Blog / News

New Trend for Fitness Buffs? Walk and Talk to Walk Your Talk

Image: 

Between work, watching TV, internet surfing or playing computer games, Americans on average are sitting 9.3 hours/day, exceeding the 7.7 hours that we are sleeping. We take this way of life for granted, in the same way smoking used to be the social norm rather than the exception.

“Sitting has become the smoking of our generation,” argues author, blogger, and visionary Nilofer Merchant of Silicon Valley in this noteworthy TED Talk. The implication? Sitting on your butt is just as bad for you as those cigarette butts of yore (okay, bad pun).

While that might seem a ludicrous statement at first, consider these facts: Sitting long hours is estimated to contribute 10 percent of the risk of breast and colon cancer, 6 percent of the risk of heart disease, and 7 percent of the risk of Type 2 diabetes. And because everyone is sitting, we don’t even think to question our habits.

Since working for most people necessitates spending long hours at our desk, what’s the solution? Some companies are introducing ‘standing desks’ in an effort to give employees a break from long hours of sitting. But there are other options, Merchant notes.

Recently, she was invited to a meeting with someone who asked if she minded if they met while she walked her dog. This set off a light bulb for Merchant. We tend to separate work and exercise, but why not combine the two? Now, instead of scheduling meetings around conference tables or over coffee, she schedules walking meetings. Her work week now includes walking 20 to 30 miles between Monday and Friday.

“If you walk and talk, walk the talk, you’ll be surprised that fresh air drives fresh thinking, and you can bring into your life an extremely new set of ideas,” says Merchant.

Merchant is the author of 11 Rules for Creating Value in the #SocialEra, a book about reconciling forces that are typically seen as opposing. She is known for her ability to reframe opposite ideas, so that both can co-exist. Uniting work and exercise is just one example of how things we normally consider opposing really can exist together—all it takes is a little shift in perspective.

Merchant’s example is a good reminder to vary up your workday. Get a wireless headset, so you can move around while on the phone, or even just stand and stretch at your desk.  Find ways to move for at least 5 minutes an hour, whether it be to stretch, walk around the office, doing a simple desk yoga practice or even ‘just’ taking a few deep breaths. You will find that you stay more productive and focused throughout the day with energy to spare at the end of the day.

Yoga Students Unite Against Sexually Abusive “Gurus”

Image: 
I Am My Own Gury

In response to recent sex scandal allegations about yoga gurus John Friend, Kausthub Desikachar (son of yoga master TKV Desikachar), and Bikram Choudhury (one of the most publicized teachers of modern time), a purple-bracelet wearing clan of yoga students have stepped up to make yoga safe for everyone again. Their moniker? “I Am My Own Guru.”

Sex scandals are nothing new in the yoga world. Historically, many devotees have made excuses for womanizers and even abusive leaders within their communities to the extent that many go on teaching despite legal action and clear misconduct.

Absolute Yoga Academy founder, Lucas Rockwood, hopes to change all that by uniting his student and colleagues in an effort to not only stop the abuse, but to stop the blind-faith guru system all together. Rockwood says:

“There are no ethics committees or watchdog groups for yoga students, and yet teachers with huge power and influence are clearly taking advantage, and in some cases, even assaulting their students who came to class to get fit or relieve stress.

Yoga is not a religion, it’s a practice. We don’t need gurus, we need good teachers who we can trust to be safe and responsible. ‘I Am My Own Guru’ is about giving the power back to the students, and taking action against abusers when the writing is so clearly on the wall.”

According to Rockwood, I Am My Own Guru is a statement, a movement, and a complete paradigm shift away from the broken (and dangerous) model of guru/disciple group think, toward a much healthier and empowered system where individuals are respected, honored, and above all, always feel safe in what should be the safest of safe places—their yoga studio.

For such a lofty ambition, you’d think Rockwood would have a team of lawyers and a media team. Instead, he’s got a boatload of purple bracelets. Rockwood is currently manufacturing bracelets embossed with his now-viral catch phrase: “I Am My Own Guru”

In a not-for-profit venture, Rockwood’s company, Absolute Yoga Academy, is paying for the bracelets and shipping, while students donate $5 per bracelet that goes directly to a grassroots yoga charity (not affiliated to Rockwood or his company).

When you wear your I Am My Own Guru bracelet, it’s meant to symbolize that you’re strong, and self-empowered. It says that you’ve come to yoga class to take care of your body and mind—not to get ogled, groped or assaulted.

Can a purple bracelet really change yoga? Only time will tell. 

Just for Fun - Stephen Colbert Gets His Dance on and a Few Yoga Moves Too!

Okay people, this doesn't really have much to do with yoga, but for sheer joy of movement it's just too good to pass on. Stephen Colbert and a grand assortment of celebrities get their dance on, and wow, it will make you jump out of your seat too. And watch out for those quasi attempts at Natarajasana during the America's Got Talent segment too. Lord of the Dance -- indeed.

The Colbert Report
Get More: Colbert Report Full Episodes,Video Archive

Encinitas Schools Receive a $1.4 Million Grant to Expand P.E. Yoga Program

Image: 

Less than a month after a San Diego Superior Court ruled that the Encinitas Union School District (EUSD) can legally continue teaching yoga to its students, the EUSD has received a $1.4 million grant in support of the yoga program’s expansion.

This is good news for the parents in Encinitas, California, who wanted their children to continue participating in yoga classes as part of the schools’ physical education program.  According to UT San Diego, the new grant will enable the EUSD to increase the number of yoga teachers from 10 to 18, while also contributing to the development of the program.

The grant was offered by the Sonima Foundation, formerly known as the Jois Foundation (named after Pattabhi Jois, who first brought Ashtanga yoga to the United States).  The $1.4 million grant takes the yoga program a larger step further, not only adding additional teachers, but funding a 3-year study on the effects of the yoga program on the students enrolled in the P.E. program. The hope is that the research might lead to the creation of a free, evidence-based curriculum, which at some point can be made available to other schools interested in introducing yoga into the P.E. curriculum.

Opponents of yoga for school children had sued the district on the grounds that yoga is a religion, and therefore inappropriate for public schools. While the Judge recognized that yoga indeed can be religious, examination of “EUSD Yoga” showed it to be a secular physical activity, and hence not a violation of church and state separation. The parents who filed the original lawsuit to stop the Encinitas yoga program are planning an appeal. However, according to David Steinberg, a Law and Religion instructor at the Thomas Jefferson School of Law in San Diego, Attorney, barring a procedural error, the appeal is unlikely to lead to a reversal.

For now, thanks to this generous $1.4 million grant, many more school aged children in Encinitas, California, will have the opportunity to participate in a regular yoga practice, and hopefully enjoy all the physical, mental and emotional benefits, which research has shown yoga has to offer. 

The Three Steps of Forgiveness—Healing the Victim Inside

Image: 

by Marya Mann, PhD

“For a dancer, God is Space." - Yoshito Ohno

The night we practiced the Forgiveness Dance as part of our Yoga Dance Training in Kona, Hawaii, there was a frog in my throat. We practiced progressive forgiveness as a way to help heal the heart’s wounds and induce radiant health and joy around the places in our hearts where we’ve felt victimized.

Everywhere we look—in the newspapers, on TV, and even in our own personal lives—we see exam­ples of people who have been victimized by crazy people. 

There’s a lot to forgive in the world. If we’re lucky, it’s a full-time passion and we move from compassionate action to forgiveness as quickly as A to B. But for some people, victim consciousness weaves together a self-perpetuating narrative, and they move from hurt to hurt, wound to wound. They can’t seem to enjoy the open space of forgiveness, freedom, peace and unconditional love .

Colin Tipping in Radical Forgiveness says the time has come for us to stop creating our lives as victims and dominators. The fundamental question, he says, is this: “How can we let go of the victim archetype as the model for how to live?” 

“To break free from such a powerful archetype, we must replace it with something radically different—something so compelling and spiritually liberating that it magnetizes us away from victimhood,” Tipping says. “As we continue to move into the new millennium and prepare for the imminent next great leap in our spiritual evolution, it is essential that we adopt a way of living based not on fear, control, and abuse of power but on true forgiveness, unconditional love, and peace.”

The skill of the new human is to trust open space, learn from mistakes, to forgive each other and move on. When we stop forgiving, we stop living. Forgiving is necessary to heal past wounds; in freeing ourselves from the bitterness of the past, we also stop being trapped in a downward spiral of feeling victimized by the people and circumstances of life.

The Three People You Must Forgive

The Forgiveness Dance is a three-step process in which we invite in the three people we all must learn to forgive in life: Those whom we have hurt, those who have hurt us, and last but not least, ourselves. In a guided meditation, we invoked three separate kinds of people with whom we wanted to experience forgiveness.

Asking Forgiveness of Those We Have Hurt

Invite into your heart a person who you want to ask forgiveness of, someone who has felt hurt or betrayed by you, and who is withholding love because of it. In your heart, ask this person to forgive you and to allow a place of peace in your shared heart. Ask that you may find peace and a renewal of love with each other. In your heart, ask of that person, ‘Please forgive me for whatever I have done to cause you pain.’ Ask the person’s higher Self or spirit to open arms to embrace and listen to your higher Self in a communion of souls forgiving and reconnecting to each other.

Forgiving Those Who Have Hurt Us

As a Yoga Dancer, Wellness Consultant and Writer, I have heard enough horror stories from quite ordinary people to convince me that there is not a human being on the planet who has not been seri­ously victimized at least once, and in minor ways more times than they could count. Who among us can say they have never blamed someone else for their lack of happiness? For many, blame is simply a way of life.

Indeed, the victim archetype is deeply ingrained in the human species, and acknowledging that it exerts great power over mass con­sciousness can help us to transform it.  So in the Yoga Dance class, I ask students to invite into their hearts a second person, someone who wanted our forgiveness. This is a friend, family member or co-worker, who requests our forgiveness. It is someone we have pushed out of our hearts because we refuse to forgive what we perceive as a violation against us.

Say to the person who is asking forgiveness:I forgive you. I know that you are in pain and have felt victimized too.’ Then, as your higher Self, open your spiritual arms and receive the one who is asking forgiveness back into your heart. Feel the courage of compassion and see how your higher Self’s radiance adds to their radiance, and their light adds to yours. Experience how the laser-like spiritual power in real forgiveness dissolves old hurts and impediments to love. Open your spiritual arms and receive. Replace hatred with love’s light.  

Asking Forgiveness of Ourselves

The third person we invite into our hearts to ask forgiveness must be ourselves. How many times have we withheld forgiveness from ourselves? For some people, forgiving ourselves can be the hardest of all. In the forgiveness dance, we ask:

Bring your innocence and basic goodness to the forefront inside your heart. Feel the flame of purity flickering with joy in your heart. Compassion is your purpose. Your forgiveness of self spreads light upon the world. Infinite love and forgiveness inside your heart opens all the spiritual doors and re-invigorates your dance of pure aliveness.

As you go through these steps, you will intimately experience how forgiveness transforms us. Forgiveness can be the key to free us, often from energy patterns so fundamental, imprinted before the age of reason, language or voice, that we don’t even know how to identify them. And the layers can still be enmeshed in out bodies without our conscious control!

As long as we feel victimized by other people, circumstances or ourselves, we unconsciously project a dominator archetype and don’t even know it. Goodness will win when the dominator trait, the behavior pattern that begins with arrogance and ends with torture, repression, genocide and open warfare on a vast scale, runs itself out. Goodness is what will go on as long as we are free to forgive.

To free the earth from the victim-dominator archetype, many, many people—souls who possess the wisdom and love necessary to accomplish this immense task—must awaken and accept their spiritual mission: To feel, heal and release the victim and dominator archetypes.

Perhaps you are one of the souls who volunteered for this mission. If you are alive and breathing, I suspect you are.

 

Photos by: Koakane Green, D. C.

Marya Mann, Ph. D., started yoga practice after a 1968 car accident initiated her spiritual evolution. Study with Richard Freeman, Shiva Rae and Mukunda Stiles inspired her to open a yoga center in Illinois, travel to India and move to Hawaii. Co-author of Healing Our Planet, Healing Our Selves and wellness consultant in Kona, she offers Dance for the Planet and Healing Retreats. You can find more of her writings on her blog at www.maryamann.com.

 

 

 

A New Super Food: The Healing Powers of Black Rice Bran

Image: 

Written by Jon Barron or staff member at The Baseline of Health Foundation

If you've ever balked at the price of fresh blueberries (especially when they're out of season), but knew you needed a good source of antioxidants, then head over to the rice aisle, where you might just find a taste of forbidden fruit -- or at least, rice. Black rice, that is. Centuries ago, emperors in ancient China forbade commoners from eating black rice because it was so good -- they wanted to keep it all for themselves. 

Black rice is popular in Asia in noodles, sushi, and pudding, and may be on its way to becoming more popular with Americans. In fact, according to new research by the American Chemical Society, a spoonful of back rice is better for you than the same amount of blueberries, because it has less sugar and more fiber and vitamin E antioxidants. 

Black rice is one of the over 7,000 varieties of rice in the world and has a rich, nutty flavor. It is a deep purple color (think eggplant) and is rich in iron and has a soft texture. Black bran layers are not removed from the rice during processing, so the rice does not stick together when cooked. 

But the best news is that it's full of a particular mix of anthocyanin antioxidants that shows promise for neutralizing free radical damage to the collagen matrix of cells and tissues that can lead to cataracts, glaucoma, varicose veins, hemorrhoids, peptic ulcers, heart disease, and cancer. 

Another potential benefit of black rice bran is that research published in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry shows oral feeding of a standard mouse diet supplemented with 10% black rice bran significantly suppressed chemically-induced inflammation of the skin. Why is this important to us? Because prolonged inflammation has been associated with the development of allergies, atherosclerosis, cancer, heart problems, and infectious diseases. 

Another advantage of black rice is that it ranges in colors from pink to purples, all the way to black. This is important because initial research shows that it may be used to provide coloring for some of the thousands of products that now use artificial coloring, typically derived from petroleum and linked to behavior disorders, increased risk for cancer, growth and developmental delays, and even lead poisoning. The mild flavor and distinctive color of black rice might even attract the youngest diners in your household. 

In the future, don't be surprised if you start seeing black rice bran or bran extracts in cereals, oatmeal, and other products. Louisiana, California, and Arkansas rice farmers are adding black varieties to their fields, so start checking for it on your natural food store shelves and plan now to incorporate this "forbidden" powerhouse into your diet!

 

Material originally published at www.jonbarron.org.
Copyright © 1999-2011. Baseline of Health® Foundation
Used by permission of the Baseline of Health® Foundation.
All rights reserved worldwide.

 

From Inspired to Effective: Bringing Yoga and Mindfulness to Society’s Most Vulnerable Members

Image: 

Carol Horton, Ph.D.

The face of yoga in the media is increasingly dominated by skinny models in fancy yoga poses, news about high-profile celebrities showing off their new ‘yoga body’ or the latest scandal involving assorted yoga ‘gurus’ or for that matter, see-through Lululemon clothing.

Yet, behind the scenes a wave has been building for years, and continues to grow: The use of yoga in public services programs across the country, serving disadvantaged members of our society. American yoga service organizations now work with an estimated 150,000-200,000 people annually, including women who have experienced abuse, prisoners, at-risk children and teens, veterans, those with cancer, and homeless individuals.

At the hub of this growing movement is the Yoga Service Council (YSC), which functions as the organizational and educational center for yoga seva initiatives. Formed in 2009 at the Omega Institute, YSC is dedicated to the development of “a community of professional support in the field of yoga service” that is engaged in “helping YSC members to move from inspired to effective in using the tools of yoga and mindfulness to reach underserved and vulnerable populations.”

In June, 2013 the Yoga Service Council (YSC) held its second annual conference at the Omega institute in Rhinebeck, New York. The annual YSC conference provides the opportunity to learn from some of the visionary leaders in the field, and to be inspired by the myriad of ways in which the yoga community is being of service to those in need.  

Indeed, after enjoying a weekend of inspirational talks, wonderful workshops, good food, camaraderie, asana and meditation, I felt as though I had participated in one of the most promising new waves of yoga in our time.

The conference was emblematic of the tremendous progress that the YSC has made toward linking yoga theory and practice with real world applications in diverse areas such as organizational development, addiction recovery, social outreach, and neuroscience.  These creative couplings represent invaluable new ways in which traditional yogic practices can be integrated into modern life.

This year’s YSC conference was larger than its inaugural debut in 2012. It is clear that the YSC is growing rapidly and that its mission is building momentum. The 2012 and 2013 conferences featured impressive keynote speakers, a variety of excellent workshops, and evening meet-and-greet sessions during which representatives of over 30 yoga service organizations offered informational tables. This enabled organizers and attendees the time to socialize, form collaborative relationships, and learn from each other. This year 30 individuals were awarded YSC scholarships to attend the conference. Recipients were mostly young members whose presence increased the gathering’s demographic and cultural diversity, and added to the excitement of the event.

The conference looked at yoga service initiatives related to addiction, trauma healing, high-risk youth, cancer survivors, elder care, and creating a sustainable yoga service program. Participants included many full-time yoga teachers as well as social workers, mental health and education professionals, and scientific researchers. Their shared commitment to yoga service created a sense of camaraderie and community.

 

Highlights from the 2013 Yoga Service Conference 

The conference proceedings were punctuated by a number of highlights. Beryl Bender Birch’s Friday night address on “Awakening to Spiritual Revolution: The Convergence of Practice and of Activism” was moving and inspirational.  Kelly McGonigal, Ph.D., delivered a fascinating talk entitled “Strengthening Compassion” that offered insights from her 8-week training program in which she explores the nature of compassion and its roots in Buddhist meditation practices, spiritual philosophies, neuroscience, social psychology, and evolutionary biology.

Dr. McGonigal noted that the four key elements of compassion include 1) recognition of suffering, 2) feelings of concern and connection, 3) desire to relieve suffering, and 4) willingness and ability to respond. She offered a clear picture of the factors that support the development of compassion, as well as those that inhibit it.

People are less likely to experience compassion if placed in unsafe or unstable situations. In the face of uncertainty we are much more likely to resort to our innate fight, flight or freeze responses rather that to address the suffering of another with compassion. In the face of stress it is much more likely that we will be avoidant of another’s distress and choose to avoid, escape, shut down or dismiss a person rather than to choose a skillful action.

Dr. McGonigal detailed practices that can be used to strengthen our ability to be in the presence of suffering without defaulting to reactive or avoidant feelings or behaviors. “Compassion,” she emphasized, “is a set of skills that can be trained.” It is not an unlimited resource that can be continuously mined.  It requires time, effort and self-care to nurture skillful responses. McGonigal urged yoga service providers not to romanticize compassion, but to understand the concrete practices that help it grow, and the everyday scenarios that restrict it.  

The conference included several other highlights. Sharon Salzberg, a renowned Buddhist meditation teacher specializing in loving kindness teachings, led a practice dedicated to deepening our capacities for concentration, connection, fearlessness, and genuine happiness.

Dr. Bessel van der Kolk, a leading expert on trauma, provided us with a thought-provoking introduction to his work on “Yoga, Neurobiology, and Trauma.” He expertly synthesized information from a variety of fields including yoga, history, neuroscience, and psychology. This was followed by a panel discussion on diversity and cultural awareness in the yoga service movement. This topic will undoubtedly be the subject of greater discussion in future conferences.

The Yoga Service Council and its annual meeting represent a concerted effort on the part of the yoga community to engage in selfless service. The conference is a remarkable experience whether or not you’re interested in yoga service. It reminds us that there is no division between serving ourselves and serving others, and reminds us of the interconnection that is possible through mindful practice. 

The YSC meeting was also highlighted in Forbes magazine - see Grace Bullock's article about the promise yoga service offers for disadvantaged youth.


Photos courtesy of Omega Institute, eOmega.org

Restorative Yoga for Parkinson’s Disease: Strength, Balance, and Improved Quality of Life

Image: 

Most Americans have heard of Parkinson’s disease or know someone who is affected. Roughly 1.5 million Americans suffer from the effects of the disease, and approximately 60,000 individuals will be diagnosed this year. Parkinson’s disease can create a significant financial and emotional burden for patients, family members and caregivers. It is important to understand how the disease affects patients, and why a restorative yoga practice may help patients with Parkinson’s to experience some relief from their symptoms.

Parkinson’s disease is an incurable, degenerative disorder of the nervous system that has no known cause.  Symptoms of Parkinson’s typically emerge after the age of 50, and often include muscle rigidity, slowness of movement, slurred speech, and difficulty walking. Thinking and behavioral problems associated with dementia often occur as the disease progresses, and depression is fairly common.

Parkinson’s disease occurs as a result two factors. The first is a build up of a particular protein in brain cells or neurons. The second is the decline of dopamine producing nerve cells in the midbrain, the region largely responsible for motor control. When the dopamine system does not function properly, coordinated muscle movement becomes impaired and symptoms like tremors, mumbled speech, loss of balance, or stiff, awkward movements occur. These symptoms become more pronounced and debilitating over time.

While there is no known cure for Parkinson’s, there is increasing evidence that gentle, restorative yoga can help to alleviate some of the symptoms of the disease. Of greatest benefit are gentle, slow and precise yoga postures that

  • Increase flexibility and range of motion
  • Improve circulation
  • Enhance positive emotions, and
  • Improve alertness of mind

After a few classes of adaptive yoga, most students notice that they

  • Stand taller and lift their chests rather than slumping
  • Have better balance and are looking forward, not down
  • Are aware of their gait and less prone to shuffling their feet
  • Feel stronger and have greater range of motion, and
  • Feel relief from symptoms such as rigidity and fatigue

These experiences may improve an individual’s quality of life by

  • Reducing the fear of falling, and reducing the risk for injury
  • Improving the ability to engage in everyday tasks, and
  • Increasing the opportunity to socialize and interact with others

While there is no evidence that regular yoga practice has an effect on the systems in the brain that are related to Parkinson’s disease, patients report improvements in their quality of life.

Yoga classes for those with Parkinson’s disease need to be specially tailored. Postures must account for the fact that students are less mobile, and have muscle weakness and fatigue, reduced flexibility and motor control, and decreased mobility. Of greatest importance is that the yoga practice presents a minimal risk for falling. This means plenty of chairs, and an unobstructed place for moving. Next it is important to know which postures best target the physical needs of students such as trunk rigidity, hamstring tightness, and compromised balance and breathing. Props including bolsters, blankets, blocks and straps can increase the ease in which students experience a safe and restful practice.

Yoga can be very restorative and rejuvenating for individuals suffering from Parkinson’s disease. It is essential to find a yoga instructor with a depth of knowledge regarding what works for individuals with the disease and what does not. It is also important to consult a physician to make certain that yoga is an appropriate exercise. Once these pieces are in place, the experience of yoga for those with Parkinson’s can be nothing short of wonderful.

Lynn Burgess is the founder and director of Sarasota, Florida’s most established studio, Yoga from the Heart. She is registered with Yoga Alliance as an RYT 500 and E-RYT 500 instructor. She has been working with and teaching classes and private instruction specific to those with Parkinson’s Disease since 2007. A topic expert, Lynn writes articles that have been featured in Women’s Health Magazine and published in Yogi Times Magazine. To learn more about Lynn, visit www.yogafromtheheart.com; become her friend on Facebook: www.facebook.com/lynn.burgess.186, or follow her on Twitter at: Yoga from the Heart @yogasarasota.

 

Cross Training Your Brain: An Antidote for Aging

Image: 

We don’t usually think of exercise and the brain in the same sentence, but the brain and the body are very much alike. Fit people are likely to recover more quickly from injury or illness than those who are sedentary. Similarly fit, active brains are better equipped to recover from the damage incurred by accident, injury, illness, or the insults of aging.

For these reasons, the brain can benefit from exercise, just as much as the body in general.
This is the idea behind Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital’s Brain Fit Club in Boston, a ‘gym’ filled with games and exercises that give your brain a workout. Created earlier this month, The Brain Fit Club offers brain training exercises that include specially designed computer games, lifestyle and nutritional coaching, meditation, music, and yoga classes, and lots of time for socializing, reports The Boston Globe.

The brain has a tremendous capacity to rewire itself if it is worked out properly, new studies on neuroplasticity suggest. These findings are sparking a new wave of brain exercises designed to curb the effects of aging, and increase the probability that those with brain damage will recover more fully than previously believed possible.

“If you had asked me eight to nine years ago if I believe in cognitive training, I’d have said ‘pfft,’” says Bonnie Wong, clinical neuropsychologist at the hospital in the
The Boston Globe article. “But the research is quite convincing.”

The healthier your brain remains, the more it will be resilient to the effects of aging, disease and decline. This is why the Brain Fit Club at the Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital is so important.

Not surprisingly, the Brain Fit Club has a long waiting list. Millions of aging Americans are concerned with memory loss, lack of mental agility, and diseases like dementia, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. While there are medications that can reduce the severity of symptoms, degenerative brain disorders eventually lead to considerable disability and death.

It is likely that facilities like this will become commonplace during the next decade, and that an increasing number of ‘brain games’ will be available to boost cognitive ‘fitness’ as we get older. Dr. Adam Gazzaley, a professor of neuroscience at the University of California, San Francisco, for example, is developing targeted computer games that can enhance specific brain skills. The brain is ‘plastic’ enough to adapt and change regardless of age, his research shows.

Brain training games must be fun, however. According to Dr. Gazzaley, people will be more apt to engage in a therapy if they are enjoying themselves. The brain releases dopamine and other chemicals in response to pleasure that aid in the learning process, so pleasure is essential. Brain health and treatment also require a multi-pronged approach, Dr. Gazzaley believes. “Given the complexity of the brain, we can’t hope to treat it effectively with a single modality like a drug.”

With over 1000 trillion connections, the human brain is very complex and its potential for growth and change is practically limitless. Donald Stuss, Scientific Director of the Ontario Brain Institute, and a professor at the University of Toronto agrees. He studies the brain’s capacity to reorganize, and has discovered that “…different regions can take over and [the brain] can use different pathways, different networks to perform the same tasks. So the potential is there.”

As more researchers explore the brain’s resilience and ability to rewire itself, we are learning that it may be possible to delay or minimize the symptoms of dementia and other similar diseases by training the brain and keeping it fit. While places like the Brain Fit Club are important for anyone interested in maintaining a sharp mind and a healthy brain, the Club is currently only available to existing patients at the Beth Israel Deaconess who are suffering either from Alzheimer’s, cognitive impairment, concussions, or ADHD.

Researchers will be working with patients to understand which types of activities are of greatest benefit and how much time is required for patients to build up their own ‘weak muscles.’  Participants at the Club receive intensive programs of classes and physical exercises and are immersed in social interaction, which is known to greatly benefit both brain and heart health. Patients will also be ‘cross-training’ their minds and cultivating new pathways by learning new skills. There is growing evidence that new brain pathways are stimulated through learning novel activities such as hobbies, languages, or taking classes in math, science, art, or music. Patients will be encouraged to bring their workouts home and to continue to learn and master new skills.

The movement into brain fitness offers hope for the millions of Americans suffering from brain injury and diseases including Alzheimer’s, dementia, and Parkinson’s, and the millions more who are approaching old age or already there. Brain training has no side effects, the cost is minimal and the rewards are great. And of course, since an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, the new brain fitness gym is an important reminder for everyone to keep not just our body, but our brain fit.

 

Source
Creating a gym for the mind, Karen Weintraub, Boston Globe Correspondent

 

 

 

Be Here Now - Yoga’s Present Moment and the Practice of Madhu Vidya

Image: 

Be in the present moment. Experience your breath, watch your thoughts without judgment. These are instructions often given in yoga classes. The opportunity to “be in the present moment” is often touted as one of the benefits of taking yoga. But what does this really mean?

Yoga is a vast, varied and extremely old practice. The directive to “be in the present moment” is a powerful, timeless directive, the origin of which can be traced back to many of the early yogic writings.  In his Yoga Sutra (about 200 C.E.), defined yoga as “the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind.” Certainly, when this is achieved, the practitioner has come into the present moment.

Patanjali’s work was a great treatise on the cosmologic order of the universe, the human being’s role in that order, and the nature of the mind. Patanjali wrote that the ultimate goal of the practice of yoga was to remove the veils of the ego and abide solely in the nature of the Purusha – or cosmic consciousness, in other words, God. So the practice of Patanjali yoga is not only to be in the present, but to understand that present as the abode of the Divine.

The wide variety of Tantric and Vedic writings on yoga which have contributed to this great tradition are centered around this teaching.

In Tantric yoga philosophy, moving towards a state of non-judgmental existence in the present moment is achieved within the foundation of a deep understanding of the nature of the universe. According to Tantra, the entire universe is composed of the fabric of Divine Love or prema. Because the matrix of reality is prema, the experience of being in the present moment is the experience of waking up to the blissful reality of the universe.

In other words, the present moment isn’t a quiet reflection of the ego – it is an ecstatic merging of self into a super-conscious, rarified, vibrational field of Love. Yogis throughout the ages have tried to describe this state and use the Sanskrit word Samadhi to encapsulate its essence, but it is truly only accessible through experience. Most people have spontaneously or randomly approached Samadhi at one time or another in their lives – while staring at the ocean or gazing out at mountains or in a deep state of communion with the divine. Yoga, in its many forms, provides the technology, developed and honed over centuries of time, to consciously cultivate a regular experience of Samadhi, generally through meditation practices.

And when you are not sitting and meditating, how can you encourage this cultivation? To completely remember who you are is to experience ecstasy. In Tantra, the practice of being in the present moment is called Madhu Vidya which means “sweet knowledge.” This is the practice of remembering the intrinsic sweetness of life – that every thing, every situation, person, place, and moment, is an expression of, is sheltered by, is actually composed of the loving force of the cosmos.

According to Tantra philosophy, when it feels like love is not the dominant force in a situation, when we are faced with challenges and heartache, we are reminded to gently but firmly guide our egos back to Madhu Vidya, to that sweet remembrance, which can help us see our situation as either a learning experience, a karmic payback, or an opportunity for growth. Maintaining a positive attitude even in the midst of adversity is certainly difficult. The practice of Madhu Vidya offers a direct route back to the Divine source in order to diffuse suffering.

To experiment with the practice of Madhu Vidya notice when you encounter a difficult moment in your day. Stop, breathe, remember who you are. Remembering that the moment, the situation, your body and the breath that you watch pass in and out of your lungs, are all manifestations of the powerful loving force of the universe.
 

Kristine Kaoverii Weber MA, LMBT, e-RYT is the director of the Subtle Yoga Teacher Training program and the author of Healing Self-Massage (Sterling, 2005).

Also check out her upcoming online course at YogaUOnline,

 Subtle Yoga: Enlivening the Healing Power of the Meridians in Yoga Asanas

 

 

Syndicate content