Om Office Yoga Blog
- September 1 2015
Chill Out at the Office with Yoga!
Millions of people whose jobs keep them desk-bound are often thought of as living a sedentary lifestyle.
There's a lot less movement in the office and body is trapped in their respective cubical all day long. Let alone the fresh air, such sedentary workforce hardly get any time to get up and move to stretch a leg.
If your work demands a regular bout of sitting, you may suffer through symptoms such as brain fog, anxiety, backache, lethargy, incomplete sleep and poor posture. However, people are now becoming aware of health dangers of prolonged sitting on productivity and health of a worker.
For these reasons office yoga is vital. Besides, you don't have to leave the office to experience the benefits of yoga.
5 Way Yoga Helps You Focus & Chill in the Office
1. Synchronize Your Brain and Breathing
Focusing on breathing movements has a positive impact on the parts of our brain, which improves the attention and working of the brain.
By combining your diaphragmatic breathing with meditation also increases the ability to multi task, lowering your stress response, blood pressure, heart rate and cortisol production.
How to do it in the office:
Sit comfortably on your chair with your feet touching the floor. Sit straight while keeping your back in a good posture. Rest your hands on your legs with palms up.
Now relax and take a sigh of relief. Try to tune out the distractions and focus all your attention on expanding your lower ribs while inhaling and contracting on exhaling. Take long and deep breaths following five-count inhale, seven-count exhale.
Establish a comfortable breathing rhythm, open your eyes and notice your scholarly change in perspective.
2. Take a Break
To avoid the adverse effects on health of prolonged sitting, you must get up every half an hour for at least two minutes. Stand up and stretch your muscles you've been sitting on for so long.
How to do Figure-Four hip opener:
Shift your entire weight to your left leg by holding your chair or desk.
Place your right foot on your left thigh, posing in a figure-four position. Exhale as deeply as you can, hold for five long deep breaths. Repeat for the right leg.
3. Move Your Gravity-Stricken Muscles
When we keep sitting for long hours, gravity takes a toll on our waist muscles making us feel stiff.
You can employ other sitting options like stability ball, bean bags, chairs designed for active sitting to avoid stiffness. You can stretch your gravity-stricken muscles by yoga pose known as Warrior I.
Place your left hand on the top of your chair, step right foot backward. Bend your front knee to align above your ankle slightly forward keeping your lower leg straight. Lift your right arm up over your head and inhale deeply, exhaling while bending to the left. Repeat for right side.
4. Improve Circulation and Stretch Legs
Swollen ankles and tired legs are common in office the work. Sitting for long periods can stifle circulation and lead to endema and spider veins. It is, therefore important to stretch your legs to increase circulation.
Standing hamstring stretch:
Place your left foot on the your chair, holding your chair with right hand for balance. Keeping your hips squared, point your left toes in upward direction. Exhale as you flex from your hips. Keep your back straight. Hold for three long breaths. Repeat on the other side.
5. Seated Twist to Improve Posture
Activate your underused muscles like your mid back. Doing this stretch doesn't require you get up from your seat. It is just to make you aware that you avoid leaning into a pain-inducing slump at your desk.
While sitting, stretch your right arm forward at the shoulder height with your palm up and inhale. Exhale as you reach back to the right rotating your left lower ribcage to facilitate the twist. Try to activate your right shoulder blade to pull it down toward your waist and slightly in toward your spine. Repeat on the other side.
I hope these yoga poses will help you to unplug from your chair and will make you more active at work.
- See more at: http://yoganonymous.com/5-way-yoga-helps-you-focus-chill-in-the-office?mc_cid=a628fb98e0&mc_eid=d10d3356e4#sthash.6a27HLJo.dpuf
- September 1 2015
Ready for September
What a summer it has been! I've been so busy this summer with teaching yoga and also stand up paddle board with some yoga thrown into the mix. Our weather has been so amazing that it was hard not to be outside as much as possible.
Now that September is now upon us, its time to come back inside not only physically but also mentally and yes, spiritually. Its that time of year to go back to learning or relearning things that one loves. For me, I have started studying the Hindu Gods and myths, some mantra and of course interesting sequences to play with in class.
I hope everyone had a safe and awesome summer. Now lets get back into our routine of yoga, meditation and finding our "seat" in yoga.
- January 7 2015
Yoga Makes Us Better
Quote of the day...
- December 8 2014
Billions of dollars are spent on perks, incentives and professional development every year to keep executives and their teams excited, engaged and high performing. The intention is to get them to achieve their goals and beyond, be more creative, beat the competition, become faster and more intelligent with technology and essentially gain larger market share. Expensive perks and incentives, while may make the executives feel important, keep them focused and push them to more success, do not solve the problem of exhaustion and burnout they experience as a result. Burnout has proven to lead to illness, relationship problems, other stress-related issues and untimely death. In the article, When Executives Burnout, published in the Harvard Business Review, Harry Levinson talks about how 15 years ago the concept of burnout was still very new and how extreme feelings of stress among executives today are pervasive and growing worse.
In the past several years, I have continued to coach executives through our Mindfulness programs and private coaching. During this time, I have encountered hundreds of executives. Some exhausted and at the end of their ropes. Many lost faith that their hard work, creativity and dedication could bring them happiness. In subtle or explicit ways they express their desire to leave the corporate world for a better quality, less demanding life. A life they can actually feel as though they have the right and more importantly the permission to be content. To have time and a clear mind so they can be loving and attentive to their children and spouses. To not have to be driven by the underlying horror that if they didn't continue to succeed they would lose their job, relationships, health and self-esteem. Some enter the program or class almost hopeless having heard that mindfulness can help deter themselves from their path to destruction.
During the course of their mindfulness practice, the first thing that shifts is their perspective. They learn that they do not need to be in conflict with everything that goes wrong or differently than they had planned for. They learn to see the harm in self-criticism and become compassionate towards their own selves and others. This does not mean that they would be less driven, but that they do not have to be upset in order to solve something that goes wrong.
One client reported after only two sessions of private coaching that he went into an important audit meeting and announced that he wasn't going to be upset throughout the meeting and no one believed him. He was able to go through four hours of discussion and problem solving without one bit of anger or frustration, which baffled everyone in the room. He had understood that not only it is not necessary to be angry and demonstrate outrage in order to make a point, but also that his anger or inner conflict was the cause of his tension headaches. He was given daily mindfulness meditation homework, which he diligently had done. The best characteristic of executives and successful people is that they are serious about success and they will do what is necessary to make it happen. He had done even more sessions than I had asked him to do. So when I showed him that the "happening" of things is not something he could fight and win, he was able to see it.
I showed him this by a simple demonstration. Holding my phone between my fingers I asked what would happen if I open my fingers? He said, "The phone would drop." So, I opened my fingers and dropped the phone on the carpeted ground. While he was looking at the phone with surprise I said, let say this was a very important object that just fell and got ruined. When you get angry and frustrated with this incident you are going to war with the actual act, the happening, of the incident and asked him, do you think you could win the war and conflict with the actual act of the object having fallen? This highly intelligent, highly successful, top of his class executive was not one who would pick a fight he wouldn't win. He immediately got it. He completely understood that most of the stress and anxiety he experiences is caused by his own unachievable expectation that things shouldn't happen. Continuing with his daily mindfulness practice and with several other coaching sessions he has remained calm in the face of all happenings and just tends to the next step, saving his own health from jeopardy, his team a lot of grief and his family from his anger. We explored the added amount of happiness he has also brought to his environment at home and at work. It's been great.
Training for the new habit of recognizing where most of your attention is spent and recognizing your perceptions and expectations for what they are is essential to managing stress as well as success in all aspects of your life.
To train your attention try a simple exercise. Right now, stop for a minute and shift your attention to a neutral place, such as the gentle process of breathing in your body. Experience your chest rising and falling, belly move in and out, rib cage expand and contract. Do this for three inhales and exhales and then continue reading.
Though simple, this task is not easy because you are not used to doing it. It takes time, patience and repetition. The result is that by shifting your attention to a neutral place, you can also see what else is going on around the neutral object. When we are lost in thoughts or worries we are not aware of much else and we can take things personal and not see that the "happening of it" is a natural phenomena. When we are able to see this truth then our choices and actions become wiser and more strategically effective.
For more information on what mindfulness is and free guided mindfulness meditation download Dr. Motaghy's Free podcasts here: http://www.podcastgarden.com/podcast/mindfulvalley
- November 16 2014
How Does Yoga Work?
How does yoga work? Is there a benefit to doing a bunch of postures, breathing, and meditation techniques while being crammed in a room full of Lululemon Athletica? A group of interdisciplinary researchers gathered at Kripalu Yoga center to discuss the potential mechanisms associated with yoga practice in contemporary settings, while also acknowledging the traditional, historical framework of ethically-motivated practices.
The manuscript specifically poses a novel theoretical model of the potential self-regulatory mechanisms by which yoga facilitates adaptive reactions to physical and mental stress.
To give you a sense of what this model is depicting, I summarize below:
This systems network model includes the major limbs of yoga, represented as a skillset of four process tools: ethics, meditation, breath regulation, and sustained postures. As depicted in the model, cognitive, emotional, behavioral, and autonomic output in response to a stressor is modulated by a number of regulatory processes (yellow boxes) proposed to be influenced by the process tools (limbs of yoga, blue boxes). A stress response is often accompanied by cognitive, emotional, and behavioral output that includes emotional reactivity, negative appraisal, and rumination. In addition, autonomic output such as vasoconstriction, pain and/or tension, and inflammation often accompany maladaptive stress responses; (see solid black arrows). In chronic forms of such stress responses, negative, long-term consequences on health across bodily systems are often the result.
Our model proposes that yoga facilitates adaptive output (dotted lines), including long-term psychological and physical well-being, musculoskeletal strengthening, and prosocial behavior, through four primary factors in the context of stress: (1) an emphasis on interoception and bottom-up input, (2) more efficient bidirectional feedback and integration with top-down processes, (3) increased phasic inhibition (red lines) of maladaptive forms of emotional, cognitive, and behavioral output (e.g., reactivity, negative appraisal, rumination) as well as autonomic output (e.g., vaso- and pulmonary constriction, inflammation, and muscle tension/pain), and (4) perceptual inference rather than active inference for improved prediction and error correction processes. These four factors optimize self-regulation and improve the communication and flexibility by which top-down and bottom-up processes inform behavioral output in the context of physical and emotional stress. Through repeated yoga practice, there is a resulting skillful optimization of autonomic control in response to stressors on and off the yoga mat - keeping arousal at lower levels during stress-mediated challenge, maintaining positive appraisal and reinforcement, helping the practitioner stay relaxed with less effort, and facilitating rapid recovery of bodily systems under stress. A number of cognitive, emotional, behavioral, and autonomic mechanisms are proposed along with the underlying high- and low-level brain networks that support such mechanisms.
- November 16 2014
7 Yoga Poses To Energize Your Day
10 minutes. That's all it takes to get energy coursing through your body in the morning. Would anything about your day change if you were all fired up and laser-focused? The best part: you can just roll out of bed and practice in your pajamas!
Give these 7 poses a try; if you find that some are harder than others, cut back on the amount of time you spend on it (and go doubly hard at your yoga class). This sequence is for easing into wakefulness and gently getting the blood flowing through your body, so be sure not to stress yourself out too soon.
There is a breath count to consider with these poses; however, go as long or as short as you need. This is a simple recommendation.
1. Balasana (Child's Pose)
Begin in a kneeling position. Then, bring your chest down onto your thighs and your forehead to the floor. Lengthen your arms by your side with your hands next to your feet. For an easier pose, simply stack your hands underneath your forehead.
Take a slow, full breath in through your nose and notice the back of the chest expand and the ribs widen. As you exhale through the nose see if you can sink the buttocks back down toward the heels feeling the spine gently curving over the thighs.
2. Bidalasana (Cat/Cow Pose)
Move into a tabletop position with the wrists directly beneath the shoulders and the knees beneath the hips. Press the palms into the mat to ensure your shoulder blades are broad.
As you inhale, look forward, or up if it's comfortable for your neck, reaching the tailbone toward the sky. Exhale as you tuck the chin to the chest and reach the tailbone to the floor. Continue through this movement, allowing the breath to lead and feeling the entire spine being massaged. Try to keep the creases of the elbows facing each other the entire time to protect the joint from hyperextension.
Breaths: around 5
3. Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Dog Pose)
Take the palms a little wider than shoulder width, tuck the toes and lift the hips into the air. The chest moves back toward the thighs with the head relaxed and arms straight. Roll the shoulders away from the ears, keep the knees bent and start to walk one heel down at a time. Remember: it's more important to keep the hips high than to get the soles of the feet to the ground.
4. Ustrasana (Camel Pose)
The gentle heart-opening stretch of the camel pose -- performed either with the hands on the lower back or reaching down to touch the heels -- can be highly invigorating for the entire body.
Camel is great because it's a front-body opener. Pay attention to how the front of the legs move forward, the core stretches and the torso lengthens. It's great for energy because the chest is really opening and expanding so that the lungs can expand full of breath.
5. Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend Pose)
Walk your feet toward the hands and let the upper body hang. The neck and head are relaxed, the knees bent to start with. If there's no tension in your lower back you can start to straighten your legs. As you inhale find length through the spine, exhale and the head moves slowly towards the feet. You may feel a little bit like a jellyfish, but trust me, your hamstrings don't care how silly you look.
6. Trikonasana (Triangle Pose)
From a standing position, widen your leg stance to about a leg-length. Turn the right foot out to the side, ensuring the heel is aligning with the center arch of the left foot. Take the arms parallel to the ground and reach out to the right side, keeping both legs straight with the thighs engaged. When you can't reach any further, pivot the arms so they are in one line, moving in opposite directions. The chest remains open and the torso lengthens. If it's comfortable and you have the balance, gaze toward your top thumb.
Breaths: 5; then repeat on the other side
7. Utkatasana (Chair Pose)
The dynamic Chair Pose is performed by standing with the feet together or hip-width apart, and bending the lower body down as if you were sitting on a chair. Raise the arms to the ears and raise the chest up to complete the pose.
The name "utkatasana" literally means "powerful pose" in Sanskrit: the perfect morning pick-me-up if you can accomplish it! It's been compared to a lightning bolt of energy, as it creates energy by using the big muscles of the legs and glutes while also creating a slight backbend, which awakens the spine.
- November 11 2014
Changes you will notice after practicing yoga
The 10 things you'll do once you start yoga (that have nothing to do with yoga).
At least once, you will force yourself to try to be vegan, vegetarian, pescatarian, gluten-free (insert any over-zealous diet here)/drink Kombucha/buy bottled water before class and pour it into your sustainable water bottle before the teacher/students/Whole Foods cashier next to you sees. (If you're craving meat, just eat it! On your deathbed, will you really be glad that you didn't have that steak on your 30th Birthday?)
Your iPod will now include a heavy serving of Kirtan music that you will listen to on your very long commute to your yoga studio. (It's cool; if you want to listen to Kirtan occasionally, go for it! When you start listening to it while driving and falling asleep-time to go back to your old playlists. Do not switch over to NPR!)
You will pretend not to notice that your ass now fits in a size six instead of an eight, but you're secretly thrilled. (When you get down to a four though, watch it. People will talk.)
You will go back to your natural hair color/remove your hair extensions/cut your hair short in an attempt to stop paying so much attention to your vanity. (Try not to cut it too short-the growing out process is a bitch and then you'll just need more hair extensions. I did.)
You'll attempt to read the Yoga Sutras, the Bhagavad Gita, or the Upanishads while your stack of fashion magazines calls to you from the next room. (Really, why can't I like Rachel Zoe and yoga? Now that I'm thin enough to actually wear her clothes, why should I pretend I don't want to?) (See #3.)
You will take a retreat. Hello, Kripalu! (It's ok-those other people probably are weirdos. So are you. Eat your breakfast and shut up. No really, shut the f*ck up-it's a silent breakfast.)
You'll start taking photos of yourself in yoga poses. Often. And you'll think that other people care. It's like the modern-day version of the vacation slideshow. No one gives a sh*t, but they'll pretend like they do so that you do the same when they whip out their own photos.
You will at some point wear mala beads, which will break all over the floor of your 6:15 A.M. class. (Basically, it'll end about as well as when I wore my Grandmother's rosary beads to dinner at age six. Silver Lining: The company was kind enough to re-string them for free, and now I just wear them like a really cool wrap bracelet. It's very hippie chic. Thank you September Vogue.) (See #5)
You will become a cheap date. Remember, you just dropped two sizes and you continue to spend at least an hour a day sweating and twisting and breathing. You'll be buzzed from one drink!
You'll get over yourself. If you teach yoga, you'll hope that people show up because they like taking class from who you really are. If you practice yoga, you'll keep showing up and you'll realize that the other sh*t doesn't matter.
- November 11 2014
Your body on Yoga
Benefits of yoga once you start your practice.
- November 11 2014
10 Choices You Will Regret in 10 Years
"If only" - These two words paired together create one of the saddest phrases in the English language.
Here are ten choices that ultimately lead to this phrase of regret, and how to elude them:
1. Wearing a mask to impress others.
If the face you always show the world is a mask, someday there will be nothing beneath it. Because when you spend too much time concentrating on everyone else's perception of you, or who everyone else wants you to be, you eventually forget who you really are. So don't fear the judgments of others; you know in your heart who you are and what's true to you. You don't have to be perfect to impress and inspire people. Let them be impressed and inspired by how you deal with your imperfections.
2. Letting someone else create your dreams for you.
The greatest challenge in life is discovering who you are; the second greatest is being happy with what you find. A big part of this is your decision to stay true toyour own goals and dreams. Do you have people who disagree with you? Good. It means you're standing your ground and walking your own path. Sometimes you'll do things considered crazy by others, but when you catch yourself excitedly losing track of time, that's when you'll know you're doing the right thing.
3. Keeping negative company.
Don't let someone who has a bad attitude give it to you. Don't let them get to you. They can't pull the trigger if you don't hand them the gun. When you remember that keeping the company of negative people is a choice, instead of an obligation, you free yourself to keep the company of compassion instead of anger, generosity instead of greed, and patience instead of anxiety.
4. Being selfish and egotistical.
A life filled with loving deeds and good character is the best tombstone. Those who you inspired and shared your love with will remember how you made them feel long after your time has expired. So carve your name on hearts, not stone. What you have done for yourself alone dies with you; what you have done for others and the world remains.
5. Avoiding change and growth.
If you want to know your past look into your present conditions. If you want to know your future look into your present actions. You must let go of the old to make way for the new; the old way is gone, never to come back. If you acknowledge this right now and take steps to address it, you will position yourself for lasting success. Read The Power of Habit.
6. Giving up when the going gets tough.
There are no failures, just results. Even if things don't unfold the way you had expected, don't be disheartened or give up. Learn what you can and move on. The one who continues to advance one step at a time will win in the end. Because the battle is always won far away and long before the final victory. It's a process that occurs with small steps, decisions, and actions that gradually build upon each other and eventually lead to that glorious moment of triumph.
7. Trying to micromanage every little thing.
Life should be touched, not strangled. Sometimes you've got to relax and let life happen without incessant worry and micromanagement. Learn to let go a little before you squeeze too tight. Take a deep breath. When the dust settles and you can once again see the forest for the trees, take the next step forward. You don't have to know exactly where you're going to be headed somewhere great. Everything in life is in perfect order whether you understand it yet or not. It just takes some time to connect all the dots.
8. Settling for less than you deserve.
Be strong enough to let go and wise enough to wait for what you deserve. Sometimes you have to get knocked down lower than you have ever been to stand up taller than you ever were before. Sometimes your eyes need to be washed by your tears so you can see the possibilities in front of you with a clearer vision again. Don't settle.
9. Endlessly waiting until tomorrow.
The trouble is, you always think you have more time than you do. But one day you will wake up and there won't be any more time to work on the things you've always wanted to do. And at that point you either will have achieved the goals you set for yourself, or you will have a list of excuses for why you haven't.
10. Being lazy and wishy-washy.
The world doesn't owe you anything, you owe the world something. So stop daydreaming and start DOING. Develop a backbone, not a wishbone. Take full responsibility for your life - take control. You are important and you are needed. It's too late to sit around and wait for somebody to do something someday. Someday is now; the somebody the world needs is YOU.
- November 10 2014
Lest We Forget
- November 7 2014
Are You Too Busy?
I saw a dear friend a few days ago. I stopped by to ask her how she was doing, how her family was. She looked up, voice lowered, and just whimpered: "I'm so busy... I am so busy... have so much going on."
Almost immediately after, I ran into another friend and asked him how he was. Again, same tone, same response: "I'm just so busy... got so much to do."
The tone was exacerbated, tired, even overwhelmed.
And it's not just adults. When we moved to North Carolina about ten years ago, we were thrilled to be moving to a city with a great school system. We found a diverse neighborhood, filled with families. Everything felt good, felt right.
After we settled in, we went to one of the friendly neighbors, asking if their daughter and our daughter could get together and play. The mother, a really lovely person, reached for her phone and pulled out the calendar function. She scrolled... and scrolled... and scrolled. She finally said: "She has a 45-minute opening two and half weeks from now. The rest of the time it's gymnastics, piano, and voice lessons. She's just.... so busy."
Horribly destructive habits start early, really early.
How did we end up living like this? Why do we do this to ourselves? Why do we do this to our children? When did we forget that we are human beings, not human doings?
Whatever happened to a world in which kids get muddy, get dirty, get messy, and heavens, get bored? Do we have to love our children so much that we overschedule them, making them stressed and busy - just like us?
What happened to a world in which we can sit with the people we love so much and have slow conversations about the state of our heart and soul, conversations that slowly unfold, conversations with pregnant pauses and silences that we are in no rush to fill?
How did we create a world in which we have more and more and more to do with less time for leisure, less time for reflection, less time for community, less time to just... be?
Somewhere we read, "The unexamined life is not worth living... for a human." How are we supposed to live, to examine, to be, to become, to be fully human when we are so busy?
This disease of being "busy" (and let's call it what it is, the dis-ease of being busy, when we are never at ease) is spiritually destructive to our health and wellbeing. It saps our ability to be fully present with those we love the most in our families, and keeps us from forming the kind of community that we all so desperately crave.
Since the 1950s, we have had so many new technological innovations that we thought (or were promised) would make our lives easier, faster, simpler. Yet, we have no more "free" or leisurely time today than we did decades ago.
For some of us, the "privileged" ones, the lines between work and home have become blurred. We are on our devices. All. The. Freaking. Time.
Smart phones and laptops mean that there is no division between the office and home. When the kids are in bed, we are back online.
One of my own daily struggles is the avalanche of email. I often refer to it as my jihad against email. I am constantly buried under hundreds and hundreds of emails, and I have absolutely no idea how to make it stop. I've tried different techniques: only responding in the evenings, not responding over weekends, asking people to schedule more face-to-face time. They keep on coming, in volumes that are unfathomable: personal emails, business emails, hybrid emails. And people expect a response - right now. I, too, it turns out... am so busy.
The reality looks very different for others. For many, working two jobs in low-paying sectors is the only way to keep the family afloat. Twenty percent of our children are living in poverty, and too many of our parents are working minimum wage jobs just to put a roof over their head and something resembling food on the table. We are so busy.
The old models, including that of a nuclear family with one parent working outside the home (if it ever existed), have passed away for most of us. We now have a majority of families being single families, or where both parents are working outside the home. It is not working.
It doesn't have to be this way.
In many Muslim cultures, when you want to ask them how they're doing, you ask: in Arabic, Kayf haal-ik? or, in Persian, Haal-e shomaa chetoreh? How is your haal?
What is this haal that you inquire about? It is the transient state of one's heart. In reality, we ask, "How is your heart doing at this very moment, at this breath?" When I ask, "How are you?" that is really what I want to know.
I am not asking how many items are on your to-do list, nor asking how many items are in your inbox. I want to know how your heart is doing, at this very moment. Tell me. Tell me your heart is joyous, tell me your heart is aching, tell me your heart is sad, tell me your heart craves a human touch. Examine your own heart, explore your soul, and then tell me something about your heart and your soul.
Tell me you remember you are still a human being, not just a human doing. Tell me you're more than just a machine, checking off items from your to-do list. Have that conversation, that glance, that touch. Be a healing conversation, one filled with grace and presence.
Put your hand on my arm, look me in the eye, and connect with me for one second. Tell me something about your heart, and awaken my heart. Help me remember that I too am a full and complete human being, a human being who also craves a human touch.
I teach at a university where many students pride themselves on the "study hard, party hard" lifestyle. This might be a reflection of many of our lifestyles and our busy-ness - that even our means of relaxation is itself a reflection of that same world of overstimulation. Our relaxation often takes the form of action-filled (yet mindless) films, or violent and face-paced sports.
I don't have any magical solutions. All I know is that we are losing the ability to live a truly human life.
We need a different relationship to work, to technology. We know what we want: a meaningful life, a sense of community, a balanced existence. It's not just about "leaning in" or faster iPhones. We want to be truly human.
W. B. Yeats once wrote:
"It takes more courage to examine the dark corners of your own soul than it does for a soldier to fight on a battlefield."
How exactly are we supposed to examine the dark corners of our soul when we are so busy? How are we supposed to live the examined life?
I am always a prisoner of hope, but I wonder if we are willing to have the structural conversation necessary about how to do that, how to live like that. Somehow we need a different model of organizing our lives, our societies, our families, our communities.
I want my kids to be dirty, messy, even bored - learning to become human. I want us to have a kind of existence where we can pause, look each other in the eye, touch one another, and inquire together: Here is how my heart is doing? I am taking the time to reflect on my own existence; I am in touch enough with my own heart and soul to know how I fare, and I know how to express the state of my heart.
How is the state of your heart today?
Let us insist on a type of human-to-human connection where when one of us responds by saying, "I am just so busy," we can follow up by saying, "I know, love. We all are. But I want to know how your heart is doing."
- October 17 2014
More Reasons To Do Yoga
Find a comfortable nook to settle in to folks, because this article via Forbes.com is a big one.
Scientific evidence is mounting daily for what many have long sensed: that practices like mindfulness, meditation, and yoga can help us address certain intractable individual and societal problems.
Prominent companies "Google, General Mills, Target, Apple, Nike, AOL, and Procter & Gamble among them" and prominent individuals have already embraced this possibility. Tim Ryan, the Ohio congressman who wrote the book A Mindful Nation, has been a big proponent of bringing mindfulness to the masses. He, along with others, believes that mindfulness should be a part of everyone's day, to help wire our brains to deal with our many modern stressors.
And, perhaps more importantly for our global health, for kids dealing with extreme stressors, traumas and abuse, putting these practices into schools could be the difference between failure and success.
Last month, a group of American and Canadian scholars, researchers, businesspeople, and yoga teachers came together for a weekend at Omega Institute to discuss how this group of practices that helps us self-regulate as individuals could, quite possibly, help us regulate on a society level. The issues the country is facing " the massive dropout rate of school kids, substance abuse among all age groups, PTSD among veterans, the staggeringly high incarceration and recidivism rates " cost the country volumes in human potential, not to mention trillions in dollars. There are no single solutions, but the evidence suggests that some or all of these problems may be amenable to the practices that have been shown to redirect attention, improve concentration, increase self-control, and endow people with reliable and healthy coping mechanisms in the face of stress and trauma.
Some of the faculty at Omega's conference have been key players in making this happen. BK Bose, PhD, of the Niroga Institute, a former Silicon Valley engineer who grew up practicing yoga, now works to make mindfulness/meditation/yoga the game-changer that many believe it can be. Rob Schware, PhD, who heads the Give Back Yoga Foundation and the Yoga Service Council, and writes for the Huffington Post, brought his two decades of management experience with World Bank to help grow the movement as a second career. Many, including Bose and Schware, say that the "school-to-prison pipeline," a famously insidious and costly problem in lives lost and money wasted, is one of several that could be altered by a little mindfulness training early on in life.
In terms of economic cost alone, Cecelia Rouse at Princeton estimates that one high school dropout "costs" about $260,000 in lost earnings over his or her lifetime. Given the fact that at least a million kids drop out of school every year, the annual cost of school failure alone is estimated at $260 billion. As Bose points out, "Over ten years, the cost is upwards of 3 trillion dollars. And this is just for dropping out alone."
If you continue the trajectory a little further, he says, based on the relatively common course that can include juvenile hall and prison, the numbers grow. "The school-to-prison pipeline is incredibly costly," says Bose. It can cost upwards of $250,000 per year to keep an inmate in prison, if you factor in all the direct and indirect costs that tend to come with it, like loss in productivity, damage to the family, the escalated health and mental health costs. "Folks have been looking at career criminals " and estimates over their lifetimes are between $4-7 million. If you apply this to all those who land in jail over and over again, the numbers become stratospheric."
One approach is to increase school retention; the national dropout rate is between 25% and 35%, and up to 50% in inner city schools. But if you go back a necessary step, Bose argues, the real culprits are enormous stresses and traumas that are so often present in the kids' lives. "The single common denominator is stress: Chronic stress, toxic stress, traumatic stress, primary and secondary post-traumatic stress. Trauma is endemic. The tentacles of stress and trauma run right through " domestic abuse, substances abuse, poverty, racism. And once a kid drops out, homelessness, substance abuse, juvenile delinquency, crime, violence are just waiting to pounce. Not to mention the boatload of chronic disease, metabolic syndrome, hypertension, diabetes"You start to see this powerful trajectory between school failure and adult outcomes."
And this is where the capacity to cope becomes highly relevant. Methods that train the brain attend differently, self-regulate, and respond to stressors are one part. "If you look to neuroscience," says Bose, "it tells us that stress, among other things, disrupts brain functioning, especially in the prefrontal cortex. And the same neuroscience is also saying there's also class of practices that mitigate all of this: Mindfulness."
There's some good evidence for the idea. In 2011, a Harvard study showed that mindfulness is linked to increased gray matter density in certain cortical areas, including the prefrontal cortex and regions involved in self-referential thoughts and emotion regulation. There seems to be a strong connection between mindfulness and the brain machinery involved in self-regulation. Other work has shown mindfulness to be linked to relative de-activation of the default mode network (DMN), the brain system that's active during mind-wandering and self-referential "worry" thoughts, which are generally stressful in nature. Indeed Jon Kabat-Zinn, MD at UMass has developed his career to developing the mindfulness-based stress reduction program (MBSR) to helping people learn to change the stress response. (For nice reviews of the application of the practices in early childhood education, see this 2012 piece and this 2011 piece.)
This is all well and good, Bose adds, but there's an obvious caveat. When they're in the midst of stress and trauma, few kids have the ability to sit still enough to take part in a sitting practice. "If you're not ready to sit in classroom," says Bose, "you're not ready to do sitting meditation. If you have drugs and gangs and violence all around you, you simply can't sit still. Teachers tell us that they often yell at kids 100 times a day to sit and pay attention. It doesn't work. And to ask them to do this in the context of meditation can have a worse-than-neutral effect " it could be disastrous."
So, you have to go beyond the neuroscience-of-meditation field and look to the trauma research, which tells us that physical activity can help the brain deal with stress and trauma. "Trauma research tell us that we hold trauma in our bodies"The dorsolateral prefrontal cortex doesn't even talk to the amygdala. Neuroscience says mindfulness; trauma research says movement. All of the sudden you've got moving meditation or mindfulness in motion. Mindfulness alone isn't going to cut it for these kids." One theory is that because the executive areas of the brain can be affected by stress and trauma, "getting in" through another avenue is key. Indeed, some studies have shown that physical activity can enhance cognitive control via the prefrontal cortex in children, and exercise is well known to enhance neurogenesis in brain regions like the hippocampus, in you and old alike, which can be affected by stress (for a brief review, see here).
Therefore, Bose and his colleagues have done what are also beginning to, combining movement and mindfulness into one program, called Transformative Life Skills (TLS), which incorporates elements of movement, attention training and relaxation skills. The 18-week program can be introduced to schools relatively cheaply. The research so far has shown that it can be extremely helpful in helping kids reduce levels of negative thinking, negative affect, revenge motivation, depression, emotional arousal, physical arousal, rumination, perceived-stress, attitudes toward violence; and it's been associated with greater levels of self-control, tolerance for distress, and school engagement.
The return-on-investment seems to speak for itself. The cost of training and coaching 50 teachers in TLS is $5,000. And if they work with 1,000 students, works out to be about $5 per kid. If even one kid took a different path in life, the program would be worth the investment many times over.
And similar programs, like the one run by the Holistic Life Foundation, Inc. (HLF) serving inner city schools in Baltimore, have found just this. Ali Smith, Executive Director, who founded the program along with his brother and college friend as a way to bring meditation to "at-risk" kids, has seen the results firsthand. So has the early research. Smith and his brother grew up in this hectic environment, but his parents had them mediate every day before school. He says he didn't understand its purpose so much back then, but it made a difference on some level, and sparked his and his brother's desire to give back in the same way as they got older. He hopes that mindfulness will be a part of every school day in the future: "Even just to give kids a moment of stillness in their day, so that they stop, and can have inner and outer silence"That would be amazing."
One problem with this type of service at this juncture is the relatively small size of the operations. Though service programs are growing, many are still local in reach, and affect people only on the order of tens or hundreds per year. "What I see happening," says Schware, "is a lot of very fired up yoga teachers who want to serve; so they go work in drug rehabs or jails." After a year or two, though, many realize they can't pay their bills while doing this work, so find themselves in a difficult position. "And if you've set up a nonprofit," adds Schware, "it's even harder financially." The Yoga Service Council helps many of these small non-profits become sustainable, but it's unclear where the future of the industry really lies here, or in a larger domain.
"The math is pretty simple and clear," says Schware. "We're going to get our money back many, many times over. There's a huge potential return on investments, if we're going to implement these things systematically." Policy-level initiatives would, of course, be ideal, and they may come in time. Hopefully the right people will see the connection sooner than later.
"This is about more than just mindfulness," says Bose. "It's about the integration of these modalities. This is not some feel good, foo-foo practice from the Himalayas. This is based in cutting edge neuroscience, trauma research, and in somatic psychology. This is vital to ensure our well-being, and to our economy. Let's come together under the banner of transformative practices, and put forward the essence of yoga, not the hype. This is simple. Anyone can do this, anytime, anywhere. If you can move, if you can breathe, then you can do the practice."
- October 17 2014
New teachers at Om Office!
Welcome our new teachers that have been recently added to our Om Office:-)
Check out their bios and book us to come to your office or event.
- October 17 2014
The world of yoga mats can be equally confusing to newbies and master yogis alike. Endless colours, designs, patterns, size, and trinkets are offered. We believe that when you're picking out a new mat, you're investing in your health and happiness through yoga. We want you to make the right choice and be able to practice yoga in style and comfort.
So what should you look for? It all depends on what you need. Here are our tips for picking out a new yoga mat.
When it comes to price, less isn't always more.
While a less expensive mat might work for a beginner dipping their toes into yoga, if you're going to be practicing regularly, you need something durable. It can also be more cost-effective to pay more for a better mat that won't need to be replaced as quickly.
We all love a deal, but would you rather spend $20 every 6 months, or spend more upfront for a mat that will last a lifetime? For the most part, what you pay is what you get.
What's in a name? Sometimes a lot.
When it comes to yoga mats, there are a few brands you can trust to deliver quality products that are worth the bucks they're asking. Manduka, Prana, and Gaiam are just a few we recommend.
Variety is the spice of life - and yoga mats.
Walking into a yoga store or checking out an online boutique can be overwhelming. There are thin mats, thick mats, giant mats, and mats in every colour imaginable.
Think about what you really need in a mat and don't get swayed by the latest hot trend. A cork mat is great for the environment, but will wear out quickly. A thick mat is comfortable, but can influence stability on the floor. Find out what you need to succeed, and shop with that in mind.
Look for form and function.
With so many mats on the market, you don't always need to compromise looks to get what you need. A lot of mats offer killer style and comfortable practicality.
Look for a mat with features that will make your life, and yoga class, easier. On the go? Get a mat with handles to make getting to and from class a breeze. Concerned about the environment? Take a peek at some eco-friendly designs to kick up your yoga style a notch. Cork mats offer awesome grip with super cool style, and they're hypoallergenic and antimicrobial. In love with multiple yoga styles? Reversible mats offer different functions for different classes in one.
As always, the best way to find out what mat is right for you is to actually try it. Ask your friends and teachers for recommendations and explain what exactly you're looking for. A little trial and error can go a long way to find you the mat of your dreams.
- October 17 2014
Why Your Organization Should Do Yoga
In todays professional landscape more and more companies are investing in mental and physical health at the workplace. Being Yoga Instructors in Vancouver, our clients are also echoing those sentiments, they too would like to see yoga classes at work.
Studies have shown that Yoga can be a great way to de-stress and relax, workout trends has provided us with this handy infographic on Yoga Classes at work might be a great idea.
- April 10 2014
Yoga Helps Happiness!
Ten Scientific ways to be happy...
- March 18 2014
One of my favorite yoga quotes...
- March 15 2014
Welcome To Our New Site!
We are pleased to launch our new online presence! We hope you find the site useful and informative. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to use our contact form to get in touch with us.