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Yoga and Meditation: The Simple Science of Why It Works

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Make a tight fist.

Hold it.

Hooooold it.

Hold it until it becomes uncomfortable.

Keep holding.

Now relax.

Make a fist again.

Was it easier to make a fist the second time?

That’s the way yoga and meditation work for the body and mind. You give the body and mind a break from ‘the grind‘, so that you can come back again, stronger and sharper.

When people call it ‘yoga‘, most people are referring to yoga stretching. But ‘yoga‘ means a lot more than just stretching; breathing, meditation, yoga stretching and basically a way of life. You don’t just have to be flexible to do yoga.

Every day, for the past 13 years, I’ve done some yoga. Haven’t skipped a day. Almost always, I do it in the wee hours of the morning. If not then, then no later than mid-day. This particular day, however, I woke up, jumped out of bed, ran around like a lunatic and didn’t sit down on my yoga mat until 8 o’clock at night, after I put the kids to sleep.

The house was quiet but messy. It seemed more enticing to sit at the computer and space out on Facebook, or to clean up a little (yeah right). But, I know that mind of mine. I told it to shut up, and I sat down on my mat. My mind was racing and I almost felt sick from all the running around we had done throughout the day.

When you’re running around all day and get caught up in your thoughts, you seldom take a moment to notice your body. And, if you’ve ever noticed, when you’re absent minded, that’s when you tend to hurt yourself and make stupid decisions… I had been tripping, dropping things and hurting myself all day! A little attention inward can stop those things from happening.

First, I did some yoga stretches. The stretching helped to bring my awareness back to my body and eventually to my breath and mind.

Next, I did some sitting still breathing exercises… and this was when I noticed the ants in my pants. My whole body felt like jumping up and running somewhere! I had 8,000 thoughts in my head too. I was 100% restless! I usually don’t feel this awful, because I do my yoga and meditation practice early in the morning, before the stress of an entire day weighs down on my head.

Finally, I sat to meditate. After a few minutes, I could feel my tense muscles relax. My mind started to quiet down. I had a few more thoughts bubbling up, and again felt like running around like a crazy woman… but I sat still… Then, I took a deep breath and when I went to open my eyes, 45 minutes after I first sat on my yoga mat, I found that I had a smile on my face.

All the thoughts that had been racing around in my mind half an hour ago, were virtually gone.

Ahhh….

Here’s the mini science lesson:

The brain has four major brain wavelengths (frequencies) 

Beta: When the brain is alert and conscious, but also can be stressed, anxious, afraid or agitated.

Alpha: When we are feeling alert and conscious, but relaxed, creative and clear.

Theta: A state of reduced consciousness, when half asleep, or meditation

Delta: Deep sleep or unconsciousness

Most people go between delta (sleeping) and beta (stressed), with very little of the other states.

When we do yoga and meditation, the brain goes into theta (meditative) wavelengths. After the brain goes into theta wavelengths, then the brain can easily go into alpha wavelengths (alert, yet relaxed).

When you are generally more relaxed, your body does not produce as much cortisol (stress hormone). Too much stress hormone makes your body and mind function at a not-so-optimal level.

Interesting. Simple. Right?

I researched the studies on yoga and brain frequencies almost ten years ago, when I was completing my Bachelor of Science and again when I completed my Masters of Educational Practice a few years later. I would go searching for the links to prove these things to you, but I’m just sharing my experiences with you. The naysayers can google it if they don’t believe me.

After thirteen years of practice and teaching yoga and meditation, I can assure you that yoga and meditation have a powerful impact on your brain. And since your brain controls your body, your memory and all these other cool things that even science can’t even prove, then there’s no question that yoga and meditation work!

Science and spirituality are not so very different. Although… today’s science doesn’t explain yoga 100%. Science can’t quite explain the enormous amount of relief I feel when I open my eyes after a good yoga session. Ommmmm…..

This photo is of my dear friends on World Yoga Day… the one day in 13 years that I almost skipped doing yoga

To learn a really good yoga practice, do an Art of Living program near you! 

 

 

I Miss You Already

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Tonight, I sat down at the computer to find that my 5 year old had left the photo library open. She had been looking at old photos of her and her sister.

“Oh, just look at those two!” I thought with a smile. I just wanted to reach through the screen and pinch those little cheeks.

The photos were only from 2 years ago.

Look at the house! Everything looked so much brighter and new. Less stains on the carpet and less clutter from toys.

And, those beautiful cherubs… Oh, how did they change so fast?!

I miss you!” I cried out!

I miss you?! They’re still here, they’re sleeping in our bed as I type.

But, those chubby little dimply faces have changed. The rolls on their arms have disappeared. The clothes they had on, are all packed under the bed, doing who-knows-what.

Some days I look at them and think, “I miss you already!

It seems like a stupid thing to think, because they haven’t gone anywhere, and we should all be happily living in the present moment… But some days I catch myself thinking too far ahead of today.

The same things that bring you pleasure can also bring you sadness.

“I miss you!

I felt a lump in my throat.

These photos are only a couple years old!

The memories are still fresh in my mind, but JUST LOOK how they’ve changed in that short time!

Me, I’ve changed too.

A little wiser, a little older, better at cleaning up messes and dealing with drama. A few more gray hairs and a few new wrinkles.

Although, I still feel the same.

I know my babies are still the same, except now they look different and I know them a little better.

I see another favorite picture.

Gawsh, I miss them!

How could I miss them???

They’re right here…

What I Learned About Expectations After Traveling With My Kids for a Week

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We took a last minute week-long trip to Sydney and we had a blast. But, the trip wasn’t what I thought it would be like. The ‘getting there‘ part was not just most of the fun, it was practically ALL of the fun. I’ve traveled with my kids before, but this was our first, sort of fun holiday, that included planes, trains, buses and tourist attractions. Usually when we go somewhere, we have an agenda, but not this time.

Our plane was delayed… that didn’t bother them too much, they kept watching the planes and asking which one was ours (they asked at least 800 times).

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What was really funny/not funny was that the few things I had planned out and paid a lot of money for, like our trip to the aquarium…

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Was not nearly as fun or as memorable for them, as it was to insert their tickets at the gate of the train. (Train rides are cheaper than the aquarium, trust me)

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And, every time I tried to take a cool touristy photo, this sort of crap would happen. I mean look at us! Is Margo picking her nose?! I know that the little one was trying to push her big sister away, because she didn’t want to pose for the photo… and where am I looking?! And why does my hair look so bad!

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But, waiting for the train was fun.

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They had never seen deciduous leaves before because we live somewhere sub tropical. They spent HALF AN HOUR playing with wet leaves in this reflection pool outside of the ANZAC monument, not caring much about the monument itself.

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(By the way, babywearing in the big city saved the day folks.)

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We went to visit friends in the suburbs. The kids weren’t fussed by the fact that we spent half a-stressful-hour figuring out how to buy our bus ticket, but they were hooting and hollering for more, more, more every time the crazy bus driver put the pedal to the metal.

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One day, I was too tired to do anything, so we walked to the only freaking playground in Sydney, and Margo climbed so high up this spider web thing and I had to rescue her. I was terrified! She just needed a little help to get down. She’s been telling everyone all week about her adventure on that thing…

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But, she hasn’t been talking too much about the creepy museum I paid to take them to. Although she did think the bones were sort of cool.

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Rain? They didn’t care. We spent $10 dollars and hopped on a ferry they had a blast!

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The ferries were the biggest hit of all. We rode them a few times. Cheap entertainment, if you ask me. Cheaper than the Taronga zoo, which we didn’t go to.

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We got lost on the way to the playground and stumbled across these Chinese gardens. Entry was $6. They LOVED this place!

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But, when we planned our trip to Luna Park, the little one was scared of the clowns and they were both disappointed because they wanted to go on all these rides, but we said “No”, because the lines were too long and everything was expensive.

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Wheeling around their suitcases though… now that was a blast!

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Margo’s favourite thing of all was when we found this chess board in Hyde Park and one rainy morning, she finally got to play because nobody else was there. And, the best part of all was setting the pieces back up after she beat her dad.

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And, radom street performers in the park, well, they loved that. We chucked a few gold coins in that the guy’s hat and we played there for half an hour.

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One thing I learned from our trip, is that you don’t need to spend lots of money on kids when you take a trip, cause they’re gonna have fun doing the stuff you wouldn’t think they would have fun doing. Just walking around somewhere new and different, is fun enough. You can do the payed stuff, but don’t expect that they will love it, because they might not! You might pay the big bucks and then get upset because you think they should be enjoying it. Our week was so spontaneous and fun. After I caught on the fact that ‘doing something‘ was actually just roaming around, and that I didn’t have to be spending a lot of money, we started having the most fun of all. I also had fun taking their lead, because doing what they wanted to do was experiencing the city in a new way.

My Daughters Have Never Watched Frozen (Or Any Movie)

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When I was an 8 year old, it used to take me almost 2 hours to fall asleep at night.

Why?

Because I used to sit there and fantasize that I was a mermaid!

It was the early 90’s. I used watch ‘The Little Mermaid‘ at least a few times a week.

A few years later, I was having trouble falling asleep because I was flying on magic carpets. When Disney’s ‘Aladdin‘ came out, I watched it just as much as I had watched ‘The Little Mermaid‘. If you asked me then if I had loved these movies, the obvious answer was ‘yes‘.

Just because I loved these movies, were they really that good for me???

Well, they certainly made it hard for me to fall asleep at night!

Children even younger than I was, are even more sensitive. Under the age of 7, children live completely in the present moment. They become all consumed with what they are doing. If you’ve ever witnessed the way a child plays, you would know the present moment intensity that I’m talking about. A child’s sense of ego ‘I am‘ is still developing. It’s such an innocence…

Young children are extremely sensitive to their environment and are affected easily by the people and events surrounding them. Their brains are forming neurological pathways that lay the foundations for all future learning (especially kids under 3). It’s no wonder that when they watch something on a screen, they BECOME that thing on the screen. For a young child, there is little separation between virtual reality and reality.

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Dear Dog Owners, Please Don’t Assume That My Child Loves Your Dog

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I like dogs, I really do.

My kids like dogs too, but only when the dog is on a lead, is close to their owner and isn’t acting like a lunatic.

If the dog is frantic/running around without a lead, or if the person walking their dog isn’t carefully keeping their dog close to them, my kids hate it. Sometimes people purposely let their dogs get close because the owner thinks that my kids want to pat their dog…

When my kids feel confronted by a stranger’s dog, they scamper up me like I’m a tree, grabbing every bit of clothing, hair or body part of mine that they can cling to, or, they hide behind me and whimper. When dog owners see the frazzled state we’re in, their most usual response is, “Oh… don’t worry, it’s a friendly dog! Your kids should get used to dogs.Read the rest of this entry

Do We Really Want Our Children To Be Obedient?

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I was driving on our ‘slow‘ Australian motorway, talking with my good friend from Germany. He and his family visit Australia periodically for months at a time. He was telling me how scary it is to drive on the autobahn, the highway with no speed limit, because people drive like lunatics.

I asked him, “What would happen if they ever introduced a speed limit, would people get upset and start a riot?

In his strong German accent, he said, “You know… you would think that people should get mad, but I’m not sure! For example, when the Euro came, (when the Deutsche Mark was replaced), I thought people would be angry, but nobody cared… nobody said anything. It makes me wonder the same about the Nazis. When they came to power, nobody said anything… nobody cared!Read the rest of this entry

No Lip Service in Our House: Please and Thank You are Optional Too

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When my older daughter was a baby, I used to enthusiastically encourage her to ‘wave hello and bye bye‘. However, I noticed that when I would say, “Wave bye bye’, it would startle her from her natural state of just ‘being‘. She would wave, but it wasn’t sincere and sometimes she would go all shy on me or flat out refuse… Most of the time, she just wanted to be a fly on the wall, happily observing the situation, with little, to no interaction. So, I stopped asking her to wave.

The same reason I stopped asking her to ‘wave hello and bye bye‘ five years ago, is the same reason why, now, I don’t make my kids say ‘please’ or ‘thank you‘.

Asking a child to say or do something unnatural, in a social context, breaks them out of their nature, which is to just ‘be‘.

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If You Brush Your Teeth, You Ought to Read This

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Even the ocean sometimes isn’t enough to shut up my mind.

Tonight, while I floated around in the sea, trying to catch my last wave in, my mind was a bubbling mess of thoughts — worries, ‘what ifs’, doubts and insecurities. I walked home in a huff and took a shower. Then dried myself off and reveled in the fact that the house was quiet. My husband had taken the kids grocery shopping!

So, without wasting a second, I plopped down on the floor and shut my eyes for a 20 minute meditation. When I opened my eyes, I felt so fresh, alert and calm. All the stupid thoughts that had been flying around in my head 20 minutes ago, were gone. My smile was back and my breath felt light.

Do you brush your teeth everyday? Read the rest of this entry

Micro Schooling: Have We Found the Alternative Schooling That Many People Are Looking For?

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For a couple of years now, I’ve been contemplating my children’s education. I, myself, am a school teacher, which actually complicates things, because I’ve seen both the good and bad sides of traditional schooling. I like the idea of traditional school because of the community, plus the shared responsibility of taking care of children (it’s hard work being with your kids 24/7 and never having a break), but I don’I love the idea of kids starting so young, and having to follow such a heavy content based curriculum. I love the idea of homeschooling, but don’t so much love that even in homeschooling, kids still have to follow the same sort of curriculum stuff that kids in school have to follow. For younger children, I’m not sold on the idea that they need to do anything other than play-based learning. Unschooling has really piqued my interest greatly but I also like the idea of coming together with people and building a community and having some sort of commitment. I see some of the burn out rate amongst parents choosing to home educate their children and I want to create some sort of community that prevents this sort burn out from happening. Read the rest of this entry