5 breath exercises for energizing the spirit

1. Alternate Nostril Breath

My absolute favorite form of pranayama (breath control) is Alternate Nostril Breathing. It’s simple to do and in just a few moments can completely calm and balance the monkey mind.

Alternate Nostril Breathing is traditionally done in a seated, cross-legged meditation posture, though it’s fine to sit in a chair if you’re not comfortable on the floor. In either case, sit up with a tall spine and relaxed face and shoulders.

The mudra (hand position) is done with the right hand. Fold the index finger and middle finger down to touch the palm. Begin with the thumb lightly closing your right nostril. Inhale through the left nostril, to the count of four, six or eight. Hold the breath in for four, six or eight seconds. Then, lightly close your left nostril with your ring finger and release the thumb from your right nostril. Exhale through the right side. Inhale again through the right side. Retain the breath here in the middle only if you feel comfortable doing so. Exhale through the left.

That is one cycle.

To summarize: inhale left, exhale right, inhale right, exhale left. Optionally retain the inbreath in and the outbreath out. Continue for five cycles or more. You can work up to doing this breath exercise for five or more minutes at a time.

Alternate Nostril Breathing works like a charm to clear and calm the mind. It’s a terrific technique to incorporate at the beginning and/or end of your yoga session.

2. Bumblebee Breath

Use your fingertips to lightly cover your closed eyelids. Using your thumbs, close your ears. Inhale deeply through the nose and as you exhale, let out a long, low humming sound. With the eyes and ears closed, the hum will reverberate in your head and sound like a buzzing bee. Repeat three, four, or more times.

As you do this breath exercise, bring your inner gaze to the third eye, the point between your eyebrows. The Bumblebee Breath is purported to calm the mind and inspire new creative ideas.

Next time you are feeling overstimulated or uninspired, give it a shot.

3. Dog Breath (a.k.a. Breath of Fire)

You need to get in touch with your inner child for this one. (It’s great for kids yoga, as is Bumblebee Breath.) For Dog Breath, pant like a dog, first through the open mouth. Then, close your mouth and continue the panting breath through the nose. Do two sets of thirty seconds each, pausing between the sets and taking deep breaths. This technique brings oxygen to the brain and help you wake up and feel more alert.

4. Ocean Breath

“You and I are all as much continuous with the physical universe as a wave is continuous with the ocean.”

~ Alan Watts

Ocean breath is super simple and calming yet energizing. Take deep, slow, long, active inhales and let the exhale out naturally and passively. Close your eyes and notice how this creates a sound like the waves in the ocean.

5. Just Sit

“There is no success or failure, no great place you are going. You are “just sitting.” To wander, to obsess, to lust—you get a flavor of the mind, a direct meeting. Without acting on any of the thoughts, you get to see how they rise up and—if you’re lucky–pass away. Sometimes we get stuck. You get to observe the nature of being stuck.”

~ Natalie Goldberg

Simple breath awareness is an excellent meditation technique. As you breathe consciously through the nose, recall that this magnificent function has been with you since the moment of your birth and will be with you until your final exhale of this precious life.

Credit; Elephantjournal.com

5 tips to better sex with meditation

1. Meditation gives you deep rest, which means more energy for sex.

“Not tonight honey, I’m tired!” How many times have you felt like fatigue been your excuse for not wanting to have sex? You’re not alone: exhaustion is one of the most common reasons couples don’t have as much sex as they would like. According to a recent study by the National Sleep Foundation, about one in every four married or cohabitating Americans claim they’re so sleep-deprived that they’re often too tired to have sex.

When you meditate you give your body rest that is deeper than sleep which helps you feel more awake afterward. This jolt of energy may be just what you need after work to energize you for adult playtime.

2. Meditation decreases stress, which means better orgasms.

Increased cortisol levels can prevent female orgasm and cause erectile dysfunction. According to a recent study, women whose cortisol levels exceed a certain amount can become physically incapable of orgasm. Think about it: do you feel aroused when you are stressed out? Probably not.

There is a reason why almost every civilization since the beginning of time has some sort of mating ritual before sex. Things like a nice dinner, champagne, oysters and music can help set the mood and relax you for sex. The more relaxed you are going into the act itself the more likely you are to enjoy it and therefore climax.

Oh, and men are not off the hook. According to Dr. Nelson E. Bennett, MD, an erectile dysfunction expert at the Lahey Clinic, “Stress, fear, anxiety, worry, and frustration cause your body to release adrenaline which constricts your blood vessels, and that is bad for getting a good erection.”
Meditation moves you out of fight or flight and into stay and play. Within a few days of starting a meditation practice adrenaline and cortisol levels drop. Your brain will start producing more dopamine and serotonin which are bliss chemicals. This bliss chemistry in the brain helps to increase your sexual appetite and increase the intensity of orgasm.

3. Meditation makes you more present, and less distracted.
Most of us have an over developed left-brain. The left brain’s job is to review the past and rehearse the future. This can keep us trapped in a past/ future thought cycle and rob us of the ability to be fully present in the right now, which is the only time an orgasm can happen.

The right brain is in charge of present moment awareness and this is the part of the brain that meditation takes to the gym. The longer we meditate, the more brain cohesion and neuroplasticity we create which balances the right and left hemispheres of the brain.

So the result of this is more attention, awareness and computing power for the task at hand. And depending on what you and your partner(s) are into it may take quite a few hands. Nobody likes a distracted lover.

4. Meditation helps you stop looking to your partner to complete you.

“You complete me” are probably the most damaging words to come out of Hollywood. No one can complete you. No partner, job, degree or number of zeros in your bank account can complete you. Your happiness exists in one place and that is inside of you and it exists in one time and that is right now.

If you do not have a meditation practice or a means by which to access that happiness, then you tend to look externally for fulfillment. If you are looking to your partner to “fill you up” spiritually or physically then you will always be disappointed as nothing external has the capacity to give you access to your bliss. Happiness is an inside job. If you are 80% fulfilled then the relationship will be a place to deliver that fulfillment, not somewhere to get the missing 20%.

5. Meditation might make your partner think you are psychic.

If you haven’t heard about mirror neurons yet, get ready. Scientists say that mirror neurons are going to do for psychology what DNA did for biology. Think of mirror neurons like tiny boomerangs emitted from your brain that go and dance with your lover’s mirror neurons and then report back. Mirror neurons allow you to “intuit” what your partner is feeling. They are why you cringe if you watch someone getting hurt. Mirror neurons are one of the reasons porn is a billion dollar industry. Simply watching someone else being pleasured can create pleasure in your brain.

Well, get this: meditation increases mirror neuron functioning. This fact, coupled with the fact that you’ll be more relaxed and present, will probably mean you’ll be a far more intuitive and generous partner.

So before you reach for the little blue pill why not resolve to learn a meditation practice? I recommend finding a technique that was made for people with busy minds and lives instead of a style made for monks. (I also recommend getting real training from a teacher you respect before you decide if you like meditation or not). With the right technique (and the right teacher), it really can be easy — and oh so fun.

Ten quotes from yoga masters to inspire

1. “True yoga is not about the shape of your body, but the shape of your life. Yoga is not to be performed; yoga is to be lived. Yoga doesn’t care about what you have been; yoga cares about the person you are becoming. Yoga is designed for a vast and profound purpose, and for it to be truly called yoga, its essence must be embodied.” — Aadil Palkhivala

2. “Change is not only inevitable, but always happening. When you truly embrace this concept of change being constant, the only thing left to do is grow, detach, venture inwards, touch the spirit and find your source — the one responsible for keeping you grounded through the ever-changing seasons of life.” — Julie Weiland

3. “Don’t move the way fear makes you move. Move the way love makes you move. Move the way joy makes you move.” — Osho

4. “Yoga is not a work-out, it is a work-in. And this is the point of spiritual practice; to make us teachable; to open up our hearts and focus our awareness so that we can know what we already know and be who we already are.” — Rolf Gates

5. “If you choose to see everything as a miracle, then where you are right now is perfect. There is nowhere to run to; there is nothing else to do except be in this moment and allow what is to be. From that place of radical acceptance, major change can happen. The first step in any transformational experience is acceptance and surrender to the present moment, the way that it is. From that place we have the awareness, humility and power to change what is.” — Mastin Kipp

6. “In meditation and in our daily lives there are three qualities that we can nurture, cultivate, and bring out. We already possess these, but they can be ripened: precision, gentleness, and the ability to let go.” — Pema Chodron

7. “The chakras are very intelligent – they are like the software of the whole computer body.” — Dharma Mittra

8. “Follow your nature. The practice is really about uncovering your own pose; we have great respect for our teachers, but unless we can uncover our own pose in the moment, it’s not practice — it’s mimicry. Rest deeply in Savasana every day. Always enter that pratyahara (withdrawn state) every day. And just enjoy yourself. For many years I mistook discipline as ambition. Now I believe it to be more about consistency. Do get on the mat. Practice and life are not that different.” — Judith Hanson Lasater

9. “When you inhale, you are taking the strength from God. When you exhale, it represents the service you are giving to the world.” — B.K.S. Iyengar

10. “There will always be people who can do it better than you, but that’s a good thing! Start to see competition as inspiration — without envy.” — Kathryn Budig

*Bonus: Namaste. — Possibly the most beautiful word ever said in yoga. There are many interpretations, my favorite being: “The divine light in me bows to the divine light in you.”

Heal your skin with meditation and mind focus.

It may come as no surprise that a connection between skin and mind exists. Some folks break out into hives when stressed, while others flush red if embarrassed. But in recent years, studies have shown that a person’s mental and emotional state can have a profound effect on the body’s largest organ. Stress, depression, anxiety and other psychological conditions can contribute to a host of skin diseases including acne, rosacea, eczema, psoriasis, alopecia and vitiligo.

“The skin and the central nervous system are intertwined,” says Dr. Adam Friedman, director of dermatologic research at Montefiore Medical Center in New York. “Therefore, it’s not surprising that almost any and all skin diseases can be impacted by changes in the nervous system.”

Stress, especially, can leave a mark. Bodies under stress produce more skin sebum, oily discharge that can contribute to clogged pores and aggravate acne. Stress can also increase inflammation in the body, which can worsen eczema, a chronic inflammatory skin condition. And stress is known to trigger cold sores, caused by the herpes simplex virus, on and around the lips.

Research published in 2008 in the Indian Journal of Dermatology, Venereology & Leprology revealed that more than a quarter of 50 subjects suffering from psoriasis – a chronic skin condition resulting in thick scaly patches – were experiencing stressful life events such as unemployment, major personal illness or family death. And a 2012 study in Dermatology Research and Practice found that 45 percent of 100 patients with psoriasis had anxiety.

“Many psychological conditions that affect the skin can be traced back to elevated levels of stress and anxiety,” says Dr. Carla Marie Greco, a clinical psychologist based in Santa Rosa, California.

When the body is free of worry and stress, hormone levels remain relatively balanced, Greco explains. But when faced with conditions that are psychologically or physically stressful, the body’s “flight or fight” response is triggered, and the sympathetic nervous system sends signals to the adrenal glands to flood the system with adrenaline and cortisol, both major stress hormones.

Under normal circumstances, Greco says, the parasympathetic nervous system helps bring the body back into balance once the danger has passed. But when faced with relentless stress or anxiety, the body is always bathed in these stress hormones. As a result, Greco adds, the skin suffers from the body’s chemical responses to psychological stressors. “The skin – the human body’s barrier against the damaging effects of the outside world – is less able to act as a shield,” Greco says.

Skin serves as the body’s primary system of protection. “[It] provides the first level of defense to infection, not just as a physical barrier, but also as a site for white blood cells to attack invading bacteria and viruses,” explains Dr. Jeanette Raymond, a clinical psychologist practicing in Los Angeles.

A 2007 study from the University of California–San Francisco found that mice subjected to psychological stress experienced a decrease in the expression of antimicrobial peptides in their skin, thus making them more susceptible to skin infections than mice cared for under normal conditions.

Given that the skin is the most visible organ, the emotional impact of skin diseases can be overwhelming and damaging. “Social ostracism and feelings of insecurity only fuel the pathophysiology of these conditions, often making them worse. It becomes a vicious, perpetual cycle between the skin and the nervous system, both having a cause-effect impact on one another,” Friedman says.

Friedman advises going to a dermatologist early for relief, education and the management of chronic debilitating skin conditions and a possible referral for mental help. “I often tell these patients that the skin condition, their primary concern, is causing them stress, and seeing a psychologist could help them manage the stress so as not to exacerbate the condition,” he says. “Psychologists can be helpful in addressing the emotional burden and can be a helpful part of the overall treatment regimen, which can include both topical and oral medications.”

Raymond describes the two main types of psychological treatment typically given: One method works on challenging irrational beliefs and fears while enhancing coping skills; this may include stress-reduction techniques for self-soothing. The other method tries to get to the root cause of stress – attachment insecurity, fear of loss, unprocessed childhood trauma. “It provides a vehicle through which people can learn about emotional experience and speak rather than somatize their emotions,” Raymond says. “Gaining power over their emotions in this conscious way will be of lifelong benefit.”

Janice Pastorek, a registered nurse and medical skin care specialist based in New York City, emphasizes the need to address psychological issues, which can accelerate recovery. “Our bodies offer us personal guidance, showing us where and why we are holding tension,” she says. “We just haven’t been shown how to interpret the messages or how to incorporate good wellness practices into our everyday [life] to quell the anxiety or stress that contributed to triggering the condition.”

Along with a change in diet (think more water and less sugar, Pastorek says) and exercise (what Pastorek calls “the No. 1 treatment for depression”), Pastorek also adds that the most important thing her patients can do is to change the predominant focus of their thoughts – “stress is a thought you keep thinking that doesn’t make you feel good.” And activities such as meditation and writing can help do just that. “Writing is a powerful way to focus your thoughts.”

Greco also adds that guided relaxation, visual imagery, breathing exercises and yoga are among the practices useful for stress reduction, while proper sleep – key to a healthy immune system – is an important factor in treating skin conditions.

So if you’re suffering from a skin disease and conventional treatments alone don’t seem to work, the solution to your skin issues could be in your head.

“A balanced mind equals a balanced physical body,” Pastorek says.

20 wise quotes from the Dalai Lama

 

1- Happiness is not something ready-made. It comes from your own actions.

2- If you can, help others; if you cannot do that, at least do not harm them.

3- If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.

4- My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness.

5- Remember that not getting what you want is sometimes a wonderful stroke of luck.

6- The ultimate authority must always rest with the individual’s own reason and critical analysis.

7- We can live without religion and meditation, but we cannot survive without human affection.

8- We can never obtain peace in the outer world until we make peace with ourselves.

9- Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.

10- If you have fear of some pain or suffering, you should examine whether there is anything you can do about it. If you can, there is no need to worry about it; if you cannot do anything, then there is also no need to worry.

11- If you don’t love yourself, you cannot love others. You will not be able to love others. If you have no compassion for yourself then you are not able of developing compassion for others.

12- Human potential is the same for all. Your feeling, “I am of no value”, is wrong. Absolutely wrong. You are deceiving yourself. We all have the power of thought – so what are you lacking? If you have willpower, then you can change anything. It is usually said that you are your own master.

13- We must recognize that the suffering of one person or one nation is the suffering of humanity. That the happiness of one person or nation is the happiness of humanity.

14- Through violence, you may ‘solve’ one problem, but you sow the seeds for another.

15- As people alive today, we must consider future generations: a clean environment is a human right like any other. It is therefore part of our responsibility toward others to ensure that the world we pass on is as healthy, if not healthier, than we found it.

16- To conquer oneself is a greater victory than to conquer thousands in a battle.

17- There is a saying in Tibetan, “Tragedy should be utilized as a source of strength.”
No matter what sort of difficulties, how painful experience is, if we lose our hope, that’s our real disaster.

18- The creatures that inhabit this earth-be they human beings or animals-are here to contribute, each in its own particular way, to the beauty and prosperity of the world.

19- A spoon cannot taste of the food it carries. Likewise, a foolish man cannot understand the wise man´s wisdom even if he associates with a sage.

20- In our struggle for freedom, truth is the only weapon we possess.

According to the Ayurveda eating along with the cycles of the natural world aid your digestion,your sleep and your health.

By Rebecca Tolin

What if you could eat more and gain less weight? Or eat at a different time and feel more energy? It may sound like a gimmick, but 5,000 years of wisdom show us that living in tune with nature can help balance our weight, blossom our energy and clear our minds.

With Ayurveda, yoga’s sister science and arguably the oldest recorded medical system on the planet, it’s not just what we eat, but when we eat it.

“Lunch, Ayurvedically, is designed to be the main meal of the day,” says Mark Bunn, a Maharishi Ayurveda practitioner and author of “Ancient Wisdom for Modern Health.” “Lunch is like the foundation of your house.

Regularly skipping lunch or eating on the run when you’re doing something else is like pulling the foundations out from under the house. Eventually the whole house comes crashing down.”

This sounds revolutionary for Westerners, whose largest meal and family gathering is dinner. And we’ve been told for years that breakfast is the most important meal of the day (although new studies have started to refute that). But we also face chronic disease epidemics for which modern medicine has few cures.

At a recent talk at the Transcendental Meditation center in San Diego, Bunn pointed out that native peoples and the world’s longest living inhabitants thrive by living in harmony with the seasons and cycles of the natural world.

According to Ayurveda, we’re made of the same elements as nature — space, air, earth, water and fire. When the sun peaks in the sky at high noon, so does the digestive fire in our bellies.

Think of a sputtering bonfire getting started in the morning. You stoke it slowly with kindling, rather than a pile of logs. Analogously, Bunn recommends beginning the day with a light breakfast — instead of a heaping plate of sweet, sticky ooey gooey that will dampen the flame.

By midday, however, the fire is ablaze. Digestive fire peaks between 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., noon being the apex. The best news about this window? You can eat more and gain less.

What your body can’t eliminate, it stores. In Ayurveda, toxins called Ama block the subtle channels of the body. That can contribute to joint pain, arthritis, poor circulation, constipation, irritable bowel syndrome, autoimmune conditions, even cancers, according to Bunn.

By evening, the sun is setting and so is our digestive fire. If we sit down to a mountain of supper, we’re eating beyond our capacity to digest. And that’s where our life force goes during sleep: digestion. But there’s a big down side.

Bunn says big dinners hamper our body from performing vital overnight functions like detoxifying the liver, repairing tissue and storing memories in the brain.

“The main reason we wake up feeling like a log is large, heavy dinners,” Bunn said.

For years, even in the traditional world, that’s why health care practitioners have discouraged eating heavy meals too late at night. The adage “eat late, gain weight” isn’t so much because of the time of the meal, however. It’s more because we’re likely to choose higher-calorie foods when we’re dining and snacking later at night.

Planning your day, Ayurveda-style
According to Ayurveda, here’s how our body clock works best. (Keep in mind this is optimal, not what you have to do tomorrow!)
Breakfast:
Ideal time is 9 a.m. to 10 a.m., after exercise and meditation. Keep it light and choose savory rather than sweet, as your appetite allows.

Lunch:
Ideal time is noon to 12:30 p.m. Eat your main meal, including harder-to-digest foods like dairy, nuts and meat at this time, if at all. If you’re not hungry, eat less breakfast tomorrow.

Snack:
Ideal time is 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. Fruit or nuts with tea can curb your appetite for a hearty dinner. The snack is optional.

Dinner:
The earlier the better. Stick with light and easy-to-digest foods, such as cooked vegetables, soups and grains or simply eat less harder-to- digest foods.
This is how traditional cultures have lived, and the world’s longest-living inhabitants in places like Hunza, Pakistan and Campodimele, Italy continue to thrive, Bunn says. Think of families gathering for a long midday meal followed by a siesta in Italy, Spain and much of the Latin world. When we

live in tune with the pulse in and around us, we enjoy greater well-being. When we override our natural rhythms, our health will suffer in some way, Bunn says.

“Wherever you can, shift your main meal of the day from the evening when the sun has set towards the middle of the day,” Bunn says. “I guarantee that your energy levels and the quality of your sleep will go through the roof. If you’ve been trying to lose a few pounds, regardless of exercise or diet, you can lose more weight more easily than anything else.”

This freelance writer is testing out Bunn’s guarantee for herself, with encouraging results so far. A little nut butter and steamed almond milk does me just fine, sans the guilt of not eating a big breakfast like I’ve always been told I should.

No more dining with the laptop over a late lunch, or those after-dinner snacks for no reason other than comfort and habit.

Sure, being a social creature in the 21st century means some later dinners than our cave-dwelling ancestors enjoyed — but now I’m more mindful of what I eat after dark and how I feel the next sunrise. Observing cause and effect is a powerful tool.

For the many people who have short lunch breaks at work and cherished evenings with family at home, it’s equally important to respect your situation and make the changes you can without adding stress. Take that 45-minute lunch break your boss affords you and look at something other than a glowing screen.

Tune into the smells, flavors and textures of the food that nourishes you. Consider weighting your dinner plate with vegetarian fare, or simply skip seconds. Stay away from ice water, which hastily extinguishes that much-needed digestive flame and sip room temperature beverages or warm tea.

As I do, you may find this exciting in its splendid simplicity at times, and utterly impossible at others. There’s always the sky to look to, that endless mirror for what’s happening inside our very own bellies, and the simple comfort of coming back to a living, breathing world working its eternal mysteries through us.

 

Does meditation strengthen brain tissue?

Meditation may be just the thing to keep the brain going strong as we age.

A new study out of the University of California, Los Angeles, a follow-up to an earlier study, found that the brains of people who meditate have regions that are larger than those who do not mediate and demonstrate less age-related atrophy.

“Our results suggest that long-term meditators have white-matter fibers that are either more numerous, more dense or more insulated throughout the brain,” said Eileen Luders, visiting assistant professor at the U.C.L.A. Laboratory of Neuro Imaging and lead author of the study.

“We also found that the normal age-related decline of white-matter tissue is considerably reduced in active meditation practitioners.”

Luders and her team used a new type of brain imaging system called diffusion tensor imaging. It allows scientists to see structural connectivity of regions in the brain.

Using the imaging technology on 27 active mediators and 27 control subjects, they found that the differences of brain connectivity was not confined to a single region of the brain, but included the frontal and temporal lobes, as well as the limbic structures and the brain stem.

“It is possible that actively meditating, especially over a long period of time, can induce changes on a micro-anatomical level,” said Luders, who is also a meditator.

The areas that demonstrated the most structural connectivity included the corticospinal tract, where the axons travel between the cerebral cortex and the spinal cord and helps govern the body’s movements.

Luders cautions that while it is tempting to draw connections between meditation and brain health, other factors should be considered as well.

“It’s possible that meditators might have brains that are fundamentally different to begin with,” Luders said.

“For example, a particular brain anatomy may have drawn an individual to meditation or helped maintain an ongoing practice — meaning that the enhanced fiber connectivity in meditators constitutes a predisposition towards meditation, rather than being the consequence of the practice.”

Luders does maintain, however, that meditation does have its benefits.

“Meditation appears to be a powerful mental exercise with the potential to change the physical structure of the brain at large. Collecting evidence that active, frequent and regular meditation practices cause alterations of white-matter fiber tracts that are profound and sustainable may become relevant for patient populations suffering from axonal demyelination and white-matter atrophy,” she says.
Read more: http://www.mnn.com/green-tech/research-innovations/stories/meditation-exercise-for-the-brain#ixzz3dWzkjmnc