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My Blog

An ongoing series of informational entries

My First Blog Entry

February 24, 2019

WHAT IS YOGA THERAPY?

Yoga Therapy is a relatively new method of healing born out of an ancient tradition.  Yoga has been around for over 1000 years.  The idea of using yoga in a therapeutic context has been credited to Tirumalai Krishnamacharya, who died in 1981 at the age of 100.  We can think of yoga therapy the same way we might think of other healing systems, such as Chinese medicine.  We have a system that helps us identify various imbalances in a person and then we offer techniques to bring those aspects into balance.  A Yoga Therapist uses various techniques to help a person find balance and heal, such as movement (asana),  breathwork  (pranayama), chanting, philosophy or point of view, and meditation, to name a few.  A Yoga Therapist has been trained to work with the system of yoga to treat specific conditions.  Some examples may include physical pain (back pain, shoulder injuries), anxiety disorders, cancer support, PTSD, insomnia, depression, autoimmune diseases, addiction, obesity, the list goes on.  Yoga Therapy can act as a useful adjunct to the western medical model, or as a stand alone therapy.

                         From---Brandt Passalacqua, founder, Breathing Deeply Yoga Therapy Program


 My Second Blog Entry

March 10, 2019

LOVING KINDNESS MEDITATION

One of my favorite guided meditations, this particular meditation has a slew of scientifically proven benefits.  Definitely worth checking out!


From an article written by Emma M Seppala, 2014


What is Loving-Kindness Meditation?

Loving-Kindness meditation focuses on developing feelings of goodwill, kindness and warmth towards others (Salzberg, 1997).

WELL-BEING

1. Increases Positive Emotions & Decreases Negative Emotions In a landmark study, Barbara Frederickson and her colleagues ( Fredrickson, Cohn, Coffey, Pek, & Finkel, 2008) found that practicing 7 weeks of loving-kindness meditation increased love, joy, contentment, gratitude, pride, hope, interest, amusement, and awe. These positive emotions then produced increases in a wide range of personal resources (e.g., increased mindfulness, purpose in life, social support, decreased illness symptoms), which, in turn, predicted increased life satisfaction and reduced depressive symptoms.

2. Increases vagal tone which increases positive emotions & feelings of social connection

A study by Kok et al (2013)found that individuals in a Loving Kindness Meditation intervention, compared to a control group, had increases in positive emotions, an effect moderated by baseline vagal tone – a physiological marker of well-being. (Vagal tone refers to activity of the vagus nerve, a fundamental component of the parasympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system. This branch of the nervous system is not under conscious control and is largely responsible for the regulation of several body compartments at rest.)

HEALING: We don’t usually think of meditation as being able to help us with severe physical or mental ailments, but research shows it can help:

3. Decreases Migraines:

A recent study by Tonelli et al (2014) demonstrated the immediate effects of a brief Loving Kindness Meditation intervention in reducing migraine pain and alleviating emotional tension associated with chronic migraines.

4. Decreases Chronic Pain

A pilot study of patients with chronic low back pain randomized to Loving Kindness Meditation or standard care, Loving Kindness Meditation was associated with greater decreases in pain, anger, and psychological distress than the control group ( Carson et al., 2005).

5. Decreases PTSD

A study by Kearney et al (2013) found that a 12 week Loving Kindness Meditation course significantly reduced depression and PTSD symptoms among veterans diagnosed with PTSD.

6. Decreases Schizophrenia-Spectrum Disorders

Also, a pilot study by Johnson et al. (2011) examined the effects of Loving Kindness Meditation with individuals with schizophrenia-spectrum disorders. Findings indicated that Loving Kindness Meditation was associated with decreased negative symptoms and increased positive emotions and psychological recovery.

EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE IN THE BRAIN: We know that the brain is shaped by our activities. Regularly practicing loving-kindness meditation activates and strengthens areas of the brain responsible for empathy & emotional intelligence

7. Activates empathy & emotional processing in the brain

We showed this link in our research (Hutcherson, Seppala & Gross, 2014) and so have our colleagues (Hoffmann, Grossman & Hinton, 2011)

8. Increases gray matter volume

in areas of the brain related to emotion regulation: Leung et al (2013); Lutz et al (2008); Lee et al (2012)

THE STRESS RESPONSE: Loving Kindness Meditation also benefits your psychophysiology & makes it more resilient

9. Increases respiratory Sinus Arrythmia (RSA)

Just 10 minutes of loving-kindness meditation has an immediate relaxing effect as evidenced by increased respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA), an index of parasympathetic cardiac control (i.e. your ability to enter a relaxing and restorative state), and slowed (i.e. more relaxed) respiration rate (Law, 2011 reference)

10. Slows Aging

We know that stress decreases telomere length (telomeres are tiny bits of your genetic materials – chromosomes – that are a biological marker of aging). However, Hoge et al (2013) found that women with experience in Loving Kindness Meditation had relatively longer telomere length compared to age-matched controls! Throw out the expensive anti-aging creams and get on your meditation cushion!

SOCIAL CONNECTION

11. Makes you a more helpful person

Loving Kindness Meditation appears to enhance positive interpersonal attitudes as well as emotions. For instance, Leiberg, Klimecki and Singer (2011) conducted a study that examined the effects of Loving Kindness Meditation on pro-social behavior, and found that compared to a memory control group, the Loving Kindness Meditation group showed increased helping behavior in a game context.

12. Increases Compassion

A recent review of mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs) concludes that Loving Kindness Meditation may be the most effective practice for increasing compassion (Boellinghaus, Jones & Hutton, 2012)

13. Increases Empathy

Similarly, Klimecki, Leiberg, Lamm and Singer (2013) found that Loving Kindness Meditation training increased participants’ empathic responses to the distress of others, but also increased positive affective experiences, even in response to witnessing others in distress.

14. Decreases Your Bias towards others

A recent study (Kang, Gray & Dovido, 2014) found that compared to a closely matched active control condition, 6 weeks of Loving Kindness Meditation training decreased implicit bias against minorities.

15. Increases Social Connection

A study by Kok et al (2013) found that those participants in Loving Kindness Meditation interventions who report experiencing more positive emotions also reported more gains in perception of social connection as well.

SELF-LOVE: How many of us are slaves to self-criticism or low self-esteem? How many of us do not take as good care as we should of ourselves?

16. Curbs Self-Criticism:

A study by Shahar et al (2014) found that Loving Kindness Meditation was effective for self-critical individuals in reducing self-criticism and depressive symptoms, and improving self-compassion and positive emotions. These changes were maintained 3 months post-intervention

IMMEDIATE & LONG-TERM IMPACT: The nice thing about Loving Kindness Meditation is that it is effective in both immediate and small doses (i.e. instant gratification) but that it also has long-lasting and enduring effects.

17. Is Effective Even in Small Doses

Our study – Hutcherson, Seppala and Gross (2008)

– found an effect of a small dose of Loving Kindness Meditation (practiced in a single short session lasting less than 10 minutes). Compared with a closely matched control task, even just a few minutes of loving-kindness meditation increased feelings of social connection and positivity toward strangers.

18. Has Long-Term Impact.

A study by Cohn et al (2011) found that 35% of participants of a Loving Kindness Meditation intervention who continued to meditate and experience enhanced positive emotions 15 months after the intervention. Positive emotions correlated positively with the number of minutes spent meditating daily.

For the Guided Version that was used in this study, go to YouTube and search:

A Gift of Loving Kindness Meditation, by Emma Seppala Length 13:41


 My Third Blog Entry

March 15, 2019

THE BREATH


There is a lot of talk in yoga classes and in yoga literature about Prana....aka Breath.  What is that all about?  There is much research on deep breathing's influence on mind and body health.  Neema Moraveji, PhD is the founder of the company Spire, which manufactures a clip-on device designed o measure your breath and send information to your smartphone to assist you in monitoring your inhales and exhales.  In a recent article in Yoga Journal (March/April 2019) he describes what he has discovered about the breath.  "Respiration is the only autonomic function you have direct control over.  First, [breathing} changes the carbon dioxide level in the bloodstream.  This is important because the amygdala (the part of the brain responsible for emotions like fear) is very sensitive to carbon dioxide (detected as pH).  When you take that deep breath, your blood becomes less acidic, assuring your amygdala that you are, indeed, not at threat of drowning and that all is well.  Second, it lengthens the exhale, lifting the gas pedal on the brain.  During exhale, the gates blocking the vagus nerve, the longest cranial nerve, are lifted.  This signifies to the brain that the coast is clear to 'rest and digest'.  Finally, taking a conscious breath is the simplest action you can take to bring a wandering, anxious mind to the present moment.  This is the key to understanding why concentration techniques start with focus on the breath."

In this same article, a literature survey conducted by the University of North Texas Health Center concluded that yogic breathing can have impressive physiological effects, including:  improved cognitive performance, lower blood pressure, glucose metabolism and an increased immune system.

So.......take a deep breath......and start on the road to optimal performance!


For an exercise in Prana Nidra, connecting in a meditative way with your breath, check out the following link.  This gives you a 7 minute version that you can access on your own time.  You may also search PranaNidra on YouTube for other versions.  

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UZFKM_TUCTw&t=176s


 My Fourth Blog Entry

March 16, 2019

CHANTING:


Have you ever been in a yoga class or meditation workshop that involved chanting?  It is usually fun to do, and makes you feel part of the group, maybe it calms your mind, or makes you feel more peaceful or connected, but have you ever wondered why?  I came across this article that sheds some light on this mantra/chanting thing and wanted to share a part of it with you.


How Mantras Impact You……from DOYOUYOGA

1. Chanting mantras stimulates the endocrine system.

The act of your tongue pressing against the palate of the mouth stimulates the hypothalamus, thalamus, and pituitary. When you recite a mantra, you hit the palate with your tongue. In the palate, there are 84 meridian points: 64 in the hard palate and 20 in the soft palate.

This vibration emanating from the hypothalamus directs the actions of the pituitary gland and governs the endocrine systems. It is also in charge of releasing chemicals and hormones throughout the body and to the brain. This vibration releases chemical hormones that balance the body and have healing effects.

Moreover, the pituitary gland is stimulated through the tongue, hitting the different meridian points. Interestingly, the pituitary gland is formed in the fetus from cells of the roof of the mouth that rise into the brain. This is why pressing the tongue against the roof of the mouth stimulates the gland.

2. Chanting mantras help focus your attention.

Often when we sit down to meditate our mind jumps from thought to thought, making it difficult to focus our attention. Chanting distracts the mind from frivolous thoughts, helping to anchor the mind in concentration.

3. Chanting mantras is an effective way to release emotion.

Emotion that is not accepted represents an aspect of the self that is being judged. This emotion causes sensations in the body that you either crave or have an aversion to.

Either way, you are reacting and reinforcing the pattern. Chanting is an excellent way to let go of the reaction to the sensation through the throat and heart chakras; in essence, releasing the emotion through self-expression.

4. Mantras align your vibration to create awareness.

The vibrations from mantras have the power to rearrange your molecular structure. Each sound has a distinct vibration, and as a result, each mantra has a different effect. All sound affects your molecular structure.

Furthermore, all your thoughts, feelings, words, and actions impact your consciousness. Think about how certain music puts you into a particular mood. Or consider how you feel when there is a lot of noise or when someone is yelling. Mantras are designed to adjust your experience through the subtle vibrations they cause in your being. Each mantra is designed to have a distinct effect.

5. Mantras adjust your vibration, aligning your awareness with aspects of the self and the infinite.

Everything you seek is within. When you feel that you are not experiencing something, it is because you are not tuned into its vibration. When you are vibrating something, you are tuned into it.

For example, if you are vibrating love, you will see it everywhere. If you are not, this vibration lacks. This is also how you are attracted to people and how you can experience that alignment with your karmic vibration.

6. If you want to overcome your karma, change your vibration.

Chanting a mantra tunes you into the experience of the particular mantra. This alignment allows you to experience this vibration by becoming the vibration. The more sensitive you are, the deeper you will experience the effects. Also, the longer and more focused you chant the mantra, the more impact it will have on your consciousness.

It is not only mantras that have a strong impact on your being, but every vibration is crucial. When you think negatively, you create a subtle vibration. The longer this vibration persists, the more it effects your being; the vibration of the thought then creates an emotional vibration, which generates a vibration in the physical body. This is where all the sensations come from in the body.

 My Fifth Blog Entry

May 15, 2019

WHAT HAPPENS IN VAGUS DOES NOT STAY IN VAGUS!

I recently read several articles by Arielle Schwartz, who is a PhD Clinical Psychologist out of Boulder, Colorado, on the Vagus Nerve ( JNatural Vagus Nerve Stimulation, Vagus Nerve Yoga, Polyvagal Theory Helps Unlock Symptoms of PTSD) and was fascinated by some of the information I found.

Vagus is from the Latin, meaning "wandering", which seems appropriate because the vagus nerve extends from the brainstem down into the stomach and intestines, heart and lungs and connects throat and facial muscles.   Your vagus nerve is "behind your gut instinct, the knot in your throat and the sparkle in your smile."

Your nervous system is composed of two parts: the sympathetic nervous system (which is associated with your "fight or flight" response) and the parasympathetic nervous system which helps with relaxation, digestion and regeneration.   They are meant to work together, but often stress and trauma disrupt this process.

Activating the vagus nerve is essential for keeping your immune system running smoothly and has a calming effect on both body and mind.   It releases many different hormones and enzymes such as acetylcholine and oxytocin, resulting in less inflammation throughout the body, improvements in memory and feelings of relaxation.  

Increases in vagal tone can help people with issues such as chronic illness, anxiety, depression and PTSD.  And Vagal Tone can actually be measured scientifically by measuring changes in heart rate that occur with the breath.  This is called HRV (Heart Rate Variability).  A healthy vagal tone involves a slight increase in heart rate when inhaling and decrease when exhaling.  Persons with high HRV can move more easily from excitement to relaxation and can recover more quickly from the effects of stress.

There are electronic devices that can be implanted surgically to stimulate the vagus nerve, but there are a number of things we can do on your own to indirectly have a stimulating effect on this nerve:

  • Humming or Chanting
  • Conscious Breathing--Both the Ujjayi Breath, and the Longer Exhale Breath (inhale to a count of 5, hold, exhale to a count of 10, or any other 1:2 ratio)
  • Valsalva Maneuver--attempting to exhale through a closed airway.  Close your mouth, pinch your nose closed and try to breathe out
  • Half-Smile--relaxing all the muscles in your face and then slightly turning up your lips.  While doing this, imagine your jaw softening and a relaxed feeling spreading across your face, head and shoulders
  • Heart Opening Asanas--Fish, Wheel, Bridge, Camel, Bow
  • Belly Releasing Asanas--such as Cat/Cow
  • Loving Kindness Meditation--see Blog #2
  • Yoga Nidra for 30 minutes

This is just a short summary of the many facets of the Vagas Nerve and the important part it plays in so many aspects of our lives.  It is worth more spending a little more time and researching this further!





 My Sixth Blog Entry

May 28, 2019

WHAT IS REIKI?????

Reiki dates back thousands and thousands of years, having origins in India.  It is a form of hands on healing that helps us to activate the flow of energy that is already inside us.  The Reiki healer does not provide the energy; the energy exists in all of us and throughout the universe.  The Reiki healer is simply the conduit through which this energy is activated and flows.  

Reiki is a two syllable Japanese word meaning universal life force.  REI means universal or ever present; KI is the energy that is present in all living things.  When you are feeling healthy and happy and full of vitality, the flow of Ki energy in your body is high.  When you feel stressed, or unhappy or tired, your Ki energy is low.    Reiki stimulates a person's natural healing abilities and unlocks the elements that block the energy from flowing.

Reiki is just one way to control and enhance the flow of energy in the body.  Other disciplines include TaiChi, FengShui, Meditation, Yoga and Acupuncture.  It is yet another tool that we can use to help us live our most optimal life.

There are many things that can weaken our essential life giving energy.  Among the top ten are:  too much alcohol, poor diet, lack of exercise, drugs, tobacco, negative habits, stress, poor breathing, lack of rest and negative thoughts.  Avoiding these things, and adding in ways to enhance our energy can only have a positive effect on our life in general.  

Reiki has been described as being similar to radio waves.  We cannot see them but know they are everywhere around us.  When we turn on a radio and tune into the radio waves we can pick up a signal.  Reiki helps us to tune into those energy waves and pick up the signals our body is sending. 

There are seven main energy centers in the body that control the flow of the universal life force.  These are called the Chakras and each chakra has a specific role.  A full Reiki treatment reopens the chakras and re-balances the flow of energy throughout and around the body.  There is a recommendation that a person needs four full treatments on four consecutive days to boost the flow of Reiki energy, but, truthfully, any amount will have a positive effect.  Each person is different and should evaluate the effects of Reiki on their own terms.

Outcomes for Reiki may include the following:  relaxation, decreased pain, decreased stress, healing, increased perception, and the ability of the body to more easily handle stress and pain.   Reiki fuels the body's innate potential to heal.  Healing does not necessarily mean a cure....though sometimes in does.  Everyone responds to Reiki in their own way, and the wisdom of the body dictates where the healing energy goes.  Again, it is not the energy or direction of the practitioner.  The practitioner is simply a conduit....allowing the body to do the work


 My Seventh Blog Entry

July 26, 2019

GOT NO ROOTS?

More than just a song by Alice Merton! Grounding is a phenomenon worth talking about.

One of the things I love about teaching yoga is the interesting bits of information that I pick up from the participants.  I was recently teaching yoga outdoors and one of the women in my class and I were discussing how nice it was to be able to breath the fresh air and observe the beautiful scenery while practicing.  She told me about some research she had heard that discussed the benefit of being on the Earth without any barriers between the ground and our skin.  She mentioned that Deepak Chopra had some articles on line about this very thing, so I googled Grounding Deepak Chopra and came across this interesting article:

https://chopra.com/articles/grounding-the-human-body-the-healing-benefits-of-earthing  

Here are some interesting ideas I came away with after reading this article:

The Earth is like a gigantic battery that contains a natural subtle electric charge.  If you think about the electrical appliances that we use every day, we always make sure to "ground" our power cords.  That terms literally means to connect to that electrical current of the Earth.  It can also apply to people.  When we "ground" to the Earth, we feel centered, solid, strong and balanced.  We are less tense and less stressed.

A lot of people nowadays experience daily pain, stress, fatigue, anxiety, and depression.  There has been an increase in auto-immune diseases like Multiple Sclerosis, Lupus, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, or Rheumatoid Arthritis.  Many are prescribed medication, surgeries or other treatment.  What if they could just gain energy from the Earth upon which we live.  Would it help if we could connect more to that electrical charge?  There are many ways to do that.....going barefoot, wearing shoes with natural leather soles (which allow you to absorb ground energy) as opposed to rubber/plastic soles which block it.  The article lists more ways to access this energy and research to prove its effectiveness.  Take a look and head on outside!


 My Eighth Blog Entry

September 6, 2019

REIKI RESEARCH!

According to The Center for Reiki Research, research conducted at Harvard in 2015 and 2016 by Dr. Natalie Trent, Dr. Ann Baldwin and William Rand, has been accepted for publication in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine.  This is the largest study of Reiki to date, utilizing data gained from 1,411 Reiki sessions.

The study showed statistically significant improvement from Reiki in:

  • Pain
  • Drowsiness/Tiredness
  • Nausea
  • Appetite
  • Breathing Issues
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Mood
  • Overall well being

Moreover, the study concluded that just ONE SINGLE SESSION of Reiki can improve physical and psychological health.  

What are you waiting for?????  Set up an appointment today!

 My Ninth Blog Entry

November 22, 2019

HOW TIME FLIES!!!

Wow!  Where have I been?  I can't believe it has been more than two months since I have written a blog entry!  In my defense, I have been pretty busy.  My new accomplishment is that I am now certified as a Reiki Master.  I completed this training at the beautiful facility known as Kripalu, in the Berkshires of Massachusetts.  If you haven't been, you need to schedule that soon.

So, my latest endeavor in utilizing this certification is to assist in bringing Reiki to the various hospitals in my area.  Wentworth Douglass Hospital in Dover, NH already has an extensive Rieki practice going, so I hope to be volunteering my services there one day a week. But some other hospitals around do not have as extensive a practice, so I have feelers out to train hospital personnel in Reiki One for a reduced rate.  Many people have said "Nurses certainly don't have extra time to do Reiki on patients, with all the rest that they are expected to do!"  True and not true.  True, nurses do not have time to do a 30 minutes Reiki session on a patient.  But.....that is not what this is about.  I recently read an article entitled "Enhancing Nursing Practice with Reiki" by Kathie Lipinski (google it!).  Some highlights of this article that highlight what can happen when nurses are given the Reiki I training:

  • Enhances that "sixth sense" that many nurses already have in dealing with patients and their families
  • Increases self care in nurses, who often suffer from burnout.  Reiki offers a simple, yet effective method of self care
  • Nurses find Reiki useful in the aspects of their job that they are already doing---finding a vein when inserting an IV, giving Reiki energy when taking pulse or blood pressure, or when changing dressings.
  • Nurses have found that using Reiki over the incision site of painful areas and find that patients have an easier time waking up or recovering from anesthesia and surgical trauma.
  • Because Reiki energy comes from "the source of the universe" it does not deplete the energy of the person doing the giving.

If you know of any hospitals or hospital staff who is interested in receiving this training or learning more about it, have them drop me an email!  I will  keep you posted on how this all goes

In the meantime, Happy Holidays to all!