What is Vipassana Meditation and Why Is It So Popular?

So you might not have heard of Vipassana meditation, but you’ve most certainly heard of mindfulness. But did you know that mindfulness, this craze that’s taking the Western world by storm, has been practiced for thousands of years in the East under its original name, Vipassana Meditation?
 
Vipassana literally means “insight”, or “clear seeing.” It’s all about seeing things as they really are without judgement, argument, or interpretation. In the Buddhist tradition, this form of meditation is meant to provide insight into the true nature of reality.
 
And this is not just nature in the theoretical sense—this is actually the meditation that the Buddha practiced while immersed in nature, sitting under the tree.

How to Practice Vipassana Meditation

There is nothing complicated about this style of meditation, in fact it is inherently simple. It asks us to be aware and observe what is happening in the present moment.

To practice, you simply find a comfortable seat and breathe normally, without any extra effort. Then, focus your attention on the rise and fall of the belly.

This is where your attention should stay, as this is all that should be happening in this moment. The thoughts should be wholly focused on this rising and falling that you should carry the mantra “rising…falling”. When the mind wanders off, as it inevitably will, the thoughts then observe whatever the distraction may be, and label it in its simplest form.

So, for example if there is a loud sound that demands your attention, label that thought as “hearing.” If the distraction is internal, like thoughts of the past or future, acknowledge and label those thoughts as “remembering or planning.” The idea is not to punish yourself for these distractions, but rather to simply be aware of them, label them, and come back to the attention of the rising and falling breath.

It is suggested that we practice this meditation for one hour a day, but to also carry this mindset with us in everything we do. If we were to practice Vipassana meditation all day, we would continue to observe and label each activity we take part in. Whether it’s “open the door,” or “wash the dishes,” mindful attention should be ever present.

Stay Present and Avoid Negative Labels

The idea here is really to be completely present in whatever it is that you are doing. We are often distracted and so completely disconnected from the present moment that we don’t see things as they really are. Additionally, assigning arbitrary meaning to each and everything we encounter takes us even farther from this true nature of things.

For example, we generally think of doing the dishes as an annoying, mundane task. Thus we assign a negative label to it and possibly find ourselves becoming irritable while doing it. Instead, Vipassana meditation encourages us to think of this task as neither good nor bad, but simply as “doing the dishes”.

No task in inherently good or bad, it’s just our thoughts about them that make them seem good or bad to us. Being aware of these thoughts, and shifting away from negative associations, can shift your mood and attitude from resistance to contentment.

Should You Give Vipassana Meditation a Try?

Mindfulness has been shown to have incredible benefits. From improving mood, to easing depression, and improving physical aliments, mindfulness is powerful stuff. Being completely present in the moment soothes the anxious thoughts that keep us tied to the past or future. It allows us to achieve mental clarity so that we can show up for the responsibilities in our life with a renewed sense of calm and purpose.

In an increasingly stressed out world, finding this calm is becoming more and more appealing. Thus we see business, schools, prisons, and athletes turning to mindfulness to improve performance, productivity, and increase overall happiness.

This all might seem too heavy or intimidating at first, but the truth is that it’s incredibly simple. Starting a mindfulness or meditation practice doesn’t have to be a huge commitment, and you definitely don’t need to start with an hour a day.

Try to find small ways to be more present in your life. Put down your phone and just breathe, allowing your mind to quiet and your thoughts to arrive in the moment. Try this for a bit longer each day and see what happens.

Have any of you tried Vipassana Meditation and have suggestions for getting started or success stories to share?

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9 Signs You Need Yoga In Your Life NOW

People turn to yoga for many reasons, and these reasons ranges from mental to physical to spiritual health. Because of the amazing benefits yoga has to offer, it has undoubtedly changed the lives of thousands of people worldwide.
 
Below are 9 signs you need yoga, and if you’re guilty of doing these not-so-healthy things, you may want to check your lifestyle and try yoga as soon as you can!

1. You’re Stressed Out

It’s hard not to feel stressed out especially if you have a lot of work to do. The anxiety will keep on eating you alive, too. But if you keep on surrendering yourself to the stress, you won’t be able to get out of that zone. Give yoga a try!

Yoga is a good practice for calming and balancing your mind, therefore easing your stress. You have to loosen up and relax! See it for yourself and you’ll experience a boost in your emotions in just a week.

2. You Have a Stiff Body

Does it hurt simply getting out of bed, bending over, or turning your body quickly? Are you suffering from poor posture? Stiffness is a common problem that most older adults experience, especially those who work at the office sitting for hours every day. This is where the yoga comes in.

Yoga is known for its ability to stretch out those stiff muscles. By enhancing your flexibility and agility, yoga is able to improve your posture as well. But of course, don’t expect instant results.

3. You Can’t Focus

It’s normal to easily feel distracted—we all go through that phase. But it’s not normal if you keep letting it happen to you over and over. It will make your tasks 10 times harder to complete, making your days unproductive. Not being able to focus can frustrate you, and make you go completely insane.

Good thing is, yoga can help you focus. It’s one of its best benefits, even. Dive in to breathe thee work and see for yourself.

4. You Can’t Sleep

There are lots of people who suffer from uncontrollable thoughts right before they sleep, making it hard or near impossible to even sleep at all. You really need some yoga in your life if you are one of these people who can’t sleep a wink.

Yoga and meditation is the best medication you can get. Develop a strong practice and you will get the peaceful sleep that you deserve.

5. You Have Difficulties Controlling Your Emotions

It’s hard to control your emotions when you’re under pressure. You tend to overreact about even the littlest detail of whatever caused your feelings at the moment. Just like not being able to focus, losing control of your emotions can be so frustrating that you either cry like a baby or yell at anyone who will listen.

When this happens, turn to yoga and see how it calms your nervous system, making you relaxed and helping all the pent up tension and frustration melt away.

6. You Turn to Unhealthy Choices

Staying positive can keep you right on track, but there are people who still have poor coping mechanisms. They turn to cigarettes, alcohol, drugs, or unhealthy foods. Well, in case you didn’t get the memo—smoking, having too many drinks, taking drugs, or binge-eating are not the solution to your problem…EVER!

Instead of doing these things, why not turn to yoga? It will keep you happy and stress-free!

7. You Can’t Breathe Well

If you have poor breathing, it’s definitely recommended to do yoga. Yoga keeps you focused and will teach you deep breathing exercises that you can do to boost your the power of your lungs.

Once you master deep breathing, you won’t easily feel out of breath when you run, jog, or have that spontaneous dance party we all dream of!

8. You Feel That You’re Not Good Enough

Today’s image of “beautiful” and “perfection” can be a downer to anyone. It makes you feel shy and incompetent, and that you’re “simply not enough.”

Yoga can be your instant confidence-booster as it empowers you and helps you love yourself. When you learn self-love, you just become proud of who you are and confident in your own skin. For some, even up to the point that being shy at social situations seems impossible. Know that you are enough!

9. You Can’t Open Up

A lot of people have difficulties opening up, especially in this era when trust is hard to maintain. You feel like people are going to judge you or use the things you say against you. That’s completely normal especially if you’ve been hurt a lot of times before.

But there’s no need to hide in your shell. Yoga will help you break out of your comfort zone.

Guilty of at least one? Don’t hesitate to use yoga as your solution. But remember that it’s not just a task or “penalty” that you have to endure. Make it a part of your lifestyle—it will make you feel good inside and out!

Image credit: Aneta Gab

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6 Yoga Poses To Help Boost Fertility

Boosting one’s fertility is not just for women trying to get pregnant. It is beneficial for all women to understand and focus on their reproductive health. Many women you may talk to often have complaints of excessive cramping, bloating, irregular cycles, or are even struggling to get pregnant. As women, we are often told that this is normal. It is not.
 
So if you have any discomfort or irregularity with your menstruation, now is the time to take your power and health back. Below are some poses that help boost fertility by releasing stress and tension, detoxifying your body, increasing circulation, and aiding your immune system and ovaries to optimal health.

1. Bridge Pose

Credit: Julia Lee

Credit: Julia Lee

Start on your back and take a few moments to breathe and center. It helps to repeat a mantra like this one: “My reproductive system is working the way it is supposed to.” Once you feel centered, bring your heels to your buttocks and raise your hips up to the sky.

This pose helps connect you to your hips, as well as increase the blood flow to your hips and reproductive organs.

2. Yogini Squat

Credit: The Dolphin Method

Credit: The Dolphin Method

Getting into this squat initiates your primal instincts and you instantly experience your inner goddess coming out. When in this pose focus your intention to your pelvic floor muscles. Work on tensing and releasing, as that becomes easier hold those pelvic floor muscles before releasing. Building a strong pelvic floor is helpful in all stages of fertility as well as pregnancy.

3. Cat/ Cow

Yoga-Poses-Cat-cow-Back-Stretch-Pose

Many women contract their abdomens all day long creating alignments that are off and blood supplies that are cut off. The fluidity and fun of these poses allows us to let go and reconnect with your hips and breath. This allows you to cultivate a greater awareness with your body and breath in a fun and healthy manor.

4. Butterfly Pose

Credit: The Yoga Emporium

Credit: The Yoga Emporium

This pose stretches your groin and hip areas. When you are sitting in this pose you may feel yourself opening up. It is important to note that this can be a vulnerable stretch but also emotionally and physically healing. To work through this pose use your breath to visualize the toxins or any negative thoughts leaving that area. Then visualize healthy blood flow and positive thoughts or intention replenishing that area.

5. Standing forward bend

How-To-Do-Standing-Forward-Bend-Pose

This pose stretches important muscles in the lower back. Which improves blood supply to reproductive and nervous systems and releases tension in abdomen. When bending forward, use this as a visualization tool. Picture all your stress, negative thoughts about your health, and tension or pain to form a ball. As you tip down picture that ball rolling from the base of your spine down to your head. When you feel that “weight” lessen really, hang your head heavy with loose shoulders. Stay here as long as feels comfortable.

6. Legs up the wall

legs up the wall pose

Credit: Jessica Rose

This restorative pose has many benefits. The first is the relaxation of the pose. It allows you time to free tension in your body and relinquish stressful thoughts. This pose also stretches and strengthens tired legs, back, and neck. This inversion allows for great blood flow to pelvic region and helps balance hormones.

These yoga poses are a great place to start to improve your fertility. The other yoga tools to consider are affirmations, meditation, pranayama, visualizations, better sleep patterns, and good nutrition. It is important to take time to check in with yourself. If something feels off in your sacral area or you are struggling with unhealthy reproductive health, take time to delve into some fertility yoga poses. Enjoy experiencing that boost of health and fertility!

Image Credit : Stephanie Birch

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Not Just a Trend—Mindful Eating Has REAL Benefits

What if I told you that the best diet out there doesn’t involve food restrictions and all you have to do is think? It’s called mindful eating and it’s the practice of eating with awareness and intention. Researchers propose that by simply tuning into your food and the process of eating, we can change dietary behaviors and eat healthier.
 
A Buddhist meditation tradition, mindful eating teaches us to understand, respect, and value food. Running through our everyday lives means that we sometimes make poor decisions when it comes to eating—fast food instead of cooking dinner; emotional choices instead of nutritional choices.
 
These decisions can add up quickly, but mindful eating will fight negative behaviors while still ensuring satisfaction from eating.

Nope, It’s Not Just a Trend

More than just another fad diet, mindful eating has actually been coined the “anti-diet.” It’s a lasting practice that helps people make better decisions about eating, without eliminating any foods.

In yoga, we practice the philosophy of “moderation in everything,” and this extends to eating. Anything is an option, but we have the power of making the ultimate choice, not some crazy list of do’s and don’ts. With mindful eating, we learn the importance of food choices and how our actions affect our outcomes.

A growing body of research shows that mindful eating leads to changes in weight, distress, and self-acceptance. By eating mindfully—that is, attentively and intentionally—people gain more appreciation for food and it’s easier to change problematic eating patterns.

So How Can You Start Practicing Mindful Eating?

The best way to start eating mindfully is by implementing changes and thought processes gradually. Try one mindful meal a week, then ease into 1 per day, and so on. But how do you learn to eat mindfully?

According to many eating experts, it can start with a series of questions about your eating habits and food sources. Where is this food from? Why am I eating? What will this food do for me? How will I eat?

Below, we delve into the answers to these questions that facilitate mindful eating.

Where Did Your Food Come From?

Knowing where your food comes from extends beyond going to the farmer’s market to buy local tomatoes (although that is a wonderful practice). The where includes a deeper understanding of the evolution of the tomato (in this case)—from seed, to photosynthesis, to plant, to farmer’s hand, to transportation, and finally to you, the consumer.

Research suggests that by acknowledging the food process from germination to consumption, we learn to appreciate our food. This leads to more conscientious decisions when shopping for food—whether it be supporting seafood sustainability or choosing local produce.

Why Are You Eating?

Asking yourself why you’re eating a particular food is important for emotional and physical health. Are you eating because you’re actually hungry? Oftentimes emotions and a shift in hormones compel us to think that we want a tub of ice cream offset by a salty bag of chips.

Later on, our body will sometimes disagree with this irrational choice which can also inflict feelings of guilt. Knowing that emotional eating doesn’t help the underlying issue, and can even make things worse, is a key step in mindful eating. Research suggests that mindful eating teaches how to control emotions, specifically impulsivity, resulting in more nutritive food choices.

What Are You Eating?

Pretty basic, the what refers to the kind of food you’re going to buy or consume. Mindful eating includes knowing which food choices will nourish your body, so educate yourself!

In addition, the what can also refer to what experiences are arising during eating. Is the food spicy, sweet, soft, or cold? Try utilizing the senses to assess the texture, taste, temperature, color, and smell to become more mindful of what you’re ingesting.

How Do You Eat?

Do you eat hurriedly, on-the-go, while watching TV/Netflix, or while working through your lunch “break”? How you eat can actually play a significant role in your metabolism. Since it takes around 20 minutes for the brain to register satiety (fullness), slower and more mindful eating will help the body respond correctly to food intake and avoid overeating.

In addition, researchers also insist that distracted eating (such as eating in front of the TV or while typing emails) slows digestion. This interruption of digestion may halt absorption of nutrients, leaving our bodies devoid of the healthy benefits of our consumed food. Trying to eat slowly and without distraction will force you to focus on the food and the body will alert you when to stop.

Mindful eating helps with obesity, diabetes, cancer-related eating issues, and eating disorders. But evidence suggests that by learning self-control and awareness, mindful eating is a practice that everyone can benefit from.

We already know that food decisions have significant effects on health and well-being. So next time you’re at the supermarket or making a meal, make it a point to ask yourself these four questions: where, why, what, how?

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