Archive of ‘2008’ category
As we move into the holiday season, we often have more to do. Office parties, connecting with family, preparing food…all these things infringe upon our daily rhythms. With all these extra obligations, it is easy to let our personal practice slip. We may find ourselves eating differently, skipping morning practice, staying inside instead of taking a walk. I notice people getting less sleep, less movement and, most important, less happy! And, of course, this comes through in our interactions with others. The net result is diminished peace for the people around us.
So here’s my pitch for the holidays this year. Take care of yourself as an offering to the people around you. Find time to enjoy some yoga practice. Take a 15-minute break to find your breath. Shop in a way that surrounds you with foods that make you feel well and peaceful. In other words, your Peaceful Weight Loss practice is the same. Eating, moving, and breathing in a way that gives you more energy.
This may include eating less than you did last year, or it may include eating your Mom’s pecan pie. It may include practicing Christmas afternoon with your children. Or walking around the neighborhood with your sister. Continuously ask yourself, “What do I need to be doing now to feel clear and keep my energy consistent?” If you center on yourself in this way, the people around you will benefit.
I hope your holiday season is peaceful, and that we may benefit all beings with the work we are doing on ourselves.
Loka samasta sukino bhavantu
(May all beings find peace and happiness)
Every year I pick a charity to promote. This year I’ve picked
The Food Bank for New York City
They provide food for over 1.3 million people in need. As the economy worsens, so do food donations. This year, more than ever, we can make a difference. They are very efficient—96 cents of every dollar donated goes directly to food. Please consider donating any amount to them. Serving others is serving ourselves.
Click here to make a donation.
A quick Thanksgiving note…
No one has ever gained ten pounds at Thanksgiving dinner.
Eat what you are drawn to.
Take breaths between courses so that you remember to enjoy the
delights before you.
Don’t eat anything you don’t want.
Eat everything you do want.
If you are with others take a moment to look into the faces of those
Find your breath and feel the joy of simply breathing.
Let go of the past and enjoy this day.
Find awareness of the breath and experience the present moment.
From this centered place direct your mind to what you are grateful
Enjoy this comfortable state for the entire day.
This is our yoga practice for Thanksgiving.
Loka Samasta Sukino Bhavantu
may all beings everywhere be peaceful and happy
Halloween is coming and my son doesn’t like candy. Well, that’s not entirely true. He likes the concept of candy—the shape, color, and packaging; something rare and valuable to get excited about. I have the same feeling, really. Rare special foods that please our senses of taste, smell, feel and vision are fantastic.
I’ve still decided, though, that he won’t be filling his mouth with Snickers, gummy bears, and Tootsie Rolls this Halloween. Why not? Because it’s not rare—not unusual—not really interesting. It’s EVERYWHERE all the time. We can’t go pick up a prescription, shop for food, or buy some cotton balls without encountering these things. It also turns out these foods don’t actually taste good. They don’t actually look that good and, strangely enough, compared to real foods they are also low in smell.
My parenting choices aside… the point is that you should definitely eat “candy” sometimes, without a though of its nutritional content. But let’s make sure it satisfies our definition of candy—special, rare, interesting to look at, and delicious. This real candy will allow your senses to guide you to a moment of bliss—and isn’t that really what you want?
I’ve received a lot of questions lately concerning cravings for specific foods. So I thought I’d revisit the topic here.
Our minds latch on to the idea that certain foods are essential. Chocolate, soda, bread and cookies are common foods that people mention. What I’ve seen is that the mind is perfectly happy to redirect its cravings if given the chance. Truly listening to our body mind means taking apart the components of the craving and satisfying what lies underneath.
Take soda for an example. Are you craving bubbly water? Sweet flavor? Sugar? Nutrasweet? Is the craving the desire to clear your mouth of the flavor at dinner? Any of these are possible. If we contemplate what we are craving more specifically, we will satisfy it in a different, more focused way. Seltzer with fruit juice – an orange, a bite of sorbet, are all options.
As we move towards whole foods to satiate ourselves, our system functions more efficiently and clearly and the cravings lessen. Eventually, as we work with this, we see the difference between random mental craving and our bodies’ need certain foods. We are then able to truly fulfill our bodies’ needs without burdening it with excess input of no value to us. This clarity is available to all of us with just a bit of practice.
It’s August – it’s hot. Our bodies naturally experience shifts in appetite with the heat. It is common to feel less hungry during the hotter hours of the day. The issue is that we then get really hungry later in the day. Our systems are thrown off and we eat too much, or foods that don’t serve as well. If this becomes a cycle, we find ourselves in a starve/binge pattern that throws off our whole practice.
Often, the solution is to eat easy cooling foods during the day. Fruit and yogurt, salads with seeds or nuts, cold rice or noodle dishes (easy on the heavy sauce) come to mind. Also, I can’t stress enough the importance of breakfast during this time. It will start your digestive system moving and allow you to be hungry for lunch.
The other part of the equation is to eat a reasonable dinner. Overeating in the hot weather makes us even hotter. So keeping dinner in check will keep you cool and allow you to stay with your practice of eating to feel good and maintain your energy. often in the summer I’ll have two snacks at 4pm and 8pm instead of dinner. This helps me to not be hungry and control my desire to overeat when the sun goes down. And, of course, don’t forget to practice. : )
As always, email with questions and concerns.
Yogic emotions are energy. Our system is designed to let these emotions flow through our bodies. When we do this, we have a complete experience of these emotions and then the energy returns to its source and we feel at peace.
Of course, we have another possibility—we can suppress, block, or redirect our emotional energy. When we do this, the energy is not able to flow freely and gets “stuck” somewhere in our body. This creates stress in our system. When we do this regularly, we end up with a constant level of stress and anxiety. The emotions keep getting built up in our system with nowhere to go.
The most common way to suppress these emotions is through food. When intense emotions arise, many of us have the habit of eating to calm them. We actually believe it works because in the short term the intensity is dulled. We are, however, only contributing to the buildup of anxiety in the system. As we repeat this behavior, the anxiety we experience grows.
We need to have two experiences to change this pattern. First, we need to get used to feeling energy course through our bodies. Our physical practice gives us a place to do this. As we get used to this feeling, we begin to see it as normal and we find that we do not need to react when energy moves in our system.
Second, we need to have repeated experiences of strong emotions coming up and then subsiding without long-term damage. I’ve found diaphragmatic breathing, particularly while lying down, a good way to keep the system calm while turbulent emotional and physical states are happening.
As we experience difficult emotions fully, and prove to ourselves we are okay if we let them come, we are less compelled to stop them with food. And as we allow emotions to release themselves, our overall stress and anxiety levels are diminished. From this more peaceful state, we can see our full range of experiences and states clearly. And as our vision widens, we are more connected to that part of ourselves which is happy, clear, balanced, and at peace.
As I work on my own practice, I’m always amazed by how important connection is. It’s so easy to stay in our head and try to work out our issues.
What yoga teaches us is that getting out of this solitary unconnected mindset is conducive to freedom. It’s not that we don’t need to use our intellect to make choices, (like what time you’ll be practicing tomorrow), but connection with others peels away much of the mental fuzziness and confusion associated with too much lonely self-centered thinking. Classes, teachers, meditation groups, and community of all sorts are remedies for these counterproductive thoughts.
This is an essential part of our overall strategy to stay present with ourselves and live in a way that brings us peace and energy. There will be times when it gets really tough to maintain your practice. Lethargy and self-doubt are a part of our experience of being human. With community and connection already in place, we can lean on it in times of need. When the going gets tough, the tough ask for help. So, this month, ask yourself if you have the support you need to support your practice. As we do this, we are often reminded that our practice helps others around us.
And the beauty of being human is revealed.
One of the most common questions I get asked at my seminars is how to stop binging behavior. Often we binge eat to repress unwanted emotions. I commonly hear fear and loneliness being cited as reasons for binging. I also see that it is comforting for many people. I would like to offer my perspective on this complex problem with which many of us are dealing.
Binge eating to supress emotion is habit-forming. So you may be suppressing emotions which are currently being generated. You may also be in the habit of suppressing these emotions with food, even though the emotions themselves have resolved. It is important to stay open to this possibility. We must always be ready to be done with our problems, or we will always be living with them. Either way, we are addicted to the state of deadened feeling. Our practice is to open ourselves up and enhance our awareness. We then get addicted to this open, aware state and it gradually overtakes our need for deadened states.
‘Gradually’ is a key concept here. If we force ourselves to stop binging right away, it is possible those emotions will come up and release before we are ready. The uncomfortable feeling this produces can send us right back into binging behavior—possible more intense than before. We must first establish our practice of enhancing awareness in a safe way so that we can get used to idea and feeling of being aware. As we realize that it is actually liberating to live in fuller awareness, the need to suppress emotion diminishes naturally.
So we practice yoga asana with awareness on the breath first. We sync breath and movement to allow ourselves to feel prana (energy) move in our body. As we get used to this feeling, it becomes uncomfortable to block this feeling with food.
We also spend time doing deep relaxation to keep our nervous system in check. This helps us stay in a state of receptivity and awareness, and away from fear-based responses.
Finally we practice meditation. This allows us to separate from reacting so much to thoughts and emotions.
Once these practices are firmly established, then we may work on curbing our binges. When these practices are in place, we are able to see clearly if we are ready to stop. Often we are. But, as always, we take a slow, compassionate path with ourselves. We allow our natural awareness to shine first and help us wash away the behaviors that are not serving us.
As always please email me with any thoughts or questions
Loka Samastha Sukino Bhavantu
May all beings be free and happy
It seems like everyone I know has been sick. My family has had the flu. My friends have all had colds. Events are constantly being canceled because of illness. It feels like all the forces in nature are conspiring to get us off track—to throw us from our routine.
It’s funny, really. This happens every year—colds always go around in February. We always feel like a unique horrible event is occurring, even though we’ve experienced it dozens of times.
And it’s the same in our practice. Whether we are engaged in sitting or moving meditation, We feel like a force of nature is pulling our attention away. Even though it has happened to us dozens of times, it feels like that storm is particularly unique and violent today. As I sit down to eat, the thoughts swirl again like crazy. Once again, before sleep, there it goes again, tempting me to eat to calm this storm down.
Or I can realize it’s just cold season—again. Just another weather event that happens regularly. Smile, take a breath, and laugh.