What I’ve Learned About Weight Loss From Decades In The Fitness Industry

A few decades in the fitness industry has given me a lot of time to focus on health and physiques, my own in particular.

I’ve tried a wide variety of workouts and diets. I’ve been a dancer, an aerobics instructor, a dedicated gym rat and a yoga instructor. I’ve gone vegan, vegetarian, macrobiotic, spent time in the Zone, and thrown it all out to eat whatever I felt like eating.
Along the way, I’ve had periods when I felt strong and healthy and others when I’ve felt worn-out, lacked joy, and been above my ideal weight.One thing I know to be true is that to achieve the health and wellness you want, you only need to learn one lesson:

Nothing outside stops you. You stop you.

This is a challenging perspective to live with. If we blame the cookie for our weight gain, our jobs for preventing us from exercising, or our relationships for our unhappiness—we don’t need to look too deeply into ourselves and our choices.

When we find ourselves feeling depleted, catching colds easily, or gaining unwanted weight, it’s often because we’re making lifestyle choices that are not aligned with our best interests.

Our bodies are a reflection of what’s happening in our heads.

Shopping for fresh food, cooking healthy meals, and exercising all require substantial time and thought. However, tearing open a bag of processed carbs, or sitting on the couch doesn’t take much effort at all.

When our thoughts and feelings have tanked our sense of self value, we’re no longer inclined to put forth the effort required to maintain our health.

The obstacle is not that we don’t have the knowledge, access, or ability to take care of ourselves, it’s that we don’t feel worthy of the effort.

This mindset also shows up in our approach toward self medicating. At the end of a particularly challenging day, do you tell yourself you deserve to take a yoga class? Or do you “deserve” a cocktail?

Of course, we deserve to feel better when we’re under stress. We deserve to give ourselves what’s best for us. We don’t deserve a toxic shortcut.

We know this. But choices get tricky if our self esteem is in the gutter. In these times, making a commitment to our health can take a gargantuan effort that’s almost impossible to sustain long-term.

When we feel good about ourselves and believe we’re worth our own effort, leading a healthy lifestyle becomes much easier.

It’s not the junk food, challenging circumstances, or difficult people in our world that prevent us from obtaining our wellness goals. It’s our inside world that steers our choices, our actions, and our reactions. Accepting this truth is like pulling a band-aid off in one jerk. It’s startling and it feels a bit raw, but healing what’s underneath is where the progress is.

 

This post was originally shared on MindBodyGreen.

How To Create Space & Avoid Hurting Others

Have you ever been stuck in traffic and noticed that the car behind you is so close that the other driver could change your radio station? If the traffic changed in the slightest, the other car would have no time to adjust and prevent a crash.

An inappropriate reaction in traffic can create damage and cost time and money. An inappropriate response to a person causes human damage, and the costs can be much higher.

Have you ever had a stressful week and tried to squeeze in just one more thing, like lunch with a friend? You’re already feeling the pressure of your day, and your hostess seats you in what seems like the noisiest section of the restaurant.

You’re irritated and, to make matters worse, your friend is running late. By the time she arrives, instead of being happy to see her, you start speaking from frustration, criticizing her lack of respect and consideration. Once it’s out, you regret it. Your friend is hurt and you’re responsible for human wreckage.

Whether you want to avoid a car collision or emotional damage, the solution is the same: Create space. 

There was a long period in my past where I didn’t know this and I functioned with no space between a triggering event and my reaction. I was known for being a fast thinker, a rapid-fire talker, and my quick temper.

In a corporate environment, these characteristics are often applauded, and it was easy to think of them as being positive qualities as I continued to succeed. But no matter how you try to frame it, being reactive does not allow time to think about the potential impact of words and the damage they might cause.

Responding this way didn’t create success, it created wreckage.

Creating distance between a trigger and your response can dramatically change your relationship with others, as well as your relationship with yourself. It’s in that space that you can choose your reaction to avoid hurting yourself and others.

Tips to create space

1. Take off your sunglasses. 

We all see the world through our own tinted perceptions, like sunglasses. After you wear sunglasses long enough, you forget that they’re on and start to think that your view is unfiltered.

2. Take a breath. 

The fraction of time it takes to create one full cycle of breath can provide you with the opportunity to make a choice. That breath can be enough to allow you to soften your approach and avoid turning the other person into a victim.

3. Find the fear. 

At the root of a quick, harsh response, you can often find fear. That surge of adrenaline you feel right before you respond is your fight or flight response. Many of us are wired to respond to fear with fight rather than flight. It’s this type of auto-response that can wound the people around you and leave them totally unaware of what caused your reaction. If you can find your fear, you can learn to manage it.

4. Watch your energy levels.  

We’re taught that we need to care for others, work hard, and provide for our families. We’re not typically taught how to do everything we’re “supposed” to do while maintaining a healthy balance of energy. When we overextend ourselves, we create an internally toxic environment. We can only give what we’ve got, so our reactions become the same toxins we’re building within ourselves.

Creating space in your mind, your emotions, and in your reactions will minimize the wreckage in your life. If you’re creating chaos, it will follow you.

 

This post was originally shared on MindBodyGreen

Is Yoga Marketing Hurting Older Women?

Most days when I look around the room at the yoga students I’m teaching, I wonder: Why don’t more of my students look like me? Most of the faces looking back at me are younger than 30 years old. This same demographic dominates the local studios I teach in as well as studios I’ve traveled to throughout the United States.
I’m female and 51 years old. I’ve raised a family, had multiple careers, built an amazing marriage and, generally speaking, lived a life. Yoga has transformed my health, the way I age, the way I think of myself, and the way I interact with the world. Thanks to my practice, and my teaching, my body is strong and I have a deep sense of personal power and confidence. Women transitioning from their 40s into their 50s could make good use of these benefits, so why aren’t they streaming, en masse, into yoga studios?
Bringing yoga into the mainstream of American culture necessitated shifting its public face away from the one we became familiar with from the 1960s through the 1980s — that of an older, Eastern man with leathered skin and shining eyes. Most product marketing in the U.S. likes to focus its lens on whatever is young and pretty. It sells.
Not surprisingly, the mass marketing of yoga has fallen in step with this approach. The result has been a great boon for yoga. Studios in most downtown areas have made yoga accessible. There is a depth and breadth of styles, information and training easily available to anyone interested. “Spirituality and Yoga” is a common Google search string. Western medicine has put a scientific stamp of approval onto the practice and the lifestyle. The net result is that we’ve all benefited from the creation of a profitable, and therefore sustainable, industry that’s also healthy and life enhancing.
Unfortunately for the American woman, the new face of yoga — which tends toward young, slender, lycra-clad (or under-clad) gymnasts — may be as un-relatable as the old face of yoga. However, the advertisers, magazines and social networks are not at fault. It’s not the commercialization or mainstreaming of yoga that prevents my contemporaries from enjoying the benefits inherent in a yogic lifestyle. It’s the mindset of the typical 40-year-old woman that keeps her from opening the door to the yoga studio.
We’ve created a culture in which women over 40 don’t know where they fit. They don’t know who they are, or what they’re supposed to be. Often when these women come to me, they’ve stopped believing they can build muscle, so they stop trying. They think having constant pain is to be expected at their age. They’ve developed a fear of failure that prevents them from pursuing risks or adventure. As their lives and bodies changed, they became so used to feeling helpless that they gave up their sense of power along with their skinny jeans.
I believe there’s a light that exists inside every woman over 40 years old, but it must be reignited so they don’t spend the rest of their lives on the sidelines. Promoters and brand builders can’t give them that spark, and they shouldn’t be accused of taking it away. It’s my hope, and actually my anticipation that as yoga becomes more commonplace through the promotion of yoga-lebrities, pretty pictures, creative products and increased profits, more people will become curious enough to step up to the threshold of significant life change through yoga.
This post was originally featured on MindBodyGreen..

4 Reasons to Give Up Hope

“Will you be able to follow through?”
“I hope so.”
 
“Will I get the shipment on time?”
“Here’s hoping!”
 
“Are you going to get that job?”
“That’s what I’m hoping for.”
So often, we are stuck counting on someone else to put their best foot forward, and we are left hoping they can accomplish the goal. If you look at the questions above, each answer tells you nothing about the likelihood of achieving any particular outcome. When you tell someone you’re hoping, you’re not offering a plan, an expectation, or even your personal conviction. What you’re doing is giving yourself the message that it’s out of your hands, and you have to accept whatever comes your way.
Here’s why you can do better without hope:
1. Hope is the big neutral. 
 
Even with a big dream that seems daunting for a single individual to impact (like peace on earth), you can do more than just hope. Don’t hope; set an intention. When I teach a yoga class, I start each practice by guiding students to set an intention. The idea is that we are dedicating the energy and effort of the practice toward a particular outcome. Big or small, it takes you one full actionable step beyond hope.
2. When you stop hoping, you can start doing. 
A friend of mine from the South has a saying that always makes me smile. When she’s ready to go but waiting on someone else, she says, “I’m sittin’ on green and ready to go!” Hope is like sitting on green and… just waiting. When you’re only hoping for an outcome, you are not moving any closer to the goal. You’re telling yourself that what you want is out of your control, and that there’s nothing you can do about it. You have to decide if your goal is worth some exertion. Even if the answer is “no,” you can take action by dropping it. If the answer is “yes,” you can take an action toward making it real.
3. Hoping stunts your growth.
We grow through challenge, pressure, making mistakes and starting again. Hope is a comfort zone that doesn’t include any of these. Each time we take action, even if it turns out to be in the wrong direction, we grow beyond who we were yesterday. Nature doesn’t let anything stand still. If it’s not moving, atrophy and degeneration sets in. Swap out hope for responsibility, and you continue to progress as an individual.
4. Eliminating hope from your verbiage will boost your self esteem.  
You cannot build confidence without achievement. Nothing feels better physically, emotionally or spiritually than making a commitment, having conviction and taking charge of your destiny. Telling yourself you are going to do whatever it takes feeds you a totally different energy than telling yourself you’re hoping. When you take control of attaining what you want, even if you fall short of the final objective, you amplify your sense of personal power.
What is one hope that you can turn into an intention today?
Originally posted on MindBodyGreen

4 Easy Shortcuts to Happiness

“Happiness is on the rise. Not only has the average amount of happiness risen over the last 30 years but, due to rising longevity, the number of happy life years has increased spectacularly.” ~World Database of Happiness

I’m not a trendy type, but this seems a trend worth jumping on. I’ve been happy and I’ve been unhappy. Happy is better and it’s often a few quick choices away from the alternative.

1. Choose your facts.
“I’m freezing, the weather is awful today,” he said.
“It’s not raining or snowing it’s nice out today,” I replied.
“It’s so windy, I hate this weather,” he confirmed.
“The sun feels wonderful,” I said as I walked away.
This was a conversation I had this morning. We were both standing on the same corner, at the same time, experiencing the same weather. Neither of us was delusional, or lying to the other. There are always hundreds of facts in front of you. You get to choose which ones you focus on.

2. Re-evaluate you’re network.
Remember the excitement of a play date? As children we intuitively understand that we’re happier when we interact with other people every day. For most of us, even with the advent of digital social networking, this remains true throughout life. However, your happiness quotient can also be significantly impacted by who you choose to interact with. When I was in high school and learning to navigate a diverse group of friends, my grandmother warned me, “You are only as good as the people you hang with.” My grandmother’s motivation was to keep me out of trouble, but the same theory of networking applies to how you feel about life. Every grouch that latches onto you will drain your happiness, and every joyful person you hang with will boost it.

3. Purge some angst.
To unearth your bliss, remove some of the guilt and anxiety that’s piled on top of it. At the time you chose to dive into the chocolate chip cookies, treat yourself to a second Marguerita, or buy that Mercedes it seemed like you were taking a shortcut to happiness. Regrettably, the next day when these choices result in more things to worry about, your joy is being pushed farther out of reach. When we worry about things like our finances, our job, or our health, we are not equipped to simultaneously tap into our happiness. Going on a budget, a diet, or making a career change may seem like undesirable transitions, but that’s not always the way it works. Paying off the credit cards, and making healthy lifestyle choices, makes you happier by eliminating some of the problems that keep you weighed down.

4. Go natural.
I was talking with a man who came to the US from his native country Columbia. He told me the people in Columbia are the happiest of any people in the world. When I asked why, he gave me two very logical reasons. First, he told me the weather is like spring every day so the people are always outside. Second, home grown, natural fruits and vegetables are easily accessible and make up the majority of the Columbian diet. This is a transferable recipe for creating joy anywhere in the world. In any weather, a walk outside is an instant mood booster, and there’s good reason that a big juicy bite of a delicious orange makes you smile. A regular dose of sunshine, fresh oxygen, and fresh food yields a deep sense of well-being that’s generated from being connected to the earth and the universe around you.

Your outside circumstances will never align perfectly to create bliss. Therefore, creating your happiness needs to start with a choice.

 

 

 

Kim Shand is a nationally-renowned yoga expert, on-air personality, and founder of Rethink Yoga. She travels nationally on a mission to inspire people to take control of their health, how they think, and how they age, through yoga. She motivates her students to find their power, their joy and to be “All In. All the Time.”  Follow Kim on Facebook, on Twitter, and on YouTube.

 

 

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.

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.

Here's The Question That Changes Your Life…..

We all want to be happy, healthy and strong.  Taking this train of thought a step further, you could probably add the desire to be more at peace, less reactive, and more balanced to the list.  Creating these qualities in ourselves can seem like a daunting task.  You know what you’d like to have and who you’d like to be, but how do you get there?

In the new movie “The Avengers”, Thor is one of the superheroes who have pledged their lives to fight the bad guys.  (There’s no need for a spoiler alert here, I’m not giving anything away.) Unfortunately, the biggest bad guy is Thor’s brother, a circumstance that causes Thor some conflict.  At one point in the movie Thor is confronted with the question, “What are you prepared to do?”

As a yoga teacher, I often see students experimenting with yoga as a way to achieve some very admirable goals.  They come to the mat, and go through the physical motions of a practice.  Then they wait to feel their bodies and lives improve.  What these students often don’t realize is that they can make a choice to take a more active role in achieving their goals.  You have a say in how you view yourself and your experiences.  You can choose your level of conviction and commitment.  You can decide how you act, and how you react, to the circumstances in your life.  You can make the choice to be a bystander or an active participant.  But, “What are you prepared to do?”  What are you willing to step up on, to have your feet held to the fire on?

Transforming yourself and your health isn’t about becoming someone new.  It’s a process of revealing who you really are when you’re not playing it safe, or pretending, or trying to please other people.  On the mat, when you put yourself into a new pose and you stick with it, even though it’s uncomfortable and foreign to you, you learn how to change your body.  Once you learn that you can transform your body, you realize that you can do the same thing with the way you think, your habits, and your perspectives.

The happiness, balance, peace and health that you want are available to you.   Sit down, find the time and space to be truly honest with yourself, and to listen.  When you’re ready to be honest, radically honest, ask yourself “What are you prepared to do?”

Do You Lift Weights? No, I Do Yoga.

At least once a week, I’m asked how often I lift weights. “I’m a yoga teacher, I don’t lift”, is generally met with polite skepticism. The truth is, my practice is the reason behind my physique, and also my ability to maintain my sense of humor because strangers rarely believe me.
I teach my style of power yoga once a week in a bare bones, no kidding around, “muscle gym”. The first time a member takes my class they are shocked at how difficult it is to access the strength required to do foundational poses, like Plank, Chatturanga and Upward Facing Dog (yoga variations of a push-up). Weight lifting isolates each muscle, but rarely asks their body to use its entire self in a single movement. The opposite is true of yoga. Each posture tones and strengthens muscles throughout your whole body. Although you will not build the bulk of a serious lifter, yoga stretches your muscles while simultaneously contracting them, resulting in increased flexibility, definition and a chiseled, leaner, longer physique.
A power yoga class can burn about 300 calories. Put that class in a hot studio and you’re burning 600 calories. The successive movement from one pose to the next will increase your heart rate, your respiration, and the amount you sweat.
If you’re going to work out for more than an hour each day, it should be with something you look forward to. If you drag yourself to the gym simply because you want to stay in shape, it’s time to reconsider. Most yogis truly enjoy their workout time, and you can retain the metabolic and strength benefits of your old regime, while adding flexibility, detoxification,  mental clarity, balance and a greater sense of well being.
Ultimately, the proof is in the practice. Take a class and notice how your muscles feel the next day. They’re sore for good reason – and your body never lies to you.

*originally posted on MindBodyGreen

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.

You Don't Need Permission!

At the end of a long day and a longer week in which I worked hard and accomplished a lot, I came home and poured myself a glass of champagne. The reaction from my houseguest was curiosity as to what I was celebrating. My answer, “nothing in particular, everything in general”, gleaned more suspicious looks.

Why should the champagne stay in the fridge? I don’t wait for special occasions to give myself what I like. I don’t keep my silk PJs in the back of my closet, and I wear my favorite high heels whenever the mood strikes me – even if I’m just going to the drugstore. I’d rather wear them out from overuse than never get to enjoy them because they’re being “saved” inside bubble wrap.

If you don’t treat yourself like you are worth it, who will? You don’t need permission! What are you waiting for? Here are some suggestions in honor of the fact that you are totally worth it. Think up some to add and share with me.

– Use your best crystal glasses to drink your water everyday
– Break out the china, especially when you’re eating alone
– Wear perfume just to hang around the house
– Use your best jewelry
– Forget the sweat shirt, grab the cashmere sweater
– Light that fabulous scented candle
– Light the fireplace
– Never take a bath without bubbles
– Give really big hugs
– Say “I love you” as often as possible. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

Are You in Need of a Digital Diet?

12 clues that you’ve moved from a healthy use of all things tech to digital addiction.

One night last week both of my twenty somethings, my husband and I all made it home for dinner. In celebration of the uncommon occurrence, we dusted off the kitchen table and sat down for a meal. After which, we deposited our tired selves in the family room where my husband and I shared space on the couch with the dog. The offspring lounged across the room in comfy chairs.

Sounds very Norman Rockwell, right? The difference is in the details. The TV was on. Four cell phones sang, buzzed and dinged from various tables. And each one of us fired up our laptops and started scanning, scrolling, and typing communication to the universe outside of the house. This is a family that is fully and completely plugged in.

I’ve read the studies claiming the internet is re-shaping our brains and shrinking our attention spans. I’m familiar with the warning that anxiety disorders, insomnia and panic attacks can be linked to the overstimulation inherit in our society’s information obsession. Maybe because we are not a family of anti-social introverts, gamers, or a techno-geeks; I haven’t felt the studies were talking about us personally. However, I’m willing to admit that I might be overly fond of my cell phone and my daily verbal interaction to texting ratio is often stilted toward the latter. So, over the next few days, I started to take note of our household digital behavior to get a handle on whether we are, in fact, in need of a digital detox.

My personal study yielded the following list of clues that you and/or your family have catapulted across the divide between compulsive technology use and full-blown digital addiction.

1. While at a party you pretend to be looking for pictures of your family vacation to share with the group, but you’re really checking your email/twitter/Facebook.

2. You’re out to diner with the girls but only half participating in the conversation occurring realtime while you hold a texting conversation.

3. You’re so used to having earbuds in your ears, you don’t notice when they’re not attached to anything.

4. You tell your spouse you are putting your blackberry on the bedside table to use as an alarm, but you really want to have it handy to check email if you wake up in the middle of the night.

5. When you wake up in the morning you check your email before getting out of bed.

6. You keep Facebook open and running in the background of your PC because you might miss a critical post in the lag time of opening and closing the app.

7. You have a clutching sensation in your stomach and an increased level of anxiety when you hear the words “The cabin doors are now closed. All electronic devices must be turned off.”

8. As the theater lights are dimming and the movie previews start rolling, you shrink down into the space between the seats trying to get one last email out.

9. Setting the table for dinner means putting out plates, glassware and silverware
with enough space in between for everyone to plop down their cell phone.

10. You adjust your wardrobe to accommodate carrying your cell phone.

11. You’ve acquired phantom ring tone disorder – You hear your cell phone going off in your purse and scramble to retrieve it, only to discover it wasn’t ringing.

12. The only articles you’ve read about the need to unplug from technology have been online.

Yoga And The Ugly Christmas Sweater

While there may be someone out there, I personally, do not know anyone who doesn’t have some form of an addiction. Our addictions can take a variety of shapes ranging from an addiction to a paycheck, a process, a person, food or chemical. As we prepare ourselves, and our homes, for the holidays two addictions that often surface are competitiveness and perfectionism. In my house the drive toward both was at full speed as we prepared for the neighborhood Ugly Christmas Sweater Party.

I first noticed the competitiveness between the four of us as we covertly acquired our ugly Christmas sweaters, refusing to admit where we were shopping or give hints on available inventory. I chose cyber shopping to find my brightly colored, dizzyingly busy item. I was particularly proud of the fact that it was a previously used and repurposed purchase! While good naturedly boasting to my daughter of my fashion find, and hoping for an extra points for the eco-friendly add-on, she advised that I cover my tracks by deleting the website from “history” on the family desktop. That was an early sign that our family had successfully cleared the bar for standard competitiveness and was racing toward cutthroat.

Perfectionism is so deeply rooted in many of us that some people describe themselves as “born perfectionists”. I realized The Ugly Sweater Party was triggering my husband’s obsessive compulsive disorder desire for thoroughness when I caught him sneaking glue, tinsel and a strand of Christmas tree lights upstairs. Not satisfied with his off-the-shelf gaudy sweater, he set about embellishing it with a resolve that comes from having stepped onto the slippery slope toward compulsiveness. With intimidating determination he spent his afternoon rigging his sweater with flashing lights and gluing tinsel to inappropriate places on Santa’s reindeer.

Perfectionists and those with a strong need to be the best, often set unrealistic standards for themselves and when they fail to meet these standards, they beat themselves up. The holidays offer plenty of opportunities for these tendencies to be triggered and enhanced. As the craving for perfectionism invades the holidays, our ability to take pleasure in family and friends can be overlaid with anxiety. Our enjoyment can be dampened by a sense of dissatisfaction and striving. The Ugly Christmas Sweater party was a great laugh, but our approach toward our preparations reminded me of the necessity to not let the fun of the holidays be overshadowed by those qualities that only bring tension. Softening our approach and allowing ourselves, our homes, our gifts, and our meals to “be as they are” invites everyone around us to also be comfortable with what is.

Fashion Week and The Statement You're Making

This week was Fashion Week in NYC.  A city full of people took a break from their normal lives to focus on what their style statement is, and to determine if their style is representing them the way they want it to.  Personally, I love the creativity and artistry of fashion.  I also believe in the impact of a style statement.  However, our style statement isn’t the only announcement we make when we walk out into the world.

Our thoughts, our presence, and our emotions make an energetic statement about who we are that is felt by everyone around us.  This statement makes an impact that is much less transient than our style statement.  It affects the way others interact with us, it influences the way we feel about ourselves, and the events we draw into our lives.   However, it is more difficult to remain conscious of our energetic statement than it is to choose the color of our jeans.

Bringing your best self into everything you do is a steep challenge.  It’s something that you will naturally fall out of and have to consistently re-check.  For example, when you find yourself: in a conversation where your body is present, but you’ve mentally checked out; waiting in a long line becoming angry and agitated; maintaining a relationship while simultaneously keeping an eye out for the exit door.   At these times the statement you’re making is not an accurate reflection of you really are, or want to be.  The results that are created, the energy and reactions that will be reflected back to you, will not be what you want either.   Consistently reconnecting inward to consider if the statement you’re making in the moment is your best self, transforms your life from a discovery process into a creation that you can control.    In his book Conversations with God, Neal Walsh wrote “There is only one reason to do anything, as a statement to the universe of who you are.”

Learning the Street Value of Letting Go

Yoga has changed a lot about how I interact with the people around me and how I react to situations.  It’s very fulfilling to realize I’m not taken off balance in a moment when I might have become fearful or angry in that past.  However, there are other times when I find myself to be decidedly un-yogic.  Hurricane Irene gave me a week without lights, air-conditioning, internet access or hot water.  Living in a town with huge, old, oak  trees that loose branches in wind, rain and snow storms; we’ve had plenty of power failures.  In the past we’ve been dark for 10 minutes to 2 days.  A week is a record.

My immediate reaction when the lights went out was to sit and wait for my world to re-illuminate.  Any minute now.   Ten minutes later, resignation set in and I followed through on the preparations I’d made: grab the flashlights, light the candles, pretend to read Yoga Journal…..but my real focus was on waiting for the lights to come on.   Surprised that the lights were still out when I went to bed, my first cogent thought the next morning was, “I HAVE to have power today.”  The next two days became a pregnant pause of tension.  A void of waiting, and thinking “I HAVE to get power this morning.”     “ I’m sure I’ll get power this afternoon.”   “ Pleeeease let me get power tonight.”   “It’s not possible that I’d have to take another ice cold shower today.”  As each deadline passed without success, I felt my non-yogi nerves fray.   Finally, on the third day I stopped resisting.  The fact that the power was not coming on in my timeframe, and that I had no control over when it would come on, sunk in and I accepted it.  Immediately, the tension melted and I could get on with the details of life without lights and hot water.

It occurred to me after the fact that I had just re-experienced an old lesson.  It wasn’t the lack of electricity that had caused me to feel frazzled and frustrated.  The tension was the result of my resistance.  Every moment spent wishing things were different caused anxiety, discomfort and suffering.  When I finally settled in, and accepted the situation, I could move through each day, making whatever adjustments were necessary, and still feel centered.  Another opportunity to break-through.

Is Silence Always Golden Or Is There a Place For Music In Yoga Class?

I was sent a link to a blog submitted to the Toronto Body Mind website by an author listed as “Gary Empty Book Justice”.  The blog, titled Using Silence in Yoga Classes, http://torontobodymind.ca/blogs/gary-empty-book-justice/using-silence-yoga-classes, expressed Gary’s opinion that music is a distraction to the mindfulness practice of a yoga class.

While Gary makes some excellent points, and I agree that silence can be one means of finding a sense of presence during yoga class, I am also an avid proponent for the use of other tools – including music.  Mindfulness and presence are beautiful components of a practice.  However, as a yoga teacher, I also strive to create an environment, and a catalyst, for each student to find something new.  Sometimes they discover they have been holding a limited view of their capabilites.  Sometimes they uncover a new understanding of how they think and react.  Sometimes they tap into a personal power that had been buried and forgotten.  Sometimes they find a new stillness and balance.  Whatever it is that they discover, it will make a change and, for me, it doesn’t matter if that transformation is sparked from my words, energy, the sequencing of asanas, silence, or a resonance with the music.  I’m happy to use whatever entry is available to facilitate that growth.

As with any tool in the toolbox, the use of restraint can add value.  I always try to remember that the class is about the yoga, not the music.   Through my mistakes and my successes in using music as an enhancement to class, there are some lessons I’ve learned.  Following are a few that might be of interest:

  • The flow of the class, the intention, and the asanas all dictate the music that I play.  Rethink Yoga is a form of Power Vinyasa, which has a very distinct arc that ascends fairly early in the class, holds on a plateau until it peaks and then descends slowly.  The music compliments that arc, but doesn’t dictate it
  • By the same token, I am the only teacher in the class, the music doesn’t teach.
  • The music that I play is specific to the class I’m teaching.  I am personally a big fan of classical, heavy metal, rock and roll, and hip-hop music.  However, the tunes I choose to play in a class are not what I happen to be listening to on my iPod that day.
  • I don’t play music straight through class from beginning to end.  It’s on when it will add something and it’s off when it won’t.

I think to use music effectively you have to love music and be willing to spend a fair amount of time preparing class mixes.  To effectively hit the points above, it’s not possible to throw a CD into the stereo, hit play, and call it a day.  If that were the only option, I might agree with Gary’s position that no music is better.  Since that’s not the case, I think the lesson here is to learn how to use your tools well – as many, varied tools as you can.