I have just finished a 30-day elimination of alcohol and processed sugar. If you have ever thought that you didn’t have any unhealthy attachments, try eliminating something from your routine for a month! The challenge came not so much from missing the actual alcohol or sugar but rather from noticing the attachment I have had over the years with these things. I consider myself to have a healthy relationship with both things, enjoying each in moderation with the occasional overindulgence. So, I was very surprised to see how difficult it was to remove these things from my life for an entire month. I found myself feeling restricted and unfairly limited. All strange, considering this was something I was voluntarily doing to myself.
It’s always interesting to examine our suffering, which I consider to be anything in the present moment that differs from our expectations. My expectation was that I should be able to have whatever my little heart desired, which on some evenings was a glass of wine and some chocolate. When my present moment reality wasn’t providing me with those things that I felt so entitled to indulge in, it caused discontent, which is a form of suffering. My default of dealing with suffering is to not deal with it at all! We typically have 4 default modes we resort to when faced with various forms of suffering: avoidance, manipulation, victimizing ourselves, or acceptance. When this suffering came up for me, I really focused on letting my initial reaction to resist the suffering (in this case resistance would look like going out to the grocery to buy that bottle of wine or that bar of chocolate rather than sitting with the discomfort). The opposite of resistance is acceptance. Once I could sit with the discomfort without running away, I was able to accept my present reality and focus on the health benefits of what I was trying to do.
On my never-ending journey to personal growth and inner peace, I have become very interested in getting to know myself better. I want to understand all the things that make me who I am, and this means sometimes getting brutally honest with myself. These things I was choosing to give up had been a part of my life for many years and what may look like a healthy relationship on the outside, could really be an unhealthy attachment on the inside. We all have that little voice inside our head that makes suggestions from time to time, “I should really stop eating fast food” or “I should really stop drinking on the weekends”, but then we brush that voice off and move onto our next distraction. Eventually, we stop listening to that voice altogether, becoming a very limited version of ourselves.
I am writing all of this to say, if you have a little voice in your head that is making suggestions from time to time, telling you to give up certain things you’ve become too attached to or distracted by, maybe you should try listening to it. Chances are, it’s your intuition telling you this thing you are attached to is standing in your way of becoming the best version of yourself.
What if I told you the way we see things is through a very distorted lens that is specific to only us? What we consider reality and fact is actually just our perception that has been shaped by our past events and experiences.
The minute we realize things may not always be the way we see them, we enter a state of what is known as Awareness. This Awareness is essential to living a life that is free from emotional reactivity to things that occur outside of ourselves.
This lens we filter life through is known as our Ego. It is the part of us that is constantly seeking, searching, and trying to identify itself. It is the part of us that makes us believe we are not already perfect, whole, and complete.
The good news is, Awareness and Ego cannot exist at the same time. The minute we enter this state of Awareness, the Ego ceases its incessant chatter and we begin to move with the flow of life rather than allowing our Ego to make us feel like it’s a battle that must be won.
As we move into May, I encourage you to try and seperate the Ego from Awareness. Notice the space and inner peace that is created when we acknowledge that the incessant chatter clinging to attachments in our head actually isn't who we truly are at all.
“Am I putting the power of my worthiness and happiness is other people’s hands?” This is a powerful question that I’ve come across recently. When I asked myself this openly and honestly, I discovered that the majority of my self-worth is most definitely reliant on others opinions of me. What I’ve realized is that for many years I’ve only felt a very false sense of self-worth. It’s the type of self-worth that’s been completely dependent on the affirmations of others and therefore has wavered greatly depending on who and what I’m facing during specific periods in my life.
This “outsourcing” of our self-worth is a dangerous cycle that conditions us to the false belief that we are only worthy when others are there to affirm it. When we are not receiving these positive vibes and affirmations from others, we fall into this dark pit of self-doubt and lack of self-worth. It’s taken me many years to realize this is a sure way to ruin personal relationships. It is completely unfair to ourselves and to others to be basing our self-esteem and self-worth solely on their words and actions towards us. Our own worthiness is far too important to put into the hands of another.
What if we released anyone else from this responsibility of helping us overcome what we haven’t wanted to face ourselves? If we want to stop placing the burden and responsibility of our worthiness on others, we have to start to practice some accountability for our own feelings. Feeling self-love and compassion are the only real way to fill the void that we are constantly seeking to be filled from others. This feeling we are seeking is actually already within us. Although it may not seem like it at times, we are very capable of giving ourselves the love and affirmations that we are searching for outside of ourselves.
We’ve all heard the saying “the grass isn’t always greener on the other side”. But despite the truth in this saying, we still spend a lot of life’s moments fantasizing about scenarios that allow us an escape from our present reality. We create stories that paint beautiful pictures of things being just a little bit different and vividly watch ourselves finally finding some peace and happiness.
Unfortunately, this process of thought is a thief of our joy. We think if our outside circumstances change then our internal circumstances (emotions and feelings) will change too. We are trying to address an internal problem with an external solution. We move forward with trying to change all of the things we try to blame our unhappiness on. We blame our partners, our friends, our job, our family, and where we live for how we feel inside.
The problem with this discontentment of our current circumstance is that the human brain is wired to live in the future.
So, once we fulfill that desire we’re longing for, our mind will fixate on something else that will put happiness and contentment just out of our reach.
The bottom line is this; we cannot escape from ourselves. We live our entire life inside our own head and it is our perceptions of our situations (the stories we tell ourselves) that shape who we are, not the circumstances and situations themselves.
When you change your perceptions and stop listening to the stories you're telling yourself, your view of the outside will become much clearer.
My YIN YOGA VIDEO GUIDE is NOW AVAILABLE!
Visit www.daniellemerceryoga.com to enroll and check out what I've got in the works for 2019!
“What is Mindfulness?”
“Mindfulness is awareness that arises through paying attention on purpose in the present moment, non-judgmentally.”-Jon Kabat-Zinn
Pranayama: The formal practice of controlling the breath, which is the source of our prana, or vital life force.
Meditation: Deep thinking or focus of one’s mind for a period of time, in silence or with the aid of chanting or mantra. A method of relaxation and/or connection to one’s spirituality.
Have you ever been going somewhere and arrived at your destination only to realize you haven't noticed anything or anyone you met along the way? Of course you have, we all have! These are common examples of "mindlessness," or as some people put it, "going on automatic pilot."
Our reactions to the stressful events of our lives can become so habituated that they occur essentially out of our awareness, until, because of physical or emotional or psychological dysfunction, we cannot ignore them any longer. These reactions can include tensing the body, experiencing painful emotional states, even panic and depression, and being prisoners of habits of thinking and self-talk including obsessional list making, and intense, even toxic self-criticism.
An important antidote to this tendency to "tune-out," to go on "automatic pilot," is to practice mindfulness. To practice mindfulness means to pay more careful attention in a particular way.
Parasympathetic Nervous System:
When you feel threatened or stressed, your body automatically triggers what is called the fight-or-flight response (Sympathetic Nervous System). If you were a caveman hunting for food in prehistoric times and a saber-tooth tiger came into your path, your body would prepare to fight the tiger or flee from it (anytime you experience danger/highly
stressful situations this is the inborn response). Your body responds to almost every stressful moment in your life with the same response.
Our Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS), when activated, tells the body it's okay to slow down. It's okay to relax and not have to be prepared to take immediate action. It's literally communicates to our body to "rest & digest".
Unfortunately, for most of us, we are in a heightened state of stress the majority of our day, which keeps the Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS) "on", leaving us in a state of fight-or-flight.
In this state, our stress hormones release more glucose, which becomes an unused energy source. Over using our stress hormones also means:
Shortened breaths (more strain on the heart), sugar cravings, weight gain, increased blood pressure & heart rate, obsessive thinking, and irritability.
The good news is, we can use our breath to control our nervous system, physical body, & our thoughts. We do this by using some of the PNS breath activating techniques listed below:
Activate PNS & Cultivate Mindfulness with THE BREATH:
10 SECOND BREATH:
10 second breath vs our typical 3 second daily breath
-Inhale for a count of 4, 1 sec pause, exhale for a count of 4, 1 sec pause.
*REPEAT for 5 rounds
Inhale through the nose deeply for a count of 4 and exhale out the mouth (making a deep “sigh” sound as you exhale)
*REPEAT for 3 rounds
This is the body’s natural release mechanism for stress or tension that builds up in the mind or physical body.
1. Find a relaxed and comfortable position. Close your eyes and bring your awareness to your third eye (space between your eyebrows).
2. Visualize the shape of a square right there in the center of your forehead and with the next few breaths, visualize the square growing bolder and brighter.
3.With the next inhale, visualize you're pulling your breath up the left side of the square. As you exhale, draw the line across the top of the square. Next inhale, drawing the right side down the square and as you exhale, drawing the line across the bottom towards the left corner.
*REPEAT 10-15 rounds
BODY SCAN MEDITATION:
In the evening, around bedtime, lie down with arms relaxed by the sides and legs relaxed out straight. Close the eyes and scan through each part of the body individually, relaxing each part from the feet all the way to the top of the head/back of the neck. By resting attention on each part of the body, slowly & methodically, the mind is soothed. This also reduces anxiety, improves sleep, concentration & focus, and builds self-awareness, which leads to greater emotional intelligence and happiness level.
1. Begin lying down or seated
2. Place your hands on either side of your belly so you
can feel your ribcage on both sides.
3. As you breath in, feel the belly expand out into the
hands first. Then pull the breath higher until you feel
your ribcage expand. Continue to pull it even higher
until you feel the chest expand (about 4 seconds in
4. Exhale, chest first, then ribs, belly.
5. Repeat 10 rounds
1. Inhale through the nose for a count of 4 seconds
2. Hold your breath (retain) for 7 seconds
3. Exhale very slowly from the mouth for 8 seconds
1.Take a comfortable and tall seat
2. Relax your left palm comfortably into your lap and right hand in front of your face.
3. Bring your pointer finger & middle finger to rest between your eyebrows and your thumb and ring finger to either side of your nostrils
4. Take a deep breath in & out through your nose
5. Close your right nostril with your right thumb.
6. Inhale slowly through the left nostril
7. Pause and then open your right nostril to release the breath slowly
8. Pause and inhale through the right side/open left & release
KAPALABHATI (SKULL-SHINING BREATH)
1. Sit comfortably in an upright posture and rest your hands on your lower belly. If you’re sitting in a chair, make sure to place both feet on the ground.
2. Take a deep, cleansing breath before you begin, in through your nose and out through your mouth.
3. Inhale deeply through your nose, filling your belly with air about ¾ way full.
4. In a quick motion, forcefully expel all the air from your lungs while drawing your navel in toward your spine. The primary movement is from your diaphragm.
5. Allow your lungs to fill up naturally, with no effort as your belly expands.
6. Perform this cycle 10 times, then allow your breathing to return to normal and observe the sensations in your body. Repeat these cycles of 10 movements, 3 to 4 times.
BHASTRIKA PRANAYAMA (BELLOWS BREATH)
1. Sit up tall, relax your shoulders, and take a few deep, breaths in and out from your nose. With each inhale, expand your belly fully as you breathe.
2. Begin bellows breathing by exhaling forcefully through your nose. Follow by inhaling forcefully at the rate of one second per cycle.
3. Make sure the breath is coming from your diaphragm; keep your head, neck, shoulders, and chest still while your belly moves in and out.
*For your first cycle, move through a round of 10 Bhastrika breaths, then take a break and breathe naturally, observing the sensations in your mind and body. After a 15- to 30-second break, begin the next round with 20 breaths. Finally, after pausing for another 30 seconds, complete a third round of 30 bellows breaths.
Make sure to listen to your body during the practice. Bellows breathing is a safe practice, but if you feel light-headed in any way, take a pause for a few minutes while breathing naturally. When the discomfort passes, try another round of bellows breathing, slower and with less intensity.
This is the only practice that allows you the time to get a deep release in the Fascia that surrounds runs through our muscles.
Fascia needs these long holds to restructure itself in the body, creating more space between our joints. Think of Fascia as a thin, plastic-like material and our muscles as rubber bands. In quick stretching, we feel a release in our muscles but then they snap back into their original formation, not increasing length once we release from the stretch. Fascia, like a thin-plastic, can be remolded and reformed and maintains its new shape through time and practice.
-We learn to sit and examine our discomfort rather than avoiding it like we’re used to doing in uncomfortable situations.
-Reduces stress & anxiety. Because of the long holds in Yin poses, we have plenty of time to breathe consciously. The breath is our link to relaxing our Sympathetic Nervous System (fight or flight) and activating our Parasympathetic Nervous System (rest and digest).
-We move slowly in Yin practice in a world where we’re used to moving very fast and jumping from task to task. This teaches us to pay attention to things we typically would ignore when we’re running on “auto-pilot” and caught up in daily life.
Promotes emotional well-being and balance:
In Yin, we are stressing the meridian lines (low-resistance energy pathways in the body that feed our internal organs). Each meridian is associated with an emotion, and if out of balance can cause us to feel an emotional outburst or imbalance. Think of it like doing self-acupuncture!
The average human has anywhere from 40,000-50,000 thoughts in a single day. It’s entirely too easy to identify with these thoughts and to take each one for the truth. The thoughts we believe are the thoughts that end up creating our feelings and our realities.
International Yoga Trainer,