Not THAT!!

Last week while reading my May/June issue of Yoga Journal, I started getting a little annoyed (enough so that I started a mild rant to my husband) about advertisers using models who are doing yoga asanas without proper alignment.

I was miffed! How can a business expect me to trust their product if their UpwardFacing Dog is a mess?!? To compound the problem, they are sending the wrong message to the public! As long as you are smiling, itʼs fine that your shoulders arenʼt safe or hands arenʼt firmly planted. Ugh!

Then I thought this is the perfect opportunity to share the “right” and“wrong” way to do the poses. Seeing the sunny side, lemons to lemonade and all that stuff.


Chaturanga Dandasana

Not This!

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This posture is commonly practiced incorrectly becausethe whole body is not fully engaged. The Belly needs to pull up, glutes squeeze, and strong legs. This model does look engaged.

My issue with this photo is the model has the head of her shoulders rotated forward and down. This is putting too much pressure on the shoulder joint & tendons. Her hips are lifted higher than the shoulders which sends more weight forward into the shoulders.

Yikes!

Her chin is lifted which strains the back of the neck. Also look at her hands. They appear to be clawing the mat rather than firmly planted. Perhaps thatʼs intentional, but looks like strain rather than efficient work to me.

Do THIS!

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In this pose, my shoulders are further from the ground than my elbows and they are protected. Iʼm using my front core, glutes and legs to support the work of the chest and triceps. Hands are firmly planted and I am looking down, so I can extend through the crown of my head.


Upward Facing Dog

Not This!

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This is the photo that really got me going! The model appears to be experiencing a moment of divine bliss by looking at her face, but how with the tension in the upper back with her trapezius pulling her shoulders up to her ears?

The first step to correct this would be to firmly plant hands and press toenails into the ground. Next strongly engage glutes (squeeze!), so the lower belly begins to rotate the front of pelvis up and tailbone down. This creates a strong base and support for the shoulder blades to move down the back and collarbones to widen. Lastly, lift the head from the base (back) of skull up.

Do This!

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While practicing Upward Facing Dog, work to experience lift and opening of front body by engaging legs, glutes and lower belly while pressing down with hands and feet. There can be a slight upward gaze without compressing the back of the neck.


Warrior 2

Not This!

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Warrior 2 is an asana that Iʼve been experimenting with and continues to evolve. Hereʼs what Iʼve found.

First the back foot and leg drive the posture. The model would get more leverage (use of the leg) if the foot were angled in. Toes angle at 45 rather than 90 degrees. Next notice on the back leg and hip how there is a straight line and no distinction in the joint? Iʼd recommend pressing the head of the femur (top of the back leg) towards the front knee. This action will elevate the pelvis off of the front leg. The final cue is to hug outer hips and glutes in. This will rotate the front of the pelvis up and more sensation will be experienced in the hips because space is created in the joint. Lastly, her shoulders are leaning forward of the hips. Her torso should appear to be in Mountain pose.

Do This!

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Work on the movement of the head of the thigh bones to lift the pelvis up and create space in the hip joint. It is the top of the back leg presses forward and front leg down. Next rotate the front of the pelvis up.

Voila!

Comment and let me know what poses or asanas you would like yoga tips on for a future Not This! post.

Bodhi Tree 2020

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After seeing Bodhi Tree for the first time in 2018 I knew it would be an ideal place for a yoga trip. I have reserved a block of rooms for our second year in Februrary ( 2/15 - 2/22, 2020 ). Want to see more? Here’s our 2019 experience.

Please email me (beth@bethgrahamwellness.com) to let me know if you'd like to come after looking for yourself! 

When –   February 15 to February 22, 2020

Where –  Bodhi Tree Yoga Resort -  A stunning GREEN resort in Nosara, Costa Rica   
                 
How –     Fly to Liberia Airport (as of today Southwest has a direct flight from BWI to Liberia)

What is included –   

  • Balinese style resort rooms and facilities

  • Bodhi Tree shuttle service to beach, restaurants, town

  • Daily Morning “athletic” alignment focused yoga class with Beth

  • Daily Afternoon or Sunset restorative yoga class and meditation with Beth (times will vary so beach sunsets can be enjoyed as well)

  • 3 daily Spa Meals (on arrival 2/15 dinner only). Food includes chicken, fish, eggs, gluten free, dairy free, vegan, vegetarian and all is Plant Based

  • 2 Salt water infinity pools for laps or relaxing plus shade is available pool side with umbrellas and various covering

 
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  • Manduka brand yoga mats, cork blocks, bolsters and meditation cushions

  • Gym – full gym with cardio equipment and weights

  • Wi-Fi

  • Costa Rican Taxes (13%)

  • 5 – 10 minute walk to expansive beach

 

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Extras not included

  • AirFare

  • Transport to and from Bodhi Tree (can be arranged for you once you have flight schedule)

  • Libations at the bar – tropical drinks, wine and beer

  • Casada & Juice Bar – smoothies, juices, salads, sandwiches, baked goods and other drinks and snacks

  • Spin and Cardio Classes on site

  • Pilates Reformer Classes

  • Bodhi Tree workshops

  • NOT TAUGHT BY BETH – extra yoga classes (included are 2 daily classes with Beth)

  • Bodhi Tree Spa – 6+ types 60- 90 minute massages, facials, manicures, pedicures

  • Offsite activities – surfing lessons, stand up paddle board, horseback riding, zip line, off site restaurants

  • Gratuities

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Accommodation Choices and Prices

  • King Bungalow
    1 King Bed
    Private bath and balcony
    $2295 per person (2)

  • Queen Size Bed (1) Room
    1 Queen Bed
    Private Bath
    $2270 (1)
    $1895 per person if sharing a room as a couple

  • Queen Size Bed (2) Room
    2 Queen Beds
    Private Bath
    $1995 per person (2)

This will be a varied group with individuals, friends and married couples. All participants will be comfortable in this fabulous setting!

Simplify.Connect.Enjoy

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Essential Oils are more than another pretty scent!

I’ve been using Essential Oils for years. I started with basics like Tea Tree Oil as a basic first aid for a cut or burn and Lavender essential oil products to reduce stress after a busy day. I’ve bought many diffusers, made room sprays and cleaning products and applied oils topically to the soles of my feet before bedtime to deepen sleep or support my immune system.

Today oils and diffusers can be found everywhere from Mom’s Organic Market at the Rotunda to Kirkland’s in east Towson. There are so many oil brands and blends, it can be confusing as to what works best and how to use. I’m not an expert, so if you need any additional tips on usage I’d recommend Dr. Josh Axe as a resource. Dr. Axe’s site has recommendations for oil uses for everything from skin health to anxiety to immunity & first aid or for better sleep.

 
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Aromatherapy is simply the use of Essential Oils because by nature they are aromatic. They are used to improve physical, emotional, and mental health. Oils are extracted from the flowers, leaves and bark of plants and are highly concentrated. These oils are made up of very small molecules that penetrate your skin or when inhaled send messages to the brain’s olfactory bulb where they are “interpreted”. Have you ever pealed an orange and started to smile? That’s the essential oil from the peal triggering a mood lifting response that is said to be antidepressant. Other oils like lavender is relaxing and rosemary is energizing. Plus many companies sell “blends” of oils that work together to support a desired effect like Calming, Invigorating, Immunity, Tension or Concentration.

When it comes to obtaining quality essential oils it is important to read the label to insure that the oils are distilled from the plant part that is on the label. True essential oils are 100% natural and should never contain “fragrance”. Also look for oil labels that use the word “Pure” or “Therapeutic.

My favorite way to enjoy the benefits of essential oils is by diffusing them. Most diffusers are ultrasonic made of plastic and use water. The oils can erode the plastic and I found them messy. Plus the water used should be reverse osmosis or distilled. After use I have found an oil residue left since oil and water do not mix, so only a small amount of oil actually gets diffused into the air.

My favorite diffuser is made by Organic Aromas It is a nebulizer that uses hand-blown Pyrex glass and is the only way to disperse pure essential oils without dilution or heat that will alter the therapeutic benefits. It is also much more attractive then plastic diffusers plus so easy to use. I come home from the day, pick oil that suits my mood or “therapeutic need” and in minutes my home smells like a spa. Organic Aromas also has a line of 100% natural and pure essential oils and blends. For 15% off your purchase use SHAREME discount code.

 
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Essential oils are easy to mix with a carrier oil like almond, jojoba or coconut and directly applied to the skin. At the first sign of a cold or illness I rub an immunity blend on the soles of my feet. The oils (cinnamon, clove, lemon, rosemary, eucalyptus) it contains have antiviral and antibacterial properties to support the body’s immune system. To insure a good night’s sleep I’ll diffuse a blend to promote sleep and also rub some lavender on my feet.

Here are some blends you can make at home so you can get started with your essential oil:

Energizing Winter Blues

3 drops Bergamot or Orange 3 drops Orange

2 drops Rosemary 2 drops Bergamot or Grapefruit

2 drops Clary Sage



Stress Relieving

3 drops Clary Sage Concentration

1 drop Lemon 2 drops Peppermint or Rosemary

1 drop Lavender 3 drops Lemon



All Purpose Cleaner Carpet Deodorizer

In a spray bottle mix 1 box baking soda

2c water 3 drops Lavender

2c white vinegar 3 drops Thyme

20-30 drops Lemon or Orange mix, apply to carpet, let sit and vacuum

 
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Skin Wellness

Our skin is our largest organ and as time passes there are things you can do so it not only looks healthy, but actually is. As a clear indicator of our age and health stress, what you eat, whether you are exercising, sleep habits, and science based skin care all have an impact on how you feel and YOUR SKIN!

Exercise doesn’t need to be complicated. A walk around the neighborhood is perfect to increase circulation and oxygenate cells. Most shy away from sweating, but sweat is one of the best ways for the body to detox. While exercising even if you don’t break a sweat makes sure you are drinking water to stay hydrated. Dehydration causes your skin to look dull and tired.

Foods for skin health are mostly plant based and are anti-inflammatory. Wild Salmon (I get mine frozen at Trader Joe’s) is a fantastic “meat” choice because it is rich in antioxidants and Omega 3 fats that calm inflammation. Walnuts are a great Omega 3 choice for vegetarians. Wild organic blueberries (again frozen Trader Joe’s) also have an anti-inflammatory effect plus anti-aging properties and are said to protect against sun damage. Green tea with polyphenols has been studied and shown to improve skin elasticity and sun damage. Broccoli, kale, peppers, carrots, sweet potatoes and tomatoes all have benefits because of their nutrient profile including skin firming vitamins C and A plus antioxidants. Avocados are another fantastic source of healthy fats that make skin more supple. It doesn’t have to be complicated. If a food is brightly colored it mostly likely has some benefits for skin health!

If you have a skin care concern (aging, acne, rosacea or sun damage) or want to work on prevention and increasing health the solution is the same. Heal the inflammation and feed the skin with nutrients both from the inside and out to regain its health. Kathleen Pjura (www.RadiantlyRestored.com) a Towson based holistic Skin Care Specialist with 10 years of experience in the industry says, “Our skin is an intelligent and amazing organ. It knows exactly how to function. It is my job to find the root of your skincare concerns, and give you the right ingredients and the right treatment for your skin to heal itself.”

 
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Kathleen uses the best of science and nature so each custom facial features powerful herbal powders and serums like stem cells, antioxidants, vitamin A, custom blended based on individual needs. She is like a skin alchemist to help whether you are struggling with hormonal acne, rosacea, premature aging or simply feeling an imbalance and need to restore. She spends time listening to your concerns and explains what her protocol is during treatment so you better understand your own skin!

 
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Osmosis Skincare, BEMER microcirculation and Red LED light therapy are used during treatments. Kathleen says, “The Osmosis skincare line changed my career as an Aesthetician. When I discovered Osmosis Skincare and their unique philosophy, I became much educated on exactly what I was putting on my clients skin, and how it was affecting them. There are so many toxins and harsh ingredients on the market today, and unfortunately, they are doing more harm than good. In my skin care practice, I stopped aggravating the skin with harsh peels and chemicals and started to learn how the skin functions, and how to work WITH the skin, not against it… to get the results that my clients want.”

The BEMER pad sends electro-magnetic energy to every cell in your body to detox, restore cell function and energy levels. The Red LED light helps to improve collagen, reduce fine lines, and increase elastic to aging skin and reduce inflammation to speed healing of blemishes and rosacea.

Each facial also includes gentle exfoliation, serums, mask and extractions if desired plus hand and arm massage. You will float out feeling relaxed, restored and glowing. Each appointment takes about 1 hour and 15 minutes and she will recommend a follow up care routine for between appointments.

 
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Kathleen is located in the Nottingham Building at 502 Washington Avenue, Suite 290 in Towson. Her number is (609)-402-2887. www.RadiantlyRestored.com










Add some STRETCH to your 9 to 5!

Sitting or even standing at a desk creates problems if you’re doing it from 9 to 5, 40 hours a  week. The body needs to MOVE so blood flows, lymph moves, joints are lubricated, and the brain remains alert. Sitting at a work desk for 6 hours or more has been shown to increase psychological and physical stress. Low back pain, tight hips, plus neck and shoulder tension can pull your attention away from the inbox and feeling productive.

Here are some postures to add between emails, projects, or meetings. Do them either individually or as a sequence. they will not only clear your mind as you focus on your breath and the subtle body sifts, and will leave you feeling refreshed and more focused.


 
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Downward Facing Desk Dog

Stand with hands resting on your desk and step back until ankles are directly below knees and
hips. The focus is to lengthen the spine and lift the sitting bones up so there is an anterior
spilling forward of the pelvis. If your hamstrings on the back of the thighs or low back feel
restricted, bend your knees. Roll your outer armpits and triceps towards the floor, draw your
navel in, and pull your lower ribs away from the floor to contract your core and lift your sitting
bones as you press your upper thigh bones back. Feel broad in your upper back and soften the
skin on the back of the neck as you extend the crown of the head toward your desk. Breathe
and feel space between the vertebrae as the spine lengthens.


 
 

Chair Pose

Place your hands to rest on your desk. Bend your knees to lengthen your quadriceps and
engage your hamstrings. Lengthen your tail bone (sacrum or base of the spine) to the floor in a posterior tilt, engage your core by pulling your lower ribs down, and lift your chest up. Breathe for a number of full rounds of breath feeling engagement and releasing tension as you soften your shoulders from your ears.


 
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Seated Twist

Sit on your desk chair. Place your feet and knees together. Squeeze your inner thighs and outer
hips in towards each other. Draw your navel in and back to the spine. Lift your chest without
releasing your core engagement and lifting your lower ribs. On the exhale breath, use your
chair as leverage and twist to the right. Twist first from above the navel, then the shoulders,
then the neck, and keep the hips secure and square. Come back to center on the inhale breath
and twist on the exhale to the left. You can hold the twist on each side for a number of breaths
or flow back and forth twisting on the exhale from right to left.


 
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Seated Figured 4

Sit on your desk chair and cross your right ankle over your left knee. Flex your right foot and
pull the toes toward the shin to protect its knee. Stay here and work on the external rotation of
femur in pelvis or fold forward to deepen the stretch and release. Breathe deeply and calmly to
feel the release. Notice when thoughts arise and pause them. Return your attention to the
sensations in the body. This posture can release long held tensions in the body and leave you
with a calm and refreshed feeling after.


 
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Desk Chair Forward Fold

Sit on your desk chair and fold forward. Make sure your legs support the rib cage so your low
back can be supported as it’s given the opportunity to lengthen. If this isn’t possible skip this
pose and do the standing version. Let the weight of the head act as traction to release tensions
in the neck. Relax the shoulders and let the arms dangle. Close your eyes and relax the skin on
the bridge of your nose and forehead. Focus on your breath for 5 to 10 counts or longer.


 
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Standing Wall Forward Fold

Stand 10-12 inches from a wall and lean back to rest your hips. Bend your knees to the degree
needed so the thighs support the ribs and they are making contact. Hold your opposite elbow
and let them relax to the floor. Let your head feel heavy and neck long as you lift your shoulders away from your ears. If you would like to feel more engagement, draw your navel in to contract your core, and spill your pelvis more forward with an anterior tilt. Breathe for 5 – 10 breaths or longer. Release by slowly rolling up through the spine.

This is just a sample and beginning! You can also add some side body stretches or shoulder rises by clasping your hands behind your back and hinging at the hips to fold forward. If you have a specific issue and would like some tips, please reach out to me on my website contact page.

Namaste,
Beth

Skip the Arches - A healthy fast food restaurant review

Welcome summer! Days are longer with more spontaneity and less of a desire to spend time in the kitchen. Plus with less structured schedules our best intentions for heathy meals might fall by the wayside. With a little planning there are many options for fast meals that aren’t fast food.

Pure Raw Juice
6809 York Road
www.purerawjuice.com

 
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Pure Raw just up the street in Stoneleigh has hit a home run with their smoothie bowls. The generous portion size makes them a cooling summer option for breakfast or lunch. They have the “Traditional” with a base of acai and banana topped with fruit, granola and coconut if you are new to the smoothie bowl experience. If you’re more adventurous and prefer a less sweet option my favorite is the “Omega Blast” with a base of avocado, spinach and banana with berries, pumpkin & chia seeds and granola. Also on the menu are smoothies, juices, and more bowl choices.


Harmony Bakery
3446 Chestnut Avenue
www.harmonybakery.net

 
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Harmony just celebrated its 3rd birthday and is a favorite in the Baltimore gluten free and vegetarian communities (and you’ll adore their food even if you’re not)! Their tarts and flat breads are perfect to carry out and serve with a simple salad for an easy summer dinner or enjoy a Caesar kale salad and treat yourself to a brownie, blondie, or cookie after. My favorites are the mocha biscotti and the paleo sunshine muffins. There are always daily specials and new creations, so be sure to follow them on Instagram for regular updates.

 
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Hilo
R House
301 W. 29th Street

 
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If you are a sushi fan you will be more then pleased with Hilo located in Remington’s R House food hall. They have recreated the traditional rolls into sushi burritos & bowls and are open for lunch and dinner. The bowls are fine to carry out, but the burritos would be best eaten on premises as the nori wrapper starts to “melt” from the food’s moisture. Ingredients are fresh and combinations are flavorful with a balance of sweet, savory and umami in every bite.  


Roggenart
5722 Falls Road
www.roggenart.com

 
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The folks at Roggenart are passionate about bread and each loaf is a masterpiece. Rye flour is imported from Austria and is blended in varying percentages with other flours like oat to create their various selections. The staff is lovely and will take the time to explain the unique nature of each loaf. Along with breads they serve soups, salads, sandwiches, and quiche. It’s the perfect spot for breakfast, lunch, or an afternoon coffee. There is easy street parking in front of the café and ample seating on the second floor as well as the first. (And we all need a little balance so sneak a peek at the authentic European pastries in the front case!)


Plantbar
Belvedere Square & Harbor Point
www.plant-bar.com

 
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Plantbar has the best fresh pressed juices in town, but did you know they have a case for easy carryout with salads and plant based meals? For me, Plantbar is an excuse to take a break and walk to Belvedere Square for a fresh juice (try just celery to rehydrate and refresh). And if you’re game for an early summer cleanse they have packages for juice, soup, and raw food plans as a reset to start the season!


Clark Burger
Belvedere Square & Fells Point
www.clark-burger.com
www.bmoresaucy.com

 
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And when you want a burger Clark is the place! Their outdoor seating is the perfect antidote to a busy summer day. They serve beef, turkey, and veggie burgers on both regular and gluten free buns. My favorite is the Veggie Burger with fresh guacamole and pickled onions and Scott’s is the Clark Burger with cheddar and smoked bacon. You can order through Grubhub but our experience is best when enjoyed on premise.

 

 

 

Another Day...Another Dog

I practice most days and vary what I’m doing (Saturday was aerial yoga, Sunday was a long Yin session and Monday a hot “Bikram” like practice and today a Vinyasa).

But every day there’s a Downward Facing Dog. Why? It’s my favorite pose for spinal extension. It’s like traction. It’s not a resting pose as I’ve heard some teachers say. You are in full engagement to create space!
 

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Try It
•begin in child’s pose and transition to downward facing dog
•spread fingers wide and press with base of pointer finger and thumb to protect wrist and stabilize shoulders
•rotate biceps and crease of elbow forward
•lift shoulders up towards hips
•pull lower belly and lower ribs in to engage core (feel slight tuck of tailbone)
•lift hips and sit bones towards the ceiling.
•press top of thigh bones and inner thighs back (internal spiral)
•lift knee caps to engage quadriceps
•press heals to the floor
•ankles disappear behind second and third toe

Notice how my spine cascades downward from the pelvic bowl and the weight is in my legs. I’m using leg strength to pull body back and core strength to support the length of the spine. This is a leg posture and not an arm or upper body.

Take a photo of yourself in down dog. Is the weight in your shoulders? Is your upper back hunched. Then take the hamstrings out of the equation for now and bend your knees. Press your ribs to your thighs and keep hips lifted high so your spine cascades long to the floor. Further modification can be puppy pose if you have wrist or shoulder issues.

Namaste

How Healthy Are Your Thoughts

Picture this. A couple dining al fresco in Costa Rica under the stars enjoying wine, house made chips & pico de gallo, salad and freshly caught fish. Sounds like the perfect evening, right? Anyone watching from afar would say, “Yes!”  This was me a few nights ago and yes it was lovely except for some of the emotions generated from the thoughts I was having!

My husband, Scott, and I sat down at a less then desirable indoor table when a single man from Canada gave up his table outside for us and joined others sitting at the outdoor bar. At that moment I felt gratitude for his awareness and generosity and later found he was visiting on a yoga retreat. The waitress soon after brought us water. Then we waited 15 minutes. When she returned we ordered our “cocktails” and chips. Then we waited another 15 to 20 minutes. I was getting “hangry” and a bit annoyed that I was being made to wait for so long until I noticed or “woke up” and said to my husband a quote from Eckhart Tolle author of The Power of Now that we frequently use to get back on track, “I’m not waiting. I’m simply sitting here enjoying myself”.  We both chuckled at the absurdity of being upset by the slow service and spent the next few moments discussing how we are both working on “getting better at it” meaning the self-check of our emotions and the thoughts they generate.

I cannot say it better than the yogi Sadhguru in his book Inner Engineering a Yogi’s Guide to Joy:  “The bitterness or sweetness of any experience is not the event itself, but how you perceive or respond to it.” Through the practices of yoga, meditation, and books like these two along with You Can’t Afford the Luxury of a Negative Thought by Peter McWilliams (my current read) I’m catching myself a little quicker each time and choosing a more peaceful or joyful response.  Just think, the other evening I could have carried around the burden of upset until after paying the dinner bill, but caught myself even before the appetizers arrived. Progress!

 
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All three books mentioned offer something a little different.  The Power of Now could be perceived as a little “out there” and I actually got more from listening to the audio in the car then reading. Tolle has a great sense of humor and it’s fun to hear him chuckle as he guides the reader how to be in the Now. Next you do not need to have a physical yoga practice to benefit from Inner Engineering . I enjoyed his teachings through stories and the lightness he applied to happiness through mindfulness. You Can’t Afford the Luxury of a Negative Thought is an easy read and the perfect primer if this “work” is new to you.

 
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There are other ways to build awareness as well. One is to begin a gratitude practice. Journal 3 things you’re grateful for every evening. Through the day think about what you’re going to list at night. You will begin to notice the gratitude or positive feelings and catch yourself when the negative pop up. Another is sitting quietly for 5 to 20 minutes (yep! Meditating) will reveal a lot. There is a common misconception that meditation is about total silence and clearing the mind. It can be this, but it is also about “watching” your thoughts and some self-analysis as to the emotions behind them so you can understand your reactions and get a little better at handling the emotions.

Whatever approach you choose, it’s always steps forward and backward. Be gentle and forgiving with yourself when you stumble and use these events as the teachers for doing it better next time.

As always if you need more resources, books or websites email me at Beth@BethGrahamWellness.com and I’d be happy to share.