The Breath and Meditation

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The Breath and Meditation

Why is the breath so important? Why is there so much emphasis put on breathing in Yoga and meditation? When you think about it, we can live without the basics such as food, water, shelter, or love for some time and still survive. The one thing that we cannot live without for even 5 minutes is our breath.
 
The breath is what connects our true essence, self, or soul to our body. It is the thread that links our body, mind, energy, and spirit.  When we come to the realization of how crucial our breath is to our wholeness, health, peace of mind and longevity, then we come to understand the importance of harnessing, deepening, and gaining control of the breath.
 
Pranayama or breath practices is an integral part of yoga and meditation. Prana means life-force and ayama tо regulate оr lengthen...so the practice of pranayama is to regulate and lengthen our life force.
 
The breath is the one function in the body that is both involuntary (meaning that we continue to breathe whether we're conscious of it or not) and also voluntary (meaning we can control our breath consciously). It is the management of prana, the vital life force that animates all levels of being.  Prana enables the body to move and the mind to think. It is the intelligence that coordinates our senses, and the perceptible manifestation of our higher selves. By becoming more attentive to prana—and enhancing and directing its flow, through these practices we can invigorate the body and the mind, develop an expanded inner awareness, and open the door to higher states of consciousness and being.
 
When the breath is controlled, strong and functioning harmoniously, the health and vitality of the mind follow. There are a number of breathing patterns that I will teach you in future classes. Some are stimulating, some balancing and some calming. All of the breathing practices help to increase oxygen in your cells, remove stale air from the lungs and toxins from your body.
 
A simple breathing practice that you can do anytime is a breath called, ‘three part breath’.  Let’s practice.  Sitting or lying in a meditative posture, inhaling and exhaling through the nose, slowly inhale to the count of 3 into the abdomen, the ribs and the chest.... and exhale slowly, abdomen, ribs and chest. Take 10 breaths like this. This is a calming breath and a great beginning practice to begin to feel what it's like to guide ourselves through the breath, to breathe deeply, intentionally, and in a focused and controlled way. It may be hard at first, but keep practicing and you will get it, believe me!
 
The second breathing practice you can try is,  ‘square breath’.   Inhale to a slow count of 4, pause for 2, and exhale to a slow count of 4, pause for 2 and repeat 10 times. It’s helpful to focus on the pause between the in-breath and the out-breath. I call this the magic moment where you feel a sense of suspension or floating sensation. This is also a calming breath.
 
After these 2 relaxing pranayama practices, let the breath come back to normal and meditate for up to 15 minutes just focusing on the natural inhale and exhale. You can always visualize the breath coming up the spine from the tailbone to the crown of the head on the inhale and the breath moving down the spine from the crown of the head down to the tailbone on the exhale, if this helps you.
 
Each time that the mind wanders, bring it gently back to the breath without judgement or self criticism. A wonderful mantra to repeat during this practice is: 'Not now, I'm breathing'.
 
Go for as long as you feel comfortable. Enjoy your breathing meditation. 

Namaste,  
Jen
 

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Mantra and Meditation- the Perfect Pair

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Mantra and Meditation- the Perfect Pair

As we learn more about meditation through practice, we begin to understand that one of the underlying goals that we're trying to achieve is to get control of the 'monkey mind' or 'mind chatter'. Realizing that “I am not my mind” is a crucial step on the road to self-realization and enlightenment. Recognizing that the mind is a 'tool' for us to take in information, learn, and function in our environment, but it is not the essence of who we are…is a major step.
 
Many of us exist so much in our mind that we believe all of the thoughts and stories that our mind feeds us, even though much of our thinking is unnecessary, false, or negative. Meditation allows us the space and inner discipline to come to a deeper understanding of our eternal nature and to step away from the mind stuff, even for a moment, resting or abiding in our own true nature.
 
Mantra Meditation employs the use of a particular sound, phrase or affirmation as a point of focus. The Sanskrit term ‘Mantra’ means:  Man: to think,  and tra: instrumentality...an instrument of thought.  Mantra also means: “protecting the one who receives it”. The act of repeating a mantra is called ‘Japa meditation’, which means 'recitation'. Just as prayer and affirmations need to be stated with a purpose and feeling, a mantra meditation practice requires conscious engagement on the part of the meditator.

Sanskrit mantras are vibrations that resonate in the body in different ways.  The repetition of Sanskrit words or phrases heighten our own vibration which in turn heals the body and opens the mind to higher learning and states of consciousness. It is the same concept as a rosary. Repeating a phrase while counting the beads on a rosary help the mind to calm down and focus on one elevated spiritual thought or idea, raising the level of consciousness and spiritual connection.
 
The universal mantra is the sound Om or A-U-M.
 
Om is not a word but rather an intonation which, like music, transcends the barriers of age, race, culture and even species. It is made up of three Sanskrit letters, aa, au and ma which, when combined together, make the sound Om or Aum. It is believed to be the basic sound of the universe and to contain all other sounds within it. It is a mantra or a prayer in itself. If repeated with the correct intonation, it can resonate throughout the body so that the sound penetrates to the center of one's being, the Atman or the soul.
 
Sohum is another widely used mantra mimicking the sound of the breath. When used for meditation, Sohum acts as a natural guide to one's breathing pattern, to help achieve deep breath, and to gain concentration.
 
Sooooo... is the sound of inhalation, and is remembered in the mind along with that inhalation.
 
and Hummmm... is the sound of exhalation, and is remembered in the mind along with that exhalation.
 
The meaning of Sohum is: 'I am that....', reinforcing the infinite nature of our soul and the non-necessity to label ourselves as something in particular, such as I am mother, I am worker, I am woman.
 
You can also repeat a mantra of affirmation such as: I see clearly, I am health, I am abundance. Make sure that this type of mantra is in the present sense- not in the future such as; I will be healthy... Otherwise your focus will always remain in the future!
 
This type of meditation is very effective for those who have trouble calming the mind and getting it under control. Inhaling and exhaling your mantra gives your mind a focus and trains it to become 'one-pointed'.
 
Having a one-pointed mind is an incredible advantage in all aspects of your life. It enables you to focus so much more on what you're doing and to live wholly in the moment.
 
Choose your mantra, whether it be Om, Sohum, an affirmation, or a prayer and inhale and exhale the mantra during this practice. 

You may want practice my Mantra Meditation audio to see how this benefits you!
Namaste and Peace,
Jen
 

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Mindfulness Meditation and Being Present

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Mindfulness Meditation and Being Present

May is meditation month! Meditation is a means to directly experience our true nature. To accept and know ourselves for who we really are behind all of the labels and structures and stories that we build and create to allow us to survive in this world.

Sitting in stillness and looking within allows us to penetrate through the ego-self that is restless, confused, and ever changing, and connect with the eternal self that is always peaceful, blissful, and impervious to what is happening in our environment and in our minds.

Happiness is within, but we spend our lives searching for happiness in sensual objects. It is when we stop running after our desires and letting go of our attachments that we can abide in our true nature that is eternal, not dependent on ‘things’, and inherently perfect.

The second type of meditation that we will practice together is Mindfulness Meditation.  In being mindful of what is happening in the present moment with our breath, sensations in our body, and sounds in the environment, we can begin this inward journey.

By focusing on the moment-to-moment happenings within and without, allows us to deepen awareness and move closer to the spacious, unconditioned, loving presence within all of us. Each time that our mind creates another thought that cries out to us that it's more important and urgent to pay attention to, without criticism or judgment, we bring our focus back to the breath and the sensations in the body.

With a detached observation, we become the witness of our own mind and, consequently, begin to get it under control. By becoming the non-judgmental observer of our own mind, we can tap into our intuitive knowledge, our wisdom and higher knowing, creating inner strength, inner peace and healing.

Please try my ‘Mindfulness Meditation’ and you will experience what focusing on presence can help you relax, detach from anxious, stressful thoughts, and connect with a deeper part of your being that is peace, joy, and understanding.  Enjoy this dive into the ocean of your true being!

Namaste,
Jen

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Visualization Meditation as a First Step

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Visualization Meditation as a First Step

Many people are interested in meditation but it seems like a daunting, unfamiliar, weird  ‘thing’ that other people do for unknown reasons.   I am here to let you know that meditation is simple, natural, and welcoming, and that anyone and everyone can practice meditation in order to take control of their own health and well being.  In getting to know your inner environment you can begin to take charge of your own life, your own health, your own happiness and realize that you don’t need to depend on others to achieve these things. To be happy, balanced and peaceful  is your natural birthright  and through a meditation practice, you can depend on yourself and your own inner teacher to help you in profound ways.  Realize that YOU are your best guide and deep within you is all of the wisdom and truth of the universe- you need only tap into that to remember what you already knowl.  

Here is a simple guide to help you begin an effective meditation practice.   
 
Find a place in your home that can become your sacred space. A place that is calm, quiet, and ideally away from the hustle and bustle of your household. Keep this space clean and organized. Keep a meditation cushion or a yoga mat there to sit on. The classic meditation position is to sit on the floor in a cross-legged posture with a straight spine. If this is difficult for you, elevate your hips by sitting up on a meditation cushion or a bolster, and sit against a wall if that feels right. You can also sit in a chair with your feet flat on the floor and your spine straight. A last resort would be to lie on you back – but only if you can keep from falling asleep!
 
Try to meditate at the same time every day, if that's possible. Anytime that you can carve out of your day is good, but the most recommended time to meditate is early in the morning - between 5 and 7am. This is the time that the energy is very calm and it's easier to find quiet within. 

Visualization Meditation is a wonderful way to begin a meditation practice because it  is an effective tool to help the new practitioner become quiet, calm and focused. Many people are very visual and find it difficult to meditate in silence when they first start to practice.  Guided Meditation, or being talked through a visualization, or using imagery is a great way for those who are new to meditation to concentrate the mind on an internal object, color or scene in nature.  Visualization meditation provides a gateway into peace and relaxation by the teacher describing a beautiful situation or place for you to think about.  
 
 
It is this first step of the withdrawal of the senses from the distractions of life that is so important in finding peace and relaxation in the body and mind. In this type of meditation, you are guided to watch the breath, observe the sensations in your body, and relax any tension you may be holding on to as you deepen the breath. After the visualization, you are brought out of the meditation the same way, coming back into the body and the breath and finally opening the eyes, relaxed, refreshed and renewed.

Namaste,
Jen

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Yoga And The Immune System

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Yoga And The Immune System

The immune′ sys`tem definition: n.
A diffuse, complex network of interacting cells, cell products, and cell-forming tissues that protects the body from pathogens and other foreign substances, destroys infected and malignant cells, and removes cellular debris.

Random House Kernerman Webster's College Dictionary, © 2010 K Dictionaries Ltd. 

What is the immune system and how does it relate to our health?  To help you fully understand the immune power within you, let’s simplify what it is and how the immune system works to protect you.

The immune system is made up of 2 parts: the immune system as a whole and the lymphatic system.  Both work together to protect you from illness and disease.

The lymph fluid is a clear fluid that carries white blood cells through the lymph vessels all around your body to help fight infection and disease. There is no pump for this system, like the heart is to the circulatory system.  The lymph fluid bathes, nourishes and brings nutrients to your cells as it also collects and carries away wastes, microbes and toxins. These toxins are carried to the lymph nodes that act as filters. They are located in the neck, armpits, groin, chest, abdomen and all around the body. They often swell when they’re actively fighting infection.  All the components of your immune system act synergistically to protect your body from invasion. There are 3 lines of defense.

The first line of defense is:
-The skin
-The cornea of the eyes and tears
-Membranes lining the respiratory, digestive, urinary, and reproductive tracts and the secretions they produce. As long as these barriers remain unbroken, many invaders cannot enter the body. If a barrier is broken—for example, if extensive burns damage the skin—the risk of infection is increased.

The second line of defense are our white blood cells. There are several different types that do different things. There are also certain molecules that attract immune system cells to affected tissue. 

The third line of defense are the organs that participate in our immune system. 

-The bone marrow
-the thymus
-the tonsils
-the lymph nodes
-spleen
-Peyer patches in small intestine
-the appendix 

These organs trap microorganisms and other foreign substances and provide a place for mature cells of the immune system to collect, interact with each other and with foreign substances, and generate a specific immune response.  All of these complex components provide our bodies with a miraculous system of defense to ward off sickness and disease throughout our lives. The immune system is constantly working without our even thinking about it (until we get sick!).

Yoga helps us realize that not only the physical toxins that we encounter day to day in our environment affect us, but also by the pollutants to our mind, our spirit, our energy  and our divine nature. The practice of yoga is an organic, holistic  immune system "booster" that provides us with natural ways to reduce the effects of not only physical, but also mental, emotional, and spiritual pollution.  There are countless studies that show that yoga improves immune functioning in all layers of our being and  it is actually working to benefit us on the genetic level through the spiritual level.

Consider: if your body is healthy but your mind is filled with negativity, stress or toxic thoughts, you cannot function optimally. This can result in dis-ease. If your mind is positive, quick and bright but your body is ill, you are incapable of giving your all. This can result in dis-ease. If your mind and body are quite healthy but your spirit is in pain from loss, or trauma it is difficult to live wholly, openly and with trust. This can result in dis-ease. 

Yoga focuses on the purification of body, mind and spirit to move us towards enlightenment and encourages more mindful and healthy behaviors to aid us on this path.
    
With a steady and regular yoga practice, we improve physical strength and stamina, and aid in the circulation of lymph fluid and the oxygenation and circulation of blood. Yoga asana, especially inversions, are very helpful in moving the lymph fluid throughout the body and stimulates the various organs and systems to boost their functioning and increase their efficiency. Yoga gives us a much greater sense of  body awareness which enables us to detect sooner when something is not right.  By being more in touch with ourselves we're able to administer self care more quickly and efficiently by adjusting our asana or breathing practice to a more gentler one, spending more time in meditation, eating more mindfully, and resting when necessary.  
    
To calm and control the mind, we learn that meditation and the practice of positive thinking are highly effective tools to stop the 'monkey mind'. Again, developing a steady meditation practice for a short time every day will change your life. Taking charge of a runaway negative mind by replacing negative thoughts with positive ones is a way to retrain the mind to serve us in a healthy way rather than letting the mind control us to the point of depression, anxiety, or anger and fear based behavior.  The use of visualization is also very helpful in boosting our mental immunity. 
    
Yoga helps us cope with spiritual emptiness or feelings of loneliness or hopelessness by creating community, and encouraging the practice of Karma Yoga or selfless service to feel connected and give life meaning.  It also helps us to develop healthier internal coping mechanisms and strategies for approaching challenging situations, and cultivate a compassionate relationships with ourself and others.  Ultimately, through the path of yoga, we come to an  understanding that we are each an integral piece of a huge puzzle, each of us having important gifts to give and parts to play,  and that there is a higher power that will always support and nourish us in all ways. The meaning of yoga is union, not only the union of our own mind body and spirit, but the union of all human beings and all life and the profoundly intimate connection that we all share. When we really come to see this, we are immune to anything that can potentially harm us because we realize our eternal, infinite nature goes on forever. 

With health, joy and ease,

Jen

 

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