On Being Silent

By Doris Richardson-Edsell, Yoga teacher and nurse

There is something enriching about not speaking, especially for an entire day.

When you are silent, things become clear in your mind, body and soul, and then you get in touch with that deeper part of yourself.  It is there right in front of you but you do not always see your spiritual self that wants to take care of you; offering your internal guidance that helps you to just be. When you find that pleasant area in your mind, you will know it well as it speaks to you; telling you that today will be good, and that all days are valued, even the ones where you are struggling with life; the good and bad days need to be honored.

Find time today to just be in silence, whether it is a mindful, meditative walk or just being with yourself in the silence of your home; focusing on your breath and nothing else.  It does not have to be a long time; just time to be without distractions and noise; time to think about nothing but your slow breath; a mindful way to get in touch with yourself and your inner soul.

Music

Soft music in the background helps to find silence for the day.  It sooths your soul and gives peace and harmony to your day.  Find a way that is yours alone; silently sitting, lying down or walking in silence. Beginning a meditative way about yourself can be so enriching; you begin to speak slower, do everything more mindfully and your body thanks you with a slower pulse and lower blood pressure.  Some will begin to notice the change in you; commenting on how peaceful you are.

Beginning with you in a graceful way

When your day begins with slowing yourself down to see where you are going and taking the time with each step that you need to do, you become calm and centered.  And you find that  listening to your body and its needs for the day, brings you to a place where you are taking care of all of your many selves; mind, body and soul.

These are the many ways to begin each day with a smile.

Doris_RichardsonE

Doris Richardson-Edsell is a a registered nurse, yoga instructor, author, mother and grandmother.  She has worked as a counselor and group therapist at the Buffalo Psychiatric Center, New York, for over 25 years.

As an author she has penned a series of books on the topics of health and wellness, including plant based dieting, weight maintenance and vegan cooking.   Her latest e-book, ‘Maintaining Your Weight: Staying in the Center’, will be available on Amazon.com from 26th September.

 

If you enjoyed this post and would like to read or hear more of Doris’ expertise, you can check out her webpage, Body Mind Health, where she discusses and advises on all topics concerning holistic healing and health.

You can also tune in to catch Doris on a2Zen.fm  tomorrow (25th September) 11pm EST when she’ll be interviewed on Angela Levesque’s ‘On Health & Healing’ show regarding the true meaning of ‘being healthy’.

should we be measuring national well being?

Last week an all-Parliamentary group in the UK released a report on ‘Wellness Economics’.  The report is part of the British Prime Minister David Cameron’s ongoing intention to measure the well-being and happiness of the country’s citizens and is yet another cog in a really interesting global wheel that has been turning for some while.

With chronic illnesses and diseases on a continual rise, there has been a slow shift across western societies towards preventative health practices and proactive wellness.  This report, with its emphasis on the necessity of tackling poverty and job instability, claims that this is still fundamentally about creating a healthy, hale and happy society:  “We care about recessions because we care about unemployment, and we care about unemployment because we care about people’s well-being”.

Economics and well-being are, of course, intrinsically linked.  On a private level, the pressures of having little or no money can cause stress-related illnesses to manifest as well as push people into making choices that also affect their health negatively, such as buying cheap, low-quality food or turning to drink, drugs or overeating as a panacea for their problems.   On a public level, the consequences of an unhealthy society also creates economic as well as a social problems.  According to the World Economic Forum’s Healthy Living Initiative the global economy will lose an estimated $47 trillion through what it calls chronic noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) – i.e. heart problems, cancer, respiratory diseases, diabetes, etc. – and mental health disorders.  Such NCDs, it claims, have four common risk factors – tobacco and the harmful use of alcohol, plus physical inactivity and unhealthy diets.

Thus the link between economics and well-being is circular in nature with health influencing the economy and the economy influencing health.  So, the fact that certain leaders now want to redefine this relationship is to be lauded – or is it?

On the one hand, making changes which are aimed at benefiting people is a good thing.  Even the simple step of using the word ‘wellness’ when talking about ‘healthcare’ can make a difference. I mean, let’s be honest, when we say ‘healthcare’ what we really think is ‘sickness’ and ‘sick care’.  Wellness, on the other hand embraces all that makes us feel and look good in the areas of fitness, beauty, nutrition, mindfulness & spirituality as well as traditional and alternative medicine.

Wellness also has a much broader reach across a lot of sub-categories that may, in more traditional thinking, have been viewed as on the periphery of the health industry – i.e. certain alternative medicines, spas, meditation, even yoga.  However, there is a large body of evidence to now suggest that when traditional healthcare and wellness practices are approached holistically people’s overall health and well-being is elevated and healthcare costs are then reduced.

Nonetheless, while our countries’ leaders may really be trying to step in the right direction and this sideways move in thinking about peoples’ well-being is not just fancy footwork to please the electorate, do we really want them deciding what actually constitutes ideas of well-being?

For example, last year the former Mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg attempted to pass a bill to ban super-sized soda drinks being sold in New York City.  This was part of the Mayor’s overall health policy for the city which included bans on indoor smoking and trans fats as well as an initiative to reduce salt in food.  Bloomberg readily admits that his fight against Big Soda was as a direct result of the cost of obesity on the city and the country as a whole (Obesity incurs $190billion alone in annual medical costs in the US).

Yet, while some may view this as a positive health stance, the moral implications of a government deciding what people can and cannot drink and eat is surely questionable.  Also, if this bill had been passed and then adopted by other US states and eventually other countries, would that have opened the door to heavy legislation on all sorts activities and behaviors deemed ‘unhealthy’ by powerful governments?

The same could be said for David Cameron’s introduction of the national happiness campaigns which have begotten the above-mentioned report. His Happiness Index received a lot of attention when he first discussed it nearly a decade ago.  Yet while creating a Happiness Index as an alternative to GDP (which only measures economic output) may sound both progressive and positive, do we really need governments to concentrate efforts on promoting one single picture of mass happiness rather than creating the conditions that allow individuals to pursue happiness and well-being in all its kaleidoscopic colours?

In the main, I like that elected leaders are getting to grips with the idea that there are other measures outside of monetary wealth such as health, leisure, the environment, governance, housing, education and work-life balance that determine quality of life.   However, just as GDP can’t tell you who in the country has their pockets full and who doesn’t because it only measures an average per capita output, doesn’t that also mean that a happiness or well-being index will also not highlight those individuals or population groups within a single ‘well-being economy’ who have possibly slipped between the cracks and are not doing as well as others? (And how depressing would it be anyway to realize you hadn’t achieved everything the index claimed you were supposed to achieve to make you happy?!)

It is interesting, and not before time, to see western politics turning down a path towards better health and living conditions for people.  Nonetheless, this journey is one that needs to be taken in unison with the citizens whose lives they’re trying to change.  Genuine citizen inclusion will make all the difference in ‘wellness economics’ becoming a real manifesto for healthier, happier lives for all.

What are your thoughts on this?

My Yoga Journey: Kathy Scott

People come to yoga (or yoga comes to them) at different times in life.  Regardless of age, circumstances and geography.  With this in mind we wanted to make a space on this blog so that people could share their own yoga journey.  We’re happy that yoga practitioner of many years, Kathy Scott, founder of the Yoga Salon  and a woman who has brought yoga to so many people in  numerous unique and fun ways, is our first invited guest to post her story.

Looking back on my life it feels like I was always somehow chasing the light

I was living a cool, crazy life in London in the late 90’s.  I had started a serious Masters in Cultural Theory & Criticism and was completely immersed in everything from opera to visual art, music, theatre and dance by day.  By night I was immersed in the underground club scene and ripping up various dance floors till dawn.  My mother had recently died and I was determined to escape feeling anything about it.  This hedonistic lifestyle was the perfect solution – I kept running away until I started running on empty.

One morning on my way home from a party I noticed a poster for a Hatha Yoga classes outside a tube station in North London and felt somehow drawn to investigate it further.  The class was in a dance studio at the local gym, which was mostly populated by gangsters and hardcore bodybuilders. I tentatively showed up to check out what it was all about.  I can remember struggling and shaking through that first class.  I came up against contracted and stuck places everywhere – in my body, in my mind and especially in my heart.  I felt totally inadequate as everyone there seemed completely in the yoga zone but somehow I ambled through with a lot of grit and not so much grace.

I can distinctly remember the afterglow now, emerging slowly into the cool night air and feeling properly alive for the first time in my life, ever.  I remember walking home past the hip-hop kids in the park ‘smiling out loud’. It felt like coming home.  I kept showing up and soon began to practice regularly, intensely drawn to the slow, sweet release.

The journey has been like a long passionate love affair with plenty of resistance and tears along the way.  It has lured me all over the world from the beaches of Sydney to the jungles of Goa, remote ashrams in the wilds to huge gatherings in New York and San Francisco.  I am lucky enough to have practiced and studied with some of the most gifted teachers on the planet and become friends for life with fellow yogi nomads.

It’s an intimate journey that goes deeper and deeper – it keeps on giving. The practice has become a path of transformation helping me to climb slowly back into my body and finally connect with my heart.  It has led to amazing opportunities to share some of the learning’s and to set up The Yoga Salon with my best yogi friend Mari Kennedy.  Together we have taught in art museums, theatres, parks, festivals, circus tents and other extraordinary cultural spaces with live music and great company.  We are now gearing up for our first international adventure and taking The Yoga Salon to Portugal.  We have designed the experience to bring people on that journey of transformation through yoga, exploration and creativity.  We are interested in what happens when people come together to connect and play in inspiring surroundings.  If you feel the call to adventure check out www.theyogasalon.net.

Maybe meet you there….

Kat Profile PicYogi, curious cultural connecter & nomad, Kathy Scott has been practicing and teaching yoga for over 10 years. She is deeply influenced by the teachings of Elena Brower, Seane Corn, Sally Kempton, Kia Miller, Tara Brach, James Higgins and many more luminaries on and off the mat. She is behind many creative art projects including The Yoga Salon, The Trailblazery, the ireland : iceland project, and The Wonderlust Stage at Body & Soul. She teaches regular Yoga & Mindfulness classes at The Yoga Room and at The Fringe Lab, Temple Bar in Dublin City Centre. She has hosted yoga classes at Ireland’s national theatre, The Abbey Theatre, Galway Arts Festival, Dartmouth Square and The World Famous Spiegeltent. She also teaches in the corporate sector and private one-on-one classes in Ireland.

If you would like to share your yoga journey on our blog please get in touch here

5 Yoga Styles – What’s the best for you?

As Muuyu’s Teacher Manager and owner of a small yoga studio in Berlin, people often ask me which are the best yoga styles to practice and what are the differences between them – “It is still yoga we are talking about, right?” I hear while listing all the yoga styles and names.  Kundalini, Vinyasa,  Bikram – for many people it really is a whole new world and so they often need help discovering which styles will work for them.

My first advice is that when you’re trying to figure out the type of yoga that’s best for you it’s  a good idea to take some time to think about why exactly you’re choosing to practice yoga. What is the specific need that has led you down this path – Do you need help managing your stress levels, have you other specific health issues, are you hoping to lose weight or stay in shape, or wishing to supplement another form of athletic training with your practice? Or perhaps you’re looking for a more spiritual way to live your life and you feel yoga can help.

You should also consider your own fitness level and the kind of person you are. For instance, if you have some physical limitations such as a back injury or a heart condition you need to take that into account when choosing a style to practice.

Whether you’re a bit of a thrill seeker and love an activity that’s energetic and challenging or whether your idea of perfect ‘me time’ is to take a moment of reflective contemplation in a relaxing, quiet space, can also determine the type of yoga that will work best for you.

So, I thought I would highlight just five popular styles to start you thinking about the best practice for you. I’ve also listed the teachers on Muuyu who are teaching those specific classes, which means you can get on your mat, book a class and begin your yoga journey straight away!

 

  • Style: Hatha (gentle, slow-paced)
  • Focus: Basic yoga poses and relaxation techniques
  • What it involves: Postures, which help to strengthen the body, stretch the muscles and make them lean and supple
  • Benefits: Stress relief, provides physical exercise, and improves breathing
  • For whom: Beginners and people wanting a solid foundation of yoga postures and breaths
  • Muuyu Teachers: Lisa Ware, Rachel McBride

 

  • Style: Vinyasa (Generally fast-moving but there are also gentle “slow flow” classes)
  • Focus: Breath-synchronized movements which work to create a flow throughout the practice
  • What it involves: ‘Flowing’ from one pose into another
  • Benefits: Improving muscular strength and flexibility, toning and tightening the body
  • For whom: People of all levels with the goal of building body strength
  • Muuyu Teachers: Hilary Douglas, Bill Lynch

 

  • Style: Ashtanga (fast-paced and intense)
  • Focus: A physical style which simultaneously calms the mind
  • What it involves: A nonstop series of yoga poses using a special breathing technique to focus the mind and control the flow of breath through the body
  • Benefits: Relieves stress, improves coordination, and helps with weight loss
  • For whom: Fit people looking to maintain strength and stamina or lose weight, and those who want to get in touch with their spiritual side while maintaining a physical workout
  • Muuyu Teachers: Alyson McWilliams, Hilary Douglas

 

  • Style: Kundalini (each class has a different energy)
  • Focus: Harnessing your inner energy
  • What it involves: Meditation, postures, chanting, breathing exercises –some teachers even incorporate singing and dancing
  • Benefits: Finding emotional balance, strengthening and balancing the nervous system
  • For whom: Those who want a more spiritual experience as well as a workout
  • Muuyu Teachers: Dona Davidge, Sohan Kaur

 

  • Style: Bikram (expect to sweat!)
  • Focus: Flushing toxins from the body and enhancing what your body’s physical capabilities.
  • What it involves: A series of 26 poses is repeated twice in a room which is heated to 100 degrees or more
  • Benefits: Cleanse the body of toxins, enhances flexibility and can speed up recovery from injury.
  • For whom: Those who like to push their bodies to extremes, athletes and people recovering from physical injuries or looking to lose weight
  • Muuyu Teachers: Matt Devine

 

Of course, there are many other yoga styles out there and new styles are developing by mixing yoga with dance, Pilates or acrobatics. You can continue on your path to finding the right one for you by trying out as many or as few as you want. And please feel free to let me know whether there is a particular style that I haven’t mentioned here which you would like to try and I can recommend a great Muuyu teacher for you!