3 Ways to Improve Mental Hygiene

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It feels like the thoughts in my brain become extraordinarily more vicious as soon as I become conscious of them.

Several days ago, someone told me how in Toltec philosophy, they believe that there are etherial beings that act as parasites to our beings. Similar to the story of the two wolves, the parasite feeds on certain negative emotions that are particular to each individual, and thus puts us in situations that will create more of this emotion on which it can feed.

Truthfully, if I had to guess what mine was feeding off of? It would be sadness. Now, regardless of whether or not the Toltec philosophy plays to your world views on this point doesn’t matter. This conversation of habitual patterns and self-talk comes up time and time again in pop psychology.

We, as humans, have a tendency to have extremely negative self-talk. Things we would never say to any one else, especially someone we care about. What causes this type of behavior? Perhaps it is the “parasite” or the ego or our culture or perhaps that is just how the mind works.

Interestingly enough, I have been playing with the idea that my negative emotions are parasitic. That they do, in fact, harm and degrade my mental hygiene and feelings of self worth. By choosing to actively listen to my thoughts, I have seen that it is practically second nature for my mind to start thinking about negative things. Or, in other words, my mind continuously vacillates between the judge and the victim. So I have begun an experiment: Every time I start to think negatively, I actively replace those thoughts with something positive, with something that I am truly in love with, happy with, or excited for.

The effects have been extraordinary. I feel as though I am witnessing myself choosing to place the bowl of food in front of the good and kind wolf, watching the negative and sad wolf angrily fight me for its regain of strength. Another way to look at it, is that I have changed brands: At first, I was feeding myself with thoughts that engendered more negativity and now I have replaced those thoughts (or, at least, I am trying to) with thoughts that engender positivity. ❤

So what are ways that we can all do this? To keep our mental hygiene in check so that our thoughts don’t go running with the wolves, so to speak.

3 Ways to Improve Hygiene:

Floss Your Thoughts:

Become aware of what you are saying to yourself, especially when you are experiencing a trying situation and especially when you are not “listeninyou are enoughg”. What I mean by this is that our minds seem to be chatting to us constantly. Try to observe what you are thinking when you are not thinking of anything in particular. Soon you may see that there are lies you have taken for granted as truth, simply because there wasn’t active focus on your thoughts.

Brush Up On Your Positive Affirmation:

Run of the mill hippy-chick tip? Yes. Very powerful? Yes. I have watched my life turn around, just by having nice things I routinely said to myself. I like to pick one or two phrases that are my go-to positive thoughts. Keep them in your back pocket to say to yourself whenever you need. This will take your mind away from the negative thinking and give you the keys to positivity. Similarly to when people say “fake it till you make it”, telling your mind positive thoughts, sends chemical signals and responses that can actually make you a happier person over time.

Wash your Thoughts of Negativity:

One step beyond the affirmations is actually getting into your brain and consciously replacing a negative thoughts with positive ones. An example of this would be: “Wow, I didn’t do as well as I wanted to on that report, even though I prepared for it. I’m an idiot. I hate myself.” Catch yourself. Take a breath, rewind, cut, replace, repeat: “Wow, I didn’t do as well as I wanted to on that report, even though I prepared for it. I bet there are ways I could improve next time. I know that I did my very best.”

 

So there you have it folks. Please feel free to comment or share bellow ❤ I would love to hear your thoughts, insights, and opinions on the matter.

Pose of the Week: Peaceful Warrior

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Peaceful Warrior

SHANTI VIRABHADRASANA

“There is no path to happiness. Happiness is the path. There is no path to love. Love is the path. There is no path to peace. Peace is the path.”

~Dan Millman

After the incredible amount of violence this week, it only seems fitting that the pose of the week would be peaceful warrior. I love that traditional yoga often centers around the warrior postures. It reminds us, we do not need vengeance to be strong. We do not need to inflict pain upon another to be triumphant. It reminds us that we do not count our victories as the number of wars have defeated on the battle field, but rather the amount of wars we have overcome within ourselves.

My heart goes out to those suffering right now at the hand of another. I feel so removed from that reality, I can only say this: The war stops externally, when the war stops internally. Peace is a choice. And it is possible. Do not lose faith. Do not lose your smile to grief. Draw inward and we will be triumphant. ❤

om shanti om shanti om shanti om.

Benefits of the Pose:

  • Strengthens the Legs
  • Stretches abdominal muscles and engages core
  • Stretches and supports the lungs
  • Opens Chest & Shoulder
  • Opens Heart

Asana Break Down:

Come into Warrior II (Virabhadrasana II), check your alignment with the front ankle. Make sure it is in alignment with the arch of the back foot. The back foot should be flat at a 45 degree angle. Bend deeply into the front knee. Make sure your front knee does not go past the front ankle. Draw the thighs together, squaring the hips, as if they were being pressed between two panes of glass. Arms should come out directly from the shoulder blades. Turn the hands towards the sky and bend backwards. Back and highly presses into the back leg. Most of the strength is being drawn from the core; the weight is not on the back knee. Open the chest and the heart lifts and spreads. Front arm comes over head, gaze comes towards the sky or the thumb.

 

Above, I have a chant you can say out loud or silently to yourself, either in this posture or sitting quietly. Om shanti translates into “om” the divine universe and “shanti” translates to peace, as a phrase it means may the divine creator, energy, and wisdom grant eternal peace to all things.

Pose of the Week: Dolphin

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Dolphin

MAKARASANA

Benefits of the Pose:

  • Relieves mild depression, headaches & back pains
  • Helps to calm the mind
  • Relieves symptoms of osteoporosis
  • Strengthens shoulders and abdominals
  • Stretches Hamstrings
  • Opens Heart
  • Preparation for forearm balance

Such a beautiful posture, amazing for alignment and strengthening the body to prepare for forearm balance. To get into this posture, begin in table or Adho Mukha Svanasana (Down ward facing dog). Once you have come into alignment in your preparatory posture, come down to your fore arms. Hands can come together into prayer, lay flat on the floor, or gently be clasping one another. If hamstrings are tight, you may take a bend in the knees. Otherwise, root though your ankles, allowing them to press into the floor. Allow the collar bones to lift and spread as shoulder blades draw near one another, chest beams towards the knees. Head hangs heavy. ❤

Please feel free to leave any questions, comments, or recommendations bellow.

Pose of the Week: Upward Facing Dog

Photo Credit: Lily Russo

Upward Facing Dog

URDVHA MUKHA SVANASANA

Benefits of the pose:

  • Strengthens arms, shoulders & wrists
  • Stretches spine, lungs & shoulders
  • Tones stomach muscles
  • Helps relieve mild depression and fatigue
  • Opens chest

Asana Breakdown:

To get into this pose, begin in low cobra. Firmly press your hands into the ground as your arms lengthen. Draw shoulder blades onto the back as the collar bones begin to lift and spread. Feet are together, big toes touching, tops of the feet touching the ground. Hips, thighs and shins are off the mat. Chin can gently tilt towards the ceiling.

Sources:

“Upward-Facing Dog.” Yoga Journal. Cruz Bay Publishing, n.d. Web. 5 Nov. 2015.

Mistakes: A Step In The Right Direction

It is a misconception to think any one of any stature is ever free from the capability of making mistakes. Mistakes can arise from even the most sincere intention or the smallest lapse in judgement. The importance of mistakes is that they give you feedback and new direction.

Growing up, I was a girl who strived for perfection and deeply criticized myself, my worth, and my merits if I did not meet the impossibly high standard I had set for myself. Interestingly enough, I did not have parents who pressured me to act this way nor was anything else in my surroundings urging me to do this to myself. It came from with in. This unfathomable fear of being wrong. I would say today I can at least pat myself on the back for not being a perfectionist, but I still do strive to answer the question, “What is the most right?”.

I remember this summer, I briefly took a job as a barista at my favorite coffee house. I really had no business being there, however. I knew nothing of coffee, nor did I even drink it myself. On one of my first days, I kept making a series of mistakes that lead to lots of spilling and clean up. I was so embarrassed, but relieved when I apologized to one of my co-workers who replied, “That’s okay. Mistakes are where life happens.”

Even recently, when I moved in with my partner — a move I may not have truly been ready for in my heart, but quickly learned to adapt to — he said to me a quote of similar nature: “Mistakes are unavoidable so you might as well have fun and enjoy the ride.”

Naturally, the part of my brain that has in some way or another programmed itself to strive for perfection was being overrided by the notion that a mistake could possibly been a good thing.

Mistakes are bound to happen. They hurt ourselves and they can hurt others, but they are ultimately how we learn, where we grow, and are what makes our journey unique. I recently lost a job I cared about deeply for a careless mistake, a mistake compatible to that which you make on a math test and think to yourself, “Really? I can’t believe I forgot to do that!”. It’s with a heavy heart that I step away from there, deeply regretting my actions. But I’d like to think that nothing happens without reason. Even mistakes. Yes, even mistakes are divinely orchestrated and can lead you to exactly where you need to be.

This post isn’t to say that you should purposefully make mistakes, but, perhaps, when you do make them, give yourself some room to breathe. Give yourself permission to mess up because that’s where life happens. When you find yourself in the midst of self-ridicule try to change to tone to one of self-compassion and have a little faith. Even though, you may feel deeply sorry for your actions, trust that all is as is because the universe is as is. And, ultimately that it will be okay. Have trust in your actions and faith in your merits. ❤

Yoga for PMS

Here’s one for the ladies! ❤ We’ve all been there. They are so so painful! here is a sequence to help relieve some of your period pains.

For more information on things you can do to get rid of/relieve menses pains, recipes, and more follow the link here

Pose of the Week: Triangle

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Triangle Pose

TRIKONASANA

Benefits:

  • Relieves stress & anxiety
  • Aids to back tension and pain
  • Strengthens thighs, ankles & knees
  • Stretches abdominal muscles that assist better digestion.
  • Good for sciatica, osteoporosis, & flat feet

Asana Break Down:

Begin in Warrior II (Virabhadrasana II), straighten front leg and extend forward, hinging your torso over your front thigh. Allow your front hand to find a block, shin or the floor. If your hands are placed on the floor, make sure your hand is firmly placed palm touching the ground or remain on your fingertips without compromising your thumb. Some people even like to allow their hand to free float by their shin or ankle, using their core muscles to maintain the integrity of this asana. Allow your other hand to reach towards the sky.

Next, we want to align the body by twisting deeper in the pose. To do this, imagine someone was pressing into your hand that is in the air and encouraging you to twist your lower ribcage forward. Head should align with the line of the spinal chord. Draw shoulder blades closer to one another and check your torso’s alignment over your front leg. Often, people will puff their chest forward and either collapse their ribcage or put their body dramatically off balance. Make sure the center of your torso aligns with the center of your front leg. Allow there to be a mirco-bend in the front leg so that you don’t hyper extend. Back hip muscle should descend down towards the ground. Allow the back body to lengthen. Take your gaze towards the sky.  ❤

Pose of the Week: Extended Puppy Pose

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Extended Puppy Pose

UTTANA SHISHOSANA

The body is my temple, asanas are my prayers.”

~ BKS Iyengar

Benefits of the Pose:

  • Relief spinal & neck tension
  • Relieves chronic stress, tension, and insomnia 1
  • Strengthens arms, hips, and upper back 1
  • Opens shoulders
  • Opens heart

Asana Breakdown:

This is a great gentle stretch and restorative pose. It’s very simple and easy to get into. In a Yin practice this pose is referred to as anahatasana, which means heart-melting pose 2. To get into it, begin in Downward Facing Dog (Adho Muhka Svanasana) and drop down onto all fours, checking your alignment of shoulders, wrists, knees, and hips: Shoulders should be stacked above wrists, hips above knees. Extend your arms out in front of you. Keep your arms active, being sure that they don’t touch the ground. Curl your toes underneath you. Allow the head to relax, coming to the floor, a blanket, or a block. Allow the collar bones to spread away from one another.

As the chest opens up, allow your heart to melt towards the floor. Notice, the tendency here is to compromise the lower back by dropping the ribcage too low. Take a moment here to wrap the ribs in closer like they were going to fold onto the sternum. Tailbone should descend here, activating Mula Bandha and Uddiyana Bandha. To activate these locks within the body, feel as if you tightening a belt a notch or two tighter than usual, causing the belly to move upward and in.

Bandha-Basics

Image from: http://bluezeliayoga.com/tag/uddyana-bandha/

Ultimately, this is a yummy pose and should feel really safe and comfortable to the body, take a moment to get settled into the pose, making micro adjustments to find your sweet spot. Find your breath here and breathe deep. ❤

Sources:

  1. “The Health Benefits of Uttana Shishosana (Extended Puppy Pose) | CNY Healing Arts Wellness Center & Spa.” CNY Healing Arts Wellness Center Spa The Health Benefits of Uttana Shishosana Extended Puppy Pose Comments. CNYHA, 25 Feb. 2011. Web. 06 Oct. 2015.
  2. “Extended Puppy Dog Pose – Uttana Shishosana | GaiamTV.” Gaiam TV. Gaiam TV, n.d. Web. 06 Oct. 2015.

No, I’m Not Sorry: A Path to Self-Love

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For the past year, I’ve been battling with the question of self-love: Do I love myself? What is self love? How does one achieve it? How do you know that you have it if you do?

In fact, this weekend I was out in the woods pondering this very question: What is true self-love? As I began to think about what it means to me, I couldn’t exactly pinpoint how I was not loving myself, yet I knew that I didn’t fully. And so today, I went to a kickboxing class. It was only my second one and I was very nervous. I wanted to get everything right and perform as well as the other students. Throughout the class I kept telling my partner “I’m sorry.” I must have said it about 50 times in the first twenty minutes. With loving eyes my partner just looked at me and said, “Girl, you gotta stop saying that. You don’t have anything to apologize for.” Her word hit me like a seven combination punch. I realized how I have continued to diminish my self-worth, my stances, and my opinions in my life by continuing to say “I’m sorry” for things that I don’t need to apologize for.

I think the act of overly saying sorry is a deep seeded issue that is rooted in our culture and upbringing. Birthed from the idea of  original sin, we have subtly and not-so-subtly invested in a Western Culture that believes our very existence is something we ought to apologize for.

For me personally, however, I think this is only one part of the puzzle. Even still, I couldn’t believe how empowering it was to hear that I didn’t need to be sorry. So with every thread of doubt — even when I had to bite my lip– I stopped saying I was sorry. Every time I threw a punch, I let me fist scream for me, “I am not sorry and I have nothing to apologize for!” It was a silent victory and one I am pleased to share. ❤

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

~Marianne Williamson