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Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Yoga for Health & Happiness

Hello All,

Well today I get the opportunity to share yoga with some young teenagers at the local Junior High School. I am curious to see how they will receive the practice. I am expecting they will not be familiar with the full scope of yoga but more likely have only been exposed to the physical practices. I feel passionate about broadening our understanding of yoga to include the following basic elements:

1. VALUE SYSTEM
2. RELAXATION
3. CONCENTRATION
4. MEDITATION

These four elements come from the 8 limbs of ashtanga yoga which is the framework for yoga authored by the mysterious Patanjali. It is never a bad idea to explore our value system, subtle violations of our own principles can lead to stress, anxiety and depression. Basic values of honesty and non-violence need to be practiced every day. In our world these things are not always reflected and there may be encouragement for the young and old (and everyone in between) to veer from those values. Politicians, while on the public stage, are just people who often fall in to a trap of breaching basic values as a means to an end. The end, however, does not justify the means and there is a price to pay when we violate our own integrity. Returning again and again to our values will be a guiding light that will inform the decisions we make on a daily basis.

Yoga is a system to support a happy and healthy life. Adhere to your values, learn to relax your body and concentrate your mind and then practice meditation regularly. These things will surely bring health and happiness to your life.

Namaste,

Steve

Monday, May 3, 2010

From Impulsiveness to Mindfulness: Learning from our Children

I was speaking to Natha (my 5-year old son) yesterday who continues to be my greatest teacher. He likes to suck his thumb as I did as a child and has a very strong connection with his mom's hair. As soon as she puts bobby pins in her hair he likes to play with her hair and take them out. As he gets older we are making him more aware of this habit and starting to introduce the idea of mindfulness in this context. We spoke as a family about how we have habits or tendencies that we act on and my not even notice we are doing it. Practicing mindfulness is like opening up some space between the habit or tendency and our noticing it. This is simply the process of becoming more conscious. We may still choose the behavior but atleast it is a choice and not something being done entirely without awareness.

It seems that our young people are rarely taught to be aware of their own habits and tendencies. It is a very resiliency skill to be able to notice our own impulsion. The practice of mindfulness is one of noticing our own impulses and then choosing when to indulge them and when to make another choice. My son said with some frustration, " but Daddy I WANT to suck my thumb" and we agreed that was fine but it was important to notice how that felt and even where he felt that "wanting" in his body. Parenting is definitely a work in progress but to share a sense of self-awareness with our children and grand-children may be the greatest gift we can give them. I warn you, however, these young people learn more quickly than we do so once you begin this journey with them we must be willing to accept their tutelage as well. It won't be long before they are reminding you to be mindful in a moment of stress or anxiety. Isn't that perfect! When our children are empowered to be teachers then maybe the teachers can be empowered to be like children.

Namaste,

Steve