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I found this cool article addressing the question as to why people do yoga. “Come for the exercise, stay for the self-actualization!”, I always say. It seems others do too. Enjoy.

Why Do People Do Yoga?

DANIEL GRILL VIA GETTY IMAGES

After my last weekend of yoga teacher training, a friend asked me over dinner, “Why do you do yoga? So you can learn to do what… headstands?”

Why do people do yoga?

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More than 90 percent of people come to yoga for flexibility, stress relief, health, and physical fitness. But, for most people, their primary reason for doing yoga will changeTwo-thirds of yoga students and 85 percent of yoga teachers have a change of heart regarding why they do yoga — most often changing to spirituality or self-actualization, a sense of fulfilling their potential. Yoga offers self-reflection, the practice of kindness and self-compassion, and continued growth and self-awareness.

Yet the health benefits are very real. Yes, yoga can increase your flexibility, improve your balance, and decrease your cholesterol. A recent review in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology shows that yoga reduces the risk of heart disease as much as conventional exercise. On average, yoga participants lost five pounds, decreased their blood pressure, and lowered their low-density (“bad”) cholesterol by 12 points. There is vast growing body of research on how yoga improves health problems including chronic painfatigueobesityasthmairritable bowel syndrome, and more.

As a psychiatrist, I am also naturally interested in the brain. While most people intuitively get that yoga reduces depression and anxiety, most people — even physicians and scientists—are typically surprised to find out that yoga changes the brain.

May 2015 study published in the Frontiers in Human Neuroscience uses magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the brain to show that yoga protects the brain from the decline in gray matter brain volume as we age. People with more yoga experience had brain volumes typical for much younger people. In other words, yoga could protect your brain from shrinking as you get older.

The protection of gray matter brain volume is found mostly in the left hemisphere, the side of your brain associated with positive emotions and the relaxation response.Emotions like joy and happiness have exclusively more activity in the left hemisphere of the brain on positive emission tomography (PET) brain scans. The left hemisphere is also linked to the parasympathetic nervous system, the “rest and digest” network responsible for relaxation.

This “neuroprotective” effect of yoga has also been found in brain imaging studies of people who meditate. In some regions of the brain, 50-year-old meditators were found to have the gray matter volume of 25-year-olds. These changes to the brain can occur within a few months. One study found brain changes after only eight weeks of a mindfulness-based stress reduction program. The regions of the brain responsible for learning, memory, cognition and emotional regulation showed growth. In contrast, the areas of the brain responsible for fear, anxiety, and stress shrank.

But the truth is that the practice of yoga is not about changing the brain, body, headstands, or even about gaining greater happiness and joy. If it were, it’d be just like taking a spinning class or doing a set of lunges at the gym. Yoga aims toward transcendence of all those things. In a culture in which we rush from one day to the next, constantly trying to change our health, our body, or our emotions, or to plan our future, yoga opens up the possibility of connecting to what we already have — to who we already are. 

When people tell me that they want to try yoga but don’t because they aren’t “flexible enough,” I tell them yoga isn’t about attaining the perfect pose. Use as many blocks as you need. Modify the pose to feel comfortable in your own body. It’s not about being “good enough” or “right”: Yoga is about removing any judgment and letting us be present to who we are now.

As Buddhist teacher Pema Chodron explains:

“Practice isn’t about trying to throw ourselves away and become something better. It’s about befriending who we are already. The ground of practice is you or me or whoever we are right now, just as we are.

We recognize our capacity to relax with the clarity, the space, the open-ended awareness that already exists in our minds. We experience moments of being right here that feel simple, direct, and uncluttered.”

So, why do I practice yoga? The answer can be complex and personal, but it can also be simple and universal: Because I want to be present. Because I want to be present not just on my mat but also to myself and other people, the community around me.

Yoga can change the heart — but we’re not just talking about blood pressure.

 

Connect with Dr. Wei on Twitter: www.twitter.com/newyorkpsych
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/marlynnweimd
Dr. Wei’s Psychology Today Blog
For more on yoga health, go to: Yoga Health 

autumnBy Karen Janusz, Certified Nutritionist, AASDN
ACE Certified Personal Trainer and Certified Brain Fitness Facilitator

Fall Health Tips

Autumn brings in one of the greatest transitions of nature. We witness dramatic changes as trees change color and start losing leaves. Temperatures begin to drop as the sun’s angle and intensity adjusts to the shifts. According to Oriental Theory, the seasons signify changes within the environment as well as within our bodies. Everything has an ebb and flow that harmonizes with nature. In the Oriental system of Five Elements, the fall season correlates to the Metal element, which is associated with the lungs and large intestine as well as the intricate neurons and wiring of the brain.

Change is an inherent process in our lives. When you adapt yourself to the changes that come with the seasons, you will maintain health. By gaining control of your internal climate (emotions) and managing the stress in your life, you stay protected from the external climate (weather changes). Through a daily discipline of inner attention and physical exercise, you can create a more open, resilient, and supple body; a mentally and physically relaxed state, and a stronger resistance to disease.

The Cold Connection

Autumn is the best time to focus on keeping the lungs and large intestine healthy. If you have a history of digestive disorders or bowel weakness, or long winters with colds and lung problems, this is the time to prepare yourself for staying well. The common cold is often experienced as an expression from the sinuses and lungs, but this problem is actually related to the large intestine and to poor elimination of wastes from the body.

The colon is one of the clearing organs of elimination, clearing toxins from the body helped by the lungs, kidneys and skin. Foods that are processed, unnatural, preserved, or mucous-forming such as meats, dairy foods, sweets, and starches like bread and noodles cause congestion in the body. Then putrefaction and/or fermentation take place, which creates even more toxicity in the system.This not only leads to poor assimilation, but also provides a site for bacteria and viruses to grow, just as it does in the sinuses and respiratory tract. You can stimulate the healing process by drinking lots of fluids-water, juices, teas and soups; and by getting proper rest and staying warm, rather than blocking elimination by taking cold tablets and eating congesting foods.

Autumn Cleansing and Detoxification

Cleansing and detoxification programs allow the organs to rest and rejuvenate, boost energy levels, and may eliminate potential illness you have stored away, either by flushing out excesses, or by improving organ functions.

Fruits and vegetables are abundant during this season and available for juicing. The Master Cleanser lemonade drink is an excellent choice or apple-pear juice, orange juice, or other fruit juice in the morning, with vegetable juices like carrot, beet, celery, zucchini, or parsley in the afternoon or evening.

Grapes work as a cleanser, harmonizing with the body and as a tonic for the lungs and large intestine. Fruits and steamed vegetables can also work well for a shorter cleanse of one to three days.

Foods from ← Most Congesting to Least Congesting

Most congesting foods®   most congesting/potentially toxic

  • Drugs                                           fats                                    sweets
  • Allergenic foods                        fried foods                       milk
  • Organ meats                              refined flour                    eggs
  • Hydrogenated fats                   meats                                baked goods

Least congesting foods® least congesting/more detoxifying

  • Nuts                      rice                           roots                      fruits
  • Seeds                    millet                       squash                   greens
  • Beans                    buckwheat             vegetables             herbs
  • Oats                       pasta                                                         water
  • Wheat                   potatoes

Balancing Mind, Body, and Spirit

As you become more aware of the changes in nature, take time to listen, observe, and become keenly aware of the subtle changes taking place within your own body.  Relax and meditate giving the body ample time to adjust to the changes. Go for a nature walk. Enjoy the subtle changes you observe in the plant life around you. Clean out a closet. Create space in your life. Deal with emotional issues. These processes all help create balance in your life on all levels- physical, mental-emotional, and spiritual. As you create inner health and balance, your outer world will follow creating a greater sense of harmony and well being in your life.

Seeking additional help

karenjan2016Karen Janusz is available for consultation at Kharma Life Center, by appointment.  With over 25 years’ in the health and fitness industry, she has been instrumental in improving the quality of life and health for hundreds of clients.  Her style of coaching/counseling is very accepting and open. She will surely have answers to your questions.

Jane_Meditation_AlaskaDo what you love and you will never have to work a day in your life. We have heard this expression and I definitely ascribe to it…sort of. Even when we are blessed to be spending our time doing work that is rewarding and ignites a passion and forward driving motion, it is still hard work! One of the great spiritual texts in the yoga practice centers around the idea of doing your duty, using 100% of effort and awareness, yet letting go of any expectation of the result of your actions. Yikes. This is a challenge, I don’t care WHO you are.

Let’s face it, we want, need, are habituated to look for the “payback” for our efforts. Isn’t that why so many people are burying their heads in their i-devices for a quick fix of one kind or another? The Truth is, real reward only comes from real, solid effort. If we want something big to happen to us, we have to create a big plan and follow through. Hard work, perseverance, a good sense of humor, a lot of faith are solid ingredients to create a recipe for success. Yes, there is the occasional windfall of abundance without effort (still waiting for mine) that befalls us, but mostly, it’s really just a lot of hard work.

One of the greatest gifts I have received from the practices of yoga and holistic therapies is clarity. When we get our body and mind quiet and healthy enough, we can actually hear the answers to our questions, the solutions to our problems and the directions to walking the path of passionate pursuit. Oddly, we have to learn and practice this art of stillness, even though it is the most organic part of who we are. I get distracted just like everyone else, but as soon as I plug back into what is Real and True through movement, meditation, exercise, massage, acupuncture; I feel that passion flood forth and with it comes the Plan for my life unfolding…

 

stacie bike picI guess getting fit and staying fit is not supposed to be easy…or fun, unless of course, you are one of those people who has fun getting fit. I know there are a lot of you out there. I am not one of you. I wish I was born fit and could eat anything I wanted and stay fit, but alas, it is not to be. As we get older the task becomes that much more of a discipline. Paleo and Cardio! Why can’t it be Ice Cream and Meditation?! Why??

Well, I started a new fitness regimen with our new personal trainer, Stacey Schimke, and I have to say, I LOVE it. (And her). I don’t feel judged or bossed around. There is a nice challenge but one that fits my capacity and the best part is that it only lasts 30 minutes! I can do just about anything for 30 minutes. Well, maybe not, but I can do this. Three times a week.

We use our own body for cardio and resistance, so there is not a lot of complicated weight management, just my own weight management! I feel stronger and leaner already and with the addition of keeping a food journal which she monitors, we will manage my intake to maximize results. There is just something to be said for being accountable and supported.

It’s hard for us avid helpers to help ourselves. You know who you are. But it is so worth the attention because when I am happy and healthy, I am happier and healthier in all my relationships. Win-Win!

So even though the workouts provide a challenge, it’s not a feeling of dread or defeat that precedes or follows, but one of success and confidence. Now that’s an easy feeling I can support and promote.

alaska_glaciersI succeeded with my regimen of Paleo for 30 days and continued to modify my diet after that. It was a great mindfulness exercise and a way to create a lifestyle change as I embrace a life of super-conscious eating and choosing the foods that feed and nourish me best.

Soon after, I got to test my habits on vacation as I traveled to Alaska for a week! It is one thing to have the safety of a refrigerator stocked with whole foods for eating, it is quite another to have to order every meal out and stick to a plan. Needless to say, there was gluten and dairy consumed, but in small quantities and with pleasure!

Alaska is, in a word, majestic. To me, it is nature’s way of saying, “I AM IN CHARGE.” When you see a moose walk past you in the road who is as big as your car, you begin to feel put in your place. The glaciers, the wildlife, the sheer vast beauty of it all…a wonder and magical experience for all senses. I feel blessed to have been given this gift.

On the boat ride we took to see the Kenai Fjords, were some Tibetan Monks which I took as a very good sign. (They bring to the party an extra bit of God). And so it was, according to our captain the “best whale sighting in her history of touring”. A picture perfect (warm) day as massive hump backs jumped out of the water with joy and enthusiasm.

Simply Amazing.

 

 

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Nobuo at the Teeter House

Day 27: We hear so many rules and methods of how to and what to eat. One strategy that resonates with me is the 85/15 rule: Eat very mindfully and healthfully sticking with the routine that you have set for yourself like mainly plant-based diet focused on organic food with no preservatives, etc, etc.for 85% of the week, and then the remaining 15% eat what you like! This is not only great for the body but for the mind as well. The mind holds tightly to the memories of fun food and indulgent tastes and experiences and if you don’t feed it once in a while, it gets really fussy I find. To totally deprive yourself of all the things you love is a recipe for disaster. I know when I feel deprived it makes me want to indulge even more, but given permission to experience everything takes away that cranky feeling of wanting what I can’t have.

There are those who eat to live and so eating 100% of a strict diet can be quite manageable for them. But for those of us like me who live to eat, it’s imperative to give ourselves permission to have some fun and enjoy life, friends, family, restaurants, gatherings around food.

Last night I indulged in a beautiful meal at Nobuo at the Teeter House in downtown Phoenix. What a meal. Tiny portions of artistically crafted morsels made with the utmost care and freshness. I was able to stay very close to the regimen except for the martini and a few bites of strawberry tart! Don’t judge.  I regret nothing. Life is meant to be enjoyed and I feel like as long as I can stay vigilant with noticing my behavior it will all be terrific.

 

 

Ev!Days 21,22,23,24+25: That’s right, I have been remiss with blogging. I suppose life just got in the way, as they say. The food project has been going very, very well and I am proud of my efforts and forgive the small indiscretions here and there. The last several days are a blur as the focus of my attention was not on myself or my eating habits but on my amazing and wonderful son who graduated from high school on Tuesday. I am a beyond-proud-momma of a wonderful young man and cannot wait to see his ascension into his full self-expression.

As we were waiting in the l o n g line of traffic to turn right into the venue for his commencement, a big truck was not so interested in waiting patiently for cars to move and side-swiped my vehicle in his attempt to move ahead. He then proceeded to flee the scene. Since none of us in the car were hurt, I simply rolled down my window, adjusted the rear view mirror and proceeded to enjoy my milestone day (and dealt with the whole metal-bent mess today).

This sparked a discussion among my deep-thinkers as to why “bad things happen to good people”. The thing is: Good things happen to good people, Good things happen to bad people, Bad things happen to good people  and Bad things happen to bad people. What helps to gain perspective is, Things Just Happen. The less we label them (or the people) good or bad, the more we have the ability to roll with all those oddly placed punches. If we try to figure it out, we will just get a sad headache, and it doesn’t matter why; it just matters how we handle it.

Being present for my boy outweighs drama over a hit-and-run any day of the week. Anyway, I believe that everything gets sorted out in its own time. I will pay the deductible and pray for the soul who caused the trouble. My guess is his suffering is greater than mine.

 

 

 

favorite snack

A new favorite snack!

Day 20: Past, Present and Future. There is a lot of discussion about these concepts in my business. The past is finished, the future is non-existent and the present is the only Truth we really have, so to live in the present moment is to live with happiness. Where this may seem oversimplified, I can verify its validity and significance in my personal life.

Dwelling in the past seems to be an absolute waste of time. There is nothing to be done about righting so-called wrongs or changing the occurrences of events. It happened. Move on. We can, however, learn from the past if we are willing to review it honestly thus helping us with present decisions based on habits and patterns that did or did not serve.

Dwelling in the future is a 3am-bolt-out-of-bed killer. When the mind starts to wander into parts unknown and the yet-determined, it walks into a land mine of worry and unnecessary anxiety. Don’t buy trouble. The future may or may not occur at all! Much less in a way that the mind is fantasizing about it.

Dwelling in the NOW is our only hope for real happiness. This can be verified when you recognize those moments and activities that have you totally absorbed; where time stands still and boundaries disappear into bliss: gardening, golfing, running, a lingering kiss…it hardly matters what the activity, it’s all about the feeling that envelops the experience, like no other. We call this integration and it feels good.

Something else that feels good is eating healthy. The body sings with energy and a lightness, literally not weighed down by inefficient food and extra substance. I do like this feeling.

Mmm..._inside_out_grilled_cheese_(6071900948)

This is what I am NOT eating. Oh, long-lost friend…

Day 19: Took some time to receive a session of holistic therapies. Acupuncture, cupping, body stimulus…an overall attention to the various layers of the body and then some special attention to what I now lovingly call, “Sad Toe”. My left great toe has some cysts in the joint which causes pressure and pain. I am opting into therapeutics instead of surgery for now as it has been deemed a manageable case and I like the idea of the body healing itself.

The thing about helping and changing the body organically is that it is usually not a quick fix, but a dedicated consistent practice of various kinds of therapeutics that address different aspects of the ailment. In my case, there is inflammation, nerve pain, pressure, decreased strength and misalignment. Fortunately, there are many things to help! Regular massage overall and to the specific area, yoga for strength and balance, creams and right diet for inflammation, orthodic for alignment and deep stretching of the calf, hip and back. Everything is connected! So spot therapy is not really the best approach because one thing out of balance affects so many others. Slow and steady attention and care is definitely the way to go.

I have faith in you, Sad Toe! Together, we will make things right. And if not, there is always surgery. One must stay open to all options.

Confession time: getting a little cranky about the eating. Where I am doing a great job on shopping for, preparing and finding things to eat that hold to the regimen, I do long for a relaxed meal served to me without any concern about gluten or dairy content. Just a human moment which too shall pass as I continue to stay true to my intention.

 

Fresh-mango-smoothie_01Day 18: Eat when you’re hungry. Stop when you’re full. That is about as technical as eating should be in my humble opinion. I understand there is a wonderfully complex science behind food and eating the “right foods” serves you best. But when things get so complicated with don’t eat this with that and avoid this at all costs and only this food will do and that food is against the rules of nature…my head spins and I just want to eat something comforting.

In my business, the entire orientation of our awareness is to listen. We listen to the body in its infinite wisdom and it tells us exactly what it needs. Think about a baby who has not been inundated with outside cues or distractions toward what it thinks it needs, it just responds (and reacts) to the innate impulses inside. When she cries we either feed her, change her diaper, put her to sleep or give her love and attention. It really is no different when we are so-called adults. It’s just that we have been socialized into thinking too much about our needs instead of getting quiet and listening to what we need in each moment.

The practices of yoga, massage, meditation, breathing, acupuncture, sitting and listening to music, walking in nature…all act to give the mind a break and give us a chance to listen to that which is infinitely wiser than the mind (yes, I said it) and follow the intuitive knowing which always steers us in the right direction. I like chanting and have a practice of japa mantra which is simply a meditative repetition of a chant. I do it for 11 minutes -that’s supposed to be just the right amount of time to do its magic.

I’m bored with talking about food today. Working a lot and focusing on teaching others. (I did make a killer smoothie yesterday with fresh mango, banana, coconut milk, ice and a dash of maple syrup. Oh yeah. cool and delicious).

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