Mini-Meditations: Mom’s secret to getting through the toddler years

Mini-Meditations for Moms

Back in the day, when I was a freewheeling ladypreneur who set her own rules and schedule, before the baby, and nap time schedules, and play dates…  Back when all I had to do was take care of me, and I did a damn fine job of doing it….  Wayyyy back then, I had a lovely little meditation practice.  I would wake up, put on the tea pot, and sit on my meditation cushion in front of the floor to ceiling window in our Brooklyn apartment.  I had a little altar, with all the things I thought belonged there — a big ceramic buddha head, some candles and crystals, all the good stuff.  For 15-20 minutes, I would sit and focus on my breath or listen to a guided meditation.  I felt grounded and I felt good.

But that was oh so long ago.  Now, my daily schedule is dictated by an adorable, opinionated creature with needs of her own.  She wakes up in the ungodly hours between 6 and 7am, and so begins our daily adventure. During her naps, I cram in as much relaxation and self-care as I can, while still keeping myself fed, my business afloat, and my house in (relative) order.  Needless to say, that leaves little time for my meditation practice of yore, and that hasn’t been a big deal… until now.

The Power of Ritual

By: Natasha Uspensky, CHHC

Ritual

In my holistic nutrition practice, I am always talking up the power of creating rituals for eating, wellness, and self-care.  Rituals not only help you to create and stick to new healthy habits, but they can also play a huge role in how full or satisfied you feel after a meal, how effective your meditation practice is, or how relaxing your mani-pedi is.

In some exciting news, a new research study co-authored by researchers at Harvard University and the University of Minnesota will be published in the Journal of Psychological Sciences, proving what I’ve been claiming for ages… rituals matter, and they could mean finally feeling fulfilled, consistently happy, and yes, even dropping those last 10 pounds!  The study showed that when a ritual was performed before eating, thse food tasted better and was more satisfying than when there was no pre-eating ritual. Whether it was a chocolate bar or a carrot, participants who performed a specific pre-eating ritual ate slower, enjoyed the food more, and ultimately felt more full and satisfied after eating (which means they didn’t need to keep snacking!).  Though this study was specific to food, the results can be translated across all healthy behaviors.

Rituals promote mindfulness, a slowing down that brings the action at hand to the forefront of your consciousness.  When simple, everyday activities are given more meaning in this way, they are elevated from mere automatic behaviors to moments of connection, fulfillment, and joy.  The more you feel these uplifting emotions, the less likely you will be to overeat, abuse your body, or skip the activities that fill you with energy and vitality (like exercising and meditation).  Pick rituals to perform around the areas where you struggle — food, sleep, relaxation, exercise, self-care.

Try some of these rituals for yourself, and see what a difference they make!

  • Morning rituals:

    • Sip hot water with lemon right when you wake up.  It’s super alkalizing, hydrating, and just feels great!
    • Meditate
    • Spend some time mindfully making your morning tea or coffee
    • Move your body — some sun salutations feel especially great in the morning
    • Listen to music
  • Rituals before a meal:

    • Say a prayer or a few words of thanks, or sing a little song!
    • Take time to beautifully set your table, even if you’re eating alone!
    • Arrange your food creatively on the plate, garnish it with fresh herbs or other edible adornments, and take a moment to admire your work before digging in.
    • Put on some lipstick, brush your hair, and throw on a fresh, cute outfit before sitting down to dinner.
  • Rituals before meditating:

    • Light candles or incense.
    • Water your plants.
    • Do some stretches.
    • Create your own ritual of bowing to an icon, statue, or symbol that has meaning to you, and saying a few words of intention.
    • TIP:  I am a big fan of having a dedicated meditation space (I use my window sill) where you can arrange these ritual items.  I water my plants, light some candles, gain calming inspiration from my Buddha statue, and only then do I start my practice.
  • Bedtime rituals:

    • Unplug from electronics 30-60 minutes before bed
    • Sip some relaxing tea, like chamomile, kava, or sleepy time
    • Take time for a bathroom pampering ritual
    • Take a hot bath with relaxing essential oils like lavender
    • Slip into something that makes you feel sexy
    • Read a great book
  • Other self-care rituals:

    • Have a weekly, at-home spa ritual.  Put on a face mask, listen to music, take a bath.
    • End your week on a high note by walking home (or getting off the train a few blocks early), taking a ferry, or a different, scenic route while driving home.  Listen to music if it helps you relax and wash off the week.

What are your favorite healthy rituals?  Share them in the comments below!

No-Cost Holistic Living

By: Callie McBride

If a fear of costliness is preventing you from delving into the wonders of a holistic lifestyle, you are not alone. But, you may also be confused. Its no secret that organic meals and bi-weekly yoga classes can burn through your pocket quite quickly, but there are ways around those bright green dollar signs that offer you the same incredible benefits of living naturally and healthfully. The trick is to simply open your eyes! Scour the web, check out coffeehouse postings, and chat with your fellow yogis to learn about free deals; you will be amazed with what you will find.

Yoga, etc.

Often times yoga and pilates studios, as well as fitness centers, will offer complimentary classes to new customers. Core Power Yoga , Lulu Lemon retail stores, and YoGoer all offer free trials, just to name a few. Let Google be your friend and check out what studios in your areas do the same. Take advantage of those introductory classes to both try out different locations around your city and possibly discover a new favorite spot. I recently browsed the Internet for a martial arts class in Manhattan, and in about ten minutes I was registered for a free one-on-one lesson for the following week, that easy!

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There are also studios that generously run classes by donation; if $5 is all you’ve got, they will gladly take it. Both Yoga To The People and Brooklyn Yoga School in New York boast this deal.

During the summer, outdoor yoga skyrockets and prices dip lower than ever. In fact, they disappear. Well and Good NYC puts together an annual Summer Fitness Guide for New Yorkers filled with free yoga, pilates, and bootcamps around all 5 boroughs. Classes include Bryant Park Yoga, Sixth Street Pilates, Washington Square Park Yoga, and much more.

Let’s not forget the wonderful online world of Youtube, home to plenty of fantastic fitness instructors that post free videos to do at home-my favorites are Tara Stiles and Cassey Ho of Pop Pilates. These women are consistent with uploading new videos and have mastered the art of training through the camera.

Meditation

Another important aspect of a holistic lifestyle is meditation, which can always be free. This summer, grab a blanket and pick a park to visit during your free time. Of course, chanting is optional, but ultimate relaxation and peace of mind is garaunteed. My NYC picks are Central Park, Prospect Park in Brooklyn, and Riverside Park on the Upper West Side. With no shortage of parks wherever you live, meditation can be a quick and effective way to check in with your body and maintain a focus on your goals of healthy living.  If you need some guidance on how to start meditating, keep your eye out for guided meditation challenges from Deepak Chopra and other wellness experts!  There are also tons of free guided meditation apps available for your phone or iPad.

Organic Produce

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Organic and healthy foods generally aren’t free–though if you know of a place, shout it out. That doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy the bounty of organic food made available to us. For those of you who like to stock up on organic fruits and veggies, consider shopping wholesale. In New York, the Wholesale Greenmarket is your best bet. The vendors there grow their own produce, and “straight from the farm each morning, their products travel a very short distance ensuring premium quality, and greater food safety and traceability”. (grownyc.org/wholesale) By purchasing your fresh produce in bulk, or least in larger quantities, you’ll save both money and daily trips to the grocery store. The San Francisco Wholesale Produce Market is another example that looks great and includes a huge list of merchants who deliver fresh produce each morning (www.sfproduce.org).  A local CSA can also be a super affordable option to eat organic.  NextDoorganics is an amazing CSA delivery that sends a huge bag of local organic produce and other goodies to your door for as little as $35 a week!

To sum up, cheap healthy living is entirely possible with a little determination and research. Once you find your collection of free and/or cheap spots, spread the word and get others in on the wonders of holistic living on a budget. Enjoy your mission to locate deals and steals throughout your city, and share what you find in the comments below!

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How To Meditate: Chakra Meditation Guide – Root To Crown

By: Stephanie Heino

sun rising meditation

As you might have heard, scientists tell us that everything is made up of energy. And this is something ancient cultures have known for thousands of years. The well-developed and proven healing systems of traditional Chinese medicine are based around even flow of energy. Energy flows through different pathways, called Meridians, around the body. This energy that I am talking about has intense focal points called Chakras. There are 7 main chakras in our bodies.

A healthy system works with an even flow of energy. But if the flow of energy gets blocked it works just like a garden hose getting plugged leading the entire system to be dysfunctional. The same thing happens in our body, if just one of the chakra centers is out of balance it can affect everything. And yes, it does feel like you are out of balance.

If you chose to not go and see an energetic healer for a treatment, alternatively, you can work on yourself. But for those of us without a developed psychic sight, how do we know what chakras need attention? Luckily, there are often proven physical, emotional and mental conditions that suggest where attention is needed. When you get the hang of it, it makes sense and your intuition will guide you further. Chakra meditation is a form of meditation that is concentrative, recharging, and cleansing. Chakra meditation is used as a balancing form of meditation, channelling in good energy and and ridding the body of negative energy. The chakras that are the centers for energy within the body, and using chakra meditation helps to keep that energy balanced and aligned.

Chakra meditation can be performed in a couple of different positions including lying down or sitting in a position that feels comfortable and relaxed (cross-legged on the floor works great). It is important that the head and back are aligned. While practicing chakra meditation, many people choose to listen to soft, soothing music or to listen to complementary music that is soft and relaxing. It is important to remember that this form of meditation is very powerful and you should take the effects into consideration before you begin. Usually, it is an excellent idea to start out with a chakra meditation instructor to properly guide you. Chakra meditation uses thought, contemplation, and reflection on the various chakras to bring about the balance that is needed and also to provide more energy as well. As you are meditating, it takes deliberation to focus on the chakras and to get rid of problems and negative energy that may be held in each. If you are going to practice chakra meditation it is important that you understand the seven chakras and how they effect the body and mind, so let me tell you a little bit about each.

Below you see a figure illustrating the chakras from the base of your spine and all the way up to the top of your head. Notice the colours of each chakra, as you will use them in your work.

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  1. The Root Chakra is located at the base of the spine.
    It vibrates with the color frequency of Red. This is the location for your stability, balance and security.
  2. The Naval (or Sacral) Chakra is located in the lower abdomen.
    It vibrates with the color frequency of Orange. The place for passion and sexuality. It is also the location for psychic abilities and higher consciousness.
  3. The Solar Plexus Chakra is located between the navel and sternum. It vibrates with the color frequency of Yellow. This is where spontaneous actions and energy are located. It is also the place where our willpower can be found.
  4. The Heart Chakra is located in the center of the chest at the same height as the physical heart. It vibrates with the color frequency of Green. This is the center for compassion and unconditional love.
  5. The Throat Chakra is located in the throat region. It vibrates with the color frequency of Blue. This is where our communication abilities and our ability to express our selves verbally are located.
  6. The Brow Chakra (Third Eye) is located in the center of the forehead. It vibrates with the color frequency of Indigo. This is our window to the spiritual world. This eye has the ability to see beyond the physical world.
  7. The Crown Chakra is located on top of the head. It vibrates with the color frequency of Violet, or pure white light. This chakra is the direct channel to higher consciousness and getting in contact with our Higher Self, which can work as a guide, if you learn to listen to it.

Step by step Chakra meditation guide to open your Chakras – Root to Crown.

Start off by sitting comfortably in the Lotus position or in any posture you find most comfortable. Take a few deep belly breaths, feeling all your tensions, anxieties, and stressors leave your body with each exhalation.

Step 1

The Closed Flower. Close your eyes and take a deep breath all the way down to your root chakra. Imagine a bright red colour at your root chakra area. This is the Chakra of stability and security. Visualize a closed flower on that area. As you breathe in, imagine that the air carries a warm energy to the root chakra flower, which slowly opens. Feel how you are allowing your chakra to heal and be free.

Step 2

chakra-meditation-for-beginners1Sensing. Use your senses and see the red colour clearly in your minds eye. Feel the colour slowly expand from the root chakra flower and stretch out through your legs and all the way down to your toes. Feel it expand from its source up through your body, out your arms and all the way to your fingers. The bright red chakra colour stream also enters your head and fills your whole body with its warmth.

Step 3

Opening The Flower. Feel the love and security as the root chakra flower continues to open, making you feel more and more safe. Say to yourself (mentally) that you will not allow anything to come in the way of the blossoming of this root flower. Any bad experiences or any obstacles are not powerful enough to close this remarkable flower. When you feel that your Chakra has opened, let the bright red colour float upward to your second Chakra, the Sacral Chakra below your naval, and blend with its warm orange colour.

Step 4

The Closed Sacral Flower. See the orange closed sacral chakra flower at your second chakra. Breathe in deeply and feel how the energy is carried to the closed orange sacral flower, and how it stimulates it to open up just a bit. See how the bright colour from the chakra flower slowly leaks out and expands from this Sacral Chakra to all sides.

Step 5

Sensing. Visualize clearly in your mind how the orange colour moves through the bright red root chakra colour and further down to your thighs and legs and finally reaches your feet and toes. Feel how warm and pleasant the sensation is. The warm orange colour also moves upward like the red root colour, passes through your stomach and your chest, and fills it all with a warm secure feeling. It also reaches your arms, hands and finger and your head, filling it all with love and security.

Step 6

Opening The Flower. Allow your sacral chakra to open. You are in a safe and secure environment so allow it to open up and embrace the world as it has become much stronger now. Your source for passion and sexuality and even some psychic abilities is opening and is sharing its warmth and its qualities with the rest of the body and the rest of the world. It does not have to hide anymore, so allow your sacral chakra flower to remain open no matter what the future may bring.

Step 7

Continue. Do the above chakra exercise for each chakra, but remember to change the chakras individual qualities and colour. Try to work with each chakra for at least 5 minutes. Do not rush through the meditation.

Chakra meditation is a great investment in balancing your body, mind and spirit. Comment below and share how you felt afterwards. Good luck!

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Let Deepak and Oprah Teach You to Meditate!

Meditation is one of the most powerful techniques you can employ to decrease stress and pain, manage anxiety and depression, increase longevity and optimum health.  Not only does it lower blood pressure and clear your head, but it can help with weight loss and motivation to exercise!

But starting to meditate can be really hard.  I’ve been working on it for years, and even I have trouble just sitting, focusing on my breath.  Luckily, there’s an easier way.  Guided meditations start you off with some thoughts, insights, or a mantra, and then lead you into a short solo meditation that is much more manageable and user-friendly for novices.  And who better to lead you down this healthy and enlightened path than everyone’s favorite gurus, Oprah and Deepak Chopra!

The 21 Day Meditation Challenge is an easy, effective, and really powerful way to start a regular meditation practice, and best of all, it’s free!  You just sign up online, and starting March 11th you’ll receive an email every morning with a short guided meditation to start your day with.  The theme for this particular challenge is Perfect Health, with inspirations, visualizations, and mantras geared toward helping you reach that perfect place of balance, well-being, and happiness that does indeed lead to optimum health.  Plus, the daily practice helps you build the habit of meditating, so you can continue your practice after the program is over.

The digital program includes:

  • Daily welcome from Oprah Winfrey
  • Daily guided meditations by Deepak Chopra
  • Inspirational messages, images, and centering thoughts
  • Sanskrit mantras and their meanings
  • Daily reflection questions with a private, online journal to save responses and additional notes
  • Mindful Moments – daily takeaways showing you how to incorporate daily lessons into your life right now

Now you have no more excuses about not being able to meditate or not having the time!  This easy to follow, 21 day challenge helps you to develop your practice with help from the experts.

Click here to sign up!

One Minute Meditation for Those Who Think They Can’t!

meditation

Is not having enough time your big excuse for why you can’t meditate?  How about not being able to quiet your mind?  Well guess what?  Meditation problem: solved!  You can get so many of the benefits of a regular meditation practice from just 1 minute a day of breathing.  Just breathing!  I think a big part of the anxiety people have around meditation is that it is this big hard thing that takes years to master.  When you stop thinking about it as Meditation with a capital M, and start thinking of it just as sitting quietly and breathing with intention, so much of that anxiety and aversion goes away!  Below, you’ll find a sequence of two types of breathing that you can do in conjunction with one another for just one minute… Or extend the meditation for as long as you want.  Harnessing the powerful Bhastrika breath described below is all you need to bring your attention back to your breath when your mind starts to wander.  And it’s really as simple as that!

Sit comfortably, upright in your chair, with your hands in your lap. 

Start by breathing for about 30 seconds using a Bhastrika or bellows breath:  Breathe deep through your nose, in and out, using all five lobes of your lungs like a big bellows. Use your lungs in and out as much as you can, only in and only out through your nose. You do that for about 30 seconds.  Our upper lungs have stress receptors that get activated when our breath is shallow, which is how most of us breath throughout the day.  When we use our lower lungs, like in bhastrika, we activate calm receptors that soothe our nervous system.

Next, breathe for the next 30 seconds doing an Ujjayi breath: This is kind of the classic yoga breath where you actually do a snoring or ocean sound through your nose.  Constrict your stomach muscles and force that snoring sound out through your nose. You do that for about 30 seconds.  You can repeat this one-minute sequence as many times as you like.  Do bellows breath as deep in and as deep out as you can for 30 seconds and follow this with 30 seconds of silence breathing through an ujjayi or ocean breath.

Extended Meditation: If you would like to meditate longer, you can start by doing Bhastrika breath for 30 seconds.Then use Ujjayi breath and sit quietly until you start thinking again.  When you feel thoughts resurfacing do Bhastrika for 10-20 seconds to quiet your mind. Sit quietly again using Ujjayi breath until thoughts arise and follow once again with Bhastrika for 10-20 seconds. Follow this cycle until you feel you are done meditating.

via Meditation: One Minute to a Quiet Mind.

5 Minute Meditation for Stress Relief

Check out this super potent, stress-relieving yoga nidra from Dr. John Douillard.  You can use this exercise anytime you need to relax, unwind, refocus or center yourself.  Since it’s a seated meditation, you can even put in your headphones and do it at your desk at work!

Try it out, and post what positive results you noted!

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