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From MBG, by by Heather Askinosie
Healing crystals are having a moment. It seems like everyone — from Katy Perry to Miranda Kerr — has recently started dishing on their high-vibe collections. We reached out to a contributor who has years of experience working with feel-good stones to get her advice on how to harness some of their power.
Crystals are often referred to as “stone people” or “wisdom keepers,” because they hold thousands or even millions of years of the Earth’s history within them. Ancient civilizations have worked with the energy of the Earth since the beginning of time, finding guidance from that which lived under their feet.
Today, crystals are infused in beauty products, displayed in homes and yoga studios, and crafted into beautiful jewelry because of their healing energy. From dedicated yogis to those who have never meditated a day in their life, more and more people are crossing over to the crystal side.
I know that some people may think of crystals as being a bit woo-woo, but hear me out. As the co-founder of a healing crystal and jewelry shop, I’ve been studying and using crystals for 28 years and have had countless customers tell me how crystals completely shifted their energy. So before you rule out crystals as a way to heal the mind and body, be open to giving them a try yourself.
If you’re interested in welcoming some more spirituality and positive energy into your life, consider this your beginner’s guide to all things crystal:
Step 1: Pick the right crystal.
Sometimes you have to kiss a lot of frogs to find your Prince Charming, and the same is true for crystals. You may have the “this is it” feeling the minute you lay eyes on a certain crystal, or it may take you a bit longer to connect with one. Even if two crystals might look similar in color, shape, and size, it does not mean that they will have the same energetic effect on you.
Like people, each crystal is unique and has a different story to tell. Selenite brings mental clarity and dispels negative energy from the body, while citrine is perfect for manifesting intentions. Each stone has its own vibrational blueprint, so take the time to shop around for different types before you decide which one is perfect for you.
We always tell our customers to focus on a crystal’s color, shape, and size first rather than its healing properties. More often than not, the crystal they are drawn to visually possesses exactly the energy they need. If you’re able to shop in person rather than on the Internet, be sure to hold the crystal in your hands for a few moments so you can truly feel its energetic effect on you.
Step 2: Recharge its energy.
Once you’ve picked out your crystal, it’s important that you cleanse it to clear away all the energy of the many hands that touched it before you. I like to run a new crystal under clean water and then place it outside under the sun or moon for a few hours. Then, I’ll light some sage or loose frankincense on a charcoal and infuse the crystal in the sacred smoke. Lastly, to clear any lingering or stagnant energy in the crystal, I place it in a room with high-vibrational music playing. I find this simple four-step process of water, sun or moon energy, sacred smoke, and music cleanses the crystals on a multi-vibrational level.
Step 3: Set your intention.
This is the fun part — setting your intention in line with the energy of the crystal. The power in this simple ritual resides in you, not the crystal. It’s important to hold the crystal in your hands or to touch it if it’s a larger stone. Sit quietly and breathe. Connect to your breath, your faith, the Earth that you live on, and the stone that you are touching. For some this is a time for prayer; for others it’s one to clear the mind and simply be. State what you want to manifest in your life. You can say this silently to yourself, but I’ve found that speaking it aloud creates a more powerful energy.
The crystal energy of the Earth is a tool to help you become more centered, grounded, and balanced. When you manifest from this vibration, magical things happen.
Step 4: Work with the crystal daily.
There are dozens of ways you can use crystals, so use your intuition to tell you what works best for you. You can hold them in your hands while meditating, place them under your pillow at night for restful dreams, or put a stone on each of your chakras to become aligned and balanced. The list is endless so be creative, connect, and tap in.
From MBG, by ANN ABEL
In many meditation practices, “monkey mind”—that restlessness, scattered, can’t-shut-off-your-thoughts feeling—is something you strive to avoid.
So it could sound scary that when the Lunar New Year (or Chinese New Year—a day that in Asian cultures is more important than January 1 for letting go of the old and ushering in the new) begins on Monday, it will be the Year of the Monkey.
Birth year plays an important role in Chinese astrology, and each year (on a 12-year cycle) is associated with an animal sign. As with Western star signs, each animal sign is believed to have certain character traits. Monkeys—which include such luminaries as Leonardo da Vinci and Harry Houdini, and more recently anyone born in 1944, 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992, or 2004—are said to be ambitious, persistent, confident, and quick-witted. Think of them as the erratic geniuses of the cycle.
But the ruling sign of the present moment—that would be Mr. Monkey—affects everyone. So, how is 2016 going to affect you?
Well, “we do a lot to cultivate a grounded element in our busy and sometimes frenetic lives. We meditate and find quiet times, but the Monkey—for all its good—can make that really difficult,” warns Noah Rubinstein, clinic director of the YinOva Center, acupuncturist, and former teacher of Chinese medicine.
Should you be buckling up for a turbulent year of high-energy multitasking and frenzy that takes you out of the stillness you’ve been striving for? Are you headed toward the Eastern equivalent of Mercury going retrograde? Rubinstein says no—as long as you don’t rest on your mindfulness laurels. As he puts it, “The adventures of the coming year should be tempered with steps to preserve balance.” Gotcha.
Here’s what Rubinstein says you can expect for the Year of the Monkey:
1. Accept that this year will be a bit unpredictable.
Here’s where Chinese medicine gets complicated: Each animal sign is associated with one of the Five Elements (Air, Fire, Water, Wood and Metal), and each year is governed by one of them—on a five-year rotation, meaning they don’t line up. The Monkey is associated with Metal, and this year will be a Fire year. “Fire puts Metal and its very identity to the test,” says Rubinstein. “And so it will be for us, as even the Monkey’s character will be challenged and on a bit of a rollercoaster.”
2. Let loose and get wild.
Make no mistake, this year is going to have a lot of highs, in part because Monkeys are serious party animals. “They play games, they’re curious, creative, and agile—they’re great multitaskers,” Rubinstein notes. If that doesn’t sound like you, for the next 12 months try shedding your Wednesday Addams persona. “A light heart is the name of the game, so make sure there is lots of laughter and heartfelt communication.”
3. But bring awareness to everything you do (yes, even partying).
Monkeys are also very symbolic of life’s duality, and the other side to them is that they can bring instability to work, home, relationships, health, even your bank account. That mindfulness you’ve been honing will be key. “We risk undermining ourselves if we spend too much energy swinging around from one thing to another,” Rubinstein says. So bring an awareness to what you’re doing—even if it’s downing tequila shots at your best friend’s bachelorette party. (Not that we ever…)
4. Move outside your comfort zone.
“This is going to be a year when we cultivate our ability to adapt to change without losing our heads,” says Rubinstein. Embrace unexpected challenges and be okay with those moments you’re pushed outside your comfort zone (rather than fighting it). After all, it’s what the Monkey does best: “They aren’t easily daunted—they love challenges like taking classes or learning new crafts.” Yoga teacher training, anyone? And yes, bumps along the way are to be expected; but this is the year that you can definitely roll with it. “Don’t be discouraged if this doesn’t work at first; there is always another approach,” he notes.
5. Keep that ego in check.
Rubinstein warns that there will be some “Monkey drama” in this fast-paced, sometimes random year. “Don’t let your ability to keep your head in the storm over-inflate your confidence,” he adds. Confidence is good… until it’s not. There’s a reason it’s called monkey business, after all. —Ann Abel
Tip # 32: Inverted V – Sun Salutation, posture #8
Exhale, tucking your toes under and raising your hips to come into the inverted V. Do not move your hands or feet as you come into the position.
Tip # 31: Arch your chest – Sun Salutation, posture #7
Inhale as you slide your body forward and bring your hips down to the floor. Arch your chest forward and tilt your head back. Slightly bend your elbows into your body.
Tip # 30: Lower Chest to the floor – Sun Salutation, posture #6
Exhale. Lower your knees to the floor and your chest straight down between your hands, without rocking your body. Bring your forehead to the floor (a beginner may need to lower the chin instead).
Tip # 29: Push-up Pose – Sun Salutation, posture #5
Retain the breath. Bring your left foot back, next to your right foot. Keep your spine straight and do not let your head or hips drop.
Tip # 28: Leg Back – Sun Salutation, posture #4
Inhale as you stretch your right leg back as far as possible and bend your right knee, lowering it to the floor. Stretch your head and look upward. Your hands should stay in the same position throughout the movement.
Tip # 27: Bend Over – Sun Salutation, posture #3
Exhale as you stretch forward and bend down into the third Sun Salutation position. Bring your hands down to the floor, and place them next to your feet, with the palms downward. Your hips should be kept as high as possible. If necessary, bend your knees so you can touch the ground. Tuck your forehead in toward your knees.
Tip # 26: Arch Back – Sun Salutation, posture #2
Inhale and stretch your arms up over your head. Arch your back so your hips come forward, and stretch as far is comfortable.
Tip # 25: Prayer pose – Sun Salutation, posture #1
Stand up straight with your feet together and your arms by your sides. Take a deep breath, and then exhale while bringing your palms together at chest level.
Tip # 24: Purpose of the Sun Salutation
The Sun Salutation is a 12-part warm-up exercise. It limbers up the body and mind in preparation for the ensuing yoga session. Each of the 12 positions brings a different vertebral movement to the spinal column and is tuned to the inhalation or exhalation of the breath, thereby instilling a feeling of balance and harmony. The positions follow one after the other, making this Salutation graceful to perform. Attempt to do at least six sequences at the start of every session.
Tip # 23: Neck Exercises
Relax your neck by combining these four exercises. Sit cross-legged and practice each set of neck exercises at least three times.
1. Back and forth. Drop your head back gently and then slowly drop it forward
2. Side to side. Tilt your head to the right shoulder, to the center, and to the left.
3. Turn your head. Turn your head to look over each shoulder in turn.
4. Circling. Inhale as you rotate your head to one side, exhale to the other.
Tip # 22: Eye Exercises
Exercising the eyes releasing any buildup of tension and aids relaxation. When practicing, keep your head still and move only your eyes.
a. Stare at your thumb in front of you, then look into the distance, Relax and repeat
b. With eyes wide, look from side to side 10 times, then up and down 10 times and then diagonally 10 times.
c. Finally, after rolling your eyes in circles in both directions, cup your hands over your eyes for 30 seconds and relax.
Tip # 21: Kapalabhati
This exercise, using rapid breathing, is believed to be such a powerful cleanser that the face literally “glows” with good health. Before beginning the exercise, relax by taking a few deep breaths. Perform 25 rapid “pumpings” in each round. Relax between rounds by breathing deeply. Try to do three rounds.
Tip # 20: Alternate Nostril Breathing
When you are comfortable with single nostril breathing (tip #19), begin alternate nostril breathing, where you practice retaining the breath for a count of 16. The action of alternate nostril breathing is physical, but the greatest benefit is the calmness and lucidity of mind that results. Try to perform at least 10 rounds daily for best results.
The steps to be observed are:
1. Inhale through the left nostril to a count of four
2. Close nostrils and hold breath to a count of 16
3. Exhale through the right nostril to a count of eight
4. Inhale through the right nostril to a count of four
5. Close nostrils and hold breath to a count of 16
6. Exhale through the left nostril to a count of eight
Tip # 19: Single Nostril Breathing
The object of practicing Yogic breath discipline, or “Pranayama”, is to increase physical and mental health. You can practice the breathing exercises on their own or integrate them into your program of Yoga Asanas. Sit comfortably in a cross-legged position, with your spine and neck straight, but not tense.
Hold your head erect and gently close your eyes. Use the fingers of the right hand to close off each nostril in turn. Hold them in a position called “Vishnu Mudra”. For “Vishnu Mudra”, extend the thumb, ring finger, and little finger of your right hand and fold down your other two fingers into your palm. Rest the left hand on your left knee.
Breathe through the left nostril. Close right nostril with thumb, and inhale through left nostril to a count of four. Exhale to a count of eight. Repeat 10 times. Breathe through the right nostril. Close left nostril with the two end fingers, and inhale through right nostril to a count of four. Exhale to a count of eight. Repeat 10 times.
Tip # 18: Full Yogic Breath
Place one hand on your lower ribcage and one on your abdomen. Breathe in, trying to fill the lowest part of your lungs, then the middle, and then the top. Feel your chest and abdomen expand.
Tip # 17: Sitting Properly
Adopt this posture for the breathing exercises in Tips 18 to 21. Sit cross-legged, aligning your head, neck, and spine. Keep your shoulders straight but relaxed. If you are a beginner, sit on a cushion. This lifts the hips and makes it easier to keep the back erect.
Tip # 16: Abdominal Breathing
Learn to breathe efficiently. Lie flat on your back, placing one hand on your abdomen. Start to inhale deeply, feeling your abdomen rise; then feel it fall as you exhale. Breathing slowly and deeply brings air to the lowest part of your lungs and exercises your diaphragm.
Tip # 15: How The Lungs Work
On an inhalation, your diaphragm (situated below the lungs) moves downwards. Air you breathe in through the nose is drawn down the trachea to the lungs, which are protected by the ribcage. If you are breathing properly, the abdomen and ribcage will expand as you inhale. On an exhalation, your diaphragm moves upwards, compressing the lungs and pushing air out of them. The air passes back up through the trachea and out through the nostrils.
Tip # 14: The Importance Of Proper Breathing
Breathing gives life. Without oxygen no human cell can live for more than a few minutes. Many people use only part of thier full breathing capacity, taking in about one third of the oxygen that thier lungs could use. This leads to stress and fatigue. The yogic breathe discipline teaches you to breathe through the nose, to accentuate exhalation rather than inhalation, to cleanse the lungs and eliminate toxins. These techniques increase your physical and mental health.
Tip # 13: Balancing Both Sides Of The Body
Many of our regular daily habits tend to emphasize the use of one part or side of the body. To achieve a healthy and harmonious balance, it is important to keep all parts of the body equally strong and flexible. Yoga exercises make each group of muscles work equally on the left and right sides of the body to achieve equilibrium.
Tip # 12: Know Your Body’s Capablities
Before you begin your yoga asanas, it is important to recognize your body’s capabilities. Never force your body into a posture or try to go beyond your limit. Remember, yoga is not a competitive sport. Progress may be slow, but with time your body will become flexible. Ease yourself gently into each position and when you are holding a pose, check the body to see if you can feel tension building up anywhere. If you do, consciously try to relax that tension using the breath.
Tip # 11: Each Session: How Long?
For maximum benefit, you should set aside about 90 minutes. When you are busy, try a shorter session with fewer asanas. It is very important not to feel rushed, and to allow time for relaxation between poses. You can always perform the breathing exercises at a later stage.
Tip # 10: When & Where To Practice
Try to practice yoga everyday. At the same time, be gentle. Do not force yourself. A yoga session should be a joy. Set aside a time when you will not be disturbed and you will not have to rush. Morning practice helps loosen up stiff joints after sleep. Evening practice releases the tensions of the day. Whenever you practice yoga, avoid eating for at least two hours beforehand.
Tip # 9: What You Need
You do not need special equipment to practice yoga. Although you can buy foam yoga mats, a towel on a carpeted floor will do just as well. For practicing indoors, you will need an open space, clear of furniture. The room should be comfortably heated and free of disturbances.
Tip # 8: The Importance Of A Teacher
Whether you are learning yoga singly or in a group, it is always best to be supervised by a qualified teacher. A teacher will demonstrate how to ease your body gently into and out of the yoga postures and, most importantly, how to breathe correctly when holding a balance. He or she will ensure that you do not strain your limbs, and will help you to align your body in the asanas.
Tip # 7: Positive Thinking & Meditation
Meditation is a state of consciousness. When practicing meditation, you must first learn how to calm the mind, and focus your mental energy inwards. Meditation can help to relieve stress and replenish your energy. If it is practiced on a daily basis, you will also find it will enable you you to think more clearly and positively, and to be at peace with yourself.
Tip # 6: Proper Diet
The recommended diet for a student of yoga is a simple and wholesome vegetarian one, made up of natural foods that are easily digested. It keeps the body vital and healthy, and the mind calm and free from restless thoughts. Processed and tinned foods are to be avoided when possible.
Tip # 5: Proper Relaxation
The release of tension through relaxation is vital to keep the body healthy. Begin and end each session of yoga asanas with relaxation, and relax between postures. This allows the released energy to flow freely.
Tip # 4: Proper Breathing
Most people use only a fraction of thier breathing capacity. Proper breathing focuses on nasal breathing techniques to unlock energy and vitality. Breathing exercises concentrate on exhalation rather than inhalation, to cleanse the lungs of stale air and to eliminate toxins from your body.
Tip # 3: Proper Exercise: Yoga Asanas
The aim of proper exercise is to improve suppleness and strength. Each posture is performed slowly in fluid movements. Violent movements are avoided as they produce a build-up of lactic acid, causing fatigue.
Tip # 2: Check With Your Doctor
Yoga asanas can be practiced by young and old alike. While there is no one who should be excluded, check with your doctor before you begin a course if you suffer from a medical condition or have any doubts.
Tip # 1: What Is Yoga?
The word “yoga” means “union”. Yoga is a form of exercise based on the belief that the body and breath are intimately connected with the mind. By controlling the breath and holding the body in steady poses or “asanas”, yoga creates harmony.
Yoga practice consists of five key elements: proper breathing, proper exercise, proper relaxation, proper diet, and positive thinking and meditation. The exercises, or asanas, are designed to ease tense muscles, to tone up the internal organs, and to improve the flexibility of the body’s joints and ligaments.
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