Mindfulness

Home is where the heart is

I recently saw Paddington at the theatre with my 2 children (great movie by the way). If you don’t know the story, it’s the tale of a bear who moves from darkest Peru to London, England. There is a line in the movie that I found absolutely wonderful. Paddington is explaining to somebody that his body made the journey to London but it’s taking his heart a little longer to get there.

Oh my gosh, how many times have we been there? Travel, particularly at the speed we move today, can transport us to the other side of the world in a day but how long before we actually feel comfortable there? The most obvious symptom of this is jet lag where our time clock needs to adjust to the new time zone. But what about our hearts?  Can we measure how long it takes for them to catch up?

It’s not just physical travel, it can be a change within our own environment as well. A job loss, a divorce or death are massive changes that are hard on the heart. But even a small change, such as a familiar sanctuary closing, can take a while to get used to as well.

So we look to being mindful to help our hearts while they work to catch up to us. Paying close attention to the immediate environment or people you are surrounded by. Stopping and feeling the earth or noticing new smells or sights will help the body adjust. While this process is going on, be kind to yourself. Just because your body can get there quickly, doesn’t mean your heart can. A great observation from a small loveable bear. Thank you Paddington!

Advertisements

Remaining Calm During a Hectic Time

In perfect tandem to my previous post, I came across an article in Yoga Journal about how to stay grounded (aka sane) during the upcoming holiday season. Their ideas, not always including yoga, are effective and quick and make a whole bunch of sense. I want to share them with you:

1. Breathe. The most important for sure. When you are feeling overwhelmed, stop and just breathe. At least 10 breaths. The world is not going to end during the time it takes to do this. It’s the fastest reset you can do.

breathe

2. Establish an intention for each day when you wake. A common undertaking during a yoga practice, you don’t have to be in downward dog to do this. Take a minute to steady the breath and set your intention for the day. Visualize the kind of day you want to have. Not everything will cooperate but your mind will work towards your goal without you even realizing it.

3. Smile. I love this one.

4. Alert, yoga pose! Maybe not appropriate in Costco but certainly at home or in the office, it just takes a minute. Forward bends are calming poses and can help lower your systolic blood pressure reading. Stand with your feet together and hands in a prayer position at your chest. Raise your hands straight above your head and fold forward reaching towards the floor. The closer you are to the floor, the more grounded you will feel. Stay for a few breaths.

forward bend

5. Music. Putting on your favourite music doesn’t require any time but can help calm you and lighten your mood as you work.

6. Brew a tea. The English love to “have a cuppa” when life gets stressful. Make it caffeine free for best effect.

kettle

7. Take a few minutes to walk outside when things get tough. Use all your senses to ground yourself; the sounds outside, the feel of the earth beneath you, the feel of the air across your face, the sights you see. Allow your shoulders to relax as you walk and your face to soften.

trees

8. Use some essentials oils to help you wind down at the end of the day in order to get a good nights sleep. Lavender is a wonderful calming oil and great for inducing sleep. To go one step further, Yoga Journal suggests this routine:
Add 2 drops each of lavender, chamomile, and rose essential oil to 2 oz. organic almond oil. Blend together and sprinkle a drops into your palms. Massage your face and neck gently with upward strokes. Pinch lightly along the eyebrow, and then press down along the ridge under your eye. Finish with circular full-facial strokes before placing the palms over your closed eyes, and inhaling deeply for a few seconds.

essential oils

Feel better?

Article adapted from Yoga Journal’s “7 Ways to Keep Your Calm”
http://www.yogajournal.com

A Silent Weekend

IMG_20141201_114449

This past weekend, I did something I haven’t done in the 6.5 years my eldest daughter has been around. I spent 3 days completely alone. No husband, no children – actually not even my cat, who passed away in September was around to keep my company. What bliss! I could be utterly selfish and answer only to myself for the entire weekend.

I turned down social events and didn’t pick up the phone once. I attended yoga classes, ate out and couldn’t resist a visit to Toronto’s One of a Kind Show but it was all on my own terms.

Except for a number of short exchanges, it was totally silent. Now a true silent weekend would involve turning off all communication and entertainment devices. Television, radio, computers, iPhones etc. In essence you meditate and direct your thoughts and your breath. I’ve never tried this but given the opportunity I absolutely would. My meditation consisted of yoga classes I took throughout the weekend and I focused on being in the present moment with everything I did. I painted the bathroom. Without rushing, I made few mistakes and the end result is much better than it would be had my family been around. I took my time walking around the Show without any pressure to visit any particular vendors or purchase anything I didn’t want 100%. In fact, the longest conversation I had all weekend was with an aromatherapy vendor who makes creams and salves to restore chapped hands. This vendor travels throughout Canada selling her wares but makes them right in my own neighbourhood. If I had a weekend of only one conversation, I couldn’t have chosen a more apt one.

In recent weeks, I have “not been in a good place” to use a term commonly used and understood. I have spent too much time focusing on the needs of my family and house and not enough on my needs. And when my needs get neglected for too long, everybody suffers.

Before the craziness of Christmas loomed, I needed to reset and incorporate some downtime. Downtime differs from person to person – some thrive on company, some restore better on their own. I’m in the latter group. I love to research and write about new foods or trends that appear. And I love my yoga, which hasn’t as much a part of my life recently and it’s apparent in my physical and mental self. I’ve since pledged to make it a priority to schedule time to get to the studio at least 3 times a week.

So I ask you? What do you need? How will you achieve this? Focus on it now, be mindful of yourself so you don’t burn yourself out over the course of the next month.

 

Prepping for Christmas

4 weeks less one day till the big day. How will those 4 weeks unfold for you? Throwing up your hands, saying “screw it”, I’ll deal with in January? Or can you take a healthier view and try to offset the damage beforehand?

Time speeds up as we get older and I’m starting to feel really old these days as I swear it was just summer. A summer full of social engagements and alcohol. I never seemed to completely recover before the holiday season looms. With this in mind, the only way we can manage a long term healthy diet and body, is to take it day by day and eat (and drink!) mindfully throughout the year.

There is probably a good 2 weeks left before the social events really start to kick in. It’s a great opportunity to do a simple detox to flush toxic build up that has been lingering. Not only will this refresh your body physically, it will adjust your mindset as you “feel” healthier and less likely to overindulge over the holidays.

Here are a few things you can do in the next couple of weeks:

1. Increase your water intake. Start the day with a glass of water with lemon for a gentle flush.
2. Take a probiotic in the morning.
3. Limit your caffeine intake to 1 caffeinated coffee per day. Replace caffeinated drinks with green tea, even if it caffeinated, it’s way less.
4. Clear your kitchen of chocolate, candy, cookies and cakes. There’s going to be enough temptation without adding to it in your own home.
5. Ensure you get at least 2 servings of fruit a day and 5 servings of vegetables, especially green ones. See yesterday’s post for tips on how to “winterize” your salads.
6. Pack your lunch.
7. Get outside every day, at least 15 minutes and add in an hour long walk a few times. Make it priority and take anybody you need to with you. If you have a regular exercise schedule, include workouts on your calendar so they don’t take a backseat.
8. Limit your alcohol intake. Especially on days when you don’t have anything going on. Your liver will thank you come January.
9. Get enough sleep. Don’t burn yourself before the season has even begun, you won’t enjoy any of it, particularly if you make yourself susceptible to picking up a big. Make sure your to-do list doesn’t get bigger than hours available.
10. Meditate for 10 minutes every day if you are a regular practitioner. If not, check in with yourself a few times a day to focus on what is happening in your mind and your body. It will keep you centred and keep your racing mind (and to-do list) in check.

Using the time now to prep yourself, ensures you really get to enjoy the Holiday Season without hindering your mind or physical health.

My Neglected Blog

I’m a touch horrified to discover it’s been over 2 months since I last posted here. It’s not that I haven’t been thinking of it or even that I haven’t been composing posts in my head, it’s just …. simply …. been ….. nuts. The summer flew by and was filled with much socializing but also by the fact that both of my children were home with me. All Day. Every Day. All Summer.

It was a time to focus on them and that I did. I also enjoyed myself immensely knowing that there were 2 ways of going into this; either with extreme trepidation that I would end up certifiably insane after spending that much time with them, or; with the attitude of not being able to beat them, therefore I might as well join them. (That might have been a poor choice of phrase!).

So, with mindfulness, I discovered a whole new side of me. A side that could let the small things slide and I could get out and enjoy the moment. I’m actually proud of how long I was able to let the cleaning go in my house because that is something that I don’t let go off easily. The winter was long and the summer felt short so I was going to make the most of it.

Ironically, after all that focus, the time now I am enjoying just as much. These strong fall days are spectacular. The already stunning colours, the blue September sky and the warm weather (but cool nights) are just about perfect. I wish it could last forever.

Now I’m done blaming the weather for my neglect, let’s get back to business. The most exciting piece of news I read while I was galavanting around was some damaging news on artificial sweeteners. Everyone loves bad news for their enemy and artificial sweeteners are my #1 sworn enemy. Now there is scientific proof that artificial sweeteners are doing exactly the opposite of what they are supposed to.

A study has found that the replacement for sugar, artificial sweeteners, might be making a problem that they were designed to prevent, actually worse. The results found that volunteers (and mice) had increased blood sugar levels which is a marker for a higher risk of diabetes. The effect seems to be concentrated in the gut bacteria. Like sugar, artificial sweeteners appear to increase the “bad” bacteria in the gut which kills off the good bacteria and compromises the immune system.

Artificial sweeteners have been a source of controversy for many years. I have written about them a few times mainly in respect to weight. This link to the post Deceptive Labeling: Which Sugar? includes a list of which brands falls under the “artificial sweetener” umbrella. I would love to see this “food” banned altogether, this is a small step in the right direction.

In the end, it all goes back to the same thing. Let’s ditch the magical replacements for those deemed foods”unhealthy”, such as butter and sugar and instead focus on creating ourselves a diet that includes all the whole foods we’ve been eating for centuries but in realistic proportions. A diet that doesn’t have room for chemicals.

And while we clear out all those chemicals and get back to nature, make sure you get out in the next few days to enjoy the stunning weather.

IMG_20140929_133241 IMG_20140929_133035

Morning Rituals

If I have time for a yoga practise and a shower before my children get up for the day, it sets the path for the day in a very positive way. I generally have more patience throughout the day, knowing that I have been able to take care of my own needs. Nothing is more frustrating that opening my eyes to whining and demands that I know aren’t going to diminish anytime soon.

A morning ritual doesn’t take a lot of effort, or time. It just takes some planning and about 15-30 minutes before you’d normally get up.

Consider these:

1. Meditation

2. Yoga

3. Coffee and a Newspaper/Internet News

4. A walk

5. Preparing a breakfast/juice/smoothie

And if all else fails, SMILE. It’s an instant boost.

 

Just Breathe

A remarkable thing happened this morning. With serene calmness, I got both girls ready, packed up and down to school ….. early. How? You ask. How indeed. For those that know me personally, this is a very rare event. I’m never early. Much less with serene calmness.

It was thanks to a new type of yoga I have recently found and an early morning practice at Breathe Yoga. This practice is mostly self-guided but in a studio with other practitioners. The class runs for 2.5 hours meaning it’s essentially a drop in class and you stay as long as you like. There is still a teacher giving individual instruction so for the time the teacher guides you, it’s one on one. The usual type of class is a teacher giving instruction to everyone all the time.

Welcome to Mysore Yoga.

It might not suit everyone but for me, it’s perfect. Since I spend my days in a loud, chaotic environment, the peace is a distinct change. There is nobody putting demands on me (whether that comes from a 2-year old, 5 year old or a yoga instructor) and best of all, it doesn’t matter if I’m late. Oh joy. Too often, I’ve spent the first 10 minutes of a yoga class just trying to relax after a frantic panic to get there on time or I’ve skipped it entirely not wanting to embark on that frantic panic.

It’s not a relaxing practice, it’s hard work. If you’ve done any of the Ashtanga series, you’ll know it’s a challenging series. The idea of Mysore is a meditative self practice of the Series. But the meditative part comes through so much more than any other yoga I’ve done before. A sense of calm patience literally stayed with me all day.

After finding this wonderful place, it seemed unbelievable to find this on my newsfeed (it’s now a print out on my fridge) later this morning. Did the words suit my mood or is this really something I can live by? Today, all of these can come naturally but tomorrow I may have to work harder.

Affirmation

I will try by remembering these words. And on those days I can practice yoga as I did this morning, I know it will come to me easily.

Thank you Tori for sharing this list!