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

EMOTIONALLY EMPOWERED BY SEEING YOUR LIMITING BELIEFS

EMOTIONALLY EMPOWERED BY SEEING YOUR LIMITING BELIEFS

We can empower ourselves emotionally and live fuller lives. These two simple steps will help you overcome fears and understand your limiting beliefs. Giving you more control, calm and resilience. 

Last weeks blog about was about how feelings and thoughts can’t be divorced. And how our vagal nerve allows us to enhance our relaxation response with a smooth, slow and rhythmic practice, of breath and movement. Helping us switch from active to responsive. Using the body to calm the nervous system and mind.
Yet sometimes, even though we do relaxing activities, our body is still tense and our mind restless. “Where on earth has peace and calm wandered this time?” I find myself wondering.


We all know we have the power in our hands to create health in body and mind. Especially when we educate ourselves and apply that knowledge. But even then, sometimes it’s really hard to switch from active to calm, and somehow, we jump to reactive.Trivial events trigger us. And it feels violent when we have a ‘Creating world harmony’ ideal.
Even after practicing mindfulness and yoga for over 29 years, it’s still a work in progress.
Why?  

Obviously, emotions.

Emotions, those wonderful messengers between body and mind. Energy in motion. They’re transient. They have no substance, but they’re very powerful forces!
There is an inherent intelligence behind each emotion. A message between our inner experience and the outer stimulus. Underneath each emotion lies our body-mind intelligence communicating with us in waves of change. And the way we experience and express that e-motion, depends on many things.
Often our inner experience is strongly influenced by past memories, thoughts and perceptions associated with the outer event.

The crashing of fear

And the strongest wave is that of fear. Because our brain was intensely wired to fear for more than 2 million years, ensuring our survival, we have a fear bias. Fear triggers us to react and fast.
Using the vagal nerve is called a bottom up approach.
This week it’s a top down approach. Using the mind to understand our fear and calm the mind, nerves and soma. Both bottom up and top down complement and enhance each other. To move us away from fear we need to use all tools in our toolbox.

Somatic practice and psychology is a beautiful marriage  

1. Create Mental Space to See Triggers
Using the body, breath and mind to create mental space we can start to see triggers earlier.
The reflective moments we create through yoga and meditative practice, especially breath centred, calms the nerves and creates more mental space. Chittakasha is expanded.
Because there’s more space in our minds, we take distance from our fears. Emotions are like waves, the come crashing on the shore of our consciousness from the unconscious. Spacious mind sees the waves of fear coming from afar.
This spaciousness let’s us see what undercurrent thoughts triggered the emotion. Emotions don’t happen to us, but move through us to change. A better change, a positive change. Opportunities to improve next time round. And there’s always a next time. (Remember nothing is perfect, especially the first time, we have many opportunities to try again.)

2. Find the underlying thought 
As we see the wave of emotion coming earlier the underlying thought also becomes clear. Underneath any reaction surges a fear. And behind every fear lies a good intention. Every negative habit has a positive intent. To protect us. Find that positive intent. Hear the fear behind it. Most reactions stem from one of 5 fears.
Martina Sheehan and Susan Pearse in Wired for Lifespeak of 5 fundamental fears:
1 Fear of rejection or standing out
2 Fear of losing out or scarcity mentality
3 Fear of losing control
4 Fear of failure or not good enough
5 Fear of facing the truth or being responsible
Socially, we need acceptance of our ‘tribe’, to survive. This desire to fit in is deeply ingrained and stems from our brain, the limbic system, the oldest part of our brain. All emotional triggers, especially fear, ensure we please our tribe. That may be our society, family, peers, colleagues or friends.
So find the fear. Hear the story you keep telling yourself subconsciously.

And then take action, move with emotion

Let that energy move through you not to you. 

1 Fear of standing out – Find our voice. Diversity is beauty. Only you define yourself, not the opinion of others.  
2 Fear of losing out – See the abundance. Know whatever you have to offer, there are people out their who need your gift. Think win/win, not win/lose. When others succeed see it as prove that you can too.
3 Fear of losing control – Let go. Accept things as they are. Uncertainty holds opportunity. 
4 Fear of failure – Take the chance, the challenge and grow. Progress not perfection is key to moving forward.
5 Fear of facing the truth – Take responsibility. Own your life, thoughts, feelings, actions and situation. Then take the steps to create the life You want to live.

So, hear the story you keep telling yourself, and find the underlying push your subconscious is trying to give you to move you toward a greater self. A less limited self. And if you dare to be really brave, a limitless self in a world with certain limits.
Namaste dear friend, so much love to You, Be that brave One,

Shira.

 Next time reaction happens ask which of the fears is asking You to change and move forward.

 What limiting belief or fear holds You back?

GET CLEAR, CALM & COLLECTED IN 7 STEPS

GET CLEAR, CALM & COLLECTED IN 7 STEPS

Getting clear, calm and collected in 7 Yoga steps to stop anxiety. 

Yeah!! It’s finally spring for those in the northen hemisphere and autumn in the southern. My favourite seasons. The seasons of change and renewal. Also the seasons of increased Vata. Last weeks article was about emotions and how we can transform them through Yoga and meditation. This week we’ll be looking at anxiety from Ayurvedic eyes and what we can do specific to empower ourselves if we feel overwhelmed. 

  • Understand what causes anxiety
  • Learn how you can change your nervous system with Yogic practices
  • Use your diet and daily routine to balance your emotions and mind
  • Enjoy self care that will calm and centre your body, emotions and mind

Most of my teen and adult life I struggled with anxiety. Most who know me wouldn’t know it, because I was really good at acting like I was fine. I think a lot of us live our lives that way.


You probably experience bouts of doubts, worry, anxiety, panic attacks, emotions changing for no real reason. Or maybe You’re feeling stuck in flight or flight response and want to manage or even master this feeling.


Do feel like you have become a different person compared to how You used to feel?
I know I have many times… 
And You want Yoga practice and knowledge to become resilient and confident again. That’s exactly what I wanted and didn’t know how or what. But after years of trial and error, I have some tools that can make a huge difference. To do that let’s dive into what causes anxiety to better understand how we can remedy.

Anxiety and it’s Causes 

Medically, anxiety is the nervous system stuck in fight/flight response. The fight/flight response occurs when there is any stress, whether the threat is physical, mental or emotional. It releases adrenaline, a stress hormone, preparing our physiology to escape or fight. It diverts the blood away from the internal organs of digestion, regulation and growth, to motor muscles. If our body is flooded with adrenaline we can get stuck in this alert and ready f/f mode.  


(If stress is chronic and consistent over long periods of time, our adrenals become exhausted, medically called Adrenal Fatigue, better known as Burnout.)


Ayurvedically, anxiety is excessive Vata dosha in the nervous system. Vata dosha is the psychobiological function of movement within the body/mind complex. Vata is like Wind; movement, breath, life changes. Too much wind becomes erratic, cold and drying movement of our energy and emotional states and quality of our living.


Vata when balanced is expressed as positive mental and emotional states like creativity, joy, intuition, expansiveness and deep spiritual understanding. When imbalance due to excess, Vata creates nervousness, doubts, worry, restlessness, just like too much wind will do to your skin. Because like increases like, opposite decreases. Therefore, to remedy excessive Vata, we need to increase the qualities of rhythm, warmth and moisture and the heavy quality of oils, sweet foods and anything that is not light, cold and erratic.

How to Change Gears of the Nervous System with Yoga

Advice is all too often, ‘Minimise stress’. But when our nervous system is stuck in the fight/flight gear, it can be really hard to switch to the rest/digest response. Luckily Ayurvedic principles applied to Yoga is powerful and effective.
Therefore, like winds’ irregular movement causing waves on the lake’s surface, the mind becomes erratic when we lack routine, rhythm and regularity. This affects our sense of clarity, our energy levels swing and our emotions become unreliable. Now imagine a movement that is soft, smooth, rhythmic within your body, breath and mind. This is the pattern we want to teach our breath, nervous system and mental fluctuations.  Because this will affect our body, energy, emotions and mind. So the key is to go slow, smooth and softly in our day, practice, daily routine and any movement.

The 7 Simple Steps to Overcome Anxiety

The first 5 steps are to calm the nerves. The last one is to strengthen the nervous system.
Or download my Free PDF Yoga for a Calm Mind

1 Routine & Regularity

Eat regularly, wake up & go to sleep consistently, meditate, exercise and relax regularly. Find a rhythm that works well for You and stick to it. Prediction immediately calms the nervous system. Even symmetry and a clean and clear home will create a collected and centred feeling.


2 Stay Warm

Eat warm, oily food, dress warm so nerves are not constantly stimulated by chills. Warming the nerves engages the relaxation response, slows down the mind and grounds our emotional state. It switches us from fight/flight response to rest and digest response. 


3 Breathe Out Slow

Slow breathing calms the nervous system, but the out breath activate the parasympathetic nervous system- the part responsible for the relaxation response. So breathe in for 5 breathe out for 10, do up to 10 rounds. Don’t do retentions, they might trigger nervousness.


4 Grounding Yoga Poses

Any poses that are close to the ground, bringing the energy inward and down will ground the nervous system. Any open and spacious movement will only create more anxiety. So forward bends such as cat/cow, child’s pose, wind relieving pose, forward fold, and garland pose. Even just lying on the floor, and hugging the knees, is very beneficial and centering.


5 Self Care

Self care can’t be overstated for anxiety, we tend to worry and spend too much time in our head. The most grounding practices are a warm bath, oil massage and touch. After a warm bath with essential oils such as Jasmin, Rose or any sweet smelling oils, oil yourself with a warming oil such as mustard, sesame or almond and nourish the soul, through touch.  Touch is major healer of nervous sytem disregulation and anxiety. What every mother knows, when a child or baby cries nothing is more effective than holding, hugging to call the fears and sense of loneliness. More hugs and hand holding activates the relax response. Getting an oil massage its vital in calming the nerves. Also watch a funny film, allow yourself to indulge in an activity that will literally cheer you up.


6 Physical Exercise

This is huge! As a Yoga teacher for a long time I thought this was irrelevant for me, but human body is meant to run, walk and climb. Since 2 million years we have evolved to do just this. Therefore, when we do vigourous exercise our bodies are used to their full potential and that enlivens and awakens the natural intelligence of our bodies. Once the above routine calms your system, start jogging or doing a physical exercise that strengthens the entire body.


7 Proactivity

Being proactive means we do things to progress, not to perfection. Perfectionism causes paralysis and procrastination, cutting confidence. So its opposite is take action, see the fear and do it anyway. Anxiety is also associated to thoughts of the future, whereas depression is to do with the past.  So act on those thoughts of the future, don’t ruminate or become paralysed, just act. Don’t worry if you make a mistake, or someone doesn’t like you for what you do. You can’t please all the people all the time. We are human, not supernatural. Accept yourself and You will believe others are more accepting of You.

Now it’s time to turn ideas and insight into action. Write down in the comments below what You do to contribute to your anxiety and which steps you can take right now to remedy it.

Much Love,

Shira.

TRANSFORM EMOTIONS INTO POSITIVE ACTIONS

TRANSFORM EMOTIONS INTO POSITIVE ACTIONS

From waves of emotion to the sea of self confidence.

The waves of emotions 

Emotions are powerful. They lead to self-confidence when we know how to ride them. They strongly influence our body and mind. They create imbalance or vibrancy. Havoc or harmony, and manifest as confusion or creativity.
They affect our hormones, our mental state, our physiology and energy levels. 


The waves of emotions are created when the inner world meets the outer. The tides of energy exchange. The ebb and flow of the movement of life within us. Every sensation within your body is just an expression of these two ‘strangers’ meeting in myriad forms. 
Off course our fullest expression of any emotion is ultimately Love. But how often do we really feel this love with a capital L daily? A few seconds, maybe minutes at most. And wouldn’t it be great if we could feel a fuller version of that emotion or live, breathe, eat and sleep with more passion, contentment, satisfaction and surrender?  


Well we can. But first we need to understand emotions purpose.

The power and purpose of emotions 

Every emotion has a story to tell. Emotion is energy in motion. Emotions exist to propel us into action. Emotions are the connection between body and mind. The bridge, if you will. Whenever we interact with the world, the exchange creates energetic movement within the body.


We act in response to that energetic movement, E-motion.  


When emotions are positive, we feel harmony and enjoy and absorb that joyousness. But when negative, we usually react instead of respond. Emotions push us to honour our inherent intelligence. Our soul’s purpose wants to be honoured, heard, felt, valued, seen, and can be ignored, negated, supressed, surplanted, uprooted, or neglected, resulting in emotion. An unmet need.

The 5 difficult emotions and our respond-ability

Fear – or anxiety asks us to discern and then act upon the intentions and actions of others. When we align with that we create feelings of safety and trust.  
Guilt – asks us to look at our own intentions and actions. When we honour this, we create feelings of satisfaction and pleasure. 
Anger – or shame is our values, needs and desires being refuted, ignored or trodden on. It asks us to move forward, create change and transform that situation. When we see to this emotion, we create feelings of success, self confidence and autonomy. 
Sadness – asks us to stop, look, and listen to the grief, and feel what it is we are letting go of. When we feel this emotion, we create feelings of peace, contentment and Love. And a little wisdom, as we grow by letting go.
Suppression – asks us to speak our truth, to own our voice and express our values, ideas and opinions, even if thats not in accordance with public opinion. When we own our stance, needs and goals, this feeling makes way for creativity, openness and freedom, and self worth and acceptence become solid ground.  

Knowing the emotion allows us to create positive change

But often we don’t know what we’re feeling. Often we’ve been taught to supress, reject or ignore our emotions. Remember emotions are energy in motion, if they get stuck, energy becomes condensced and becomes a matter.  
Do this too often, too long, and they become toxic. They build up and get stuck in our tissues, organs and systems of the body and mind. Clogging our physical and mental perception and sensitivity. Clouded or insensitive to our feelings, when our emotional needs aren’t being met or expressed, we internalise those dynamics of relationship, relating and living.
Our emotional fire and desire dims, and we lose the ability to connect and relate. Emotions become toxic, often lifelong patterns. 
So what can we do?

4 Key steps to riding the emotional waves

1. Burning up the Build Up

We can burn emotional toxicity by building a healthy energetic fire.
As emotions are divine life energy expressed through us, we don’t need to suppress or reject these feelings. When we surrender, we release them. Just witnessing our emotions, their rise, fall and dissolution, and our reactions and thoughts toward them, will dissolve them.


Now, even though we just have to sit with them, this is hard work. We need to be brave enough to feel and hold them, in all their velocity, intensity and uncertainty. And being with our feelings, and the burning sensation of it inside us, creates the fire that releases toxic emotions.
Doing just 5 minutes each day will build up our courage and self-confidence. 

2. Recognising Emotions

Once we’ve created the fire we want to begin to name the different emotions. This allows us to know what our inner world feels in response to the outer situation and act accordingly. We begin the process of transformation through discrimination. Then we don’t cheat ourselves or the other.


Feel what happens to your energy in relation to the external world. Does the person, situation or activity lift you up or pull you down? Does it move you forward or hold you back?
Take a few moments of time in your day to ask these questions when with others.

3. Hear Their Story

Emotions are always in the present, so what is THIS emotion telling you? Can you allow it to speak the whole story? Allow it to rise, swell, peak and fall away. Find out where it came from. Realise which past experience makes you feel compelled to suppress this emotion.


Then once you get past your own story in relation to it, feel its strength. What power does this feeling convey? How can you ride this wave? Feel it’s intensity, the direction it wants to take and the expression you can channel this into. Maybe in the form of movement in your body, maybe in creating a project or connecting with like minded people to create some change you feel compelled to awaken.

Honour the emotion. The stronger the charge, the bigger you can create, the further this energy can move through you and the world.
When you start to feel, recognise and express this energy, its like riding a wave that’s moving through your core. When I realised this, it was a BIG DEAL! It means we can transform to create through feeling. This blew me away.


Next time a strong emotion arises, feel where you can take that surge of energy. Channel it into something creative.

4. Honour your needs

We need to feel, see and recognise our emotions to meet our needs. We need our needs met to feel ALIVE. And we need our emotions to meet our needs. So vital and key, they complement each other. It’s like a cycle, upstream or down.


Movement is a great physical need we have. We’ve evolved over 2 million years to walk, climb, run, dig, swim, dance and jump. And off course yoga! Taking all these different forms and expressing their energy! Doing this daily to feel fully alive. To let that divine life energy flow through us just as the spring breathes life into the woods and world!


Let Your aliveness guide you not your imbalances.


Needs are different for each person, but most of us need love, safety, nourishment, connection and purpose. When these are met, we can meet powerful emotions with calm, collected clarity and curiousity.


Self knowledge gives birth to self Love. When we know what we need, want, what we are great at and what we are crap at, we know what actions we need to take to move out of an emotion that limits us. Step Into Your Power & Beauty is a in-depth training to learn how to work with your emotions and turn them into positive actions.


So let’s ride the waves of emotion. Let’s ride the wave to self-confidence, vibrancy and manifestation of a world we want to live in. One where we’re emotionally intelligent, literate and empowered.


Let’s open ourselves up to a vaster range of emotions by first diving into the not so delicate and delicious ones 😉

Tell me, what do you do to ride the waves of your emotions?

Much Love,

Shira.