DwiPada Viparita Dandasna

Garudasana

Dwi-Pada-Viparita-Dandasana

Gratefulness diary

Merel-taking-notes

We all have one of those days: its hard to get up. The blankets feel so heavy, your body even more heavy and your mind is cloudy. Everything seems gray and not really worth while. Your work seems irrelevant to you and it feels as if the whole world is conspiring against you, blocking you from an easy light and happy life. Yeps, you are having a little depression.

image

Many ways to deal with this. You can just drag yourself throughout the day,waiting it to pass by, you might dig yourself deeper into your blankets and just watch some movies. Maybe you call your best friend to share your sorrow.

Or… you might want to take things in your own hand and decide to make this day as much a beautiful day as others, even though the start wasn’t as shining and stunning as others.

What helps on those days is to get your body moving, to make the blood circulate and ‘the energy’ flowing. ROlling back your shoulders, opening your chest, jumping little up and down can make a surprising change to your mood.

Another thing that does magic is reading through your Gratefulness Diary. This requires some prior work though. THis is a little book in which you write five things that you are grateful for that day.

Now the trick is that you write down five new things every day, and this is where the magic happens. It is easy to repeat kind of obvious reasons to be happy for but if you have to come up with five new things every day it is amazing how subtle and beautiful events come to your mind. It helps you first of all on that very day to look back with a positive mind and this diary helps you appreciating what you have and what beauty the world has to offer you on days that your mind is a little cloudy.

 

Cherish difficult situations like a sharp knife

Merel-doing-her-practice

One teacher helped me a great deal with comparing pain and difficult situations with a knife, a knife that is pointing at your chest and about to enter. Naturally you are afraid of the knife and you would want to back up, move away. However he advised to instead gently lean into the knife. Don’t run away but see how sharp it is, what exactly is going on, to investigate it. Now this might sound funny but try to move and lean into the sharp knife with kindness: try to look at to your own emotions and your own pain with kindness.

Merel-doing-her-practice

 

Don’t blame those feelings, don’t blame the difficult situation, instead try to see how and what it is trying to teach you. It doesn’t mean that you have to be kind in the sense of pleasing yourself and getting comfortable with the pain and the difficult situation. It is kindness in the sense of accepting the knife (aka pain) so that you can look at them, recognise them and change them.

Understand that you can move away from the knife, avoid the situation, repress it, don’t talk about it, don’t look at it. But that knife will remain there and move closer and closer and it will continue haunting you unless you face it. Kindness is moving into the pain, into the knife, to learn from it, and gaining clarity to overcome it completely once and for all instead of letting it fester due to fear and lack of examination..

 

Merel Martens

 

Childrens Yoga

Doing yoga with your child is fun. It is a good moment for you to connect with your child in a playful and yet conscious manner. For the parent is good to move the body and to use your imagination and in that way connect with your child on their level. For the child this is a fun way to connect to their body and breath without mentioning that specifically. Also you can beautifully integrate relaxations in here again in a light way connecting it to a story.

The ‘heart’ of the yoga that you do is making up a story and integrating different poses in the story. So for example you are going into a forest in a country very far from here and meet all kinds of animals, such as a lion, a very big dog, a cobra, etc. Anytime you meet this animal together you can imitate the animal with your body. Also you see many trees (Tree Pose) and you can imitate the wind blowing (to practice different types of breathing).

You can see that there are in numerous possibilities here and destinations where you can travel so let your mind become flexible and flow and go wherever :) Children themselves have great fantasy so let them join in wherever you go and what is happening on the way.

If your child has friends coming over you can nicely do this in a small group. If you want to do this with a group of children that don’t know each other very well than you might want to introduce a name game at the start. You could for example ask every one to say their name and after that make a gesture or funny dance pose and after everyone can repeat. Before diving into the Story you can star off with a fun game such as 1,2,3-Yoga Tree: one child faces the wall and the others are at the other end of the room. The child calls out ‘1,2,3-yoga tree and turns around. While calling out the other children can run but have to freeze into a Tree Pose when the child has turned around. The one who has reached the other end of the room first wins and if you didn’t freeze in time you are out of the game.

A very short relaxation up to two minutes is good. If you have mats or blankets you can ask them to roll up into a donut and lay down, or play sleeping lion (together make a roaring sound and after that be quiet for one to two minutes). Or if you want to work in pairs you can ask one child to listen to the breathing through the belly button of the other.

  1. Name game
  2. Start with a game (difficult to start at the mat) e.g. 123 Yoga Tree or Stop/Dance (stop and make a pose or touch finger/nose)
  3. Sit to bring everybody together (e.g. human mandala or King of the Dance or King of Yoga)
  4. Yoga Story
  5. Game (because they are sitting long at the mat)
  6. Savasana (yoga hotdog or just laying down one by oe, the other observing the others breath, or hand at the stomach of the other) or sleeping lion (make lion sound and then be quiet for 1 minute)
  7. Angel’s Walk

Google You tube: cosmic kids yoga for more

Merel Martens

The importance of expressing anger in a healthy manner

anger

Here is a way, to express your anger in a powerful healthy manner.

First we have to understand the need of expressing anger in a healthy manner.

Why ? Repression is the opposite of Expression.  Repressed anger is one of the most dangerous emotions to be sitting and boiling inside your body and mind. It can give rise to many physical illnesses and mental distress. People that repress their feelings of anger usually are people that are said to be ‘very easy going’. They agree (outwardly) with everything and never set boundaries. They never get upset and you will find it hard to argue with them. However, also these people have a certain limit for containing their emotions and at some point they will ‘explode’ and suddenly burst out, or suddenly make a seemingly unexpected decisions such as breaking up a relationship without giving any signals before, or suddenly quit their job, or very unexpectantly burst out in complaints and sum up everything little thing that has been bothering them for a very long time.

Being the other person involved it is obviously hard to deal with a situation like this and can be painful also. So this person has been feeling like this and this for such a long time, I have been hurting this person with my behaviour and I didn’t have an opportunity to change? Also, people that tend to repress their anger can fall into depression more easily than others, for they tend to self blame.Not expressing emotions usually is compensated with worrying a lot which costs heaps of energy.  At the other extreme this people are also prone to self harm as a way of releasing some emotions and energy.

anger

 How ?

So what to do when you actually feel anger coming up when you feel kind of out of control and are afraid to hurt someone with your words.

The best way to express your feeling in a very good way, to release the intemnse emotional energy  is to engage in some vigorous physical activity. This can be anything from actively dancing to vigorously sweeping the floor. (For outdoor people cutting wood, or digging a hole in the found or working out in the gym etc. are all great way to enegage in the physical.)

For some it works to actually more actively release the anger by screaming and shouting, but you want to be sure that you have a place then where you can do so without upsetting others (your children neighbors etc.) and where you feel really free to express yourself. While you do so be very aware – don’t just go in to dancing, cleaning, screaming but keep an eye on your thoughts and thought processes – in other words don’t drown yourself in your emotion.

By doing this  you prevent building up negatively charged emotions in your physical and mental bodies. Also you will have created space and time for yourself to actually look at your emotions in a detached manner. Why are you feeling angry, Is it a realistic response to the situation ?

After this stage of releasing and observing your emotions you might want to just sit down quietly or make a short walk to sort out your thoughts and find a way to bring this into a conversation with yourself first and with the other  if there was another person involved in evoking your feelings. Sometimes you will find out all it was needed was to work it out with yourself and the conversation with another is far more calmer and ralistic minus the unnecessary emotional drama and the sturm and drang. Most important though is that you didn’t ignore your emotion but worked with it. You felt it coming and you helped processing it in a healthy way.

What do you think ? Do you agreee ? Is there another way you have found which has helped you in better expressing your emotions? Please let me know the comments below.

Study yourself, study your patterns

You probably recognise this. Your best friend is coming up to you and says: ‘Why do i always get into a relationship with men that hurt me?’ or ‘Why do i always get into trouble with bosses at work? ‘And you know exactly what the reason is, and you have probably talked about this with your friend before. But you are a friend and again you help your friend by responding in a loving and understanding way and trying to help your friend by giving suggestions and understanding her patterns.

Now put yourself in place of your friend. And ask yourself that question. That question that always comes up. In other words: recognise situations and relationships that keep coming back in your life and that keep creating problems and pain and tears. Why? Because it is those situations that can teach you the most. It is exactly those situations/relationships with similar patterns that you are supposed to learn from. And until you have not understood that relationship or situation clearly you are bound to make the same ‘mistakes’ and you will keep running into them again and again.

Once you have identified that situation, instead of calling your friend and discussing the situation. Go sit quietly somewhere where you cannot be disturbed. Turn of your phone and deeply reflect on the situation. Reflect and see if you can dig a little deeper into the issue, try to go deeper than the usual superficial reflection that you might have done before. This might need some time and repetition. To write down this situation, this pattern that is reoccurring in your life, stick it on the wall and for one week reflect on it every day for lets say 15 minutes. Now while you are reflecting your mind might wander off but just keep going back to it. I promise you that your understanding will have deepened after deeply looking into for seven days. Naturlly with understanding some conclusion might come up, some conclusion about changes that you might have to make. Here too, reflect on those until you deeply feel that they are good changes and maybe solutions. Doing this will strengthen yourself and your decision making and it will save your friend from repeating his/her advice once again :)

Merel Martens

 

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3 powerful ways to overcome negative emotions with awareness and attention.

Yoga-reconnects

Our lives are emotional roller coasters,sometimes full of ecstatic moments of excitement and joy and at other times filled with  endless valleys of mind numbing sadness. Some of these emotions tend to stay and disturb our minds and moods and control our daily lives, even to the extent of interfering with our well-being and happiness.

When the negative emotions overwhelm, we need some extra effort to let go of these painful emotions. Most of us have a tendency towards a particular negative emotion that stays.

Some people are prone to feelings of depression naturally, while others may have a lot of anger, some might feel disturbed by fear and others might get caught up in a spiral of overwhelming anxiety.

If you can identify  the emotion that has a strong effect on your psyche and which is causing you a lot of grief in your daily life, you can start working on these emotions and dealing with it in a powerful manner.

Here are a few different ways to deal with negative emotions, you can use a combination of these methods in varying ways and intensity depending upon the depth of your emotions.

1.) Observing the emotion – letting go through mindfulness

If you have been practicing Mindfulness or self awareness this technique can work wonders for you, Mindfulness needs to be used in order to notice the subtle rising of the emotion in your mind or body.

The faster you notice the emotion, the better. Physically, it is more effective if you can notice the emotion once it is in stomach area (usually at the beginning ) instead of once it is in the throat area, (prompting you to start screaming in anger uncontrollably). For example.

Pamela-Meditation-BW

By being very aware of the emotion and looking at it with an equanimous state of mind you can control the emotion from growing and taking control of yourself. It is not an easy method and needs some practice. But once you get the knack of this, it can be the most powerful ally on your side.

IMP: Try not to change the emotion and don’t make it bigger or smaller. It is what it is, and if you notice the emotion getting bigger, that’s ok, don’t stop it. If it gets smaller thats ok too. Don’t put a label on the emotion, merely observe with an equanimous, non-judgemental state of mind.

2.) Realising the nature of the emotion and the mind – letting go of it through understanding

This is a very analytical way of dealing with your emotion, but very useful once you have understood the mechanism at a certain fundamental level.

What helps particularly is that fact that you are diving into the nature of the mind instead of the emotion itself which means that you are in a way diverting your attention away from the emotion and towards the source of pain and discomfort.

So if you emotion is very overwhelming then go for this option instead of observing the emotion (1). When analysing the mind, realise that the mind is always changing and nothing remains permanent. Realise that the emotion actually is a creation of the mind and it is a product of yourself and not yourself.

Merel-taking-notes

So realize “I am having an emotion that I have labeled angry”,  instead of ‘I am angry’. This helps with dis-identifying with the emotion and can help you not be so deeply disturbed by it.

Think of your emotions as clouds obscuring a blue sky. And imagine the clouds simply passing by and simultaneously let your thoughts gently float away. (as they must naturally)

Realise you are not your emotion and do not act on the emotion. Remember the times that you didn’t have the emotion so understand it is merely a temporart ‘cloud’ and also remember that soon again you will be free of this particular emotion.

3.) Opposite thinking – letting go through changing the focus of your attention

If both the above described methods don’t work then try this one. It is a very effective method of, temporarily, getting rid of destructive emotions. I recommend doing this when the emotion is too strong and gets the best of you. This method involves recognizing your emotion that is causing your immense pain and making an effort to develop the opposite emotion.

So if you are feeling very angry do a meditation on love - for example, by thinking of your very best friend or someone that you have a lot of positive feelings towards, and realise/remember all that he/she did for you.

Afterwards wish him or her all the best back, and if possible extend that love from there to all the people around you that are not necessarily friends and even extend it to people that you would consider ‘enemies’.

Yoga-reconnects

This method works because of the simple fact that your mind cannot hold two contradictory emotions at the same time.

If you feel very depressed think of all the people in the world that are doing worse then you, all the people living on the street without money and food, all the people that do not have the possibility to study yoga or mediation or who would gladly give their right arm to just have a roof over their heads or a bowl of rice for their loved ones.

The ones that do not have access to internet or the safety of civilisation to read this, etc. and feel gratitude towards your circumstances however depressing they might be.

And develop compassion towards them, develop maybe the slightest feeling that you could help them with all the gifts at your disposal – and maybe just maybe that thought might pull you out of your own depressed feelings….

If you can’t hold on to the good, just remember that the bad passes too

Indians keep surprising me with the wisdom they are able to share in one single sentence at moments that you least expect it. Here’s on i received in a chai shop the other day in Rishikish.
At several places in India there has been a cloud burst only two weeks ago causing major landslides and floodings, killing more than 5,000 man and no idea how many animals.
So in this chai shop in Rishikish I met a young man, Sudhi, who was in the mountains at that time. He was part of a group of eighteen people on a pilgrimage. Out of the eighteen only he and four others only made their way home

Before the actual cloud burst it had been raining for three consecutive days and nights already. Sudhi was one of the guides and he had already decided not to take certain roads and avoid particular passes to the top of the mountain. Three children, aged three, seven and nine were part of the group. They were scared because of the heavy rains and couldn’t stop crying. Sudhi told me: “I gave them some chai to warm up and tapped them on the head, I told them not to worry, everything would be fine”. “I never knew i could have been so wrong.”

“It is a wonder that I am still alive, I could have easily been dead”. He described how rocks as big as houses came falling down right before him: “One moment there were three people walking in front of me, the other moment they were dead”. “People slipped into the river never to come out of there again” and “everything was black… black water, black rain”.

What i noticed was that he wasn’t particularly emotional throughout sharing his story. Not like that he was emotionally traumatised and numbened by the experience, but he just wasn’t showing sadness either. He even said twice or three times with a smile, and I think I could call it laughing even: “Yeah, it is another experience”. He is already planning his next trip up to the mountains.

I was actually sitting in this chai shop with an Indian friend. After Sudhi left the place I told my friend how surprised I was by the fact that Sudhi could smile and laugh while talking about his experiences. I said: “Laughing about it is probably his coping mechanism, right?”. My friend smiled at me and replied: “If you can’t hold on to the good, the bad passes too”.

This totally opened my eyes and left me wondering why we so naturally accept the given fact that beautiful moments and feelings pass, but tend to hold on – and drown even – in sorrow and sadness rather then considering them as equally temporary and fleeting, as they really are.

Wish I had some great do this or do that type of advice at the end of this post but I don’t…so just remember If you can’t hold on to the good, just remember the bad passes to.

Boost your self esteem with this simple exercise ?

It should look something like this except with the fingers interwined and facing forwards not skyward.

Body and mind are heavily inter-related.  Emotions are expressed as feelings or pain in the physical body. While the health and vitality of the physical body is similarly mirrored by emotions.  An easy example is that when you are feeling sad your shoulders start drooping naturally, this is a simple example of your emotions being reflected in the body. This is also why the more uneasy you feel physically, the more irritable you become emotionally, so your physical health is directly being expressed by your emotions

You can consider this as a problem or as a blessing. If you consider this interrelationship as a blessing, it gives you many opportunities to understand yourself and the physical / mental state that you are in. And even more important it gives you many options to heal yourself, going through the physical pathway or the mental pathway – or a combination of the two even.

Often when we try to deny our emotions and deep mental pain, our bodies don’t lie and the pain manifests itself as a physical disease. This urges pushes us to heal ourselves and start working on a deeper level. This is where body work and meditation comes in. People might be confused and think that yoga asanas (postures) are only good to get physically fit and healthy, but they work on a much deeper level.

Here’s a simple exercise to improve your posture and improve your  mood significantly.

1) Stand with you feet shoulder length apart

2) Interlock your fingers and raise your hands above your head and stretch the skywards as much as possible.

3) This should open up your chest, align your shoulders and spine naturally

4) Take a 10-15 deep breaths filling your lungs up completely, holding a moment and exhaling completely.

5) Now bring your arms down or unlock the fingers and stay in the posture as long as comfortable.

This is a natural and instinctive form of stretching we resort to when tired or fatigued. It also works wonders when in need of a quick boost of energy. Try it. You can also do this from a sitting position or from a chair.

It should look something like this except with the fingers interwined and facing forwards not skyward.

It should look something like this except with the fingers intertwined and facing forwards not skyward.

Relaxing certain muscles, ligaments and tendons free up certain long-held emotions and blockages. Open the shoulders and the chest deeply works naturally on developing self-esteem and self love. And going into difficult poses and inversions ‘attacks’ our fears and insecurities. Vice versa, through meditation we can mentally work with physical pain. Sitting with the pain, understanding the nature and cause of mental and physical pain often make them dissolve in a certain degree, if not at all.

So on a daily basis do this exercise, roll back your shoulders and relax for more self-esteem. Before running off into the day, or into a difficult meeting or a job interview. If you feel like doing a little more, add curling up the corners of the mouth and smiling ferociously and yes you just might end up starting feeling a whole lot better !!!!

Cross the bridge only when you are at the bridge

You know these people that always worry about anything that can go wrong? Bringing up all disasters that could happen or mistakes that are bound to happen? Maybe your partner, possibly your mother, your boss, or colleague? Or.. maybe yourself? Now, while it is not bad to consider all options that could happen and to be prepared, it is not healthy to dwell in them and to let those worries take over and destroy healthy motivation and creativity.

Deborah-Warrior-3

I like the analogy of the crossing the bridge: only cross the bridge when you are at the bridge. Instead of worrying one hour before you have reached the bridge how to cross it, or whether there is a bridge or whether the bridge is strong enough etc., just enjoy your walk towards it and analyse the situation once you have arrived.

Why worry if you are not at the right moment and place, why not simply and calmly observe the situation as it unfolds ? You will miss out on all the beautiful moments that and things to see on the path if you keep worrying about the destination.

You for sure are not able to observe the birds and special trees. You won’t hear the wind blowing and you don’t feel the sun shining. Instead you whole attention is with the bridge. ANd you know what, maybe there won’t be any bridge! Maybe there won’t be any river (problem) to be faced.

Maybe your path is smooth and easy. And instead of enjoying that beautiful walk you have created so many phantoms! Such a shame… So enjoy the walk and cross the bridge while you are at the bridge, in other words, face the problem once you are there and don’t go into worries and fears about the future. Open your senses and be open to the birds and the trees :)

Merel