Emotions Experienced in the Body

Written by: Marni Levitt

I remember my body dropping several flights in a split second on the ride at Disney World. The ride was called ‘The Drop’ or something like that, and simulated an extremely sharp elevator drop. My stomach was up, several meters higher than the rest of my body, which dropped down sharply – all of a sudden. A thrill, an unpleasant feeling, scary – all depending on how you perceived it. For me, it was both scary and unpleasant. I have felt that feeling in my stomach many times – but not on a Disney World ride – rather, in daily life situations that feel scary or stressful. I feel like my stomach is dropping down – almost right out of my body. (The opposite of my body dropping down, and stomach in the air, but similar feeling nonetheless). I have felt like that many times at work, in stressful moments.

I am sure many people experience similar physical experiences of emotions. ‘I have butterflies in my stomach’; ‘I have cold feet’; ‘my heart is broken’, ‘you make me sick’, ‘I am listening to my gut, and something just doesn’t feel right’. If you resonate with any of these expressions, or feelings, you may have a sense that our language reflects our lived experience and reality.

With the recent scientific validation of mindfulness and yoga, through studies and neuroscience, it is easy to start believing that emotions and feelings happen between your ears, in your head (ie. in your brain). In Eastern thought (where yoga and mindfulness originate), the mind is considered a mystery. Who is the one who is knowing and experiencing? Western science takes this ‘self’ for granted, Eastern traditions question and wonder about it.

I wonder how many people experience their emotional reality inside of their heads? Through my years of mindfulness meditation experience, and practise of yoga, in addition to work with a psychotherapist – I have learned to be aware of, and identify the feelings in my body; in this way, my body has become my emotional compass, leading me to wellness. For example, when my chest and throat start to feel tight, it is likely that I am experiencing sadness or grief. When I tune into this experience (either through mindfulness meditation, or just being aware as I go about my day), I can then work with it, be present with it, and that is when it often starts to transform, or loosen, and I get some relief from the pain. Identifying my physical experience of emotions – or physical processing of emotions, has made a world difference for me, on a practical, daily basis.

I have been able to navigate life and work, and improve my mental health and wellness in leaps and bounds.

According to Wikipedia, Pali (Pāli) is a Prakrit language native to the Indian subcontinent. It is widely studied because it is the language of many of the earliest extant literature of Buddhism. The Pali-English Dictionary suggests citta is heart / mind, and emphasizing it is more the emotive side of mind as opposed to manas, as the intellect or mind-sense in the sense of what grasps mental objects (dhammas). From the cultures that gave birth to mindfulness practices now transforming the West, there is a different understanding of mind than that assumed by modern, Western, scientific concepts. The heart is in the body, the body experiences emotions. The more traditional (and time-tested) practices such as mindfulness and yoga have an understanding of mind that includes the heart. This conception certainly resonates with my life experience – and being in touch with my body (and therefore emotions) has only improved my life and relationships. Being aware of the body, and of feelings, is the first step to working with those feelings – and often, mitigating or limiting a fight-or-flight stress response.

There are scientific studies on just about everything now – which is great, as it helps give a certain validity to fields or practices previously considered marginal (in modern Western context). More and more people are turning to these types of supports, in search of practical solutions to exponentially-increasing stress and distractions modern life. People are flocking to yoga and mindfulness meditation retreats in droves. Parents are finding help for issues that previously seemed unsolvable for their kids. I know that I have made a scientific study of my own life: about 99.9% of the time, when I am feeling a great deal of stress about something, after a yoga class, whatever problem seemed insurmountable before class, suddenly feels workable – and often I feel at peace. Wow.

Just like magic. My mind (and emotions) became calm because of actions I did with my body and breath. Hopefully with the logic of science, and the art of being aware of feelings – we can start to connect with a broader canvas of human experience: one that includes the head, the heart, the body, and therefore our entire being. I believe that’s where we will find long-term solutions for the pervasive ailments of modern living.


Move-N-Music is offering ‘mind-FUN-ness’ customized small group coaching sessions to introduce the concept of mindfulness in a fun, hands-on, engaging way.  For more information, please email marni@move-n-music.com
Every Sunday Morning near St.Clair and Oakwood in Toronto

April 3, 10, 17, 24, May 1, 8, 2016
9:30am – 10:30am
For ages: 5-8

Find out more about Marni’s programs by checking out her website; www.move-n-music.com

Marni Levitt B.A.(Hons.), OCT, RYT
Founder Move-N-Music
Arts & Wellness Educator,
Animator, Speaker

1-416-910-3114
Skype: Marni.Levitt1
marni@move-n-music.com
www.move-n-music.com

Photo in article from Move-N-Music Family mind-FUN-ness day in Toronto – Feb.2016.

The Power of Saying No!

Written by: Anita Barnes of Leslieville Yoga in Toronto, Canada.

Learning to say No! Do you get anxious just thinking about it?   Saying no is challenging for most of us. We want to make people happy, be liked, and not disappoint those that we care about or annoy a boss.  If you are always saying yes, not only will it impede your self-care, it will leave you open to exploitation.

I have always been amazed and inspired by the few individuals that I know that seem to say “no” so effortlessly. They don’t second-guess their decision; they don’t feel guilty and are not too concerned what the recipient of the no thinks. This is something to aspire to!

It goes beyond saying no to a request. Maybe you need to say no to long hours at work, relationships that are a drain and lack reciprocity, an unhealthy diet or lifestyle.

Learning to deny a request confidently is a boundary issue. Having good and healthy boundaries is critical to your well-being. I’ve been in many situations in which I have said yes only to feel the regret as the yes was leaving my lips. Occasionally I have felt put on the spot because it happened in front of a group of people and I wanted to be a nice person.

At times I have followed through with whatever I said yes to with great resentment or had to cancel because what I said yes to wasn’t possible. Neither situation is respectable. Walking around with resentment when the recipient of your yes is unaware of how you feel can turn into a poisonous situation.   Letting the person down by reneging on your yes can have a negative impact on your relationship as you will come across as unreliable.

Since some of these awful and very awkward situations I have been practicing saying “no.” Some requests are very easy to say no to, while others feel like I have to say yes. Now, with most requests, I say, “I’ll think about it, let me get back to you.” This gives me time to think about the request, check my calendar and with my husband. I find it very helpful to sit quietly with it, take a few deep breaths, and notice what feelings come up. It helps to ask yourself: “ Do I really have time for this? Will this interfere with my self-care in any way?”

I also believe that it is important to be as nice and friendly as you can with your nos. There is no need to be rude or curt. You can politely decline: “no thank-you.”

With these soft responses most people have respected my decision and dropped the subject. I also realized that if someone gets really annoyed with my no, then I have to ask myself if I want that person in my life.

Years ago I knew an individual that I didn’t particularly like or trust. They were very aggressive insisting that we go for a coffee. It was something that I had no desire to do. I didn’t say yes, which was good, but I didn’t say a clear no either. For months, this person kept asking and I kept making excuses. Finally, I responded by saying: “Thank-you so much for your kind offer. I’m going to pass though.” Polite and very clear. I did not give a reason. This person never asked me for a coffee again or bothered me about anything else.

At times you may have a very valid reason to saying no: “Sorry, I can’t watch your cat when you are away because I will be away at the same time.” It is also essential to be mindful of excuses.   You don’t need to explain yourself and your no will lose its’ strength and clarity if you go on and on with an explanation. If your new to this “no” concept and feel you need to give a reason, keep it short: “sorry, this is not a good time for me”, “my schedule won’t allow it” or “that is not possible.” Keep in mind that pushy or demanding people will keep trying and you will have to be firm and may need to repeat your response without adding to it or giving in.

It is imperative to find some balance. You don’t want to go to the extreme of saying no all of the time because that will disconnect and isolate you from your community. You also don’t want to continue saying yes all of the time because that will cause exhaustion and resentment.

Make the decision that your self-care is important. It takes practice and some courage. With practice, it does get easier. Ask yourself: “by saying yes to this request, what I’m I saying no to in my life.” Saying no is being honest and is as important to your happiness as getting a good night’s sleep, eating well, and exercising. Saying no is saying yes to your well-being and life.

Written by Anita Barnes of Leslieville Yoga in Toronto, Canada.


Anita first became curious about yoga at a young age wondering why her mother was standing on her head. In 1993 she walked into a yoga studio and her life changed forever. Yoga and meditation are responsible for her twisted back remaining pain free and her recovery from depression.

She is a certified Hatha Yoga Teacher and received her training from the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Ashram in Val Morin, Quebec in 1998. She has also received training in Yin and Restorative Yoga and has a certificate in Trauma Sensitive Yoga. She is also a certified Thai Yoga Massage Practioner. She taught at the Sivananda Yoga Centre in Toronto from 1998 -2010, and has also taught yoga in a Toronto courthouse and hospital. She is a member of the Natural Health Practioners of Canada and the Canadian Yoga Alliance.

She has created a “Yoga On And Off The Mat Program” which introduces individuals in the corporate world to yoga and teaches how one can incorporate yoga into everyday life. She has a long history of working in mental health and with individuals that experience homelessness, and is currently exploring ways to bring yoga to both.

She continues to be a student of various types of yoga, yoga philosophy and theory.

You can learn more by contacting her at:

http://www.leslievilleyoga.ca/

241 Leslie Street (north of Dundas)
Toronto, Ontario , M4M 3C8
Phone: (416) 838-9461
leslievilleyoga@yahoo.ca

The Benefits of Drinking Detox Water (with Recipes)

From DoYouYoga, by Jessica Rose

Our bodies are amazingly efficient self-cleaning machines that work to naturally detoxify our blood, lymphatic system, lungs — you name it — 24 hours a day.

With that being said, yogis throughout history have been practicing detoxification methods. From Ayurvedic detoxes (including the Vastra Dhauti detox where you swallow a cloth to clean out the esophagus, stomach, and intestines) to fasts, to certain asana postures to help the body along in its cleansing process, with a firm belief that these practices hold the key to optimum health and longevity.

I have tried a few different detoxes, and although I’m no expert, one key component to detoxification that has constantly rung true and can easily be practiced everyday, rain or shine, is upping your water intake.

The better hydrated we are, the better our organs and systems can push out toxins and do their jobs properly to help keep us squeaky clean and vibrant. And one of the newer topics in detoxing is detox water, or infused water.

The Benefits of Drinking Detox Water
The beauty of detox water isn’t so much that you’ll be packing a huge nutritional punch by infusing your spring water with fruits and veg, but that it can be a big help if you’re trying to cut other, harmful drinks out of your repertoire such as soft drinks or sugary coffee drinks.

The better your water tastes, the more water you will be inclined to drink, hopefully replacing the bad-for-you beverages with your fancy — yet oh so easy — new detox water. Your body will thank you, and you will probably notice a brighter, more vibrant, and better-functioning version of yourself in no time. Violá!

So, on that happy note, here are some easy ways to make your own detox water, using any quantities you prefer. Just remember to buy organic whenever possible and to eat the good stuff at the bottom for an added fiber and nutrient boost!
Warm Water with Lemon, a.k.a The Yogi’s Digestive Elixir
You don’t need to swallow a towel to keep your digestive system fresh and clean! Simply squeeze the juice of half a lemon into a cup of warm water and drink first thing in the morning before breakfast.

How It Helps You Detox:

This is so easy and effective, and has immediate results on your digestive system in the form of elimination.

Lemon: The lemon juice acts as a natural astringent to clean out the bowels, and the warm water gets things moving to help you release everything your body no longer needs. Vitamin C is a natural antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and metabolism booster. The sourness also stimulates Agni, the digestive fire.
Cucumber, Ginger, Mint, and Lime Water, a.k.a The Yogi’s Cocktail
This is the yogic version of my two favorite cocktails rolled into one luscious, powerfully detoxing, (alcohol-free) thirst-quencher.

It’s a combination of the ingredients for a Moscow Mule and a Mojito — minus the booze, sugar, and ice — otherwise known as a detoxer’s nightmare. Give it a try, you just might like it even more than the originals!

Combine:

  • One carafe of spring water
  • 1/4 cucumber
  • 1-inch chunk of ginger root, sliced according to taste (I’m obsessed with ginger, so I grate it to ensure I get the pulp with the water, but you might prefer chunks or slices)
  • A few sprigs of mint
  • One lime (more or less according to taste)

How It Helps You Detox:

Cucumber: Hydrating, full of nutrients, and anti-inflammatory.

Ginger: Stimulates digestion and circulation — two very important factors in detoxing.

Mint: Activates salivary glands to stimulate the digestive process.

Lime: High in Vitamin C, anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, helps produce enzymes that promote optimal liver functioning.
Coconut Water Pina Colada
Another zinger without the bad stuff, this mix uses the super-hydrating powers of coconut water along with nutrient-dense pineapple and blueberry. Coconut water is naturally very sweet, so if you’re looking to replace soda or sugary lattés with healthier options, this might be a good gateway drink for you!

Combine:

  • One carafe of coconut water
  • One cup of fresh pineapple chunks or rings
  • One half cup of fresh organic blueberries

How It Helps You Detox:

Coconut water: High in fiber to provide a natural way to stimulate digestion, super hydrating powers.

Pineapple: Immune-system boosting, anti-inflammatory, good for digestion, and aids in circulation.

Blueberry: Huge anti-oxidant content, which fight development of free-radicals (a.k.a toxins!) that can lead to a myriad of health problems

Cheers to your health!

Have you tried any of these detox waters? How do you like them? Share with us below!

25 Ways to be Kind

From DoYouYoga, by Silvia Mordini

You don’t need a reason to help people. Let’s remember to be kind to one another, as it isn’t always apparent on the outside what the struggles we may be facing are on the inside. After all, when this is all over, all that will really matter is how we treated each other.

When we enter this world, our Kindness IQ is intact. We can keep it that way through our actions. Kindness is like a muscle; it gets stronger the more you use it, or atrophies if you don’t.

You don’t need a reason to be kind to people. Instead, here are 25 suggestions and ideas of ways to be kind.

1. Smile and make someone’s day a little sweeter.

2. Look for ways you can promote peace.

3. Just listen.

4. Offer a hug or embrace.

5. Invite someone new into your friend tribe.

6. Send out a kind email or card.

7. Give someone a genuine compliment.

8. Help clean up, without being asked, help someone out in a practical way.

9. Hold open the door for the person behind you.

10. Encourage a friend or family member when they are uncertain or
 unmotivated.

11. Make peace with someone that has hurt you.

12. Strike up a conversation with a stranger.

13. Let someone into your lane while driving.

14. Pay for the person behind you in line.

15. Give your time to a friend or someone who needs it.

16. Say Thank You and Please everyday without fail.

17. Meditate on loving kindness: “May you be happy, healthy, peaceful, and free from suffering, and may my actions in some way contribute to the happiness, health, peace, and freedom for all.

18. Say “I love you” a little more often to your family and friends.

19. Pause before you speak, and choose words with positive intention.

20. Help someone get some rest (watch their kids, run an errand, bring them dinner, etc).

21. Pick up litter you see thrown about even if its not yours.

22. Remove complaints and curses for one week.

23. Gift something meaningful to someone: loan a book, bring flowers, drop off cookies, whatever suits your fancy.

24. Make a donation.

25. Give up your seat, or for that matter, move your yoga mat in class, with positive intent.

I am dedicating myself to inspire everyone to bring kindness to the forefront. Let’s be more active in our efforts not because we have to, but because we want to. And not even because others have been kind to us but because being nice is the way of the heart.

Kindness is always a choice. The more conditioned we are to respond with kindness, the more natural it becomes. It is on purpose with purpose. Today, join me in starting a kindness movement, and together we can raise our global Kindness IQ!

Which ways do you try to show kindness every day? Share your tips and tricks with us below!

How Yoga Can Get You Through Grief and Sadness

From DoYouYoga, by Kathy Kruger

 

Have you ever cried in a yoga class and felt that rush of relief? I bawled like a baby during Yin yoga training last year in a two and a half hour class that went deep — which it turns out was exactly where I needed to go.

Maybe you’ve shed a few silent tears in the midst of a dynamic flow class, the trickle seeming to flow with the Vinyasa and the breath.

Perhaps you’ve choked back tears in a Child’s Pose or deep into a Forward Bend — afraid of the waterworks releasing, swallowing hard.

Crying During Yoga
Crying during a yoga practice may be all very well at home, but many of us don’t like to allow ourselves to be so vulnerable surrounded by strangers (or friends) in a class situation, even though it may be exactly what we need to do.

We may know that vulnerability is the Yin to the Yang of a strong yoga practice, but it can be kind of embarrassing — that’s if we don’t leave our egos at the classroom door.

If you can suspend your ego, yoga can be a safe place to sit with sadness or move with and through grief, anchored in breath and bringing awareness to the body and away from whatever loss you are experiencing, whatever is causing pain.

You have the choice of “truly, madly, deeply” feeling the sadness and grief in your body, or of transmuting it through breath and awareness into a sense of peace.

Either way, if you can use yoga to help you feel pain more, or to feel it less, you will be on the way to healing.

Here are a few tips on practicing to help you heal.

1. Accept Your Emotional State
It can be easy to talk yourself out of a yoga or meditation practice because you are feeling down, and especially if you are grieving. But yoga doesn’t ask us to be in one mood or another in order to practice.

We can come to yoga sad, stressed, frustrated, even angry and we have the opportunity to re-set. Sure sadness and loss can’t be fixed as easily as a bad mood (and depression is a variable condition often requiring different treatments), but then yoga doesn’t promise a quick fix but a lifelong friendship.

2. Use Breath
Well of course — it is everything in yoga, but especially when we are sad and likely to be feeling sluggish.

Maybe a strong Power yoga class is going to require more energy than you can muster in your depressed state, or maybe it’s exactly what you need (forgetting about things for a while isn’t so bad). Generally a slower sequence of asana with plenty of opportunity for breath focus is going to help you direct your breath towards healing and channel emotional release.

3. Open Your Heart Chakra
Deep back bending postures like Camel open and expose your heart chakra — which can be hard, but also very healing.

While you might feel anger in your gut, or get a hot head, you are most likely to feel sadness around your heart. Metaphorically, I envisage sadness sitting on my shoulders, hunching them, weighing me down. Grief can settle in between the shoulder blades at the back of your heart, stuck there so you literally can’t straighten your shoulders. You may also lock loss and heartache within your rib cage, as though it can protect you from getting hurt again.

A heart-opening Yin yoga class may be perfect (or it may be overwhelming). Try Anahata asana and allow yourself to expose the back of your heart — to be vulnerable. We can’t allow ourselves to be vulnerable if we haven’t accepted that sadness can be the result — and acceptance is always the path to letting go.

4. Dwell in the Present
Yoga always provides this opportunity without being a negative distraction (such as too much shopping to cheer you up, or too much alcohol to numb you).

Grief and sadness are always rooted in the past (and sometimes stuck there through regret, or a lack of forgiveness). If things happened in the past to make you sad, if you have suffered a loss, then reliving these events is never going to allow you to get beyond them. At the same time, if you are depressed about the future, then dwelling there is never going to give you hope.

Time may be the ultimate healer, but yoga enables you to surrender a little more of the past to dwell in the present.

5. Allow Yourself to Cry
If tears come, don’t be afraid. You don’t have to be a Warrior all the time!

If we allow it, yoga can remind us that we are not the events that happen to us, the losses we suffer, the emotions we feel, or the thoughts that swim in our heads.

Sadness sits on the surface. Grief and loss, even when they run deep, still can’t hurt us at the level of our eternal and universal souls.

The tears you shed cannot disturb the stillness deep inside you. Pass the Kleenex.