ENERGIZE YOUR BODY
Three Realistic Practices for Health and Vitality
Your body is the only thing you are guaranteed to keep for a lifetime. It forms the foundation of your earthly existence. Energizing your body enriches your life by enhancing every human capacity . If you lack vitality, nothing else really matters; if you have your health anything is possible. If you don't take care of your body, where will you live?
A Foundation for Life
If you haven't yet achieved optimal energy, vitality, and health, it is not because you haven't read or heard good advice on the topic,. Consider these words from Dr. Kenzo Futagil, M.D., who reached the century mark: "Eat less and chew well; ride less and walk often; have fewer clothes and launder often; worry less and work harder; waste less time and continue to learn; speak less and listen more; frown less and laugh more; complain less and appreciate more; take less and give more."
Few of us would disagree with such advice, but how many of us can remember it much less incorporate all that into our lives?
Good advice isn't enough. Because it's not about what we know, but about what we actually do (nearly) every day.
Here's an example: Take one slow, deep breath -- as slowly and deeply as you can, without strain, first expanding your belly, and then your chest, and feel yourself relax as you slowly exhale. In the same manner, take two more deep breaths before proceeding. And from now on, for the rest of your life, take at least one deep, deliberate breath every hour. Take a nice deep breath right now and you've begun -- you've hardly stepped into the key and you have already learned an energizing practice for life.
Back to the Body
Many of us have a love-hate relationship with our bodies; we indulge them, deprive them, stuff them or starve them, overwork and underwork them, spoil them, punish them, enjoy them, suffer them, and, at times, feel betrayed by them. How many of us wish to fly free of our physical mortality, to travel out of our bodies before we've fully gotten into them .
Energize Your Body begins by making peace with and coming to love and admire the body you've been given. In fact, your body is the only thing you are guaranteed to keep for an entire lifetime. You can't say that about your spouse, children, home, car, money, or beliefs -- only your body. It is your only real possession, so it pays to treat it well. If you do so, many other things fall into place. No matter where our flights of fancy take us, we return to a fundamental truth: The human journey begins and ends with the body.
Reflections on Your Body: The following questions are intended to stimulate reflection on health, priorities, and energy in everyday life.
Energy is the most abundant substance in the universe; in fact it is the universe. You are made of energy; you take it in at the gross levels from the food you eat, and on more refined levels, from the air you breathe and from the people and natural world around you.
Why, then, do we feel so little energy at times? The two most common reasons are physical (related to exercise, diet, and rest) and psychological (a lack of excitement or sense of purpose).
The key to managing your physical energy is actually three-fold:
Apparently it’s not only me who thinks family dinners are important because according to The Family Dinner Project, some of the research-backed benefits of family meals include:
In fact, dining and preparing the meal together as a family is so important that the Founder and CEO of Tessemae’s, Greg Vetter, recently did a Tedx Talk titled “The Dinner Habit: The Recipe for Change,” that you can watch here.
The kitchen is the heart of the home.
If the kitchen is the heart of the home then why am I so often the only one in the kitchen when it comes time to prepare a meal? I’ve been asking myself that question a lot lately and what it comes down to is time. We’re all short of time at our house, which means I’m often trying to do things as fast and as efficiently as possible. And if you’ve ever cooked for your family you know that isn’t the fastest or most efficient way to get dinner on the table. But I know it’s worth the time and the effort.
Pardon me while I pull out my soapbox here, but by not involving our children (or partners, spouses, roommates, friends, etc.) in preparing a meal we’re doing them a great disservice. I believe that everyone should have the skills to cook a meal and that if we give our families anything in life, it should be this skill. That’s why I’m now re-committing to preparing one meal a week with my spouse and family when possible in addition to our regular family meals. Even when life is busy! It’s just that important.
It is hard to believe that something so beautiful in its simplicity could be so powerful, but that’s exactly what mindfulness is, and now science can’t stop talking about it. Mindfulness is an ancient art and up until relatively recently, it has managed to escape the research spotlight. That’s probably not too surprising – The research is growing like crazy and though there’s still a lot we don’t know, one of the things we do know is that mindfulness has a profound capacity to heal and strengthen the brain against anxiety.
Research that analyzed 19 separate mindfulness/anxiety studies found that mindfulness was ‘associated with robust and substantial reductions in symptoms of anxiety.’ In fact, mindfulness was found to be as effective for anxiety as cognitive behavior therapy – one of the most popular treatments for anxiety.
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is a process that leads to a mental state characterized by nonjudgmental awareness of the present experiences, such as sensations, thoughts, bodily states, and the environment. It enables us to distance ourselves from our thoughts and feelings without labeling them as good or bad.
How Does Mindfulness Work?
By focusing our attention on the present moment, mindfulness counteracts rumination and worrying. Worrying about the future (e.g. I better remember to pay those bills and clean my house this weekend) and ruminating about the past (e.g., I should have done this rather than that) are generally maladaptive thinking processes. Of course, it is important to learn from our past and plan ahead for the future; however, when we spend too much time outside of the present moment, we can get depressed and anxious. In such cases, mindfulness can be an important tool for helping us to better focus on the present moment.
Research has shown that mindfulness helps us reduce anxiety and depression. Mindfulness teaches us how to respond to stress with awareness of what is happening in the present moment, rather than simply acting instinctively, unaware of what emotions or motives may be driving that decision. By teaching awareness for one's physical and mental state in the moment, mindfulness allows for more adaptive reactions to difficult situations.
Mindfulness works through a number of ways.
It encourages us to open up and accept our emotions. As a result we are better able to identify, experience, and process our emotions. Mindfulness also encourages us to see things from different perspectives. For example, if your spouse snaps at you, you might blame yourself and worry that you've done something to upset him/her. If you are able to distance yourself from your immediate response of being hurt, you might remember that your spouse mentioned a hard day at work, and perhaps they snapped at you because they're tired and stressed out. This new interpretation could alleviate some of your worry and negative feelings. The practice of mindfulness has been shown to benefit the following areas:
There are many practices that include mindfulness trainings, such as tai chi, yoga, and zen. There are many styles for each of these activities, so it is worthwhile to experiment with different practices until you find one that suits you. As you become more mindful, you will also notice that you will become more centered, happier, and less depressed and this in turn has a direct positive effect on your anxiety.
How to be Mindful Right NowFocus on your breath for a few minutes. Feel your chest rise and fall, notice the sensation of the breath as it enters and exits your nose. When your mind wanders, simply return your attention to the breath. Focus on the present moment: the here and now. Notice this very moment; it feels good to be alive, right now.
If you don't immediately feel a complete release of anxiety, remember: most of the benefits of mindfulness require consistent practice. While some changes bolster against anxiety even after one single yoga class, most benefits require several weeks, months, and even years to create a noticeable change. And, like any skill, you will need to continue to practice mindfulness after you start to maintain the improvements.
Interested in participating in a research treatment study for anxiety? Visit gatestudy.org for more information.
We all have glorious imperfections making us utterly human.
At some point in our life there may come a time when we feel insecure about ourselves. We might judge our ability to do something or feel self-conscious about the way we look. It does not matter how this feeling manifests in our life, but it is important to be aware of our thoughts and how they impact our view of ourselves. Once we remember that insecurities are a normal part of life for everyone--even those who appear to be extremely self-assured--we may find it easier to step back from the uncertainty that lies within and take a more realistic look at ourselves.
The desire to improve or better ourselves is a natural response that arises when we begin to compare our lives to those of other people. It might seem, for example, that we do not have nearly as much going for us as our neighbor, best friend, or coworker. In truth, what we think we see about another person is usually what they want us to notice. They may be putting on a mask, trying to make things in their lives seem better than they are. If we were to look at their lives a little more closely, we would also realize that they are human, full of glorious imperfections that make them who they are. Recognizing this may take some time at first. Should we, however, feel our uncertainties begin to surface, taking deep breaths while at the same time acknowledging each one of our gifts will help us become more centered. Doing this allows us to see the wonders that lie within and lets our inner beauty shine forth into the world all the more brightly.
When we hold up such a detailed mirror to our lives and weigh ourselves against others, we are not able to see the things that make us truly unique. Giving ourselves permission to appreciate all that God has given us, however, will make us feel more secure about ourselves and more able to use our gifts to their fullest.
by Tracy DoneganJune 2, 2006
Birthkeepers of the world are divided on whether pain does or does not have to exist in birth; each of us is firm in our stance that our belief is right. For many the notion of comfortable or even joyful birthing still remains just outside of our grasp. Undoubtedly millions of women have experienced painful birth and the idea that birth must be painful is widely accepted. Mothers who have comfortable or even painless births are dismissed as lucky, delusional or having a really high pain threshold. Women who openly plan a drug-free birth are smirked at with knowing glances of “just you wait…you’ll be begging for an epidural” and warned that no medals are given for going without.
HypnoBirthing is a unique antenatal program that teaches simple but specific self-hypnosis and relaxation techniques for an easier, more gentle birth that is often accompanied by a significant reduction in pain. HypnoBirthing is not about “training mothers to give birth”—when undisturbed we already know how to do that instinctively. HypnoBirthing is about getting rid of fear and allowing our bodies and minds to relax so we can birth our babies gently. To quote the much beloved Jeannine Parvati Baker’s article “Instinctive Birth”:
When walking a labyrinth, sometimes it looks as if we are going away from the center, even backwards. Yet, eventually all of the twists and turns bring us to the destination. Progress cannot be measured in that realm. The journey is most important because, once arrival at the center is achieved, one must walk to get back out again. If you give up, you might feel lost, for in the Western myth of the labyrinth, the Minotaur at the center holds the secret of how to transform fear into the power to give birth. (Midwifery Today Issue 68, Winter 2003, p. 16.)
We know that labour progresses well in an undisturbed birth, especially when the mother feels safe so her primal brain can take over. We don’t need training to give birth, but in this fast-paced world we definitely have lost the ability to relax. For mothers especially, life always seems to get in the way of the “indulgence” of true relaxation and mindfulness.
In HypnoBirthing, couples realize that severe pain does not need to accompany normal labour. HypnoBirthing, like any kind of relaxation, is perfect for homebirth as well as hospital birth. A common misconception for homebirth moms is that the pain of labour is necessary and even empowering. Yes, pain is a great communicator when something is wrong, but in a normal labour, pain does not have to be present. In HypnoBirthing we use a much softer language—we don’t experience contractions, but surges. The word “contraction” creates an image of contracting—or tightening; HypnoBirthing couples focus on releasing and relaxing. Our membranes don’t rupture—they release. Mothers experience a birth show instead of a bloody show.
How does it work? The muscles of the uterus were designed to give birth. Why would the uterus be the only muscle in the body that hurts when it’s doing exactly what it was designed to do? The response that I often hear is, “Well, we don’t use the uterus every day.” So let’s follow the logic of that idea.
Have you ever done a new activity—like going to the gym or raking leaves in your garden—something requiring some physical effort that you’ve never done before or not in a long time? While you are doing the activity the muscles don’t hurt; but two days later you’re soaking in a lavender bath for hours trying to ease the pain of muscles that you never knew existed. Then shouldn’t labour only hurt two days after birth?
Basic physiology tells us that fear increases adrenaline in the body which creates a physical reaction by activating the fight/flight response. This redirects blood flow away from our organs to the limbs. The uterus is not a defensive organ and, just like the heart, cannot work effectively, comfortably and painlessly when blood is restricted and the muscles spasm. When adrenaline is present the body’s built-in epidural (endorphins) can’t do its work and it slows the release of oxytocin needed to help labour progress.
Every thought we have creates a physically detectable response in the body. Have you ever been embarrassed by someone or something? Blood races to your cheeks: Even years later just the thought of that mortifying event can recreate the same physical response in your face in seconds. Remember preparing for an interview or attending your first birth? You may get butterflies in your stomach, a dry mouth and clammy palms just by thinking about the experience.
Why is birth only painful for humans? If you’ve ever had a dog or cat giving birth you may notice that they seek out a quiet undisturbed location and usually show no dramatic displays of discomfort. I am not aware of any canine antenatal classes and I haven’t seen a copy of What to Expect When You’re Expecting—for Cats (yet!).
As birthkeepers most of us have believed that birthing a baby involves hours (sometimes days) of painful work. It is something to just “get through” and rarely an event that women look forward to. I believed this before I learnt about HypnoBirthing. Even women who plan on drug-free births prepare themselves to “embrace” the pain. As Jan Tritten stated in her editorial in MT Issue 74, Summer 2005, “At birth we are unblessed with a thinking mind. As adults, our minds become one of our biggest obstacles in pregnancy and birth. We listen to others, watch “Baby Story” on television, hear of cesarean rates and the ease of epidurals and completely lose our ability to do the task for which our bodies were supernaturally designed.”
When a woman repeatedly absorbs the idea that giving birth is very painful and must be medically managed, it becomes true. For a long time we believed the earth was flat—but was it the truth? I often hear that the pain is there so that mothers know they are about to give birth and they can get to a safe place—so that their babies don’t just drop out on the supermarket floor. HypnoBirthing mothers choose how they will experience the sensations of the uterus surging—some experience it as menstrual pain or strong Braxton-Hicks, i.e., a sensation that is not perceived as pain.
Another popular belief is that mothers who birth through painful labours are somehow transformed into confident, strong, empowered mothers. But what of the mothers who birth without discomfort: Are they less empowered, less confident mothers? Does the pain of birth bring about this transformation in the mother or does the experience of being fully present in mind, body and soul and birthing instinctively bring about new growth?
What is hypnosis? Like a computer the subconscious mind holds good programs and bad ones (horror stories of birth). Doing hypnosis is like running a virus scan on your computer—it finds corrupt programs or those that need to be upgraded, such as the belief that birth will be painful.
Your HypnoBirthing practitioner has no control over you; you decide to accept the suggestion that birth can be gentle and easy. Nobody can make you do anything you wouldn’t normally do. So you can rest assured that neither you nor your partner will leave the class barking like a dog. All hypnosis is self-hypnosis; you are always giving consent to let these things happen to you. Your HypnoBirthing practitioner simply guides you into a state of self-hypnosis. You are always in control and you have to want the suggestion to work.
Another misconception about HypnoBirthing is that we teach a technique known as dissociation or distraction. We firmly believe that pain does not need to exist in a normal birth, but when pain does exist you don’t try to distract from it but listen to the body. Pain communicates that something isn’t quite right and needs to be attended to. In my own experiences mums who have learnt how to relax themselves very quickly and easily yet have felt the need for an epidural have had malpresented babies: e.g., persistent direct occipitoposterior positions and with one couple, a brow presentation (and all hospital births). They are very in tune with the signals their bodies are giving them.
Our goal isn’t pain-free birth but the confidence to birth free from fear—which has the added benefit of increased endorphin production. I know this is a huge leap of faith for birthkeepers—when I learnt about HypnoBirthing as a doula I thought it was a gimmick and felt insulted as a woman and mother that once again we were trying to “train” mothers to give birth and further add to the doubt that women already have in their bodies to perform this wonderful miracle.
Since then I have seen the calm and relaxed births—mothers smiling through their surges—and I’ve seen full inductions with every intervention in the book; yet the vast majority of couples feel HypnoBirthing helped them get rid of the fear, increased their confidence and made their births really positive experiences.
I once worked with a mom who called me one evening very distressed (at 32 weeks) saying HypnoBirthing wasn’t working for her. She had been practicing (listening to her CD) every day and repeating her birth affirmations (positive statements about birth), yet throughout the day she’d had a pain that just wouldn’t go away. I suggested she call her doctor and the next day the relieved mom called me to tell me she had a UTI. No amount of relaxation or deep breathing will stop this kind of pain—pain is alerting us to something not normal going on in the body. This mom went on to have a lovely gentle birth with only the sensation of menstrual cramps. Had HypnoBirthing been only about distraction from pain then the ending to this story might not have been so wonderful.
About 70% of HypnoBirthing moms need no pain medication. As long as a mother is having a normal birth, with confidence and free from fear, birth need not be painful. HypnoBirthing mothers don’t need to be distracted from any part of the birth experience. They are fully aware and totally engaged in the experience. In HypnoBirthing we trust in the body’s natural ability to birth gently and easily—if we can just get out of our own way and let our bodies get on with the work of birthing.
To learn more about HypnoBirthing visit www.HypnoBirthing.com.
The term "fight or flight" is also known as the stress response. It's what the body does as it prepares to confront or avoid danger. When appropriately invoked, the stress response helps us rise to many challenges. But trouble starts when this response is constantly provoked by less momentous, day-to-day events, such as money woes, traffic jams, job worries, or relationship problems.
Health problems are one result. A prime example is high blood pressure, a major risk factor for heart disease. The stress response also suppresses the immune system, increasing susceptibility to colds and other illnesses. Moreover, the buildup of stress can contribute to anxiety and depression. We can't avoid all sources of stress in our lives, nor would we want to. But we can develop healthier ways of responding to them. One way is to invoke the relaxation response, through a technique first developed in the 1970s at Harvard Medical School by cardiologist Dr. Herbert Benson. The relaxation response is a state of profound rest that can be elicited in many ways, including meditation, yoga, and progressive muscle relaxation.Breath focus is a common feature of several techniques that evoke the relaxation response. The first step is learning to breathe deeply.
Deep breathing benefits
Deep breathing also goes by the names of diaphragmatic breathing, abdominal breathing, belly breathing, and paced respiration. When you breathe deeply, the air coming in through your nose fully fills your lungs, and the lower belly rises.
For many of us, deep breathing seems unnatural. There are several reasons for this. For one, body image has a negative impact on respiration in our culture. A flat stomach is considered attractive, so women (and men) tend to hold in their stomach muscles. This interferes with deep breathing and gradually makes shallow "chest breathing" seem normal, which increases tension and anxiety.
Shallow breathing limits the diaphragm's range of motion. The lowest part of the lungs doesn't get a full share of oxygenated air. That can make you feel short of breath and anxious.
Deep abdominal breathing encourages full oxygen exchange — that is, the beneficial trade of incoming oxygen for outgoing carbon dioxide. Not surprisingly, it can slow the heartbeat and lower or stabilize blood pressure.
Practicing breath focus
Breath focus helps you concentrate on slow, deep breathing and aids you in disengaging from distracting thoughts and sensations. It's especially helpful if you tend to hold in your stomach.
First steps. Find a quiet, comfortable place to sit or lie down. First, take a normal breath. Then try a deep breath: Breathe in slowly through your nose, allowing your chest and lower belly to rise as you fill your lungs. Let your abdomen expand fully. Now breathe out slowly through your mouth (or your nose, if that feels more natural).
Breath focus in practice. Once you've taken the steps above, you can move on to regular practice of controlled breathing. As you sit comfortably with your eyes closed, blend deep breathing with helpful imagery and perhaps a focus word or phrase that helps you relax.
Ways to elicit the relaxation response
Several techniques can help you turn down your response to stress. Breath focus helps with nearly all of them:
· Progressive muscle relaxation
· Mindfulness meditation
· Yoga, tai chi, and Qi Gong
· Repetitive prayer
· Guided imagery
Creating a routine
You may want to try several different relaxation techniques to see which one works best for you. And if your favorite approach fails to engage you, or you want some variety, you'll have alternatives. You may also find the following tips helpful:
· Choose a special place where you can sit (or lie down) comfortably and quietly.
· Don't try too hard. That may just cause you to tense up.
· Don't be too passive, either. The key to eliciting the relaxation response lies in shifting your focus from stressors to deeper, calmer rhythms — and having a focal point is essential.
· Try to practice once or twice a day, always at the same time, in order to enhance the sense of ritual and establish a habit.
· Try to practice at least 10–20 minutes each day.
By Madisyn Taylor
The role of a mother is infinitely complex and one of pure tenderness, compassion, and unflagging loyalty
Mothers throughout history have been worshipped, revered, analyzed and even criticized. Every one of us was created through the wondrous workings of a woman's body; each of us has a mother. But being a mother is more than a biological concept. In India, women who are profoundly nurturing, compassionate, and wise are publicly acknowledged by the title "Holy Mother." Those who have never met their biological mothers often have mothers nonetheless in adoptive parents, relations, and friends. There are human mothers and spiritual mothers, Mother Earth, and mother goddesses. The role of a mother is infinitely complex and one of pure tenderness, compassion, and unflagging loyalty. The mother represents fertility, stability, creation, and sacrifice.
Our mothers determine who we become because they are not only the life givers, but the most influential person in our young lives. Before we are old enough to understand that influence, mothers give us the beginnings of our spirituality and value systems. A mother lauds accomplishment and ignores minor faults, she both teaches and shields her children from misfortune, and hides her own tears, preferring to laugh so her children can laugh with her. She is both a sharer of grief and a healer of many pains. And every mother gives of herself knowing that someday her progeny will leave her. For these reasons and more, motherhood is a sacred institution, not limited by narrow constraints. It is also not unusual to seek the guidance of a mother in a wise woman or a grandmother because each woman is taught to be a mother by her own mother, whether she chooses to have children or not. Other ways to see Mother is to find a source of motherly nurturing in the earth, which gives us so much and demands little in return. Earth mother continually blesses us with her bounty and we are even born and eventually go back to the universal mother
The definition is necessarily broad because mothers of all types exist in part to put a smooth veneer on the rough edges of life for those they love. A mother never stops growing, never stops becoming more motherly. Though some may argue that a mother is a woman who gives life with her womb and nourishment with her breast, it is important to remember that a mother, any mother, is also one who gives life with her tenderness and nourishment with her love.
A while back I was asked to give my perspective as a Doula from a birth experience. It has taken me some time to gather my thoughts. I truly consider it an honor to participate in birth as a support to the mother and father during this critical and demanding part of life.
I began teaching birth classes 5 years ago with the intent of giving women who were desiring to have an unmedicated birth education on how the body works and powerful tools to help manage her brain and body, as well as the many body processes taking place in birth. As I proceeded I soon came to realize the support a mother needed to accomplish her goal and the more support the better. I embarked on the task of becoming certified as a Doula to more fully offer this support.
What surprises even me, is the strength of a women in birth, and even more so a determined mother who wants to be empowered by her birth experience. So for the women who have allowed me to be their coach, doula and support through their brith, this perspective is for each of you. This is what I observe and see in each of you as you so powerfully give birth.
IT works! Your effort and practice and determination pay off. It surprises even me how well this method works. I come home after each birth and exclaim to my husband. "IT WORKED!" "She did it." and "She did it beautifully!" I note the midwife, doctor and nurses and their amazement at how well she did and their awe of the experience as a witness to the birth. It is an amazing experience to watch.
The Labor. What is also true with each birth and surprising to the on looker is the total exhaustion, and mental toll on the mother. What looks like a mother asleep and deeply relaxed on the outside, is a mother fighting a mental battle to keep her mental focus on controlling what she can control and letting go of what she cannot. At times, she calls out in moments she has lost her focus saying she can labor no longer, that she has reached her limit. And yet, with a few prompts, encouragement, and loving touch she once again can go quickly back into her birth experience and once again be deeply relaxed. This usually signals she is almost to the finish line!
The birth. As a woman pulls the last bit of strength that is left within her, she is able to dig deep to find more, and more until she has given birth to her baby. This is truly amazing to witness. This picture of human strength surpasses all understanding as a women teeters between life and death to bring forth life. As women we don't get the feat we just accomplished! Why? Because this is what our bodies are designed to do.
The reward. As she brings forth life and the new little human is placed on her chest a glorious reunion happens. She is rewarded for her labor, she is empowered.
And at the same time wonders if she did is right! These are the perplexing question I get asked. "Did I do ok?" "I felt like I was out of control." "I thought I would be better at it." This is when I wished I had a movie to play back for them. I wish we as women would be better at accepting our accomplishments instead of questioning or comparing our abilities to another.
My wisdom. I ask to each of you to enjoy your reward, and don't question yourself. YOU birthed a baby! And you did powerfully well. Women are powerful in many things and in many capacities, and yet none will surpass the ability you have within yourself to bring forth life. So take the reward, no matter how your birth comes even if it doesn't look exactly like you pictured it would come. Be grateful for your abilities and the frailties of you own humanness. And be gentle and kind with each other as you share your experiences of birth with each other.