Breathe Deeply; Breathe Consciously

As I think of all my clients, I wonder how they are. I specifically do not choose the words, “I wonder how they are doing “ because it implies that the “doing” part is the most important aspect and I believe it is an aspect of life, but not the all in all.  The being part of each person’s day is actually more important in terms of health. It is not that I do not care about what each person is doing with their time.  I’m sure each one can accomplish wonderful things during the course of a day.  The more challenging question is, “How much time does each person spend being?”  Though awkward sounding, “How are you being?” is what I really want to know. As the reader of this article, let me ask you this and some other questions. 

Are you breathing deeply with long breaths? Are you experiencing the fullness of the breath as your lungs expand and push outward to your rib cage? Can you feel your diaphragm descending downward to make way for your lung expansion? When was the last time you breathed so fully? What keeps you from doing so now?  

For many of us, it is our busy schedule.  We have packed in every hour every day with so many ” to-do’s” that breathing just doesn’t fit into the schedule. Take time right now to pause and breathe deeply, even if it is only for one minute. Place your palms over your navel. Your belly should be expanding during the inhalation and pushing toward your spine during the exhalation. Close your eyes and allow yourself to let go of any current stressors. If you have any rose-geranium essential oil, put a drop on your palms and rub your hands together. Then place palms gently over your face and breathe in the aromatherapy oils. 

An Ayurvedic Perspective on Menses

The channel for menstruation (Rajah vaha srotas) is a by-product of your blood cell tissue (Rasa dhatu).  It matures at puberty, and with the help of apana vayu (downward moving prana), the ovum can move down the fallopian tubes to meet the sperm for conception. If fertilization does not occur, rajah vaha srotas is responsible for menstruation. The vaginal passage, cervical canal, endometrium and the fundus (hollow area) of the uterus are all part of this channel.  The function of the Rajah vaha srotas is to shed the old endometrial lining, along with the unfertilized ovum and create the menstrual blood flow. After menses is finished, it creates a new endometrial lining and prepares the uterus for the next cycle.  

According to Alisa Vitti, author of Womancode, we are different neurochemically each week. Our hormones shift our brain chemistry by 25% over the course of a month. We need our lifestyle aligned so that we aren’t draining our hormonal optimal flow. (Even men- need to work in tandem with their testosterone and cortisol surges throughout the day).

We’ll begin with the Building Phase which is a pre-fertile time of the month better known as Follicular phase.  It begins on days 5-13 of your cycle when menstruation ends and ovulation begins. The hormone, estrogen, is on the rise. This begins the Kapha Stage where the egg is ripening and the lining of the uterine is thickening. Estrogen can make bowels sluggish especially in your sigmoid colon. 

What to do?

You have just ended your bleeding phase or it is lighter and you are almost ending it. Fortunately, for most women, this is usually a “no digestive issues” time of the month. Your body temperature is cooler. This is the time to eat lightly- a Kapha pacifying diet: plenty of green veggies and legumes; no dairy; and avoid salt to prevent water retention. The tastes to gravitate towards are pungent, bitter and astringent.

Raw juices and fresh veggies provide antioxidants and fiber.  Beets, parsley, kale, celery, ginger, lemon, can give you high levels of glutathione (a micronutrient). The antioxidants help the liver during this surging estrogen phase.  The liver gobbles up the glutathione and waits to break down more estrogen.

The Pitta Stage is next, occurring on days 13-18.  Ovulation time! Your estrogen peaks early in this phase and progesterone is on the rise. Digestive complaints are not usual during this time. Here is where you can be most flexible in your diet.  Your body is feeling exuberant, strong and your face is glowing!  You are fertile and progesterone peaks at the end of this phase. 

What to do? Eat according to your Ayurvedic constitution (dosha) and eat according to the season. Abstain from sexual intercourse if avoiding pregnancy.  Do basal body temperature for fertility awareness. Attempt to conceive within a day or so of ovulation if wanting a baby.  Enjoy feeling strong and alive!

Estrogen and progesterone shift dramatically during this phase. It rises and falls. It effects brain chemistry and mood swings.  B vitamins found in grains can help stabilize your moods. Seretonin levels are balanced. Greens have calcium and magnesium which help use hormones efficiently. Grains and Greens combined create soluble fiber to move estrogen out of the body as quickly as possible. Quinoa, buckwheat, escarole, bok choy, and swiss chard, help liver to do it’s job.

Days 18 to the end of your cycle through to the beginning of your cycle on Day 4 is the Vata Stage. Here is where most digestive problems are experienced.  Day 1 of your cycle, you will begin to slough off uterine lining and bleed through your vagina. Usually, this may last 4- 7 days.

What to expect? There is sluggishness and mild heaviness as progesterone peaks on days 18-22. To keep digestion moving, it is best to eat bitters to stimulate the release of bile.  Your body is holding things in because it is protective of your eggs and doesn’t want to lose them! Progesterone is preparing your womb for fertilization. This means sluggish bowels and water retention are possible from Day 4 of your cycle all the way to Day 18. Progesterone’s effect as a smooth muscle relaxant means it can slow down bowel contractions. The downward moving vital energy, Apana, is released due to the hormones and this may result in stagnation. If your food moves slowly through the GI tract causing gas and bloating, this means you may have a slow digestive fire. Because there is a bile deficiency, you may feel constipated. 

What to do? It is best to eat foods with the sour taste as this increases bile flow and directly lubricates the intestinal walls. High fiber and eating foods with pungent (spicy) taste can stimulate digestion.  Doing asanas that have twisting movements to help digestion, as well as kapala bhati breathing exercises (a breathing technique that consists of short, powerful exhales and gentle inhales). Take triphala ( the fruit of three plums) formula to balance all three bio-energies (doshas).

Another scenario is the endometrial cells in the lining of the uterus produce prostaglandins which cause uterine contractions. The blood supply is cut off to the uterus (which is a muscle)  during a contraction which deprives the uterus of oxygen. Lactic acid builds up and the result is you experience cramping. More prostaglandins create more pain, sensitivity, inflammation and bleeding. If prostaglandins move into the GI tract, they will contract the intestines and create frequent bowel evacuation. You may experience diarrhea. 

What to do? Cramp bark tincture gives great relief to the cramping. Stewed apples with cardamom, cinnamon and nutmeg will balance the diarrhea.  Avoid coffee and alcohol, and decrease animal fat and processed foods. Eat a Pitta pacifying diet and include green veggies, blueberries, turmeric, avocado, flax and chia seeds and omega 3 (found in ghee, coconut oil and olive oil). Eating complex carbohydrates can help to stabilize your mood. Drink water with electrolytes. 

Toward the end of the Vata Stage, Days 1-3 of your cycle, the Apana prana is overactive and this can create more frequent urination.  Since the hormones are dropping, there is an end to water retention.  You may feel lighter and refreshed. If your Vata bio-energy (Air and Space elements) are in excess, you will feel exhausted, depleted and cold. 

What to do? If this is the case, give yourself permission to rest, keep warm with warm drinks and meals, easily digestible foods (kitchari, an Indian meal of mung bean, rice, spices and veggies ) and dress in layers. It is best to stay out of the wind as this aggravates Vata. 

As estrogen is on the rise, eat sprouts, sour-kraut, bean sprouts, ezekiel bread, and kimchi (cabbage) for the micro- nutrients they provide. Eating  broccoli sprouts provides a prebiotic compound, known as 3 indole-carbinol (prevents the development of estrogen-enhanced cancers including breast, endometrial and cervical cancers).

Days 22-28 are the days leading up to your menses beginning. Progesterone and Estrogen hit a low point.  Here is where constipation and gas are dominant.  Your hormones drop and so does your body temperature.  Your blood is more stagnant in the uterus or there may be an inadequate blood supply.  Your GI tract may be cold and dry.  Excess gas can create a build up of toxicity in the blood.

What to do?:

Take Rubia cordifollia (Manjishtha) which dissolves obstructions to blood flow) , Salt to counteract dryness and soften stool and add electrolytes. Use a hot water bottle on your abdomen to encourage blood flow. Take Vitex (Chaste Tree berries) tincture and cook with oregano, dill and thyme to increase progesterone. Essential fatty acids help your moods balance. Best to eat beets, sweet potatoes, salmon, avocado and pumpkin. As hormones shift toward lower levels, drinking lemon balm tea or taking St. Johnswort tincture may lift your spirits. (If fair skinned, do not remain in sunlight while taking St. Johnswort). 

What does your menstruating blood look like and what does it tell you?  Menses can tell you if your hormones are in balance or off balance.

What to look for:

Check the color, consistency, flow, and frequency. Is it on time or late? Is there a pattern over 3-4 months?

  1. If your menstruating blood looks like light pink-thin strawberry jam and it is a week to two weeks late, your estrogen is too low. (Estrogen promotes lining of the uterus).

If this is the case, your symptoms may be vaginal dryness, fatigue, low libido, hair thinning, unpredictable periods, and hair loss.

NOTE: There is low estrogen during menopause too with the same 

            symptoms: mood swings, night sweats, bone mineral decreased- 

            osteoporosis, decreased libido, and hot flashes.

2) If your menstruating blood looks like cranberry juice, like a saturated red color and if it starts on time and ends on time with no trickle effect, this is normal and balanced. If there are any PMS symptoms 5 -10 days before your menses begins, this is not normal. It is a sign of hormonal imbalance, as is weight gain, bloating, or moodiness. 

3) If your menstruating blood looks like a dark color or clots (like frozen clumps of blueberries), this is a sign of high estrogen which causes more  endometrial lining and more shedding. It also can cause breast tenderness, acne, and migraines. Obesity is unhealthy for obvious reasons and fat can convert into higher estrogen levels which is a risk for cancer.  

Some changes in menstruation over the course of your lifetime is normal. Keeping a Menstrual Chart each month is helpful since most of us have a fast-paced lifestyle and find it difficult to remember what occurred during our menses just a few days ago; let alone last month.

Remember menstruation is a wonderful time to connect with our womanhood. Our strength, intuition and wisdom is aligned with the moon cycles.  Spend some time connecting with the moon and with all of nature and feeling how inseparable you are to nature. Menses is nature beautifully moving in synchronization every month.  Nature is powerful and so are you!

TRACE YOUR MERIDIANS FOR WELLBEING

Meridians are pathways of subtle energy that originate deep inside us, but that come to the surface of our body.  The 12 Primary channels are 3 Yin Hand meridians, 3 Yang Hand meridians, 3 Yin Foot meridians and 3 Yang Foot meridians. These Primary channels correspond to the 12 organs and have many functions. Why are meridians important? Meridians regulate and direct blood, stimulate the flow of Qi to various areas of the body, and facilitate communication between the body, mind and consciousness. There is a flow of intelligence between various tissues (ligaments, muscles, bones, tendons, skin, sense organs, and limbs).  The meridians flow from the face to the feet; the feet to the chest; the chest to the hands and the hands back to the face.  ”Meridians support the “functional integrity of the whole” (Lad, 2008). 

There are various methods used to transmit energy to imbalanced areas: needles, pressure-points, massage, heat and cupping).  There is a rhythm to the flow of energy from Yin to Yang through the various organs at regular times within a 24 hour cycle for each system.  These subtle energies nourish the body. They balance yin and yang.  They protect us from and prevent various conditions known as the Six Evils: wind, cold, dampness, dryness, heat and fire (summer heat).  This is done by keeping the pathogens at bay in superficial channels instead of penetrating deeper.  The meridians spread out through the entire body, connecting all tissues and organs; binding them together as an organic unit. 

There are really 72 channels of therapeutic importance: the 12 Primary meridians written above; 12 Dinomuscular meridians, 12 Transversal Lo Vessels, 12 Longitudinal Lo Vessels, 12 Divergent Meridians, 8 Extra-Ordinary Vessels, 3 Extra Longitudinal Vessels and 1 Huato Channel. I will not be delving into all of these, although two of the 8 Extra-Ordinary Vessels will be included: Governing and Conception Vessel. 

Yin and Yang are the underlying principles of Chinese philosophy, Taoism, and medicine. Good health is believed to come from a balance of Yin (negative, dark, and feminine) and Yang (positive, bright, and masculine).  Yin and Yang are not exclusively defined as male or female.  Either sex can be considered yin or yang within a given context.  Everything contains the seed of it’s opposite. That is why there is a black dot in the Yang side and a white dot in the Yin side of the Yin-Yang symbol. Yin and yang can be thought of as complementary (rather than opposing) forces that interact to form a dynamic system in which the whole is greater than the assembled parts. Everything has both yin and yang aspects (for instance, shadow cannot exist without light).  There is a dynamic flow happening that automatically and continuously balances and rebalances these energies.

For every Yin organ, there is a Yang organ that pairs with it. They are as follows: Lung pairs with Large Intestine.  Spleen pairs with Stomach. Heart pairs with Small Intestine.  Kidney pairs with Bladder.  Pericardium pairs with Triple Burner.  Liver pairs with Gall Bladder.  While on organ is at it’s peak, it’s paired organ is at its' weakest.  Each paired organ is twelve hours apart within our 24 hour cycle. Using the Meridian Clock helps to pinpoint deficient and over-active meridian function. Energy Medicine uses tracing of meridians and acupressure points to transmit Qi healing energy to deficient and over-active organs. Sometimes there is a need to stimulate certain meridians and you may feel a warm energy or, if you can see colors, an orange energy stream moving in the normal direction. Other times there is a need to sedate certain meridians and you may feel a cool energy or see a blue stream of energy moving in the normal direction or against the normal direction.

Trace your meridians everyday to ensure there are no blockages in them and that they flow in the proper direction for optimal health.  Another option is to schedule an appointment with me or a Polarity Therapist in your area. You can be lying on a table or standing up and have someone trained in Energy Medicine trace your meridians for you. 

STOMACH MERIDIAN (7:00-9:00 a.m.) YANG

Descend from under the eyes and wrap around the jaw in front of the ears to the forehead. Go down through the eyes and neck and flare out to the collarbone. Move medially to sternum and down over the breast. Come in at the waist and down the front torso. Flare out at the knees and down the legs. Take a jag at the knees and off the second (“Air”) toe.
EARTH ELEMENT

SPLEEN MERIDIAN (9:00-11:00 a.m.) YIN

Begin at the tip of the (“Ether”) big toe. Go up medially the inner leg, up across the groin, the stomach and through the diaphragm. Flare out at the hips and up the side of the rib cage and down the bottom of the rib cage. ( Connect with the stomach and heart meridian). 
EARTH ELEMENT

HEART MERIDIAN (11:00-1:00 p.m.) YIN

Begin in the heart. Spread over the heart system, pass through the diaphragm to connect with the small intestine. Bring your attention to the lungs, then move to under the armpit and  trace down the inside of the arm and end at the tip of the “Earth” or pinky finger.
FIRE ELEMENT

SMALL INTESTINE MERIDIAN (1:00-3:00 p.m.) YANG

Begin at the tip of the little finger (“Earth”) up the posterior side of the forearm to the back of the shoulders and ending at the back of the neck/scapula. Then move over to the neck and cheek until you come to the outer corner of the eye and end at the ear.
FIRE ELEMENT


URINARY BLADDER MERIDIAN (3:00-5:00 p.m.) YANG

Begin at the inner portion of the eyelid and travel up and across the forehead to the back of the head and over to the crown.  Two branches form here: Follow them as they travel down the back to the sacrum along the spine. And continue up to the waist and down between the buttocks and over to the back of the thighs. Move from behind the knee, where the two branches meet, travel between the calf along the Achilles tendon to the outside of the feet.  Move in parallel lines from the shoulder down the spine to the buttocks and knee caps. From there, move down the calves to the outside of the little toe (“Earth”).
WATER ELEMENT

KIDNEY MERIDIAN (5:00-7:00 p.m.) YIN

Begin under the balls of the feet. Circle around the inside of the ankle bone up the inner leg and continue up the torso along the middle. Follow over the lung to just under the collarbone, next to the hollow of the throat (K-27).
WATER ELEMENT

PERICARDIUM MERIDIAN (7:00-9:00 p.m.) YIN

Begin at the lateral sides of the nipples. Ascend up over the shoulders and down inside the front of the arm to the hand and off the middle (“Fire”) finger.
FIRE ELEMENT


TRIPLE BURNER MERIDIAN (9:00-11:00 p.m.) YANG
3 part Energy system: Thorax, abdomen, pelvis-
                                    psychological/emotional energetics.

Palms down, begin at the tip of the  ”water” or ring finger.  Follow through the web of the 4th pinky finger to the wrist. Ascend between the radius and ulna, through the tip of the elbow. Continue up the outside (back) of the arm  and move medially to the chest. Connect with the pericardium, upper burner, abdomen, middle and lower burners. Continue laterally to the collarbone and up the side of the neck. Then move around the back of the ear and split -one branch moves to forehead (gallbladder meridian) and one branch to the cheek (small intestine meridian).
FIRE ELEMENT

GALL BLADDER MERIDIAN (11:00-1:00 a.m.) YANG

Begin at the outer corner of the eye, down under the ear and over the crown of the head to the hairline.  Descend behind the ear and back up the near the temple. Follow it from the forehead above the center of the eye and move down the head to the bottom of the skull.  Continue down the neck to the shoulder. Descend along the side along the ribs to the waist and pelvic. Follow down the outside of the leg to the ankle, ending on the lateral side of the “water” or fourth toe.
WOOD ELEMENT

LIVER MERIDIAN (1:00-3:00 a.m.) YIN

Begin inside the big toe nail (“Ether”) and cross to the top of the foot and inside the ankle and up the inside of the leg. Pass the knee and along the inner thigh to the groin and pubic region and circulate the genitals. The meridian connects with the conception vessel in the lower abdomen. Follow the bottom of rib cage to the throat and eye and end at the crown of the head, where the meridian connects with the governing vessel. One branch circles the mouth. The other branch from within liver, reaches the lungs and starts the cycle of chi.
WOOD ELEMENT


LUNG MERIDIAN (3:00-5:00 a.m.) YIN

Begin deep in the solar plexus (Middle Burner) and descend to the large intestine. Move up past the stomach and diaphragm and split into both lungs. Reunite the two lines and pass up the middle of the esophagus to the throat. Divide again. Surface in the hollow region near the front of the shoulders and down along the outside of the biceps. Continue down the forearms to the wrists and base of the thumbs and end at the corner of the thumbnail (“Ether”).
METAL ELEMENT

LARGE INTESTINE MERIDIAN (5:00-7:00 a.m.) YANG

Begin at the outside corner of the index finger (“Air”) and travel between two tendons of the thumb at the wrist joint to the outer edge of the arm to the elbow. Continue to the outside of the shoulder muscle and cross the shoulder blades. Follow upward to the muscle on the side of the neck to the cheek. Pass through lower gums, over the top lip and end beside the nostrils.
METAL ELEMENT

CONCEPTION VESSEL (YIN)
Ascends posteriorly from the pubic bone to the chin.

GOVERNING VESSEL (YANG)
Ascends anteriorly from the anus through the heart, over the back of the skull to the forehead and eyebrows.

 

 

8-Chakra_Meridian_Energetic_c.jpeg

Sound Healing

Sound awareness is the conscious recognition of the effects of sound intentionally in our lives to create healing environments, for balance, for enhancement of learning- mental function, and increased productivity.  It is a shift from holding music as only entertainment to a sonic tool that can charge and discharge the nervous system.  The cornerstone concepts in psycho-acoustics are resonance and entrainment.

Sound awareness is the conscious recognition of the effects of sound intentionally in our lives to create healing environments, for balance, for enhancement of learning- mental function, and increased productivity.  It is a shift from holding music as only entertainment to a sonic tool that can charge and discharge the nervous system.  The cornerstone concepts in psycho-acoustics are resonance and entrainment. 

 

Resonance is the effect of one frequency upon another as it vibrates and changes it.  Each object has a frequency in which it most vibrates.  If one tuning fork (A=440 cps*)is struck the second tuning fork (also A=440 cps) will vibrate even if “unstruck”. This is because it was “struck” by the sound waves in the air from the first tuning fork and is attuned to it.  As people we experience this within our energy fields.  Our inherent wisdom state tells us if we resonate with the environment and those around us, or not.  If the energy around us is tense, excited, fast-paced; we internalize this and respond by matching it.   Likewise, if the environment and people around us are calm, peaceful, and slower-paced, we act in kind-even unconsciously. Our language even addresses this. We say, "I 'm getting a bad vibe here" or "We're really in sync."

Entrainment is the process where consistent rhythms cause our internal pulse systems to synchronize with the ongoing surroundings.  Our heart, breathing, and brainwaves speed up or slow down. As those interested in the healing process, it is important to know that the tenth cranial nerve attaches to both sides of our eardrums which in turn attach to the thoracic and abdominal viscera. Therefore, the rhythms that vibrate our eardrums will vibrate our whole body-literally.  The high performance mind and optimal levels of consciousness for healing work that we experience are attributed to the theta and delta brainwave states.  Neurophysiology tells us that these brainwaves, combined with our rational sequencing beta waves, can be carriers of positive intentionality to our pulse systems-affecting our overall wellness of being.  Sound is like food and by choosing what we imbibe, we can harness the power of sound to our advantage.  Sound is a nutrient of the nervous system, charging and discharging our energy levels, thought processes, and physical functioning.  Understanding it is of vital importance in any healing process.

Alfred Tomatis, a French physician, tells us “ that sound waves are transmitted through the bones in the skull to the brain cells.  One cranial nerve that is affected by sound waves, the vagus nerve, emanates from the lower part of the brain and passes through the larynx- the voice box- and then extends widely throughout the body.  It winds its way through all the internal organs, including the entire intestinal tract, back muscles, the lungs, and heart.  It supplies the motor and sensory fibers that control the release of gastric and pancreatic secretions, as well as, inhibitory fibers of the heart.  The sustained vibration that toning sets off throughout the body has a dramatic energetic impact on the body.” 

In a sound therapy session, I use tuning forks (on and off the body), breathing techniques (pranayama)to open channels, sound Tibetan bowls to which the body may align, chant Bija (seed) sanskrit syllables or chant mantra. I may play a monochord instrument or CD’s with binaural frequencies or have the ocean waves sounding in the background.  Sound therapy helps the client access and move the transverse currents ( as do EMDR techniques) , as well as, spiral and long line currents of the body. These currents tap into the parasympathetic nervous system, our digestive system and the many stories that are held in our physical tissues and subtle bodies.

Sound is capable of piercing through our fields of energy, penetrating the layers of emotional blockages and physical pain. Sound affects us on all levels: emotional, physical, mental,, and spiritual. It vibrates the core of our being and can transform our mindbody instantly and profoundly. It can move us to tears (film scores to accompany a movie). It can move us to anger ( incessant barking of a dog). It can irritate or cause aversion (nails raking across a chalkboard). In fact, the work of Hans Jenny, a Swiss medical doctor, has shown sound capable of shaping and forming inorganic substances. Jenny photographed liquids, plastics, powders, etc... as they were being vibrated by sound. They show organic shapes being created by exposing them to different frequencies. The inorganic blobs formed into geometric shapes similar to human cells and microscopic life. In his book, Cymatics, he writes, " Now it is beyond doubt that where organization is concerned, the harmonic figures of physics are in fact, essentially similar to the harmonic patterns of organic nature...we have the certain experience that harmonic systems such as we have visualized in our experiments arise from oscillations in the form of intervals and harmonic frequencies. That is indisputable." 

If you have ever seen the ancient mandalas, then you have seen the visual display of sound. What is amazing to see is that as one frequency is played and the visual mandala made of sand is revealed, a new mandala will be created when a frequency is changed. When "OM" is sounded it will make the Sri Yantra formation. If this is what takes place with sand or other inorganic substance, what is happening in our bodies when these frequencies are introduced? When we sound various sounds, they even vibrate more is specific regions of the body. For example, the NG sound is more in the ear. The GA sound is more in the throat. HA vibrates more in the stomach. The MA vibrates more in the sinus cavities.

All of nature is made up of vibratory structures of activity (molecules, crystals etc...). So living organisms are actually complex rhythmic structural pattern of vibrating activity. The human being is made up of breathing cycles and heart beat cycles. There are rapid cycles seen in the brain shown by electroencephalographs and we have biochemical cycles. Vibratory patterns of proteins are within these biochemical cycles. There are vibrations within the atoms. We are a nested hierarchy of vibrations within vibrations. At every level there is a structure of vibrational activity.

Modern science confirms that at the cellular level, we are all vibrating atoms and sub-atomic particles. Remember, every organ, bone, or tissue in our body has a resonating frequency at which it most naturally vibrates. In a healthy body, molecules work together in an harmonious relationship , using the same pattern. If different sound patterns enter the organ, the harmonious relationship is disturbed and may establish it's own disharmonious pattern in a tissue. This is the beginning of what we call dis-ease. Part of the treatment in a sound healing session is to re-introduce an harmonious frequency which will reinforce the compromised organ and neutralize the disharmonious frequencies,. In this way, sound is healing the vibratory rhythmic structural patterns bringing us back in balance to our optimal healthy state.

 

Bathing in the Bhav

The Sanskrit word, “Bhavantu” has a very special meaning. “Bhav” is a devotional attitude. We feel surrounded by divinity. Every being (people, plants, animals) is divine. The mountains, sky, desert, rivers are all “Bhav boosters” as Deva Premal, a wonderful devotional singer, would say. They inspire - fill us with prana and consciousness. This makes us very happy. We become conscious of our own divinity as it is reflected from creation around us. 

So what is bathing in the Bhav? It is truly getting in touch with what nourishes us. We connect with the child-like nature within us and discover being happy for no reason at all. As children, we had very simple thought formations. This was a good thing. I remember spending hours deeply looking or at least lying in red clover in front of my house as a child. (Little did I know I would be drinking a tea made from it to cleanse my blood years later). It was a special time just lying in the clover, smelling it, enjoying the beauty of it’s red flowers. Then, of course, I would look up and be lost in the clouds and see them transform from one shape to another. I realized, I was the cloud. It was in me and I was in it. Later, I heard Thich Nhat Hahn, the inspirational Vietnamese Buddhist master, speak about the cloud being in everything. Without the cloud there would be no water or food to eat. The “interbeing” ( a word he coined) of every formation is a awesome insight for us all and it helps us bathe in the “Bhav.”

Bathing in the Bhav or recognizing the divine in everything helps us to slow down a bit of the perpetual movement of every day life, especially when it gets going too fast. We can ask ourselves a few questions that can help us focus in on this. These were questions I was once asked by a friend and peer of mine, Amadea Morningstar, in a workshop she was presenting.   What supports my well-being and health? What helps to create a calmness and a grounded center inside me? What smells, tastes, sights, touch and sounds nourish me now? Do I need more or less of these at this time? What foods do I eat and are they easily digestible? Am I willing to investigate if they are promoting balance in my body and happiness? Am I willing to share the nourishment I receive with others? 

When we contemplate our own happiness first, we realize that all our thoughts, words and actions can then contribute in some ways to the happiness of all beings. We set the tone literally in our own bodies to resonate balance and this effects everything coming in contact with us. This vibration entrains each being we interact with and this raises the awareness whereby we are all bathing in the “Bhav.” A great mantra to recite for this is “Om Lokah Sukino Bhavantu.” It is often translated as “May all beings everywhere be happy.” It is this beautiful image that all beings stop and connect so deeply within that they are aware of bathing in this universal bath of the Divine with all creation. 

 

 

The Ravages of Stress

 

Stress can be a  “silent killer”. It also can be a beneficial component to life's many challenges.  Health Psychologist Kelly McGonigal was part of a  revolutionary study through the University of Wisconsin-Madison which studied 30,000 people for 8 years. She spoke on a recent TED talk, and changed my view of stress forever.  In a nutshell, she said, how we THINK about stress,  changes how stress affects us.  Over the 8 years- 182,000 deaths were tracked. They were the ones who believed that stress was bad for them. People who did not believe that stress was bad, had the lowest risk of dying of anyone in the study . "When you choose to view your stress response as helpful-you create the biology of courage. When you choose to connect with others under stress- you can create resilience. " Now, we are of course talking about short term stress. And she is suggesting that we reframe our thoughts about stress to: It is re-energizing and up-lifting. For example , it can boost our immune system or get us through that mid-term exam. Hans  Selye, the renowned researcher of stress, discovered the dangers of the stress response. But he made a distinction between eustress (a positive experience or stress like when you are enjoying a rollercoaster ride) and distress ( when you tell yourself you don’t like the feeling and experience that you’re having).

STRESS MAKES YOU SOCIAL! Oxytocin is a neuron hormone that fine tunes your brain's social instincts. It primes you to do things that strengthens close relationships. Through stress, you crave physical contact with friends and family. It enhances your empathy and encourages you help and support people you care about.

It is motivating you to seek support. Your biological support is nudging you to tell someone how you feel instead of bottling it up. It helps you notice when someone else is struggling so that you can support each other. When life is difficult, your stress response wants you to be surrounded by people who care about you.

How is knowing this side of stress going to make you healthier? 

Because Oxytocin acts not only on your brain, but on your body as well. It's main role is to protect the cardiovascular system from the effects of stress. It's a natural anti-inflammatory. Oxytocin helps your blood vessels stay relaxed during stress AND it effects your HEART. Your heart has receptors for this hormone. Oxytocin helps heart cells regenerate and heal from any stress induced damage This stress hormone strengthens your heart. All these effects are enhanced by social contact and social support When you reach out under stress to seek support or to help someone else, you release more of this hormone, your stress response becomes healthier, and you recover faster from stress

We are not trying to understate the devastating affects that stress can have on today's world. Living with the stressors of everyday life can be overwhelming. In fact, that is what stress is. Stress is anything that pushes you over and beyond what your body, mind and spirit can withstand or handle. In my own life, I have had to battle the stress response. I became the foster-mom of my niece, who had hyperthyroidism, when she was 2 years old and I eventually was able to adopt her when she was four. I was already raising 4 children and working full-time. In addition, my mother (who had COPD, dementia, and kidney neuropathy) came to live with me after she broke her hip. After 4 years of caring for my mother, my father came to live with me as well. This required putting an addition onto my home. He also had dementia, 4 heart by-pass surgeries and 3 heart attacks, spondylitis, and more). I also had gone back to school so more stress existed. In addition,  my middle-daughter was diagnosed with narcolepsy and my sister with life-threatening scoliosis. My mother passed away and I also lost my brother at the same time. So, I do have a personal experience and understanding of the stress-response and I have been able to find balance, health and peace through holistic lifestyle changes. 

There are external and internal stressors. The external ones may be financial pressures, work and school demands, relationships, moving or illness, or overbooked schedules. The internal stressors are things like chronic worrying, pessimistic attitudes, negative self- talk, unrealistic expectations (“super mom”), all-or-nothing attitude, or unwilling to be flexible. What is difficult about these stressors is that they do not seem to let up. So as each day goes by, you get accustomed to the intensity of living within at this whirlwind frequency. This high level demand on your mindbody takes it’s toll eventually. You may have frequent headaches or neck and back spasms. You may feel dizzy or lightheaded. You may sweat more. Your immune system lowers and you become susceptible to infections and colds. You have less energy and may be emotionally drained. You may not even get excited about anything anymore. This can cause you to lose appetite or, oppositely, eat more.

Mentally, there may be excessive anxiety, panic attacks , worry and guilt. Your level of frustration and impatience increases and you become increasingly more angry. You may become depressed or have difficulty concentrating. Your ability to focus and learn even is effected. Family and friends begin noticing, perhaps before your do, that you have developed nervous habits, like tapping your fingers or experiencing interrupted sleep. You are annoyed more easily and may even develop compulsive behaviors.  Life has just gotten harder and there seems to be less joy.

A normal amount of stress is part of life. It heightens our awareness and we can be productive, creative and efficient. An abnormal stress level or continual stress level is deadly. If a saber-tooth tiger was running after us in pre-historic times, we would need the adrenal rush to out-run the animal and head for safety. That is a good amount of stress response. But, unfortunately, in today’s continuum of stress-response, our adrenal glands are overworked and this creates all sorts of hormonal imbalances. This next part speaks in more detail to the physiological response to stress.

Remember what is paramount is our perception of the stressor.  If you perceive there is a snake in the road instead of a rope, your posterior hypothalamus will be stimulated and your pituitary gland will put out some epinephrine for the “fight, flight or freeze” response. But remember the list of possible stressors going on? This means the stress response can continue, especially if we do not take seriously, this idea of reframing our thoughts. If your pituitary continues to be stimulated, other hormonal responses occur. Your TSH (Thyroid stimulating hormone) stimulates the thyroid and increases thyroxin ,which in turn, increases your metabolism. If it is just for a short period, no problem. But, if continual stress response is the norm then ADH (Anti-diuretic hormone) is secreted and this increases your kidney’s water absorption. As if that isn’t bad enough, ACTH (Adrenocorticotrophic hormone) also put out by the pituitary gland,  stimulates the adrenal cortex and this is when you flood your body with steroid hormones. The elevated TSH and ACTH levels inhibit the secretion of your growth hormone and others ( FSH, LH and prolactin).

So the snowball effect continues. The Adrenal Cortex secretion of steroid hormones (Glucocorticoids or Cortisol) destroys the eosinophils and lymphocytes and this decreases your immune system. AND this causes glucocorticoids to raise the blood sugar in your liver. This increases the mineralocorticoids which increase the sodium and decrease the potassium absorption and can create inflammation of your kidneys. Meanwhile, the pancreas decreases the insulin because it believes the liver has plenty of sugar. The “all clear” signal is perceived and communicates this to the hypothalamus. This sends an inhibitory impulse to your pituitary so the sugar imbalance is created. 

So one fix is to perceive the rope is in the road- not the snake. Easier said then done, right? By this I mean, you can decide what is your problem and what is not your problem. You create boundaries in your life. You put self-care on the top of the list. This lessens the load and gives support to YOU.   You can observe the intensity of a situation and create tools and lifestyle behaviors to support yourself through this period of life.  You can begin to notice when the stress is building. You pay attention to what other loved ones are telling you about your stress level. You become aware of the self- talk you do when you feel stressed. You no longer give yourself negative messages, and instead create positive messages. You hold space in your mind for the gratefulness of the stress response. These becomes a mantra as you establish realistic do's and don'ts in your life. and feel more at peace. 

Next time you are stressed: Think….

“THIS IS MY BODY HELPING ME RISE TO THIS CHALLENGE.”

There are many ways in which you can balance the stress in your life. It doesn’t happen overnight, but it is possible. The stressful situation may not change, but YOU can. Managing stress requires a nutritious diet, exercise, good sleep, a support system and much more.  If you are suffering from stress (or know of someone who is) and it is ruining your (their) life, please contact me at:

 cindy@breath-in-wellbeing.com and visit my website: www.breathe-in-wellbeing.com