Rites of Passage – What are They and Why We Need Them

What is a rite of passage? The dictionary definition is: A ceremony that marks a significant transitional period in someone’s life. Regardless the event – it marks a permanent change in your status as a person in your community.

A rite of passage typically involves a particular activity or education intended to move you out of your original role in preparation for a new one. Although usually associated with ‘primitive cultures,’ rites of passage form the fabric of our lives.

Imagine how much poorer life would be without:

  • Religious ceremonies (baptism, bar-mitzvah, etc.)
  • Birthdays
  • Graduation ceremonies
  • Funerals

These ceremonies are such an intrinsic part of our lives that we can scarcely conceive of life without them. But, each one (and many others) is essentially a rite of passage that commemorates a significant change in our lives.

Transitions Are Important

Transitions are about change.

For the young celebrating high school graduation; it’s graduating from the role of student to being an adult and joining the adult world of:

  • Getting a job,
  • Going to college
  • Finding a place to live
  • Developing mature personal and social relationships
  • Getting involved in their community

While the transition from high school student to adult doesn’t require all of these things at the same time, most young people will do (or want to do) the things adults do during their twenties and thirties – imagine not having the experience of graduation to mark this momentous entry into adulthood. Graduation ceremonies prepare you emotionally for the shock of leaving the joys of childhood behind you.

Housewarmings are another critical rite of passage.
Once you’ve moved into a new neighborhood, a housewarming party signals that you’re part of a new community and have cut your ties to your previous one. This rite of passage marks as not merely a visitor, but a resident in your new community with all the responsibilities and privileges that come with that new status.

Consider how cruel it would seem to start retirement by working your last day just like any other and then just going home? Your retirement party prepares your coworkers for your permanent absence while easing the shock of you leaving the world of work.

When someone important to you dies; a funeral allows everyone to say goodbye and marks the beginning of life without them. How horrible would it be to have a deceased family member just disposed of by something like your weekly trash pick up? A funeral is a rite of passage that eases our fear of death and gives us needed closure when we lose someone who played a significant role in our lives.

Change Is Good

change is a good thing
Change isn’t just good; it’s essential for a fulfilling life.

Imagine a life where everything stays the same; the same friends, neighborhood, home, job – forever. You’ll know what every day has in store for you; who you’ll see, where you’ll work, the roads you’ll travel.

Tell me that doesn’t sound like a nightmare! Change, whether planned are unexpected is a chance to extend yourself in new ways.

Moving to a new country can entail learning a new language, customs, and city. Changing jobs can give you the opportunity to practice new skills, advance in your career, and make beneficial professional connections.

Ultimately, change in our lives is essential to develop the range of experiences that allow us to become the best version of ourselves possible and enter old age with a well of wisdom to draw upon that earns the respect of everyone around us.

Rites of Passage for Mental Health

Human beings have the most incredibly complex mental processes compared to any other life on earth.

Of all the animals on this planet – only a human can sit down someplace; think hard for a few hours, then get up with an idea that changes the world.
Our mental state is delicate at the best of times and rites of passage are an essential psychological lubricant that keeps the gears of our minds from grinding together painfully.

Without rites of passage; the shocks, changes, and challenges of our lives can seem like no more than a chaotic and frightening mess that we face alone. The rituals we invent for each major transition that we face are critical to our mental health.

By not only sharing but celebrating the milestone events in our lives; we turn stressful transitions into cherished memories that enrich our lives.

We Need a Way to Remember

mental bookmark
What is a rite of passage if it isn’t the ultimate mnemonic device?

We all remember graduating from school, our 18th birthday, marriage, the birth of a child, the death of a parent – and the rituals surrounding these events ensure that we always have a ‘mental bookmark’ to refer back to when we need to recollect the events that surrounded that transition.

Rites of passage create an emotional charge around each memory that guarantees you’ll always be able to recall what happened and how it made you feel.

Rites of passage are a way to forever preserve the most important times in our lives where it matters most; our minds.

What Happens When We Don’t Have a Rite of Passage for Something?

man holding a picture
We make up a new one!

Modern civilization may have lots going for it, but most of us still feel ‘lost at sea’ as we proceed through our lives. Why?

Consider that many modern rites of passage are cobbled together, with no history behind them. People of all ages are trying to recapture the structure that ceremony gave life in the early days of human society.

Consider these modern ‘traditions’ that have been created:

  • Skipping the last day of school
  • Getting your first license
  • High school prom
  • Getting drunk with friends once you hit legal age

Each of these new rites of passage is how modern society deals with the important transitions to adulthood that have no traditional counterpart.

We live in a complex world that creates transitions that have never existed before – with no way to ease the stress passing each one can cause.

Children and teens are especially vulnerable to the lack of new rites of passage for the unprecedented transitions they experience. Unfortunately, rapid technological changes keep changing the goal posts we use to measure our lives. But experience shows that we will continue to meet the changing times of our lives with new rites of passage that will give life the structure we need for a fulfilling life.

Are You Freaking Out With Back to School Separation Anxiety, or Are Your Kids?

Separation Anxiety – 9 Ways to Overcome it

help your child's separation anxiety

It can be heartbreaking as the new school year begins and you know the cries of “Mommy, please stay a little longer” will make drop-off an emotionally draining experience. Worse, after a long summer – you’re going to miss enjoying the easy, fun, and unstructured days together at home.

Separation anxiety affects children and parents alike. Let’s take a look at these 10 effective strategies you can use to make this transition a less stressful experience for both of you.

1) Get them Used to it Slowly

Regardless the age of your child; they’re going to be anxious about starting school. Your child is going to have to get used to new teachers, new classmates, and a new routine.

For preschool and kindergarten aged children, the best way to deal with this is by practicing the separation process. Try dropping your child off at grandma’s (or even a playdate) for a solo visit a few times before the big day. You’ll both get used to saying goodbye.

For older children; start getting them into the school year routine a couple of weeks out. Get them to bed and wake them on the ‘school day’ schedule, and get them engaged with school prep. Also, joining you when you shop for their school supplies will provide a sense of control that will relieve school jitters.

2) Role Playing

school bus bluesThis is one of the most effective ways to relieve the stress of separation anxiety. We are all instinctively apprehensive about facing the unknown.

Simply begin by going through the motions of the first day of school:

‘Drop off’ your preschooler/kindergartener at the kitchen or living room and say ‘goodbye’ as you leave for another room

Wake your elementary or middle school student up and run through dressing, eating and packing into the car or heading out for the bus

Get your high school freshman aged child to practice getting things packed and ready for the school day the night before and waking up at the right time to not be late. High school can be tough enough at the best of times – give your freshman year kid a chance to get used to the new routine ahead of time.

Familiarity with a new routine goes a long way to ending the anxiety that separating from home and parents can bring on that first day.

3) Communicate to Control Anxiety

This one is easy. You need to discuss school at home and answer any questions that they may have; your child needs to feel like they have a handle on what’s coming up. Explain the new schedule, what they can expect as the school day progresses, and what activities they can look forward to.

It can help control your separation fears if you remember what the first day of school felt like to you when you were that age. It turned out just fine, didn’t it?

4) Tell Your Child Where You’re Going

This is critically important for the parents of younger children.

Your preschooler needs to know that you’re going to be someplace that they understand after drop off. If your child understands that you’re going someplace known, such as work or home; they’ll feel more confident that you’ll come back safely to get them.

Don’t forget that separation anxiety is another way to fear the unknown – the more your child feels they know, the less they’ll fear being left at school.

5) Don’t Sneak Out!

Always say goodbye to very young children before leaving.

Many parents believe that simply leaving is the best way to avoid the tears and upset that separation can bring child and parent, but nothing could be further from the truth.

While you may not see it, there is a point when someone realizes that you’re nowhere to be seen and they’re alone in an unfamiliar environment; then the upset truly begins.

Always say goodbye so that you both have emotional closure and the child is prepared to face the day assured that you will be back.

6) Make a Special Calendar

This is always a very good idea; a countdown calendar is a fantastic way to prepare the whole family for a new routine.

Your children will have ample time to wrap their heads around the changes coming with the new school year, and you’ll be able to stay organized and prepare adequately to make the transition from lazy summer days to juggling getting everybody where they need to be when they need to be there.

7) Stop Feeling Guilty

girl headed to schoolIt’s okay to feel guilty about leaving your child behind – whether you need to work all day, care for an aged parent or take care of household duties; you need that time.

Your child is in a safe place, with trusted people, and having a productive day in your absence. Use the time they’re at school to get things done so you can be a more attentive parent when they get home. We all need a break from child care duties from time to time.

8) Stay Busy

Being worried about your kid while they’re away is perfectly reasonable. Until you get back into the swing of things, try to stay busy.

Plan ahead to keep yourself occupied in the first days or even weeks afterward.

It doesn’t matter if it’s a few hours at school or staying at college; having your child away from you can bring on acute separation anxiety; keep your mind occupied during the day to relieve the natural worry that could make you miserable otherwise.

9) Exchange Mementos

Try exchanging special mementos that you and your child can hold onto during the time you’re both apart.

It can be anything at all; a photo, card, trinket or something you make by hand for each other. A unique item that has emotional significance will provide emotional support and a feeling that you’re not really alone.

Separation is a Normal Part of Life

separation is a normal part of lifeDon’t forget that separation is a normal part of life; there will always be situations when you need to leave someone you love for a period of time. Be reassured by the fact that you did everything in your power to make sure your child, regardless of age, is well-prepared and safe while you’re apart.

Separation anxiety is a normal reaction to a significant change – by being proactive and maintaining a positive attitude, you can make this an opportunity for personal growth and forge an even stronger, and more mature emotional bond between you.

Are You in Tune With Your Mental Health?

Mental Health is Critical to Physical Health

Mental health and physical healthIt’s incredible that while obesity, diabetes, and heart disease are recognized as ‘silent killers’ by the majority of people – emotional and psychological problems are considered to be simply the consequences of personal or moral weakness.

But, nothing could be farther from the truth.

Unfortunately, as long as society views mental illness in all of its manifestations as being the sufferer’s fault, rather than a genuine health issue that can have negative physical consequences; there’ll be too few resources devoted to this (sometimes fatal) health problem.

Consider this:

  • Emergency rooms are rarely equipped to handle mental health emergencies
  • Mental illness is still considered a sign of emotional or moral weakness
  • The majority of health insurance covers mental health as separate from standard care

What is Good Mental Health?

If you’re able to go through your day easily able to work or study to your full potential, while coping with daily life stresses, stay involved in your community, and experience life in a satisfying way; then you’re experiencing good mental health.

You enjoy good emotional and social well-being and have the capacity to deal with the changes and challenges that affect your life.

While stressful experiences like the death of a loved one or the loss of a job will upset you – being mentally healthy means that you can get through these shocks and move on with life.

The secret of good mental health is maintaining a balance between all the things that affect you; your social status, physical health, economic security, emotional state, and even your spiritual beliefs.

Mental Illness is Epidemic among US Adults

Mental Illness is Epidemic among US AdultsAccording to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH); nearly 20% of US adults or 43 million people are affected by mental disorders of one kind or another. This number doesn’t consider the number of children who also deal with the negative health impacts of mental illness.

If this many people suffered from the flu simultaneously– it would be considered front page news.

Health Effects of Poor Mental Health

When you experience mental health issues, the effect on your physical health can be insidious (elevated stress hormones, poor diet choices) or immediate (self-harm), expressed in many physical symptoms and severe illnesses.

Heart Disease

Changes in mental state and persistent moods can seriously affect the cardiovascular system by creating a constant state of emergency preparedness (the fight or flight reflex).

In this state, the body’s stress hormone levels increase causing blood vessels to constrict and the heartbeat to accelerate.

According to research published in the September 2015 issue of Global Heart; when an individual is deeply depressed or persistently anxious, this constant emergency response can damage the tissues within blood vessels and also makes the heart insensitive to normal signals telling it to slow down or speed up as physical demands change.

This combination of factors is how mental illness can ultimately result in potentially fatal cardiovascular disease. Mental illness should be considered as a much a risk factor for heart disease as diet, smoking, and family history.

Mental Illness and Cancer

A recent study conducted in Maryland has shown that adults suffering schizophrenia or bipolar disorder can have a more than doubled risk for cancer, especially lung cancer.

This study is the latest added to a rapidly growing body of research suggesting that there is a significantly higher risk of cancer in people with a severe mental illness.

There are many theories about what precisely causes the increased incidence of cancer in the mentally ill – but, besides the effect that emotional distress can have on the immune system; coping mechanisms such as drinking alcohol and smoking most likely contribute to many of the cancers recorded in this study.

Diabetes

The mechanism by which mental problems like depression can cause diabetes is well understood.

For many people, food is a way to cope with emotional discomfort, feelings of inadequacy or is merely another expression of addictive behavior. The damage caused to your body’s metabolic processes by high sugar and fat intake can be irreparable.

Early treatment of the underlying emotional issues or mental disorder that causes addictive eating behavior could prevent millions of new cases of diabetes every year.

Having diabetes can also cause mental illness.

According to an article published in the Journal of the American Medical Association among the ailments that can accompany diabetes; mental-health problems are often overlooked, even though mental health issues can prevent effective self-management, increasing the risk for complications such as:

  • Blindness
  • Amputation
  • Strokes
  • Heart attack
  • Dementia

Without treating the whole person; doctors can’t ensure the best outcomes from the diets and drugs they prescribe to control diabetes.

Suicide

This is the most serious way that poor mental health will affect your physical health.

Depression and emotional distress can easily push someone to life-ending action. Forty-thousand Americans end their lives by suicide every year, and this number doesn’t reflect the uncounted people who made their deaths appear to be by accident or misadventure.

According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the US.

Facts about Suicide in the US:

  • For every successful suicide, there was an average of 25 attempts
  • Men die by suicide more than three times as often as women
  • White males constituted 70% of suicides in 2015
  • The suicide rate is highest in the middle-aged

If mental health was taken as seriously as physical disease, many of these people could have been saved (and their families spared emotional suffering as well).

What to Do?

how to improve mental healthYou don’t have to wait for society as a whole, or medical professionals in particular, to recognize that our mental health is as vital to our well-being as our physical health. There are changes you can make now that will maintain and even improve your mental health.

Exercise

If you don’t get regular exercise – you’re not doing the one thing that’s guaranteed to relieve stress, reduce your stress levels, and build up the physical and mental resiliency that helps keep emotional problems from becoming overwhelming. Physical exertion even increases our levels of norepinephrine; a hormone that moderates the brain’s response to stress!

Research demonstrates that people who do aerobic exercises, such as

  • Jogging and walking
  • Swimming
  • Cycling
  • Even gardening, and dancing

All experience reduced levels of anxiety and depression. Among the reasons why aerobic activity helps your mental state, the best bet is that the exercise-related increase in blood circulation creates a positive effect on brain chemistry.

Mindfulness Meditation

Mindfulness meditation originates in Buddhist practices and is simply the act of focusing on the moment without concerning yourself with what’s to come (or even what has been).

Researchers from Harvard at Massachusetts General Hospital discovered that two months of regular mindfulness meditation practice made significant changes in the brain’s gray matter. Tests showed strong evidence for improved memory, empathy levels, sense of self, and meaningful stress relief.

Take an Active Role in Your Mental and Physical Health

If you want to optimize your health to avoid serious illness and live a more satisfying life – you need to take responsibility for both your physical and mental well-being.

If you don’t do so already; start a fitness program that includes brain-healthy aerobic exercise. Instead of rushing for a quick drink or sugary snack at the end of the day to relieve stress – give mindfulness meditation a try and learn to control stress from within yourself.

By learning to strengthen your physical and emotional health through personal effort, you’ll reap the benefits of improved resilience in the face of life’s challenges and occasional disappointments.

Is Yoga Right for Me?

Female doing backbend by the oceanAre you a Yoga newbie? Still having trouble deciding which style to try out first? I understand that it can be difficult in the beginning – the amount of information out there and the huge variety of classes on offer can be overwhelming!

I’m going to teach about; the origins and benefits of Yoga practice, the different styles you have to choose from, and why a particular style might work better for you than another. Keep reading to not only learn about this incredible way to achieve optimal health and but also how to pick the best style for you.

Yoga FAQs

Here are some basic facts about Yoga that will help you more about this ancient practice.

What is Yoga?

Let’s start with what Yoga is not; Yoga is not a religion, neither is it necessary to become a vegetarian to benefit from Yoga practice.

Yoga is a collection of physical, mental, and spiritual practices that date back thousands of years. Yoga is intended to create greater physical health while providing its practitioners with mental clarity, tranquility, and focus.

Do I Need to Be Flexible?

Many Yoga styles demand a degree of flexibility to be considered proficient – but you don’t need to be flexible to begin practicing Yoga. A better way to look at it is; Yoga can help develop your flexibility. Being more supple is a benefit of Yoga practice, not a prerequisite.

Do I Need To Practice Every Day?

Of course not! Even one hour of Yoga practice per week will let you reap the health and mental benefits of this extraordinary approach to strength and health.

What Does Namaste Mean?

Namaste is a traditional greeting in Yoga that is basically you recognizing the divine spark in another person. It has very deep spiritual roots in Hindu culture and literally means: ‘I bow to the divine in you.’

The Roots of Yoga – Upanishads and Vedas

Girl doing a one armed side plank

Vedas

An intrinsic part of Yoga practice is the recitation of mantras (repetitive phrases/words); the mantras are traditionally extracted from Indian holy texts called the Vedas. Vedic mantras are used to praise and invoke spiritual powers to act in our lives.

The Vedas are both a spiritual core and the philosophical foundation of Yoga, as well as Hinduism.

The Upanishads

Although the Vedas are the most valued sacred texts in Hindu culture – the Upanishads are the vehicle used to transfer their wisdom into pragmatic teachings that Yoga practitioners can benefit from every day.

Traditionally there are about two-hundred Upanishads, but only eleven are considered as ‘principal’ to Yoga. The Yogic practices taught by the Upanishads are meditation based, and the philosophy is a component of the core beliefs in all styles of Yoga.

What Science Says About Yoga

Female doing the tree pose by the water
There are many ways that Yoga promotes health; many of them based originating from the physical movements and postures used, and others from learning better stress management. Here are some scientifically based benefits of Yoga.

Back Pain

Back pain is a common health problem in the US. 80% of Americans will suffer from back pain at some point in their lives. This study published in The Clinical Journal of Joint Pain strongly indicates that Yoga can help.

Arthritis

In a controlled study, Hatha Yoga practice provided women with knee osteoarthritis significant relief from pain and increased levels of joint mobility.

Depression

Research at the University of Westminster has demonstrated that practicing Yoga can reduce perceived levels of depression in the subjects tested. The University researchers concluded that Yoga is an effective alternative treatment for depression.

Yoga Styles

Female doing yoga, standing on one foot while her other one is in her hand
Now, let’s examine the most popular Yoga styles and explain why each may be the right choice for you.

Hatha

Hatha simply means ‘physical’ Yoga; which describes just about all the Yoga styles you’ll encounter in our part of the world. Hatha Yoga is an umbrella term for the different styles you’ll see listed on any studio’s schedule.

Ashtanga

Ashtanga is a physically demanding Yoga that is based on 6 strenuous pose sequences called the series. They are performed sequentially as you progress. You’ll be moving rapidly from one pose to another with each Vinyasa: the series of poses you practice linked by inhalations and exhalations of breath.

Bikram

Bikram Yoga (hot yoga) is named for its creator; Bikram Choudhury. You practice under sauna like conditions (about 100 degrees Fahrenheit) as you move through 26 basic Yoga postures – twice. Bikram is appealing to newbies because the classes are predictable; allowing you to focus more on the workout, than remembering the sequence.

Vinyasa

Do you like to feel the burn? Vinyasa Yoga has a lot in common with CrossFit.

The class is dynamic as you link movement and breath in a manner that is dance-like and quick. There’s a strong cardio component to Vinyasa Yoga; your heart will be pumping!

If you like an intense exercise session – then Vinyasa is for you.

Kundalini

Kundalini Yoga is growing in popularity. This isn’t a typical Yoga class; its based on Kriyas, which are repetitive physical movements coupled with intense breathing – while meditating, singing, and chanting.

It’s both physically and mentally demanding.

The goal of Kundalini is to release the untapped energy within you and raise your level of self-awareness. If you want to focus as much on the spiritual aspect of Yoga as the physical – this could be the right style for you.

Restorative

This is a slow moving and tranquil style of Yoga intended to create a deep state of relaxation. You’ll hold poses longer to have a chance to tap into your parasympathetic nervous system.

Restorative Yoga is a style everyone can benefit from at one point or another. If you have a hard time winding down, struggle with insomnia or are frequently anxious, then Restorative Yoga could be the answer.

Benefits of Ashtanga Yoga

Ashtanga Yoga Has a Profound Impact on Health

People have been practicing (and enjoying the benefits of) Yoga for thousands of years. While its popularity has waxed and waned over the last hundred years – Yoga is enjoying a resurgence in popularity in the United States. Research has proven that practicing Yoga can have a profound impact on your health.

Let’s take a closer look at one of the most physically dynamic styles of Yoga and what it could do to make you feel better, look better, restore your health, and improve your mood.

What is Ashtanga Yoga

Yoga is a three-thousand-year old practice that originates in the Indian sub-continent; the word itself means to “yoke” or “connect.” The things being connected are traditionally understood to be the body and spirit in order for practitioners to achieve liberation.

There are various styles of Yoga, and each one has a particular focus or goal. We’re going to focus on one style of physically dynamic Yoga that has enjoyed incredible popularity in the U.S. since the 1980’s; Ashtanga Yoga.

The Eight Limbs of Ashtanga Yoga

The eight limbs of Ashtanga YogaAshtanga actually means “eight limbs.” As a system of both physical and spiritual health maintenance, there is an underlying philosophy to Ashtanga Yoga that is divided into eight parts.
1) Yama: Restraints and moral discipline

This limb refers to the vows, discipline and practices that concern the world around us, and how we interact with it.

While practicing yoga can increase physical strength/ flexibility and also aid in calming your mind; what’s the point if you’re still stiff, weak and stressed in daily life?

Ashtanga Yoga has five Yamas; including

  • Ahimsa (non-violence)
  • Satya (truthfulness)
  • Asteya (don’t steal)
  • Brahmacharya (correct use of energy)
  • Aparigraha (avoiding greed).

2) Niyama: Positive duties or observances

The second limb usually refers to our duties towards ourselves, but can also be considered in actions towards the world. Niyamas are traditionally practiced by people who want to build character.

3) Asana: Posture

The physical aspect of yoga is the third limb of Ashtanga Yoga. This concept means being able to repose comfortably, so you’re not “pulled” by aches and discomfort of the body or suffer restlessness from an uncomfortable position.

4) Pranayama: Breathing Techniques

The word Prana means “energy.” It is used to describe the force that keeps us alive and the energy of the universe. Prana is associated with the breath also refers to working with the way we breathe. Ashtanga Yoga teaches that controlling the breath can affect the mind in a very real way.

5) Pratyahara: Sense withdrawal

Pratya means to withdraw or draw in. The second part ahara means anything we absorb; the various sights, sounds and smells we perceive continuously.

6) Dharana: Focused concentration

Dharana means focused concentration. Dha means maintaining, and Ana means something else. Visualization and focusing on the breath are practices of dharana and are what we generally think of as meditation.

7) Dhyana: Meditative absorption

The seventh limb is when we become completely absorbed in whatever we’re meditating on.

8) Samadhi: Enlightenment

This is thought of as the final step of the Ashtanga Yoga journey.

Ashtanga Yoga may have lofty spiritual goals built into it – but we’re going to look at some of the scientifically verified benefits of this ancient practice that will allow to you reap some incredible real-world health benefits.

Ashtanga Yoga and Flexibility

ashtanga yogaand flexibilityThe postures of Ashtanga Yoga are an effective way to build and maintain a high degree of muscular flexibility that will make daily movement easier and prevent the injuries that can come from making sudden moves or being accidentally forced to move a joint or muscle beyond the typical range of motion.

According to a study conducted by the Journal of Athletic Training: Increased flexibility is positively correlated with reduced muscle soreness and incidence of injury in the physically active.

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Research published in the Journal of Sports Science and Medicine has discovered that female test subjects who completed an eight-month course of Ashtanga Yoga practice experienced a significant increase in muscle strength and flexibility. The conclusion of this study was that Ashtanga Yoga is an effective alternative to conventional strength training.

Ashtanga Yoga is Heart-Healthy

A research study in the European Journal of Preventative Cardiology strongly suggests that Yoga has genuine benefits for heart health by mitigating or reversing cardiovascular and metabolic risk factors that may lead to disease.

Ashtanga Yoga and Mental Health

Ashtanga Yoga and Mental HealthThere is concrete evidence that practicing Ashtanga Yoga is an effective way to improve mood, relieve depression, and help maintain a positive outlook on life according to a paper in the journal Mindfulness.

Study participants were required to complete at least two Ashtanga Yoga classes per week for a period of nine weeks. Research subjects who completed the full nine-week course reported significant improvements in:

  • Feelings of depression and anxiety
  • Self-esteem
  • Interpersonal functioning related to assertiveness,
  • Increased attention to self-needs
  • Capacity to connect

Your Bones Will Benefit

There is conclusive, research-based evidence that Ashtanga Yoga has a positive effect on bone density in postmenopausal women. The study followed 34 pre and postmenopausal women over eight months to determine what effect if any, that Ashtanga Yoga would have on bone health.

Participants who took two one-hour long classes per week showed measurable improvements in bone mineralization. The researchers further conclude that Yoga practice on a more frequent schedule will likely result in even greater improvements than they observed.

Improving Balance and Stability

People who are visually impaired are at greater risk for falls due to the lack of visual input to establish balance. In this study, scientists evaluated an Ashtanga-based Yoga Therapy program as a multi-sensory intervention to improve postural stability in individuals with a severe visual handicap.

They found that Ashtanga-based Yoga therapy was an effective way to increase balance and physical stability in people who are unable to orient themselves using visual cues. It’s reasonable to assume that these benefits may extend to many people who suffer balance issues or wish to increase improve balance and stability to avoid being injured in avoidable falls.

An Ancient Practice with Health Benefits for Today

Enduring for over three-thousand years; Ashtanga Yoga has improved the health of countless people around the world. Beyond the proven physical benefits, Ashtanga has an effect on psychological health not found in conventional western-based exercise practices. It’s truly a case of “what’s old is new again.” Try it out! Find a nearby class and see how it makes you feel. You may discover a new and exciting road to greater vitality and a unique mental outlook that may buffer you against the challenges of your daily life.

 

The Power of Positivity on Your Physical Well-being

Positive Woman on Yoga Mat

What this psychologist and integrative oncology specialist wants you to know about cancer before you get it.

It’s inescapable. We don’t need to know that the World Health Organization names cancer as the leading cause of death or in 2014 the number of people who received a diagnosis reached closed to 14.5 million. We have all been touched by cancer, usually in devastating ways. But licensed psychologist Susan Barbara Apollon and author of “An Inside Job: A Psychologist Shares Healing Wisdom for Your Cancer Journey,” says cancer gave her patients surprising gifts. Here’s how you can prevent illness and live in the light of the shadow of chronic illness.

1. You are what you think so think positively.

If you believe all the complaining in your head is better than expressing how you really feel, you’re setting yourself up for illness. Apollon says negative emotions like anger, anxiety, and fear actually prevents us from fighting viruses including cancer. She calls them “low vibratory experiences,” which produce the “chemicals adrenaline, norepinephrine, and cortisol in the brain that impact their immune system negatively.” She says, “These chemicals then suppress the immune system’s ability to create the cells needed to seek out and destroy the cancer virus.” Instead of your normal dose of negativity, have a cup of positivity. “When we think thoughts that feel good, such as thoughts of love, gratitude, joy, and hope – and those that make us laugh and smile, we produce uplifting chemicals such as oxytocin, endorphins, and serotonin – all supporting a strong immune system that can fight viruses in the body.” You can do this by journaling, working with a therapist on difficult emotions, focus on what you have to be grateful for and set aside twenty minutes a day to sit in quiet or be in nature.

2. Listen to yourself.

Your body is always talking to you. When you’re feeling good, you’re in balance. When you feel ill, you’re out of balance. Your body signals what’s going on inside and you need to pay attention says Apollon. “All of us need to know that we are born with the gift of intuition and that when we learn to harness it, miracles can happen…It serves us well – when we listen – as to what is best for us to do or not do. When we do not listen to our higher guidance regarding the needs of our body and what is best for keeping our energy balanced, we become ill. When we do listen, we maintain better health.”

3. Find your tribe.


You may be one of the most popular people on Facebook or have an envious following on Instagram, but do you have a support system you can call upon when you need it most? Apollon says, “We need to be a part of a community – to relate socially – and to know others care about us. We also need to be part of a give and take of knowing that we love and are loved. Whether, it is an actual community, family or a support group, community matters to the mind and body. Those who isolate themselves tend to be more depressed and lonely and do not help themselves create well-being. In fact, they often do become ill. Furthermore, the body’s immune system is energetically supported by the chemicals released when hugging and being affection that are often a part of such communities.”

4. Follow your passion.

Did you know that people who don’t follow their passion often end up sick? “Those who have not followed their passion and who are caught up in work in which they find no fulfillment, often become ill,” says Appollon. This is why she encourages her patients to devote time doing the things they love. “Be it an instrument you always wanted to play, a job you always wanted to do, a charity you have wanted to create or be involved in – all of these help you to release the needed endorphins and needed chemicals to bolster your immune system to seek out and destroy unwanted cancer cells. So many have wanted to feel they can be of service to humanity – and choose to do something to help others. This is a function of being and giving love and compassion – high energetic vibratory thoughts and experiences which foster healing.”

5. Treat your body like a temple.


You know how you are at church or when visiting a spiritual site? You’re respectful, reverent and at peace. In stark contrast, we often starve our bodies or torture it with intense exercise. You can restore balance by treating it with kindness for all the work it does without your involvement. Do this by aiding it with foods and exercises that fuel it. Apollon says you can return to that “feel-better place by engaging in energetic modalities such as tai chi, qui gong, acupuncture, yoga, and pilates…Learning energetic tools and techniques can help patients shift out of a depressed, anxious, grieving state to one that helps restore their sense of being balanced and more at peace.” She also recommends an “alkaline diet, which is high in veggies, fruits, nuts and legumes,” eating organic, and eliminating processed foods, dairy selections, and sugar. Especially for those with cancer, she says, “Eating cold water fish high in omega 3 fatty acids, brightly colored vegetables, beautiful leafy greens – and a multitude of fresh fruits and berries – provides your body with needed antioxidants to fight your cancer and help your chemotherapy and other treatments to work more effectively.”

Apollon says, “When you hear the three words, ‘You have cancer,’ you are at first in shock, then numb, confused – and often feel lost.” It is life shattering and your life will never be the same. But that can be the impetus to transform your life in a positive way, putting a spotlight on what truly matters.