You gotta move…

Panoramic GlendaloughMoving outdoors (preferably in nature) clears your mind and reawakens your body to new muscular patterns of movement. To stay young in body and mind, you need to consistently get out of your comfort zone, get outside, and keep moving!

Recently, and in the absence of a ticket to Electric Picnic, my husband and I marked our 10th anniversary ‘Kennenlearnen Tag’ with a 3 hour hike in beautiful Glendalough, Co. Wicklow.

Glendalough is well worth the visit. Founded by St. Kevin in 6AD, it features a monastic city, a round tower standing some 30m tall, and Kevin’s Bed, a cavity int he cliff beyond the settlement. The trees and lake surrounding the monastic site emit a pure, spiritual energy, evoking centuries of human meditation and prayer.

There are hiking trails to suit all levels. We followed the White Trail, a 3 hour hike covering 12k in total when you include the walk from the car-park to the start of the trail. When you’re training for a marathon it all counts right?!    Ruthe-@Glendalough

Surrounded by nature, I noticed 20 minutes into the hike that my right shoulder, which had been nagging at me for months now and was ‘frozen’, felt completely free. My husband noted that his knee (operated on last year) felt strong. We passed by sheep and deer as we made our way through the miners village to the foot of the hill. It felt great to be out and able to climb all the way up the side of the waterfall running down from the top of the hill. Higher up, the mountains glowed bright purple with heather in bloom.

Valley view

Crossing over the stream at the top, we continued along the board walk that runs all the way along the summit, back down towards the woods above the visitor centre. We enjoyed the views down into the valley below, overlooking first the Miner’s Village and lakes beyond. It was a bright sunny day, with trees and tourists alike enjoying the best our Indian Summer had to offer.

Lake view

After finishing the hike, we sat by the river that flows down from the waterfall above and dipped our toes in the cool, invigorating water.

Though my legs were feeling the effort from the descent, my mind was calm and clear. Feeling energised yet completely at peace, I reflected with my husband that “it’d be hard to have a fight here”. He agreed! After 3 hours hiking together, in this place so tranquil yet vibrant, we felt alive, and buzzing with energy.

The trees glowed with pure health and vitality. Their leaves neon green, soaking up the sunlight and radiating life energy for us humans to freely tap into. Glendalough is a beautiful, special place. I felt very lucky to be there among the foreign tourists who’d made a greater effort to visit it. We left feeling completely at peace, with ourselves and our surroundings.

Spending 3 hours in this vast green haven, made it clear in my mind that all I need is space and freedom to move in order to feel calm, happy, and at peace. Peace, Balance, and Harmony. Take every chance to be outdoors in nature, ground yourself barefoot on cool soft grass or in an invigorating stream. Stand in a place surrounded by trees and breathe in the air they give us.

The peace and awe that one feels at Glendalough reminded me of  Xavier Rudd – Follow the Sun “take a stroll to your nearest waters edge and remember your place, many moons have risen and fallen long before your came.” We are so fortunate to have Glendalough only an hours drive away.

For more thoughts on how outdoor movement helps you to stay young, see Martha Peterson’s blog post: To Clear the Mind and Reawaken The Body You’ve Got To Move. We completely agree with you Martha!

Adaptive Yoga for Cerebral Palsy

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Lots happening that I’d like to write about!

Finished teaching an 8 week course of Chair Yoga for Cerebral Palsy this week.

The clients were a pleasure to work with. They learnt a lot about Yoga, Somatics and Pilates Movement in a short space of time and retained new information easily.

It was obvious that they really love Yoga. I was impressed by how well they listen, to the directions, as to their own inner guidance. Each week they came to the practice with an open attitude, diligently exploring new ways of moving, and trying out various Breathing Practices, Mindfulness and Meditations.

The centre where the classes were held has a Sensory room, so on Week 3, we tried Yoga Nidra in there. Being able to dim the lights completely, leant to the atmosphere for this type of Meditation. The clients rested on giant beanbags, making it more comfortable should they drift off during the practice. They also had a wall projector, background music, star-lit night sky, and LED fibres…we were totally spoilt.

Yoga gives a person space, where emotions may have room to bubble up and come to the surface. We discussed bringing the attention back to the breathe and allowing our thoughts and feelings to be as they are, not getting caught up in the inner monologue nor trying to change anything. Simply becoming aware of the thoughts, feelings and physical sensations that may be present in any given moment, allowing them to be there, and then bringing the attention back to the breath. It was also important to have a laugh and not take ourselves too seriously!

For anyone thinking of taking on an Adaptive Yoga class, I found it really worthwhile as a teacher to have this experience. It was humbling and amazing, watching the clients transform and grow, accepting their limits while taking themselves to the edges of their own comfort zones. It made me a better listener, and a more attentive teacher, as I had to learn and watch out for their communication cues. Energy-wise, it was important to remain upbeat, including some fun movement techniques from kids yoga, though the clients were in their late teens, they responded really well to having fun, who doesn’t?!

Visualisation is key to Adaptive Yoga, both inviting students to “imagine” and giving them a direction or target to travel to. “Open your arms out wide” gets an ok response, while “Open your arms out wide, reach and tickle your neighbour!” will get those arms wide open!

For the carers present, I needed to tune in to their ability and communication style as they are part of the class too. Finding a carer who knows the client well enough to verbalise for them, who can help the client to carry out the movement while staying within their pain-free zone, and who knows their left from their right or indeed has any body awareness, is a whole other aspect that you will need to consider when leading an Adaptive Yoga class! Carers are wonderful people who work hard, they spend their day caring for the needs of others, and their jobs are physically taxing. I found they really appreciated the Yoga classes, especially the Breathing and Meditation practices.

Each week you have to find the right pace for everyone, picking up the energy when needed and giving space for energy to settle when that is required too. It’s important to give space at the end of the class, to give everyone time to adjust and regroup before their next activity. The clients may be leaving the centre straight after the class, the carers may be due a lunch break etc, so it’s essential to run to schedule and finish a few minutes early if possible.

If you are thinking about teaching Adaptive Yoga, or training as a Yoga Therapist, Yoga Therapy Ireland is a great place to go for more information or even sign up for one of their courses. Their Yoga in a Chair Seminar by Elma Toland was a wonderful resource in preparing for this course, as was their 500hr teacher training.

Here is a case study on Yoga for Cerebral Palsy that families and carers for those with CP might find useful to follow as a home programme:Adaptive-Yoga-for-Individuals-CP

For more info on the author, Ryan McGraw, and for Cerebral Palsy support see http://cerebralpalsy.org/inspiration/athletes/ryan-mcgraw/

Another online resource; Somatic Movement for younger children http://movementforkidswithspecialneeds.org

Live. Love. Move!

Image from http://kalillie.blogspot.ie/2012_03_01_archive.html

Feel the Fear & Do it anyway!

-How you ask?

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Try the Dalai Lama way: Witness, acknowledge, allow, soften.

Find a quiet space, sitting comfortably, close your eyes, and go within.

Witness: Observe the feeling of fear as it arises
Acknowledge: Say to yourself “Fear is here”
Allow: Accept that Fear is already here, say “Fear is already here”
Soften: Make friends with Fear, non-judging, welcoming it’s presence

It’s not about having the perfect life or perfect conditions, it’s about being able to sit with what is, as it is, and still be content.

Stirrha Sukkha Asanam – Steady Comfortable Seat.

That is the true power of Yoga.

Thank you Jason Crandell & Andrea Ferretti for reminding me of that.

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Full article @JasonCrandellYoga

http://jasonyoga.com/2015/04/19/a-simple-way-to-cope-with-fear/

“…the Dalai Lama once said, which is that he tries to make friends with the fear. This sage bit of wisdom has helped me tremendously.

You see, most of the time when we feel fearful, we instinctively take some helpful action to mitigate the fear. But…what do you do when you can’t take action to make things better? When you can’t just take control of the situation? In my situation, the question is, how do I “sit” with the fear of facing my mortality head on?

It’s times like these when we’re really called upon to do yoga. We take all of those hours that we’ve logged on our mats—breathing and moving, watching and responding—and put them into practice. The technique of making friends with fear has served as a little bridge to help me do that.

Here’s the internal map of why it helps me so much: For starters, it puts me in the role of observer, or what’s known in yoga as witness consciousness. I can see the fear as a separate entity from me and observe it, just like I watch my body during asana practice. I can see that it has an energy just like all my other emotions have different energies and effects. And I can witness how it’s causing me some pain. But I don’t have to be sucked into the loud screaming drama of fear just like I don’t have to put all of my focus and attention on the most difficult aspect of a pose. I can stand back and watch myself move through the challenging experience, whether physical or mental.

From that place of witnessing, I can start making friends with fear by acknowledging that it exists. The simple act of acknowledgment immediately defuses some of fear’s power. Instead of bracing myself and pushing against fear with my full body weight, I can stand and greet it eye to eye.

From acknowledgment comes acceptance. I allow the fear to be there. I don’t have to feel guilty or weak for my vulnerabilities. I don’t have to “warrior up” and conquer my fear. Fear is allowed to have its place in my consciousness from time to time. It’s allowed a seat at the table. I may not like the way it feels, but I can allow it to be there. And once I do that, I realize that I can handle it. Fear is not going to suffocate or drown me.

At this point – and this is the best part — I’m able to soften – inside and out. When I see fear as a something that I can make friends with, the energy of the emotion subsides a bit. It loosens its noose-like grip around my neck. My shoulders relax. My breath deepens. The fear itself is not so scary and angry and strange. It’s no longer an adversary, a scary black cat skulking around behind me – it’s actually quite sweet and scared and timid and normal. And I can feel that it needs what I need as I’m going through all of this – some love, some attention. A hug. A deep breath. A pat on the back. It needs some comfort. It knows that it’s got a crappy role in life, but it’s just doing its job, right?

When I soften, I’m in the true yoga space again. I’m present with the current reality – which is that I’m well. I’m not living in a hospital. And none of us knows how long we will live.

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Now, I’m armed with a technique for when fear visits me again. I can repeat the inner mantra, “witness, acknowledge, allow, soften.” And you can, too. I hope it helps you with whatever fear you’re facing right now.” – Andrea Ferretti.

fear5Need some assistance in coping with a current life situation? Try an 8 week Mindfulness course with Niamh Barrett from Mindfulness Ireland. For info and support see http://www.Mindfulness.ie

“HELP, it’s already the first of MAY DAY!”…..Head space, and how to get some

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“Yoga gives us the capacity to create space: between one action and another, between one breath and another, between one thought and another, allowing emptiness to inundate our minds” – pg 89, Vanda Scaravelli ‘Awakening the Spine’.

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Yoga has gone completely mainstream, with sensible people everywhere chanting ‘OM’ and doing postures on a weekly basis. But did you know that stress, especially in your job, increases your mortality odds by 25%? Perception is everything at work, and unfortunately to be perceived as being important or busy, often equates with being stressed. Is it possible to have a full workload and still thrive at work in a calm, attentive, peaceful manner? Can you be entirely useful to your organisation without also being stressed? When did being stressed at work become acceptable anyway, (Those 80’s shoulder pads have a lot to answer for) and have we finally reached a tipping point? When thanks to technology we can be constantly ‘switched on’ outside of the 9-5, how can we mentally wind down?

As Fiona Wilson, Senior Project Manager from Great Place to Work, Ireland puts it “the continuing advancement of technology forces both employers and employees to look at the issue of work-life balance through a different lens”.

At the Great Place to Work conference in New Orleans, April 2014,  Jeffrey Pfeffer (Thomas D. Dee II Professor of Organizational Behaviour at the Graduate School of Business, Stanford University) stated that long working hours & workplace stress increases the mortality odds of the working population by 25%. (www.greatplacetowork.ie)

While my colleagues were lovely, simply working in a cubicle for 4 years caused symptoms of chronic stress in my body. Aside from being physically constrained for at least a third of my day, and lonely along with it, I somehow managed to equate stress with being busy, and perceived being busy to mean that I was an important person, climbing the career ladder, competing with everyone in my path for position of the organisation’s MVP. I often worked late, yet was still strapped from time to chat to others or eat a proper lunch. I’d get home after 7pm, hungry, irritable, too tired and time-poor to cook, waiting for the weekend to re-organise my life, and blaming work for my poor diet and inactivity. Sound familiar to you?! If so, read on for some valuable tips on how to take a few minutes to stretch your brain and chill out at work, which will give you more time to yourself in the long run…

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www.getsomeheadspace.com is a great website, with FREE 10 minute meditations and an app to help you generate calm, clarity and awareness in your everyday life. Co-founder Andy Puddicombe has this book out, which I have yet to read but the cover looks good!Image

MEDITATION FOR MORE SPACE AT WORK:

To prepare, sit as is comfortable for you. Arms by your sides, backs of your hands resting on your legs, index finger and thumb pressed together, other three fingers are straight. Stretch your neck by bringing your ear towards your shoulder on each side. Then bring your head back to centre, chin towards your chest, crown of your head floating up to the ceiling. Eyes and mouth gently closed. Become aware of where your feet meet the floor. Become aware of your sitting bones on the chair, have the feeling that you are sitting level, weight equally distributed on both sides. Breathe in and lengthen your spine, growing taller up out of your pelvis. Exhale, soften your shoulders, and lift your heart.

Bring your attention to the space in front of the closed eyes. The space where your mind can rest. Now in this space, focus your attention on specific words as you breathe in and breathe out:

“Breathing in, I know I am breathing in.
Breathing out, I know I am breathing out
Breathing in, I see myself as a flower.
Breathing out, I feel fresh.
Breathing in, I see myself as a mountain
Breathing out, I feel solid.
Breathing in, I see myself as still water
Breathing out, I reflect all that is
Breathing in, I see myself as space
Breathing out, I feel free

Breathing in IN
Breathing out, OUT
Breathing in, FLOWER
Breathing out, FRESH
Breathing in, MOUNTAIN
Breathing out, SOLID
Breathing in, STILL WATER
Breathing out, REFLECTING
Breathing in, SPACE
Breathing out, FREE” 

“Breathing in, LIGHT
Breathing out, LIGHT
Breathing in, PEACE
Breathing out, FEELING AT EASE 
Breathing in, FEELING ENERGISED
Breathing out, FEELING CALM”

Again inhaling, long and deep, inhaling PEACE and HARMONY, into every part of your being, from the top of your head down to your toes. Exhale feeling PEACE.

Become aware again of your body sitting on the chair, become aware of where your feet touch the floor. Become aware of your whole body from top to toe. Feeling peace, feeling energised, feeling clam. Stretch the sides your neck, stretch your arms in front and overhead, slowly open your eyes, become aware of where you are.

DO NOT send that email bitching about your colleagues. I repeat, DO NOT SEND THAT EMAIL! (Just kidding, kind of.)

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So next time you’re feeling stressed at work, or just plain fed-up, before you freak out in your cubicle, HALT* and…
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*HALT= “Am I Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired, all of the above?!” Sound advice from Jimi McDonnell, learnt from his Mum, he of Tradiohead and all-time chilled out, sound person to be around, a credit to herself 😉

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And if, after all this wonderful mediation practice, you still end up on the couch every evening in front of the TV ranting about work to your housemates, remember you’re still perfect exactly as you are…

(human….fallible)

Have a steady, comfortable seat.

OM Shanti Peace, Namaste.

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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