush our teeth each day, so do we practice, because it is what we do. The practice is like an internal shower, releasing unprocessed emotions and setting us free to experience the now without forgone conclusions. As we move through our practice year after year the distractions will change and different challenges will arise, but as long as we know we are in till the end, we will never take those hurdles too seriously. Just knowing you are committed makes each challenge not even a blip along the way to enlightenment.
Julia Knight, Area Manager, Independent Consultant with Arbonne International, visited our Three and a Half Acres young adults at Harlem United H.O.M.E. center last Tuesday to teach them about nutrition, skin care, and cleansing. The talk began with the passing around of one of her products, a Vegan, Chocolate Protein Shake made of yellow pea protein, brown rice, and cranberry. This tasty drink is Kosher Certified, gluten-free, and contains no whey or soy. Hearing it was healthy had some of our students skeptical at first, but soon everyone was asking for samples as each saw his friend raving over how good it was.
As the questions rolled in, Julia shared some simple health facts to help guide the young people in making informed choices. Here are some that really stood out:
Diet Soda contains aspartame a chemical linked to a long list of diseases including Parkinson’s and Diabetes.
Processed foods that a marketed as healthy can be misleading. Eating whole foods and fresh fruits and vegetables every 3 hours is better for our energy. Healthy fats like avocado and olive oil aid the body.
We are not what we eat but what we absorb so having Pre/ Pro Biotics helps our body get the most from our food and create a healthy gut. Having more fiber in our diet aids the body in removing toxins and makes us feel more full. When we remove toxins we reduce inflammation and improve our health.
For optimal health for skin, brain function and digestion, once should drink plenty of water. Julia recommended that we drink 1/2 our body weight in ounces. IE: if you weigh 150 you drink 75 ounces of water. In addition, to add another 8 oz of water if you have a cup of coffee or glass of alcohol.
In regards to skin, Julia spoke of her own personal history with Melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. The inspiration she received from her dancing daughter while she lay in bed recovering from her Melanoma Surgery birthed the poetry for a film installation called SKIN, a meditation. The beauty of being “in our skin” and appreciating others SKIN, and having the freedom to authentically express ourselves was a theme of Julia’s; woven into her sharing on health and product choices.
Here are the skin facts she shared:
0ur skin is our largest organ, and products we apply to our skin bypasses filtering organs of liver and kidneys. It is our most effective delivery system. Julia spoke of the animal rendering found in over the counter products and its toxicity, pointing out that what we put on our skin goes into our organs in just 26 seconds.
Mineral oil is found in 98% of all body care products and make-up in the US. There are over 100 names for mineral oil. It is a cheap filler made from the distillation process of gasoline. Using products with mineral oil actually prematurely ages and dehydrates the skin…second only to the sun. Using essential oils and plant based, vegan products are better for caring for the skin. Mineral oil is even found in pop-tarts and Cheetos!
Parabens, are linked to causing breast cancer. These are used to extend the life of a product sold off a shelf. 5-10 years. Chemical fragrance and Phthalates are also found in many products to cover up the smell of animal rendering. A 3 Billion dollar industry.
The class ended with another sampling, this time a hand lotion made from the FC5 line, with Strawberry, Kiwi, Mango Carrot and Pumpkin extracts. She left each one of the participants with Skin Care samples from the Calm Line, the Re9 Men’s Skin Care line and the FC5 line to take home, hand outs on the Arbonne Business and an Article that covered 7 steps to being a love activist by Alice Walker.
Julia is an Area Manager, Independent Consultant with Arbonne International. www.juliaknight.arbonne.com She is a Co-Creator and Producer of SKIN, a Meditation. With Creative Partner, Valerie Barnes, and Sound and Set Designer,Timothy Cramer, and Contributing Artist, Photographer, Kimia Rahgozar. www.eyelovemyskin.com She is an actress and has performed on Stage Film and TV. SAG-AFTRA Member. She has a BFA in drama from the University of North Carolina School of the Arts. She lives in Harlem with her family, and loves being a part of the Land Yoga Community.
Her offering is a part of our newest commitment at Three and a Half Acres Yoga to offer a holistic health workshop once a month to our students at the H.O.M.E. center, in addition to our twice weekly yoga, meditation, and mindfulness programming. If you have an offering and would like to volunteer, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you like the work we are doing and would like to help it be sustained and continue to grow, please consider joining us March 15th for our annual benefit or making any sized contribution here. If you like stories like this one and to keep informed of all we are accomplishing at Three and a Half Acres please join our new mailing list here. Certain opportunities and information will be given only to those who opt in, so we hope you do!