Tag Archives: stress

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

God Bless the Child of a Dysfunctional Family

Although this post is a bit of a departure from the norm on my blog, recent circumstances and an increasing awareness of the prevalence of this wide-spread problem have prompted me to speak out.

When can a family be called dysfunctional?

According to this web-page in Psychology Encyclopedia: “A family whose interrelationships serve to detract from, rather than promote, the emotional and physical health and well-being of its members.”

A family can be considered dysfunctional if they are living with conditions that interfere with healthy family functioning. Most families do have some periods of time where functioning is impaired by stressful circumstances (death in the family, divorce, a parent’s serious illness, etc.). But, healthy families tend to return to normal functioning after any of these crisis pass. In dysfunctional families, however, problems tend to be chronic and children do not consistently get their emotional/mental or even physical needs met. Negative patterns of parental behavior tend to be dominant in their children’s lives and the children reflect this, often carried to an extreme.

How do healthy families function?

A powerful quote by psychologist Elvira Avetta Ph.d.: “Respect is the Holy Grail of functional families. All people in the family, brothers to sisters, mothers to fathers, parents to kids must be respectful as consistently as possible. Being considerate of each other is the tie that binds, even more than love. I think too much emphasis is put on love in general. I’ve heard of many atrocities done within families in the name of love but never in the name of respect. Just about all the things on the list come out of respect first.”

Healthy families are not perfect by any means; they may have occasional bouts of yelling, bickering, misunderstanding, tension, hurt, and anger; but only a fraction of the time they spend together. In healthy families emotional expression is allowed and accepted, even encouraged if there are no harmful intentions. Family members will freely ask for and give attention. Rules and expectations tend to be made explicit and remain consistent, but not entirely uncompromising or rigid allowing for some flexibility to adapt to individual needs and particular situations. Healthy families allow for individuality; each member is encouraged to pursue his or her own interests, and boundaries between individuals are honored.

  • *Children are consistently treated with respect, and do not fear emotional, verbal, physical, or sexual abuse.
  • *Parents can be counted on to provide sufficient care for their children. Children are given responsibilities appropriate to their age but are not expected to take on the weight of parental responsibilities.
  • *Finally, in healthy families everyone makes mistakes; mistakes are allowed. Perfection is unattainable, unrealistic, and potentially dull and sterile.

Types of dysfunction

Kansas State University’s Counseling Services web-page claims: “There are many types of dysfunction in families. Some parents “under-function,” leaving their children to fend for themselves. Other parents “over-function;” never allowing their children to grow up and be on their own, or learn to accept responsibility for themselves and their actions. Other parents are inconsistent or violate basic boundaries of appropriate behavior.”

There are also many other influencing factors that may need to be considered, to many to cover here. Parents need to realize how greatly they affect their children’s behavior. Children are like sponges; they soak up everything a parent does and model or incorporate what they see into their own lives, sometime to the point of acting it out.

Children of Parents that are separated/divorcing/divorced…

When parents are separated or divorced there’s a new set of challenges for the child. It is extremely important that both parents are on the same page as far as setting the right examples for their child or children; in spite of their personal estrangement from each other. Negative examples will most likely be detrimental to a child’s development and more often than not will lead to bad behavior.

“In the best interest of the child” is the cornerstone of family law in most of North America. This basic principle (with very few exceptions) insists that children benefit from the continued involvement of both their mothers and fathers after separation or divorce. The problem is,  there are parents no longer “together” that not only don’t have their children’s best interests at heart, but rather have an overwhelming urge to “get back” at their ex, or ex-to-be spouse; and sadly they’ll use their own children to do it. And they do this by demanding huge amounts of support (financial and otherwise), using the children as pawns, airing their complaints via social media, disparaging the “other”, and playing games with access to the child. Some go so far as to inflict damage through parental alienation or go the other extreme, parental abduction of the child/children; both of which are a type of vigilante justice.

What separating parents don’t seem to realize is there are very real consequences of dysfunctional divorce or separation that affects the mental, emotional, and developmental well-being and behavior of the child. Additionally; the effects of divorce trauma becomes more pronounced the longer the proceedings drag on. And to a small child, two, three or five years in their life is a huge percentage of time.

How does divorce/separation trauma affect children?

Penelope Leach, A leading parenting guru and author of the comprehensive international bestseller “Your Baby and Child” says: “Children are being used as weapons in the marital war when actually they are its victims.”

Children have been known to suffer a wide range of dysfunctional behaviors including aggressiveness, fighting, hostility, anxiety, depression, hyperactivity, loneliness, and self-esteem issues. In preschoolers these behaviors often lead to frequent illnesses, severe shyness, low self-esteem, hitting, biting, trouble in pre-school or daycare. Later on this can develop into to even more serious problems, such as stealing, lying, nightmares, eating problems, self-harm, bedwetting, poor school results, being ‘too perfect’, drug and/or alcohol abuse. If these patterns persist into adulthood, victims may find themselves crippled in their ability to have trusting, productive, relationships with family, friends or the community at large.

Parents can work together to resolve many of these issues. If disagreements and arguing among parents is done fairly and with maturity, a child can actually benefit from seeing how conflicts are peacefully resolved. Verbally aggressive, threatening, intimidating fights are extremely hard on developing children. They tend to blame themselves for their parents’ arguments and as a result may be traumatized for years to come. These children commonly develop low self-esteems and may even behave violently toward other children or adults. Dysfunctional families breed dysfunctional children that often repeat the behavior learned in their future relationships.

*Rae Indigo is ERYT500

Choose Peace – Embrace Life


Choose Peace – Embrace LifeAs humans our bodies have preconditioned responses to threats and/or challenges, whether they’re real or perceived, anything from the attack of a tiger to hostile words from a coworker tends to prompt the “fight or flight” reaction. This automatic response triggers the production and release of adrenaline and cortisol into our bloodstreams. Unless we are confronted with an actual physical attack (in which case we need to fight or run away), the fight or flight response can itself be physically harmful and literally cause pain and suffering. If this response arises without real situations, we tend to succumb to a series of conditioned or habitual responses. In our relationships with each other, we may see the other person as our enemy and fail to recognize that they may be facing their own set of fears and challenges.

So how can we prevent responding to another as if they were a charging tiger? One way is to consciously choose a peaceful interaction which will defuse an otherwise awkward, unfavorable or even aggressive reaction. By becoming mindful of yourself you expand your awareness and develop your ability to remain calmly present in nearly any situation. You can always choose to focus your attention on your breath and the sensations you feel pulsing through your body, and this will bring you back in touch with the universal needs that we all share as human beings.

Spiritual traditions down through the ages and recent scientific research both agree that focusing on your breath and remaining aware of bodily sensations have huge benefits for us as we relate to others and the world at large. We are then no longer bound to acting out old habitual patterns and we have the opportunity to become aware of the reaction, and remain present with it, enabling us to choose to stay connected with the very source of our thoughts, feelings, and actions, in turn giving us a larger sense of life and keeping us in touch with our basic and collective human needs.

There are many ways to choose peace and embrace life and some of the easiest are…

Be grateful. The more things you can find to be grateful for on a regular basis, the more you will improve your mental, physical and emotional health, along with your overall outlook on life. Gratitude stimulates the production of the hormonal neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine, which are responsible for feeling good and influencing human behavior in many positive ways. Keep reminding yourself that a little gratitude goes a long way, and communicating your gratitude in words and actions will greatly increase your personal peace.

Become your own best friend. This promotes a sense of peace that radiates from within. The Buddha has reportedly said “You, yourself, as much as anyone in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.” Loving-kindness and compassion start with you and once you’re able to recognize that they originate within you, you can generate a feeling of warmth and love for others so that they may also get a taste of that peace and know it’s the same peace that resides within them.

Practice becoming empathetic. Empathy and compassion are powerful tools for making peace with others. The active principle of empathy is found through understanding, to “stand under” rather than to judge from above. Seek to become more sympathetically aware of other people’s feelings and you’ll automatically become tolerant and forgiving; essential qualities for establishing peace and embracing life.

*Rae Indigo is ERYT500

Yoga – The Only Exercise You Need!

A common question people ask is “what else do I need to do to get enough exercise other than practice yoga?” The answer to this question is; nothing! Yoga supplies everything a body needs to function at its very best.

Here are some reasons why:

  • Yoga is efficient as well as effective. Why spend so much valuable time at a fitness center or gym working each part of my body separately when it’s possible to do it all at once with yoga? Lifting weights isn’t going to make your arms any stronger than holding up the weight of my own body while in a yoga pose. And since nearly everything you do in yoga engages your core, from core-centric asanas (poses) to sequencing (moving from pose to pose), engages your core to stabilize your body. Plus, in different inversions and arm balances, yoga can help you to raise your heartbeat, strengthen (and lengthen) your muscles all at once. How’s that for being efficient and effective?
  • Yoga can count as cardiovascular exercise. Various forms of yoga where dynamic sequencing (sun salutations is a good example) is practiced with sufficient intensity, duration, and frequency a great deal of cardio benefit will be achieved. Try a few sun salutations or any flow sequencing at a good, steady pace, while matching your breath to your movement and you will contribute to your overall cardiovascular fitness.
  • Yoga can help you to lose weight. Studies have shown that yoga plays an especially intriguing role in the area of weight control, and the key mechanisms lie in yoga’s stress-reducing power and its ability to change your mind along with your approach to life. Stress is known to create changes in food-seeking behavior, including increased consumption of foods high in sugar and fat, which may generally lead to obesity. As much as yoga provides the many benefits typically associated with conventional exercise, it is also equally effective at reducing stress. Yoga teaches you how to appreciate your body and that steers you in the direction of fueling your body with nutritionally dense foods rather than processed/junk foods.
  • You can do yoga almost anywhere and it saves money. Without the expense of pricey equipment or gym fees it doesn’t have to cost you a penny and you can do it at home, in the park, even on the road. All you need is the desire to strike a few poses.
Yoga – The Only Exercise You Need!

You can do Yoga almost anywhere

So if you’re one of those people who feels the need to chose one form of exercise over another, why not chose the one that saves you time, saves you money, gives you all the physical benefits of exercise, makes you feel great, reduces stress and helps you lose weight?

And finally…Yoga has passed the test!

One of the first studies ever done in the United States that examines the relationship between yoga and fitness was conducted by researchers at the University of California at Davis. During this study they tested the muscular strength and endurance, flexibility, cardio respiratory fitness, body composition, and lung function of 10 college students, before and after eight weeks of yoga training. Each week, the students attended four sessions that included 10 minutes of pranayama, 15 minutes of warm-up exercises, 50 minutes of asanas, and 10 minutes of meditation. After eight weeks the students’ showed very respectable increase in…

  • Muscular strength had increased by as much as 31 percent
  • Muscular endurance by 57 percent
  • Flexibility by as much as 188 percent
  • And VO2max (maximal oxygen uptake) by 7percent

Until recently, very few scientists had considered whether yoga could improve fitness when compared to conventional exercise. Now that the facts are in, that’s beginning to change.

*Rae Indigo is ERYT500

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

Finding Peace in Today’s World

Finding peace in today’s world can be a challenge for most of us due to our work schedules, hectic lifestyles and daily responsibilities, so here are a few tips based on yoga science and philosophy that may help… First, try getting back in touch with your body. Generally when we’re not feeling peace, it’s because we’re not feeling much at all, instead, we’re thinking. And when we’re engaged in thinking we start believing all our non-peaceful thoughts, plus we’re likely to be feeding them with our energy. A great analogy is an American Indian legend that goes like this…

If we stop feeding the thoughts, and start feeding peaceful feelings instead, the thoughts will fall away by themselves. The most basic feelings originate with physical sensation, so that’s why it’s a great place to begin. Practice some yoga asanas (poses), go for a walk or a hike outdoors, take a hot shower, or simply lie down and consciously breathe into every part of your body. You’ll soon feel peace return and replace the negative thoughts that were preventing it.

Once we are actively feeling our body, going beyond our thoughts becomes quite simple. We shift our focus and become the observer, bringing our awareness to whatever we feel in our body allows us to notice our thoughts without them affecting us. This empowers us to be released from them, and remain as a witness, observing them as an outsider, without involvement. The observer in each of us can watch these thoughts and let them pass, just like clouds in the sky. We’ll then become a victor over thoughts instead of a victim.

Next, don’t be so hard on yourself. If you have a problem concentrating (perhaps you fall asleep) during traditional seated meditation, try a standing, or better yet, a walking meditation. Or learn to chant mantras as part of your meditation, for many who practice meditation they bring an instant feeling of being immersed in peaceful sensations.

Activate the power of positive thinking. Replace thoughts that make you stressed with ones that do the opposite. When you’re back in touch with your body, the observer in you can easily identify a negative or non-peaceful thought and fire-up the power of positive thinking.

Another helpful method of finding peace is to visualize a peace-inducing figure (Buddha, Gandhi, Jesus, Mother Theresa, etc.) and start up a conversation with them whenever you feel stressed or disturbed. Ask them, how would they deal with your present situation? You may be amazed at what you hear!

You can also immerse yourself in the present moment, the “now.” If you do, you’ll find that peace is inherent in each and every moment, especially when you’re able to use any of the mindfulness tools available to help you become totally immersed there. By sharing in the present moment you’ll become saturated with the sensation of peace.

Give yourself permission to go deep into the pursuit of joyful bliss. Bliss is what happens when we go beyond the mind’s active nature. Bliss and joy are the result of entering into the “Self” that exists beyond all thought. It’s the peaceful bliss that nourishes and endures.

And last, but not least, practice acceptance. Acceptance doesn’t necessarily mean giving up (or giving in), or that we have settle for less than we deserve. It means that in any given moment, we can choose peace over resistance and watch how that transforms our experience. Suffering is a choice, and so is peace – which one will you choose.

Of related interest, click on: Locating the Source of Stress & the Way of Yoga

*Rae Indigo is ERYT500

The Importance of the Breath in Yoga

Why is proper breathing stressed so much in yoga? Other than the fact that it keeps us alive, why is the link between yoga and breathing so important?

During a typical yoga class, we are instructed to practice pranayama, which means we breathe consciously, remaining connected to our breath, we learn to breathe deeply, retain our breath, etc. How much of an impact does proper breathing have on us, our life, and our yoga practice?

Breathing and longevity – Swami Sivananda is quoted as saying: “A yogi measures the span of life by the number of breaths, not by the number of years.”

I much of traditional Hindu literature it is said that if you breathe 15 times per minute, you will live to be 75 or 80 years old, but if you breathe only 10 times per minute you will live to 100. So the speed at which you breathe will determine the length of your life. The faster you breathe the shorter your life will be. That’s why animals that breath fast (dogs and cats for instance) have relatively short lives.

Breathing Consciously

Breathing consciously is something we are continuously reminded to do when we are in yoga class. Breathing consciously is essential to yoga practice because it assists us in connecting with the subtle energy within. Pranayama enables us to navigate different levels of consciousness. Additionally, by breathing consciously we’ll create a positive biological effect on our mental, emotional, and physical states of being.

Remaining connected with our breath is an ideal method for being in the present moment. When you focus on each aspect of the breathing process, you are present, you let go of the both the past and the future and are concentrated on each moment within each breath. Breathing consciously becomes its own form of meditation. But this is only part of why conscious breathing is so important.

Remaining consciously aware of your breathing activates a different part of our brain than our normal, mechanical (unconscious) breathing, which is controlled by the medulla oblongata in the brain stem (the primitive part of the brain). Conscious breathing, on the other hand, comes from a more evolved area of the brain (the cerebral cortex). So by stimulating the cerebral cortex we’re sending impulses from the cortex to other connecting areas that impact emotions. This generally has a relaxing and balancing effect on the emotions by controlling which aspects of the mind dominate, in turn prompting our consciousness to rise from the primitive/instinctual level to the more evolved/elevated levels of the brain.

The Breath, Prana and Pranayama

Yoga practice teaches us to control prana, the vital (life) force, through pranayama. The breath is used in pranayama to help us to learn to control prana, but don’t make the mistake of confusing prana with the breath. Prana is the life energy that animates the lungs, but it is NOT the breath itself. Using pranayama (breath control) is the easiest method for regulating the flow of prana and once we are able to control prana through pranayama we are better able to control the movement of prana to other organs and areas throughout the body.

The breath being the mode of practice for pranayama, the focus is in on the three basic stages of respiration:

  1. Inhalation (pooraka)
  2. Retention (kumbhaka)
  3. Exhalation (rechaka)

However, according to ancient and traditional yogic texts, pranayama is retention, and inhalation and exhalation are secondary, being methods for affecting retention.

Kumbhaka (retention of the breath) has a deep physiological effect on the brain. It begins by providing additional opportunity for the brain cells to absorb oxygen, and eliminate more carbon dioxide, producing a calming effect on the mental/emotional body. When the breath is retained, the brain panics because the carbon dioxide levels temporarily increase and the increased carbon dioxide levels stimulate the brain’s capillaries to dilate. When this happens, more capillaries in the brain are opened up improving cerebral circulation, building up an immense amount of energy in the brain, subsequently forcing the creation of new neural pathways, plus the activation of dormant centers. The brain is now activated and awakened!

A good analogy is look at the breath like the oil in a car, prana as the gasoline (fuel), and the mind as the engine. By understanding the relationship of the breath, prana and the mind to one another we will be better prepared to navigate our life, progressing to a higher, more evolved state, and to repair it if it breaks down.

Although full control of the breath may take the student of yoga years to perfect, this perfection is not necessarily the highest form of pranayama. The highest form is to remain completely, consciously aware of the breath.

Of related interest, click on; Yoga Practice for Improved Lung Function

And… Stories the Breath Can Tell

*Rae Indigo is ERYT500.

More About Vairagya (Non-Attachment)

To continue where the last article (Abhyasa & Vairagya – the Two Pillars) left off…

*To review – Patanjali’s definition of non-attachment (vairagya) Sutra 1.15 – drista anushravika vishaya vitrishnasya vashikara sanjna vairagyam – “When the mind is free from the desire even for objects seen, heard or described in a tradition (or in scriptures), it acquires a state desirelessness which is called non-attachment (vairagya).”

This word “drishta” (seen) in Sutra 1.15 (above) is also meant to include the attraction that we feel through all of our five senses (sight, hearing, touch, smell, taste). Whenever we have a pleasurable experience using these senses, we tend to develop a strong attachment for those objects, along with a strong desire to experience the same pleasure repeatedly. Then, when that pleasure isn’t available or for some reason or other we’re denied access, we become very unhappy, stressed out or even completely miserable and pain and suffering are the result.

In this sutra, “vishaya” represents the material objects which produce attraction and the attachment that follows. Desires and cravings may basically be classified in two ways. The first type result from our direct perception through the five senses. “Drishta’ (seen) refers to this kind. The second type are those that many orthodox Hindus expect to gain after being reincarnated, including the desire to go to heaven after death. But, according to most Hindu scriptures, this heaven is only a temporary abode and it is necessary to return to a human birth after spending karmically pre-determined time in heaven. In order to achieve Moksha (final liberation), even these desires must be transcended. Vairagya doesn’t mean the dropping of desires because of sickness or old age or some other dysfunction. Old men often lose their sex drive (for the time-being), but this is not vairagya. Vairagya implies a conscious, deliberate elimination of all desires which would lead to attachment. Contrary to popular beliefs, true vairagya cannot be attained by cutting yourself off from object (of the material world) and living in a cave. Real, true vairagya occurs as a direct result of conscious, spiritual evolution, which leads to the dawning of “viveka” (discrimination). Therefore, the consciousness of someone who has attained this degree of mastery over their senses has been termed as “vashikara samjna.”

It is extremely helpful to keep the concept of vairagya in your mind even while doing your own asana practice. For example, perhaps you are not quite able to touch your toes in Uttanasana (the standing forward-bending pose). But you don’t give up and one of the objectives of your asana practice may be to touch your toes in the near future so you set a goal of doing just that in one month’s time. When you are attached to the outcome, you will likely be severely disappointed and/or disheartened if you still aren’t able to touch your toes in the allotted time. Alternatively, if you are not attached to any specific outcome, you will continue to practice, free of any sort of judgment that would give rise to these negative feelings and you’ll then stand a much better chance of achieving your goal in a timely manner.

This concept of non-attachment has been dealt with in great depth in most of the Eastern religions. In one of the most often quoted shlokas from the Bhagavad Gita (2.47), Lord Krishna tells Ajuna: “You have a right to perform your prescribed duty, but you are not entitled to the fruits of action. Never consider yourself the cause of the results of your activities, and never be attached to not doing your duty.” All too often our actions (or non-actions) are motivated by some desired (or expected) outcome. Non-attachment doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t set any goals in our life, it simply means that we are not attached to the desired (expected) result of our actions. We only have full control over the actions that we engage, not over the outcome of these actions. Realizing this is where the value of non-attachment becomes apparent, we now can accept the results of our actions without any emotional turmoil. This attitude of non-attachment will help us greatly in our efforts to remain calm and peaceful in even when presented with life’s most difficult situations.

Of related interest, click on: The Wisdom of Patanjali

*Rae Indigo is ERYT500.

Yoga, Sensitivity and Intention

As we fast approach the Holiday Season, it seems as though no matter how much we try to avoid it, stress inevitably will rear its ugly head.  With awareness and sensitivity it will be obvious when it is happening to you.  Once its onset is recognized we can employ the proper tools to handle it.

By taking just a few minutes to go inward and be attentive to your breath will almost immediately give you the space to open to a new perspective. This will help remind you that all of your stress is a matter of choice. You will undoubtedly realize that it’s rare that you can change the causes of my stress, but you can almost always influence your reaction to it.  It is good to know that you have the potential to completely control your reaction to any given situation (stressful or otherwise).  When you are successful in changing your reaction to small stresses, which originate from sources that are out of your control, you’ll know that you also have the potential to do the same thing with bigger stresses.

Whenever you open to your own potential you’ll gain a feeling of empowerment. This works as a reminder that you have choices. You’ll also discover insights that lead to finding the gifts within each appropriate choice you make.

Whether we realize it or not, we all live in a world of infinite potential. We have the ability to make a conscious choice to believe that anything is possible. If we do that we will likely find it to be a very effective way to live. Naturally, we’re all well aware that at times life is hard and there is nothing we can do about it.  But once we have acknowledged that, we can then choose to move forward and focus on what we can do, what we can change, and what I can gain from any given situation. The yogis refer to life as the “ananda tandava” (the dance of bliss). We too can create this experience in our lives by remaining focused on the good, enabling our potential and discovering our opportunities.

We are becoming aware that being overly or excessive positive in our thinking doesn’t necessarily produce guaranteed or magical results. Too many people have mistakenly oversimplified this practice by taking out all the gray areas and have since become disillusioned. So it’s necessary to come to grips with the fact that our thoughts alone do not “create” our circumstances. However, our thoughts do create our reactions to our circumstances and that in turn influences many things in a very real and often physical way.

Sensitivity and Intention Yield a Balanced Yoga Practice

And, practicing yoga with sensitivity and intention will lead to a balanced life.  But, always start first by intending to become more sensitive. Without sufficient sensitivity, there is no way to react appropriately to situations encountered in life. Very few of us are born with this level of sensitivity, but yoga can give you a taste of what it is like to live life with more sensitivity and you’ll be amazed as it develops through your intentions.

Intentions come from our deepest longings and desires. Many spiritual traditions teach that desire (per se) is the root cause of all suffering. And this makes absolute sense when we are talking about shallow or secular desires. However, when desire is “spiritualized” it can be the cause of movement, growth and spiritual maturity. So, in reality, it is not about eliminating all desire, but rather staying sensitive enough to discover what our deepest spiritual desires are. Spiritualized desires are the ones that bring us closer to others, the world around and all that we consider Divine, rather than separating us. This would include the desire to serve, the desire to discover our gifts and use them, and of course, the desire to know God.

Even these deeper, spiritual desires can be dangerous; can lead us into suffering as easily as into bliss. When we become anxious, impatient or try to rush the process of spiritual evolution we tend to sabotage our original intention. Once again, it’s our ability to be sensitive that reveals the wisdom to know the difference. In yoga, this is a balanced action, so resist thinking of it as a static place; think of it instead as a dance. When dancing, sometimes you lead (intention) and sometimes you follow (sensitivity), and this dance with life is what you’ve been created for, plus it is the key to living a life that reveals and eventually fulfills your spiritual potential.

Of related interest, click on: Develop a Positive Attitude with Yoga

*Rae Indigo is ERYT500.