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“Who here is ready for 2014?”

“Who here is ready for 2014? What are you doing to set yourself up for a happy and successful 2014?” – Angie Jenkins, Fit 4 Life

In finally getting around to clearing out my emails, at the end of January, I came across a New year’s email from the lovely Angie at Fit4life. The last part of which resonated with me enough to want to write about it. Here’s an excerpt:

“Lastly, I leave you with one of the most important top tips to a successful life, body shape, health, business and…well…everything!
This is to Practice Gratitude.

This is particularly important at this time of year. By making a list of things you’re grateful for, you focus the brain on positive energy. Gratitude is incompatible with anger and stress.

Focusing on what you’re grateful for- even for five minutes a day- has the added benefit of being one of the best stress-reduction techniques on the planet.

This will change your life. Every single successful teacher, leader and inspirational figure talks about the need for truly feeling grateful for what we have.

Even if you have a bad day, things aren’t going great for you right now, there should still be some room in your heart and head to be grateful for many things we do have. AND EVERY SINGLE ONE OF US HAS SOMETHING TO FEEL GRATEFUL ABOUT.

Hope you found this tip useful and will put it into action…I know I am not practicing this on a regular basis but am going to start now!”

So you see, it’s that’s simple. For every minute that you spend feeling sorry for yourself, spend 5 minutes practising Gratitude.

My Resolution for 2014 is to Practice Gratitude. I have so much to be grateful for, beginning with the ease with which I can breathe. We  know that whatever we focus our attention on increases. So if I want to increase gratitude in my life, and reduce anger and stress, I simply need to look for things to be grateful for. One way to do this is to spend just 5 minutes each day meditating on all the things I feel grateful for. How to do this?

Mindfulness Technique for Practicing Gratitude:

Set your alarm clock for 10 minutes.

Sit in an easy cross-legged positon, back of your palms resting on your knees, first two fingers and thumb pressed together, or sit as is comfortable for you.

Sitting tall, crown of your head lifting to the ceiling, shoulders relaxed, eyes and mouth gently closed.

Bring your attention to your breath. Watch the breath as it comes in and goes out of the body. Don’t try to change the breath, just simply notice the air going in and going out of the body through the nostrils.

Bring your attention to the space in front of the closed eyes, the space where your mind can rest. Become aware of this space.

Now in this space, mentally list all the things that you feel grateful to have in your life, present and past. Begin with the ease with which you can breathe.

Say mentally as you inhale “It is easy for me to breathe” and as you exhale: “It is easy for me to breathe”. Then when you feel ready, start your Gratitude List.

Breathing in:”I feel grateful for my breath”
Breathing out: “My Breath”.

Breathing in: “I feel grateful for….”
Breathing out: “…”

And so on until the alarm clock rings, simply recalling the items on your Gratitude List.

If nothing comes to mind, count the little things first. It could be the dinner you made yesterday, your fabulous toes, a favourite item of clothing or piece of furniture in your house, or even that one time that you actually managed to be on time, there are no limits to what you can feel grateful for…be creative!

And if practicing Gratitude still sounds too much like hard work, here’s 10 tips to help you stay motivated from Dr David Hamiltion, who funnily enough posted his blog on Gratitude just as I was writing mine! Check it out at http://drdavidhamilton.com/?p=1297

Thanks for reading,

Ruthe

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10 Reasons Why Gratitude Is Good For you

2014 JANUARY 29 by David R. Hamilton PhD

smiley face stickyI think many people nowadays have heard that gratitude is good for us, but if you haven’t, or want a recap on how and why, here’s 10 reasons below. Please share them with others so that more people enjoy the benefits of gratitude.

1. It’s good for mental health

Studies show that a regular gratitude practice (like keeping a daily or weekly gratitude journal) boosts happiness. Research that compared people who were asked to count blessings with people asked to count hassles and annoyances found that the gratitude groups were around 25% happier.

2. It helps counter stress

We get stressed when we put all of our attention on hassles, frustration, and problems. Gratitude takes our minds away from these things, thereby relieving the stress that they bring. And gratitude as a practice improves our ability to switch our focus in the moment and also helps us notice more of the good things in life that we wouldn’t normally pay as much attention to.

3. It inspires us to exercise more

We feel better when we practice gratitude and many people who do so are then inspired to do things that are good for them, including exercise. One of the findings of a 2003 research study was that people who kept weekly gratitude journals exercised more than those who kept hassles journals.

4. It helps us achieve our goals

Over a measured 2-month period, research also showed that people making gratitude lists were found to be more likely to make progress towards important personal goals. Not only do we feel more motivated when we feel good but we are also more creative and more likely to spot solutions to our problems.

5. It makes us kinder

One finding of gratitude research is that people keeping daily gratitude lists are more likely to help someone in need, when compared with people making lists of hassles.

6. Makes you feel less lonely (more connected)

Making us more kind also improves our relationships and connections with others. Some participants in gratitude studies indeed report feeling more connected to people. Some people practicing gratitude also feel more connected and part of life as a whole. It increases their sense of belonging in the world.

7. It helps us sleep better

In his inspiring book, ‘Thanks: How the new science of gratitude can make you happier’, Robert Emmons, the world’s foremost gratitude researcher, encourages us to “count blessings, not sheep” if we can’t get to sleep. Moving the mind away from worries and stresses and towards good things helps relax us, making dropping off to sleep much more likely.

8. It makes you feel more in control of your life (more optimism)

After observing that gratitude is having a positive effect on life and emotions, we begin to feel more optimistic and in control of our lives, rather than being bounced around by life events. With renewed optimism and strength, gratitude can even help us to turn our lives around.

9. People like you better

Some gratitude practices involve thinking of people we’re grateful for and the reasons why. A side-effect of this is that it improves the quality of our relationships with them. It also helps us see the best in people and therefore bring out the best in them. Overall, it make us warmer towards others. People tend to like people like this.

10. Better Health

It’s good for our overall physical health and cardiovascular health. As well as making exercise more likely, some research shows that gratitude gives us better immune systems and even lower blood pressure.

Gratitude is a practice, and like all practices we need to be consistent to get best results. I recommend you make a big deal of your gratitude practice so that you are encouraged to be consistent. Get a nice journal and draw or paint the words, ‘My Gratitude Journal on It’. I like to use a journal with nice paper and also use a pen that feels nice.

You can keep it beside your bed or carry it around with you in your bag. You can keep note of things that occur daily that you’re grateful for, and even jot down reasons why you’re grateful for particular people in your life. I’d also recommend that you also include things you’re grateful for about yourself – your personality, your strengths, your talents, who you are, the way you are with people, animals, etc … anything, really, that reminds you that you are enough!

Happy Journalling

Dr David Hamiltion

Yoga for High Blood Pressure and Hypothyroidism – Part 2

What is Hypothyroidism?
Hypothyroidism means that your thyroid gland does not make enough thyroid hormone and is therefore under-active. It is more common in women and older people.

And my Thyroid Gland is?
Your thyroid gland is located in the front lower part of your neck. Hormones released by the gland travel through the bloodstream, affecting nearly every part of the body, from your heart and brain, to your muscles and skin. The thyroid controls how your body’s cells use energy from food, a process called metabolism. Among other things, your metabolism affects your body’s temperature, your heartbeat, and how well you burn calories.

If you don’t have enough thyroid hormone, your body processes slow down. That means your body makes less energy, and your metabolism becomes sluggish.

Symptoms of Hypothyroidism?
Fatigue, weight gain, intolerance to cold, dry skin, coarse hair, depression. Diagnosed from a blood test, the treatment for Hypothyroidism is usually thyroxine hormone tablets.

So how can yoga help?
If fatigue is present, a gentle build-up of poses is needed. Start with some mat-work and gentle stretching before coming to standing poses.

In standing begin with Tree of Life breath: Stand in Tadasana with palms together in front of the heart. inhale arms up and separate them out, exhale lower the arms by your sides, bringing the hands back together to prayer position in front of the heart. Keep the back of the knees soft, or you can bend and straighten the knees directly over the toes; straighten on the inhalation bend on the exhalation.

When energy levels allow, work with more dynamic practices combining breath and movement. Focus on effortless effort in the pose and tune in to your breath. Carefully build up the asanas to include back-bends; this will help to energise the body.

Visualisation techniques will help you to cope with weight gain and depression. Imagine yourself breathing in golden light on the inhalation and breathing out grey light on the exhalation. Use words such as: Breathing in “lightness” and breathing out “releasing the weight of the body down”. A guided relaxation may help to keep you focused on the positive.

Yoga for High Blood Pressure & Hypothyroidism – Part 1

Recently two friends asked me for examples of yoga practices that could help with High Blood Pressure and Hypothyroidism. Yoga is great for managing stress which affects both these conditions, and Mindfulness practices are great for strengthening our coping ability when faced with life challenges. So included here in Part 1 are Yoga techniques for managing High Blood Pressure, with Part 2 Yoga for Hypothyroidism to follow. Enjoy!

YOGA FOR HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE

What is Blood Pressure?

‘Blood Pressure’ is the force that is exerted on the artery walls, that is required to move blood around the body. It is measured using a Sphygmomanometer and the normal reading for BP is 120/80mmHg.

Uncontrolled High Blood Pressure is regarded as a serious health issue, as it can damage your heart and other vital organs in your body, or cause you to have a stroke.

Is Blood Pressure the same as your Pulse?

No. Your Pulse is the heartbeat felt at an artery. A normal pulse rate is 60 – 80 beats per minute (bpm). Unless you’re a baby, in which case your pulse rate is 130 bpm. So remember, Blood Pressure is the force and Pulse is the felt force!

What causes High Blood Pressure?

Your nervous system affects the rate and strength of your heart beat. Other factors which increase your heart beat are exercise and stress (good or bad). Factors which slow your heartbeat are age and YOGA Breathing Relaxation and Meditation exercises.

Another interesting fact about babies; they are born with their heart valves open, literally born with an open heart! When we cut the cord, the backflow closes the first two valves, and by 6-8 weeks all four should be fully closed. ANUSARA YOGA is all about opening up the chest area and is a fun, uplifting yoga practice.

So, back to High Blood Pressure. One of the main causes of HBP (apart from hereditary, lifestyle and diet) is STRESS. And guess what combats stress?

You guessed right, Yoga!

Do’s and don’ts in class:

DON’T:

NO head below the heart – keep head in line with your heart during forward bends. E.g. in Uttanasana, just come halfway or modify the asana by resting your forehead on a chair.

NO holding your hands above your head –  move through standing poses, as standing increases Blood Pressure, and keep your hands on your hips.

NO inversions stronger than Downward Dog – Inversions increase blood pressure.

NO strong practice

NO holding your breath – Avoid strong Pranayama (breathwork) such as Bhastrika.

NO holding in Backbends, move in and out of them, keep breathing. Locust and Camel are ok, remember to lift on the exhalation.

DO:

FOCUS on lengthening your exhalation, this will slow down your breathing, promoting the parasympathetic nervous system to switch on, helping you to relax. People with HBP tend to hold their breath, so work with Abdominal Breathing and move on the exhalation when moving in a pose.

ALWAYS work with a breathing practice, mindfulness, and relaxation. Breathwork and relaxation lower high blood pressure, relieve anxiety and help you to de-stress, while Mindfulness practice develops awareness and helps you to cope.

RESTORATIVE Yoga poses are great for promoting the relaxation response. Try Viparita Karani, Legs up the Wall. Passive, meditative asana and floorwork, such as Supine Cobbler and Supine Virasana are good, use lots of blankets and bolsters for support.

DO Nadi Shodana. To practice Nadi Shodhana, or Channel Cleaning Breath, sit in a comfortable meditative position. Make a fist with your right hand, then partially reextend your ring and little fingers. Lightly place the pad of the thumb on your nose just to the right and below the bridge; lightly place the pads of your ring and little fingers on the corresponding flesh on the left side of your nose. Gently pressing with the ring and little fingers to close the left nostril, exhale fully through the right. Then inhale fully through the right, close it with the thumb, release the left nostril, and exhale through it. Inhale through the left nostril, close it with the fingers, release the right nostril, and exhale through it. This completes one round of Nadi Shodhana. For more info on how to do Nadi Shodana see http://www.yogajournal.com/poses/2487

If you’re into it, CHANTING mantras is good for lowering Blood Pressure!

Music, candles, dim lighting…anything that makes you feel safe, warm and secure will help you to switch off and unwind, and thereby lower your Blood Pressure.