Tropical paradiseI recently went on my first ever yoga retreat this winter. I chose to go on a retreat because since starting yoga just over a year ago I felt like the working week would get all up in my grill and then yoga was my best means of escaping its suffocating grip. I began to wonder, what if I did a full week of back to back classes. How low could I dial down the ruminating thoughts of the mind? I craved a creative space in my life and it seemed to me that a yoga retreat was the perfect opportunity to manifest this sort of experience without the distractions of the city, the dramas of flat mates, the issues with my car and finances. This was my prescription to a reset. It was not knowing what to expect which was the most exciting element to the experience. I believe it is in the unknown where we attain the greatest expansions. The space that was created on this particular yoga retreat was quite profound. It was permission to let go in a supported environment. The same things that seemed to weigh me down so heavily back in the city seemed to dissipate like water off a duck’s back. The skills you begin to foster on a yoga or meditation retreat are easily applied to a life that revolves around travel, the beach, surfing and the overseas experience. The true test is being able to integrate what you have learnt and apply them into the mundane day to day life. This was my challenge. Life is all about building resilience in being able to master the waves that it sends crashing toward you. In some ways it was definitely more introspection than I am used to but it also made me acutely aware of our inherent abilities as humans to dance around our issues instead of knocking them face on. My conclusion of resetting is that it doesn’t need to be a yoga or a meditation retreat. It just needs to be something in your life that resets you, that refreshes you and takes you away from the trials and tribulations of life. Because unfortunately (or maybe fortunately) they will keep on coming. For me, my introspection and reset comes through yoga, the gym, music and travel. What’s your reset?

Busyness has slipped into the driving seat with modern day living. While we can get immediate validation from its short term benefits we also get tiredness, a lack of personal time and an incessant noise in our minds. Many of us feel like we are missing out on the very quality of life that we are striving so hard to achieve. To understand how busyness is taking grab of many of our lives we need to mention the physiology at play. On one hand we have the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) and the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS). The SNS is the accelerator of the body and known colloquially as the fight or flight response. It is this response that is in play when we are consumed by busyness. In contrast, the PNS, which is known as the rest or digest response, is the brake that activates all restorative functions of the body, creativity and emotional resilience. Ideally we find a happy medium in between but in reality one system usually prevails at the expense of the other. Busyness is not the main reason why people get injured and sick. Busyness can be highly productive and satisfying and is often the catalyst that can draw the best out of us. People instinctively know this, because there is a defensive argument where people assertively claim that they thrive on stress and love the fast lane. They are right. The issue is that busyness can become so entrenched that it can turn into busyholism. This is when a person is unable to activate the PNS and restricts themselves of the necessary restorative processes that life in the fast lane entails. It can be an addiction for people and letting go requires a conscious effort and a fight. There are four main areas which research has shown will activate the PNS; youth, positive thinking (mindfulness), exercise and rest. Moderate exercise is enough to have a positive effect on every part of your life and is not the poor cousin to ‘real’ exercise. Intense exercise actually attracts the busyholics. Intense exercise can be addictive and can reset our perception on normal exercise. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends 5 days a week of 30 minutes of moderate activity such as brisk walking for healthy systems all round. The danger signs of busy holism (When the oil light goes on in your car) -fatigue, mood changes, sleep problems, an upset golf swing, a social blip, a sense of spiritual loss, or a negative flare-up of your own personal idiosyncrasies. A sore throat or a mouth ulcer is an early danger sign (no water for windscreen wipers). This is easy to trivialise. Severe chest pain is a late danger sign and like when the oil light flashes. This needs to be listened to and the appropriate action undertaken. A classic example of a person who is investing too much on the SNS is the over training athlete who is prone to injury, fatigue, depression, weaker immune systems and poor sleeping patterns. Rest is not the occasional cat nap or the active rest of something like gardening-true rest comes from a chemistry that is activated from the inside out, through changes in thought, posture and breath. Rest hasn’t been made a priority. To conclude this article I would like to state the benefits of the PNS
  • Replenishes energy stores,
  • Releases hormones that repair the wear and tear on your body.
  • Allows the full expression of your immune system, digestion and reproductive organs.
  • It activates your thinking for new levels of innovation and creativity and opens up pathways that allow us to process emotions in a positive way.
  • Improves memory.
  • You will be less reactive and easier to live and work with, with an appreciation of the bigger picture instead of your immediate concerns.
References Rest: A science and an Art by Ros Broome.

Meditation In order to placate my biomedical and scientific background I decided to do a bit of research into the effects of meditation. This is what I found.   Meditation speeds up brain processing potential  According to a study carried out in 2012 in a journal called the Frontiers in Human Neuroscience it was found that 50 meditators had improved cortical gyrification compared to 50 controls. Cortical gyrification is the degree of cortical folding that allows the brain to process faster. Cortical gyrification also seemed to be more pronounced in long-term meditators, compared to non-meditators. Increased gyrification of the cortex may reflect an integration of cognitive processes when meditating, as meditation is commonly introspective and contemplative. Despite finding the link between meditation and cortical gyrification it was suggested by the study that future research should aim to define this link in more depth.   Meditation decreases feelings of anxiety  Gladding (2013) explains in her article published in Psychology Today that the brain functions better with meditation, and this is enhanced with increased times spent in this meditative state. She notes that regular meditation can “loosen” our neural pathways, particularly the pathways between the fear centre and the “Me” centre (which is the place the brain constantly reflects back to you). When this pathway is “loosened” it has been found that feelings of anxiety can be lessened and new neural pathways which include improved assessment and empathetic responses can be created. Note: Gladding makes a point of saying that you must keep up meditation because “the brain can very easily revert back to its old ways if you are not vigilant”.   Meditation reduces psychosocial stress and the risk of heart disease  A large scientific study was carried out in 2012 which was published in the Journal of Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes supports the above statement. 201 people with coronary heart disease (>50% arterial stenosis) were randomly allocated to a health education class promoting improved diet and exercise, or to take a class on transcendental meditation. These participants were followed for five years. The results were astonishing. Participants who chose the meditation class had 48% reduction to the overall risk of heart attack, stroke and death. Meditation was found to significantly lower blood pressure and anger scores more so than the health education class. There was also evidence to support a dose-response effect between regularity of meditation practice and longer survival. In other words, when subjects practiced meditation regularly they had a 66% reduction to overall risk of mortality, stroke and heart attack.   Meditation improves mental productivity  In 2013, Harvard University carried out a study that showed that those that meditated could screen out distractions and increase productivity better than those who didn’t. By screening out distractions it is proven that we have more space for our brains to integrate new information. Meditation caused subjects to use alpha brain wave patterns more effectively. This slight change in brain waves can dramatically aid in memory recall. Interestingly, the same study noted that meditation may be the key to help ease off dependency on pharmaceutical drugs and “help people better regulate a brain rhythm that is deregulated in attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder and other conditions”.   Sources   1) http://journal.frontiersin.org/Journal/10.3389/fnhum.2012.00034/full 2) http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/use-your-mind-change-your-brain/201305/is-your-brain-meditation 3) http://circoutcomes.ahajournals.org/content/5/6/750.full.pdf+html 4) http://psychcentral.com/news/2013/06/23/meditations-effects-on-emotion-shown-to-persist/56372.html  

Caroline Myss, a medical intuitive from the States, explores the human energy system and places it at the same importance as the human anatomic system in terms of disease, illness and healing, despite the fact it is more subtle than our physical body to our relatively untrained eyes.
She describes the body as having seven main energy chakras, each of which contain an area specific to our well-being. Each chakra also corresponds to different aspects of our life, which will be explained in more detail in the following articles, as well as how to re-balance the chakras.
The seven main chakras are:
– Root chakra
– Sacral chakra
– Solar plexus chakra
– Heart chakra
– Mind or third-eye chakra
– Crown chakra
She invites us to view ourselves as energetic bankers and underlines the need to invest positively in aspects of our life. The majority of us unknowingly invests many negative energetic connections with our past, present and future on a daily basis. This depletes the energy stores we have for the present moment.
Imagine if each day we start out with a hypothetical “$100 daily allowance of energy”, by the time we shower and dress for work we may have already invested much of this daily energy into negative thoughts that do not serve us. These thoughts could include the “what if?” scenarios and even re-living past hurts and traumas. When we invest in these thoughts and attitudes we deplete our potential energy for the here and now.
 “I don’t believe in worrying. It’s a waste of energy” ~ Malinda Lo
So, what happens if we pass this “$100 daily allowance”? We either start feeding on our own cells to prolong our vitality, which ultimately causes disease or injury, or we start to latch onto other peoples’ energies from whom we feed off to sustain ourselves.
All is not lost, this leakage of energy into negative investments can be unplugged, but only when we realize exactly where we are leaking energy from and how much we are leaking. The unplugging and return of this leaked energy is essentially what healing is.
Have you ever truly let go of something? If so can you remember how light you felt after doing so? Myss says this lightness is quite literally the energy you have negatively invested returning to you.
When studying the chakras it is important to remember that they are all interconnected and cannot be viewed in singularity. For example, a relationship that ends sourly will not only affect the heart chakra but it may also affect the sacral chakra on an energetic level. The physical manifestation of this energy imbalance could be an illness or disease which affects any of the following: heart, blood, colon or lower back. In this way, illness and disease can be viewed as a loss of energy in the body.

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