stress less. #MeditationThoughtMondays

stress less

That’s great advice… but, um, how can you possibly “stress less” when life is hectic? My meditation students never fail to ask, “When am I supposed to give time to sitting around and meditating during the day?”

You might not have twenty extra minutes in a day to experience the stress relieving benefits of meditation.  But, when time is precious, do you have extra minutes in a day to GIVE To Stress? Stress steals moments.  Stress steals your ability to be effective, efficient, and compassionate.  Because your body is most concerned with survival, it doesn’t have time to be concerned with anything else, even staying healthy.  You can read more about stress and your immune response here.

Stress is a normal physiological response to, well, just about everything in your current environment.  Your body does not discriminate between physical stress and emotional stress: it reacts to both by releasing the same hormones and vamping up your sympathetic nervous system to all stimuli– real, imagined, positive, or negative.

During April, National Stress Awareness Month (yes, one more thing for you to stress over forgetting!), my Introduction to Meditation Workshops at Westport Yoga have been packed.  The best part?  In between our afternoon Sunday sessions my students have shared with me inspiring stories about how a one-minute morning meditation has reduced their daily stress levels.  Kara told me how she didn’t even get upset when her car was rear ended at a red stop light because she was practicing Mindful Breathing.  (I assigned the homework called “Red Light Breathing” to encourage students to stay mindful even during a stressful commute!) That’s extreme; I’d still get upset if my unsuspecting Subaru was hit by some knucklehead who was driving too fast.  But Kara’s Red Light Breathing must be super powerful.

Even one minute of mindful breathing can reduce stress and create relaxation in the body.   Whether you have one minute, or sixteen years, here are 9 tips you can utilize to reduce your stress level and lead a happier life.  (Number 9 is my favorite!)

The following was featured in Outside Magazine’s October 2014 Issue.  You can read the full article here.  It was written by Eric Beresini

clock

 

If you have: “10 Seconds: Laugh

Even just anticipating a chuckle is enough to relieve stress and elevate hormones that combat depression and boost immunity.

If you have: 5 Minutes: 
Chew Gum

Chewing two sticks a day for two weeks can fight off anxiety and fatigue and improve mood.

If you have: 15 Minutes: 
Meditate

Research has shown that a quarter of an hour of guided meditation performed in the office can kick psychological and physiological markers of stress. You don’t need someone in the flesh to help lead your thoughts; UCLA’s Mindful Awareness Research Center offers free weekly meditation podcasts to download or stream.

If you have: 30 Minutes: 
Go for a Run

Five days a week at a moderate pace of around ten minutes per mile can boost your mood, concentration, and sleep quality—not to mention your cardiovascular health and muscle tone.

If you have: 45 Minutes: 
Take a Nap

A 45-to-60-minute daytime snooze boosts your cardiovascular system, bringing spiked blood pressure back down to normal.

image7

yoga and movement help reduce stress.  check out Lisa’s yoga teaching schedule here.

 

If you have: 90 Minutes: Stretch It Out

Studies have shown that yoga relieves tension in everyone from medical students to flood survivors. Ninety minutes twice a week erases anxiety and replaces it with calm, though sessions half that long can also work. (Check out Lisa’s full yoga teaching schedule here.)

If you have: 1 Day: Walk in the Woods

Shinrin-yoku is a Japanese term meaning “walking or staying in forests to promote health.” Just a day in the wild, researchers have found, is enough to reduce stress, even in chronic sufferers.

 If you have: 1 Year: Move to Switzerland

The country topped the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s Better Life Index for life satisfaction. A strong sense of community, high life expectancy, and low unemployment make the Swiss life sweet. That and your in-laws probably don’t live there.

If you have:16 Years: 
Get a Dog

A pup will lower your blood pressure and generally improve your psychological well-being. And bringing it to the office can increase job satisfaction.”  – Eric Beresini  You can read the full article here

Russell Ash being coy

Every time you come home, your dog will welcome you with open arms, no matter how stressed you are.  You should get one.  

Which of these tips can you utilize tomorrow?  Which one is your favorite?

(I’m sure you have time to stress less.  I can’t imagine you have time to stress more.)

Happy Living,

-lisa

stress less

every day that I laugh, I am grateful.

Image

gratitude challenge day eleven: November 17.

“Every day that I laugh,

I am grateful.”

Steps to completing the gratitude meditation challenge:

Read.   Breathe.  Smile.   Sit in stillness.  Read again.  Express your gratitude for this moment and for all of the many blessings which bring you joy in this life.

???????????????????????????????

Why gratitude?  Because it’s the only reasonable response to being alive.  Read more here.      

With gratitude,

-lisa

 

what does it mean to ‘travel lightly’?

What does it mean to travel lightly? 

One backpack.  One.  One backpack for 2+ weeks in Peru, where I will be on the sun-scorched beach and in the snow-covered peaks of the Andes, sprawling in the humid rainforest in an open air cabin, huddling in tents and sleeping in un-air-conditioned hostels…. an one is all I get.  How do I pack for that?!  It doesn’t make sense to pack a bikini and my winter gloves, but somehow I need to be prepared for both extremes.  What do I pack?  What do I leave behind?  What will I take with me, only to realize after 36+ hours of cars, planes and buses, that I can’t carry the weight of it?

photo 1 (2)

one bag. are you kidding me?

I just read the novel Wild, by Cheryl Strayed, about her trek up the Pacific Coast Trail from the Mojave Desert to the Bridge of the Gods in Washington State.  She named her hiking backpack Monster.  She quickly realized she could not walk 19 miles a day in the mountains under its weight, and spent the first few weeks of her journey ditching items that weren’t 100% necessary for survival.  Near the end of her journey, Cheryl realized what else she carried with her – unresolved grief over the passing of her mother – doubled the weight she carried with every step.  When she let that go, her traveling became lighter.

I found this picture featuring a quote from Yogi Bajan a few months ago, and it has consumed my thoughts since then.  It says: “Travel light, live light, spread the light, be the light.”  (Yes, English Grammar Nerds will notice that it should say: ‘travel lightly’ and ‘live lightly’ but I actually really like the play-on-words that results from mis-using the word ‘light’ as an adverb.  ‘Live Light’ and ‘Live Lightly…’ they are both excellent pieces of advice.)

June 27

Anyway, back to packing my bag for the trip of a lifetime:  it’s excruciating.  I want to be prepared for EVERYTHING.  I keep asking questions like: but what if I NEED a cute top and skinny jeans because we stumble across a nice restaurant?  But what if I NEED my hair straightener and blow dryer (never mind that we don’t have electricity in the Amazon rainforest) and what if I NEED extra supplies in my first aid kit, 6 pairs of gloves, 4 novels, 2 extra towels and 1 yoga mat?  I mean, I need to be prepared for anything, right?  Otherwise, won’t I feel anxious?  Unprepared?  Stupid for not packing the ‘right’ gear for this epic adventure in Peru?  I DON’T KNOW WHAT WILL HAPPEN!!  How do I prepare for THAT??  Reality Check: We NEVER know exactly what will happen in our future.  That’s the thing about life and creation—it is constantly in motion, and it is constantly changing.  We get one day…. We may get one million days. 

Then I see this again:

June 27

Hmm…my job is not to be consumed with collecting all the items that will protect me from uncertainty.  This only adds to my anxiety.  My job is EVERY DAY, to “Travel light, live light, spread the light, be the light.”

Boy, that sure takes the pressure off.  I don’t have to be prepared for everything, I just have to be prepared to Live Light.  And travel lightly on this Earth, leaving only soft imprints (which means, I guess… not carrying around a 40lb backpack, complaining with every step.  But yes, I will be packing my first aid kit.)

Stay tuned for Peru updates and pictures; my Ironman and I are super excited for our adventure-vacation.  (For those of you who are concerned, Russell Clive will be staying with his grandparents.)

-lisa

photo 2 (2)

p.s. it totally fit. i’m a pro at packing this bag!

 

yoga habit to yoga blessing.

 habit to blessing.

Yoga is so much more than our Tuesday night 90 minute stretching at our yoga studio.  It has the possibility to be the most important habit that you will ever undertake.  Here’s why:

“Yoga becomes a habit when we realize our body simply feels better after we practice.

It becomes a habit when we return day after day to our mat, yearning for courage and strength in our lives.

It becomes a habit when we yearn for the moment of ease and serenity that we experience after our yoga practice and wish to carry it with us when we leave this place.

It becomes a habit when we yearn for this feeling of all-encompassing grace and delight in the healing it brings to our Spirit.

It becomes a blessing when we yearn for others to experience the same things.”

-lisa

At the beginning of class a few months ago, I challenged you to spend time thinking of all the ways your practice has been a blessing in your life.  I asked you to write these down on a piece of paper and bring it to class the following week.  A few of you smiled, nodded, and then promptly forgot your homework (or ignored my directions? I’m not sure which…).  So, now, here’s your chance.

You know that your yoga practice IS a blessing in your life.  You’ve told me that it  weaned you off your daily Tylenol for back pain. You’ve told me that it reduced insomnia and you can now sleep for six hours a night. You’ve told me that you caught yourself before falling on the icy sidewalk because your balance has improved so dramatically.  You’ve told me that your 10K split time was faster because your open hip flexors allowed a longer stride out.  You’ve told me that you were better able to handle the grief of losing your father to cancer because of your mindful meditation practice.  I want to hear more.

How has your yoga practice been a blessing to you?  Don’t just think about it.  Write it down.  Share it.  Leave a comment, email me, facebook me, text me.  It can be just one word.  It can be an essay.  Stretching our bodies is a good habit.  Appreciating the blessings in our life is an even better habit.

**Giveaway!  Responding in the comment section of this page enters your name into a drawing for a Free Giveaway:  A small book entitled 1,001 Ways to Live in 10001 waysthe Moment  by Barbara Ann Kipfer.

 

I can’t wait to hear what you have to say.

-lisa

intention.

intention.

I firmly believe that the most powerful way to deepen your yoga practice is to confidently set an intention before the class begins.  In the Ashtanga tradition, we set this intention while standing in samastitihi (equal attention pose) which grounds us in the space before we begin moving.  Standing tall, pressing equally into the four corners of our feet, we listen for the sound of our breath to experience present moment awareness.  Your intention, or sankalpa, can be set while you are seated, while you are lying down, or while you are parking your car on the street before even entering the studio.  It is important to set an intention for each practice that is deeper than ‘I’d like to tone my inner thighs, please,’ or ‘Today I will master handstands.’

The Buddha is attributed with saying, “Our life is shaped by our mind; we become what we think.”  This is meant to remind us that our bodies are a physical manifestation of our thought energy.  Your practice is only as deep as your intention for it.  If your mind is busy planning your grocery shopping list (like mine often is on Thursday mornings before I head to Trader Joe’s that evening) then your practice will be superficial as well.  If all it took was a strong handstand to achieve enlightenment, then every college mascot would be living the high life.  My undergrad mascot happened to be played by a very close friend of mine, and I would absolutely attribute Zac as being (top 10) one of the funniest people I know, but perhaps his ability to walk down a flight of stairs on his hands (true story) didn’t ultimately lead him to a state of blissful Union.  In other words: our practice is intimately influenced by the quality of our thoughts. 

I ask students to choose one word that represents a quality they would like to cultivate in their lives.  Patience.  Kindness.  Healing.  Energy.  Strength.  This thought can be your intention.  After a few months of practicing with me, my friend Adelaide confided in me that her recent move back to the Midwest and recent job change in the competitive world of advertising had resulted in a sense of insecurity.  For several years she’d practiced yoga on and off, but now had re-committed to daily practice, and this had changed everything.  She sent me this e-mail:

“You have honestly made a difference in my life and helped me restore confidence and self-acceptance that I had let wane during recent tense life moments.

 I feel immensely better about myself and my surroundings since I’ve chosen to incorporate yoga and your teachings into the flow of how I live.”

 The movement of your practice is not what is special: what is special is your intention behind the movement.  Yoga designed to develop faith, grace, and reconciliation with your own body.  Yoga is designed to heal. 

IMG_0508

Set an intention at the beginning of every class.  Every practice.  Every time.  It may be helpful to repeat a personal script that firmly sets an intention.  You can write your own, or you can just use mine.  I think it works pretty well.  (I mean, I’m not enlightened yet, but I’m working on it!)

“With my breath, I set my intention for this practice.  I renew my commitment to practice with integrity and with passion.

With my breath, I set aside this time for me.  Everything that happened before this practice and everything that will happen after this practice can wait outside.  I dedicate this time to healing myself so that I can bring healing and hope to my community. 

May I breathe for myself and also for my neighbors.  May I be a vessel of Divine Love and Grace.  May this practice be a blessing of health, happiness, and wholeness.”

 

Happy practicing,  with love,

-lisa

inspiration for your day:

Yoga is about clearing away whatever is in us that prevents our living in the most full and whole way. With yoga, we become aware of how and where we are restricted — in body, mind, and heart — and how gradually to open and release these blockages. As these blockages are cleared, our energy is freed. We start to feel more harmonious, more at one with ourselves. Our lives begin to flow — or we begin to flow more in our lives. 

~Cybele Tomlinson

Image

photo cred: LMA