What’s your cue? You have made the decision that something needs to change. You may be walking around all day with an achy back, or you know you just don’t move enough, or you eat mindlessly. What is the cue that will keep you on track?
There are plenty of books to give you a step-by-step guide about how to _____(fill in the blank.)
I recently read a book by Charles Duhigg, a Pulitzer prize-winning reporter at the New York Times. In The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business, Duhigg helps us understand the “cue – routine – reward” loop we all get into, and how changing one thing in that cycle can change everything.
The reward of a more flexible, less painful back through yoga seems obvious. But once we can move without pain, we forget the habit that caused the pain to stop. We stop showing up on the yoga mat because we’ve forgotten the pain, and also the habit that keeps it in check. So the question is, what can we put in place to draw us to the routine, extend the reward, and continue on our path? The answer is, have several cues, so if we forget we can start where we are.
What’s your cue?
How about a chime, or a note? Or put your yoga mat and meditation zafu in a very
prominent place, where you can’t miss it. Here’s another one: When you interact with your dog, watch, and it will do down-dog almost every time it gets up to greet you!
That is a great cue to start your own practice, wherever you are.
It’s a new year and the question we ask ourselves is, “Where do I begin?”
Mind chatter: “I have made the commitment to go to a yoga class but I am tight, I’m embarrassed that I can’t touch my toes, and I haven’t done a down dog in such a long time that I don’t even know if I can hold it for one breath.”
To quiet the chatter: We begin where we are! Seems simple, but it’s a very important realization. Did Lao Tzu say that? No, but he did say
“When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.”
He also said:
“The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”
So in the spirit of Lao Tzu, let us begin by coming to our yoga mat then prepare to sit on our mediation cushion.
Studies Confirm Health Benefits of practicing yoga. A growing number of adults and children in the US have turned to practicing yoga as a way to stay mentally and physically healthy. In 2015, the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health found that over 21 million adults and 1.7 million children practiced yoga with rates continuing to grow. Yoga’s popularity is tied directly to the belief that regular practice provides a wide variety of health benefits, which recent studies continue to confirm.
Yoga helps with a number of health concerns and the benefits are often greater and longer lasting than traditional therapies. When doctors in Seattle compared yoga to traditional therapeutic exercises, they found that yoga decreased chronic back pain for almost 14 weeks longer. Yoga was also shown to lower blood sugar in diabetics, decrease hot flashes in menopausal women, lower blood pressure, improve the physical and emotional state of cancer patients, and decrease the effects of stress on the body.
Yoga’s effects extend beyond the physical as well. A Harvard Medical School study found that yoga contributed to mental as well as physical health. A German study found that “women in the yoga group reported improvements in perceived stress, depression, anxiety, energy, fatigue, and well-being. Depression scores improved by 50%, anxiety scores by 30%, and overall well-being scores by 65%. Initial complaints of headaches, back pain, and poor sleep quality also resolved much more often in the yoga group than in the control group.” Other controlled studies confirmed that yoga had positive results in controlling depression and anxiety. Evidence also suggests that yoga may help sufferers of PTSD. Organizations like Give Back Yoga do training and teach underserved populations.
While experts have found many positive benefits of yoga, they also caution that yoga needs to be practiced under expert supervision, especially for those with health or mobility issues. Alignment matters.
Our minds know that yoga and meditation are good for us and we should do them. But mind-knowledge doesn’t always translate into action. Feelings do. To get motivated to practice, we must make time for the first practice, then the second, and then experience it on a regular basis. Then we won’t really need a study to tell us that yoga is good for us.
So start where you are.
Got Starbucks? People who go to Starbucks and the like to get themselves a little treat. When I take my teenagers there, they think they’re getting a milkshake which may have a hint of coffee flavor. It’s perfectly fine to pay yourself in coffee.
But there is trouble brewing. After hearing all the “excitement” around Starbucks’ decision to use red cups with just its logo and no “Merry Christmas” (#itsjustacup), I got to thinking: Why all the fuss? I wonder if the brew-ha-ha has substituted an argument over corporate coffee for the simple ritual of making our own morning beverage. And, might we enhance that ritual – and even better, follow our own path – by creating our own inspiring mugs?
If you like coffee in the morning, some folks might say, “Just make your own.” As far back as 1896, there were published recipes on how to make a cup of coffee (see Fannie Framer first published The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book by Fannie Farmer). People have been making their own coffee for centuries.
Instead of getting worked up about Starbucks’ coffee cups, why not just learn how to brew your own cup of coffee? Here is a recipe link from Real Simple. Find a mug, cup etc., that inspires you and make your own, controversy-free joe. If you can’t find a vessel you like, use a little imagination. (We pros like duct tape and a sharpie ;)). (please see our beautiful mugs with with duct tape)
What does making your own beverage have to do with yoga, or meditation cushions, you ask? In the yogic tradition we believe in letting a habit, behavior or thought pattern go if it doesn’t serve us anymore. In that same tradition, we adopt practices that develop mindfulness, instead of distraction; we ask how can we add meaning to the lives of others, instead what a little red cup means to us.
Learning what we like, and what inspires us, is part of our yogic practice. So the next time you go to your favor coffee or tea haunt, pause…
A branch of yoga, called structural yoga addresses the unique needs of each client – adapting to the individual. Which we practice at Catspaw Yoga in Wheat Ridge.
A common perception of yoga is a group class where participants move through a series of postures at a teacher’s direction. This one size fits all format does not suit everyone and we believe it is important to suggest modifications. Many illnesses and physical conditions limit a potential yoga student’s ability to participate in a class.
In 1976 by Mukunda Stiles, developed structural yoga helps to help restore harmony and balance in the client’s body. The result of a structural yoga can be relief from the symptoms of back pain, sciatica, sports or overuse injuries, asthma, high blood pressure and the physical manifestation of stress among others as well as getting stronger. The joint-freeing series is a staple among structural yoga teachers/therapist. The book Structural Yoga Therapy by Mukunda Stiles is very well written and clear regarding structural yoga and is a great guide. Mukunda Stiles, transitioned on February 18, 2014. His wife Chinnamaste continues their practice at Yoga Therapy Center.
A regular yoga practice is always a benefit, and structural yoga helps you find your unique rhythm. For more information on this form of yoga and how it can help your health and the imbalances in your body, send us an email firstname.lastname@example.org
One of the least understood tools in creating a successful meditation practice is the zafu. Many western practitioners of meditation aren’t even aware that these little delights exist. Support for the body is key in helping quiet the mind during meditation. If you are thinking about your discomfort, you may need support from a zafu-meditation cushions.
A zafu is, essentially, a round seat stuffed with very soft fibers made out of reedmace seed heads. In ancient China, the zafu was filled with the actual down of the reedmace, rather than its seed heads. A typical zaful is about 14 inches in diameter and about eight inches high when fluffed.
Although zafus can be used as comfortable everyday sitting spots, they are regularly used in cross-legged Zen meditation purposes. When using the zafu in Zen, you must give a small bow to the zafu, as well as anyone else you are meditating with, before you begin.
Traditionally, the zafu must be handled in a specific way, but use of that method has faded in modern times.
What’s so important about a zafu? The zafu is designed to not only provide comfort during meditation, but to actually raise your hips slightly. This helps make your cross-legged positions a lot more comfortable and stable than just sitting on the floor.
Most importantly, meditation on a zafu helps to connect you with the ancient traditions of your art. It might not bring you any more insight or relaxation, but it can help you feel more grounded and integrated with the ageless skill of meditation.
We are here to support your on your journey.