Stress and meditation (this month’s free recording)

Happy fall y’all!

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I am unabashedly in love with cold weather and warm sweaters and pumpkins all over my apartment.

Where do you stand on the pumpkin spice debate? I mean, I like some cinnamon and cloves like the best of ’em, but I don’t need those flavour profiles to be in every single item that I consume.

I digress. I was thinking about stress the other day. How it’s one thing to tell yourself to relax when you are reeling from a bad case of road rage, but it is quite another when you are dealing with the stress that comes from taking care of someone with a serious illness. It’s one thing to recover from a bad haircut and another to recover from receiving a bill that you just can’t pay.

Breathe it out doesn’t always work, does it?

I think that’s why I do yoga and meditate. I try to build a baseline state so that when I am thrown off course, as we all are, I have something to return to. We all need a version of this, whether it is church or good coffee or a warm dog on your lap. Something that makes the ache in your heart just a tiny bit less.

If you are experiencing stress in your life, this meditation is for you. There is breath work. There is body recognition. Hopefully there is a little pause when your heart decelerates and you find yourself with stress, rather than becoming stress.

Let me know how it works out for you (and how pumpkin spiced you are).

As ever, Courtney

 

 

7 Amazing Benefits of Thai Massage – Guest Post

It was almost six years ago that I decided to go to Thailand to learn Thai massage. I claimed it would help my anatomy and my yoga teaching. I claimed it was for work, but let’s be honest, Thailand is a place that changes you and that you know will change you. I learned Thai prayers and ate mysterious vegetarian meals out of plastic bags. I ignored some of my classmates’ nights out drinking for early meditation wakeup calls. I was visited by the new love of my life who was kind enough to allow me to practice my Thai massage techniques. That is what relationships are about – a little give, a little take, a lot of massage. (What a giving guy.)

Thai massages in Thailand and Thai massages in North America can be dramatically different. Thai massages in Thailand can cost as little as $5 for an hour and can hurt more than soothe. However, it is one of those body treatments that has you realizing that even though you felt fine before, you feel better afterwards. The combination of stretching and acupressure along defined meridian lines will have you walking differently and maybe even smiling at that neighbour who bothers you a little too often with their leaf-blower.

I am not the only one who thinks so. Sara is a psychologist by profession who loves massage therapies. She is also obsessed with massage chair therapies and other relaxing techniques. She regularly posts at https://mymassagechairs.com/.

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Take it away, Sara (while I look to see if there is a Thai massage therapist in my area):

7 Amazing Benefits of Thai Yoga Massage

We all agree that Thai massages are the best in this whole world! Right!?! And when it comes to an Ayurvedic massage as old as 2500 years, it is teeming with benefits.

This is why I am here to tell you seven ah-mazing benefits of Thai Yoga Massage:

Improves Body Motions:

Thai Yoga Massage is an easy peasy way to improvise the functioning of the body parts, especially limbs. The stretching may feel awkward but it is accompanied by massage and the pressing of pressure points to make it awesome. This, in short, means that your body parts will function more easily. Your shoulder and ankle rotation may improve too.

Relieves Lower Back Pain:

Oh, these lower backs! They definitely kill us. But, worry no more, because Thai yoga massages may help. Researchers have proved that patients who are treated with Thai Yoga Massages for lower back pain fare better than those who receive joint mobilization therapy. 

Reduces Stress:

Stress is a killer; it happens when salivary alpha-amylase (sAA) enzyme is in abundance in your body. Start taking regular Thai yoga massages as a preventive mental health measure.

The deep massages help in bringing down the levels of sAA enzyme, reducing your stress level by a great extent. You can relax while taking this massage on a quality massage chair, and eliminate the stress hormone cortisol, to increase relaxation and get peace.

Improves Mood:

Thai Yoga Massage can get rid of stress, and is capable of lightening your mood. This massage is a popular therapy to treat mood disorders. Thai massage can stimulate physiological functioning like good mood, relaxation, and anti-anxiety. 

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Treats Migraines:

If research and popular opinion is to be believed, migraines are the most prevalent sort of headache. Different studies have found that traditional Thai Yoga Massages have eased the pain intensity of people with migraines substantially. It also helps in decreasing the overall pain threshold of different types of headaches.

Relief from Osteoarthritis:

Osteoarthritis is one of the most painful and crippling diseases. But Thai Yoga Massage can help people with osteoarthritis ease their neck, lower back, knee and hand pain. 

Increases Immunity:

Thai Yoga Massages can improve the overall immunity of the human body. When paired with essential oils, it helps in fight against various diseases and backs up the immune function.

 

Be Still – This Month’s Free Meditation

I have taken the time over the last month to visit many meditation centres. Not yoga studios with a side of meditation, but pure meditation. Some of these centres had chanting books. Some had incense. Some had chairs, while others had artfully arranged cushions. There were pictures of gurus, led meditations, and long chunks of silence.

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I was humbled.

On some mornings, I would arrive and find myself yawning incessantly through the silence. At other times, I successfully cleared away my mental debris (“I won’t forgive her!” “What has happened to the state of the world?” “Where should I live next year?”) and was granted sweet inner stillness. I quickly realized that my inner stillness was not just a selfish act. I saw the world differently, if only for a moment. I realized that my heart still has more capacity for love than for anger.

It would be awesome if one session changed me forever. It would also be awesome if I could attend one Pilates class and reap the abs for the rest of my life.

But life doesn’t work that way.

We have to keep clearing through and feeling, even though there is so much in the world that encourages us to shut down. It is work, which is why it is so much easier not to do it.

But today, take five minutes with me and shine. Be more of you and less of the noise around you. Notice what is under the skin and blood and bone and beyond the headlines and over your own story. Take the time with me to be still.

xx Courtney

Total eclipse of the heart (and meditation)

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Who saw the eclipse today?

If you didn’t watch it live, you might have watched it online, or talked about it at work. I went outside and a stranger let me borrow his glasses. Another stranger made sure that I didn’t miss a glimpse as I was walking away. People were staring up at the sky…together.

Man, I needed that.

The headlines and the news and the conversations I have been having lately have been focused on fear and separation. The world’s events have concerned me and made me feel disconnected. They have seeped into my dreams.

Yet, today, the solar eclipse 2017, part of the noisy world stopped talking about politics and hate groups and what people did not have in common. We all just stared up at the sky and felt small. For a brief moment in time, we were one beating heart.

I became a yoga teacher because I believe that the more we explore our spiritual sides, the more we will heal our wounds and not feel lonely. We are never separate. The moon had to kiss the sun to remind me.

To bring you back into presence before the fall season kicks into high gear, here is a guided meditation for you. I hope that you enjoy it!

 

Surprising Benefits of Mindfulness Meditation for Physical Health – guest post

I was talking to my friend about mindfulness (and my book!!! My book that comes out next year!!!) this weekend. He knew there were tons of benefits. It made me realize the mindfulness movement has made meditation like exercise: even if we don’t do it, we know it is good for us.

Today’s guest post is all about the physical benefits of mindfulness, which are all pretty amazing but not entirely surprising to those who have ruminated on the mind-body connection. Take it away, Brenan Quirante!

Surprising Benefits of Mindfulness Meditation for Physical Health1

Mindfulness meditation is the awareness and acceptance of everything in the present moment, including both the positive and negative things. It is natural for the human brain to notice negativity more than positivity. Nature has built the human brain in this way for survival purposes so that you are always aware of the dangers around you and you are ready to fight or escape.

This “survival awareness” can make people jump to the worst conclusion at the slightest sign of danger. On the other hand, other people have a natural defense mechanism that denies negative things, pretending there’s nothing wrong even when all of it is wrong.

Both types of people aren’t helping themselves! Mindfulness meditation places you in the middle. It also has a bonus: improved physical health. Here are the surprising benefits of mindfulness meditation for your physical health.

Prevention For Heart and Brain Problems

Mindfulness meditation strengthens the heart because mindfulness meditation involves breathing exercises. Scientists have also observed that people who undergo a certain amount of mindfulness meditation have brains with thicker myelin. So what exactly is myelin? Myelin is the primary component of the brain. Myelin is what gives the brain its whitish appearance. Thick myelin helps neurons synapse faster, strengthening the brain.

Improve Your Sleep Health

Have you ever felt groggy all day, and then a sudden surge of energy just when it’s already your bedtime? And you lie awake, with your eyes wide open and your mind happily thinking thought after another thought endlessly. This kind of situation will make you restless all night and ensure another day of grogginess. You need to welcome mindfulness meditation into your life. Mindfulness meditation calms the mind and the body and helps you to function better. When it’s time to sleep, mindfulness meditation makes it easier for you to relax and sleep well.

Pain Prevention

Headaches, backaches, and all sorts of aches can turn a perfect day into hell. Being in pain can make a person irritable and unpleasant to be around. Pain can turn you into The Hulk, probably without the green muscles. Mindfulness meditation lessens the stress that is brought about by body pain because mindfulness meditation involves relaxation and self-control. Mindfulness meditation can make your mind strong enough to be not affected by the pain. You can control this stress even more by checking out Peak Nootropics, medicines that enhance the mind. You’ll be like Popeye with his spinach, stronger and better.

Reduction of Arthritis Symptoms

Arthritis is a highly difficult condition. I have met ill-mannered people who have blamed their bad manners on their arthritis, a claim that was believable. Just like with body pain, mindfulness meditation also lessens the stress that is caused by the pain of arthritis. It may not lessen the pain, but it lessens the stress because of the same relaxation and self-control areas of mindfulness meditation.

Increases Energy Level and Immune Function

Believe it or not, but our daily habits and society, in general, encourage us to waste a lot of energy. Mindfulness meditation increases your energy level because it calms you down, saving your energy. It makes your mind clear enough to make you fully aware of which things really require your intervention, effort, and energy. It is also scientifically proven to increase the power of the immune system, helping your immune system to protect you from germs and keeping you away from sickness.

Reduces Blood Sugar Level in Diabetics

Mindfulness meditation reduces blood sugar levels in diabetics. People with diabetes tend to have high blood sugar levels because they are unable to turn the sugar from their foods into energy. That is why they become obese, but lack energy. High blood sugar levels can lead to severe complications, and some people with diabetes take medicines, exercise routines, and certain nutritional food products to deal with this. Some diabetics and select clinics use mindfulness meditation to help diabetics with their blood sugar levels (in conjunction with medicine and exercise).

Surprising Benefits of Mindfulness Meditation for Physical Health2

Mindfulness meditation gives you a better body, and it helps you survive. Being aware of everything in the present moment lets you know what exactly is happening, helping you respond accordingly. Mindfulness meditation can keep you from turning into one of those people who scream and run around like headless chickens in emergency situations, or those people who just stare in shock as a burning truck bounces on the highway toward them.

Mindfulness meditation can turn you into Bond, James Bond. Just kidding.

This month’s meditation!

This summer has been scorching in Philadelphia and I have been exploring all the ways to cool down, from mid-day cold showers to bulking up on foods that have a 90% or higher water content. I don’t often eat eggs, and I don’t believe in wasting them, but I am pretty sure the fried egg on the sidewalk trick would be successful. (There has to be a cruelty free substitute.)

Rachel Brathen, aka Yoga Girl, is the one who coined the hashtag #yogaeverydamnday. With blogs and Instagram accounts showing uni-faceted ways of living, it is easy to believe that there are people out there who excel at the art of being consistent. They always “eat clean.” They align with their spiritual selves and check in on a daily basis. They replace a bad mood with a handstand.

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I love yoga, but I don’t do it every damn day.

I call BS.

No one has it figured out and no one has a perfect existence. I will be running a 500 hour teacher training in 2018, and my co-leader, Monica and I were discussing the lie of the linear. In other words, we think that we can get better, stronger, healthier, faster, more attractive, etc, if only we just applied the appropriate formula. We don’t take into account age, or injury, or illness, or mental state, or just the fact that we are human freaking beings.

Especially this summer, join me in taking a break from the linear expectations. From judging your stomach every time you look in the mirror to bemoaning the wrinkles that have seemed to appear overnight. Take a break from your own perfection and live a little, even if that means sleeping in and reading the paper in bed. Give yourself permission to live a life that isn’t in a straight line, because there is nothing that happens every damn day for the rest of your life.

Let’s keep it simple with this month’s meditation. I hope that you enjoy!

WTF is health coaching?

I have just finished my health coaching certification with the Mayo Clinic. It was an amazing experience that shed light on my blind spots, which can be uncomfortable and enlightening all at once.

Now I am working with people to look into all aspect of their wellness life, from spirituality to exercise to relationships to food. Sessions typically last 30 minutes or longer, helping them to devise their own plan rather than one than I think is good for them.

Why is this more effective?

Think of the times that someone gave you unwanted advice. Whether they believed that you should go Paleo or should take up running, you may have nodded, all while thinking, “There is no way I am going to do that.” The person walked away, feeling helpful and you walked away, doing what actually worked for you.

We know ourselves better than our doctors and our friends and our partners. Sometimes we fall out of relationship with ourselves, but when we are in tune, we can charge forward and make great strides.

Health coaching helps you to find your own plan of action that is sustainable and actionable. It works with your lifestyle to help you to set goals that are doable rather than too lofty. Small steps, consistently, mean that we can feel balanced, less stressed and more healthy.

I know it has worked for me. Think of it as an investment in yourself and your health. Best of all, it will be fun and over faster than you can read a self-help book, with longer-lasting results.

How much are you willing to work for your health goals?

Eat Healthy, Stay Healthy: A Mini-Guide (Guest Post)

There are times of the year that I find it much easier to be healthy. We are now in the middle of the produce-friendly summer, and I have friends who consider a visit to the farmer’s market a valuable opportunity to catch up (although, quite honestly, we get distracted by the tomatoes that fold into themselves and the berries that are too temptingly fresh to make it all of the way home).

There are other times of year when it is not so easy. Say, anytime that someone makes pie. (I am sometimes that someone.) Or when cinnamon buns are in season.

Who better to teach us how to eat than a mother of two little ones who probably has ample experience saying the phrase “Eat your vegetables!” Ida Jones writes regularly about fitness tips and much more at Fitness GritShe enjoys home-based workouts, cardio exercises and long runs. (Yes, she enjoys long-runs.) Ida loves spending her vacations outdoors with her kids around nature and she believes in the power of clean and healthy eating.

I’ll leave you with some satisfyingly lumpy tomatoes and Ida’s article:

Eat healthy, stay healthy: A mini guide!

Most of us love to eat and to try out new foods. To help you to stay curious, healthy and fit, I have a mini guide for you!

Following are a few dos and don’ts that I have found to be helpful and that may get you on the right track:

  • Junk food can be an issue. Avoid eating junk food and try to replace it with healthy food that contain more fibre. The presence of fat, carbohydrates, and processed sugar in junk food contributes to an increased risk of obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and many other chronic health conditions.
  • Canned food and items that are highly processed are not good for your health. Read the labels!
  • Soft drinks contain harmful substances that can cause numerous health problems such as diabetes, heart diseases and obesity. Therefore, cutting them out can help you get rid of those extra pounds and make it easier for you to achieve your health goals.
  • Overeating is another big issue for many of us. Binge eating can lead to obesity. The best approach is to divide your meals into smaller portions and eat food items that are rich in fibre, because they stabilize your energy levels and keep hunger at bay.
  • Try eating foods that are natural. Go for raw vegetables and fresh fruits. Processed foods are harmful to your health in every way so choose the natural foods when you have the chance. Eat fresh and stay healthy!
  • Dieting is harmful to your health. Never crash diet no matter how desperate you may be to lose weight. Starving yourself is not the solution. Instead, try to change your eating habits and opt for a balanced diet so that your body doesn’t fall short on nutrients.
  • Consuming raw food is a great way to stay healthy. Add a salad to your everyday diet. Raw vegetables and fruits provide you with the necessary proteins, vitamins, and calcium that your body requires to stay healthy and fit.
  • Be kind to your digestive system. Give it enough time to digest food. Consider having dinner at least three hours before you sleep. Food is not digested properly if you sleep right after eating.
  • Chew your food well. When you chew food properly and slowly, your stomach gets time to digest it well.
  • Take care of your water consumption. Drink lots of water every day. At least eight glasses per day will help you to stay hydrated, healthy and fresh. It will have a great effect on your skin too.
  • Try adding natural honey to your everyday diet. Honey is a natural sweetener that brings along lots of health advantages for you.

All you need is nutrition (and love).

 

New Travel Post – 10 Adventurous Tiger Safari Holiday Destinations In India

I love hearing about people’s travels.

My friend Annie had a week off and went all the way to Bali and crammed so much into that week you would swear she was gone for months. I recently FaceTimed with a friend who was watching her daughter play in the Hawaiian sand. It is so cool to see people’s faces light up when they do something that feels completely different from their normal day-to-day existence.

Tiger safari, anyone?

I am not a fan of zoos. I know that some of them are wonderful when it comes to conservation and protecting endangered species, but something about it makes my stomach turn. Animals without the freedom to be their full selves and to roam and eat in the way that they were designed to do doesn’t feel natural to me.

I went on a safari in South Africa ten years ago and I realized there is a way to appreciate animals in their natural habitat. It will certainly not happen as often as a zoo might, but that is okay. I have some lazy cats to keep me occupied in the meantime.

Today’s post is by Rohit Agarwal.  He is an adventure enthusiast and wildlife lover. He is also a blogger at http://www.transindiatravels.com/wildlife-sanctuaries/top-100-wildlife-sanctuaries-national-parks-india/. His love for wildlife and adventure make him explore the unhidden places in India and across the world.

Bucket list!

10 Adventurous Tiger Safari Holiday Destinations in India

These days’ people have become more interested in watching tigers due to their decreasing population. Fortunately, India has a large population of tigers. So, if you are planning to have an adventurous tiger safari, here are the top 10 places for you.

  1. Bandhavgarh National Park

Photo by Vijay Kabra, CC BY-SA 4.0

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The best place to see Royal Bengal Tigers is Bandhavgarh, situated in the state of Madhya Pradesh. Bandhavgarh is famous for its white tigers. Visitors can opt for jeep safari or elephant rides. Other wildlife species found in Bandhavgarh are foxes, raj behra and nilgai. Bandhavgarh also has rare species of birds due to a diverse tropical forest.

  1. Ranthambore National Park

Photo by JULIAN MASON, CC BY 2.0

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Tigers are the main attraction of Ranthambore National Park, situated in Rajasthan. Here, tigers roam freely and absorb the warmth of the sun. Tigers can be easily spotted during the day. This place is surrounded by Vindhyas and Aravali Hills. There are also several lakes inside the park. Other than tigers, the park also has other wildlife species such as Striped hyenas, deers and marsh crocodiles.

  1. Kanha National Park

Photo by Ashishmahaur, CC BY-SA 4.0

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Situated in Madhya Pradesh, Kanha National Park is also called Kanha Tiger Reserve. The dense forests and enchanting landscapes attracts many travellers to this park. To spot tigers, you have to explore the dense forests. You may even catch the glimpse of the rare barasingha. Other wildlife attractions available in this parka are Indian bison, panther, python and sloth bear.

  1. Corbett National Park

Photo by Vikram Gupchup, CC BY-SA 3.0

Four

Jim Corbett National Park is Asia’s first national park and covers an area of 1288 km and is not only in India but also across the world. Corbett was the first park to implement project tiger (a tiger conservation program launched in 1973 by the Government of India). The most furious member of cat family can be easily spotted here. Other wildlife animals found here are fishing cats, serow, goral, Himalayan Tahr and several species of birds.

  1. Nameri National Park

Photo by Jolinlp, CC BY-SA 3.0

Five

Nameri National Park, situated in Assam covers an area of 200 square km. Nameri has a rich collection of rare plants. Tigers can be seen easily in this park. Visitors also has an option of exploring the place on foot! Nameri also has large population of elephants. It has over 300 species of birds making it a paradise for bird lovers. Tourists can also try river rafting in the river Jia Bhoroli. The climate here is pleasant during the day and cold at night. Other interesting wildlife species are white-winged ducks, hornbills and kingfishers.

  1. Satpura National Park

Leopard, Photo by Davidvraju, CC BY-SA 4.0

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If you are looking for an adventurous tiger safari, then Satpura is just the place to be. Satpura, situated in Madhya Pradesh has dense forests and is spread over an area of 524 square km. The park has rare flora and fauna. Satpura also implements Project Tiger. Tigers can be spotted near river Sonbhadra. Other wildlife attractions of this park include, hyenas, leopards, gaur, sambhar and hornbills.

  1. Sunderban National Park

Photo by Himanshu Gupta, CC BY-SA 4.0

Seven

India’s largest tiger reserve, Sunderban is spread over an area of 1395 square km in West Bengal. It also has largest forest cover of Mangroves. It is also a World Heritage Site. The Sunderban is a part of the world’s largest delta formed by river Ganges, Brahmaputra and Meghna.

  1. Nagarhole National Park

Photo by Shri Kishen Rajendran, CC BY-SA 4.0

Eight

Nagarhole National Park is spread over an area of 643 square km in Karnataka. Nagarhole is a perfect wildlife getaway. The park is closed during rainy season. Kabini lake is a great spot for spotting tigers. Other wildlife species found in Nagarhole are leopards, sloth bears, macaque, elephants and gaur.

  1. Bandipur National Park

Photo by Aditya945, CC BY-SA 4.0

Nine

Situated in Karnataka, Bandipur National Park is the most beautiful national park in South India. The park has also implemented Project Tiger. Bandipur is blessed with natural beauty. Apart from tiger’s other wildlife attractions are sambar, elephants, panthers and green pigeons. This is one of the few national parks that is open throughout the year. It is a part of biggest biosphere reserve known as the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve.

  1. Periyar Tiger Reserve

Photo by Wouter Hagens, Public Domain

Ten

The most popular wildlife sanctuary of South India, Periyar covers an area of 777 square km. The vast region also has an artificial lake created by the British in 1895. Periyar has a large population of tigers. Apart from tigers, Periyar is home to a large population of elephants. Other wildlife attractions in this park are leopards, deer, macaques and tigers.

Has anyone been on a tiger safari? Would you go if you had the chance?

This month’s free meditation: Cooling practice

Ready to feel old? (Has anyone said, “Yes?” to that?) Nelly’s Hot in Herre (sample lyrics: It’s Getting Hot In Here, So Take Off All Your Clothes) is 15 years old! If you don’t know what I am talking about, rest assured, you are still young.

I think about this song, firstly because it’s catchy, and secondly, because summer is just starting and I have already been stinking HOT. I was in Italy last month waiting in line to see the David under blazing sunlight, glaring jealously at people who were strolling by with gelato (even though I was by no means gelato deficient). The heat in Philadelphia has also been incredibly intense and my water bottle has become my best friend. (My partner said there was no possible way I could drink more water, but apparently I proved him wrong.)

 

It becomes harder to be speedy in these kind of temperatures, and maybe that’s a good thing. Maybe this heat is a way of life ensuring that we aren’t all type A all the time. No one was keeping score as to how efficient we have been anyway.

I wish you a summer with good books, good friends and popsicles dribbling down your chin. I wish you a summer where you put that work away at least once and you leave the laundry in the hamper.

This month’s meditation is a cooling meditation. Consider it air conditioning for those who don’t want the poor health effects of constant central air conditioning. Enjoy!