Borrowing the studio props:  How to stay healthy this cold and flu season 

It’s cold and flu season and everyone is at high alert and paying particular attention to cleanliness. Advice on anti-bacterial ointments/sprays and preventative homeopathic concoctions seem to be at a fever pitch high. But, how much attention are we paying to the potential spread of germs when we borrow studio equipment, yoga mats and props?

Local studios and gyms are places where we exercise and sweat and detox. While this is great for the individual the shedding of sweat means the release of toxins and germs. If equipment is not cleaned regularly and properly this can lead to the unwanted spread of germs to the next person on the mat or piece of gym equipment.

In gym and studio environments the potential for infection if a cut or scrape comes in contact with a build-up of live bacteria, such as staphylococci and streptococci, which live on everyone’s skin, and spread infection, cold or flu is real. Foot fungi can survive on equipment for days. So how do you do your part to stay healthy and prevent the potential spread of germs?

Stay home if you are not feeling well: Many studios and gyms are places of healing as well as exercise and fitness development.  For those with compromised immune systems unclean environments can truly set their health in a tailspin.  Play it safe.  Skip a day at the gym and rest.  You’ll recover much more quickly from any ailment this way.

Protect yourself, with help: If you are really concerned or have a low immunity to illness and germs, take steps to protect yourself. Let your instructors and studio managers/owners know of your condition(s) and ask them for help in maintaining a clean environment. Bring, when possible, your own yoga mat and props and clean them as instructed by your healthcare professional.

Clean your equipment: Most studios will offer some sort of cleaning supplies for member/participant use. Use them. In fact, it can’t harm you to use the cleaning supply (provided it is natural in derivative) before you start your practice and then after you are done using the equipment or mat.

Cover up: If you have cuts, scrapes, skin rashes or infections please treat them as recommended by a doctor and cover them while working out.

Wear clean clothes: There is always the temptation to skip a load of laundry and double up on a lightly used work out shirt, shorts or socks (and even the occasional post-workout towel). Please don’t. Just don’t. Bacteria can build up and not only compromise your health, but that of those who come in contact with you.

Shower up: As soon as you have the chance, shower after your workout. As mentioned before, workouts mean sweat and detox and those things once released will live on the skin for varying amounts of time until they are washed off. Quick clean ups can prevent illness and rash and their spread.

Wash hands before leaving: In addition to cleaning your equipment, mats and props after use, wash your hands. Washing with a mild soap and warm water will wash away any stray germs and help keep you and those within reach healthy.

Stock up: Look at your gym bag contents. Make sure there is a washable bag to stow shoes and post-workout clothes. Keep some anti-bacterial sanitizer handy. Consider also keeping Thieves oil and a wash cloth at the ready for use on borrowed equipment, just in case cleaning supplies provided by the studio are not natural and you suspect equipment has not been freshly cleaned.

Be informed: If you are not sure of the cleaning routine and schedule for your studio/gym, ask. Most instructors will ask for equipment, mats and props to be cleaned after use. Many studios have daily cleaning routines and deeper weekly cleaning schedules as well.

© 2017-2018 Lotus Seed Meditations and RJ Lisander All Rights Reserved

 

Keeping warm with the breath

 

If you are on the East Coast you are likely experiencing unexpected cold and looking for ways to stay warm as you move through your day.  Now just may be the perfect time to start a practice of warming pranayama.

What is pranayama? Prana means breath sustaining the body. Ayama can be translated to extension or drawing out. Together the two are the extension or control of the breath. Most all yoga classes and practices include some sort of breath practice throughout to assist with the physical (asana) postures. Pranayama practices can, however, be a sustained practice on their own with many positive benefits.

What are some of the benefits? Different pranayama breaths and practices can act to warm or cool the body, raise or lower blood pressure and can aid the body and mind to relaxation or can be used to stimulate the body and mind. Additional focus and clearer thinking are also benefits of breath work. Warming breaths, such as those being introduced here, can assist and aid with:

  • Alleviate coughs, sneezes, sniffles, cold symptoms, throat discomfort
  • Remove air (vata) from the joints to lessen joint stiffness and pain
  • Increases gastric juices moving through the stomach
  • Lowers blood pressure and with sustained, long-term practice can be a factor in helping to lower high blood pressure permanently

Who can benefit from pranayama practices? Pretty much everyone can benefit from the practice of pranayama.

  • However, more advanced practices should be practiced with the care of a skilled teacher and under the advisement of a doctor.
  • All practices should be discontinued immediately if lightheadedness, tingling or pain is experienced.

When to practice? Pranayama can be practiced any time of day, though most techniques are best practiced on an empty stomach in the morning or in the evening before bed. Depending on the technique pranayama can be incorporated into physical activities such as yoga, and in times of rest, during meditation, for example.

Warming pranayama can be especially beneficial to the body in cold weather.  Below are three easy techniques to get you started.

Ujjayi Breath: A practice common to yoga classes, this breath helps warm you from the inside out.

  • Begin by sitting in a comfortable position. Relax your body and close your eyes. Let your mouth drop open slightly. Relax your jaw and your tongue.
  • Inhale and exhale deeply through your mouth. Feel the air of your inhalations passing through your windpipe.
  • On your exhalations, slightly contract the back of your throat, as you do when you whisper. Softly whisper the sound, “ahhh,” as you exhale. Imagine your breath fogging up a window.
  • As you become comfortable with your exhalations, maintain the slight constriction of the throat on your inhalations, as well. You will notice your breath making an “ocean” sound, softly moving in and out, like ocean waves.
  • Repeat this 2-5 minutes, building, over time to 15 minutes.

Lion’s Breath: A fun breath that often feels a bit silly to perform, this is a great technique for relieving stress and tension in the face and chest. It improves circulation of blood to the face, can help prevent sore throat, asthma, and other respiratory ailments.

  • Begin by sitting in a comfortable position. Relax your body and close your eyes. Place your fingers, spread wide, on the knees.
  • Take a deep inhalation through the nose. Simultaneously open your mouth wide, stick your tongue out (pointing toward the chin) and open your eyes wide.
  • Contract the muscles on the front of your throat, and exhale the breath slowly out through your mouth with a distinct “ha” sound.
  • Repeat this 3-5 times, noting it is ok to feel silly and to giggle or laugh as you practice this breath.

Nadi Shodina: Nadi Shodina, a balancing breath, is a great breath to support the lungs and respiratory functions. It restores balance in the left and right hemispheres of the brain and rejuvenates the nervous system.

  • Begin by sitting in a comfortable position. Relax your body and close your eyes.
  • Relax your left palm on your lap. Bring your right hand to the face, placing your pointer finger and middle finger to rest between your eyebrows, lightly using them as an anchor.
  • Close your eyes and take a deep breath in and out through your nose.
  • Close your right nostril with your right thumb. Inhale through the left nostril slowly and steadily.
  • Close the left nostril with your ring finger so both nostrils are held closed; retain your breath at the top of the inhale for a brief pause.
  • Open your right nostril and release the breath slowly through the right side; pause briefly at the bottom of the exhale.
  • Inhale through the right side slowly.
  • Open your left nostril and release breath slowly through the left side. Pause briefly at the bottom.
  • Repeat 5-10 times.

© 2017-2018 Lotus Seed Meditations and RJ Lisander All Rights Reserved

 

Bringing in the new isn’t just about letting go

images

Can’t wait for 2017 to be done and over? If I’m being totally honest, it was a mixed year of great joy and true anxiety.  I’m grateful for the happiness and the lessons. And, as I think back on what it is that I want to release and make space for in the coming year, I have realized it isn’t just a matter of letting go. The events and the emotions and repercussions (both short and long term) will linger and have an effect on us for the rest of our lives. I’m not saying this is a negative thing, but it is a thing that I never really stopped to consider before. So, I offer the best possible solution I can think up on this topic and that is the importance of being present. And, by being present I mean really, truly being in the present moment.

  • Having the wisdom of the past and the value of the lessons truly become a part of who you are and how you make decisions and act and live each and every day.
  • Watch and learn from all that is unfolding in front of you and around you. The people and the events with whom we interact are all on our path for a reason. We have something to learn in each moment.
  • Trust your instincts. Check in with yourself regularly through meditation, journaling, long walks in nature, whatever it is that puts you in touch with you and learn to listen to the wisdom of being with yourself. Learn to let your inner voice guide you.
  • Remain unattached from a singular outcome. Being present, in part, means knowing what you want, moving toward it, yet being open to what is unfolding and adjusting as you go. The mystery of the journey often brings us greater reward than the journey’s end.
  • Gratitude. Gratitude. Gratitude. Be oh so grateful for what you have. This is the fullness of life. The wanting for more is a void and does not provide nourishment, just more need. Gratitude fulfills and creates space for abundance.
  • Compassion.  Know in your heart that just as you have great days and not so great moments they are just that for others. We are all doing our level best in any given moment. Sometimes we just need a break, a helping hand, a smile to encourage and shift the moment. These acts of generosity and compassion are always more of what we need and the best of what we can offer others.

As I said at the beginning of this post, this is just the best I have to offer at this moment.  Anyone willing to give it a try with me?  We have nothing but a fresh perspective with which to start the new year.

© 2017-2018 Lotus Seed Meditations and RJ Lisander All Rights Reserved

Finding Mindful on the Road

To even the most seasoned traveler travel has a way of upending daily routines and can disrupt a sense of being settled.  Surroundings, noises and smells all change.  So, how do you find peace and centering in this situation?

I recommend looking, listening, breathing and eating all you can in this new space/place and savoring each and every moment possible.

OBSERVE: Notice your surroundings.  Really look.  Notice the trees and how they may differ from those in and around your hometown.  Observe the colors, the texture of the leaves and the bark. Go outside for a sunrise or sunset.  Stop by a park and observe the locals playing with their families, exercising, eating. Observe the architecture and how the city or town incorporates nature (mountains, waterways, flower boxes, etc.)

HEAR: What sounds do you hear? What language or slang is being used?  Are the voices happy, hurried? Is there laughter? How does the sound of traffic move? Can you hear nature here?  A breeze? The bell of a harbor lapping on harbor docks? Birds chirping?

BREATH: Just inhale and exhale. Sit simply, comfortably. Eyes open or closed. Breath.  Slowly and deliberately.  What do you notice?  Is your breath the same here as it is when you are home?

TASTE: Embrace what is different about this place. Try a new dish or drink. Savor the flavors by swirling, swishing and slowly chewing. Enjoy the combination of spices, textures without comparison to anything else you have tried. Enjoy this moment and combination of tastes (and smells).

Taking a moment to slow down and observe a new place in these ways will make it feel a little more familiar and those feelings of being out of sorts will, likely, subside. Who knows, maybe the next time you visit there will be something familiar to look forward to.

BONUS: While in a place of comfort in this location, take a journal or postcard and write about what you are feeling and how you are experiencing the place. Review these comments on your own or with the person with whom you shared the thought by postcard. A sweet memory can make the new place feel a little more like home the next time you are in town and passing through.

 

© 2017-2018 Lotus Seed Meditations and RJ Lisander All Rights Reserved

 

Meditating with Scent

images-3 11.25.20 AM

Scent is a powerful tool for daily life and can be used to invoke memories, emotion and states of physical movement and rest. Using scents in meditation can help align the physical and emotional states of the body and diffusing scents can be a great way to shift the environment.

  • Pick a scent to match the mood you wish to enhance.
  • Place it in a diffuser, if an oil, or light an incense or candle.
  • Within a safe distance from the source of the scent, sit or lay down in a comfortable position, and focus on the breath with each inhale and exhale.
  • Feel the breath slow as you bring your attention to the breath.
  • Notice the mind begin to slow as you settle deeper into your mediation.
  • Become aware of the scent.
  • Notice how your mood shifts.
  • Notice how the body shifts.
  • Once you feel ready to resume your daily activities, rise, discontinue the scent and continue with your day.

 

 

© 2017-2018 Lotus Seed Meditations and RJ Lisander All Rights Reserved

SOUND MEDITATION:  Take a moment to enjoy some good vibrations

Unknown

There is no denying it, sound evokes powerful emotions. It moves us, it sooths us, it is a part of the fabric of our lives. It is everywhere and has an impact on how we feel and perceive the world around us. It is also an easy way to incorporate meditation into each and every day. Below is a beginner’s guide to sound meditation.

May you enjoy the good vibrations of your surroundings and your being as you practice

  • Sit or lay down in a comfortable position.
  • Take three deep inhales and exhales.
  • Notice how the body softens with each breath.
  • Draw awareness to the furthest sound. Perhaps it is sounds from the street, or is coming from other parts of the building. Just notice the sound: the intensity of the sound, the frequency. Notice how you feel as you hear the sound.
  • Take an inhale and an exhale and then draw awareness to the sound just a bit closer than the first sound. Perhaps it is the sound of a dog barking, or someone opening a door. Just notice the sound: the intensity of the sound, the frequency. Notice how you feel as you hear the sound.
  • Continue this until you have drawn your awareness to the sound of your breath. Just notice the sound: the intensity of the sound and frequency of the breath, the frequency. Notice how you feel as you hear your breath.
  • Sit here for several minutes just noticing the sounds around you. Relax and breathe.

 

© 2017-2018 Lotus Seed Meditations and RJ Lisander All Rights Reserved

Benefits of group meditation

images

Anyone starting or developing a meditation practice has been lured to the free phone app because it brings the masters to you, is convenient, and makes meditating easy.  I agree 100% with all of those things and do, in fact, have a favorite app that I use while traveling or when I cannot calm into my own meditative space.  I love it and recommend it to everyone as a supplement to their community practice of meditation.  But, the most value I have found when it came time to deepen my practice was within a community of meditators.  Here are 5 reasons why I believe it is so important to go to that group meditation class:

  1.  Shared experience:  Beyond the benefits of the actual practice of meditation, it is actually good for people to be social and to develop relationships with those of like mind.  Those seeking to deepen their meditation practices are typically looking to enhance their health and wellbeing, reduce stress in their lives and to connect with others who share this path.  More often than not, what I have found is a community develops around a meditation group where support, wisdom and individual healing are shared.
  2. Accountability:  Groups not only give us something to look forward to, they provide a sense of routine and responsibility to the self to show up.  This produces a habit, which in turn makes the practice a part of your schedule, a priority and an integral part of your life.
  3. Connection:  Similar to shared experience, a community develops in numbers, interests, conversations, scope, breadth and depth.  This is provides a dynamic space to socialize within a group of people learning to develop mind, body and spirit practices.
  4. Insight:  Your guide and those within the group are able to provide insight through learnings, experience and different practice styles.  This can provide insight into your own practice that will help you develop and deepen the experiences of the benefits of meditation.
  5. Manifestation:  When people meditate in a group a ripple effect of peace surrounding the environment grows.  This is due to waves of vibrations that flow and connect to the collective unconscious.  In essence, creating a field of peace can allow us to change the environment around us, and in effect, alter the physical world for the better.

So, please, mediate!  Make it a part of your everyday and make it a part of your life.  Rely on your favorite app when you need it, but also, drop into a group with some regularity.  The benefits of group meditation will deepen and improve your practice, and will make the word a better place.

For additional information on meditation styles, the energies created by meditation groups or meditation groups in the local area, drop me a line.  rjlisander@gmail.com

 

© 2017-2018 Lotus Seed Meditations and RJ Lisander All Rights Reserved