Archive of ‘Yoga Practice’ category
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.
This holiday season, love yourself. Be kind to yourself. And then let that love spread to others.
Yogic philosophy goes something like this: The self is everywhere—it is everything. As we nourish one piece, the others receive nourishment. When we are kind to our bodies by doing our asana practice, we are able to be more peaceful in our interactions with others. So, one way to be kind to others is to do your asana every morning. Then you and others are both helped.
Another way to spread peace is to nourish ourselves with foods that make us feel energetic and contented. From this calm, energized place we can be peaceful and be useful to our friends, family, and community. As we do this, the people around us are possibly also inspired to do the same—it’s catching. Then people everywhere are producing peace around themselves and, before you know it, it’s coming back to you.
Yoga practice continually asks us to find a way to be kind to ourselves. It’s “self centered”. As we continue to expand our view of the self, we find more and more ways to be kind, useful and helpful. We take care of our body, mind, and spirit. From that place, we help others do the same. When we do something like give to charity, we see that it is just another way to be kind to ourselves. There is no distinction, really, between eating appropriately, moving and breathing, and helping others. These are all ways of being kind to yourself.
All are useful and produce peace.
What I’m suggesting, then, is that we all try to do these things as part of our peaceful weight loss practice for the holidays. Practice our yoga in a calm, easeful, stress-reducing way. Eat in a way that helps us maintain that peaceful feeling we have produced. From there, let others enjoy the benefits of our practice by spending time with people we love. If we can, find a way to give a little extra to those in need. If we do this with the perspective that all these people are extensions of ourselves, it will produce tangible, positive, peaceful feelings within us. What more could we ask for?
May we all experience peace and nourishment this holiday season.
Loka Samista Sukino Bhavantu
May the entire world be filled with peace, love, and light.
As humans, we have an instinct to react against any restriction on our freedom. If you tie your arms behind your back, you will struggle to find a way out. So why should you expect your mind to be different? I’m not eating sweets – I won’t eat too much – no sugar for me – I’m not eating that kind of food right now. This type of language ties your mind’s hands. When we language our eating “rules” like this, we react, struggle, and create stress.
When we fill our home with an abundance of whole foods, we free ourselves. We can look in the refrigerator and say – I can eat anything I want. We set up new language of abundance for our mind. This reduces negative internal chatter in general and allows our thoughts to be more sattvic (peaceful). This peace then moves into our body and allows us to feel calm and energized. It is from this state of being that true and lasting change happens.
So commit yourself to abundance, and stock your kitchen with a ridiculous amount of delicious whol (ish) foods.
Let yourself enjoy and be comforted by this newfound wealth. Be rid of the foods that are causing you to stuggle. Most importantly allow yourself to have fun eating again
What makes you feel alive? What do you do on a regular basis that reminds you of your inner fire for life? This is the question I would like for you to ponder this month. As I work with more and more people, i see this correlation – the inner fire is dulled and the weight won’t budge. Yoga practice stokes this inner fire. For most people, releasing into the breath is enough for the fire to surface again. Meaningful connection with people helps as well. Occasionally, we must push ourselves to reconnect. This can be through extended physical practice, the discipline of meditation, or signing up for a pottery class.
Once we connect with the fire again, we can often see our detrimental food behaviors lessen. Once we can feel that fire again, we are less likely to smother it with food. As this continues and our energy is heightened, our bodies feel strong, and safe, and let unneeded weight go.
So re-commit to your simple daily practice as a start. Let the clarity that emerges from that guide you to the elements in your life that allow your fire to flourish.
As always, email me with your results.
Give evil nothing to oppose and it will disappear by itself.
—Tao Te Ching
“If I eat less, I will be thinner.”
“I need to eat more vegetables.”
“I need to eat more healthy.”
“I must stop bingeing.”
These active thoughts give rise to their opposites. As we try to take action and change our behavior, we often find it has the opposite effect. It’s amazing how many of us feel ourselves bingeing after a day of “healthy eating.”
Just because the thought “If I eat less I’ll be thinner” has truth in it doesn’t mean cultivating that thought is your solution. Thoughts like these will generate their opposites. Our mental action needs to be less active and more contemplative.
I am noticing breathing in—I am noticing breathing out—it’s a nice way to start noticing our breath. It allows our thoughts to move with less restriction so that they may arise then disappear in a timely fashion. Focusing down on them only makes them (and their opposites) more powerful.
You have already set your intention to lose weight and live in a way that makes sense to you. Once that intention has entered your mind, no more needs to be done. Your job is now to allow your thoughts to do what they need to and to not add to the mix. Don’t generate anything extra for your mind to react to. Then unneeded behaviors will disappear by themselves.
Vacation—a time to relax all discipline. A time to sit and see what happens. A time to be with no expectations—a time to eat. This can be quite scary. As we let our discipline slide, so do those eating habits, and our whole foods diet becomes a brownie sandwich for lunch. Our yoga practice goes out the window. Or does it?
On vacation, we take time out to be self-indulgent. To do whatever we want. This can be a scary proposition. For many of us believe what we want is terrible food and no exercise, no practice. This, however, probably isn’t true. For me it goes something like this.
Day 1: Pig out. No yoga.
Day 2: Pig out. No yoga.
Day 3: I get an inkling that I actually want to to yoga. So I do, and then pig out.
Day 4: I actually want to do yoga practice again, meditate a while, and eat whatever food I want without pigging out.
Then I spend the rest of my time eating a bit more than usual, doing a practice that makes me feel great, but not pushing it physically, and meditating whenever I feel like it.
Which, of course, makes my days on vacation more fun and relaxing.
Those early vacation days are days I wasn’t being present – especially to my actual needs and desires.
It never ceases to amaze me—our desires are always in step with what is healthy for us.
If we can relax and pay attention to ourselves, we move away from acting on neurotic mental states and into acting in step with our true desires. Then we don’t have to be frightened—because we can tell the difference between a brownie sandwich that doesn’t serve us and a brownie sandwich we truly desire.