Tag Archives: anxiety

Coping With Past Friends Who Have Turned Against You…

There are downsides to some friendships and the potential exists for a friend to back-stab or betray you. When this happens, it may feel like the end of the world, especially if this they were someone who you might have turned to in the past during times of need. Part of coping with friends who have turned against you will require that you compassionately pay attention to your own emotions as well as closely considering the status of your current relationship with that person and moving forward accordingly. You can simultaneously learn how to care for your hurt feelings and handle a disloyal friend, too.

First acknowledge the pain of disloyalty. While you’re acknowledging the hurt feelings, remember you are the only one with the power to control how you react. Perhaps this person is now treating you a certain way with the hope that you will react in a big way. So, it is far better to take a step back and reflect on how you are feeling, instead of reacting or “acting out.”

Take time to reflect. Just as some romantic relationships become broken, friendships can also fall apart. Take a break to think about any major choices like considering if it's worth it to directly confront these friends. You may find that you calm down after a few days, or you may find that during the break you are much better off without these friends.

Coping With Past Friends Who Have Turned Against You

Consider starting a journal. Writing down the experience and your thoughts and feelings associated with it can be incredibly freeing and empowering. You may even come up with some good ideas as to how you want to deal with the aftermath of a friend's betrayal.

Practice self-care on a regular basis. All too often we’ll put our own feelings on the back burner to avoid feeling bad ourselves. When someone steals from you or talks behind your back it is easy to beat yourself up over ever allowing them the chance to use you.

Focus on being the bigger person. Don’t entertain the urge to get revenge or hold grudges. Try to forgive those that do you wrong, if only so you don’t have to carry the burden of anger. You may feel like you are letting the other person off too easy if you let go of the anger and move on, but this is usually not the case. Holding onto the anger hurts you first and foremost. And, more often than not, the person you are angry with has already moved on. You’ll take back your power when you become the bigger person and resist reacting in a vengeful way.

If they tried to damage your reputation, then, it might be time for damage control. Do what you can to rectify any negative statements which had been made about you. Share your side of the story to whoever the negativity was spread to. While it is still up to the other party to make up their conclusion, at least you’ll have had the chance to say your piece in the situation, rather than just leaving things hanging.

Rae Indigo is ERYT 500

Supporting Evidence for Vegans

There's plenty of scientific evidence to justify a transitioning to a plant-based diet, and it seems the stories of personal transformation; curing a host of diseases, losing unwanted weight, manifesting an active lifestyle are the things that make the biggest impression.

There will always be plenty of ready-made excuses for those who have lost their battle with leaving behind an omnivore’s diet; they fill food networks with dreadful accounts of fatigue, illness, hair loss, anxiety, diminished sex drive, and mental/emotional breakdowns after they have quit consuming animal products. The problem with their accounts, and one they almost all have in common, is that those who made the vegan leap and failed, did so with a lack of diligence sufficient to understand intelligent veganism. One can dine on fast foods, processed foods, and all sorts of junk foods and wash them all down with soda and still call themselves a vegan. Many backsliders have evidently tried to do exactly that.

There are even those who turn to veganism in order to support serious eating disorders (E.D.s), and this type of unintelligent choice can represent a dangerous slide from health to pathology. Anorexics/manorexics and orthorexics (a controversial new disorder compulsively avoid foods thought to be unhealthy or unnatural) are examples of those who opt for a strict vegan diet for all the wrong reasons. By making proper and intelligent choices veganism can be used as a effective tool to recover from all types of E.D. including anorexia, bulimia and orthorexia.

There are piles of documentation and books, such as The China Study, and whether you choose to believe them or not, there's no disputing the fact that a diet rich in plant-based, un-processed, un-altered food is a smart diet. Undeniably there are countless healthful consequences of a well informed vegan diet and lifestyle. Even so, we are bombarded by endless excuses for why someone simply cannot go vegan, but the assertion that veganism, when done properly, is not healthy; well that’s just plain bunk.

It often seems the most persuasive evidence supporting a healthy vegan diet is anecdotal. The vegans, who eat and shop intelligently, are paragons of good health. Regardless of whether they’re young or in their 50s, 60s, and 70s they rock on with glowing intensity, often looking much younger (in some cases as much as 20 years) than they actually are. Many of these vegans have conquered afflictions such as obesity, chronic disease, depression, and an array of food-related disorders by exclusively eating a delicious and nutritionally dense diversity of plants. If there's a single lesson to be learned from seasoned vegans, it’s that this diet empowers.

Above and beyond anecdotes, there's considerable scientific evidence showing that veganism is a wise way to eat. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics claims that a well-planned vegan (and vegetarian) diet is "healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases." And please note that this is a much more cautious assessment than many studies suggest.

According to a less restrained study; "vegan diets are effective in treating and preventing several chronic diseases." The adaptation of a low-fat vegan diet can substantially mitigate the impacts of type 2 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and Parkinson's disease. Veganism reduces the risk of colon cancer. Vegans have a better "antioxidant status" than non-vegans. Veganism is more effective at combating obesity than almost all other prescribed diets. Veganism has been shown to significantly lower risk factors associated with cardiac disease.

There are also transformations initiated by a healthy vegan diet that extend far beyond physical health. For those who so desire, their plant-based diet can be a potent political criticism of our broken food system. We're looking at a diet for which the ultimate beneficiary is the individual. In no way does healthy veganism serve the corporate or industrial gods. In fact, it counters their greedy interests. Veganism keeps these executives up at night. As long as people keep eating meat, they're happy, even if it costs their animal eating customers their health, not to mention the animal cruelty involved.

Consider the prospect of simultaneously giving corporate food executives nightmares while achieving personal dietary empowerment. At the same time you’ll lower your carbon footprint and minimize animal suffering. If this has any appeal, then veganism is for you. But here's the catch, you have to do it right, and doing it right means consuming a wide variety of nutrient-rich plant-based foods and following the simple nutritional guidelines outlined HERE.

Stay tuned…Coming soon, “Snacking – Vegan Style”

Rae Indigo is ERYT 500

Navigating the Roller Coaster of Life

Navigating the Roller Coaster of LifeWho doesn’t sometimes feel like they’re up one day and down the next; whether it’s trying to keep your personal and family life on an even keel, dealing with financial issues in a tough economy or even dealing with the current social/political climate, it often seems like we’re on a wild ride. All of us experience challenges and develop all sorts of worries and concerns in the course of our lives, and in today’s hectic world it may feel like it takes the strength of Hercules to navigate the complexities of our technologically-advanced, humanistic and existentially-struggling culture.

One day everything in our life appears to be going along just fine and then, wham!, some disturbing situation hits you like a ton of bricks, your emotions go up, and simultaneously your intelligence goes down. Perhaps you say or do things you’ll regret and your life gets knocked out of balance. A prolonged sense of uncontrolled emotions can cause a great deal of dysfunction in your relationships, regardless of whether they’re personal or professional. Irrational emotions affect those around us and when we’re all dealing with “high” emotions, it’s like we’re all one big dysfunctional family trying to make our own way. This is when it’s time to step back, so that everyone can connect logically and compassionately again.

There are steps that can be taken to avoid the emotional “teeter-totter” of daily living, including; adapting a healthy diet, starting a regular exercise program and spending time with supportive friends. One very effective method of dealing with emotional and mental stress, anxiety etc. is a consistent yoga and meditation practice. Yoga keeps the body and the nervous system strong and the prana (life force) flowing, while helping you to be more centered, relaxed and able to “roll with the punches.” Meditation allows for quiet reflection, relaxation, plus a clear recognition and understanding of what is truly meaningful. Even during those times when you can’t avoid life’s fluctuations by stepping into a neutral zone, you can still find ways to move smoothly through those periods, maintaining a calm, cool and centered state of being.

Navigating the Roller Coaster of Life

Spend time with supportive friends.

Whether we’re pondering decisions or actually making choices based on life’s situations, we still need to exercise control over ourselves and our reactions. We might be surprised on how much more power we have over our “ride” than the roller coaster analogy allows. Maybe instead of a roller coaster ride, a better metaphor for life is a “journey.” The word “journey” is defined as something that suggests travel or passage from one place to another, and it is inevitable that as we move forward from one day to the next (literally) we are met with challenges of one sort or another. Some of these challenges are quite pleasant and exciting while others are difficult and pose more of a struggle. But all of our challenges are part of the journey – my journey or your journey – nonetheless, we must go through them. It is how we perceive and then handle them which will enable us to choose the paths we take on our journey. It is also very important to remember we have the ability to make decisions each and every day concerning the direction our journey will take.

*Rae Indigo is ERYT500


Yoga Counteracts Stress & Anxiety

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) affects 6.8 million adults, (3.1% of the U.S. population), in any given year, with women being twice as likely to be affected; this, according to the Anxiety Disorders Association of America (ADAA). The exact cause of GAD is elusive but there is plenty of evidence that both biological factors and life experiences, especially the stressful ones, are major contributors. And, GAD is only one of a variety of anxiety-induced diseases and disorders defined by the American Psychological Association, which include “Panic Disorder” & Agoraphobia and an exhaustive list of other phobias such as Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Social Anxiety Disorder and common depression. Together these disorders account for many more millions of Americans’ being treated each year placing an untold burden (and expense) on the healthcare system. Fortunately there is a treatment that is found effective for almost every single disorder listed and that is yoga practice.

The human nervous system is responsible for regulating reactions to perceived stress. It can be divided into two parts; the Central Nervous System (composed of the brain and spinal cord nerves), and the Peripheral Nervous System which includes the autonomic nervous system which we can look to specifically for stress regulation. This autonomic nervous system’s job is to run all the involuntary functions of the body (breathing, heart rate, digestion, endocrine (hormonal) release, etc.). We don’t have to think about these things the body just does them. The autonomic nervous system is further broken down into the Sympathetic Nervous System (which initiates the stress response), and the Parasympathetic Nervous System (which induces the relaxation response).

Opposite the relaxation response is the ‘fight or flight’ response (aka, hyper-arousal, or acute stress response). This response is left over from our ancestral past when we had to use huge amounts of adrenaline in times of real danger, like when we were about to be eaten dinosaur. In more modern times, this same response is often activated with any “perceived” threat, either real or imagined. As soon as the brain receives a signal that there is some “perceived” danger, it begins releasing a series of chemicals like a chain reaction. These chemicals can negatively affect every organ and system in the body, especially when they’re not vital to our survival, and subsequently be the cause of many disorders and diseases.

Back to Yoga practice; outlined in many yogic texts are some very simple tools that can be used to counteract these chain reactions, and modern science is beginning to mimic these teachings that were once found only in ancient and esoteric texts. The 1st of these tools is to create a quiet environment, both inside and out. There’s way too much to distract us from what is going on in our bodies these days, from television to video games, traffic, work demands, computers and cell phones and the list goes on and on. When we consciously chose to create an environment of stillness and peace, then we have taken the first step toward combating stress, anxiety and all the resulting disorders. According to Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras (Raja Yoga), creating this type of environment can be form of meditation in and of itself.

When our attention is taken away from distractions (including thoughts) we are able to focus on one singular thing and integrate “diffused” attention into a calm, steady one-pointedness that helps us find our natural balance. Once the mind has focused on one point (through concentration), the state of meditation can be entered into with ease. Whenever our mental state has become calm, the physiological responses of the body spontaneously follow, and the chain of stressful reactions is broken and we are empowered to choose our response instead of reacting to it unconsciously.

Over the centuries many yoga teachers and gurus have recommended the practice of developing a sort of “objective” state of mind, often referred to as developing a “witness” mentality. As we develop this witnessing self, we can undermine anxiety when it arises, plus we can consciously create a different chain reaction within the body/mind, one that is positive and calming. There are certain brain neurotransmitters (like endorphins) that have anti-anxiety and anti-depressant effects, and as we consciously build those neural responses to different stimuli, we eventually reach a point where nothing can faze us. Regardless of how insane the world is, we stay balanced. This is the message of all the ancient sages of the yogic tradition.

Of related interest, click on: Managing Anxiety with Pratipaksha Bhavana

*Rae Indigo is ERYT500

Yoga Provides Relief for PTSD Sufferers

The number of military and veteran suicides is rising, and experts fear it will continue to increase despite aggressive suicide prevention campaigns by the government and private organizations. Some 8,000 veterans are thought to die by suicide each year, a toll of about 22 per day, according to a 2012 VA study. The VA acknowledged the numbers might be significantly underestimated because they’re based on incomplete data from 21 states, not including Texas or California. Even so, the data documents an increase of nearly 11 percent between 2007 and 2010, the most recent year of data in the study.

Military enlistees and veterans consider suicide as an alternative to coping with pent-up rage and fear. This shows how much the establishment casts the mental health needs of returning veterans by the wayside.

Not only combat veterans suffer from stress disorders, they are now beginning to become more common among civilians working in today’s increasingly stressful environments. To alleviate symptoms of combat and operational stress reactions (COSR), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) plus increase the resilience of critical task workers that are exposed to high stress environments (this includes affected caregivers and family members), evidence-based yoga and mindfulness practices have been shown to be effective.

What most people fail to realize is that trauma is not necessarily the story of something terrible that happened in the past, but the residue of imprints left behind in people’s sensory and hormonal systems. Traumatized people are often terrified of the sensations felt in their own bodies.

People with PTSD and other stress disorders easily lose their way in the world. Their bodies often continue to live in an internal environment of the traumas they were exposed to. We are all biologically and neurologically programmed to deal with critical situations, but time seems to stop in people who suffer from PTSD. That makes it hard to find pleasure (or peace) in the present moment because the body keeps replaying what happened in the past. If you practice Yoga and can develop a body that is strong and feels comfortable, this will contribute substantially to help you return to the “here and now” rather than remaining stranded in the past.

Yoga is an Asian tradition that clearly helps to reintegrate the body and mind. For someone to heal from PTSD, they need to learn how to control bodily/mind reflexes. PTSD causes memories to be stored at a sensory level (in the body), and the stored, unresolved PTSD symptoms include hypertension, cardiovascular disease and even immune disorders. Yoga offers a way to reprogram automatic physical responses. Practicing mindfulness in order to become consciously aware of the ebb and flow of internal experiences, and paying particular attention to whatever thoughts, feelings, body sensations and impulses emerge are important aspects in healing PTSD.

Yoga greatly assists in regulating both our emotional and physiological states. It empowers the body to regain its natural movement and balance and it teaches the use of breath (pranayama) for self-regulation.

What is so attractive about Yoga is that it instructs us (and this is a critical point for those who feel trapped in their memory sensations), that all things do come to an end. While doing certain asanas, uncomfortable sensations may be evoked. But, by keeping track of them while staying in a posture for a limited amount of time, students and practitioners get to observe that the discomfort can be tolerated, at least until they shift into a different posture. The process of being in a safe space and staying with whatever sensations emerge, and seeing how they come to an end, is a positive imprinting process for the mind/body. Yoga helps those affected to befriend their body; the same body that had previously betrayed them.

Another important aspect of Yoga is the proper use of the breath. Normally in western culture we’re taught that we can’t learn to master our own physiology; solutions always come from outside, starting with relationships, and if those fail, alcohol or drugs. But Yoga teaches us that there are things we can do to change our brain’s arousal system, our sympathetic and our parasympathetic nervous systems and subsequently quiet the brain.

Meditation: is it recommended for those with PTSD?

In the west meditation has now almost become mainstream. The neurobiology of meditation, which indicates that the brain can grow new cells and actually reshape itself, is becoming more and more acknowledged and to the degree that it’s finding its way into mental health services. If we meditate regularly, this can restrain the fear center which helps us become more focused. Ironically though, if you are traumatized, remaining in silence, even for a short period of time is often terrifying. Memories of traumas are stored, so when you are quiet and still, these demons come out. Those with PTSD should first learn to regulate their physiology with asana, pranayama and relaxation and work slowly toward meditation practice.

Of related interest, click on: Ten-hut – Yoga & the Military

*Rae Indigo is ERYT500.

Yoga’s Perspective on Fear & Guilt

Like many other things in life, fear and guilt (in themselves) are neither good nor bad, they simply are. In any given instance, they can serve to further our goals and needs or just the opposite, they can push us further away from them. In any event, they are not to be ignored, but instead, when these feelings arise, they warrant some compassionate reflection; that way we can discover what attributes they possess that might be useful or helpful to us and which ones we should just let go of.

During yoga practice we may find fear to have its place. A healthy fear of injury works well to prevent our egos from pushing us into asanas that we’re not ready for, or it may give us pause when we feel driven to force ourselves to go further into a pose than we should. it seems guilt is not quite as useful in most yoga practice, but now and then, it is that guilty feeling about not practicing regularly that keeps us coming back to our mat. So, as we all have probably realized, it can be a motivator in many cases.

Due to our conditioning, fear and guilt are commonly perceived by us as negative emotions. But come to think of it, they may be not so bad.

Would it be going too far to state that fear and guilt are good? It’s easy to see that both these emotions have played important roles in our evolution, and they continue to do so. They are necessary for our conscious and spiritual evolution, making us more thoughtful and capable of more compassion.

Fear functions well when it comes to instilling in us the necessary respect for life, and often prevents us from behaving recklessly. Almost all young children have fears (like the fear of darkness, loneliness, fear of animals etc.). These fears ensure that the child seeks to remain in safer situations. As they grow older, they gradually shed these fears, evolving beyond them.

Feelings of guilt ensure that we evaluate our thoughts and actions from time to time in order to become better human beings. When we commit a misdeed, or bring harm or suffering to someone or something it is natural for us to feel bad about it. This makes us want to correct it and make an effort not to repeat our mistakes, but rise above them instead. If it weren’t for guilt we would become insensitive, perhaps even ruthless.

Humans are fortunate to have evolved above other forms of animal life. Animals have no guilt but possess lots of fear. As a result they do not evolve as humans do and develop compassion or any understanding of empathy for the suffering of others. But some may protest, saying animals do feel guilt, citing dogs as an example. But this has been proven to be a mistaken notion. Recent studies at Barnard College in New York, uncovered the origins of the “guilty look” in dogs and found that it is a response to the owner’s behavior, and not necessarily indicative of any response to its own misdeeds.

Yoga philosophy teaches us that balanced emotions equal a balanced personality. As in everything else, a balance needs to be there to hold everything in check; similarly excessive (or obsessive) fear and guilt can ruin our personalities.

Excessive, and especially irrational, fears (aka phobias) hamper one’s life. One begins to become afraid without any reason. When fears persist after we should have outgrown them, they should be addressed and if need be treated by a trusted health care professional.

Also, too much guilt, will often lead to a flawed and/or dysfunctional personality. When a person feels guilty most or all the time, they become apologetic about everything. From this an inferiority complex will often develop.

When we’re not able to properly balance and manage such emotions as fear and guilt, it affects our relationships as well as our physical health. Unhealthy, unbalanced guilt and fear lead to excessive adrenalin production, prompting other hormonal imbalances; this in turn establishes the breeding ground for a host of ailments.

Yoga practice fosters mindfulness and compassion that can help you replace negativity with self-acceptance. When you feel physically tight, yoga allows you to breathe into the muscles to relax them. It’s the same when you encounter difficult emotions such as fear or guilt. You learn to inhale and exhale through that too, working toward a place of greater balance, understanding and confidence. Therefore, when properly balanced, the emotions of guilt and fear are beneficial. One should not be overly bothered about them. They are a natural and inherent to our state of existence. As a person evolves spiritually, their usefulness dissolves and they tend fall away on their own.

*Rae Indigo is ERYT500 

Yoga Helps Manage IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome)

Let’s start with what irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) actually is and what causes it?

Contrary to common opinion IBS is not a disease; it is a group of symptoms that occur together. Irritable bowel syndrome is a functional gastrointestinal (GI) disorder, meaning it is a problem caused by changes in how the GI tract works. The most common symptoms of IBS are abdominal pain or discomfort, often reported as cramping, along with diarrhea, constipation, or both. In the past, IBS was called colitis, mucous colitis, spastic colon, nervous colon, and spastic bowel. The name was changed to reflect the understanding that the disorder has both physical and mental causes and is not a product of a person’s imagination.

Anxiety may be primarily a mental health issue, but it is much more than that, anxiety and associated stress has a very real effect on your body chemistry. The stress from IBS changes your hormone production, alters your immune system, and for many, it upsets their digestive tract, which in turn causes more anxiety and stress; a vicious cycle that needs to be broken.

So it should come as little surprise that anxiety is now being recognized as a contributing factor to the development of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) as a chronic condition. The symptoms of which include; bloating, gastrointestinal discomforts, erratic bowel movements, chronic abdominal pain, diarrhea and constipation.

IBS is diagnosed when symptoms such as bloating, gastrointestinal discomforts, erratic bowel movements, chronic abdominal pain, diarrhea and constipation are present without a medical cause, and while scientists believe that there are likely a number of factors that go into IBS, most gastroenterologists agree that anxiety and stress are major contributors to its development.

Yoga to the rescue

For those who suffer from Irritable Bowel Syndrome, yoga helps greatly to alleviate symptoms and keep stress in check. We all, at one time or another, have eaten something that “just doesn’t quite sit right.” But for the more than 30 million adults in the United States who suffer from IBS (two-thirds of whom are women) those awful symptoms are an ongoing struggle, not a temporary discomfort.

Of course, there are times when a particular food or an allergy triggers an episode, but generally no one factor can held responsible. IBS has frequently been dismissed as psychosomatic, but recently it has been redefined as “a disorder with variable symptoms having possible neurological, immunological, or psycho-emotional roots,” to quote Gary Kraftsow, the founder and wellness instructor of American Viniyoga Institute and author of Yoga for Transformation.

Because there is no known organic cause (or cure) for IBS, treatment generally focuses on symptom relief. Medications such as antidiarrheals, antispasmodics, or tricyclic antidepressants have been found to be helpful when symptoms become overwhelming. Yet research studies have shown that lifestyle modifications can be an effective drug-free method of dealing with the symptoms and easing the pain. A Mayo Clinic study in the reported in the American Journal of Gastroenterology (February, 1998) showed that exercise, diet, and stress management reduced IBS symptoms.

This is reason many experts recommend regular stress reduction exercise like yoga as a more effective way to prevent recurrences over the long run. “With IBS the goal is to reduce symptoms and restore efficient functioning to the system,” says Kraftsow. “And certain yoga postures may be restorative no matter where on the spectrum your symptoms lie.”

Abdominal breathing in particular has proven to be helpful in IBS sufferers and deep inhalations and exhalations may benefit those who tend to breathe shallowly when stressed or those who swallow air while eating and/or talking, which traps air in the stomach.

Most IBS sufferers often battle irregular bowel habits that are painful and unpredictable. During one of these flare-ups, Kraftsow recommends engaging postures that provide a soothing effect, suggesting forward bends and simple abdominal twists like Jathara Parivrtti (abdominal twist) and Apanasana (knees-to-chest pose); both of which may work to help soothe a hyperactive bowel or stimulate a sluggish one.

For those who suffer irregularity and constipation, digestion can be stimulated by working the abdominal area a bit more strongly with Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend) or Parivrtta Trikonasana (Revolved Triangle Pose); simple move into the postures with the stomach remaining held in after an exhalation.

Although yoga is one effective way to combat IBS, when symptoms recur, experts recommend a care plan that incorporates a diet that eliminates “aggravating foods” (especially fatty meats and dairy) and includes plenty of nutritionally balanced foods as well as probiotics (The best foods for IBS health are those that are gentle on the digestive system and encourage “smooth passage” through the intestines)…as Kraftsow says, “treatment that respects the whole person.”

Summary: In particular, yoga is an excellent (and enjoyable!) way to manage IBS and relieve it’s symptoms of diarrhea, constipation, abdominal pain, bloating, nausea etc. Yoga also helps stabilize the digestive process. Yoga is also tremendously beneficial for preventing or minimizing menstrual cramping, which often aggravates IBS.

For those people with IBS, yoga is perhaps the most helpful for its ability to reduce the stress, anxiety, and pain of this chronic illness. Regular practice will indisputably improve your physical and mental fitness, promoting relaxation, and giving you a sense of control over your overall health and well-being. As with other stress management techniques, the more you practice, the greater your improvement will be.

*Rae Indigo is ERYT500

Using Yoga to Deal With Those Persistent Samskaras

Using Yoga to Deal With Those Persistent Samskaras

The term “Samskara” is a Sanskrit word that literally means “impression” and this essentially refers to an individual’s habitual way of thinking, believing and acting. All actions, enjoyments, sorrows and experiences in general leave their mark in the subconscious and unconscious mind in the form of subtle impressions or residual potencies.

The ways we tend to act in our relationships and in the world are largely determined by impressions and our past is preserved, to the minutest detail, in the chitta (mind stuff), not the slightest bit is ever lost. The revival of samskaras induces smriti (memory). Memory cannot exist without samskaras.

In most cases our samskaras are based on our personal experiences and/or cultural backgrounds. These impressions (thoughts and beliefs) can also be influenced by the health of our brain chemistry. For example, when we suffer from depression or anxiety, our beliefs about what is possible or impossible for us will be clouded, a sense of hopelessness and powerlessness may predominate as a result of low levels of serotonin and dopamine.

The internal freedom for self-realization that regular yoga practice offers is founded on the ability to reveal and bring to conscious attention our thought patterns, beliefs and the actions that arise from those samskaras. Yogic breathing techniques and asana (postures) are very effective tools for easing anxiety, depression and balancing neurotransmitter signals in the brain. With a bit of patience and a committed yoga practice, a yoga student will be able to quickly identify the samskaras and resulting actions that continue to undermine their ability to be physically, mentally and emotionally healthy.

Whenever a yoga practitioner identifies (or recognizes) their obscure and/or inhibiting samskaras, they will then be free to choose more life enhancing alternatives. All too often, we limit our own potential by assuming that we are not capable or skilled enough to create the life we dream of. Although some of these self-limiting thoughts may have some degree of truth to them, our ability to achieve the goals we’ve set is often far greater than we may ever imagined. When we start to gently direct our thinking along more positive lines, we will begin to truly realize that more is possible in our lives, and this will prompt us to act accordingly.

Understanding the concept of samskaras will be of great value when it comes to practicing “witnessing” of the various thoughts and emotions that inevitably arise during asana practice. According to traditional yogic philosophy, the most direct way to internal freedom is to witness these samskaras from a place of deep self-compassion and without unnecessarily identifying with them.

When unpleasant or painful emotions and restricting thoughts arise during a yoga session, strive to be more consciously aware, so that the credibility of you samskaras can be evaluated objectively. If there are negative thoughts or beliefs that are valid, some personal changes may be called for. For example; suppose you are a law student and you’ve failed the bar exam twice due to being unprepared, then studying harder for the exam would be in order. 

However, on the other hand, subscribing to the belief that you’re is inherently too unintelligent to pass the bar, even after getting your degree from law school is clearly unrealistic. As in most cases, this sort of limiting samskara is best invalidated in the light of your self-compassion, and then substituted with a more encouraging and accurate assessment of your own intelligence.

Boost Your Immunity with Yoga Practice

There’s a good chance that you (like most people) spend a lot of your time around large groups of people; in the office, in class, shopping, etc. And, we all know that along with shared experiences and shared conversation come shared colds, viruses and flues. Perhaps you already do a lot of things to avoid catching them, e.g.; taking vitamin C, eating foods rich in immunity-boosting phyto-nutrients, trying to get enough sleep and washing your hands regularly. But, one approach to preventative health that you might not be taking full advantage of is regular yoga practice. Studies have shown excessive stress to be a key factor in lowering your resistance to any disease, from the common cold to life-threatening afflictions like cancer, heart disease and diabetes, to name a few. Yoga practice will tackle stress head-on by moving your mind and body away from a state of dis-ease into one of balance, ease and invigoration.

If you are a student of yoga or have even taken one class, you know from experience how much it can help you release tension and calm down. And, the feeling of peace that yoga produces does a lot more for your overall health than just to help you unwind. When your body is fully relaxed, your immune system can focus on fighting off only the particular infections and intruders that it needs to, rather than overreacting to your entire environment. Whenever you’re stressed out, your immune system will tend to lash out even at harmless irritants, making it more difficult to fight the actual bugs and germs that you’re exposed to.

A great example of just how powerful your body can be if it’s left to its own resources can be integrated into your practice by meditating on your body’s reaction to its environment. Inquire as to whether you feel hot or cold for instance, and make a mental note of how you’re registering those sensations. Do they seem pleasant, painful or are you able to simply observe them without judgment?

The next step would be to consider how to change that. Reactivity is major cause of stress, prompting you to feel as if things are happening to you, and that you’re just a helpless victim. You can change this by starting to practice thought patterns that move your mind away from a reactive position. For instance, if you feel cold, notice how consciously drawing breath fully into your body creates the sensation of warmth spreading throughout your cells. If you’re feeling too hot, curl you tongue and exhale through your mouth, feeling the heat dissipate as the warm air leaves your body. Each moment of your practice offers a new choice. By cultivating insightful understanding, rather than just reacting or judging, you’ll begin to learn to choose the most efficient, effective ways to fill that asana with precisely what is available to you in that given moment. So, instead of reacting and stressing out, you can then relax into each asana; opening new spaces in your body, encouraging better circulation and the absorption of prana, which aids your body in coming to its own defense, without interference.

Try the following asanas to ward off the sniffles and sneezes, build your immune system and improve your overall health:

  • *Gomukhasana (Cow Face Pose): This asana releases tension from the shoulders and opens the chest to facilitate deep breathing, relieving congestion and helping to make you less vulnerable to germs. It is recommended you stay in this pose for one minute, then release slowly and repeat on the other side.
  • *Balasana (Child’s Pose): This is a basic restorative asana that is very effective at helping your body to relax, which powers up your immune system. Remain in this pose for at least 30 seconds up to a few minutes.
  • *Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose): This gentle backward bend helps bring oxygen into your body, delivering it all the way down to the cellular level which greatly helps you fight off illness.  It’s best to stay in the asana for 15 to 30 seconds, then release.

Additional tips…

Practice regularly and stay on schedule. This may be easier if you join a yoga class where you have an encouraging instructor and the support of others. Working with your body’s biological clock (re-setting it as necessary) will help your immune system function optimally.

Cleanse your sinuses and nasal passages. Nasal irrigation using a saline wash (Neti pot) can help reduce your vulnerability to infections, colds and other upper respiratory problems. See this post for more, click on: Jala Neti – De-mystified…(Video).

Remember that your physical health is quite often a reflection of your mental state. Do your best not to get distracted by pressure. Resist overreacting to sensations or situations. And, don’t worry about anything you can’t fix! Most things you might view as “problems” are really challenges and/or suggestions; meant to help you discover new directions in your life.

Yoga Asana, Emotions & Our Internal Organs…

Are you, like many other people, under the impression that the benefits of yoga asana are limited to affecting mostly the muscles and joints? If so, you need to realize also that each and every pose has a specific effect on one or more of the internal organs. Yoga, like in traditional Chinese medicine, recognizes that emotions and physical health are intimately connected. And, most emotions have a specific attraction to particular organs.

Examples include:

  • *Fear can damage the kidneys and bladder.
  • *Anger can injure the liver and gall bladder.
  • *Grief and depression can harm the lungs.
  • *Worry and anxiety can afflict the spleen and stomach.
  • *Sadness negatively affects the brain.
  • *Joy (although positive), when in excess may wound the heart.

On the other hand, yoga recognizes that balanced feelings and equilibrium in the emotions will cause the body and its organ systems to work more efficiently.

There are asanas (poses) which affect the emotions in yoga, just as much as they affect the muscles and joints. For example, when practicing Adho Mukha Svanasana (downward facing dog), the shoulders, the spine, hamstrings, feet, and the Achilles tendons are deeply stretched, but this asana can also be used to decrease feelings of depression and anxiety. Simple postures such as cat-cow stretch with synchronized breathing can reduce fear. Suptaikapadaparivrttasana (supine twist) is an excellent posture for relieving back pain, but it is also an excellent pose for increasing our acceptance of life’s stresses plus it can eliminate feelings of being worried or overwhelmed.

One of the basic precepts in yoga is the need to approach our practice from where we are at, which means we can’t expect to jump right into an advanced asana. Some students come to yoga with chronically tight muscles, and the purpose of a sustained and regular yoga practice is to gradually and systematically relax the built up tension in the body, and at the same time release the emotions that are “bound up” within the body and that are responsible for this tension. As soon as we begin to let go of the stress “locked” within our bodies, emotions will likely arise. Ideally, we will simply observe these emotions without any judgment. Chances are, we may not even remember what prompted us to start holding these stresses within our bodies in the first place. This is why letting go of any further analysis of these feelings is of utmost importance. By just allowing the emotions to arise, they will pass naturally, like clouds in the sky.

Since each of us will probably have our own individual experience of asana practice, we can easily see how each of us may be affected differently, depending on what part of our bodies we store stress. According to yogic science, we have the ability to see the emotional body as its own kosha (sheath or layer). The Manomaya kosha (aka; the astral or the mind/emotional body) houses all our emotions. Whenever the emotions get stuck in this sheath they can cause energy to become trapped in the physical body, and oftentimes in the internal organs. While some people may manifest anxiety in the lungs (e.g., narrowing of the bronchial passages or shortness of breath) others might experience that same stress in their digestive organs (e.g., have a hard time digesting their feelings as in “I can’t stomach this” which may result in ulcers or IBS).

It is common for a feeling which was once previously unconscious (or subconscious) to the student to be triggered while practicing asana. Asanas function as a means to open energy gateways in much the same manner that reflexology or acupuncture points would. Quite often, a student will feel that their asana practice is affected by something that is currently happening in their life, when actually they are releasing emotions that were stored a long time ago. It is not necessary for us to intellectually “figure them out.” We can let the intelligence of the body do what it was meant to do to release our samskaras (impressions).

Although every student’s experience of yoga asana is different, some of the common emotions that may arise in varying poses are:

  • *Forward bends – These poses can unleash a host of egocentric feelings and attitudes. They may force us to face our fears as we turn our attention inward. Our tendency may be to turn around in the world, to look back at what is behind us. For some there may be a constant fear of attack from behind and this leads to tightness in the back which a forward bend works well to loosen. We have to surrender these fears if we are to relax in these asanas.
  • *Backward bends – These poses are useful when dealing with our attitudes of embracing all of life; of being completely open to receive “the good, bad and the ugly,” rising up to meet life’s various challenges. When practicing backward bends, we may have to deal with the possible emotions of feeling like a doormat to others (literally bending over backward to please them), we may be confronted with letting go of co-dependent patterns and improving our own self-esteem without unnecessarily relying on others to provide us with a positive self image. Backbends commonly bring up fears associated to these emotional patterns. On another level, one who has repeatedly had their heart broken or is very shy may typically hunch their shoulders, sometimes even covering their heart, particularly those who may have been teased in school or at an early age. Backward bends can be very confronting, but they can also help to change and remold the personality along with the conditionings of the mind.
  • *Balancing asanas – These poses are extremely powerful indicators of a student’s emotional state. Someone who feels un-easy emotionally, or whose mind is preoccupied with too many emotions, will find balancing poses very difficult. As they find a sense of balance in these poses, those emotions that are causing the mind to become agitated may temporarily increase before subsiding to a more peaceful place. With proper instruction and practice balancing poses will help to build a calm, resilient, steady mind.
  • *Twisting asanas – As you may have guessed, these poses have to do with untangling the “knots” of life. All twisting asanas initiate feelings of dealing with obstacles we face, and can enable us to develop the necessary strength to face whatever comes our way. Twists, along with backbends give us more confidence through regular, sustained practice, and help develop courage for those with overly introverted personalities.
  • *Inverted asanas – When we practice these poses, we are literally turning our world on its head; changing our perspective totally by turning our behavioral patterns upside down. Inversions help us to see ourselves and our world from a different point of view. It’s easy to imagine all the emotions that can arise from turning your whole perspective around. Inversions help to purify the mind when our worldview feels shaken, bringing greater peace and calmness.

In addition to the asanas outlined above, here are some specific poses that can be helpful in the release and removal of negative feelings and/or emotions…

  • *To increase your energy and give the courage to face life’s challenges – Surya namaskar (sun salutation), Bhujangasan (cobra), Dhanurasan (bow), and Veerasan (warrior).
  • *For calming the mind, releasing anger and surrendering the ego – Vajrasan yogamudra (childs pose), Paschimottanasan (forward bend), Karnapeedanasan (folding leg plough), Viparit karni (inverted pose).
  • *To release pent up emotions (when you feel like screaming) – Simhasan (roaring lions pose)
  • *To bring calmness, acceptance and relief from anxiety – Restorative poses such as Uttanpadasan (legs up the wall), Tadagasan (pond pose), Supta vajrasan (sleeping thunderbolt) Sputa baddha konasan (sleeping bound angle pose) and Koormasan (tortoise).

In conclusion, not all students of yoga will have emotions coming up and for many practitioners, they experience primarily positive emotions when practicing asanas, and this is both natural and normal. It doesn’t signify that one isn’t progressing or dealing with the self. We all have different ways of managing the mind, so we should continually remind ourselves that yoga is the practice of balancing the body, mind, emotions and spirit to bring unity, harmony, contentment and finally, bliss.

Yoga, Emotions & Our Internal Organs...

standing forward fold (Uttanasana)