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The Modern Day Bear is Invisible

modernsociety

Stress is rampant in our culture and throughout the world. It comes in many forms, manifests uniquely within each person and throughout an individual’s lifetime. Stressors have changed over thousands of years but our body’s physiology still interprets stress in the same way. Instead of running from an actual bear, the modern day bear is invisible – here’s why.

Our ancestors behaved much differently on a day-to-day basis; spending time searching for food, hunting, gathering, traveling and resting to do it all over again the following day.  The main goal was to sustain life and pass on genetic material. Stressors in past civilizations included life and death scenarios, such as running from a wild animal for fear of life (let’s use a bear for the example). These types of stressors and scenarios had a clear start, middle and end. The bear sees you, you run, you escape, you live, the bear leaves, the end (or a different ending). This is where the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) kicks in. There are two sub-components to the ANS; the Sympathetic (SNS – fight or flight) and the Parasympathetic (PNS – rest and digest). Humans are either in one or the other. Ideally, we reside in the PNS. Our bodies shift to the SNS when dangerous and stressful situations arise. Physiologically when the body enters the SNS, cortisol, adrenaline and nor-adrenaline are released (often deemed stress hormones). Additionally, your body reacts to help you “fight or flight” the situation. Blood and energy are shunted to the musculoskeletal system, your eyes dilate, your airways dilate, etc.; all things to help you survive. While this is happening, your body is no longer in the PNS, as we can’t reside in both systems simultaneously. The PNS activates opposing actions – digest food, go to the bathroom, breathe slower, think clearly, relax. The intelligence that exists in the human knows that we need all the energy we can possibly produce if we are in the SNS, aka stop digesting food since it doesn’t matter if we get eaten by a bear.

Fast forward to the modern-day. Yes, it is possible you encounter a real bear. Generally speaking though, the day-to-day for most of us in this society is filled with “invisible bears”. Stress more often looks like: dislike of a job/career/boss/co-worker, marital struggles, challenges of child-rearing, financial concerns, support for friends or family members in need, jam-packed schedules and so much more. More often than not, these stressors do not have a clear-cut beginning, middle and end therefore constantly and indefinitely confusing your nervous system. Our ancestors were likely more adept at residing in the PNS and dipping circumstantially into the SNS; but our modern day bear is invisible and chronic leaving us to reside for years, often decades in the SNS.

Here’s the issue. Your body is not meant to reside in the SNS. It is not meant to constantly pump cortisol, adrenaline and nor-adrenaline throughout the system. By doing so, we end up depleting our adrenal system (among other linking systems) while feeling insidious aches and pains such as chronic fatigue, memory and concentration issues, anxiety, insomnia, etc. So how do you manage the bear? Find ways to manage your stress. While you may feel “good” at managing it, if your mind and body are still interpreting “danger”, physiologically it will respond that way.

There are many ways to train your mind and body to reside (or at least visit more regularly) the PNS. These things include but are not limited to: Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Yoga, Qigong, Tai chi, Meditation, Breathwork, Massage, Prayer, Spending time in nature, Talk therapy, Craniosacral Therapy, Reiki and so much more! Like anything else, it takes time and awareness to recognize your life stressors, how they trigger you and manifest in your mind and/or body, and re-regulating years of stress. Although you probably haven’t had a real bear chase you recently, the modern-day bear is invisible and follows many of us throughout our entire lives.

#acupuncture #TCM #stress #moderndaystress #invisiblebear #managestress #stresshormones #wellness #wellbeing #holistic #yoga #taichi #qigong #meditation #breathwork #nature #craniosacral #reiki #massage #prayer

How Emotions Impact Your Health According to TCM

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Most of us have a sense that our emotions play into our overall well-being. However, sometimes it can be hard to see a connection between emotions and physical or mental ailments. One of the many components of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) includes emotional patterns and tendencies and the corresponding element or meridian(s). Emotions are a healthy part of the human existence and are tools that we can use to help navigate and respond to ourselves and the world. Pathology occurs in the body and mind when emotions become long-term, excessive, or frequent in nature. This article explores the basics regarding emotional states, which meridians/elements they link with and possible symptoms.

Worry & Rumination – the Earth Element

A tendency to worry and ruminate, often showing up as forms of anxiety, links with the meridians of Spleen and Stomach. Chronic worry or pensiveness over the course of a lifetime or spending significant time “in your head” or with “the hamster wheel spinning” may contribute to a long-term or chronic deficiency in this elemental system. This can show up with symptom manifestations of (but not limited to): disharmony in the gut system, memory/concentration/focus issues, sleep disturbances, anxiety related symptoms, fatigue or lethargy, vision disturbances, dizziness, menstrual issues, tendency to be cold, muscle weakness and more.

Grief & Sadness – the Metal Element

A tendency toward sadness, long-term or unresolved grief links with the meridians of Lung and Large Intestine. This can show up with symptom manifestations of (but not limited to): shortness of breath, asthma, chest pain or tightness, fatigue or lethargy, perspiration irregularities, overall dryness, skin issues, depression, allergy symptoms, constipation, pain or discomfort in the lower abdomen, circulation issues and more.

Fear & Shock – the Water Element

A tendency toward being fearful or having a shocking, unanticipated experience links with the meridians of Kidneys and Urinary Bladder. This can show up with symptom manifestations of (but not limited to): any type of urination/bladder issue, low back/knee/ankle pain, ringing in the ears, fatigue or lethargy, numbness or tingling in the body, tension headaches occurring in the neck and into the back of the head, tendency to be warm or cold, fertility/menstruation/libido issues, dry skin, graying or loss of hair and more.

Anger & Irritability – the Wood Element

A tendency toward anger, irritability and frustration links with the meridians of Liver and Gallbladder. This can show up with symptom manifestations of (but not limited to): high blood pressure, headaches/migraines, pain/tension in the musculoskeletal system, menstrual issues, ringing in the ears, tendency to be warm or hot, glaucoma or vision disturbances, easy to tears, muscle cramping or twitching, sleep disturbances, circulation issues and more.

Over Stimulation & Over Joy – the Fire Element

A tendency toward over stimulation and elation links with the meridians of Heart, Pericardium (the heart protector), Small Intestine and San Jiao (also known as the Triple Warmer/Heater/Burner). This can show up with symptom manifestations of (but not limited to): difficulty with focus/attention/concentration, irregular heart rhythm, palpitations or heart flutters, circulation issues, emotional ups/manic behavior, tendency to be hot or warm, perspiration irregularities, sleep disturbances, menopausal issues, fatigue or lethargy, burning urination and more.

A few additional notes on this topic:

TCM vs. Western patterns and diagnoses

It is important to remember that TCM has a unique lens in which it looks at meridians and organ systems. There is overlap with western diagnoses and patterns but it is not exact and has additional components and manifestations specific to Chinese Medicine’s viewpoint.

Humans are complicated and multi-faceted

Often times, we have multiple imbalances going on and therefore patterns, symptoms and presentations vary. The above mentioned symptoms are basic and there are many more patterns, symptoms and diagnostic tools utilized by your acupuncturist during your treatments.

The range of human emotion is vast

The emotions termed above are general and can encompass a gamut of other related emotions. For example, the Wood element pairs with anger and irritability. Other emotions that can be linked under that element include jealousy, envy, resentment, bitterness, etc.

Emotions are just a piece of the puzzle

Although emotions are often heavily involved in the root cause of issues, it is only a piece of the whole and a deeper understanding of the entire picture is necessary in TCM.

Awareness around emotions

A metaphor that I constantly use in my practice is this; when my emotions try to drive my car, I throw them in the back seat. Don’t let your emotional state rule your life, but let them be part of it. Utilize emotions as information and insight to better understand the overall picture for you, at that current time. It is important for each person to consider what healthy vs. unhealthy emotions look like on a day-to-day basis in your own life – not someone else’s.

Acupuncture Fundamentals: A TCM & Western Perspective

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Most people are now familiar with the term “acupuncture”, know it involves needles and know that it helps with pain management. However, there is still ongoing debate and conversation around how, why and for what it works. There is an abundant amount of research on many topics including and surrounding acupuncture and related modalities, but still much is needed. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is a deep and complicated system that encompasses many ever-changing components. The following content is basic and simplified. It can be (and has been) profoundly expanded upon. It is my ultimate goal to spread this medicine and help others to understand what it takes a Licensed Acupuncturist 3-5 years to accomplish…plus a lifetime of study and practice.

A TCM perspective

Humans are a microcosm (a miniature version) of the universe and nature that surrounds us. We all have meridians, or channels, that course throughout our entire bodies. We are also composed of a number of constituents such as Qi (pronounced Chee), blood, body fluids, yin and yang (pronounced y-ah-ng). In a healthy and balanced human, all of these entities are balanced; nothing is excessive, nothing is deficient, nothing is blocked or stagnated. Qi can flow freely throughout the meridians and this free-flowing energy helps to create a vibrant, lively and animated person. When any of the above listed constituents becomes imbalanced in any way, the mind and/or body becomes diseased; symptoms and ailments begin to arise. Depending on which entities are out of whack, different pathologies occur.

The five elements

Every person also has a system of five elements (according to TCM) that should remain in balance as well, in order to stay healthy. These elements are reflections of the natural world around us and include: Earth, Metal, Water, Wood and Fire. All of these elements have predispositions to certain pathologies, certain behaviors, certain emotions, certain tendencies, etc. and can get out of alignment just as Qi, blood, body fluids, yin and yang can.

Causes of imbalance & re-harmonization

There are many things that can contribute to disharmony in the elements and constituents. This can include: our diet, lifestyle, habits and behaviors, emotional well-being, trauma or accidents, extreme weather shifts, pharmaceuticals and more. Acupuncture and related modalities such as cupping, Chinese herbology, moxibustion, guasha, Tuina, Qigong, etc. can aid in re-balancing disharmonies and imbalance. TCM looks at the mind, body and soul when determining what needs to be addressed, how frequently and for how long. However, as I have mentioned in a previous blog, overall health and well-being includes the combination of many things: diet, emotional management, supportive relationships, community involvement, passion and drive in life, exercise and physical movement, self – care and more. TCM can only go so far to combat disease and disharmony when other components of life are mismanaged.

A western perspective

Acupuncture and cupping are tools used to create micro-injury to the body. Micro-injury signals the immune system and corresponding cascade systems to activate and begin the process of healing itself. The needle is a signal. Just as a bee sting signals your immune system to respond to the foreign invader, so does an acupuncture needle. Acupuncture signals the system to: down-regulate pain and inflammation, clear out cellular debris, produce endorphins, promote healthy blood and lymphatic flow and circulation, talk to different types of neurotransmitters and physiologically much more.

Research

TCM can be difficult to research and study as some of the fundamental constituents of the medicine are not visible to the naked eye. You can’t see the meridians as they are the spaces between the cardiovascular system, the nervous system, the lymph system, etc. You can’t grab Qi and dissect it to learn the mechanism. However, researchers are continuously making impressive strides to study and understand this ancient medicine. There are components that we can physiologically understand and others we are still working to make sense of in this modern era.

Mindset

This medicine is vast. It has breadth and depth, is dynamic and hardly black and white. It meets each person specifically where they need to be met, at that time. As with many things in medicine and health, it is an ongoing practice. Each person varies drastically, and throughout the course of a lifetime. If it’s hard to wrap your mind around, you are not alone. If you are hesitant to try because you are unsure how or why it works, find solace in the fact that it is some 2 – 4,000 years old and produces results. Sometimes we may not know exactly how or why, just that we feel whole again.

The Science Behind Cupping

 

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As acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) sweep the nation, more people are seeing that there are many methodologies under the umbrella of TCM. Since the Olympians proudly displayed their marks, cupping has become a curiosity that many have questions about.  Here are five common inquiries about the method.

What is cupping?

Cupping is an ancient method of healing practiced internationally among many different cultures. There are a variety of types of cups including glass, plastic, bamboo, silicone and more. There are also a variety of methods such as dry, wet, needle, moving/sliding and stationary. Fire cupping is traditionally used in Chinese Medicine. Fire removes the oxygen from within the cup creating a vacuum and allowing it to be suctioned onto the body. Often, TCM practitioners also use plastic or silicone based cups. Instead of fire, a suction pump, or even just pressing the cups directly onto the body will create the vacuum.

How does it work?

Once applied, the suction creates a negative pressure (vacuum) on the muscle and fascia layer. At this point, the healing mechanism is threefold: 1) it helps to loosen tight and constricted muscles and bound up fascia  2) it aids in pulling up and out stagnant/trapped blood from various layers throughout the musculoskeletal system causing lack of blood and lymph flow and potential circulation issues 3) it signals the immune system to perform self-healing actions. Cupping can be stationary or moving. Stationary cups are applied to the affected area of the body and are left in place an average of 5-15 minutes. The moving method gently slides the cups around the affected area. It is up to your practitioner which method will be utilized.

What is it used for?

Cupping is often used for muscular complaints such as neck and back pain, but it can also be used for headaches, insect bites, hypertension, respiratory issues, digestive issues, skin disorders, general immune boosting and other musculoskeletal issues like shoulder, knee, hip and foot pain.

From a TCM perspective, pain in the body is often viewed as some form or combination of Qi and/or blood stagnation. This means that the free flow of our vital energy (Qi) and/or the blood flow is blocked somewhere in our meridians. Cupping as well as acupuncture are great methods to unblock stagnant, trapped energy and blood and get things moving.

Does it hurt?

In my practice, the vast majority of people love cupping, stating that it feels great and immediately relieves tension. Commonly, individuals report that in addition to feeling less tight or less pain, they feel calmer, less agitated, more relaxed and even sleep better the night of cupping. Occasionally, the local area may feel tender the next day or so but often that is with rigorous, deep cupping.

What’s with the dark circles?

While there can be debate among practitioners about whether the marks left behind from cupping are technically a bruise or not, the mechanism in which cupping affects the body is quite simple. The skin is highly vascular. When the cups are applied creating the vacuum, it:

1) creates vasodilation (blood vessels/capillaries become more open and have more blood flowing through) which leads to fresh blood and oxygen to the area

2) causes micro-injury to the tissues triggering an immunological response from the body and aiding in a faster healing time; and can also lead to capillary rupture and ecchymosis (discoloration of the skin due to blood vessels near the surface rupturing and leaking into surrounding tissue – aka the marks you see)

3) aids in the promotion of angiogenesis (the growth of new capillaries which means more blood and oxygen flow)

While the marks can look painful, they are simply the result of vascular changes occurring in the body due to cupping as a therapeutic intervention. They typically disappear within the week and likely will continue to get lighter and lighter as you continue to receive cupping.

More research is needed on cupping, its effects on the body, what it helps and the differing types; but next time you are in for an acupuncture treatment, give it a try! You may find that the marks are a temporary fashion statement worth having.

3 Surprising Connections TCM Makes to the Fall Season & How to Integrate Them

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A fundamental component of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is seeing the human as a microcosm of the nature, elements and environments that surround us. To remain in harmony, shifting and changing dynamically just as the seasons do, is ideal. There are behaviors, tendencies and even foods that can best aid and support us depending on the season. Autumn is here and TCM has a lot of links to it that you may not expect. Here are 3 (of many) that you can concentrate on this fall.

The Metal Element

Fall is a time to harvest the literal and metaphorical fruits of your labor. The energetics of this season and element, switch from summer and maximum expansion to contracting inward and downward toward our core. The intuitive drive to begin the process of collecting and storing in order to be successful throughout winter is ever-present. Leaves fall, animals prepare for hibernation, climate becomes dry and the bright and vivid colors of the spring and summer fade, turning lighter and drier. Autumn slows down to meet winter’s absolute stillness.

How to embrace the Metal Element:

  • Slow down. The constant activities and energy of summertime reaches ultimate Yang and autumn starts the transformation into winter and ultimate Yin.
  • Reflect. What things have come to fruition in your life over the last year? Look at your “harvest” and remember the seeds that you planted earlier to yield the current crop.
  • Conserve energy. Commit less. Say yes only when you truly want to. Rest. Spend time interacting with yourself.

The Lungs and Large Intestine (LI)

Every element in TCM has corresponding meridians and organ systems that it links with and Autumn is all about the Lungs and Colon. When there is imbalance in these systems it can often be due to unresolved grief and sadness (more on that later), sedentary lifestyles, poor food choices and exterior conditions related to environment. Generally speaking, there are foods to eat, ways to cook them, activities to do and external precautions that can be taken to complement this time of the year.

How to support the Lungs & LI:

  • Eat foods that are pungent, such as: chilies, hot peppers, onion, garlic, ginger, cabbage, radish.
  • Eat foods that are rich in beta-carotene, such as: carrot, pumpkin, kale, winter squash and broccoli.
  • Eat fibrous foods, such as: pear, apple, broccoli, artichoke, sweet potato, chia seeds, lentils, oats, chickpeas and beets.
  • Eat more hearty, nourishing foods from the earth. Bake, saute and make soup!
  • Practice breathing exercises. Breathe deeply and smoothly through your nostrils, expand your belly like a balloon as you bring the outside air in, pause for a moment at the top of your inhalation and exhale smoothly through your mouth, bringing your belly toward your spine. Repeat.
  • Stay active. Consider what you enjoy, what motivates you and what is reasonable. Setting goals that you can achieve help to promote forward movement and consistency.
  • Dress for the weather. If it’s cold or windy, cover your neck. Try to stay out of extreme weather.

Grief & Sadness

A beautiful part of TCM is the incorporation of emotions and how they can interplay with our health or lack-there-of. Emotions can be wonderful tools that aid in navigating the waters of this mysterious and often complicated life. However, they too can become unregulated and put a kink in the system. Grief and sadness are the predominant emotions tied to the metal element and consequently the fall. 

Ways to use the fall energetics to observe grief & sadness:

  • Look within. As mentioned, fall is a great time for reflection and introspection as the natural energetic is to move inward and downward. Awareness of a pattern, feeling, association, etc. is often a big part of the healing process.
  • Organize. Fall is also a great time to bring organization to scattered and abundant Yang energy. Organize your thoughts regarding how you can show yourself self-love and support while you sort through any emotions that may come up and out.
  • Share. If you feel safe and called to release any repressed feelings of grief or sadness, share with a loved one, a professional, a journal or even out loud to yourself. Let go.

While the above mentioned suggestions may work for many, it is always important to remember they are generalized and both humans and TCM are complicated systems. Staying authentic to yourself and using suggestions and information as guidelines for life choices can help steer life in a more natural way that is most efficacious for you.

Now is the time to slow down, conserve, look inward and warmly nourish yourself. Winter is coming. 

7 Things an Acupuncturist Wants You to Know

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Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) as modalities are still climbing the popularity ladder; because of this there is still a lot of education needed for the general public about these ancient methods of healing. Here are seven things I repeatedly talk about in my practice that help people understand how the medicine works.

Results vary wildly  

I am frequently asked, “how long will it take to achieve results?” and unfortunately there is no template answer. Consider the following regarding changes: How long have you had the issue? Do you have multiple issues/complaints? How severe is it? What other types of interventions have you tried? Every person responds uniquely to acupuncture and some people take leaps and bounds to recovery in a short time span. Typically, the longer you have had the problem, or the more complicated the situation, the longer it is going to take to unravel the issue. Acupuncture & TCM treat not only the symptoms you are experiencing but the root cause as well. It is a subtle medicine and works in a delicate and gentle way to harmonize and balance the systems of the body and mind. Although we do our best to work efficiently and quickly for results, there is no magic needle. Having reasonable expectations of healing will benefit both you and the practitioner.

Keep a scale mindset 

Because acupuncture compounds on itself and works in subtle ways, it tends to shift on a scale rather than jump from existent to non-existent. There really is no part of TCM that is black and white, and the healing process is often non-linear. You may take a step back, before taking any forward. When you visit your practitioner for a session, think about the following things: did the issue improve at all? If I were to rate it on a scale, did it change even half of a point? Is the issue less intense or less frequent? Do I concentrate on the issue less? Am I able to focus more on my daily life? Does it feel like I am moving in the right direction? Was anything else affected positively such as mood, sleep, energy, etc.? Prior to visiting an acupuncturist, if you have seen all kinds of other practitioners, for many sessions or length of time, and not seen great results, ask yourself: how many sessions have I been to and how do the results compare to other practitioners? It is not about who does more for you or what the better modality is. It is about what works best for you at that time and that you are moving in the direction of healing. Often times, people get the best results by seeking out multiple types of practitioners and methods.  

Keep a journal or record 

Keeping some type of log or tracking can help you stay clear about the level of results you are getting from acupuncture. It can be hard to keep track of many little details, so being able to look back and see the shifts and changes that have subtly occurred over the course of your treatment plan can give an accurate depiction of where you started and how far you have come.

Don’t give up too soon

Hang in there and give the medicine time to work. Remember why you sought out this treatment method and trust that your practitioner is doing everything possible to get you the desired results.

There is no detail too small

Everything counts in TCM. Details help the practitioner determine the best methods of treating you and even the smallest piece of information could be critical for your journey. Try to be an open book!

Seek to understand your level of personal accountability
To put it frankly, there is only so much your acupuncturist can do within the scope of the
medicine. Wellness and health occur due to the combination of many things: emotional balance and harmony, dietary and food choices, exercise and movement, passion and hobbies, supportive relationships, belonging to community, connection with nature and much more. Advice, suggestions, resources and tools may all be given by your practitioner but each person has a choice on how they will live their life on a day-to-day basis. Try keeping the whole picture in mind when you are gauging whether or not acupuncture and related modalities are helping.

Find the right person

Acupuncturists vary as much as anything else in the world and everyone brings something unique to the table. Connecting with your practitioner is important and you may have to shop around until you find the right fit. If you have tried acupuncture in the past and had a bad experience, trust that there is someone out there (likely multiple people) that will give you a much more enjoyable and memorable experience.

 

Chinese Medicine Remedies to Combat the Cold & Flu Season

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During the winter season, illness can rear its ugly head and it is not uncommon for people to experience colds and flus. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) regards these illnesses as external invasions/exterior conditions. This means that an external pathogen has begun the process of battling with your body. If you are not in tip-top shape (and sometimes even when you are), a seasonal illness may ensue.
 
What are some signs of an exterior condition?
  • It has a recent, acute onset; short duration
  • Simultaneous chills and fever
  • Stuffy head, runny nose, sore throat, a thin coating on the tongue
  • Achiness, stiff neck, recent headache
  • Intolerance to wind or cold
As mentioned, these issues are in the exterior so TCM explains in order to balance the conditions, we should choose herbs and spices that reach toward the periphery and open sweat glands to sweat out the pathogen lodged near the surface. Contrary to what some think, using tonics such as Ginseng or animal products, can actually worsen the condition by driving it deeper into the body.
 
Utilize the following suggestions upon the onset of symptoms:
  • Eat less; use a liquid-based diet of vegetable or grain soup if chills are greater than fever; if fever predominates utilize fresh fruit or vegetable juices
  • Use Sweat Therapy: drink 1-2 cups of hot herbal tea (such as ginger or cinnamon) followed by a hot bath or shower, followed by another round of hot tea. Lastly, cover yourself in blankets or layers of clothing to promote sweating. Do not sweat to the point of exhaustion. Change clothes or sheets if damp and continue to rest. You can repeat this process twice daily until symptoms improve.
  • Common diaphoretic herbs (cause sweating): ginger, chamomile, peppermint, cayenne pepper, garlic; you can also add lemon and honey to teas
  • Integrate Vitamin C
Once you are back to healthy and vibrant, continue to eat well to boost your immunity and prevent future exterior invasions.
*Excerpts of blog taken from Healing with Whole Foods, Third Edition, Paul Pitchford

5 Ways to Improve Happiness Right Now

Do you ever think that “you’ll feel happier once…” you get to a certain destination, your business meets a certain goal, your house has that specific update you’ve wanted, your partner fixes something you’ve been annoyed with for a long time, you live in a new city, etc.? That way of thinking may ultimately be creating a barrier for you to feel happy right now, in this moment. Keep in mind the following tips to cultivate happiness in your life:

  1. Know that happiness is always within you – as cliché and new-agey as that sounds, it is true. Happiness can be cultivated from within at any point, any place, under any circumstance. Happiness is a point-of-view, a perspective and something you can choose to feel anytime (this is much easier said than done, but it is an ongoing practice). The more frequently you decide to be happy, the faster and easier it will be to get to your happy place; or even better, reside there permanently.

 

  1. Get into nature – how many times per day, even per week are you outside? Spending time in nature does not have to be hours of planning and dedication, hiking on a grand mountainside; it can be taking 5 minutes during your morning cup of coffee to step onto your porch and listen to the birds. There is no hard and fast way you should enjoy nature, but think about the ways that you can carve out even a few minutes of your day to appreciate a sunrise, smell the ocean air, feel the breeze in your hair, look at the dew drop on a house plant, gaze at your garden, smile into the sun…the list could go on forever!

 

  1. Reduce your intimacy with technology – we are in a culture of technology and social media. Not only do many people have to interact daily with it because of their jobs, but much of people’s personal lives are spent on the phone, computer, tablet, TV, etc. This is increasing the time we spend with blue screens (look up research on this for side effects) and therefore decreasing the available time we: spend in nature, spend face-to-face with others, engage in meaningful activities, cultivate healthy self-habits, just to name a few. Often, people don’t even realize how much time they spend looking at a screen or how it impacts their mind and body. While technology and social media have brought about many amazing and positive things to our world, it is imperative to find a balance. Technology and social media can inhibit our ability to remember #1 – happiness is always within you. Try to remember that when your happiness meter fluctuates after seeing someone else post a picture that looks perfect and flawless, of a perfect and flawless location and a perfect and flawless couple. Things are usually not what they seem.

 

  1. Practice gratitude – at least once a day, think/write/say at least 3 things that you are grateful for. Gratitude engenders love, compassion, patience, authenticity and many other positive qualities in life.

 

  1. Spend 10 minutes each day doing something you love – when you carve out time for yourself, you promote self-love and value. Ten minutes is a range of time that most people can part with to do something that makes them feel good (especially if you practice #3). The more you build your self-love, the more it will resonate within you and to those surrounding you.

5 Things Everyone Should Know About the Practice of Yoga

Yoga is for everyone.

Because yoga is a trendy and popular thing nowadays (which is great!), there can also be images, types of clothing and apparel and even body types that are continuously represented in media. Ultimately, this creates the idea for many people that because they don’t “fit the mold” they can’t or shouldn’t practice yoga. YOGA IS FOR EVERYONE. Yoga is a way of living, being, breathing, treating others and oh yea, also a way to do a series of poses that are great for your mind and body. You don’t need to wear brand-name clothes, be tattooed, wear mala beads, eat quinoa and kale for breakfast and do a one-fingered handstand every day to be a yogi. There may be individuals out there who do fit that description (probably a less exaggerated one), and that is what is right for them. Find ways to integrate the spirit of yoga into your life and what works for you. Just remember, yoga is for everyone.

You don’t have to do yoga every day for at least an hour.

Ideally, yoga creates more positive effects on the bodymind when it is practiced consistently; but life isn’t always consistent! Every person is in a constant flux and sometimes what felt good for the last three months, doesn’t feel right or good any more. Part of the beauty of yoga is that you honor your body and spirit with what it needs. Perhaps it is just 5 minutes a day, or you stand up at your cubicle every hour to do one pose before starting work again; maybe it’s an hour one day and 20 minutes the next! A big key is being patient and kind to yourself about the type of routine you create and know that it will change, just as you change…and that’s OKAY! Aim for consistency on some regard, but cultivating awareness and ease around your practice is just as important as the practice itself.

Successful meditation does not look like what you might think it does.

I often hear that people “tried it but just aren’t good at it”. Meditation comes in many forms and experiences. It does not require you to sit on the floor, cross-legged, with your hands in a specific form, without a thought whispering through your mind (another exaggerated image). If that truly, in your heart, works for you, keep it up! Just as you don’t have to look or dress a certain way to practice yoga, you don’t have to meditate a certain way for success. Consider different forms of meditation; for example mindfulness meditation does not require you to stop the mental chatter that occurs, as it is a natural tendency for the human being especially in the culture we live in now, but to be aware of the chatter that is occurring and consistently redirect the attention to a singular point, such as the breath or a mantra. Just the fact that you sit down and bring awareness to your breath, to your mind, to your life is success…don’t discount showing up. That is why it is called a practice.

Yoga is not just about poses.

In the western society, often times we find yoga to be a fitness activity and it is great for that. Many texts and teachings discuss the physical postures or asanas, are practiced in order to sit more comfortably, practice the breathwork and ultimately reach a meditative state. The word asana is often translated to mean “a comfortable and easy position”(Ray Long, The Key Muscles of Yoga: Hip Openers) Because the bodymind is connected, we still reap mental benefits simply by jumping on the mat and doing poses. However, yoga is also about breathing and meditating, finding awareness (more on that later), and translating that into daily life; the way you are in the world, how you treat yourself and others.

Advanced poses aren’t required to be great at yoga.

I have been practicing yoga for 10 years and teaching for 2 and I can’t do the most advanced form of many poses. Sometimes I can, and other days I can’t. It is important to honor your body and spirit in your practice and look at yoga as a form of therapeutic balance and healing and not a competition (with others or yourself). A good teacher will show you modifications to the pose and empower you to advance through the pose as you and your body are ready. Poses, breathwork and meditation are not black and white, and there are many steps on the path. Enjoy the journey and not just the destination!