Dance with Yoga

Every year, you hear more people start “doing” yoga. Maybe it’s your friend, a coworker, or a family member. There’s something magnetic about the practice that makes everyone instantly attracted to it. Moving your body, keeping it limber, noticing the little nuances.

In my personal dance with yoga, I have been practicing asana for about 20 years now, it has lead me to deeper spaces of my being than I was unaware existed. I haven’t been to an actual asana class for years, unless you count that Im currently in a 300 hour We Evolve training I am participating in.

When you go for your first asana practice, you might think it will improve only one aspect of your life. Perhaps you do it for its physical benefits, or because you want to incorporate some type of spiritual practice into your life. But soon you realize it seems to affect every aspect of your being – and soon you come to realize, the more you learn, the less you know and the practice of yoga becomes more important, it somehow becomes part of you.

The True Importance Of Yoga

True yogis understood that humans are physical, mental, and spiritual beings. Yoga, which in a literal sense, means “to yolk” works on all of the subtle layers of our body to, bring us back to our center or seat and bring us back to harmony. True yoga in India, didn’t develop only around physical exercise, not at all. It was primarily a spiritual practice focused on the development of virtues, sadhana, and inquiry that help us reach our highest potential, and find purpose in our life.

Still, even if you only practice the physical postures or asanas, you will see a change in your being. If you incorporate pranayama, you get even more benefits. If you include meditation, well the grey matter in your brain only gets stronger and more dense in certain areas of your brain. That’s not only a promise coming from subjective experiences of practitioners, it is also something that has been proven by science today. 

Physical yoga practice is a form of education about living a better life. On the mat, we become aware of our body and our movement. We connect to our breath and learn to control it. The breath serves as a sort of bridge between our physical body, our mind, and our spiritual self. You can experience that as soon as you start controlling your breath. And you don’t have to believe me my word – you can try it right now. 

Start deepening your breath. That means your inhales and exhales get longer, and you activate all the organs involved in the breathing action. As you inhale, lift both your belly and chest and try to make your exhalation longer than your inhale. Only after a couple of moments, you will experience a sense of calm, your thoughts will be quieter, as more air flows into your body, your nerves will calm down reducing stress and anxiety and the more you practice, the more your body will enter a meditative state. Try closing your eyes, and breathe for a minute or two.

Now, in only a few moments of conscious breathing, you have experienced the true importance of yoga. Without any preparation – you have managed to connect your body, your mind, and your spiritual presence.

When we start practicing yoga regularly, we learn of this control over our bodies. We learn we are able to calm ourselves down, heal our pains, and become aware of the present moment. This happens even if we’re not aware of it, but it does become more significant when we are conscious of what we’re doing.

After you learn to connect your breath, movement, thoughts, and emotions, this will soon lead to taking these skills and incorporate it into life off the mat where real “yoga” begins.

That’s the true importance of yoga. When we start experience this ancient wisdom first hand, and experience the benefits in everyday life, what a blessing our practice becomes. When we add the knowledge of Ayurveda, we then we are experiencing true health, harmony and happiness.

To understand your unique constitution, please feel free to book a consultation with me and I will even give you personalized pranayama and possibly some asana as well as diet, lifestyle and healing practices you can incorporate into your life. As we heal ourselves, we are building our personal spiritual practice and personalized medicine as well as improving our mental health. With yoga, you gain back control of your own being. That empowerment is what makes it so important, especially in this fast-paced time in which we are living today.

Physical Benefits Of Doing Yoga

Some people wonder if they’ll lose weight when doing yoga. Some want to improve their performance, whether it is greater flexibility or strength. The third want to heal their chronic pain or improve their posture. The truth is – yoga does all that. 

The reason why yoga improves every aspect of your body is that it uses primal movements. When you observe yoga poses, you will notice you’ve done many of them since you were a child. We squat before we walk, nearly every child tries rolling on the floor, stretching, and doing the candle pose. With yoga, we’re not focusing only on one aspect of our body. We’re doing natural movements that simultaneously improve our strength and range of motion.

Still, there are different styles of yoga you can do, if you want to focus on a certain physical benefit. All styles will still improve every aspect of your body, but some do some things a bit better than others.

For example, if your main goal is to build strength and to lose weight, a more dynamic style of yoga would be appropriate. There are many styles of dynamic yoga, including Ashtanga, Rocket yoga, Iyengar yoga, Hot yoga, and more, but they can all be described as Vinyasa Yoga. Vinyasa yoga is every type of practice where you spend a lot of time in standing poses and move through them at a fast pace. 

On the other hand, those who want to combat back pain and other chronic issues, or want to improve their flexibility, will be attracted to more gentle yoga styles. Although Hatha yoga meant something else in the past, today we relate this word to a slow and gentle yoga style. Other variations are Restorative and Yin yoga. In these styles of yoga, we spend most of our time in sitting and lying positions, and we hold them for longer.

Most yogis are attracted to one style of yoga the most. Still, with time, you will realize you don’t have to decide. Simply choose the style of yoga that gives you the physical benefit you need at this day, this season, or this period of your life. 

Mental Benefits Of Doing Yoga

Even if your main motivation for doing yoga is physical benefits, you will notice the mental benefits of the practice from your first class. 

By being aware of our body, and connecting breath with movement, we have something to focus on. At that moment, our thoughts slow down, and we begin to relax. Science has proven time and time again that yoga improves mental health. A single class can remove the stress from that day, and regular yoga practice can relieve symptoms of depression, anxiety, PTSD, and other mental illnesses. 

Whenever you feel stressed, anxious, or have negative thoughts about yourself and the world – try doing yoga. At least for that hour, and an hour after the practice, you’ll get back to a calmer and more positive state of mind. With time, you will see the benefits last longer, and you will be able to use yoga as a type of self-therapy whenever you want to improve your mental well-being. 

All styles of yoga will give you this feeling, whether you’re sweating through a challenging Vinyasa sequence or relaxing your body through a gentle Hatha practice. 

Spiritual Benefits Of Doing Yoga

Regardless of our religion or view of spirituality, most of us feel there’s something else, beyond our body and our thoughts. The spiritual aspect of our lives is what gives us purpose, a greater meaning. Only when we can feel our greater purpose, can we combat our daily struggles long-term. 

Yoga can give you that. The focus on the movement and breath allows you to calm your thoughts. When your thoughts and emotions are calm, you are able to return to the present moment. The present moment is when spirituality happens. 

Every person can experience something different in spirituality. It can be that you simply feel a state of love and bliss. Some get physical sensations, others have visions. That’s why it’s hard to explain what spiritual benefit you can expect from yoga. Yoga is very individual – and the best things happen when you don’t expect them.

Still, what we can promise is that you can expect to gain spiritual experience, knowledge, and understanding. When this begins to happen, yoga stops being merely a physical practice, and it becomes a part of your life. You start using the practice to improve yourself, to treat yourself and others better, and to finally find meaning, love, and true joy in this beautiful life you were given.

That was exactly why old Indian yogis created this practice in the first place. The goal was to reach a higher state of being and to live spirituality both on and off the mat. 

Many will say yoga today moved away from this initial idea, but that’s far from the truth. Yes, it did change – but humanity changed as well. It’s only natural we adapted the practice to make sense to this day and age. We need a different approach, we practice more physical poses, but the goal is the same.

And whether that goal is why you started doing yoga, or it’s only somewhere in the back of your mind, with regular practice, you will achieve it.

Keep doing the type of practice you enjoy, incorporate what you learned into your everyday life, and see for yourself how you and your surroundings change for the better.

Bring more joy, peace, love, and meaning into your life, and enjoy the process of improving your life little by little, every day with yoga. 

Plant Protein

The protein myth is real. Growing up I thought that eating animals was how to get enough protein in my diet for optimum health. There are now thousands of scientific studies and doctors that dispel they myth and confirm that plant based protein is abundant, powerful and nourishing.

“If you eat a variety of whole foods of plant origin (vegetables, legumes, 100 percent whole grains and fruits) and not refined food-like products, it is very unlikely that you could be deficient in protein intake, even if your needs are higher (after major surgery, for example). In other words, if you get enough whole plant foods everyday, you get enough protein. The more protein—especially animal protein—one eats, the higher the risk of different chronic diseases. For example, in a recent study of more than 6,000 people in the best nationally representative dietary survey in the United States, those between 50 and 65 years old who reported high protein intake had a 75 percent increase in dying from any cause, a four-fold increase in cancer death risk during the following 18 years, and a five-fold increase in death from diabetes. Those with moderate intake had increased cancer death risk three-fold when compared with the low protein intake group! It is important to note that these associations were either abolished or attenuated if the proteins were plant derived. The composition of amino acids, building blocks of protein, derived from animals is different than from plant proteins. What we need are amino acids, not the proteins themselves. As for the amount of protein we eat, it is not practical or very accurate to measure that on a daily basis. 0.8 g/kg is generous. According to the World Health Organization, 0.5 g/kg is adequate for good health. Make sure you get enough calories from unprocessed whole foods of plant origin and you will get more than enough protein.”  ~ Dr Mladen Golubic, MD, PhD, Cleveland Clinic

That is a powerful statement! There are so many amazing benefits that come with eating plants, like lots of important fiber (97% of people are deficient in this key nutrient!), phytonutrients, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and water. In fact, 97% of American get more than enough protein every single day, so why is everyone so obsessed? Well, protein does play a vital role in thousands of biological processes like giving cell walls their structure, transporting and storing key nutrients, repair tissues (such as bones, skin, hair and muscles) as well as helping the body rid itself of toxins and waste.

Here is a link to a video that contains information from NutritionFacts.org

Where do you get your protein?

Here is a list I made up years ago for my clients:

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Many of these foods you’re probably already familiar with, and the great news is, these foods are so much better for your body than animal sources. Plant-based sources of protein are abundant in whole foods. These foods contain incredible amounts of nutrient-dense properties that your body and brain can use to help you feel your best. They also don’t lead to inflammation like animal sources and they’re much better for the entire planet.

The beauty of food as medicine is that it can start as soon as your next meal!

Many Blessings,

Michelle

Cleansing

Living with intention is powerful medicine, cleansing is one of those things that help us to be clear about those intentions. Weather this is cleansing with the changing of the seasons or aligning your daily rhythms with the cycles of the moon. Cleansing is a way to reconnect with your roots and the ancient wisdom of self healing through food, breath and conscious movement.

There are many reasons to cleanse. Here are a few:

1) Rest the stomach. For the tens of millions of people who are on acid-suppressing drugs — and for older folks who often don’t produce enough stomach acid — making the stomach work less to extract nutrients can be a huge benefit. Juices require less of the stomach’s digestive processing (churning, acid and pepsin). Remember to gently chew the juices to add oral enzymes to further ease digestion.

2) Rest and repair the gut. Toxic foods (including saturated fats, refined carbs, foods with additives, pesticides and allergenic foods), taking medications (such as antibiotics or antacids), and even stress can impair the intestine’s functioning. There can easily be an imbalance in the gut microbiome (flora and fauna balance) as well as actual breaks in the intestinal barrier (“leaky gut”) — allowing substances into our bodies that should not get a free pass. Consuming a phytonutrient-dense rainbow plant-based juice diet allows food to be assimilated quickly through the intestine — consuming less energy, while the toxin-free, nutrient-dense food helps to repair the gut itself.

3) Rest the liver. The liver is our main detoxifying organ. Every molecule of food that is absorbed through the intestinal wall (fiber is not absorbed) moves into the liver for detoxification and preparation before being allowed to enter the rest of the body. Problem is, there are too many toxins for most of our livers to handle — with many passing unchecked into the general circulation to wreak havoc in distant cells. An organic juice cleanse rests the liver’s overload.

4) Reduce your appetite. Juicing doesn’t really shrink the stomach — although it feels like it does. Juicing eliminates the habit of comfort eating, and makes you feel satiated with less food than usual. This provides a big psychological boost to help get over the hurdle of changing habits.

5) Ease food decision-making. Juicing focuses on consuming fresh whole food produce every few hours — and reduces the enslavement of thinking constantly about what the next meal is going to be. Not only do we feel sated, but realize we are no longer slaves to our addictions with (often very harmful) foods.

6) Eliminate harmful foods. The juice cleanse eliminates dairy, wheat, gluten and fermented foods from the diet (as well as coffee and alcohol). In my experience, this can help define what foods are causing our body problems.

7) Floods our body with super nutrition. Being on an all-produce diet gives us not only the vitamins and minerals but the all-important phytonutrients that are powerhouses for the clean-up and healing process. Juices are by nature raw foods — and retain nutrients that would be destroyed by cooking, including some B vitamins and especially (digestive and anti-inflammatory) enzymes.

9) Lose weight. As you are feeling better and having more energy, you also naturally lose weight. Some of this is water bloat, but also some is fat. A juice cleanse is a great way to jump start a diet. It not only helps control appetite and cravings, but is naturally lower in calories, while supplying the body with probably more concentrated beneficial energizing and  healing nutrients than it has seen before.

9) Improve energy. After the first day’s adjustment period (mostly missing crunching, and any coffee/alcohol cessation symptoms), most people begin to feel much more energy and clarity (by consuming only fresh juices) than you ever did with frequent caffeine drinks.

10) Rehydrate the body. Drinking sufficient fluids – half your body weight in ounces of water – makes the body function more efficiently, increases energy (often successfully removing the afternoon blahs/brain fog), and helps insure proper elimination of toxins.

11) Reduce physical problems. You begin to feel generally better, not just with your energy, but with many chronic symptoms such as headaches, rashes, general aches, congested sinuses and chest, and bloating/cramping/gas. Too much of the time our body is fighting off the things we do to it (especially with food — but also with lack of sleep, inactivity and stress). Take a break, rest the body (and mind) and flood it with nutrients.

12) Allow maximum detoxification. To optimally support all phases of the body’s natural detox process, you need a very broad range of plant-supplied nutrients like anti-oxidants and anti-inflammatories. By providing the body with super-nutrient dense foods juicing allows the body to have more of the resources it needs to support the phases of detoxification, and even to begin to help remove the cumulative toxins stored in the body.

13) Heal our cells. Switching to an organic plant-based diet allows cells to work optimally to re-establish efficient internal messaging and manufacturing processes, allowing the mitochondria to create energy without having to fight off a plethora of free radicals and inflammation, and reducing some of the impediments to proper DNA functioning.

A foundation for self care and nourishment is what we feed our physical bodies. Since what we eat literally makes up the cells in our bodies it stands to reason that eating well makes up our entire experience of life. Our skin, nails, red blood cells, liver, bones, and heart all renew over different periods of time. Some processes take longer than others but isn’t this mind blowing? The human body is literally changing before our eyes and you can see why giving them healing foods is so important.

How do you nourish your body??

Blessings,

Michelle

10 Health Commandments by Paul and Patricia Bragg

Though shall respect and protect thy body as the highest manifestation of thy life.

Thou shall abstain from all unnatural, devitalized foods and stimulating beverages.

Thou shall nourish thy body with only natural live foods, fruits, vegetables and whole grains that . . .

Thou shall extend thy years in health for loving, charitable service and sharing with others.

Though shall regenerate thy body by the right balance of activity, exercise and rest.

Though shall purify they cells, tissue and blood with healthy foods, pure water, clean air and sunshine.

Though shall abstain from all food when out of sorts in the mind or body.

Thou shall keep all thoughts, words and emotions pure, calm, good, loving and uplifting.

Thou shall increase thy knowledge of Nature’s Laws, follow them, and enjoy the fruits of thy life’s labor.

Thou shall lift up thyself, friends and family by obedience to Mother Nature’s and God’s Healthy, Natural Laws of Living.

~The Miracle Of Fasting by Paul and Patricia Bragg~

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