5 Tips to Finish Your Year Strong

This article was originally posted on MindBodyGreen, I hope you enjoy it!
In football, the two-minute drill can be the most exciting part of the game. It’s in these last two minutes of the game that losing teams tap their steel and passion; and winning teams devise their best strategies to maintain their momentum. As we head toward the time of year when the kids go back to school and the seasons make another change, you have time to finish the year strong. Here’s your strategy to make the most of 2012’s two-minute drill.
1. Acknowledge. You’re not the same person you were in January and you are not yet the person you are going to be in December. Take a look at the goals, resolutions, or intentions you had in January. Make sure they are still a good fit for where your life is now, and where you are headed. Eliminate anything that you adopted to please someone else, or because you thought you should. The hardest goals to achieve are the one’s that were never really yours to begin with. Don’t hesitate to change course! I totally do not understand the social stigma associated with saying “I changed my mind”. To me, that statement means you’re thinking rather than blindly, numbingly staying the course.
2. Forgive yourself. In a two minute drill there’s no time for self- recrimination, or beating yourself up. Once you acknowledge where you are and what’s not working, you’re all about moving on. If your best friend approached you honestly and said, “I screwed up, can I get another chance?” more often than not you’d forgive and move on. If you haven’t made the progress you intended so far in 2012, admit to yourself that you screwed up, and then give yourself another shot.  No drama.
3. Stop sitting on green and get going. At this point in the year, stay fully cognizant of Isaac Newton’s wisdom: “An object at rest tends to stay at rest, an object in motion tends to stay in motion.” As you reassess your year’s goals, do not get frozen into a state of analysis paralysis. It’s often more productive to make a move, in any direction, even a wrong one. Once you’re moving, you can decide it’s not the right path for you, and then change accordingly. However, the longer you sit on green without moving in any direction, the harder it is to get going. With your list paired down to the objectives that really mean something to you, and having dropped the unneeded bag of guilt over what hasn’t worked, you can start to move forward with renewed conviction.
4. Make a promise – to yourself. You make promises to other people and bend over backward to stay true to your word. Unfortunately, you probably don’t give yourself the same consideration. When you make a promise to yourself that you will work on something, you are making a commitment. Your promise is a vow you won’t break. Your word to yourself needs to be as meaningful a binder as giving your commitment to someone else. You have things you want to change/accomplish/achieve this year. The clock is ticking. It’s time to make yourself a priority and put a laser focus on what you need.
5. Create boundaries around your health and well being that no one is allowed to cross. We don’t always have an instinct to stand up for ourselves and, when we do, we often feel bad about it. Creating personal boundaries can be the single most transformational action you take this year. Implementing this strategy often means making difficult choices and saying “no.” It’s important to be clear with yourself and others as to where your boundaries are, and to resist the temptation to defend or apologize for enforcing these guidelines. “I’d help you fix your PC for the fifth time this month, but I’m not taking on extra projects right now.”  “I agreed to organize that conference for you, but I realize I can’t give it the time it deserves, so I’ll find you someone else.” If you start to feel the guilt creep in, call it out for what it is. You’re feeling guilty about prioritizing your own well being! That’s not a good reason to change your strategy. Drop the guilt baggage on the side of the road. You are moving on to finish your year strong.
In Super Bowl XLII, the New York Giants executed a two-minute drill that resulted in the game winning touchdown against the New England Patriots. In 2 minutes and 7 seconds the Giants ran 12 plays, covered more than 80 yards (twice the norm), and finished strong securing the win. The steps in your 2012 two-minute drill may make you uneasy at first but as you begin to take care of yourself (for yourself), you will find a new sense of confidence in your ability to meet your challenges, and accomplish your objectives. You’ve got the playbook, it’s your year to finish strong.

Why Sometimes It’s Good to Burn Bridges

This post was originally featured on MindBodyGreen
Before man learned how to engineer and construct bridges, our movement was restricted. Bridges allow us the freedom to explore territory farther away from home base and grow our knowledge of the world around us. The same holds true in our spiritual and emotional growth. If we don’t effectively build a bridge from where we are to a new place, we will pretty much stay the same.
It's OK to Burn Your Bridges
Through my life I have constructed bridges to new places of great value.  I’ve also traversed a bridge or two only to find myself in a destructive pit stop. For example, I crossed a bridge to a successful corporate career and then I built another bridge from that career to one of service and health. On my way to middle age I walked across a bridge that seemed to be traveled by all of my contemporaries only to find myself on a new shore where I was told I was becoming useless, tired, old. On that shore I found a place where people over 45 yrs of age gave up and shut down. I hightailed it on to the next bridge out of there and found a very different land where I currently reside in vitality and strength.
As we cross these many bridges to new locations, we tend to hang on to the structure that got us here. You’ve heard the advice “Don’t burn any bridges.” It usually refers to keeping a safety net, maintaining an option, or having a back door retreat strategy in the event you don’t like where you’ve landed. That’s an old tactic that’s useful when you’re in your 20s and 30s because at those ages your toolbox is still sparse. As we age, we accumulate quite a few bridges. If you don’t somehow let go of them, they will begin to weigh you down. Each one of those old bridges requires attention, upkeep and maintenance to keep around, which uses your energy with no return on investment.
I have a different suggestion for those of you who have joined me on the shoreline of middle age. Start blowing up your bridges. Let them go. They were useful, sturdy supporters, but they are of no use to you anymore. Your future is in front of you. If you find yourself on land that’s not a good fit, build a new bridge and get out.  However, you don’t need to go back.  You don’t need to be 20 again. That location’s value had walls you couldn’t see beyond and strictly enforced limitations. You don’t need to trade your wisdom for smoother skin. You don’t need to leave this place of knowing who you are in order to find adventure and limitless possibility, its available right here. Honor the many bridges that got you where you are, fix your sights on the path ahead of you, set the dynamite, light the fuse and let it blow.

How I Lost My Mind… And Found It Again

The first time I became truly aware that I’d misplaced my mind was about 6 years ago.
Misplaced Mind
Running two businesses, my calendar was insane. As a yoga instructor I teach, travel, write and produce yoga videos. I’m also the CEO for a high tech consulting company that I founded 18 years ago. The impact of my lifestyle on my mental faculties started so gradually that I didn’t notice for a while. My To-Do was getting longer instead of shorter. Between the appointments and nonstop emails, I even started taking my laptop into the bathroom with me to get a head start! As I struggled to keep pace, my goals shifted. My priority became just keeping my head above water.
I began to feel very uncomfortable if I wasn’t connected through my phone or one of many computers. For down time, I watched TV…with my laptop open and my phone at my side. During travel time I listened to podcasts, surfed the internet or pulled out the file of articles I habitually stockpiled. I lived the adage the more you teach yoga, the less you practice yoga. My days were jammed trying to absorb as much information as possible while striving for success in as many places as I could cover, who had time to practice?
The net result was that I was hardly absorbing anything, and I wasn’t getting to the end of that ominous To-Do list. That’s when I realized, somewhere in the craziness, I’d misplaced my mind. As I tried to do more, I was unable to concentrate, I couldn’t focus, and I became very reactionary, which made it difficult to solve problems in real time. My imagination had almost completely disappeared, and it was taking me two and three times longer to write anything because my ideas flowed like sludge. What I was doing, wasn’t working.
Finally, it dawned on me that the insanity had to stop. So I went on a controlled digital diet. I shut down everything that plugged in or ran on a battery before and after a strictly enforced 10 hour work day. It was really hard. One of the first things I noticed was that there were other humans living in my house! Two of those people were my almost-adult children who were watching the scary example I was setting for how to live a life. Next, I started cooking again. Cooking necessitates slowing down and caring for yourself, something that had become extinct in my panic button lifestyle. The cell phone no longer had a prominent place on the table, which afforded the opportunity for human conversation. Finally, I rededicated myself to my own yoga and meditation practice, which gifted me with time during which no one could reach me, and no additional information was coming at me from the outside world.
Within the first two weeks. I experienced a shift. Information started coming to me from my inside world.  I could remember what I’d been told 24 hours ago. Inspiration appeared in everything – driving, talking, visiting, noticing. New thoughts started bubbling to the surface. Not only was I able to write a few pieces, I started getting ideas for new projects and approaches to issues that had been locked and stuck. Apparently my mind hadn’t gone missing, but had retreated in fear of everything I was throwing at it. When I stopped bombarding my brain with the continuous, anxious laden flow of data, my mind hesitantly, but determinedly, came of the darkened corner.
I still have relapses when I start keeping Facebook running in the background, afraid I’ll miss a critical post. I begin checking email before I get out of bed, and I start texting while talking to others. It doesn’t take long before these behaviors result in creative blocks. When I notice, I remember to breathe in and create space in my days and my life. It’s in that space that I find my mind.
This article was originally published on MindBodyGreen.

Release the Old & Welcome the New

 

This blog was originally posted on MindBodyGreen: http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-4609/Release-the-Old-Welcome-the-New.html
Kim Shand - Rethink Yoga
Spring has officially arrived in the Northeast. In this part of the country spring is the season of new color and new growth, but I think spring is welcomed everywhere as a time of renewal. It seems Mother Nature knows that what is old needs to be released in order to make room for what is new. All living things have a natural instinct for this same releasing/renewing process. Our bodies automatically know to exhale in order to make room for new oxygen.

 

Like the promise of a new season, there is endless potential available to you. As you read this article, there is a movie being made that is going to rock your world. Something is being invented that will make your life easier. There is someone, you may not know yet, who will bring great joy into your life.  here are opportunities waiting for you that you can’t see yet because they are around the corner, or in your next week, or in your next encounter. Unfortunately, if you are functioning within old thought patterns and behaviors you won’t have the space available to accept those new possibilities.

 

My cousin is a loving father to his 16-year-old son, but his job demands that he spend weeks at a time out of state and he misses many evenings and weekends with his family. Over the Easter holiday father and son spent an entire afternoon on the golf course together. Afterward, his son told my cousin that he wished they could spend time together more often. My cousin, whose habitual thinking includes a great deal of self-recrimination, heard his son’s comment as a criticism that he isn’t available enough.

 

By the time he came home for the holiday dinner my cousin felt angry with his son for what he perceived to be a lack of gratitude. He was disappointed in himself and felt he’d been a bad father. On top of these reactions he piled some old, well-worn guilt and frustration that he was unable to live up to the expectations of the people he loves. The family dinner was tense. Afterward, the teen quickly retreated to his room feeling the weight of his father’s upset, but having no idea what he had done. My cousin, unable to let go of his insecurities and limited perceptions, lost the opportunity and potential that had presented themselves in that golf outing.

 

We humans may not be able to recall where we left our keys, but when it comes to holding grudges, old behaviors, and thought patterns our minds are very efficient. Our minds wrap around habitual thoughts like a clenched fist. However, if you want to shake the hand of that fabulous someone new (or a fabulous someone old), you have to open your fist and let go of what you’re gripping.

7 Ways to Become Age Proof With Yoga

Kim Shand - Founder of Rethink YogaGrowing old, in the way we have come to understand it, complete with memory loss; Alzheimer’s; or dementia is not inevitable. Research is offering scientific evidence that these common, age related conditions are within our control to suspend or avoid, regardless of family history. The latest longevity research offers suggestions on how we can maintain our cognitive functioning as we grow older. The practice of yoga has many known physical benefits to keep us healthy as we age.  Here are 7 ways that a yoga practice meets science’s recommendations for age proofing our minds.

Exercise fattens your brain
The hippocampus is the portion of the brain that’s responsible for memory. As you age, the hippocampus shrinks and so does your memory. Physical activity triggers growth of new cells in the hippocampus which can reverse the shrinking process. In an article in “AARP The Magazine”, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at the University of Illinois, explains that physically active people maintain cognition and memory, reducing their risk of dementia by 30%-40%.

However, the amount and type of physical activity you choose is a factor in the success of your anti-aging efforts. Doctors have long recommended that as little as 15 minutes of exercise, three times a week helps maintain your brain’s capabilities. It’s not unusual for yogis to take 2-3 classes per week equating to 120-225 minutes of physical activity. At those levels, the Group Health Research Institute has shown that you can not only maintain your current abilities, but also restore lost competencies. According to a study by the University of British Columbia at Vancouver, physically challenging exercise increases levels of growth factors in the brain such as IGFI, which nourish and protect nerve cells. Power Yoga offers muscle building resistance training, which the study showed could gain them a 13% advantage on cognitive tests over those who practice gentler forms of exercise.

Yogic philosophy grows new brain cells
Learning new skills and information that challenge your brain increases your number of brain cells and their connections. After only a week of learning new skills, MRI scans done by UCLA researchers, showed that adults can stimulate the brain centers that control decision making and complex reasoning. The study of yogic philosophy is rich and broad. Learning its history, contradictions, modern applications and reinterpretations offers endless ways to challenge your thinking machine. In addition, to the intellectual challenge of confronting each new pose on the mat, understanding how the anatomy works and, of course, the Sanskrit offers your brain a fattening diet of information.

Ommm to the gray matter
Your memory is negatively impacted when you are under stress in large part because your brain is being flooded with cortisol. During a yoga practice you are guided to focus your attention on the sensations within your body, and the activity within your mind. Improving your ability to focus, and practicing this type of mindfulness, reduces harmful stress hormones like cortisol. An 8 week Harvard study on the effects of a mindfulness practice showed the density of gray matter in the hippocampus increased significantly over that of the control group.

Yoga is low fat and sugar free
Yoga can control and reduce your risk of having diabetes, hypertension and other chronic illnesses that are connected to the onset of dementia. A study from Japan demonstrates that Diabetes and obesity almost double our risk for Alzheimer’s. Therefore, controlling these risks is an important factor in age-proofing your mind. Power yoga in particular, but yoga in general, is helpful in weight lose and the

Yogis on a mission
A study of older adults conducted by Rush University Medical Center, indicates that feeling you have a purpose in life keeps you sharp. While yoga does not have a doctrine and it’s not a religion, it has a spiritual component that strengthens practitioners’ sense of purpose and connection. The Rush University study was conducted over a seven year period. People who started the study with a clear sense of life purpose, intention and goals were less likely to develop Alzheimer’s.

Remember your friends
Yogis belong to a community of people who share concerns and interests on a variety of levels including physical, mental and spiritual. Examinations of older people in Sweden confirm you can reduce your risk of dementia by having a full social life. Social interaction stimulates you emotionally and mentally. After just 10 minutes of conversation, participants in a University of Michigan study showed improvement on short term memory tests,

Better sex, bigger brains
Yoga increases your over all confidence and comfort level with your body. It provides a stronger awareness of physical sensations, increased relaxation, and better muscle control in your pelvis. All of which can lead to increased sexual vitality and satisfaction. While there’s no direct link between an active sex life and improved mental faculties; research, books and articles abound indicating that sex will keep you looking and feeling younger. At a bare minimum, we can assume that a happy sex life can put you in a better frame of mind to cope with the effects of aging.