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 - Being Jealous

Exploring Wisdom: Jealous? Here’s Why

By Margaret Paul
May 11, 2018

Art of Living Retreat Center - Being Jealous

 

In her phone session with me, Katy was completely perplexed about her jealousy.

 

“As you know, I broke up with my boyfriend, Jared, 6 months ago. By the time I broke up with him, I was really done with the relationship, and I have no desire to be with him. But last week I found out that he has a girlfriend and I feel jealous! I can’t figure this out. It makes no sense to me at all.”

 

I asked Katy to open to learning with the jealous part of her – an aspect of her wounded self.

 

The need to feel special

Katy’s 12-year-old wounded self quickly started to talk.

 

“I always want to be the favorite. I wanted to be Mom and Dad’s favorite and I was always upset when my brother seemed to be the favorite. Even though I don’t want to be with Jared, I want to be his favorite. As long as he didn’t have a girlfriend, I still felt like I was his favorite.”

 

When asked what being the favorite means to her, she answered, “It means that I’m better than other people. I always want to be the special one. I don’t like it when I’m with my friends and they pay more attention to their children or even their dog than they do to me. I know that it sounds crazy, but I hate it when my best friend brings her dog along when we get together. I feel upset about the attention she gives her dog!”

 

Katy was not valuing herself. Her jealousy was a symptom of her own inner abandonment. What her inner child was saying to her was, “I don’t feel at all special or important to you. I am not your favorite. You don’t think much of me. You rarely pay attention to me.”

 

When we are not loving ourselves, our wounded self may look to others for confirmation of worth. To our wounded self, who may constantly compare us to others, being “better than” – which may be determined by getting special attention from others – validates our worth.

 

Because Katy had spent most of her life making others responsible for her self-worth by trying to get their attention and approval, her inner child felt abandoned and worthless. Of course she felt jealous! And she would continue to feel jealous in many different situations until she felt loved and valued by loving adult Katy.

 

“Now I know you love me”

As Katy began to devote herself to practicing Inner Bonding, she started to recognize her own beautiful qualities and take care of her own feelings. The more she did this, the more loved and special her inner child felt. One day her inner little girl said to her, “I know that you love me. I know that I am your favorite. And I love you too.” Katy tearfully reported to me that she did indeed love her little girl and that jealousy was no longer an issue for her.

 

Feelings such as jealousy are always a symptom of inner abandonment. Jealousy, insecurity, neediness, fear of rejection – these feelings are not the issue. They are the symptom of the fact that we are abandoning ourselves through:

 
  • Self Judgment
  • Not attending to our feelings, ignoring them or using addictions to numb them
  • Making others responsible for our feelings of safety, lovability and worth
 

No other person can ever take away these painful feelings. No other person can make up to you the lack of valuing you might have experienced as a child. No matter how much others love and value you, as long as you are not loving and valuing yourself, you will feel unsafe, insecure or jealous.

 

The power of Inner Bonding is that, through practice, you learn to give yourself what you didn’t receive as a child and always wanted and needed. This is what heals jealousy, as well as insecurity, neediness, and fear of rejection.

 

Dr. Margaret Paul is a bestselling author and co-creator of the powerful Inner Bonding® self-healing process, and the related SelfQuest® self-healing online program – recommended by actress Lindsay Wagner and singer Alanis Morissette. She has appeared on numerous radio and television shows, including Oprah. Margaret holds a PhD in psychology, is a relationship expert, public speaker, consultant and artist. She has successfully worked with thousands and taught classes and seminars for over 50 years.

 

Join Margaret at the Art of Living Retreat Center from May 18th to 20th to heal the cycle of shame and self-abandonment, learn to love yourself, and move into a healthy pattern of decision making at her retreat, Inner Bonding.

 

This article is reposted from margaretpaul.com with permission from the author.

 

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: exploring wisdom , inner child , jealous , jealousy , self love , self-care , wisdom
Make Friends With Your Body

Exploring Wisdom: Make Friends with Your Body

By Cyndi Lee
April 2, 2018

Make Friends With Your Body

 

Pairs of yogis face each other, press their palms together, and shyly bow their heads. Wearing baggy sweat pants and sexy yoga tops, bike shorts and faded t-shirts advertising local breweries, they are somehow all transformed into elegant beings in this moment—their generosity shining out toward each other. Then they laugh, slap a high five or share a shoulder squeeze, and return to their yoga mats for the rest of the class. They’ve just finished a partnering exercise and are feeling pretty exhilarated.

 

Without exception, everyone who participates in partner yoga is a cheerleader. They say things like: Yes! Push your feet into the wall. Keep breathing—don’t worry, I’ve got you. That’s great! You almost got up today. Do you want to come down now? Okay, good. Let’s take a rest. When one partner drops down and folds into a resting pose, the other partner gives them a friendly back rub.

 

I’ve seen this scenario repeated many times during my fifteen years of full-time yoga teaching, and it always warms my heart. It seems natural and easy for yoga students to open to their partners, and it brings to mind what one of my favorite Buddhist teachers once said, “At the end of the day, the true measure of our practice is how much we can open to others.” Remembering this, I think to myself, why is it so difficult to open to ourselves?

 

Finding a middle path

It is fairly typical to feel resentful, or at least annoyed, when we’re faced with obstacles. A common response is to blame another person. For instance, “I’m tired because my husband snores,” or “I’m fat because my kids like to eat ice cream,” or “Everyone in my family has tight hamstrings and that’s why I can’t do yoga… or anything.” The list goes on.

 

As meditators, we cultivate awareness of these blaming thoughts. We notice them, label them as thinking, and practice letting them go and coming back to now. We have learned that we always have options regarding how to respond to rising irritation, and we like to think that we might make a positive choice, one that involves relaxing and resting in openness—no other response necessary.

 

Yet I’ve noticed that when it’s our own body that is the source of discomfort and irritation, we often get frustrated or critical and simply give up on finding a middle path that meets the needs of both parties, that is, our body and our mind.

 

Overcoming needless suffering

The sad truth is that many of us just don’t like our bodies the way they are. We keep wishing they were different. Well, guess what? They are different! You used to be two feet tall and crawled everywhere. You used to be able to put your foot in your mouth. Perhaps you used to be thinner. The color of your skin changes depending on how much you expose it to the sun. Has your hair changed color, too? So, you see, our bodies change all the time; it’s just our relationship to our bodies that has become locked up tight.

 

My favorite definition of dukkha, attributed to the great yogi Deskichar, is, “Sitting alone in a dark, cold room.” It’s about claustrophobia and needless suffering. And that is just what we are doing to ourselves when we sit in meditation posture with knee pain and backache, feeling trapped in our body, and mad about it, too.

 

Approaching your body with kindness and patience

Isn’t it interesting that yoga students never say to each other, “I don’t want to be your partner,” or “You are too fat, or too old, or too weak, or too uncoordinated to do this pose”? But these are all things we say to ourselves while meditating. This negative thinking habit then becomes a major element of what we are practicing, from the very beginning of our meditation practice when we first place our seat on the cushion.

 

Maybe you are thinking, “Well, I actually am too old or stiff to ever be comfortable sitting on a cushion.” But what if you took the approach that your body is fine as it is? This powerful mind shift then lays the ground for transforming dukkha into sukha, a sense of space and ease. After my yoga students thank each other and walk back to their own mats, I always ask them the same question: “Can you be as kind and patient with yourself as you were with your partner?”

 

A naked look

Step one is to accept your body the way it is today. In meditation this is called taking a naked look at things as they are, without having to change or fix them. If you can do this, it is an act of personal kindness, a very good thing to practice. It’s also simply being real, because let’s face it, you can’t practice with the body of the person next to you, anymore than you can practice with someone else’s mind. We are practicing with our own body—this one that we’re in today. Instead of thinking of all the things that are wrong with it, can you think of them as interesting elements to work with? Try it.

 

Let’s take stock: Tight hips? No problem. Stiff lower back? Okay. Creaky knees? Fine. Negative Attitude? We can probably get that unstuck, too. Let’s turn our dukkha drama into a sukha story.

 

Warming Up

Bodies are meant to move and, if we are planning to sit still for a while, it makes sense that we should move things around a bit first, to maintain a balance of activity and receptivity. Begin with this brief warm-up.

 

Stand up tall with your feet firmly planted on the floor, directly below your hips. Inhale as you circle your arms out to the side and all the way to the sky. Reach your fingers up! Exhale as you circle your arms back down by your sides. Repeat this four times. Inhale your arms up again. This time as you exhale, bend your knees. Next, inhale and straighten them. Exhale and bend. Repeat eight times.

 

Lower your arms by your sides. Turn your head to the right, then to the center, the left, and to the center again. Dip your right ear toward your right shoulder. Lift it up back up and dip your left ear to left shoulder.

 

Interlace your fingers behind your back. Lift your chest. Breathe in fully. Exhale and stick your tongue out. Repeat three times. Place your hands on your hips. Lift your right knee up toward your chest. Hold onto it with both hands. If that is not available to you today, place your left hand on a chair or the wall and hold your knee with your right hand. If that is not available today, lift your right foot off the floor two inches. Circle your right ankle three times in each direction. Do the other side.

 

Standing tall, bend your knees again. Place your left hand on your right knee and twist your chest and shoulders to the right. Extend your right arm toward the wall behind you. Stay here for three deep breaths. Untwist back to the center. Do the other side. Repeat two times.

 

Now you are ready to work on your sitting meditation posture.

 

Sitting Meditation Posture

First, organize your materials. You will need at least three to five meditation cushions or large, firm pillows and three to five blankets. A carpet or rug is also useful, but if you don’t have one, fold a blanket in half and place it on the floor. Place two of your cushions on the blanket near the far edge. Then sit down on the cushions with your sitting bones near the front edge of the cushion. Your thighs should not be supported, yet your seat should be firmly on the cushion.

 

Place one hand on your tailbone and one hand on your pubic bone. Rock forward and back a few times and try to find the middle point of balance, where your pelvis feels vertical. If you feel that your tailbone is tucking under, which is very common and no big deal, you just need to sit up on at least one more cushion. This alignment will allow your spine to be upright without overworking your back muscles. Give yourself the chance to have a comfortable, supported sitting environment by using as many cushions as you need.

 

Check out the placement of your knees. If your thighs and knees are far from the floor, roll up two blankets and place one under each thigh so that your legs are fully supported. This will allow you to relax your groins and lower abdominals. Over time your hips will become more open but without this support they will continue to grip and you could develop an injury. If this were your yoga partner, you would happily place a rolled up blanket under their thighs for them, so no need to resist doing it for yourself, right?

 

Place your palms on your thighs. Align your upper arm bones with the side of your body, so that your chest is open and your back is upright. If your hands slide past your knees it will tend to close your chest, inhibiting your breathing and creating upper back stress. If your arms are a tad short, then place a small cushion or folded up blanket on each thigh so your forearms can rest on a higher plane.

 

This should feel pretty good! In fact, it might not feel like anything and that is also good. This preparation might seem cumbersome, but if we can take the time to create the conditions for a supported meditation position, that will support a focused and restful mind. When one body part starts screaming, it pulls the mind there and discomfort becomes the object of meditation, rather than the breath.

 

Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche says meditation is simply placing the mind, and therefore we are actually meditating all the time. But formal meditation practice is making a choice about how and where we place our mind. This requires working with the body in a careful way so that physical discomfort does not overtake the mind.

 

Make a commitment to being honest about what you are really feeling. Not what you want to feel or not feel. The goal is not to have perfect meditation posture but to step onto the path toward a healthy sitting position. Even though you might have felt nicely balanced and comfortable two minutes ago, something may have shifted and now you don’t feel comfortable. That’s okay. Reorganize if you need to. If you don’t need to, don’t. Be clear about it. Move if you are getting hurt. Don’t move if you are getting bored.

 

You will find yourself slouching. No problem. Refresh your posture. This will happen again and again, just as your mind strays off into thoughts. When you notice it, wake up, sit up, and come back to your object of meditation, usually the breath. In this way you are strengthening your mind muscle and your body muscles at the same time.

 

If you can be kind to yourself and interested in what your experience is, and if you can commit to being friendly to your own body by creating the conditions for proper physical support, then meditation becomes a truly integrated mind–body–heart activity.

Cyndi Lee is the first female Western yoga teacher to fully integrate yoga asana and Tibetan Buddhism in her practice and teaching. Founder of NYC’s OM yoga Center (1998-2012) she now teaches yoga, meditation and resiliency workshops worldwide. Cyndi is a formally trained Buddhist Chaplain, and has been teaching yoga for 40 years.

 

This article first appeared on lionsroar.com and has been republished with permission from the author.

         

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: cyndi lee , meditation , self love , self-care , yoga
Art of Living Retreat Center - Self-Care

In House: Marci Miles on Authentic Self-Care

By AOLRC
December 25, 2017

Art of Living Retreat Center - Self-Care

 

Founder of the My Authentic Self-Care™ (MASC™) Retreat Marcelletta Miles sat down with Andrew Keaveney to discuss the inspiration and goals of her program.

Having lost her uncle, aunt, grandmother and grandfather within a two-year period, Miles was forced to come to terms with a personal truth. Despite 22 years as a nurse, she did not know how to take care of herself in a physically and emotionally lasting way. Her struggle through this difficult time gave her the inspiration and perspective to launch a three-day retreat recently held here at the Boone Art of Living Retreat Center based on the concept of “taking care of yourself from the inside-out.” Here’s a bit of what she had to say about this idea:

 

The difference of authentic self-care

MASC is about really taking time and taking care of yourself so you can be your best self for the other people around you. I always used the example of a glass full of water. Every time you give to someone else or do something else, you’re taking away from the water. And at some point, the glass runs dry and if you don’t take time to refill your glass, then you are running on empty. And if you just think about it and just stop and take time to do something for yourself that energizes you from the inside-out.

 

It’s not about getting your hair done. It’s not about getting your nails done. All that stuff washes away. Now when you energize yourself from the inside-out, from the core of who you are, you’re getting love from a place of sincerity.

 

Signs that someone is ‘running on empty’

They are exhausted all the time; they are frustrated; they feel empty; they feel like they’re missing something on the inside. They are discouraged. Some people even begin to feel suicidal because they just don’t have anything on the inside that’s keeping them grounded. And over this past weekend, that’s what we’ve heard a lot of.

 

Taking care of yourself from the inside out

When you are really taking care of yourself from inside-out, you find yourself getting lost in something that you’re really enjoying doing and it really energizes you. MASC is about pulling off the mask that we put on every day, that we hide behind. We don’t want people to see the true us. But we’ve gotten so comfortable with having that mask on that we are hiding from ourselves. And so this weekend was about pulling off the mask and really reaching the core of who we are on the inside.

We just take some time to get back to the things that you enjoy because that’s what energizes you. For example, one of the participants this weekend got back into writing poetry. She said that she didn’t take the time to write anymore, and so this gave her the opportunity to really sit down and out pen to paper and express yourself. And she was like, “Oh my goodness! I forgot what this felt like!”

 

If you’re interested in a weekend to reconnect with the core of your being, register here for Marcelletta Miles’s May 2018 MASC Retreat.

 

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: art of living , art of living retreat center , happiness , Marcelletta Miles , MASC , self-care