Health & Fitness, meditation, yoga nidra, somatic meditation, body-based meditation, meditation for beginners, Uncategorized, Yoga

Where Worlds Collide

Last week I attended the Iowa Women Lead Change Conference in Cedar Rapids, IA.  It was a really amazing conference, with a lot of thought-provoking speakers.  But what really blew my mind, was that when I went to the Dubuque Yoga and Oneness Festival two days later, a lot of the same concepts were presented.  The scientific research community is finally starting to prove to the the corporate world that what yogis have been saying for thousands of years is actually true.

Here is a brief overview of the cross-pollination – it centers mostly around how 1) we are all connected and 2) the words we use with others and ourselves have a powerful impact on bodies.  I’m presenting this in list form because lists make my brain feel good. 🙂

  1. Action conquers fear.
  2. Progress not perfection.
  3. We underestimate our ability to recover from failure.
  4. Most people talk themselves out of their dreams.
  5. Stop telling yourself what you are not good at – Growth mindset vs. Fixed mindset.
  6. Women are critical to business success because we have a drive for meaning and purpose.  We have strong communication skills and are relationship-focused.
  7. MRI – Most Respectful Interpretation
    1. Interrogate reality – consider your filters: attitudes, beliefs, truths, opinions.
  8. Act from a place of values and vision.  Be authentic!
  9. Pause boldly – don’t let the amygdala (your ancient brain) boss you!
  10. BREATHE to bring the heart into a coherent rhythm and by doing so increase brain performance.
  11. Relaxed brains have more Aha! moments.
  12. We need Periods of Silence in our lives.
  13. Screen time dulls your capacity to think.  After 90 minutes of screen time, take a 20 minute break.
  14. Choose your words wisely.  An employee’s brain lights up when they hear positive words from her manager.  When she hears negative words, 11 regions shut down, and the effect lasts for hours.
  15. Emotions are contagious.
  16. Saying Thank You to an employee releases oxytocin (feel good hormone) in his brain.
  17. Yoga helps get your body into a coherent state.
  18. True failure comes from not trying.
  19. Mindfulness practices are a good way to deal with overwhelm
  20. Our brain does best when we are around others who care about us.
  21. Exclusion lights up the same parts of the brain that are lit up when physical pain is felt.
  22. The brain is hard-wired to belong.
  23. The ancient brain is kind of a jerk. It’s an efficient jerk though.  It quickly grabs on to patterns and integrates them to make decisions.  That is where stereotypes begin.  But we can PAUSE and consciously react differently.
  24. We cannot multi-task!!  The brain just toggles really quickly between tasks and loses 20-30% productivity in the process.
    1. Busy-ness does NOT equal productivity.
  25. We need Rest, Stillness, Mindfulness.
  26. Be mindful of outsiders and pull them in.

Based on that list, where do you think I learned that information?  At the Yoga Festival?  NOPE!  That is what all these smarties and PHds and authors at the conference shared with us!!

But that is basically what I learned at my day at the conference too.  Our thoughts, our heartbeats, our cellular material are all intermingled and shared with the people around us.  Where do “I” leave off exactly, and where does “Other” begin?

I think this article is already long enough, so I will hold off on sharing more from the conference for now. I hope you found this information as interesting as I did!  If you want to learn more, you can check out the following people:

  • Carey Lohrenz : http://careylohrenz.com
  • Sallie Krawcheck: https://www.ellevatenetwork.com/team/sallie-krawcheck
  • Jenn Bleil: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jennifer-bleil-28a5765/
  • Jill Saunders: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jillsaundersprofile/
  • Dr. Steve L. Robbins: http://slrobbins.com
  • Jeff Masters: http://www.jeffmasters.net

 

 

Health & Fitness, meditation, yoga nidra, somatic meditation, body-based meditation, meditation for beginners, Yoga

The dangers of learning

I just returned home this morning from my 5th Yoga Tune Up® training, the Core Integration Immersion. If you take a body and chop off the head, arms, and legs – well, not only would you have a horrible mess, but in the chunk left over, you have a good representation of the area we learned about in this immersion.

We spent each morning doing a core integration practice which consisted of rolling on the therapy balls to bring awareness into the tissues, and then we activated those tissues in typical Yoga Tune Up® fashion, which means activating them in fun and weird atypical ways. YTU is typically very atypical (see photos below as proof).  Thanks to our teacher, Dinneen Viggiano for taking these pictures!

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As with all trainings that I go to, I leave feeling as if I know NOTHING!!  The more I learn, the more I realize how little I know.  It’s pretty annoying to keep bumping up against one’s own ignorance over and over again, yet I keep doing it!!

However, I know that once my brain gets a chance to recover from being overstimulated, the information starts to soak in, and a tiny piece of a massively complicated puzzle clicks into place.  I integrate and absorb what resonates with me.  The feeling of overwhelm starts to subside, I get the pleasure of sharing my new knowledge with other people who will find it useful, and then I start thinking about what training class I am going to go to next.

Once I get a chance to digest all this information with both the brain in my head and the brain in my gut (yep – there is essentially another brain in that there Core), I will write some more posts on what I learned.  I also promised my brother a short video on how to do Uddihyana Bandha (a diaphragm exercise that has an insanely long list of benefits), so I will make a post about that as well.

So, thank you for reading, and more to come!!

Health & Fitness, meditation, yoga nidra, somatic meditation, body-based meditation, meditation for beginners, Yoga

Meditation Experiment of n=1

Shoot. I just logged in to make this post and realized that I haven’t made an update since starting the Primal Challenge.  So, here is the nutshell version:  I did awesome until about day 11 or 12, when we went to Front Street, and a glass of wine sounded really good, so I had one. And then off the wagon I went. I still did really well on my 10 minutes/day meditation and walking for 30 minutes/day.  But the no-alcohol for 30 days was a fail.    This lack of self-control on my part fascinates me. I don’t drink A LOT – just regularly, so why is it so hard for me to take a measly 3 weeks off?  I have an emotional/mental blind spot here that needs some work, I believe.

Anyway, what I really wanted to talk about today was my meditation practice.  I have been working with a therapist, trying to understand who I am and what I want. One way to do this, is to tune in to your intuition.  I have always been pretty intuitive, when it comes to interacting with other people, but when it comes to understanding how I myself feel and what I really want, my intuition fails me  – it’s yet another blind spot!

My therapist recommended using a mantra mediation. She handed me a sheet of Sanskrit phrases, with the English translation next to them. She encouraged me to pick one that resonated. I read, “Aieem Namah” and the English translation (My true self is playful and wise), and for some reason it literally made me laugh out loud. I loved the juxtaposition of the idea of being playful and wise. My mantra was chosen.

She guided me through a 15 minute meditation where we focused on bringing awareness to the body, then the breath, and then to the mantra.  The mantra became an anchor to bring my mind back over and over again as it continued to do what a mind does, which is think incessantly (and very annoyingly, I might add).  When, at the end up the meditation, she told me to let go of the mantra, I did so reluctantly. Having it there as a base of operations was comforting.

My therapist recorded the meditation and sent it to me. For the past 2-3 weeks, I have been listening to either the recording mediation, or my own internal version, for 15 minutes a day.  This is the first time I have ever really devoted myself to a single type of meditation for that long. What are the results?

The results are…interesting.  I feel as if I am less reactive, which is good. But I also feel as if I am more exposed – more raw and open to the energies of the people around me – even more open to the general unease of the entire populace of the U.S. right now.  Everything in my life is going quite well – work is very calm, my yoga workshops are going well, I am reading lots of interesting books, my family is fairly healthy and happy. There is no reason for me to be anxious. Yet I am anxious. Anxious in my chest – a physical sensation with no conscious mental driver. I feel something and do not know why.  I am pinning it on meditation and its opening of subtle body receptors.

But, honestly, the more I learn about us humans, the more I realize how unbelievably complex we are.  Everything we think, eat, drink, breathe, and do has a emotional, mental, and physical effect.  How does one parse out which of the varying inputs is the one causing the shift???  I need an Hlo in Universe B who could act as a control for my experiments.

Consequently, while I cannot with 100% conviction say that meditation is a good thing, I CAN say that I do believe it is making me more aware, more conscious, more in tune with the universe around me.  I look forward to it daily and even awake at 4:5oAM each morning to make sure I fit it in before my day slips through my fingers.

I will continue with this experiment and will let you know if I finally settle on a thumbs up or thumbs down re: meditation. Although, the older I get and the more I learn, the more I realize that the universe strives for balance in all things, so meditation, like anything in life, is probably not good or bad, it just is.

Health & Fitness, meditation, yoga nidra, somatic meditation, body-based meditation, meditation for beginners, Paleo

Primal Reboot – Week 1

I am doing another Primal Challenge with a few friends.  Summer, counter-intuitively, always means weight gain for me.  Why?  Because even though we are outside more and get more exercise in, we are also biking to the brewery or to lunches consisting of famous Iowa tenderloins and hand-cut fries.  Even a 2-hour bike ride stands no chance against a couple of drinks and nachos.

We started the Challenge on Monday.  My main goals for the challenge are:  1) No alcohol for 21 days, 2) Meditate for at least 10 mins daily, and 3) Walk outside for at least 30 mins daily.  You may think  that these are not exactly “stretch” goals for someone who is pretty healthy.  But, trust me, they are!  Between working full-time, teaching yoga part-time, prepping for the classes, sleeping, eating, continuing my movement education, etc., my days get really full.  I have not been doing a good job of prioritizing the behaviors that I preach in my yoga classes.  Also, I’ve fallen into the habit of having 1-2 drinks each night.  So that is what I’m mainly tackling this go-around.

I have been doing really well so far!  No drinks for 7 days means my stomach is flatter (less bloated), and my sleep quality has VASTLY improved.  While I do not drink copious of alcohol and rarely ever get drunk, I know that alcohol really affects hormone levels (it’s pro-estrogenic), thus negatively affecting your risk of breast cancer.  It also saps my evening productivity something fierce!  I listened to a podcast with James Swanwick, and his experience going alcohol-free really made me question the innocuousness of my habit.  For some additional information on the effects of alcohol, check out this post written by James.

Prioritizing walking and meditation has also made me re-vamp my morning routine.  While I would love to read articles online for an hour each morning while drinking my coffee, instead, I drink one coffee, hop in the shower, go for a walk, and then meditate, and then eat breakfast and then go to work.  If I don’t take care of these two goals in the morning, the day escapes me.

Walking in the morning as the sun comes up is a beautiful way to start the day.  I love hearing the wind in the trees and watching the light slowly illuminate the neighborhood.  It’s also a good test of my proprioceptive skills, and I have to be cautious of ancient sidewalks dipping and rising unexpectedly.

And meditation.  Wow.  Lately I have been feeling more calm, less reactive, and more joyful.  Is it the meditation?  Is it because work is not really stressful right now? Is it because I am teaching more (which I love)?  Is it because I am sleeping better?  That’s the problem with changing multiple behaviors at the same time. I don’t have a control group. 🙂  I think it’s the meditation though – it trains me to take that second breath before reacting which gives me time to observe my instinctual response and reflect on whether it’s really necessary.  What story am I telling myself that is causing me to get fired up?  Is there another reasonable story that will help me maintain my equanimity?  Oh, I still get fired up, but at least now I am more aware of it, and it’s a *slightly* more conscious reaction.

There you have it, Primal Reboot Week 1.  If you are interested in learning more about the Primal Challenge, check out this link, or hit me up in the comments with questions.

Hope you have a fabulous Sunday and can get out and enjoy the crisp sunshine and crackling leaves.

Take care,

-Hlo

Health & Fitness, meditation, yoga nidra, somatic meditation, body-based meditation, meditation for beginners, Uncategorized, Yoga

Meditation – Hlo Style

I’ve been dabbling in meditation off and on for the past four years or so.  Over that time frame I have discovered and rediscovered some things that I really love and that seem to work for me.  I think that all of us humans are different, though, so the style of meditation that really floats my boat may do nothing for you. But here is what I’ve found works for the best for me.  Try some of these out, and let me know what you think in the comments!

The simplest form of meditation is focusing on your breath – breathe in/belly rise, breathe out/belly fall.  This is a very relaxing form of meditation, but when it’s self-directed (e.g. Heather is telling Heather to breathe in and breathe out), Heather gets distracted and starts thinking about brushing her teeth or which Moleskin she is going to buy next or how dirty the floor is.

And that is why I am a big fan of led meditations.  And fortunately with the advent of computers and smart phones and apps, there is a plethora of options to choose from.  Here are some links to my current meditation tool-set.

  1.  Dharma Ocean 10 Points Meditation.  This somatic (body-based) meditation focuses your mind on different parts of the body.  It helps keep my attention focused, while at the same time allowing me to consciously relax tension that I am unconsciously holding.
  2. Yoga Nidra.  I LOVE yoga nidra.  This is the thing that sparked my interest in yoga 5-6 years ago.  With this style of meditation, the mind’s awareness is drawn methodically through different areas of the body in an almost hypnotic fashion.  I love to listen to this type of meditation before I go to sleep.  Here is a link to a couple of different yoga nidras:
    1. https://yogainternational.com/article/view/a-short-yoga-nidra
    2. https://yogainternational.com/article/view/a-long-yoga-nidra
    3. Google “Yoga Nidra,” and I bet almost anyone you find will be delightful.
  3. Insight Timer.   This is an amazing free app that has a TON of different meditations.  You can search for a specific type (yoga nidra, loving-kindness, etc.), or you can scroll through and look for ones that sound interesting.  It has meditations of several different lengths, so if you only have 5 minutes, scroll for 10 seconds, sit or lay down, and meditate for 5 minutes.  There are a lot of led meditations by British people, and that accent just really does it for me. 😉  The app also gives you the ability to connect with others meditating in your area, which forms a nice, non-intrusive meditation community.
  4. Design of the Body podcast.  For ~30 mins, Dr. Donna Embree  walks you through a meditation where you breathe up from the earth, drawing energy through all your chakras, balancing then and tuning in to your body’s “dashboard.”  This meditation is a little bit “woo-woo,” but when I do it (usually while taking a walk), I feel more centered and grounded. If you listen to this one, try to have an open mind and let go of judgement, and I think you will enjoy it.
  5. Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction.
    1. Body Scan – 32 minute version.
    2. Body Scan – 20 minutes version.
  6. 8 Minute Meditation Guide.  This is the first book I bought on meditation.  If you do not want to go the “led” route, this book will teach you several different forms of mediation which you are encouraged to practice for just 8 minutes a day for a week.  My personal favorites are loving-kindness and body scan, but I got value from all of them.

Obviously I really love body-based meditations.  🙂

Hopefully you found this information helpful. If you get on Insight Timer, look me up, so we can support each other in our meditation practice.

Take care, and have a fabulous Labor Day!  Thanks for reading!