Turn on Your Heart Light

With Valentine’s Day falling in the month of February, the word LOVE comes to mind. Likewise is that image of a heart, usually bright red; the cut-outs we made in school as children even come to mind. This also makes me think of the term ‘open-hearted’. I would like to dive more into what it actually means to have an open heart and how we even know whether ours is open our closed.

Yoga practitioners may have heard their instructors speak of the 7 chakras. For those readers who aren’t familiar with this term, chakras are the main energy centers within the body. Not only are they associated with certain body parts and bodily systems, but also each main energy center has associated physical ailments that can occur when these systems are out of balance.

From the 1st chakra comprising of the feet, legs, and lower spine all the way up the body to the 7th chakra at the very crown of the head, all of our body parts and systems fall into one of these 7 main energy systems. The 4th chakra, which is called the Anahata chakra in Sanskrit, the ancient language of yoga, is located in the center of the chest, where the ‘yogic heart’ lies. It comprises of the heart, lungs, and circulatory system. It is an important energy center of the body as it is the center point between the upper and the lower chakras in our body. When we place are hands together in prayer position at the end of a yoga class and utter our ‘Namastes’, we are finding the perfect balance between our physical bodies- our lower 3 chakras-and our more ethereal or spiritual bodies – our upper 3 chakras.

Yoga and meditation teachers focus on ‘opening the heart’ in their teachings to their students. But what does this actually mean? For many people this area of the body may be blocked. Perhaps we have been hurt in a relationship and are protecting ourselves from diving into yet another.. When our heart chakra is blocked, we have difficulty with empathy, compassion, self-love or loving others. When we are open in this energy center of our body, we freely and openly can give and receive unconditional love and express loving compassion and empathy.

Our health can be adversely affected when our heart chakra is not open. Some of the ailments associated when our heart chakra is not in balance are asthma, lung disease, heart disease, and also diseases of the breasts. It can be difficult to let go of past hurts and to put ourselves in a vulnerable position when we fear potentially repeating this pattern, but holding back and feeling the negative emotions that correspond to this energy center of our body can be detrimental to our bodies and our spirits. Here are some suggestions to keep this energy center healthy and in balance.

Self-Love

Take care of the most important person in your life- YOU! When you look in the mirror don’t focus on your imperfections but see the beauty in the reflection staring back at you. Look into some meditations that focus on self- love and practice them in a quiet place.

Gratitude

Appreciate and honor the gifts in your life with a daily practice of expressing and being grateful for these gifts.

Forgiveness.

In my work with cancer patients throughout the years, I have witnessed many breakthroughs of my clients letting go of anger and forgiving- both themselves and others. Remember- Forgiveness isn’t about letting others off the hook, but about letting yourself off the hook.

Visualizing the Color Green

Each chakra also has a corresponding color within it. Green is the color of our heart chakra. Imagine a beautiful shade of jade green filling the center of your entire chest and within your heart and lungs as well. Holding a green stone – jade, aventurine, green calcite are great choices, when focusing on opening up this area of the body also magnify this intention. Although it is not green, rose quartz is also a wonderful 4th chakra stone said to open and heal this area of our body.

~This brief explanation into the chakra system and the importance of opening up our chakras is only the tip of the iceberg to what is called ‘energy medicine.’ If you would like to learn more, I highly recommend 2 books on this topic. Anatomy of the Spirit by Carolyn Myss is one of my all time favorites. Listening to her audio book is a great way to learn. Also, The Wheels of Life by Anodea Judith is an equally comprehensive exploration into the 7 chakras of our bodies.

So turn on your heart light… and shine with love this month and always!

-S&B

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Stressing Less and Living Healthier in the New Year

With the holidays behind us and the New Year ahead, now is the perfect time to learn new techniques to keep stress at bay and enjoy a healthier lifestyle. Since it is impossible to avoid stress completely, the following tips will help you cope with your stress and welcome in a peaceful 2019.

1   Breathe Deeply

  • Develop an awareness of your breath.
  • Are you holding your breath? Is your breath shallow? Where is the breath traveling within your body?
  • Inflate the belly slowly as if expanding a balloon inside of it.
  • Slow down your exhalation as you deflate this “balloon.” This is the key to becoming more relaxed and calming your nervous system.

2   Start Your Day with an Intention

  • State what you want to achieve or accomplish when you wake up each morning. You may do this silently or say it out loud!
  • Replace any negative, worrisome thoughts with this positive statement.
  • For example, “I am calm, relaxed, and my life is in balance.” Remember, whatever we think becomes our reality so state what you want in a positive way.

3   Visualize a Positive Outcome

  • Like an athlete visualizes his golf shot or free throw before approaching the ball, picture a positive outcome of what you want to happen when faced with a challenge.
  • Imagine yourself overcoming the obstacle and paint a picture in your mind of how it will look and feel in your life when it manifests.

4   Embrace an Attitude of Gratitude

  • Research shows that expressing our gratitude each day has a positive effect on our health and well-being.
  • Take a moment to think about what you are grateful for in your life as each day begins.
  • Experience the healing, de-stressing benefits of gratitude as you practice this technique. Families can benefit by individually expressing gratitude at shared meals together.

5   Lavender Up

  • Research has shown that scents can dramatically alter our mood, and lavender is known to be one of the most calming and soothing scents.
  • Lavender comes in all forms- soap, bubble bath, candles, etc. I highly recommend purchasing a quality grade of pure lavender essential oil.
  • Inhale the scent as you open the bottle.
  • Place a few drops on your wrist and/or neck. You can also place lavender on the bottoms of your feet to aid with sleep.

6   Get Movin’!

  • Walk, dance, swim, run, bike, do yoga… just get moving.
  • Exercise has been proven to increase endorphins and people who exercise benefit greatly from a more positive mood and lower rate of depression.

  Laugh a Little… or A LOT!

  • Read a funny book or watch your favorite sitcom or comedy. Not only is laughing enjoyable, but it also has aerobic benefits.
  • When we laugh, we release stress-relieving hormones and balance our immune system.

8   Collect a Good Tribe

  • Surround yourself with people who make you feel good.
  • Distance yourself from individuals who drain your energy and feel obligatory in nature.

~These tips and techniques will equip you with a healthy arsenal of tools to use when you are faced with stressors. The breath, in particular, is one of the most immediate ways to calm yourself down in the face of immediate stress. Learning to breathe deeply will help you cope with stress and facilitate better health and well-being in your life. Take a deep breath and say hello to a healthy 2019!

Here’s to a Happy and Healthy New Year!

-S&B

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November~ Giving Thanks… on Thanksgiving and Every Day

 Giving Thanks… on Thanksgiving and Every Day 

Thanksgiving is upon us this month, and many of us will be working hard in the kitchen preparing a delicious meal of turkey and its supporting cast of delicious side dishes. Our focus may be on that fantastic meal and getting it all done just right, but sometimes the inner meaning of the holiday becomes a footnote. It’s important to remember the true meaning of this holiday- Giving Thanks. But what does that really mean? Let’s explore some of this and also consider creating a new family tradition to do so.

History books portrayed the first Thanksgiving as a time when the Pilgrims of Plymouth and the Native Americans of Wampanoag came together in 1621 to celebrate with a feast to give thanks for the first harvest since the drought. Many have since debunked this, calling it pure fiction and propaganda. Others, like myself, choose to see the symbolism in this holiday of giving thanks and reflect upon our lives what we truly are grateful for.

For years, our family had a tradition of going around the table on Thanksgiving and saying what we all were grateful for. One year, I wrote the word ‘gratitude’ on a rock and brought it to the host of our family holiday, my sister. We each held the rock in our hands and thought about the past year and what things we truly were grateful for and passed this rock around the table. Some proclamations were funny such as my one younger niece saying ‘ice cream’ nearly every year, and some were tear-provoking, such as the gratitude we all felt having a family member present at the table after a major health scare.

Moving to another state and having family scattered around the country has changed our Thanksgiving, and for the past few years, I have celebrated ‘Friendsgiving’- a modern twist combining friends and Thanksgiving, with the premise that friends can also come together to celebrate this meaningful holiday. I brought a new rock to my host the first year and will continue to write ‘gratitude’ on rocks wherever I may land for the holiday and further this meaningful tradition.

I encourage each of you to look beyond the turkey and the ‘fixins’ this year and add some meaning into your own family holiday tradition. You don’t have to go online to Amazon and search for your own gratitude rock; simply pick one up that you like, grab a sharpie marker, and write gratitude on it. As you hold it in your hands, take a moment to truly reflect and think about what you are grateful for and blessed with in your life. Speaking these words to those around you and listening to theirs as well has a tremendous impact on our lives- this act of appreciating all the blessings and gifts we all share. Not to mention, this gratitude practice is healthy for our minds and our bodies. A daily gratitude practice improves our sleep, our heart health, stress-coping skills, and even our inflammation markers in our body, not to mention leads to a more positive and optimistic lifestyle.

Have an ‘attitude of gratitude’ EVERY day, not just on Thanksgiving. I have a rock by my bedside and start each and every day giving thanks to the gifts I am blessed with in my life. You may even want to purchase a notebook and keep a gratitude journal, writing down 2 or 3 things each day that you are grateful for. I encourage you to consider starting your day in this way and also incorporating a gratitude rock-passing into your own family (or friends!) Thanksgiving meal.

~S&B

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

January~ 10 Tips to a Stress-Free New Year!

I am excited to begin the new year with a monthly blog for my readers and website visitors! I look forward to sharing my tips each month with you to help you lead a more balanced, stress-free (or at least stress-managed!) life. With the holidays behind us and the new year ahead a blank slate, now is the time to learn new techniques to keep stress at bay and adapt a healthier lifestyle. Since it is impossible to avoid stress, these tips will help you cope with the stressors you face and live a more peaceful life.

1. Check Your Breath

  • Check in with your breathing and take note.
  • Are you holding your breath? Is your breath shallow? Where do you feel the breath traveling within your body?
  • Start by simply developing an awareness of how your breath feels.

2. Balloon Belly

  • Inflate the belly slowly as if you were expanding a balloon inside of it.
  • SLOW down your exhalation as you deflate this ‘balloon’. This is the key to getting more deeply relaxed and immediately calming the parasympathetic nervous system.
  • After a few deep, even belly breaths, you should begin to feel more relaxed.

3. Tense/Relax

  • Hold tension in your fists and all the way up your arms for a few moments.
  • Slowly release the tension gradually until there is no tightness being held.
  • Do the same thing with your feet, legs, and then your buttocks. Feel the muscles contract and then release.
  • Scrunch all of the facial muscles inward and hold. Then release.

4. Lavender Up!

  • The essential oil lavender is one of the most calming scents and several studies demonstrate how our sense of smell can have an effect on our moods.
  • Dab a few drops of this relaxing scent to your pulse points on your wrist and on the sides and back of your neck. Rub it between your hands and inhale this calming, soothing scent. Or place on the bottoms of your feet if you are having trouble falling asleep.

5. Make a Statement

  • Inwardly state what you want to achieve whenever you feel stressed, tense, or overwhelmed. In a sense, you are replacing a negative thought with a positive one.
  • For example, if a defeating, overwhelming thought creeps up, replace it with ‘I am calm, relaxed, and my life is in balance.’ Remember, what we think becomes our reality so state what you want positively and work towards that goal.

6. Visualize Your Outcome

  • Like an athlete who visualizes the perfect golf shot, free throw, or home run before they even approach the ball, visualize a positive outcome of what you want in to occur when faced with an immediate stressor.
  • See the obstacle being overcome and how it would look and feel in your life when that happens.

7. Have an Attitude of Gratitude

  • Research has been shown demonstrating the positive effects of having gratitude and thankfulness in one’s life. Even in the face of the most difficult moments, there is ALWAYS something to be thankful for.
  • Experience the healing, de-stressing benefits of gratitude as you practice this technique. Gratitude doesn’t only have to be practiced once a year at Thanksgiving anymore! Families can also benefit by individually expressing gratitude at every shared meal together.

8. Get Moving!

  • Walk, dance, swim, run, bike ride, do yoga… just MOVE! Exercise is a proven way to increase the endorphins in our brain and people who exercise regularly benefit from a more positive mood and a lower rate of depression.

9. Laughter Therapy

  • Read a funny book, watch a funny TV show or movie, or even engage in spontaneous laughter. Seek a Laughter Yoga class for this type of laughter. Not only is it enjoyable, but it also has aerobic benefits.
  • When we laugh, we release stress-relieving hormones and bring balance to the immune system, as well.

10. Pocket Journal

  • Keep a small notepad with you and pull it out if your thoughts are overwhelming you and you are experiencing tension.
  • Without deciding in advance what you will write, write whatever comes to you at the moment in a freestyle way.

All of these tips and techniques can be a healthy arsenal of tools to use when we face challenging moments in our lives and experience stress, tension, worry, anxiety. Use the ones that work best for you. The breath, however, is on one of the most immediate ways to calm us down in the face of immediate stress. It has been said that it is virtually impossible to have an anxiety/panic attack when one breathes in this way. Learning to breathe in an optimal way can help us cope with stress and facilitate greater health and well-being within our lives.

–S&B