Thankfulness - the Art of Living Retreat Center

Appreciative Thankfulness for the Everything of Everything

By Lisa Cypers Kamen
November 21, 2018
 

Thankfulness - the Art of Living Retreat Center

I write this missive with a heavy heart and mind.

 

Many of you know that we craft our consciously prepared weekly podcast from the beaches of Malibu, California. We don’t live in the center of the ‘Bu anymore but much of my daily life is lived in this small but mighty city. Our home and neighborhood a few miles north was spared but we watched in horror from the beach as Mother Nature roared with her fire and fury.

 

Our community has been devastated by the fires that burned many of our friends’ and neighbors’ homes. My children, now both in college, are graduates of Malibu High School. The substance abuse recovery treatment centers I consult to are all located in the mountains or at the beach in Malibu. Some have closed. Some have burned. Some are slowly reopening.

 

Life is never static and change is the only guarantee.

And here’s another hard reality bite—The Borderline Bar senseless mass shootings took place just a few miles from our home. Needless to say, this area has been traumatized and worn out by life recently.

 

But with all things, there is a silver lining — we fall, we get back up.

We see that community does really care and does rally to support one another. Love is the secret sauce that binds.

 

I was home recovering from surgery under doctor’s orders to rest, heal, and recover when these tragedies occurred. But this was too much to bear sitting still. Off to work I went supporting evacuated clients stabilize and ground after fresh trauma was layered onto old wounds. Being of use, being in gratitude for the opportunity to serve, and being able to show up in a time of serious need made me happy amidst the horrors we’ve witnessed.

 

So there you have it—I’m a consumer of my own counsel and it made all the difference in those dark and scary moments. Much of my time is spent as a professional “hope-holder” for people who are undergoing and enduring challenges in their lives. I guess I find happiness in the dark.

 

Thomas Moore wrote, “Every human life is made up of the light and the dark, the happy and the sad, the vital and the deadening. How you think about this rhythm of moods makes all the difference.”

 

Learning to love and appreciate the rhythm of life has been a personal game-changer. Life does not always dance to the melody of our own music. Thankfully, everything is temporary and change is the only guarantee.

 

I find a lot of peace in this awareness.

 

Thank you, Universe, for that valuable, and not always happy, lesson.

So, as we swing into Thanksgiving and full holiday spirit take a minute or two to express appreciative thankfulness for all the goodness in your life and then extend that gratitude to life’s greatest teachers — adversity, challenge, and resilience.

 

Thank you for the opportunity to continue to learn, share and grow with you.

 

Stay safe and grateful…gobble…gobble…

-Lisa

Happiness doesn’t have to be a fleeting emotion. Learn how to handle emotional fluctuations and increase your resiliency through film, music, storytelling, and movement: Lisa Cypers Kamen hosts Harvesting Happiness at the Art of Living Retreat Center from May 17th-19th.

 

Lisa Cypers Kamen is a lifestyle management consultant who explores the art and science of happiness in her work as a speaker, author, and happiness expert. Through her globally syndicated podcast, books, media appearances, and documentary film, Kamen has impaced millions of people around the world. Learn more at HarvestingHappiness.com. 

   

Interested in learning more about Ayurveda and the programs at the Art of Living Retreat Center? Check out our annual catalog here!

 

Yoga Retreat Catalog for NC

TAGS: emotion , resilience , thankfulness , thanksgiving , wellness

Lauren Eckstrom’s Holistic Yoga Approach

By Tommi Howard
August 16, 2018

Lauren Eckstrom, an L.A. based holistic yoga and mindfulness meditation teacher, recently sat down to talk with us about getting in touch with our inner wisdom, the powerful combination of yoga and mindfulness, and how we can take these tools anywhere, from the airport to the grocery store. Lauren also sneaks in some exciting previews of her Holistic Yoga Flow Retreat that she will be leading with her partner Travis Eliot at the Art of Living Retreat Center August 16- 19.

 

I had a student recently who approached me and said he had a silly question. But of course, there are no silly questions – and this was no exception.

My student said, “You know how you always call it a practice… When is the game?”

 

The answer is this: LIFE is the big game. The practices of yoga and meditation transcend what’s happening on the mat and move with us out into the world. Yoga came into my life in the same way I believe it does for many. Few end up on a path of meditation or physical asana because everything is perfect in life; it’s quite the opposite that lands us on the mat.

 

The amazing reason why so many turn to yoga is because it gives people a ‘toolbox’ to take with them when class has finished. This toolbox is based on our inner wisdom – the teacher inside us all. So, yoga is always available to you no matter where you are. When you need this practice the most, you’re probably not going to be in yoga class.

 

The times I’ve needed it the most have been when I’m out in the world going about my day to day life. Difficult things often happen unexpectedly, such as a loved one getting a diagnosis or something startling happening in traffic. In yoga and meditation, what we’re really practicing for are those moments.

 

Diving Deeper than Asana: The True Meaning of Being a Yogi

 

We work with men who are incarcerated and recently we received a beautiful letter from one such man. In his letter he talked about what it means to live the life of a Yogi, and his realization that to be a Yogi is inclusive of all things in life: words, actions, behaviors and so on – not just the physical practice.

 

When we use meditation to deepen our awareness and understanding of how our individual minds have been programmed and conditioned, we are able to apply this knowledge to our relationship with the world. A yoga practice based solely on physical asana can easily feed into our hurried, over-productive culture rather than deepening our awareness.

 

Many yoga practices are very fast-paced and only emphasize the physical body. Class becomes just another item on your to-do list. To step away from the constant doing that our society demands and to sit down and spend quality, focused time doing just one thing can be quite the challenge.

 

When we do this we must learn, on a fundamental level, how to stay present and sit with emotions, thoughts or sensations which are very uncomfortable. Yoga teaches us that discomfort is natural and okay. There is pain in life; it is not always a comfortable experience. Change and discomfort are inevitable, so we need to prepare ourselves to remain steady in the midst of challenging experiences.

 

A big part of this is our own inner monologue, or way of speaking to and treating ourselves. If working with self-talk is part of a holistic yoga practice, we are able to move out into the world and navigate the fluctuations of the mind. Again, that’s where the big game we’re practicing for is taking place – off the mat and out in the world.

 

Yoga’s Greatest Challenge: Doing Nothing

 

The practices of yoga and meditation are interwoven with one another. Both are incredibly valuable, although some people come to meditation first and then yoga later, or vice versa.

 

Time spent in meditation is really no different than time spent moving through our physical yoga practice. The two feed and support each other.

 

Much of the time, students love yoga, but they don’t want to sit and meditate. It’s actually quite understandable. A study took place in which participants were asked to wait in a room without any of their belongings.

 

They were told that someone would come back to get them, but if they needed anything before that time, they could press a button to voluntarily receive an electrical shock. More than 73 percent of the participants chose to give themselves an electrical shock before just seven minutes had passed. It is difficult for us to be alone with ourselves when our culture demands that we’re constantly available and digitally connected.

 

Bringing it All Together: Holistic Yoga Flow with Lauren and Travis

 

Retreats offer a unique opportunity to explore the more in-depth, difficult facets of the practice by fully immersing oneself in a way that can not be done in day to day life.

 

At a facility like Art of Living, space is held for you to do just that. Your food is prepared, your accommodations are set, and you feel safe. Without having to worry about these basic needs, it’s possible to be in your body and in your practice much more fully.

 

The retreats that I lead with my partner, Travis Eliot, teach what we call ‘Holistic Yoga Flow’. This flow is a combination of many different approaches rather than one single type of practice. We often begin the day with a dynamic vinyasa flow to increase energy for the day ahead. These classes are always accessible to all levels, so anybody is welcome. Regardless of where you are on your path, there will be a space for you in the room.

 

Mindfulness meditation practices are always incorporated. Throughout these practices, we interweave the wisdom of yoga. This is one of our holistic approaches. We explore the ideas behind the 8 Limbs of Yoga and other philosophies to bring the practices to life.

 

Of course, we also focus strongly on breath-work, which is a dynamic part of what it means to be human. Breath is life. Along with this we teach gentle yoga like Yin and Restorative. These are all daily elements of a retreat with us. The slower, gentler yoga is practiced in the evening to integrate everything we have learned.

 

After leading retreats for some time, we have found that they are a beautiful opportunity to weave wisdom, breath, and body practices together. This experience is truly life enhancing both individually and as a community.

 

It is when individuals reach an embodied experience of this union that they connect with that inner wisdom, which will coach them in the game of life.

 

Interested in learning more about Ayurveda and the programs at the Art of Living Retreat Center? Check out our annual catalog here!

 

Yoga Retreat Catalog for NC

Bringing Joy into the Body - Art of Living Retreat Center

Exploring Wisdom: Bringing Joy into the Body

By Jody Weber
August 9, 2018

Bringing Joy into the Body - Art of Living Retreat Center

Dance has always been a part of my life. After years of rigorous training, I became a performer in New York City, Washington D.C., and later Boston. For the past 26 years, I’ve also been a choreographer making dances that ask questions about our fundamental relationship with ourselves, and with our beautiful blue planet.

 

Our deep connection with nature

Science has always played a role in my inquiry, and science is now catching up with the power of interconnectivity through works like The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben and The Nature Fix by Florence Williams. Both of these books have influenced my most recent work, Her Sylvan Ascent, and profoundly engage our understanding of our relationship with nature and the deeply connected structures that maintain balanced ecosystems.

 

The powerful wisdom of the body

How can we deepen our own connections? How can we find paths to our own inner wisdom to guide choices that are in balance with our own joyous spirit? As a dancer, I believe that the answer includes our full selves. I understand the powerful wisdom of the body and how it can teach us to be in alignment, and I share my upcoming retreat cohost Jon’s profound love of what the natural world can say in response — if we are willing to listen.

 

Communion with the natural world

My path has included work with Alberto Villoldo, whose mentorship has helped me develop a more comprehensive understanding of the way that intuition, meditation, and creativity can be enhanced through physical practice and communion with the natural world. Through this work, I am able to bring the tools of shamanic practice to the workshop, united with movement practices that will open our hearts and help each of us establish a relationship between our physical bodies and the energetic world.

 

Techniques of Joyful Meditation

It was synchronicity that brought Jon and I together many years ago, and I am thrilled to share this weekend with him — and with you. Jon’s marvelous tales from his extraordinary life illuminate a magical world, and I know it will be a special time for all of us. I hope you will join us at the Art of Living Retreat Center in October for Techniques of Joyful Meditation. 

 

Dr. Jody Weber has had a beautiful, fulfilling thirty-year career as a choreographer, teacher, and dance historian working in academia, traveling with her professional company, and working with communities across the nation. She is also a trained shamanic practitioner through the Andean Lineage. As a graduate of Alberto Villoldo’s Light Body School, she is thrilled to offer ancient practices to help clients clear their energy fields, balance their physical bodies, and pursue their life’s work.

     

Interested in learning more about Ayurveda and the programs at the Art of Living Retreat Center? Check out our annual catalog here!

 

Yoga Retreat Catalog for NC

TAGS: body , creativity , dance , meditation , nature , shaman , wisdom
The Feldenkrais Method - Art of Living Retreat Center

Basics of the Feldenkrais Method

By Lavinia Plonka
June 28, 2018

The Feldenkrais Method - Art of Living Retreat Center

 

The Feldenkrais Method was named after its founder, Dr Moshe Feldenkrais. He was always interested in how we learn, how the brain works, and how the body and brain work together. This method was actually created to rehabilitate himself from his own injuries sustained as an athlete and martial artist.

 

Rewiring the body with the Feldenkrais Method

In breaking down his own challenges, he started to discover that he could actually rewire his nervous system. He was half a century ahead of his time — he had ideas that now some of us have taken for granted as common knowledge, such as the fact that the brain doesn’t stop growing. He was one of the first people to talk about the holism of the body, that every part contains the other part.

 

During the course of his life, Feldenkrais developed thousands of different movement sequences and also worked one-on-one with thousands of people, leaving an incredible wealth of knowledge to draw upon.

 

Awareness through movement

Feldenkrais lessons are also known as Awareness Through Movement, which is a lot easier to say than Feldenkrais! It is the awareness of what I’m doing that actually creates the changes, and reprograms the nervous system, allowing me to find new ways to move.

 

My story with back pain

I actually got into this work because of my own pain. I speak from major experience — I was a performer for many, many years, and every time I wasn’t on stage, I was in pain. I tried everything, but it wasn’t until I discovered Feldenkrais’ writings that I began to realize that a lot of what was going on for me was habit, emotion, and tension that I was carrying in my body from a lifetime of ballet lessons and different attitudes from my childhood.

 

Once I started to unscramble those tensions, I began to move better and feel better. There was a huge change in my well-being. I could actually move around without my back hurting, which was amazing as a performer. I was more flexible. I didn’t need as much of a warm-up. I was more relaxed on stage, more present in my body. All of this began to allow me to move in a direction that I’d put aside when i was young, which was to write. Feldenkrais said that his method helps us realize our avowed and our unavowed dreams. The awareness of movement that his method encouraged helped me feel an opening of the emotional and creative spectrums of my life as well.

 

Widening the field of attention

Feldenkrais said that at every moment, we are thinking, sensing, feeling, and moving. How do we include all of that in our field of attention? The brain and the body are the same thing, it’s not the brain watching the body.

 

We define pain as the body’s response to disorganization. To be able to move with freedom and without pain allows you to live the life that you want. It’s the ability to be spontaneous, to be able to plan, to be clear about what your intention is, and for you to just feel better.

 

Less pain, more gain

There’s no strain in the Feldenkrais method, in fact, our motto is “Less pain, more gain.” We never try to push through–we use pain as information. When we encounter discomfort, we use it as an opportunity to check in with the rest of our body. There are a thousand things we can discover about ourselves in these slow, delicate movements.

 

Everything is interconnected. Your entire body is there all the time–you’re an information system. Everything in your body is responding to the information that you’re receiving. Everything is participating in the pattern of pain and supporting the pattern that you unconsciously choose. Nothing happens in isolation.

 

Everything is connected

If you think about a bridge, and your bones are the steel structures of the bridge, and the tendons and your ligaments and your muscles are the cables, imagine that one cable is a little too loose or too tight. That would affect the entire structure of the bridge, right? Eventually it will be in need of repair, or it will collapse. Every little thing that takes us out of our organization affects the entire system.

 

One of the side effects of the Feldenkrais method is relaxation. When our nervous system calms down, we kick into what’s called the parasympathetic mode which governs our healing, our learning, and our rest. When we experience that parasympathetic response, we are actually able to learn better than if we were straining.

 

Feldenkrais at every age

People at different stages of their lives experience different benefits. When people are young and active and athletic, if they integrate Feldenkrais method into their lives, they’re less prone to injury. They perform at higher levels. In the world of sports and the arts, the Feldenkrais method is used a lot by dancers, actors, musicians, athletes, because it takes you past your perceived limitations. You hit a wall — how do I go further? For the aging population, it’s a great way to maintain flexibility and maintain your balance.

 

Lavinia Plonka healed her own back pain using The Feldenkrais Method®. This inspired her to become a certified practitioner. Lavinia is considered a master teacher, as well as an internationally recognized expert in body language, offering workshops around the world. She is also the author of several bestselling books, including What Are You Afraid Of? A Body/Mind Approach to Courageous Living. Lavinia is director of Asheville Movement Center in NC, former Vice President of The North American Feldenkrais Guild and loves every opportunity to awaken people’s potential for joy. Lavinia lives by Moshe Feldenkrais’ maxim, “Movement is life. Without movement, life is unthinkable.”

 

Join Lavinia at the Art of Living Retreat Center from August 23rd-26th, 2018 for Moving Into Freedom From Back Pain, and change your relationship to your pain forever.

 

Interested in learning more about Ayurveda and the programs at the Art of Living Retreat Center? Check out our annual catalog here!

 

Yoga Retreat Catalog for NC

TAGS: alignment , back pain , Feldenkrais Method , Lavinia Plonka , mindfulness , pain
Back Pain

In House: Healing Back Pain with the Feldenkrais Mehod

By Lavinia Plonka
June 18, 2018

Back Pain

 

Are you in the 80%? 

80% is the alarming number of Americans who will suffer from back pain at some point in their lives. Besides the huge economic cost of lost work hours, medical treatment and drugs (as high as $240 billion a year!), it means there is an awful lot of unhappiness in our country right now. Can you be happy if you are in pain? Surely, this is not the result of some design flaw in the human body. Why would Mother Nature create a body that doesn’t function properly? Is it possible that something about the modern lifestyle is responsible?

 

Office chairs, cars, laptops, cellphones, TV and video games all have one thing in common. Minimal movement of the big muscles of the back. Yet Americans spend an average 10 hours a day involved with at least one if not all these forms of modern technology. Coincidence? I think not! Truth is, our biology has not caught up with our technology.

 

So until humanity evolves into some other cyborgian form, we need to return to the function that we were designed for: movement. If you stand still for a few moments with your eyes closed, you’ll notice that your body starts to sway, and if you stay long enough, you might even fall over unless you tense up. Our systems need to move. But once you’re in pain, movement seems to make things worse. How can we move from pain to pleasure?

 

The Feldenkrais Method for healing back pain

There are many approaches to healing back pain, and exercise is certainly one of them. But often there is an emphasis on “core strength” and stability at the expense of mobility and flexibility. Dr. Timothy Sobie of Saybrook University compared a Core Strengthening Program with A Feldenkrais Awareness Through Movement® Program in an 8 week study with participants who had back pain. The results “demonstrated greater effectiveness across all relevant outcome measures for:
1) decreasing pain,
2) decreasing perceived disability,
3) increasing function,
4) increasing endurance, and
5) optimizing performance ratios for sustained holding of torso positions in comparison to more commonly accepted, medically endorsed, and popular Rx protocols for ‘Core Stabilization’ isolated recruitment of ‘core muscle groups’ and the usual performance of ‘Motor Control’ fitness-based exercises for a population of patients diagnosed with persistently chronic Low Back Pain problems.” Read his article here.

But Awareness Through Movement lessons do so much more than relieve pain. Moshe Feldenkrais said, “What I’m after isn’t flexible bodies, but flexible brains. What I’m after is to restore each person to their human dignity.” Using the subtle, sophisticated movement sequences he developed, you will find that not just your back pain, but your whole life improves. As he so eloquently put it, “Movement is life. Life is a process. Improve the quality of the process and you improve the quality of life itself.” Wouldn’t you love that for yourself?

Join Lavinia Plonka at the Art of Living Retreat Center for the From Pain to Pleasure healing and teaching retreat and free yourself from back pain for good.

More information on The Feldenkrais Method

Sample lessons

 

Lavinia Plonka healed her own back pain using The Feldenkrais Method®. This inspired her to become a certified practitioner. Lavinia is considered a master teacher, as well as an internationally recognized expert in body language, offering workshops around the world. She is also the author of several bestselling books, including What Are You Afraid Of? A Body/Mind Approach to Courageous Living. Lavinia is director of Asheville Movement Center in NC, former Vice President of The North American Feldenkrais Guild and loves every opportunity to awaken people’s potential for joy. Lavinia lives by Moshe Feldenkrais’ maxim, “Movement is life. Without movement, life is unthinkable.”


Interested in learning more about Ayurveda and the programs at the Art of Living Retreat Center? Check out our annual catalog here!

 

Yoga Retreat Catalog for NC

TAGS: alignment , back pain , Feldenkrais Method , healing , Lavinia Plonka , strength
Addiction - The Art of Living Retreat Center

Exploring Wisdom: The Nature of Addiction

By Tommy Rosen
June 4, 2018

Addiction - The Art of Living Retreat Center

 

When most people hear the word addiction, they think about drugs and alcohol. We have these ideas in our mind about what addicts look like and how they behave, but addiction is actually an underlying condition, and we are compelled to try to fix that condition by reaching outside of ourselves for some kind of medicine.

 

Trying to find comfort is a noble pursuit. There is nothing wrong with it. It just so happens that this underlying condition of addiction causes us to reach for what’s easy, what’s right in front of us,and these things commonly fall into six categories.

Drugs and alcohol are the most recognizable two of these six.

 

Addiction to food

Food is a core issue for many people, whether you’re dealing with bulimia, anorexia, binge eating, or emotional eating. There are so many who have always wanted to gain control over their relationship with food but have never been able to do it.

 

Addiction to people

There are also relationship addictions. Codependency could be thought of as the disease of the lost self, when you don’t have a sense of who you are. You crave to look at yourself through someone else, you crave comfort and ease and to be fixed and found. Relationship addictions are unbelievably painful.

 

Addiction to sex

Of course, there are also sex addictions. This is the addiction that carries perhaps the most shame, that nobody really wants to talk about. This addiction is just a physical sexual act being used to fix an inside problem that can never be fixed in that way.

 

Addiction to greed

Another addiction is greed–money, gambling, debt, shopping, buying things that you don’t need because you’re trying to feel better. For a short period of time, greed gives you a sense of empowerment, but then there’s a feeling of remorse afterwards.

 

Addiction to technology

The sixth addiction is technology. There are wonderful ways to use technology, of course, but then there is using technology as a distraction, to avoid aspects of your life that you perceive as intolerable.

 

The four aggravations

In addition to this six core addictions, we also deal with four aggravations. The four aggravations are negative thinking, self-doubt, procrastination, and resentment. Now people will say, “Tommy, wait a minute. Those are not addictions. I don’t crave those things.” Of course that’s true — we don’t crave negative thinking, procrastination, resentment. We don’t crave self-doubt. But they do fit my definition of addiction, as any behavior you continue to do despite the fact that it brings negative consequences into your life.

 

Thought addictions vs behavioral addictions

Those thought addictions are different than behavioral addictions. Even though they don’t bring a phenomenon of craving, they still fit the definition. It’s still a medicine, even if it doesn’t serve us. To sum it all up, we’re all addicted to avoiding the present moment.

 

The irony and tragedy of this is that it’s only in the present moment that we get to live, to heal, to connect, to love. Those things can only happen in the here and now, and yet it’s such a terrifying proposition for us to sit still long enough to develop a relationship with our selfhood in the present moment. It’s so ingrained to distract ourselves that we have lost the ability to just sit still and to be free. To witness the mind rather than being dragged into it.

 

This avoidance comes from trauma. I define trauma as undigested emotional material from the past. You could look at is as a sort of Karma–it’s unfinished business. At some point, we felt pain and discomfort, and in that moment we didn’t know what to do with it. So we began a pattern of avoidance, trying to fix it or move away from it, anything but sitting and facing it. Action by action, thought by thought, breath by breath, day by day for the rest of our lives, we began a pattern of looking away.

 

Even if we can’t remember that original trauma, it has driven us, our entire life, to repeat this behavior of looking away, which is why I say addiction is the human condition. Everybody is an addict on some level.

 

When the seed breaks open

At some point, the individual comes to a point where change needs to take place. Every individual, at some point in their evolution, will come to the point where they recognize “I can no longer continue the way that I am, although I don’t know how else I could be.” And that’s the moment when the seed breaks open.

 

It’s at that moment when a person often finds that a bit of magic happens – maybe they pick up a random book off the shelf, or turn the corner and bump into a spiritual leader, or speak to a therapist, and that therapist has just a little seed, a little nugget of wisdom that causes them to go forward down that path. If you don’t have a desire to learn and grow, you won’t. But the minute that thirst begins, all of a sudden the universe will take note of it – “Oh! We’ve got a live one! Let’s send lessons down to this person!”

 

Unfortunately, there is a lot of shame and guilt that can trip us up in the process of recovery. As my teacher would say, “Giving energy to the fantasy of your shame will take you places you don’t want to go.”

 

The path of discovery

People recovering from addiction are in a process of becoming, just like everyone else. Everybody is in this together. Instead of saying “Are you on the path of recovery from addiction?” I say “Are you on a path of discovery in life?” We are always discovering. That’s what life is.

 

Tommy Rosen is a yoga teacher and addiction recovery expert who has spent the last two decades immersed in recovery and wellness. He holds certifications in both kundalini and hatha yoga and has 25 years of continuous recovery from drug addiction.Tommy is one of the pioneers in the field of yoga and recovery assisting others to holistically transcend addictions of all kinds. Tommy is the founder of the Recovery 2.0 Global Community, the Recovery 2.0 Online Conference series and the Recovery 2.0 Group Coaching Program. He leads Recovery 2.0 retreats and workshops internationally and presents regularly at yoga conferences and festivals. His first book, Recovery 2.0: Move Beyond Addiction and Upgrade Your Life, was published by Hay House in 2014.

 

Join Tommy Rosen for his Recovery 2.0 Immersion workshop at the Art of Living Retreat Center from June 29th – July 6th, 2018, and change your life from the inside out.

     

Interested in learning more about Ayurveda and the programs at the Art of Living Retreat Center? Check out our annual catalog here!

 

Yoga Retreat Catalog for NC

TAGS: addiction , food , greed , meditation , recovery , sex , technology , tommy rosen , yoga
Belly Love

The Practice: Belly Love

By Wendy Swanson
May 17, 2018

Belly Love

 

Our belly, my belly, your belly, women’s bellies, men’s bellies “should” be flat, flat, flat. I have met very few people that are not on a quest for a flatter abdomen. I, too, have striven for this perfection as the message I heard growing up from my misguided but well-intentioned mom was “you can never be too thin (or too blonde)”. I wonder, though, if in our quest for perfection we are sacrificing our wellbeing.

 

A strong core and firm abdominal muscles do indeed help stabilize our low back and lumbar spine. We do need strength in our body, and in particular in our abdomen, to hold ourselves upright and to move through our day with integrity.

 

The beauty of a Buddha belly

Belly LoveA strong belly does not necessarily equal a flat as a board, six pack belly. In the practice of Chinese Medicine, a healthy belly is one that actually has some softness that resembles a slightly rounded “Buddha belly”. The softness indicates that tension is not being stored in the abdomen and that the breath is freely moving through the belly, diaphragm and chest. I’ve noticed that when I feel most relaxed my breath moves and when I feel stressed my breath hangs out in my chest and is quite shallow. I could go on and on about body image and societal pressure to be thin, but today I want to offer a few tools to simply help us get to know our belly and possibly even love our belly AND let you know that a soft, slightly rounded belly is normal, healthy, and dare I say even beautiful.

 

Ways to love your belly

Abdominal massage is a great way to love your belly and has the added benefit to help with constipation. Rub your hands together to warm them before placing them at 12 o’clock above your belly button. Allow your fingers to sink into your belly but not too much that you feel pain. Move your hands around your belly button in a clockwise motion. You can use some coconut oil or sesame oil to help your hands move smoothly around your belly.

Sit or lie down and place your hands gently on top of your belly. See if you can bring your breath all the way to your belly enough so that you can visibly see the rise and fall of your hands.

Find movement that makes you feel great and beautiful. One of my favorite things is to put on music, turn up the volume and simply move and dance with no particular purpose and with no one watching. It helps me to feel free and connected to my body and my belly.

Practice speaking kindly to yourself. Write yourself a love note. Be kind to yourself.

 

Wendy Swanson, L.Ac, E-RYT 200, is a healer, transformational leader, yoga teacher and licensed acupuncturist. Wendy has been leading groups for over 15 years both domestically and internationally. She is an open hearted yoga instructor who is currently studying at Kripalu to obtain her 500 hour yoga certification. As a licensed acupuncturist for over ten years, Wendy’s strives to help people live a life filled with greater ease, joy, well-being and balance. Wendy owns Be Yoga & Wellness in Charlotte, NC.

 

Join Wendy at the Art of Living Retreat Center for The Art of Being You from June 15-17, the Joyful Yoga Conference from August 10-12, and Celebrate Being through Yoga from September 27-30.

     

Interested in learning more about Ayurveda and the programs at the Art of Living Retreat Center? Check out our annual catalog here!

 

Yoga Retreat Catalog for NC

TAGS: abdomen , belly , Body Image , Love , self-care , yoga
Art of Living Retreat Center - Enlightenment

Exploring Wisdom: Can Enlightenment be Obtained through Spiritual Practices?

By Krishan Verma
April 27, 2018

Art of Living Retreat Center - Enlightenment

 

“Can spiritual practices really lead to enlightenment? I have been doing my practices for over 25 years regularly and sincerely. I undoubtedly see many benefits, but I don’t see myself anywhere near enlightenment. I also do seva regularly and have sincere devotion in my heart. I don’t know what’s missing. Could you please share your thoughts on it.”

 

Spiritual enlightenment is a flashy and vague term. It can mean many different things to different people. I don’t know what it means to you, and what exactly are you trying to achieve?

 

The Yoga Scriptures don’t use the term ‘enlightenment’. Instead, they inspire the seekers to become mukta (free or liberated). Becoming mukta is a meaningful, clear, and achievable goal of spiritual journey. It means freeing yourself from all that you have created in your mind. In the Bhagvad Geeta, Lord Krishna repeatedly says that a yogi is free, and inspires Arjuna to become free. He doesn’t tell Arjuna to become enlightened.

 

Spiritual practices have their limitations

Spiritual practices are very essential for the wellness of your body, mind, and Spirit, but they also have their limitations. The practices are something similar to sunbathing. When you sunbathe, you experience the presence of Sun, but you are nowhere close to the Sun. You can sunbathe a million times, your tan will certainly become darker, but the distance will still remain.

 

Similarly, in meditation you experience something beautiful that is being emitted from the Spirit, but you are nowhere near the Spirit. You can meditate for many years, your experience will certainly become deeper, but you may still be nowhere closer to the Spirit. Though the Spirit is omnipresent, it is not accessible to all. Its presence is.

 

Cultivate freedom of the mind, not enlightenment

So, drop the desire to be enlightened. It is only a concept. Instead, cultivate the desire to be free in your mind. You have bound yourself, and now, through knowledge and self-effort, unbound yourself. When the mind is free, it will open the doors to the Spirit, and the drop will merge into the Ocean.

 

A free mind doesn’t have the desire to have its own identity, and therefore it merges into Infinity. When you are desiring for enlightenment, you have the desire to exist. You want to exist as an enlightened being, which is not possible.

 

Join Krishan for the Yoga Teacher Training Program this fall. Considering becoming a yoga teacher? Speak with a yoga ambassador to learn more: Schedule a call

 

yoga teacher training programKrishan Verma is a seeker, student, teacher, and teacher trainer on the path of yoga for over 35 years. In his programs, he firmly yet gently guides each student to experience the effortless union of body, mind and spirit. The student emerges rejuvenated and serenely dynamic. Under his tutelage thousands of teachers now share the knowledge of yoga all around the world.

 

This article first appeared on Shudam.org.

 

Interested in learning more about Ayurveda and the programs at the Art of Living Retreat Center? Check out our annual catalog here!

 

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TAGS: enlightenment , exploring wisdom , krishan verma , sri sri yoga , wisdom , yoga

In House: Wendy Swanson on the Nature of Pain

By Wendy Swanson
April 19, 2018

The Nature of Pain

 

Some of you may know that I was in a small plane crash in December 2007. As we were crashing I braced myself, trying desperately to “put on the brakes”. Obviously, I lived to tell the tale and I was left with some pretty profound right side low back and hip pain as a result. Now, almost ten years after the crash, my pain is substantially less. In fact, most days I’m unaware of the pain unless something brings it back to the surface.

Before I go into what brings my pain to the surface and my opinion on pain, I want to clarify a few things. I have worked with thousands of people as an acupuncturist and yoga teacher and I KNOW that pain is very, very real. Sometimes pain stems from emotional trauma and manifests in the physical body, and it hurts all the same.

 

I find that it is absolutely necessary to have a baseline of self-care when trying to heal the body naturally. It is vital to eat healthy foods low in sugar, pesticides and other chemicals, have an exercise routine, and get at least 7-8 hours of sleep per night. If we are NOT doing these things our pain will be worse. This is where we need to clean up our act first, in order to successfully allow our bodies to heal.

 

A deep dive into my own pain

February 2017 my mom, at the young age of 73, passed from Alzheimer’s. In many ways I was prepared and even praying for her passing since she no longer knew herself or anyone else close to her. We had lost her long before her physical body left this earth. Even so, I went into a period of deep mourning and grief.

 

My emotional anguish showed up a few ways in my body. The first week after my Mom died I got a terrible, hundred tissue a day type of cold. After the cold subsided I was then left with that old, familiar right side back and hip pain. The pain rested mostly at my sacrum and was so severe that I contemplated finally going for a MRI to see what the heck was wrong with me. To know once and for all what had happened to my back after the crash. You see, I never got an x-ray or MRI, because at the time of the crash I was 5 weeks pregnant and did not want to do anything that would harm my growing baby.

 

The only way out is through

My pain kept intensifying as the weeks passed after my Mom died. I saw my gifted network chiropractor. I saw my therapist. I went to yoga classes. I meditated. I gave myself acupuncture. I rested. In short, I did everything right and yet my low back would not release. What I have come to believe is that my back was literally FEELING the intensity of my emotional loss and pain. There was no getting around it. There was only going through it.

Of course, my emotional pain landed where there had been physical trauma. The instability of my low back and hip are completely real. The pain, though, for ME (and for many, many people that I have worked with) is directly correlated with the stress of my life. My mom’s death = BIG STRESS, BIG SADNESS, BIG GRIEF.

About 5 weeks later I attended a spiritual day long retreat with Dr. Matt Lyon. It was there that I had a profound vision of my Mom. In this vision I saw my Mom happy, dancing and free in a way that she had never been in her earthly life. She clearly communicated with me that she was still with me and always would be. It was almost exactly at that moment that my pain completely disappeared. I had gone from excruciating pain to zero pain in a moment of emotional release.

 

The emotional and physical body

In the months since that profound emotional healing I’ve had twinges of pain in my back but nothing like it was immediately following her death. I also know that there is a good chance that I will again feel that terrible pain at my sacrum, low back and hip. It will be at a time of great stress. I’m open to NOT feeling that pain, but I will not be surprised if my body once again manifests my emotional state in my body.

I could tell you countless similar stories. I could tell the tale of how I ended up at the urgent care thinking that I had a severe neck issue only to realize that it was my body’s way of dealing with the fact that I was about to let someone go from their job. Or share stories I have heard from my patients. I’m guessing you have your own story or two of pain in the emotional and physical body.

 

Get into feeling

My solution to our collective pain is one that is probably not all that popular. It is important, though, for us all to hear it.

Get off the pain meds and get into feeling. Get off being a victim to our traumas and get into owning our own stuff. Pain is a reality of life. There is no medication that erases all the pain. There is no self-help book, no guru, no doctor that can make it all better. It might sound overly simplistic and trust me I know it is not always easy.

 

The answer is about every single day choosing a path of love, forgiveness and healing. If you are living in the United States, reading this blog, then most likely YOU DO have the ability to choose. I don’t want to minimize anyone’s pain because I see real pain every single day with the people I serve. We still can actively choose our path, to choose love, healing and to seek out help as needed. You are your own answer. You are the solution. And most importantly you CAN choose a path of LOVE & AUTHENTICITY.

 

Wendy Swanson, L.Ac, E-RYT 200, is a healer, transformational leader, yoga teacher and licensed acupuncturist. Wendy has been leading groups for over 15 years both domestically and internationally. She is an open hearted yoga instructor who is currently studying at Kripalu to obtain her 500 hour yoga certification. As a licensed acupuncturist for over ten years, Wendy’s strives to help people live a life filled with greater ease, joy, well-being and balance. Wendy owns Be Yoga & Wellness in Charlotte, NC.

 

Join Wendy at the Art of Living Retreat Center for The Art of Being You from June 15-17, the Joyful Yoga Conference from August 10-12, and Celebrate Being through Yoga from September 27-30.

     

Interested in learning more about Ayurveda and the programs at the Art of Living Retreat Center? Check out our annual catalog here!

 

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TAGS: acupuncture , in house , pain , trauma , wellness , wendy swanson , yoga

Exploring Wisdom: Sri Sri on the Eight Limbs of Yoga

By Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
February 5, 2018

In 2015, Art of Living founder and guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar spoke with Philip Goldberg on the importance of the eight limbs of yoga. As relevant as ever, Sri Sri’s wisdom encourages us to consider all aspects of a Yoga practice as a path to greater fulfillment, health, and happiness. 

 

Q: What would you like people to know about Yoga?

Sri Sri: Yoga is like a vast ocean. You can just go for a breeze, or you can go with an oil rig and drill for oil … Yoga offers many things to different people at many different levels–whatever they aspire for: union with the cosmic consciousness, or physical health, mental clarity, emotional stability, spiritual ecstasy — all this is part of yoga.

 

Q: Does it concern you that people think of Yoga only as asana [the familiar physical postures]?

Sri Sri: Not really, because at that moment that’s what they understand. But once they start doing asana they start seeing there is something beyond that. If interest for meditation gets kindled, then they are on the right track. But if it stops at exercise … it’s not bad, but they will not reach the goal.

 

Q: When people think of the classic eight limbs of Yoga…

Sri Sri: I knew you would ask about that. Unfortunately, people think the eight limbs are eight steps, one after another. You know, when a baby is born it’s not that one limb develops after another. All the limbs develop simultaneously. The eight limbs of Yoga are so interconnected, if you pull one all the others will come along with it.

 

Q: Some people think you have to master the yamas and niyamas before you can do the others. [The yamas and niyamas — five behaviors to avoid and five to engage — constitute the first two limbs.]

Sri Sri: The limbs are not sequential, they are all together. The practice of the others contributes to the ability to observe the yamas and niyamas. When we teach meditation in prisons, we see that the moment they have a taste of meditation, their whole thought process and behavior pattern changes. They start on the path of non-violence. They become very truthful, and the tendencies to cheat disappear. So the yamas and niyamas start happening in people’s life just when they begin meditation.

 

Q: How do your Art of Living programs fit into the eight limbs of classical Yoga?

Sri Sri: Yoga would be incomplete if even one limb is absent from it. All the eight limbs coexist. Our program is the same way. We do some asana, and some pranayama-breathing exercises-and meditation that leads to samadhi [the 8th limb; not a practice but a state of consciousness transcending thought].

 

This interview first appeared on Huffington Post, and is presented in excerpt. 

 
 

Interested in learning more about Ayurveda and the programs at the Art of Living Retreat Center? Check out our annual catalog here!

 

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TAGS: asana , Ayurveda , eight limbs , interview , sri sri ravi shankar , yoga , yoga practice , yogi

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