Gross and gruesome. Comfortable and uncomfortable.

Right now as I write this I am sitting on a chair. Supportive “miracle balls” are behind my lumbar spine. My legs are not crossed. I am wearing a belly band to support my low back. And it is excruciating.

I am in the last month of pregnancy and I assumed things would slow down. Instead, I woke up Thursday and it was like things stopped. Standing became a huge exercise. Lying on one side on the floor became an option, until it didn’t. All fours was the most comfortable position.

You can probably guess what abruptly happened to my yoga classes.

Back pain with a human living inside of you has fewer solutions. Your range of motion is already limited. Your belly gets in the way. You reconsider pain meds. I have found myself alternating between feeling incredibly strong mentally and feeling like I could crumble at any moment. Pain is a physical experience and I try to at least tend to my mental spaces when it happens. Give myself a moment to cry, or find relief, or even (probably not surprisingly if you follow my blog) meditate. Sometimes we move year by year but pain can have us moving hour by hour or even minute by minute.

In the thread of the remarkable (and annoying) human body I thought I would share this infographic by Ellie Summers, who hand created all of the characters and also found some pretty amazing facts that you might not know, even if you have taken your anatomy classes seriously.

To the gross and gruesome. To the comfortable and uncomfortable. To being human!

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5 Ways Meditation Adds Value To Your Life (Guest Post)

Some mornings I wake up and jump out of bed. Other mornings I drag and grumble and fight the morning with my fists up. Either way, I meditate. Some days I finish my meditation feeling better, while other times I slump right back into my mood. It doesn’t seem to matter anymore what the meditation does for me. It is a ritual and a practice. It allows me to feel more authentic. It gives me space for silence, when it is so tempting to slide back into the world of podcasts, music and chatter.

Michael Morelli wanted to expand on this topic for this site, thinking of the overall effect of meditation. It is a cumulative practice. Enjoy his writing!

Meditation

Life is short, so we better make the best out of it.

Do you live your life to the fullest?

Do you place great value in your time?

We all want to have the best for ourselves so we study hard, work for long hours, maintain regular physical activity, eat a healthy diet and educate ourselves unceasingly. We take these measures to ensure that we are getting the best value of life that we deserve.

Did you know though that a simple meditation can add value to your life?

Meditation is an ancient practice and its popularity has been increasing in recent years. If you have not yet added this practice to your life, consider some of the ways that meditation can improve the quality of your life:

  1. Increases self-confidence

Are you anxious at the idea of meeting new people?

Do you have confidence in your skills?

Self-confidence is a very important trait. We will have a hard time achieving something if we doubt our own capacity. We won’t be able to fully embrace and love ourselves if we are hungry for the affirmation and acceptance of society.

Doing meditation can help you to increase your self-confidence. Having a strong connection with your spiritual self helps you strengthen your self-awareness. The more connection you have with your inner self, the more you tend to have self-confidence.

  1. Refreshes the mind

We live in a demanding world where the pressure and stresses of society can sometimes get the best of us. Our decisions can sometimes be clouded because we are experiencing too much stress and anxiety.

Meditation is the cheapest yet the most effective way of giving your mind a break. Sure, you can unwind by booking a Caribbean luxury cruise, but not all of us have the resources or time to do so.

Meditate to clear your mind from all the worries, problems and anxieties. Find a quiet place and you can either lie or sit down, as long as you are in a comfortable position. Think of one specific thing, place or thought and focus on it for up to 10 minutes.

Simple meditation exercises can relax your mind and lower your overall stress levels.

  1. Dissolving anger and fear

Do you sometimes feel consumed with fear and rage?

Do you know how to manage your negative emotions?

Meditation is an effective way of clearing negative feelings such as anger and fear. It gives you peace and inner strength to face whatever situation life may throw at you.

When faced with a stressful situation, instead of reacting negatively and throwing fits when things don’t go your way, give yourself few minutes to take a step back. Meditate for a few minutes to give you time to process what’s happening and focus on the reality of the situation, rather than forecasting into the future. When you’re calm, there’s no place for fear or anger inside you.

  1. Increases positivity

We create energy in every moment of our day – whether it’s negative, neutral or positive.

Our thoughts, actions and language have affect the energy that we’re creating. We attract positive energy if our thoughts, actions and language are positive. On the other hand, we invite negativity when we’re always pessimistic about things.

Doing meditation increases positivity. When we clear our mind from all the worries and anxieties, we also attract positive energy.

      5. Develops a pleasant perspective

Though exercise can boost our mood, meditation can also help us in developing a different perspective that doesn’t move towards the worst case scenario. It can be part of a healthy lifestyle that involves diet, exercise and sleep.

No matter how busy or crazy your day is, give yourself some time to meditate. A few minutes of meditation every day can offer countless benefits.

 

Restorative yoga recording for holiday stress

The holidays have changed immensely for me in the last ten years. I believe it is a combination of moving to different countries, challenging my core beliefs and just growing up. There is less church and less shopping. There is more time with music and experiences. Quite honestly, the joy that I felt as a child I feel just as much today because the expectations I put on myself are few. Some years I make cookies and give them to people. Some years I send Christmas cards. Some years, I do little in terms of gift giving. I realized that just because I had an urge to give one year doesn’t mean that the world expects that I have to do the same thing every year.

The nice thing about dropping some of the things you have always done is that it gives other people permission to do the same. It’s even better when you warn the people in your life that you are backing off, so that they don’t find themselves scrambling to make the eggnog cookies they know you love.

We all want permission to give time rather than things.

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As much as we pretend that people expect our behaviour to remain consistent, in truth, a lot of this comes from ourselves. The holidays would still remain in tact if you did less and chose to snuggle more and see the friends that you can be in your pyjamas with rather than the ones that you feel the need to deck the halls for.

I have to admit, I love the Danish concept of hygge – warm cozy socks, hot chocolate, warm fires and blankets. The things we remember from the holidays are togetherness and laughter – not perfection. Plus, we each have the details that matter to us. Food-wise, I need holiday stuffing, while my partner needs twice baked potatoes. The rest is nice, but non-essential.

In honour of respecting what helps you to feel bright, I have put together a little restorative yoga sequence that is designed for anyone who has felt overwhelmed by the pace at the end of the year. Get hygge-fied and as cozy as you possibly can. I look forward to practicing with you in this virtual space.

Enjoy.

xx Courtney

The Benefits of Sleep on Your Mindset and Mindfulness

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Image Credit: Pixabay

I am not shy about the fact that I love my sleep. When I am on vacations, you are as likely to find me maxing out my mattress hours as you would seeing me explore the new culture and food scene. (This is one of the things that freaks me out most about new motherhood: sleep deprivation. Stay tuned.)

A previous guest post on my site talked about how mindfulness meditation can help improve your quality of sleep. However, a good night’s rest can also be beneficial for your mental health and help improve mindfulness. So with that in mind, this article by Ralph Miller takes a look at some of the benefits of sleep on a your mindset.

Sleep helps people better regulate their emotions

According to an article on the Huffington Post, sleep deprivation is one reason why people have less control over their emotions. When people get very little rest, they are more likely to have emotional outbursts and are more susceptible to succumbing to pressure. This is the reason why people tend to snap more at other people or why some tend to experience crying fits when they don’t have enough sleep. In contrast, getting enough rest not only enables individuals to regulate their emotions, but also how they react to emotional triggers. This enables them to have better control over their actions, allowing them to take more measured reactions and decisions instead of simply reacting when faced with different stimuli.

Sleep plays an important role on memories

Harvard’s Healthy Sleep points out that sleeping helps people process and consolidate memory. Lack of rest can translate to the inability or the difficulty of entering slow-wave sleep (SWS), a deep, restorative sleep that is critical in helping people learn new things. As a result, sleep-deprived individuals often have difficulty absorbing information. Furthermore, lethargy due to lack of rest also increases the likelihood of having your mind drift away, making it more difficult to focus.

In contrast, getting enough sleep improves concentration. In other words, sleep also helps you make better sense of the world around you. It allows your brain to process the various stimuli that you encounter during the day and factors which ones deserve to be “banked” in your long-term memory and which ones can be discarded. Practitioners of mindfulness meditation, especially beginners, can attest to the difficulty of trying to focus given the number of distractions they face on a daily basis. With enough rest, it might be easier for them to perform the mindfulness exercises since they are able to focus better.

Sleep helps reduce stress

Stress can be very detrimental to a person’s physical and mental health. Too much exposure to it will not only compromise a person’s immune system and make them more susceptible to a variety of ailments; it can also affect their emotions, their mindset, and even their performance. In fact, one reason why people opt to try out mindfulness meditation is that they feel overwhelmed with stress and want to regain control of their lives. There are various studies that show how sleep, or the lack thereof, is indelibly linked with stress. The less time people get to rest, the more they are likely to feel anxious. Conversely, getting sufficient sleep will help prevent the feeling of being overwhelmed and stressed. This helps them have a calmer mindset. Furthermore, getting enough rest will help them remain calm, no matter what triggers they might face.

Sleep makes you less prone to depression and anxiety

Some studies have proved that there is a correlation between lack of sleep and depression. As mentioned earlier, feeling exhausted on a regular basis due to lack of rest can take its toll not just on your physical body, but also on your mental and emotional facilities as well, which can lead to depression in the long run. An article on Health IQ notes that mental health issues such as stress, depression, and anxiety can also worsen a person’s negative feelings. It said that meditation, which a study reported by ‘Frontiers in Neurology’ and subsequently published by the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health as having patterns similar to sleep, can help lower depressive symptoms by as much as 40 percent.

Sleep helps spur creativity

Mindfulness practitioners can attest to how the practice can help boost creativity.  Interestingly enough, Health.com reported that creativity is also a benefit of getting a good night’s rest. The article says that the brain is able to reorganize and restructure memories and information, thereby allowing people to see things from a different perspective.

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!