3. YOGA, PHYSICAL STRENGTH & MENTAL RESILIENCE

3. YOGA, PHYSICAL STRENGTH & MENTAL RESILIENCE

Whether we’re slipping into a burn out, are on the edge of one or are in the midst trying to scramble out, often we’re faced with overwhelming fatigue and muscle weakness. Yet letting go of physical strength adversely affects our physiology. This changes our hormonal balance, impacting energy, mood, emotions and mental health. Self-esteem, confidence and acceptance can be affected by this complex circuitry.

So we often feel like we’re stuck in a vicious cycle. And no one seems to have all the answers; something works for a while but then a few weeks later it’s no longer effective. For two years I was in this situation.

That’s why I’ve created these six steps to ensure we include all the aspects of self and each pillars to support healing and growth.

PHYSICAL STRENGTH & MENTAL RESILIENCE

It’s a fine line between growth and regression. So it’s vital to increase physical strength incrementally and improve physiology and bounce back without wearing ourselves out more. Nor allowing our physicality to whither away. We want to create a point of resistance in our physical body, a strong charge. This physical body map translates to mental and emotional bodies.

Physical strength makes us feel capable of meeting the demands of our physical interactions. Leading to self-confidence and lending itself to mental resilience. Knowing our needs, desires and abilities, discussed in step 1 on burnout, and how to relax deeply shared in step 2, creates a reservoir enabling us to build strength; step 3. One that resists external pressures, so we set up healthy boundaries, physical, psychological and professional, to further ensure wellbeing.

3 THINGS THAT AFFECT OUR RESILIENCE

  • Resilience depends on our autonomy; whether physical, emotional or mental, affecting our sense of self. Building any of these up affects our other layers. Leading to willpower, ability and confidence both mentally and emotionally.
  • People pleasing, perfectionism, overachieving, overdoing and burnout go hand in hand. These defence mechanisms to avoid facing our unconscious lack of confidence or self-worth, or maybe unacknowledged shame and low self-image, drain mental, emotional and physiological energy, making us reactive, irritated and exhausted instead of receptive.
  • Core strength rebuilds a strong centre from which we can see if we’re honouring our own worth or that of others. When we work with our physical body, the one we can easily study, see and experience with our five senses, it become a template to better understanding our subtler bodies of energy, mind and psyche. Which also have ‘limbs and organs’; diverse functions and abilities, as well as needs and desires; SWOTs.

RESILIENCE AS SELF-CONFIDENCE

Physical strength and physiological resistance are the solid container upholding our boundaries. The psychological bounce back to life’s challenges affect mood, energy and emotions. It’s our autonomous juice. This resilience gives us a physical and psychological sense of response-ability and with it returns our self-confidence.

EXERCISE: Now without changing your present posture in the slightest –

Feel your posture; become aware of your core strength, feel your energetic stance. Notice your emotional charge and perceive your mental space. Now become aware of your heart and deeper consciousness. Notice the qualities of each layer. Ask yourself, “What are the dynamics, movement and textures I find in each layer? Is it solid, fluid, full, spacious, heavy, light, vague, open, flowing, stagnant, numb, scattered?” Use descriptive words to name what you feel and experience.

Now for a few moments sit with energy, certainty and embody strength and concentrated emotional charge. Imagine being a solid mountain or very magnetic person. Now feel and note any difference in your centre. What kind of qualities do you experience different from before? Is there some form of resistance and containment? Where is it coming from and how did you create that? Allow that charge to sink in, absorb and embody it.

Now, imagine someone asks, or pressures, you to do something you really don’t want to do, how would you respond when feeling strong from within and embodying that posture?

STRENGTH IS THE GATEWAY TO SELF-CONFIDENCE

Building strength is the gateway to resilience. And strength requires us to resist. To push back and create a core centre of self.

You build strength and resilience incrementally with body-awareness, honesty and by adapt practices to present needs and abilities. The first two steps of trust in self and enjoyment in life are the building blocks to reclaim self-worth. They give us the juice and safety to dare and take up space, to walk out when someone steps over our boundaries. 

Shame and boundary invasion, the opposite of confidence, are patterns we perpetuate when we have self-worth issues. Making us do things we probably don’t actually want to do, if we’d listen to our inner wisdom; visceral cues.

Resisting what feels wrong is a sign of inner strength. Honouring that inner wisdom is a sign of psychological integrity and autonomy. Cultivating your sensitivity to what is healthy for you will rebuild a strong self-worth and mental and emotional resilience.

Dare to speak up, to feel bold and brave. People will respect you for it and you’ll feel alive and embody well-being. Being from our inner resource, not from outer approval and acknowledgement, we reclaim wellbeing.

Join the YOGA WELLNESS & RESILIENCE COURSE here.

Much Love,

Shira

Please leave your insights below and add to the conversation.

2. SELF-ESTEEM & EMOTIONAL WELLBEING

2. SELF-ESTEEM & EMOTIONAL WELLBEING

Energy is the juice of life, Rasa in Sanskrit. When our energy current is unreliable it can make us feel as if we have no control over our lives. That’s just not true.

WE ACTUALLY HAVE A VERY BIG SAY OVER OUR LIVES, ONCE WE UNDERSTAND OUR HORMONES, EMOTIONS AND ASSOCIATED ENERGY DIRECTIONS AS A CURRENCY WE CAN INFLUENCE.

Seeing relationships are built on emotions, and our energy levels influence how we feel and therefore emote, working with our energy states according to our needs, abilities and the time of day, and changing its direction when necessary, will change how we feel and relate.

Health is returning to wholeness. Burnout recovery and prevention is small steps to wholeness, starting with last weeks blog on self-knowledge. Knowing our Ayurvedic type and personality type, as well as our fears, needs, and emotional repetoire, begin the journey back to wholeness..

ENKINDLE SELF-ESTEEM THROUGH NURTURING DEEP RELAXATION

Knowing our self better, we also know what help us feel safe and nourished enabling deep relaxation. That’s when we start enjoying life again. Enjoyment and nourishment are the basis of self-esteem and leads to self-confidence. Just as it’s vital for a business to know their clients wants and needs to thrive, we need to know what we want and need to flourish ourselves.

Relaxation occurs when our vagus nerve moves into Prarsympathetic Nervous System activity, PNS. PNS activity positively affects our hormones, mood, energy, immunity and all the rest that we associate with health and wellbeing. Because it moves the blood from the muscles and brain back to digestion and restoration of tissues, organs and our entire system, it rebalances the chemistry caused by changes.

So vagal tone and the ability to switch well between PNS and sympathetic SNS, is key. Yoga therapy being especially very effective.

Three things are essential for deep relaxation to occur;

  • Switching from fight/flight sympathetic vagal activation to parasympathetic activity, rest and digest/tend and befriend  
  • Social interaction, connection and activity
  • Rebuilding our wiring for pleasure and enjoyment through self-care

3 WAYS TO ENGAGE REST AND DIGEST VAGAL ACTIVITY

Rest and digest activation of our vagus nerve enables digestion, restoration and socialisation. Chronic stress creates breakdown of cell juncture cohesion leading to digestive, immune and blood-brain barrier issues, further resulting in brain fog and hormonal imbalance

SENSES Seeing facial muscles, hearing a familiar or gentle voice, and sweet smells and tastes all promote vagal tone and PNS activation.The speed of neural connectivity of physical contact and emotional connection is the same, 60-70m per second. So we also allow the emotions of contentment, pleasure and joy to arise.

PHSYICAL Physical contact, touch, massage and hugs or hand holding is another very effective and sure way to increase the hormones of oxytocin, vasopressin and relaxin in small amounts. Which naturally reduces the effects of adrenalin and cortisol.[i]

SOCIAL When we interact socially, we activate the vagus nerv, sending messages of safety to the brain. Connecting with others, seeing another persons facial expressions as we interact, mirroring ours send visceral cues of safety and allows our nervous system to relax.

Supportive social engagement, being present in the moment by being embodied, sensing and feeling bodily sensations as we move, breathe and intergarte our body with mind and emotions. And our spine, that magnificent house of our nerves, also thrives when we move it in its full capacity, translated into our full capacity of being and therefore living well. Setting off a cascade of pleasant hormones.

EMOTIONS & HORMONES

As the quality of your rest is key to you reclaiming wellbeing, doing less and enjoying being more is the essence of restoration and enjoyment. Enjoyment is essential because it allows us to rest deeply and therefore truly relax. Which is when the body and mind can and will restore and heal.

Rest is not buildt in or considered worthy in our culture. Either we are go getters or people pleasers. On the treadmill long enough makes relaxation a hard art to come by because we’re wired, neurologically and hormonally to do, act and do some more.

Why? Guilt makes others comply and an excellent motivator for doing more.

Guilt and enjoyment are opposites of the emotional and chemical spectrum. Chronic guilt makes us rigid, emotionally, mentally and socially. Less adaptable to stressors prevents relaxation and our ability to restore so we keep doing, going and hoping to find what we seek through external approval.

Restoration happens when our vagal activation moves from fight/flight to rest/diges, and the hormones of adrenalin and cortisol are reduced by serotonin, GABA, DHEA, oxytocin and dopamine flowing through our system, enabled by mindful, breath centred, yoga practice to the sound of a gentle voice.

SHIFTING FROM FIGHT/FLIGHT TO REST/DIGEST

Stress moves blood and nutrients to the muscles and brain for quick action, away from mouth, digestion and metabolism; healing. A good way to know if you’re in SNS or PNS is to notice if you have a dry mouth. If so it signifies SNS activation; fight/flight.

What you can do right now is breathe in for the count of 4, exhaling for the count of 8 while humming. Do that up to 5 rounds or more until you notice more saliva in your mouth. Now you have switched to rest and digest. Now choose another activity – bath, foot massage, walk in nature, yoga, yoga nidra or meditation to take that relaxation a little deeper and make it last longer.

Yoga therapy works directly with vagal activation of PNS. Gentle touch, speech, extended exhale, spinal movement, all activate the vagus nerve toning it, leading to improved stress resiliency, emotional and relational adaptability

So we can self-regulate your nervous system! Feeling safe; week 1, is the first step to encouraging vagal PNS activation. Rest and relaxation are the second steps. Benefitting digestion, restoration, healing and growth, relaxation can half recovery time, improving psychological wellbeing through self-agency.

Reclaiming ourwellbeing and self-esteem as we start to enjoy the smaller things in life for a while.

Much Love,

Shira.


[i] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15834840/

1. BURNOUT & RE-EVALUATING NEEDS THROUGH SELF-KNOWLEDGE

1. BURNOUT & RE-EVALUATING NEEDS THROUGH SELF-KNOWLEDGE

Knowing ourselves and listening to our bodies cues, we understand our needs, abilities, weaknesses, boundaries and goals, both personal and professional. Boundaries require a healthy sense of self from which to feel our emotions and distinguish them from others. Enabling us to discern our needs, wants and abilities for physical, physiological and psychological. 

We re-discover who we are through journaling about our present thoughts, fears, needs and dreams. As well as doing fun activities such as personality tests, Ayurvedic contitution tests or an Ikigai. These help us re-evaluate who we are now, compared to who we were 5-25yrs ago when we last check in with what we really want, know and value.

There are three key aspects we need to consider and re-evalute to regain and reclaim our wellbeing.

  • Emotions and their effects on hormones- therefore our energy, mind states and even physical health
  • Our biorhythm cycles affect
  • Vagus nerves activation

EMOTIONS OF SAFETY & TRUST ENABLE RESTORATION & HEALING

Saftey and trust rest on the bedrock of feeling like we belong, have something of value to offer and a sense of worthiness. Lack of self-knowledge contributes to distabilising our esteem and confidence. Knowing who we are, what we’re good at, what we value and love, and what we really don’t want, like or even hate, is essential to mental and emotional health.

Fear and distrust are factors that contribute to burnout. The normal baseline for the brain when we are not doing, is to seek for possible threats. When we learn to pause and act appropriately we’ll rediscover our energy. 

Often for those of us who burn out, we are either high achievers, people pleasers and very motivated persons wanting to create big shifts and cahnges in our world. Underlying most people pleasing, perfectionism and overachieving is a stress factor of fear of not being accepted, or lacking of sense of self; we overdo to be accepted to create a sense of safety.

Your first relationship is to yourself, understanding yourself and your needs, relating becomes easy, fulfilling and even fun. And as we change so do our needs and desires. Burnout is an opportunity to re-evaluate why we do what we do, and how to change it if we’ve outgrown

Example: Imagine for a moment there’s a wonderful person you want to talk to. Imagine also that you have a very solid sense of self, knowing and accepting all your qualities; the good, the bad and the ugly, fully. Imagine we all walked around in full honesty of ourselves. Feeling your full integrity imagine how you would feel to walk up to that person. How would you feel different?

With body awareness and self-knowledge you too will learn to gauge when to rest and allow your your body and mind to heal, and when and to what extent, you can rebuild strength to reclaim wellbeing, both physiologically and psychologically.

WELLBEING NEEDS REGULAR BIORHYTHMS

Self-knowledge and awareness lead to self-care, resilience, adaptability, mental clarity and clear emotional expression naturally. Not knowing our specific needs, desires and abilities, nor how our nervous and hormonal system works and how we can affect it, is the only thing in the way of reclaiming wellbeing.

Learning our unique and diverse needs for healthy sleep, exercise, work, food habits and relationships, is part of self-knowledge; WE ARE NOT AN ISLAND. We are always in relationship with all the above. And what might be healthy for your partner or child, may not work well for you. Figuring out your Ayurvedic constitution and specific needs according to present abilities, needs, goals and resources, is part of re-evaluting what will get you back on track.

Our physical needs, which are real and worthy, affect our physiology; energy and biorhythms, which in turn affect mental health through setting up healthy boundaries to ensure we take care of our self well.

VAGAL TONE & PHYSIOLOGICAL

The last point to work on in self-knowledge is knowing what activates your autonomic nervous system from rest and digest to fight flight and back again. The fight/flight sympathetic nervous system is needed in the morning; when we need cortisol levels to rise so we feel awake and ready. And the rest and digest, parasympathetic nervous activation, in the afternoon/evening, for winding down.

The thing with burnout is that our adrenals are incapable of providing sufficient hormones, because they are- Burned out- the medical term being adrenal insufficiency. The adrenals are part of the HPA axis of the endocrine system, responsible for regulating the body’s entire systems and biorhythms. So we wake up feeling groggy, foggy, listless and unable to do much of anything. Which can trigger guilt, shame and fear again.

The most important thing to do is to slowly and safely build up strength whilst also ensuring deep relaxation to restore the adrenals and our endocrine system. A maximum of strenuous exercise in the morning, (without causing muscle shakes, which means we’ve gone past our present abilities), even just 1 minute, and slowly build up strength and stamina overtime, whilst also building in 10-40 minutes of restorative practices.

Restorative yoga, taichi, Yin yoga, meditation, yoga nidra, mindful walking or resting, iRest or guided practices. Voice is very soothing for the nervous system. Make sure to choose a voice you actually like listening to, to mitigate stress through parasympathetic vagal activation. Touch and social connection is also essential to vagal rest and digest activity. Massage, hugs, hand holding, intimacy and gentle touch are great for adrenal restoration. 

Take the 3min burnout Survey and help create an azmaing training to overcome fatigue, weakness and mental and emotional overwhelm.

YOGA THERAPY – TOP DOWN & BOTTOM UP

The way yoga therapy works is both bottoms up and top down. Meaning we work with the tools and body, bottom up, and knowledge and scientific understanding of psychoneurology affecting nervous activation, top down. So we support and care for ourselves from both ends, to create a solid container of physiological safety and stability, enabling deeper restoration and healing, with longer lasting effects.

The 6 week Yoga Wellness & Resilience Training will help you re-evaluate your present needs through self-knowledge. It’s not just knowledge and tools, you’ll learn how to adapt them according to changing needs and abilities. Resulting in specific and direct physiological self-regulation and self-agency. Helping you feel better, have more mental clarity and restore quicker. Checking chronic burnout prevents us developing chronic anxiety and depression. 

Knowing what you want, need and are capable of doing in each given moment gives freedom and a sense of agency. Learning to pause and be a little more, and do a little, or a lot, less ;), is what the body’s way to ask you to re-evaluate which habits no longer serve you.

So join me in the next 5 weeks with more understanding of how to heal deeply and prevent it recurring or prolonging.

Much Love,

Shira.

Testimonials: 

“Shira helped me understand how to listen to my body’s needs so I know when to pause, act or build strength. In my body, mind and in relationships. Moving me out of my depression, lack of confidence and energy and back into a vibrant person” – Kristen Schultz

“I was overworked, physically, emotionally and mentally drained, lacking confidence in myself and body. Learning to relax, feel and see differences in my body and mind invited more focus, acceptance and energy. Shira as a professional therapist teaches to inform and adapts to the individual.” – Nazia Mangal

FROM SHAME TO SELF-CONFIDENCE

FROM SHAME TO SELF-CONFIDENCE

Self-worth. Self-respect. Self-confidence revealed by self-sabotage of success. 

There are many reasons we self-sabotage. Unconscious inner drives make us go round in circles, related to past traumas, undigested fears and internalised shame. Shame and self-confidence are both on the same continuum, I explain more in my forthcoming book, Reclaiming Our Wellbeing.

Negative thoughts, beliefs, patterns and reactions reveal a healthy underlying need for self-protection. These surface to be explored, expressed and embodied so we digest internalized past traumas through clarity. Clarity and identifying patterns is connected to our Fire’s ability to act, do, give light, transform, energise and discern.

Moving from shame to self-confidence can be really hard because its one of our deepest emotions for social survival.

 

Research shows shame is correlated to autoimmune dis-ease, cancer and other inflammatory conditions. It’s an internalised biological expression of the belief that we are not welcome, worthy or wanted. It’s one of the most excruciating emotions a social creature can endure, and therefore we internalise it.

To move from victim to victorious means leaving behind the safety of the known. When we can’t stomach the shame of our past, our identity or present relationships, disgust arises as self-protection. That self-protection allows us to take distance, reflect and identify what causes us to feel so ashamed. For this we need the energy and heat of fire.

 

 

FIRE TRANSFORMS ONE STATE TO THE NEXT

Emotionally, mentally and physiologically our digestive fire consumes, assimilates, integrates and eliminates. Absorbing what’s good for us and excreting what’s harmful. We discern, clarify and get to the point by moving between two extremes. And fire initiates that shift and discerns what’s needed and what’s not.

That’s how we find a middle ground, which leads to feeling confident, enthusiastic, empowered, passionate and worthy. To get to those feelings we need fire to bring light to the unconscious drives, digest the undigested and get clear on what we’re angry and ashamed of, so we can eliminate it from our system. Understanding if your fire is excessive or deficient helps you know if you need more or are over doing it.

 

  • Deficient  WORTHLESSNESS, SHAME, SELF-SABOTAGE, BLAME, RESENTMENT, FRUSTRATION, ANGER.
  • Excessive JUDGEMENTAL, CRITICAL, ARROGANT, CONCEITED, HAUGHTY, DISDAIN, NARCISSISM.

In a relationship where one person has excessive fire, the other is almost always deficient in fire. So often you’ll find these dynamics at play.

By allowing yourself to feel shame, see if you can let it shift into resentment and then anger. Maybe you supress anger and it becomes self-sabotage. Anger gives us plenty of energy and power to move onto self-worth because we honour our core values. Using focus, determination and self-reflection we find our own way and shift towards self-confidence, by focusing on what we really want, being honest even if its not what someone else wants to hear, and that clarity leads to brilliance. 

 

 

TRANSFORMING SHAME INTO SELF-CONFIDENCE

The following journaling prompts come from my new course the Yoga Teachers class, which leads us from self-knowledge to self-confidence and self-expression. These prompts can be used for facing your shadows, neurotic behavior, limiting beliefs, self-destructive habits, painful patterns of emotional reactions, unclear projections and stressful relationship dynamics, and the underlying positive intent that wants to be brought to light.

Write down what have you self-sabotaged in the past; a project, a relationship, your life, career, studies. 

Now apply the next three steps to that experience and understand what your subconscious was trying to bring to light.

 

1. DREAM BIG

Turn your self-sabotage situation into your dream, ideal situation, if you believed anything is possible. Write down your DREAM situation and be limitless in your imaginings, courageous in your abilities, and generous with its impact.

* What would your ideal situation consist of?

* How would your life feel, sound and look different to what it is now?

* What would it change in other aspects of your life?

* How would it affect other people’s lives?

Name five associated emotions that means ideal to you? (Example; Safe, Freedom, Connected, Empowered, Alive, Satisfied, Joyous, Engaged).

 

2. NOTICE LIMITING BELIEFS

As you write the above you most likely have a voice saying ‘You can’t do that because …!’

So hear the voice and what is its main message? ‘You don’t have enough time, energy, resources’, or ‘It’s impossible because…’ or, ‘Who wants another…?‘, or ‘I know I can do that, but am happy as I am.’

These beliefs, thoughts and mindsets help us avoid growth. Growth means change, moving into unknown territory, and out of our comfort zone.These beliefs let us off the hook of leaving behind our outgrown self, and say, ‘Stay small, because you might fail, fall, waste time, need to change or leave behind…, …,’ 

Self-sabotage leads to frustration, anger and resentment, critical, arrogant and conceited communication, because subconsciously we know we’re not moving on. Sitting with these beliefs and associated emotions is key to releasing the charge and undoing our limiting habits. RAIN is an easy effective practice to move through pain.

 

3. IDENTIFY SHAME JOURNAL

Now you know which beliefs keep you in shame and away from self-confidence, self-respect and self-worth, identify which emotion is holding you back and find the opposite of that emotion. 

Examples; 

Shame – Dignity

Anger – Radiance

Resentment – Autonomy

Critical – Authentic

 

JOURNALING FROM SHADOW TO RADIANCE 

 

Remember a time when you experienced this emotion, say it’s radiance, and you were ridiculed, ignored, shamed for it. Or it was taken away, in some way or form. Use this in the journaling prompts below. This is your shadow, even though its a positive emotion, its connected to a negative experience. 

This is key to realising why we go round in circles, hold ourselves back from making our dream a reality. Dig deep, until you find the one memory when feeling that great hurt that much. Maybe you can’t remember because you were an infant, then just feel into the emotions, you’ll know when you have found that one that’s excruciating.

Dear (radiance) ___________  your shadow,

I’m angry with you because

 ___________ ruined my life because

I hate ____________ because

I’m scared of ____________ because

I feel bad about ____________ because

I feel sorry for myself regarding ____________ because

I feel excited with _____________ because

I love me with _____________ because

I’m happy with _____________ because

This makes me feel _______________

I hope this helps you get under the deep dark shadows of self-sabotage, and bring to light the radiance that you deserve to embody, hold and share with others.

Much Love,

 

Shira.

 

The journaling prompts have come from Ashley Turner and Mona Miller.

 

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FROM GUILT TO PLEASURE

FROM GUILT TO PLEASURE

Playfulness, our ability to go with the flow, reflects our feelings about our relationship with the world. Pleasure is the emotional charge of a playful bodymind. Guilt or severity its opposites. Do we feel free to have fun and enjoy, do we always need to control otherwise we feel guilty, or do we just let it all go whatever direction?

Pleasure, like water, seeks movement and the easiest course, finding joy and play in whatever arises. It accepts and lets go of the illusion of mastery and control, willing to see where experiences take us, without holding back or resistance. Water, like our senses, are meeting points for our inner and outer worlds and the enjoyment from that volantary sensual exchange.

When we resist pleasure, either because of a sense of guilt, lack of playfullness and curiosity, or our seriousness, we resist prosperity. Guilt restricts, closes down our sensual joy channels. Because our original emotion is bliss, our movement or lack of it, determines the how this emotion transforms into another expression.

To flow fully the banks of our joy need to be both firm and free, just like our tissues, mind and psyche.

Energetic Holding Patterns 

Excessive stress causes unnecessary tightening. Blocking ease and our ability to flow, physically, energetically and mentally. Chronic holding patterns might express themselves as guilt, rigidity, controlling, critical, too serious, self-conscious, or lacking spontaneity and playfulness. The river of abundance, prosperity and possibilities dry up, along with our creative and joyful juices. 

Not enough stressors can leave us with excessive emotions as our energy reserve overflows. Without containment, we may feel overly emotional, watery, let our energy gush from us without discernment and end up feeling drained, lacking, down, lost; our energy and emotions directionless. 

We might have a combination of both holding patterns simultaneously. 

Translated to our energy body, we might not feel contained and able to respond with integrity to a given situation. Resulting in further controlling or flooding. Unconscious guilt might then drive our relationships, projects and beliefs. And emotions are energy in motion, holding the energy or leting it gush, wastes immense, enjoyable energy, and we don’t even notice it.

Hiranyagharbha, our Golden Womb needs to be honoured and felt. 

Pelvic Flow is the Key to Pleasure  

Releasing tension and creating integrity of our sense of self in relation to the world, feels like flow, fun, pleasure and prosperity naturally arising like a bubbling spring.

The key to pleasure is movement and pelvic health. Like water, the pelvis loves to flow and move. To play out the constant ebb and flow, give and take. This ensures and allows us to contain our sense of delight and joy. It enlivens our abundance.

As babies, this abode of joy and delight is with what we began to crawl. We use our pelvis to propel us forward and move into the world. This exploration of feeling for ourselves creates pleasure. When my toddler first moved herself toward that which she wanted to experience, there was sheer joy, wonder and excitement all rolled into the propelling motion of the pelvis. This is essence of moving into bliss. This endeavour to sense the world also created our lumbar curve. Our ability to relate, connect and withdraw. And our first impressions of sensual experiences, plus the first arising emotions, are all contained here. 

Create Pelvic Integrity to Enjoy Life More

To create pelvic integrity and enjoy life fully we need to get to know this area. We need curiosity and playful minds to move past our guilt and expertise. Body awareness and self-knowledge leads to self-esteem. Begin to strengthen and relax this area, until all the tissues and energy flows freely and feels firm, simultaneously. This is how we transform guilt into pleasure. Holding both simultaneously.

Ask yourself in difficult areas of your body, What holding patterns do I have here?

Are some muscles really tight and resist letting go?

Are there parts that let it all gush out, leaving me drained? 

After you feel if you hold or release excessively, you can build back the integrity of this area by doing strengthening movement that warms up this area, and slow soft, stretching to open and release the tissues.   Create firm freedom. 

Be present with sensations in our pelvic area. Think of it’s ability to create another life, and all our projects and creations begin in the Golden Womb. The potential combinations of the inner and outer world coming together in countless ways. The pure potential alive here. It’s time we enjoyed what is instead of thinking what isn’t. It’s time to drop our uncertainty and walk into the world with a sense of certain delight, no matter what circumstances we find ourselves in.

Life is amzingly wonderful and AWEsome first and foremost.

Joyous and prosperous in each moment, as water moves, content and playful, our Golden Womb contains the feeling of all I need to fulfil me is within me and in each and every moment.

In what ways can you feel more curious, playful and joyous?

With Love,

Shira.

EMOTIONS & IMMUNITY

EMOTIONS & IMMUNITY

Our Immunity is our sense of self. When we feel attacked so does our immunity.

Right now our world is upside down, and everyone is feeling overwhelmed, down, lost, anxious, angry, and confused by the many different voices and facts, on some level. When I voice my counter culture opinion or feelings I’m sometimes met by rigidity, hostility. It feels like heresy. It’s a scary feeling.

So I asked myself, why do i want to voice my opion? Alleviate suffering and prevent dis-ease. What can I do instead?

Educate. The only way. All I want to say is that if you look at the above adjectives of our states, it’s emotional content. Hypervigilence, makes us reactive. This article explains how emotions enhance health or harm.

OUR IMMUNITY IS OUR SENSE OF SELF. WHEN WE FEEL SAFE SO DOES OUR IMMUNITY.​

You can decide if you need to move out of the fight and flight, and into a tend and befriend. If only for your health and everyone around you. Only then can we move into an honest, more sustainable world. Environmentally, emotionally, psychologically and physically.

How Emotions Change Our Tissues

Zach Bush MD, physician of internal medicine and endocrinology states emotional toxins are the third contributor to damaging health, after food and environmental toxins. “Emotional toxicity will shorten life and damage our quality of life more rapidly than any other biological process can.”[i]

Have you noticed how our minds are scattered lately? Our feelings have more effect than mainstream medical science acknowledges. According to the HeartMath Institute, the heart actually sends more signals to the brain than the brain sends to the heart. And has significant effect on brain function, influencing emotional processing, higher cognitive faculties such as attention, perception, memory, and problem-solving. Stable pattern of the heart’s input to the brain during positive emotional states facilitates cognitive function and reinforces positive feelings and emotional stability. This means that sustaining positive emotions, not only benefits the entire body, but also profoundly affects how we perceive, think, feel, and perform.[ii]

Robert Sapolsky, professor of neurology and biology, says there’s no real centre for our emotions, it’s an immensely complex circuitry[iii]. Which runs through the entire body. Our molecules of emotion, hormones and neurotransmitters, affect our brain and our brain affects hormones. The effects, visceral, reach far into our tissue development. A two way stream. We have as many hormone receptors in our gut as in the brain. Often called our second brain, because digestive health and receptivity affects our overall physical as well as mental wellbeing.[iv] The dialogue between gut hormone, bile acid and the brain plays an important role in energy homeostasis.[v] And the building blocks for our entire being.

According to Christiane Northrup MD, our beliefs become our biology. Beliefs shape our perception, filtering emotions, initiate thoughts, actions, reactions, responses, physiology and physical matter. Our daily thoughts and emotions, which are accompanied by a multitude of biochemical changes in the body, set up an electromagnetic field around us, and seeing like attracts like, every cell in our body attracts our vibratory equivalent.[vi]

Emotions As Energy & Matter

Quantum physics and Samkhya, see matter and energy, at the subatomic level, as being interchangeable. Expressions of the same manifestations at different frequencies. Energy vibrates and moves, when energy moves at lower and slower vibrations, it’s more solid. Experienced through our senses to hear, touch, see, taste and smell. The more conscious, imbued with awareness, a manifested form, the less condensed, and therefore receptive. The more solid, the less conscious and closed the body or system is. 

Just like matter, thoughts thought over and over become solidified. They form neural wiring so solid they eventually think themselves. Manifesting a belief. Moving into the less explored consciousness. Thought without awareness. It becomes subconscious, and if we don’t go and clear it every once in a while, through meditation, contemplation or reflection, or any form of non-doing and just being, it becomes unconscious. The energy becomes so dense it’s an energetic blockage, and turns into a matter. 

When we hold a certain vibrational energy pattern long enough, it solidifies. Emotions felt often enough often manifest as issues in our tissues. And physical manifestation of dis-ease is a long way down the track from when we first got off track. It’s a very loud, and often last call, from our soul.

Psychological and emotional factors influence our physical health greatly because our emotions and thoughts are always accompanied by biochemical reactions in our bodies. These reactions are mediated by cell membranes, which are the actual “brains” of each cell. The mind-body continuum can be adequately understood only when we appreciate ourselves as an everchanging energy system that is affected by, and also affects, the energy surrounding it. We don’t end in our skins.[vii]

Beliefs inform biochemicals, biology informs our cells, and cells copy themselves continually, taking on a new structure with each imprint and becomes the new template. This embodied attitude is then passed on as a solid reality, a certainty.

Beliefs & Body

Beliefs, mindsets and associated emotions pave the way for breakthroughs, or breakdowns. And seeing this isn’t a one way stream, we can use our biology to affect our beliefs.

This is what Yoga does so seamlessly, using the body, breath and movement to initiate change and transformation in body, mind and psyche. Mind with matter and matter with mind. Not over, under, nor around. Through. Not fighting with some infantile imaginary of an ‘enemy’. Once we own our enemies as shadows of self rejected and projected, emotions, mind and psyche become tools. Empowering, lifelong companions. We embody our emotions and move toward real evolution. We stop reacting and being rigid in our opinions.

An exchange between inner and outer worlds creates this shift in ebb and flow of energy within us. Every sensation within your body is just an expression of these two, body and mind, matter and spirit, meeting. Surrendering to the emotions as they arise, releases the tides and allows us to harness our energy and return to our true nature, biorhythms and being.

Express your voice from the full conviction we’re all at heart good, healthy and whole beings. Our fullest manifestation is love, power and beauty. Letting ourselves be, live, breathe, enjoy, relate, communicate, create, nourish and rest with more passion, enthusiasm and deliberation without constraint. And daring to ask and explore how we, each of us, can bring this profound way of living into day to day life? 

We regulate, guide and transform our emotions by understanding the messages of emotions. We can retrain our brain, beliefs and biology to become the creators of our experience.[viii]

3 Steps to Calm Emotions & Mind

The tend and befriend, also known as the rest and digest activation of our autonomic nervous system calms us down. It gets us out of our heads and into our bodies. It makes us feel safe. Held. Secure, trusting, calm and grounded. It’s us going into parasympathetic activation. It’s our social pathway of the Vagus nerve coming online. The vagus nerve travels from the carnium to the reprductive system and is 80% afferent, meaning it brings information from our senses to the brain most of the time. When we move our body and this long nerve, we’re sending our brain, nerves and endocrine system the message we’re safe, held and ok.

Notice I said social pathway. Being social makes us seek connection. Just having a conversation with a friend, loved one, or eating a delicious warm meal in welcoming company heals. Being together, joking and tending to each others needs activates our rest and digest system.

Social distancing, or is it physical distancing?… we have less access to this pathway. Setting us up for distress and hypervigilance. Simple Yoga practices activate our tend and befriend pathway by stimulating parasympathetic response.

Three simple practices move us out of hypervigilence and into tend and befriend.

  1. Doing spinal flexion and extension, cat cow, or just lying on your back doing pelvic tilts will get us in our body and out of our minds. It stimulates the entire vagus nerve and that inturn activates rest, digest, tend and befriend.
  2. Extending our voice with a long sound. Either a long vowel such as AAaaaaa, OOoooo or UUuuuu, or singing something healing like Enya, Ajeet Kuar, Patti Smith, chanting or prayer.
  3. Extending the out breath. Breathing in for 3 seconds and out for 6. Just 10 rounds will work.

Once we’re in this state we communicate, relate and honestly, really heal and feel all that’s going on. Both inside us and around us.

All the hard stuff and the goodness most of us seek. We all know there’s something more going on. It’s just not clear what and why. But we’ve got to stay connected, honest and immune by having real conversations, with questions, with the ambivilance and ambiguity of the uncertainty.

Please feel free and welcome to write me back, leave a comment and tell me how you’re feeling.

Much Love,

Shira


[i] Zach Bush interview by Fran Drescher at https://vimeo.com/409457528

[ii] HeartMath Institute -https://www.heartmath.org/science/

[iii] Robert Sapolsky, – Behave, (2017), Penguin Random House

[iv]  https://www.austinhormonedoctor.com/connection-mental-health-hormones/

[v] https://www.researchgate.net/publication/47348954_Gut_hormones_and_the_brain

[vi] Christiane Northrup, M.D., – Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom, (2010), Bantam Books

[vii] Christiane Northrup, M.D., – Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom, (2010), Bantam Books

[viii] Lisa Feldman Barrett – You aren’t at the Mercy of Your Emotions-Your Brian creates them, Ted Talk

PRANA LIFE ENERGY BREATH SOUL

PRANA LIFE ENERGY BREATH SOUL

Prana is Life Energy, Breath & Soul.

Life is energy. Energy defines life. Energy as defined by physicists, according to Dr Daniel Siegel, is the movement from possibility to actuality. Very similar to anciet and traditional philosophies.

And Prana is the Sanskrit word for the intelligence of life’s energy and movement. 

WHAT IS PRANA & WHY IS IT IMPORTANT?

A seed holds Prana, and with it, the potential to become a tree and forest. Cut that seed open, and though we won’t see anything, once cut, the seed has lost it potential and ability to become- live, thrive and give. That invisible, unfathomable intelligence and life force is Prana. The primal life force and breath of life itself.

This subtle intelligence behind all psychophysical functions is also responsible for the movement of breath, senses, mind and emotions. The vital life force responsible for the animation of every organism and the life of everything in the universe.[i] Without Prana nothing would exist. This life energy fuels evolution, powers the vital life processes in all life forms, and becomes the thoughts and desires of the mind[ii] ready to be redirected or stored. 

HOW IT AFFECTS US ON ALL LEVELS OF LIVING

Energy is the basis of all life. All creation is made up off energy. The first living forms on earth, were self sufficient, able to sustain themselves merely through energy synthesis, using sunlight, carbon and water. Stem cells removed from the body still hold life intelligence and form into diverse cells to perform different and intelligent functions. This wonderous feat is the power of universal Prana, or Self.

On a physical level all organisms use energy to survive, grow and thrive. The process of changing energy from one state to the next, transformation, allows growth. Our primordial DNA. Einstein understood energy as eternal, continually changing shape and state. A process of transforming from potential energy to kinetic, heat, light, electrical and chemical energy, releasing and condensing into another form. From potential to solid and back. 

On a universal level Prana is the eternal energy, breathe and soul which can’t be destroyed or created. It’s the all-vibrant, intelligent essence of life, the continual movement of awareness pervading all. All energy follows a movement of inhalation and exhalation, like the breath, expanding and contracting in a perpetual ebb and flow.[iii] And life changes from one state to another. As do we, when we allow Prana to flow freely through us. This is when we feel most alive. 

On an spiritual level our soul enters this world through Prana. Our first act, to breathe. We live because of this breath and when we breathe out our last, our soul leaves along with our individual Prana to merge once more with universal Prana.

Like waves or currents, gathering and dispersing.

It’s the movement that enlivens and transforms. 

ANCIENT WORLD KNOWLEDGE

Cultures all over the world honour this invisible life current with name and purpose. The Chinese call it Chi, Japanese, Ki, Polynesian, Mana, Islam, Baraka, Hebrew, Ruach Adonai, and Christians, the Holy Spirit. In Greek, Psyche, literally means breathe, life and soul, and in Latin the same word means animating spirit within mortals.

Prana sustains our individual life energy from the moment of birth to our very last breath. With it comes and goes the love, passion, purpose and desires with which matter is imbued. It invigorates, innervates and initiates every change, movement and growth through cellular intelligence. The difference between a body that breathes fully and one that has limited breath, is the quality of our Prana. It lets us feel alive, exuberant and awake. It’s the transforming power to becoming.  

It’s the source that nourishes, sustains, maintains and transforms all living things. It’s universal presence within us for a time. And Prana is only in the present. Pulsating in us, as we live, move and breathe because of this wonderous force. Bringing to life each and every cell, system and body, with it’s intelligence and incredible gift of life. And we are most present when we’re aware of our breath and energy.

PRANA AS A PRACTICE

Prana embodies all knowledge of life because it is the awareness and intelligence behind creation. Bridging the manifest to Unmanifest, as breath mediates between ego and spirit. Because of this prana is the single most important factor for wellbeing. All Ayurvedic therapies work with prana to bring about balance. All higher forms of yoga work toward developing prana[iv].

We can enhance our Prana through breathing well, called Pranayama. The control and extension of breath. Breathing techniques from Yoga and other integrative traditions help us to clear, clean, strengthen and relax the muscles and organs that support healthy breathing.

To function fully the lungs need to be supported, held and free to move fully. Remember movement is the expression of energy and life. Without a full range of movement we can’t expect the body, brain, nervous, endocrinal, immune and cardiovascular systems to function well, let alone in an integrated way, Which leads to optimal wellbeing. And healthy pulmonary system affects all physiological processes.

The part of the brain that affects breathing is intimately connected and effects our emotional and sensory part of the brain. In turn affecting our mood, energy, sense of safety and feelings. A Yoga teacher well versed in Ayurveda, Pranayama and mindfull breathing can help others self-regulate, regain health and even retrain the nervous system, if they themselves have been able to do so in their own journey of becoming a good enough being.

IMPROVE YOUR BREATHING & LIFE ENERGY

The most basic practice is also the most effective practice. Breathing out fully while sitting with dignity and allowing the belly to be relaxed.

It will clear the lungs, calm the nervous sytem through the vagal nerve moving into parasympathetic mode, make space for more incoming breath, and give relieve to asthmatics who tend to breathe in more than out. This allows the empty lungs to rid itself of old stale air, making way for more fresh vital breathing.

An average adult has a lung capacity of 3.5 litres. The average person only takes in about 0.3 litres. That’s less than 10%!! That explains why most of us feel exhausted most of the time. Another factor is we breathe in the upper lobes of the lungs which absorb less effectively. Combine that with poor posture and compression of the lungs, and we lose that refreshing and energising inspiration of vitality.

So let’s get back our vitality.

Just sit yourself up on a block, bolster or something so the hips are higher than your knees. This relaxes muscles of the pelvis, lower spine and belly. Allowing you room to move, breathe and be. Focus on the out breath moving out slowly, smoothly and softly. Let the in breath come by itself. With each out breath feel the belly muscles mving in and up. Let them actually move the breath out from underneath the ribs.

Do that for 3 rounds.

Then extend the out breath to a count of 6, letting the in breath also become 6 counts by relaxing the belly and pelvic muscles. Do 10 rounds. Repeat this everyday for a week. Once this is easy and comfortable, you can extend the count to 7, 8 and so on until a count of 10. Always let the practices of prana be comfortable and easy. Remember breathing is closely linked to emotions, when it becomes strained so will our emotions.

This is called Sama Vritti, meaning same movement. It calms the mind and nervous system and is the basis of all other breathing techniques, which build on this foundation.


[i] Vasant Lad, Marma Points of Ayurveda, (2008), The Ayurvedic Press.

[ii] Eknath Easwaran, The Upanishads, (2010), Jaico Publishing House.

[iii] David Frawley, Ayurvedic Healing, A Comprehensive Guide, (2000), Motilal Banarsidass.

[iv] David Frawley, Yoga & Ayurveda, Self Healing & Self Realisation, (1999), Lotus Press.

YOGA FOR BETTER SLEEP

YOGA FOR BETTER SLEEP

Waking up in the middle of the night and trying to fall back asleep, often, seems like an eternity. (Especially when we know we need to be fresh next morning for that VIProject!) You’re not alone. Worldwide 51% of us have sleep woes. And it’s not just adults, more and more kids struggle with sleep issues. Practicing Yoga for better sleep improves our sleep and ensures we feel fresh when we wake up.

Sleep issues include trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, not refreshed upon waking, or insufficient sleep. Yoga for better sleep can relief or completely alleviate all these issues. Yoga for better sleep uses simple practices to calm the nervous system, integrate our body, mind and emotions to ensure we sleep soundly.  Here are some funny facts of common places we fall asleep during the day due to lack of sleep- -10% of people fall asleep while at work -7% while driving- OMG can you imagine!  -7% in church  -6% on public transport  -and 1 % on the toilet, oops On a more serious note, let’s look at our sleep woes and the havoc it can wreak for body, mind and emotions.

Sleep, our Foundation of Vitality

We all know sleep is vital to our physical and mental health but very few know how really important it is to our quality of life.[1] Continued insufficient sleep disrupts all our bodily systems. Causing energy levels to swoon and soar, cascading into fatigue, brain fog, depression, anxiety, nervousness, accidents, mood swings, hormonal changes and other physiological shifts. Inflammation increases, immune function becomes impaired, and inhibits muscle, organ and tissue repair and recovery from trauma, injury or stress.[2] Chronic sleep deprivation leads to deep seated physiological changes such as; obesity, diabetes mellitus, septicaemia, hypertension, heart conditions and vascular changes leading to strokes. Let’s look at our human sleep history and understand what constitutes healthy sleep in reality.

Sleep History & Reality

So, what’s healthy sleep and how can we contribute to creating better sleep patterns to not fall asleep on the toilet?  A million years ago, every night our foremother naturally woke up just before the dawn, between 3-5am, when the air was at its’ coldest, to tend the fire, check everyone’s still alive and well enough, before getting back into the warmth of her bed. We rarely slept much more than 6-7 hours at a stretch in our short human history.  That might come as a surprise with the constant myth of 8 holy hours.  News flash- We’ve had this pattern till the arrival of electricity and artificial light… No wonder some of us more sensitive souls still wake up between 3-5am. In Yoga we call this the hour of the Creator, or Brahma Muruhta, 90 mins before sunrise. It’s the best time to practice meditation, Yoga and contemplation on our existence.  So, the next time you wake early in the morning, or in ‘middle of the night’,  know that you’re completely healthy. It’s a totally natural rhythm. Waking up in the wee hours of morning actually means your still in-tune with nature and our old cycles.  And one of our worst sleep thieves are thoughts like, “I’m not getting enough sleep.”

So, What’s Healthy Sleep?

Really, it depends!  Healthy sleep and sufficient sleep depends on many things. Your goals, your present health, your age and responsibilities, your levels of stress, and your physical and mental constitution or nature. Long before becoming a mother and having adult responsibilities, I spent 10 days at a Vipassana meditation centre. For the life of me, I couldn’t sleep more than 4 hours a night. While awake I just lay there bringing my awareness back to breath again and again and again, thousands of times. And I got up feeling as great as a Gladiator ready for my next day of mental demons.  The reason was because I wasn’t physically very active, and mentally I was focusing and then calming the mind; not ingesting lots of mental impressions. This meant very little exertion of mind and body, and therefore needing less sleep. Since having a child and running my own business, I definitely need 7 and a half hours. And when I do it in one go, which isn’t often, I’m healthy as a hummingbird amongst the flowers all day. If not, I come back to my breath again and again. And most mornings, even if I only get a few hours of broken sleep, I still feel refreshed because I didn’t stress out about being awake. Now we know we don’t need those holy 8 hours let’s look at some Fascinating Falling Sleep Facts. Reminding yourself of these when awake next time will ease your mind.

  • 6-7 hours sleep a night ensures longevity, more so than 8hrs!
  • Most of us wake up 6 times a night but just don’t remember! 
  • Don’t count sheep, it activates the Left-brain hemisphere = wakefulness. Instead, imagine you feel the sheep’s soft wool, it activates the Right brain hemisphere = rest
  • It’s very natural to wake up between 3-5 AM, think cave-mum/dad
  • Our circadian rhythm determines our sleep pattern, and is controlled by the stress and sleep hormones, adrenalin and melatonin. These both respond to daylight and darkness, levels of stress during the day and moments we allowed ourselves to de-stress through yoga, meditation, prayer, journaling or contemplation
  • Every 90 minutes we’ve been through a complete sleep cycle of sleep, dream sleep and deep sleep. Between these cycles and during dreams we tend to turn and wake up

So, don’t get your knickers in a knot if you ‘only’ get 7 or 6. Maybe that’s all you need. Some people live their whole lives with just 5 hours and feel fresh, alive and fit, when they get up.  So, the most important is how you feel upon waking.

4 Sleep Robbers

So what steals your sleep?  1. Irregularity causes our nervous system to be active until there is some form of routine. Check your schedule, eating habits, sleeping habits, and daily routine for irregularity, if more than 2 are irregular, start creating more routine and rhythm will bring calm to your nerves 2. Poorly timed activities & exercise will raise the heart rate, release adrenaline and disturb sleep. Spicy food, coffee, sugar, intense exercise. Remember the adrenaline and melatonin. Stressful events in the early part of the day gives us time to rid our body of excessive adrenaline by moving it out of the body. If we don’t have that time to be physically active in the afternoon, Yoga can really help. But doing an intense Yoga practice will only increase adrenaline.  3. Technological stimulation before sleep disturbs our melatonin release. Strong lights, sounds, or screen before bed. Best to avoid any screens 90 mins before sleep. Artificial light and not honouring our body’s natural cycle of melatonin and adrenalin, sleeping and waking, is a huge contributing factor. Excessive screen time, and/or being exposed to the screen too soon before going bed, exacerbates our woes. Add to that our present sedentary lives, now you understand why your body is a all of tension when you go to sleep. You already were, but you might not have noticed with all the days busy-ness. 4. It’s worth repeating, the worst thief of our sleep is the thought, “I’m not getting enough sleep.” 

Simple Yoga Steps for Better Sleep

First, be happy when you wake up after 6 hours and forget fretting!  Even if you only sleep 3 or 4 hours and feel you need more rest, just remain in bed, don’t turn the light on. Feel your body lying there. Let go of that tyranical ideal of 8 hours and ‘I must sleep more’.

  • Begin to feel a soft, slow, belly breath, for about 2 minutes. Then tell yourself it’s completely natural to wake up and allow yourself to let go of any tension you might be holding onto in the back body. 
  • Do some soft gentle movement of the pelvis and hips with pelvic tilts, until you feel more embodied. 
  • Then roll the shoulders gently, calmly in circles 3 times one direction, then 3 times the other direction, release any tension from neck shoulder and head.
  • Then slowly lift the hips up of the bed coming into a bridge, and roll them back down. Do that very slowly and smoothly like waves rolling your body up and back down for 1-2 minutes.
  • Then allow your body to become soft and heavy. Release any tension and come back to the slow belly breaths for another minute.
  • Let the mind become calm.

Let your mind rest in the body. Even if you wake up in the middle of the night. Don’t worry, don’t even try to get back to sleep.  Just say to yourself you’re ok, in rhythm and restoring by not doing anything.  Just be. And know that by not doing any activity your body, mind and soul are getting the rest and integration they need. In my Yoga for Better Sleep I teach you body awareness and effective, specific and simple yoga sequence to ensure a deep letting go of any unconscious holding. You learn to turn of the active Nervous System, NS, and moving our physiology into the restorative NS, the parasympathetic NS. We release excess stress from the back body, which often holds all our unconscious stress of the day, preventing us from going into a deeper state of rest. When you learn to work in tune with your natural cycle, your body, mind and emotions, you can use Yoga as a tool to regulate and integrate your day, your tensions and even your stress. In my classes and Courses, I teach you to feel what your body, mind and emotions need, and how to use Yoga’s practices and teachings as tools. I would love to hear from you. Please share your experiences in the comments below. With rhythmic love,

Shira.

 



[1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6473877/


[2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6473877/

INFLUENCING OUR EMOTIONS & ENERGY THROUGH PRANAMAYA KOSHA

INFLUENCING OUR EMOTIONS & ENERGY THROUGH PRANAMAYA KOSHA

Influencing our energy and emotions is vital in stressful moments. Through Pranamaya Kosha, our energy body, we can learn how to regulate how we feel, respond and bounce back, with grace and ease. 

I just moved house this weekend, and listening to, and taking care of my energy body’s needs, is vital to resilience, wellbeing and energy levels.

So this morning when my alarm went of at 6 AM, exhausted from moving house and all that goes with it, instead of getting up, I listened to my body. She cried loud and clear, “STAY IN BED. Only get up when the heaviness of body and grogginess of mind had dissipated”. 

Therefore I had to miss some of my yoga practice, and not do the dynamic practice I was yearning. But instead meet my body where it is right now.

It’s vital to be as honest and attuned, because body awareness, just tuning into your bodily sensations again and again, helps us sense what our body really feels, needs and lacks. 

We’ve spent years ignoring or overriding our body’s needs and desires. 

It’s the norm. The other day, I unknowingly broke my toe and I admonished myself with, “ Don’t exaggerate, it’s probably not that bad.” When I got home and dared to look, it was huge, red, blue and purple.

Under all our hectic-ness our vibrant calm, dynamic stillness, radiance pulsate. When Pranamaya is healthy, we’re confident, curious and creative. We can create wellbeing by knowing how our vital body feels, what it needs and which practices will most benefit it now.

So what’s Pranamaya Kosha, how do we regulate our energy and emotions, through it, and why is it called Pranamaya Kosha?

Prana is Life Energy, Pranamaya, our body of vitality

Prana is Sanskrit for life, energy, breath and soul. Maya means made of, and Kosha, explored more in-depth in the last article, is one of our diverse sheaths of living. So Pranamaya Kosha is our body of energy, life, breath and soul.

The Chinese call it Chi, Ki in Japanese, Mana in Polynesia, Baraka in Islam, the Trinity in Christian, and Rauch Adonai in Hebrew. 

The embodiment of fullness, power and source of all creation. It’s the creative expression the Divine through us. The movement of Life itself. 

The active power takes form while remaining complete. Streaming through and connecting all channels of life through our breath and movement. The elements of space and air changing and re-connecting. 

Our vitality is in our breath

This breath of life, is symbolised as wind, breath, mind and spirit, because it conceals, is transient, fleeting, yet a powerful force of change and transformation.

The first thing we all do when we come into the world is take a breath. Without it, we don’t live. And our last act release of our last breath of vitality.

In our vital body, life and energy streams, cascades and fills up our vessel. Life moving and flowing through us. Our breath is universal life force replenishing us when we rest or move fully. And the nostrils are the entry point for our energy.

So just by breathing fully, deeply and consciously we wake up that Pranic body, our vitality.

Adults have a lung capacity of four litres, but usually we only take in 300ml of breath per cycle. We can completely empty of lungs and clean out all that stale air. Rid ourselves of anything old, unwanted and outgrown. But usually we don’t give it much mind, energy or life.

And just as bodies of water stagnate, or dry up, our channels of energy, neglected or overused, causes our energy, emotions and vitality to do the same.

Emotion is energy in motion. For more on this read Emotional Empowerment.

We can regulate our energy & emotions easily

Mudras, mantras, chakras and Pranayama all affect our energy body directly.

Mudras, gestures which redirect energy flow from our hands into another circuit, a proactive statement we choose to embody. Mantras engage the mind, and redirect energy circuits of thinking and focus into new channels and patterns of thoughts that counter our present mental habits. Pranayama, the most direct way to influence energy flow, can uplift, ground, expand, concentrate, heat, cool, enliven, or even, dampen ourselves if we choose.

With all of these, finding the right practice according to our needs is top priority, and usually the hardest part of any practice. Body awareness and honesty are so vital to our energy and emotions. Because when we know what we feel, and where we want to get to, we can choose the right practice.

Clarity is power.[1] The more clear you are about what you want and need the more likely you’ll achieve it. So Yoga forms practiced with intention, conscious breath and embodiment of the form, also are pathways to transform our emotions and energy flow.

So, first and foremost, is to find out what our body feels like. What quality does it have? Is it heavy, light, open, expanded, wired, dissipated, gathered, flowing, stagnant, or does it have different qualities at the same time? 

And where do you want to take yourself, in the next hour, day, week, month?

From this clarity you can use the tools and teachings of Yoga to take you to the next level.

Then we can choose the right practices for it.

So meeting my body, feelings and mind state where I am is the indicator as to what practice I will do each time I get on the mat.

So lets get body aware. There’s intelligence in that beautiful body of ours, always speaking.

Our desire’s are our souls language to move us in the direction that will not only benefit us, but all who cross our path.

Let’s breath fully, and take a deep plunge into life energy. Let’s clear our Pranic circuits and create new ones that are life affirming, soul inspiring and daring greatly!

Love to our body’s wisdom, vitality and connection of our life energy,

Much Love,

Shira.


[1] Billy Cox

YOGA THERAPY & OUR 5 KOSHAS, AN EFFECTIVE ART

YOGA THERAPY & OUR 5 KOSHAS, AN EFFECTIVE ART

Yoga therapy works with our five Koshas, aspects or bodies of living. Effective, deep and skilful Yoga therapy is an art successful where other modalities fail. It’s effectiveness lies in working with the Koshas.

According to Yogic philosophy, we’ve got five bodies, and in some traditions, even seven. I’ve been trained, meditate upon and experience five Koshas, so I’ll stick to that theory.

Let’s dive in.

The Koshas are our different sheaths, or aspects of living. Our different layers of receiving, perceiving, experiencing, expressing and responding. These sheaths are physical, energetic/emotional, mental, psychological and spiritual. Taking into consideration not only the desires, abilities and needs of these layers, but also of our personal, family, social, work and culture. So Yoga therapy is personalised and wholistic.

YOGA THERAPY IS EFFECTIVE WHERE OTHER MODALITIES FAIL

Yoga therapy is different from a general yoga class, read about the differences here. Also known as medical yoga, Yoga therapy gets to the root of conditions. Improving our quality of living, wellbeing and health, because it works with all aspects of living. Exploring and integrating our physical, emotional, mental, psychological and spiritual aspects, Yoga therapy not only treats the dis-ease but helps us understand the underlying cause and how we can affect it.    We can create long lasting beneficial effects, long after the work between client and therapist ends.[1]

Yoga therapy teaches the tools for the why, what and how of the challenge. It’s personal development of body, mind, emotions, psyche and spirit. Using observation, intention, motion, breath, and knowledge as tools. Yoga therapy has become a bit of a craze right now amongst Yoga teachers and medical researchers searching for alternative medicine. This is because we use the Koshas as the foundation it integrates body, emotions, mind, psyche and spirit, through the Koshas and activates our natural healing system throughout.

HOW YOGA THERAPY WORKS

Yoga therapy is about uncovering and bringing to light the conscious, subconscious and unconscious patterns of body, emotions, mind and psyche. From this discovery, the client and therapist, develop an accessible daily practice together over a period of weeks, months or years.

The practice is physical, includes movement that honour the energies/emotions at play, sets an intention for the mind to return to again and again, and builds toward a goal for the psyche to identify with someone/thing to motivates and inspires us to grow. Even though it’s subtle, the practice has aim, dynamism and remains objective to guide the client through their challenge and develop their personality. 

It’s a wholistic approach, making sure of success by creating a practice that’s sustainable long term, and on a daily basis. Yoga therapy works with the attitude, stance and posture of the five Koshas. The bearing of our physical, emotional, mental and psychological bodies. So that we embody, empower and embrace each layer of ourselves with strength, adaptability, beauty and confidence. 

The development of this practice ensures that, in all these layers, our fire burns up impurities. Our willpower is ignited. And our radiant intelligence softens our natural healing system.  This way our energy begins to flow again. Our Koshas are integrated and we sense our inherent wholeness. We embody our wellbeing.  

THE FIVE KOSHAS AND YOGA THERAPY  

We honour the five Koshas when we listen to their individual needs, desires and abilities. If, we oppress these natural urges too often, we cause imbalance, which eventually results in dis-ease. Either in one, or more, of these Koshas and aspects of living.   Desire is labelled as ‘Witch’, devil or step mother. But She is change, and the power of life flowing to initiate the transformation. Desire is just Prana, life-energy, asserting Her creative power wants to flow in a certain direction. If we can hear Her yearning and open up the channels, without greed or force, Life flows through us. Wellbeing.This is the art. Knowing and hearing the silent messages of the five Koshas.

Annamaya Kosha

Literally means our food body, or physical sheath. Nourished by food, water, exercise, massage and all the physical sensations that feed our physiology. Health of this body is honoured when we pay attention to our natural biorhythms, our need for sleep, hunger and pleasure, our menstrual cycle and just plain physical desires, needs and abilities.   We can influence it by asanas, movement, breath and mudra.

Pranamaya Kosha

Is our breath and life energy body. Also our emotional body. When energy is allowed to move through us uninhibited, we feel well. We’re moved by our natural intelligence, the desire of our soul. Breath and emotion are intimately connected. The same place in the brain that regulates our breathing is also full of neuroreceptors for mood enhancers.  We can influence it by asana, breath, mudras, mantras and movement.

Manomaya Kosha

Is the mind body. It is formed by our memories, thoughts, fantasies, dreams and the mental impressions left by our perceptions based on these. The mind body is a tool that loves movement and change, it’s versatile, agile, and calculating. Manomaya is the realm of logic, the known, busy comparing, analysing, and measuring. Our mind body is fed by impressions from visual, audio and emotional sensations, that are repeated. We can influence mind with mantras, mudras, breath, concentration, meditation and mindfulness. 

Vijnanamaya Kosha

Wisdom body or intelligence body. Vijnanamaya Kosha is the psyche that knows our connection to something bigger; a complete sense of self. It identifies with archetypes, heroes and heroines. It connect our consciousness with the sub- and un-conscious. It’s intuitive, unlimited and knows our inherent wholeness underneath all challenges and changes. We can influence it by the people we associate with, aspire to and the goals we set for ourselves. 

Ananadamaya Kosha

Is the bliss body, the causal body. The essence that starts our journey as conscious beings. Our will to fully embody our core desire to live, love and flourish. The part of us that has a unique gift that only we can bring into this world. The serve and thrive aspect of our being. Our bliss body is affected the by the clarity and wholeness of our other Koshas. We experience different aspects of bliss whenever one of the Koshas feels clear and whole, in relation to our level of consciousness. 

INTEGRITY OF THE FIVE KOSHAS 

Like a seed, we all start life as whole beings. In our natural state we grow in our entirety. Nourished on all levels of existence we become healthy, whole and integrated humans in the field of life. A seed’s protective husk contains the energy of vital sustenance and within that kernel, the embryo, our potential of divine existence. Similarly, our soul, protected by our physicality, directs our experiences and expressions, through different bodies of perception, to live fully.

Our physical body, holding the bodily systems, Body Beauty, our emotional body directs our energy, our mental body houses our memories, thoughts and perceptions, , and our psychology influences who we hang out with and want to become.

Each sheath, like a husk of grain, encases the deeper and richer sense of who we are. When we start working with all the bodies, we begin to touch our divine and whole sense of self. That gives us access to the only healing energy any of us need. 

Take a moment now and ask, “Which aspect of my life is most delicious, giving me a feeling nourishment, warmth and wholeness?” Go into that feeling recall the memory of it, bring it back again and again until that is the pattern of your mind, memories and let your body soak it in.   Which Kosha or layer of life is most stressful or feels a struggle? What’s one thing you can do, read a book, do a course, speak to a friend or therapist, to improve your experience of that layer?   Leave a comment below, share your insights, feelings and knowledge.  

Love to all your aspects of being, all your beautiful, blissful bodies, 

Shira.


[1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5332914/

A BREATH OF FRESH AIR

A BREATH OF FRESH AIR

A body is so complex, complete and incomprehensively perfect, alive and whole. An organism that regenerates, integrates, is self aware and self healing, self regulating and self conscious. A body that heals and knows what it needs to boost and nourish itself, on every level. Improving posture directly affects our breath and transforms our wellbeing.

THE BODYMIND CONNECTION

Here’s another article celebrating the natural beauty, intelligence and ability of our bodies. Science has no way of recreating such a perfect organism apart from the power of procreation. But science can help us understand its intricacy and teach us how to intimately work with it. Every challenge that arises in our life invites us to grow. The consciousness of our bodymind attracts these teachings, so we can step into a bigger, brighter and more brilliant version of ourselves. Whether we feel ready to take on the challenge depends on our self-image, self-confidence and self-awareness. These 3 self’s depend on our wellbeing. Our state of mind, emotions and stance of body Self-confidence and awareness are intimately connected to our breath. And our breath is affected by our stance in body, life and living. So how do we enable, or better said, reconnect to the intelligence of our body? How do we inspire that self-regeneration, self-regulating healing aspect?

Enhancing Wellbeing Through Posture

In Spinal Love we explored how posture improvement nourishes our spine and all our organs. Today we’re going to lunge into the lungs.  Many studies have investigated the relationship between posture and breathing and the spill over effects. What’s evident is posture affects not only the spine and organs but all the muscles of the trunk. Many of are directly related to our breath, some indirectly. And if you know, like I love to say, “All is connected”. Through fascia, and many other tissues and systems, then this affects all the muscles, nerves, joints and tendons, all the way down to your toes.[1] Think the diaphragm, intercostals, neck and shoulder muscles,[2] but also the pelvic floor muscles, right down to the legs and feet.

When we sit all day, without body awareness, our shoulders and head begin to round forward. The chest muscles are compromised and tighten over time. Especially if it’s a day in day out habit. Our lungs become limited, our breathing shallow and rapid.[3] This causing our nervous system to become overstimulated, fight or flight switches on. Our nervous system is constantly told, “a bear is chasing us”. While at the same time, our muscles, organs and limbs get less activity, mobility and agility. Sending another contradictory message to the rest of the body that says, “we’re disengaged, rest and digest”.  But our body can only choose one of these pathways at a time. So, its in a perpetual state of discomfort, confusion and compromise. I believe this is the cause of our species present epidemic of chronic, inflammatory, immune and misdiagnosed health issues. But again, THIS is the body’s natural beauty, intelligence and ability to speak to us. Asking us to seek new pathways of living, moving, breathing and being. Our body consciousness, neuroception, knows autonomously and ceaselessly communicates with us.  Whether we listen or not is a different story.

Studies on Breathing & Posture

A Yoga study explored the difference between breath centred yoga and yoga without breath awareness. The group with practices to extend breath and engage in breath awareness, improved not only their breathing, but physical functions of whole-body strength and flexibility, especially of the lower extremities![4] Breathing affects our nervous, respiratory, cardiovascular, digestive, immune system and eventually all these affect our endocrine system.[5] Imagine your lungs encaged in twelve pairs of ribs. And between each rib, many strong bands of muscle connecting one to another above and below it. These muscles, the intercostals, run diagonally internally, as well as externally,[6] like a grass woven basket. Intercostals pull and release our lungs, contracting and opening. The contraction pulls the ribs together, exhale. And on the release a breath of fresh air is drawn in, inhale. This constant and beautiful rhythm goes on, from the moment of our birth to the day we die. Our exhale clears toxins, calms the nerves and centres the mind. It’s dependent on our ability of muscle contraction. And just as important their ability to relax, allows us to take in that new, clear, lively breath.

Improve Posture – Breathe in Life

In Yoga we say of breath is our life. And within the breath lies our life energy. When we breath fully we live fully. When we breathe shallow we only live to that depth. And this ongoing relationship of the in and out, reflects of our way of opening and closing to the vicissitudes of life. So how does can we breath more fully? How can we live more completely? Improve posture! Yep, that simple. There are a few essentials to breathing fully.

Posture Improvement

And allowing our posture that open and free space of the chest, by slightly bringing the shoulder blades toward each other, and softly down the back. Lifting the ribs up and away from the hips so the abdominal muscles lengthen, and the diaphragm becomes free, are foundations of better breathing. Making sure when we sit that the sitting bones are more elevated than the knees and ankles ensures our belly muscles can relax. Only then can the psoas and back muscles release and give the space to the lungs. Did you know that letting the pelvic floor muscles soften even affects the lungs? 

Body Awareness

Connection to our body, it’s ability, it’s limits, it’s needs, desires and vitality, live in this part of yoga practice. Tuning in to our sense of embodiment takes time and it helps if you have a teacher who practices what she preaches, so she can guide you into your body deeply. So, you can attune with it intimately.

Muscle Stretch, Strength & Integrity

Again, movement can’t be overstated for improving breath, breathing and cardiovascular health. I used to think Yoga was the be all, end all pill for all life activities. But I’ve since come to realise we need to run, dance and swim to fully appreciate, celebrate and integrate who we are and what we’re capable of. Cardio is vital to heart rate variability, a response of our vascular system to environmental stimuli. So, get up and get your heart pumping! Remember what it means to be embodied!!!

Relaxation

Restorative yoga, Yin and any other gentle form of yoga, that allows the body to stay in a position for at least 2 minutes, allows muscles to relax which are tight, and/or weak. This retrains muscles that have adopted constricting and compromised holding patterns. So, here’s to our beautiful, intelligent and able bodies! Here’s to living fully, with integrity and ambivalence simultaneously. We’re only human, and yet that’s already so much… Breathe fully and with integrity of your entire body. Live and love yourself, no matter what!

Love to you, your body, your breath and the life you choose to live,

Shira.


    References 

[1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6329219/ 

[2] http://rc.rcjournal.com/content/59/4/543 

[3]https://www.healthline.com/health/breathe-deeper-improve-health-and-posture#posture-and-breathing

[4]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6329219/ 

[5] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3482773/

[6] https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/medicine-and-dentistry/intercostal-muscle

YOGA FOR SPINAL LOVE

YOGA FOR SPINAL LOVE

The last article was about posture improvement. A huge part of improving posture comes down to spinal health, or spinal love, as I like to call it. 

The spine is the centre of our body. It houses our central nervous system and supports our torso; organs and all our bodily systems. Actually if you think about it, the spine is core to our health and happiness. Back care isn’t just about being pain free. Spinal health equals wellbeing. Physical, mental, emotional and even psychological. Back care can literally change your life. Spinal love starts with understanding our spines needs and catering to simple but effective back care.  So what’s spinal love? Well let’s see how incredible our spine is and what it needs to keep being so amazing. 

Amazing facts about our spine

– The human spine starts to develop in utero at two months of development – It connects the brain to the body allowing the mind and body to communicate so that we can do all we want to do with our body in this world – The spine has over 120 muscles, 200 ligaments and 100 joints – Luckily the spine is incredibly strong and can hold hundreds of kilograms of weight – It’s also incredibly flexible, if bent forward and backward it does 2/3 of a circle – It can expand and contract, as well as, move in all direction because of all these muscles – The spine has an exceptional memory of posture, so what you create it will maintain – 80 % of all back pain can be relieved through improved posture and healthy movement patterns – Sitting puts around 100kg of pressure onto your spine. Bending forward from standing or sitting puts double that pressure on your back.

Healthy spine happy back, body and brain  

The wellbeing of our organs, digestion, respiration, and the entire muscular system, directly depends on spinal health and functionality to serve their purpose. Our immune, endocrine and neurological system all indirectly benefit from back and spinal health. The human spine is unique in that it’s upright in relation to earth and the force of gravity. So the way we care for it also unique. Our spine developed over millions of years of evolution to the way it is now as a culminative process. The four curves we have also developed according to our needs as bipeds. Each curve of our spine developed at a different stage of our development, accommodating differing needs and purposes. 

When we first get curious about the world around us and lift the head to see at 3-6 months, we develop the cervical and lumbar curve. When we start to interact and want to reach for and move toward other persons, objects and places through crawling, we further develop those two curves. Then as we begin to find our autonomy and start walking, the last curve, our sacral curve gives balance to our upright posture. The natural curves of our spine give both our bones and discs resilience and bounce back. They create the flexibility and strength for our back and all that’s attached to it. Think about it, these curves create the room for movement of both the discs and bones to slide, slip and transition, forward, back, sideways and even to twist.  So our aim is to allow these natural curves its full range of movement. Physical, mental and emotional health are depend upon spinal health. For a full description of the health benefits of healthy posture look click here.

Effects of an unhealthy spine

Without the room to move each movement would be painful, laborious and awkward. The natural curves help our back and spine withstand huge amounts of stress. Without these curves, and spinal health all the bodily functions; digestive, nervous, respiratory, cardiovascular, circulatory, lymphatic, urinary, and metabolic, are affected adversely. This in turn affects our hormonal and immune system, our sense of self as a whole connected and embodied person. This spills over to our sense of self and connection to others. Articles have been written on why back pain might be inherent to our upright position. But this misses the point that, we as a species developed to move, walk, run, climb and be active at least 6-8 hrs a day. In active and mobile cultures people don’t suffer back issues. And without daily activity our back and spinal health gives way to aches.

Symptoms of our back needing Spinal Love

– Pain, Tingling – Headaches, Migraines – Dizziness, Foggy brain – Restricted movement – Restriction of daily activites – Radiating pain in leg – Bony growth of cartilage in joint  – Fear of falling, Balance & Proprioception issues – Stiffness – Fatigue – Tightness – Inflammation, Fusion of vertebrae – Postural problems – Breathing difficulties – Altered cardiopulmonary function – Osteopenia, Stenosis, Spondilitis, Osteoporosis – Unbalanced spinal muscles, Muscular imbalance – Changes in bone density – Asymmetry causing degenerative changes in the spine and pelvis.

4 Ways to Spinal Love & Back Care 

If we don’t listen to the wisdom and wonder of our body’s natural intelligence we can end up with spinal conditions, back pain and problems. These changes are the body’s only way to communicate our unhealthy habit. And if we ignore this too long we will be hearing louder calls of communication, “Hey? Hello up there! This part of you needs some tender loving movement! It needs some attention!” So, Let’s listen to our body & give it some Spinal Love!

1. Move Daily

Most important!! Move. Whether its dancing to loud music when you get home, or going for a run, walking in the forest or Yoga practice, do it daily and do it with passion. Preferably a few times a day, get some real motion. Motion is lotion.

2. The Six Directions

Make sure to move the spine in its 6 direction everyday, a few times a day. Forward, backward, sideways L & R, and twisting L & R. That’s why Yoga is so amazing, and makes us feel so great. Because we take the time to do all the postitions and really squeeze, release, free and slide the spinal discs. This allows them to really absorb moisture, nutrients and blood supplies. Remember disc health from the last article. 

3. Body Awareness

Listening to our body is only an option when we have body awareness. Becoming aware of it’s language it a process. And it can be a playful process if we let it be a dialogue, a dance, a deliberate yet dallying of attention. It doesn’t need to be a chore. Again Yoga provides a perfect setting to cultivate this skill.

4. Hydrate

Drink. Drink. Drink lots of water. A hydrated spine is a happy, healthy spine. Tea, green, white or black, is dehydrating, so they don’t count 😉 It’s that easy, and dare I say even fun. So give that spine some TenderLovingCare, Spinal Love. It doesn’t ask for much, when you think of all it does in return. Spinal Love infleunces how we feel, think, move and live. Back care and health is intimately linked to our respiration. Respiration and inspiration come from the Latin root, spirare, to breathe. Spinal health revitalises and brings our whole body into physiological balance! So let’s celebrate the flex-ability, the strength and the amazingness of our spine with Yoga, which so easily caters to all the spine’s needs.  Namaste, and lot’s of love to you and your amazing spine,

Shira.