Life is An Experiment – My Body is the Laboratory

 

To a yogi, the body is a laboratory for life, a field of experimentation and perpetual research. – BKS Iyengar

 

This idea that a yogi is a scientist whose body is their laboratory really hit home for me this week.

Yesterday evening something happened that really irritated me. Someone did something that made me see red. I was pissed off.

This led to some insight. I find it fascinating how easy it is to spin stories around what’s going on outside ourselves, what other people are doing and saying, and then use that to justify and indulge in some negativity. A burst of anger, a spot of indignation, some good solid RAAAAGE, with a dollop of judgement for good measure. These are my ego’s personal go-to favourites, but we all have our specialities, you know, the ones you can just run with and do really well. They even feel kinda good.  On a certain level.

But as we practice yoga, we start to learn a lot about ourselves. And we learn about ourselves on a very physical and tangible level.  Our body really is our laboratory. We notice, on a very basic yoga-101-level, if I take a few deep breathes……aaaaaahh that feels goooooood.  Wowza, I can shift my inner state and experience simply by taking certain actions with my body.

As we accumulate this knowledge of our physiology, our vijnamaya kosha (our wisdom and intuition, our personal bank of ‘stuff we know’ grows bigger. So when you find yourself off kilter,  off balance like I did this week, and spinning stories about other people being the cause of you feeling shitty, the vijnamaya kosha is there in the background stating loud and clear, ‘dude, you know this is bullshit’.  

So I found myself pissed off the other day and rather than blaming the other person I decided to  put my science glasses on and dive in below the surface. Why was I so irritated? I know that this is a sign of unbalance in me, so why was I off balance?

This year I’ve been through two coaching programmes where I’ve been guided through 10 key habits from yoga and ayurveda that all humans need to experience real health and happiness.

My coach has guided me to look deeper into my own laboratory and to take this very scientific approach that the ancient yogis took. One thing she said that sprung to mind is that you only need to look back 24 hours, usually the answer to why you’re feeling a certain way in this moment lies in things you’ve done (or not done) in the last 24 hours.

It was pretty obvious when I looked back what the issues were. I’d been in a work training event all day and hadn’t moved my body enough. Recently I’ve started a new habit of  getting up and taking a 4 minutes walk every hour or so around the office block because, siting is the new smoking (INSER URL).  I hadn’t done that on this day. The training also went on longer than my usual working day so I’d actually spent more time than usual sedentary.

The change in my office routine and the fact that it’s close to Christmas so there is temptation everywhere also threw me off  as I made some less than ideal food choices. I snacked between meals and ate crisps and brownies. Not great.

I also didn’t drink enough water.  

You might not think that these three points and my bad mood were necessarily related.  A lot of people might look at the situation and think I was justified to be annoyed by what happened.  And hey, everyone snacks and eats crisps and what-not occasionally. No biggy.

But I know from my experience this year experimenting with these 10 simple habits from yoga and ayurveda, from making lots of small changes to my daily routine and observing the effects of these on my body and mind, that the small choices we make within each day have a huge impact on how we feel, and what kind of experiences we create for ourselves.  

We create the conditions in our body for either anger and irritation to flourish, or joy and ease.

I know that if I snack my digestive system is not allowed to do its job properly. It’s disturbed and put under unnecessary strain.  When this happens ama (undigested matter, toxic crap) starts to accumulate in the GI tract and cause havoc. If it’s not allowed to clear out, if I keep putting more stuff in and if I don’t stay hydrated to ensure the body can process and pass out the debris, then it starts to spread out from the GI tract and into the blood, and from there it circulates further into the body, and into the mind. BAM, hello irritation if you’re a pitta person like me.  If you’re constitution is predominantly vata you might experience the unbalance as anxiety, or overwhelm. If you’re kapha it might appear as lethargy or depression. Whatever the symptom, it’s a sign that all is not well in the universe of you.

The beauty of this realisation is that, actually, there ain’t no-one else to blame but yourself if you find yourself feeling shitty over stuff that’s really not that important.  We realise how much power we have to shape our own lives. To shape the kind of body we have, the kind of mind we have and the kind of life we experience day-to-day.

Rather than berating ourselves for making poor choices (we’ve all been there), like scientists we can objectively and without judgement, gather evidence of our current experience.

I feel irritable, annoyed, heated.

Is this how I want to feel?

No.

Right…

 

…and work back to document what led to it.  Without chastising ourselves fot he poor choices we identify that we’ve made we can start to pick it apart.

What led to that choice? That action?

What were the triggers?

What was my thought process?

If I could play the day back again what would I do differently?

How can I make it easy for myself to do it differently next time?

Through positive visualisation of what we wish to do next time to get a better end result (feeling easeful and happy versus irritable and angry) we can lay the neural pathways in our brain to tackle the situation more skillfully next time around.

The Power of Slow

There’s not enough time’. A common perception. Can you relate? When I felt overwhelmed on Saturday morning and chose to slow down for a yoga practice instead of hurtling into my day I realised on my mat that this was my problem. Not the lack of time, but my belief that I didn’t have enough time. The thought ‘there isn’t enough time’ is the problem. Because there is really only one problem, unhappiness. If you’re happy, tuned into your innate bliss, then there are no problems, Only opportunities, adventures, and experiences.

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Cats don’t hurry, they’re natural masters of taking life one nap at a time.

But our bliss so often gets blocked by unhelpful thoughts and beliefs. It occurred to me on Saturday that this ‘not enough time’ perspective is in fact my default modus operandi. I’m always focused on ‘the next thing’ I need to do. I always feel slightly behind, hurried and rushed because I want to get so much done. This creates a subtle level of stress and anxiety. But why am I rushing to do more at the cost of enjoying less? What’s the point of doing anything if your mind is constantly at the next thing and you’re unable to enjoy the present moment?

Yoga teaches us to challenge and face down anything that blocks the experience of our true nature which is ananda, bliss. In this particular situation, I realised that my belief that I didn’t have enough time was blocking my bliss. So what if I turned it on its head? Believed the opposite? What if I consciously switched the narrative in my head to ‘I have all the time in the world’, ‘there’s a time for everything I want and need to do.’ Wow. Suddenly everything feels more spacious, more easeful. How joyful. We might still have the same amount of things to do. We may still do the same amount, or more, or less, but, crucially, we can shift the way we feel and experience life and hit those things with a sense of joy.  We can weed out unhelpful thoughts and plant new ones. How powerful is that? We get to write our own story.

What’s your modus operandi? What unchallenged thoughts and beliefs are limiting your joy right now? Can you reframe the story, believe the opposite? Unleash the joy!

If you need to shift your relationship to time like me then here are my…

Practical yoga tips to slow down time

Uni-task

I’m terrible for multitasking to the point of only getting 10% out of each thing I’m doing. I dread to think how many podcasts I’ve ‘listened’ to while checking social media and eating, and probably a few other things thrown in for good measure.

Multitasking is like junk food, it leaves us hungry for one solid bit of nutrition, one fully presenced experience.

I need to work on this one. A lot. I want to work on this. Part of my insight from this weekend is that I want to enjoy more, which means doing one thing at a time. Because I value enjoying life more than ticking stuff off a list. And trust me, I love ticking things off lists, that’s why it’s taken me so long to realise the power of slowing down.

Use a mantra

Never underestimate the power of a few choice words dropped in at the right moment. When it feels like the world is hitting you like a torrent of water quickly erect a mental dam with a mantra.

Here are a few I’ve been using to slow down time when it all gets too much:

I have all the time in the world

There is time for everything

Nothing is mandatory, except being nice

The universe is expanding. My life is unfolding. It’s all happening

I’m here now, I’ll be there later

I’m allowed to take it easy

Instead of ‘I have to _____’ switch to ‘I get to ______’
(I find this one really switches on a childlike excitement for even the most mundane tasks)

I’m not overwhelmed. I’m saturated with possibilities.

Fortunately, ___________ is not required for happiness.

Savasana – Sacred Relaxation

We absolutely have to balance all the doing with non-doing to avoid overwhelm. And you don’t get more non-doing than dead. Savasana, or corpse pose, is yoga’s antidote to the stresses and general speediness of daily life. Savasana is the simple (and practically full-on rebellious) act of lying down and being still. Doing nothing.

The four key ingredients to accelerate your relaxation in Savasana:

  • Stillness – outer stillness is the beginning of our journey to inner stillness, resist any temptation to fidget , resist!
  • jaspereyes
    You really want to cover your precious eyes for optimum relaxation – cats know all about this, what with being masters of relaxation!

    Darkness – covering the eyes adds considerable depth to the relaxation, an eyebag is ideal as the weight of this adds gentle pressure around the eyes which helps release tension commonly held in the eye muscles

  • Quiet – use earplugs if you’re somewhere noisy. If you can’t get the sort of quiet you’d like then just accept whatever you can get. Other people don’t have to be quiet for you to find quietness inside, practice surrendering to what is, don’t look for excuses to not relax!
  • minkywarm
    My furry guru demonstrating how to stay warm while deeply relaxing.

    Warmth – wrap up warm and cover yourself over with a blanket, you’ll cool down quickly as you lay completely still and you don’t want this to be a distraction.

 

Cooking instructions, or ‘how to practice’:

Either use a yoga mat for padding or find a spot of soft carpet to lie on.
Lie down on the floor with your spine straight and your body as symmetrical as possible (this helps to reduce distractions to your brain)
Let your feet roll out, have arms out about 45 degrees aways from the body, palms facing upwards (the palms have many nerve endings and are one of the most sensitive parts of the body, we’re intentionally decreasing the number of signals getting to the brain here)
Be still – no fidgeting!
Ask yourself can I get softer in my brain, my eyes, my heart?
Let go of all expectations.

Gather the four ingredients, follow the instructions above, cook for 20 minutes.

You can stay longer of course, but 20 minutes is a good minimum time to really sink into relaxation and experience the benefits.

You might find that your mind is anything but still here. It might look more like a pan of boiling water, with all sorts bubbling up vigorously to the surface. Perfect! That there is decompression. You’re literally letting off steam and purifying your mind by the simple act of lying back and doing nothing.

If you fall asleep, you’re sleep deprived, do some radical self-care and go to bed early.

If you’ve been thinking about starting a home yoga practice or a meditation practice then savasana is a great place to start. Savasana is a practice of pratyahara (sense withdrawal) which is the precursor to dharana (concentration) and dhyana (meditation).

A CHALLENGE (i.e. a way to frame savasana within the ‘doing’ framework we love so much)

I double dare you to a 21-day savasana challenge: 20 minutes of savasana, for 21 days.

I’m half way through my savasana challenge and I’m already experiencing the power of slow.

Let me know how you get on!

The Benefits of a Spring Detox

We get so caught up in the daily grind, moving through life on automatic, that we need to take time out occasionally to shift gears.  We need to take conscious breaks to step out of routine to examine our routine itself.  The things we’re routinely eating, the activities we’re routinely doing – are they supporting our higher vision for ourselves? Are they in alignment with what we want and need for ourselves? Do we even know what our heart’s deepest selfie desire is? Or are we on a treadmill mindlessly running on the spot full speed to destination nowhere?

It can seem hard, selfish even, to take time out for ourselves. But if there’s anything I’ve learned from yoga it’s that we are entirely responsible for ourselves and our experiences. If we don’t put ourselves first and fiercely defend our right to feel awesome and enjoy life, well guess what? Yeah no one else is queuing up to do that work for us.

A detox doesn’t have to be all about food, although giving ourselves a break to only consume foods that nourish us deeply is a wonderful and obvious place to start.Roblox Hack No Survey No Download

My spring detox this year has involved me giving myself permission to cut back on busy-ness and slow right down. A focus for me was simply to cut back on snacking between meals. I know I eat for many reasons other than hunger (stress, boredom, excitement even!) and I know this habit undermines me. When I snack I steal a little joy from my next meal, because I won’t be fully, truly hungry to properly receive the nutrients and nourishment.

It’s a good idea to plan a detox in advance. Clear the calendar and Warrior get everything ready so that the process is as easy as possible.

Dividing your detox into three phases is a good approach so as not to shock the body; have a preparing phase, going in deeper phase, and finally a chance to emerge back into regular life, hopefully with some new insights and health uplift.  Enter. Go Deep. Emerge.

For my entering phase I switched to living foods, i.e. raw foods. I focused on my snack habit and started to bring more awareness to when I was snacking, what my triggers were and how I felt after the cheap nfl jerseys snack-attack. I wanted to beat myself up for snacking in this phase as I’d hoped I could just stop immediately. But this has been part of весна my detox practice, being compassionate with myself and simply getting curious, without judgment, about what was arising.

For my going in deep phase I switched to juice feasting. Juice feasting means you can have as much fresh juice as you want. You’re not worrying about calorie restriction but rather giving your digestive system a break, because juice is super light and easy to digest.

I was really quite worried about the juice feasting. I seem to have a lot of fear around going hungry. I expected to get very ragey and ‘hangry’.  I was most surprised to find this wasn’t the case at all. The juices I made were choke-full of nutrients The and I found myself feeling deeply nourished without solid food. A revelation!  I was also able to stick to three large juices a day with no ‘snacking’ in between.

The point of dialing everything down to zero in a detox is that you can then see very clearly what’s optional. What extra snacks, drinks, meals, are we eating that our body doesn’t really need? What activities are taking up mental bandwidth without adding any actual value? What emotions are we stuffing down with chocolate and biscuits that would be better acknowledged? How much unnecessary weight/waste are we lugging around? It all becomes much clearer through a detox.

The problem with snacking as I’ve discovered is that it makes your blood sugar level constantly bounce around, up, down, PoE up, down.  Our digestive system never gets the opportunity to fully digest what’s already been consumed and move into the deep fat metabolism that makes us feel grounded and calm in mind and emotions. All layers of our being are interconnected; if the body is out of whack the inner, subtler layers will be affected too. I can see from this detox the negative impact snacking has on my mental performance.

It also means we’re out of synch with our natural hunger/satiation cycle. If we never allow ourselves to get fully hungry, how can we ever feel properly satiated?

As Tidying I experienced the benefits of not snacking I realised that the same principle applies to my relationship with the internet/social media. I’m constantly checking emails and social media whenever there’s a spare moment.  This has my mind constantly bouncing around on a superficial level.

From this detox I’m taking forwards the practice of not snacking and scheduling time to check email and social media. I need a little more space in my life to digest my experiences fully.

One final practice that I’ve been focusing on this detox is the practice of self-oil massage. As I cleared space in my diary from the busy-ness and social commitments I booked daily appointments with myself for a importantes self-oil massage followed by a hot soak in the bath.  In Ayurveda oil is linked closely to love. Self-oil massage is like enveloping our body in liquid love. It’s such a nourishing practice to amp up self-love and acceptance. It’s hard to articulate how it has such a profound effect but from just a couple of weeks I know this is a practice I’ll be taking forwards.  My critical mind has rarely been happy with my body as it is and I know I’m not the only one. Our culture promotes a subtle or not so subtly self-loathing of our bodies. Through self-oil-massage I’m massaging away the ridiculous notion that my body isn’t perfect as it is right  With the help cheap nba jerseys of this liquid love I’m accepting all of myself into a loving embrace.

Detox is a chance to step off the treadmill, cheap mlb jerseys pause, re-evaluate and open to experiencing new and better ways Magazine of being.  You pick up the thread of your life post-detox ready to continue living at a higher level.  Schedule time in just for you. What are you waiting for?