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The Benefits of Yoga for Seniors: A Guide On Getting Started

The Benefits of Yoga for Seniors: A Guide On Getting Started.
Guest Post by Harry Cline.

image1Photo via Pixabay by Brenkee

Of all the different types of exercises out there, yoga has become one of the most popular in recent years, partly because of its inherent flexibility. It can be done just about anywhere, by people of many different ages and abilities, and can be adapted for those who have mobility issues. For seniors, yoga is one of the best workouts around for those very reasons, but there are other benefits, as well, including a boost to mental health that can help ease the symptoms of depression and prevent stress and anxiety.

Fortunately, there are several simple ways you can get started with a yoga routine of your own, but it’s important to start slowly to avoid injury and to get adjusted to the movements. It’s also a good idea to make sure you adapt the poses to meet your specific needs, especially if you have a disability or limited mobility.

Keep reading for some great tips on how to get started with yoga and to learn more about the benefits.

Improve your overall health

The many benefits of yoga are evident in the way they help seniors improve balance and coordination–which helps prevent falls and other injuries–and builds up muscle tone, aids in joint health, and reduces stress and anxiety for better mental health. By combining physical exercise with a mental health boost, you can ensure that your overall health is well taken care of.

Aid in your recovery

Yoga can be hugely beneficial for individuals who are in recovery because it combines physical activity with meditation. Learning to look inward and connect with your spiritual self can help speed up your recovery and will allow you to learn how to cope with stressors and the effects of depression and other mood disorders in a healthy way.

Adapt

If you’re living with a disability or have limited mobility, it’s important to find a workout that you can adapt to your needs so you can stay safe. Yoga can be done in the water or with the assistance of a chair, so you don’t have to get down on the floor if doing so would be painful or awkward. Consider taking a class with an instructor who understands how to adapt yoga poses for different needs. You can even do yoga and meditation at home. Set up a calm, relaxing space away from noisy areas of your home.

Make sure it feels right

It’s important to make sure that as you’re practicing yoga, you learn to emphasize feeling over the poses. If something doesn’t feel right, move out of the pose immediately and get into a comfortable position. While yoga is a mostly safe exercise for seniors, there are still ways to become injured if you aren’t careful. Take things slowly and consult a doctor immediately if you feel pain.

Start with a class

If you’ve never experienced yoga before, it might be best to start with a class so that you can see how the poses are supposed to be done. There are likely several local classes to choose from, but if you aren’t comfortable with attending one in person–or if you have limited mobility–look for a tutorial online that you can follow at home.

Getting started with your own yoga routine doesn’t have to be stressful or difficult; start slowly and remember that these exercises can be adapted to fit your needs, whatever they may be. If you have existing health issues, consult with your doctor before starting any new routine. Having a good plan and keeping your own safety in mind will help you create an exercise plan that will keep you healthy for a long time.

We Are Not What We Think

Being Present: Cultivate a Peaceful Mind through Spiritual Practice
by Darren Cockburn. Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

51RSwi0BKVL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_This work is extensive, well-formatted, referenced, nuanced, and easy to understand and put into practice. Being Present explores the ways mindfulness, awareness, yoga, and religious practice, can become the bedrock of our daily lives to create simplicity and insight. Mr. Cockburn says, “Simplifying our life helps us to cultivate Presence and Presence equips us to manage complexity.”

The material provides a close look at “Presence”. What it is, and what it is not? Where it comes from and where it goes, and how to have frequent access to its benefits. The introduction thoroughly outlines all of the areas to be examined within. These include our bodies, people, meditation, hindrances, the ego, simplicity, acceptance, addictions, stillness, nature, work, service, and how to structure one’s practice.

The author’s “three approaches to cultivating Presence” were especially helpful. “The first is through structured practice. This covers activities practiced on a regular basis, including meditation, yoga, and studying spiritual teachings. The second approach is through everyday activities where we are striving to be Present. For example, we may be making a conscious effort to be more Present whilst walking or brushing our teeth. The third approach is to change our conditions so that our life becomes more conducive to being Present. Examples here may include changing our job, letting go of certain relationships, working to release addictions, taking regular exercise, letting go of unhelpful habits and connecting with nature.”

There is an excellent summation at the end of each chapter called Points For Reflection, shared personal experiences in each section, and some well-designed diagrams throughout Being Present. Mr. Cockburn has presented a well-balanced, practical, and insightful book that is applicable for the novice or seasoned practitioner of Presence and mindfulness. I recommend reading it cover to cover, or as a quick reference.

A Golden Process

The Dream Alchemist: A Woman’s Search for Love, Bliss, and Freedom Across India, Time and Dreams – A Memoir by Anna-Karin Bjorklund. Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

51yhA4S1y4LThere’s a lot of insight, love, clarity, visions, and bliss in The Dream Alchemist, and it all feels genuine. This journey, by Ms. Bjorklund, isn’t always a piece of cake. It takes courage to be with oneself and see what is present. She never turns away, gives up, or blames others. Whenever in conflict, confusion, or difficulty, the author turns within.

“This book,” Anna-Karin says, “is a memoir of my own adventure at a small ashram in India, and the philosophical remnants that followed – a golden process of soul growth, the majestic journey of stepping into my own power, and finding the path of self-love.” Thus, she describes her stay at Brahman Sanctuary in southern India.

She describes the people she meets, what she learns, and the experiences that stayed with her. Most of the retreat is done in silence, accept for meeting with her Dassas (guru’s helpers). The guru’s (teacher) name is Brahman, though they only see him briefly on the last day. Fellow followers include Nicolita, Richard, and Ananda.

“Every day in our sessions with the dassas we’re reminded to observe our thoughts, breath, and emotions. This is a good exercise. After all, the most profound insight came to Buddha just from observing and being in this in-between state where he was simply not trying anything to hard. Every now and then I manage to float away and just observe, which is an amazing feeling. Sometimes I struggle more – thoughts swirl around in my head. At the end of the day, this meditation technique is all about being in a state of observation and being aware of our perception. This applies to suffering as well!”

How Ms. Bjorklund lives, and adapts, to her life in the “outer world”, when she returns from her time in India, is just as interesting as the original retreat. Job, immigrant status, relationships, school, and pregnancy, all play big parts in her new found awareness. The Dream Alchemist takes readers’ on a reflective journey inside and outside our selves, and a part of the world we may never personally visit.

Strange Bodily Happenings

My Terrible Book of Happiness… Love, Anxiety and Everything
by Margaret Lesh. Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

51DM674eXbL._SY346_One of the things I greatly appreciate about My Terrible Book of Happiness, is that Ms. Lesh doesn’t claim to be an “expert”, or have all the answers, but simply shares what she has experienced, and what has helped her in her life, when anxiety, hopelessness, and depression are present. The very first line says, “There is no one-size-fits-all cure to sadness, but it helps when we share our life experiences – the stumbling parts, the dark places – so we know we are not alone. The end of 2016 and first half of 2017 found me mired in a trap of anxiety, worry, and depression: three things I happen to be good at.”

These essays, antidotes, stories, and trivia, includes four sections (Anxiety, Peace, Love, and Hope). One of suggestions is to take a break from social media and the news, and only take it in in small amounts. There is also a chapter with a great title “Swiss Cake Rolls, Other Strange Bodily Happenings, and Walking”, where she shares the affects that having a child and going through menopause have had on her belly and health, and the benefits of exercise to not only make one fit, but to also ease anxiety. This essay is called “Move It, Baby”. The author speaks frankly, and insightfully, about the benefits of meditation in her section called “Meditation for the Meditatively Challenged (Like Me)”.

After a number of entertaining, and enlightening stories and events, Ms. Lesh summarizes what she has learned by saying, “Unplugging, turning inward, reassessing, and refocusing on my mental and physical health were what I needed to do to pull myself out of my long slump. Walking, yoga, meditation, prayer, active gratitude, mindfulness, music, laughter, and spending time in nature are all things that helped me through the dark times.” The postscript includes a list of what has helped her the most, resources available to readers’ and numbers to call for help. My Terrible Book of Happiness isn’t sad, or depressing, but hopeful, honest, and perhaps a lifeline for someone reading the words within.

Living With What Is

Purpose – Volume I: Meditation On Love, Relationship, Fear, Death, Intuition, and Power – Uncovering Our Resistance To Life by Noura. Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

51N-HDlr0mLPurpose is a brilliant artistic exploration of our hearts and minds, what we see, and what we tell ourselves about our experience. Noura looks at, and investigates, major principles and subjects within meditation, psychology and philosophy, with clear vision and insight. Her descriptions of words and phrases (awareness, belief, conflict, content, energy, form, ideas, illusions, intelligence, reality, sacrifice, selflessness, truth, etc.) are spot on and all inclusive. She simplifies what can seem complicated.

This is a book about asking questions. She says, “Is it possible to have clarity about ourselves that enables us to understand ourselves totally, so we never have to rely on any belief? If we can look and see clearly for ourselves, are beliefs necessary?” The author asks readers’ to look in the mirror. “What is purpose? What is our purpose? How do we find it? Where do we look? What gets in the way of seeing it?” We seldom stop to ask ourselves such questions, let alone inquire deeply into what these questions mean.

How does one do this? “The only tools we use to investigate into our minds are the following: 1) Looking without judgment and without excluding anything in particular 2) Inquiring into the purpose of everything in our lives, including the obvious 3) Being open to hearing an interpretation of life that’s different from ours, not accept or reject, only listen.” She explains how to pay attention. “Meditation is the art of living with what is, without condemnation, judgments, fragmentation, or covering it up with ideals.”

Noura also looks at projection, magical thinking, darkness/fear/unknown, and duality, with a section about mental health. She says, Psychological Hygiene is the habit of building awareness through observation, self-inquiry, and self-contemplation…” “Very often, we focus on what’s going on externally at the detriment of what’s going on in the inside.” The stories and tales told in Purpose, lend further credence and understanding to the concepts and inquiry provided in this engaging and insightful volume.

Five Pillars

51OeRQe8OxLDeep Personal Transformation: How to Achieve Inner Harmony and Ultimate Happiness by Nebo D. Lukovich. Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

In my life, and that of most I know, I have learned how personal transformation can be the result of suffering and hardships. I’ve written extensively about resilience and the insights people can have when going through intense loss and trauma. In Deep Personal Transformation Mr. Lukovich provides an additional way to make such progress, or develop this inner knowledge, without having to jump into the fire before finding the water to put it out.

He writes, “Permanent transformation can essentially be achieved in two ways: through suffering or through wisdom. Either we painfully push forward through any obstacle or disappointment, learning our lessons the hard way and emerging from the experience more mature, or we chose a path of love, consciousness, and wisdom, which also makes us mature, but in a far more enjoyable and effective manner. This book is all about learning the second, the superior way.”

By integrating neuroscience, psychology, and quantum physics, with accompanying illustrations, graphs, and quotes, Mr. Lukovich presents his reintegration technique. He says it is a result of over two years of daily meditating and mindfulness practice. The five pillars of this methodology are: 1) There exists an underlying reality, 2) Everything is interconnected, 3) The outer world is a mirror of our inner being, 4) Apparently negative inner structures have a positive origin and purpose, and 5) This is a world of polarities. In many ways, it all comes down to transforming the mind content with presence, also known as mindfulness.

The Inner Triangle is the main technique and consists of: Dissolving the Temporary I (DTI), Moving to the Heart (MH), and Dissolving the Temporary I Plus (DTI+). Though some of these practices and exercises at first sound complicated, the author breaks them down into discernible parts which are easily digestible and easy to use. Deep Personal Transformation is practical, methodical, and comprehensively designed. Mr. Lukovich states it so eloquently in closing. “Countless lessons are here to be learned, at our disposal, if only we are aware of them. In these lie the real strength of this system. Through your personal work and meditation and mindfulness, you will elevate your consciousness to unexpected levels.”

A Love Contract

When Soul Is Life: Life Transforming Wisdom from the Heart of the Soul by Kylie Riordan. Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

41kFm7QBHBLWe all know that peace, love, kindness, and caring are the essence of a happy and fulfilling life, but most of the time we forget. That’s when a good friend, teacher, or book comes along to help remind us of what we already know. When Soul Is Life does just that. Ms. Riordan proclaims, “I now make kindness my religion, empathy my form of meditation, and compassion my prayer.” If just stating it made it so, we’d all be one big mushy mass of humanity hugging one another and lending a hand. Thankfully, she doesn’t just say it, she shows us how.

“I am honored that we (readers) are on this journey together and I look forward to entering a scared contract of love with you.” The author provides definitions for kindness, love, compassion, and gratitude, and how we can all (together) bring them into our lives, and remember to not only believe in these qualities (and virtues), but put them into practice. Personal examples, exercises, affirmations, and helpful lists, are exhibited throughout, with liberal doses of humility and understanding. “The truth is, compassion is just love, kindness, and forgiveness.”

Chapters include – Forgiveness; Courage; Soul Essentials; Love; Kindness; Gratitude and Simplicity. There is a section on intuition, how to know when it is present (gut feeling, walk, shivers, and flow), and when to follow it. Discussions about love, and the difference between romantic and spiritual love. One of my favorite areas is when Ms. Riordan shares five tips on how to live in the moment (spend time in nature, use abdominal breathing, meditation, awareness of feelings, and making peace with the past). There is also a good quantity of discourse about courage, happiness and authenticity.

The themes and insights in When Soul Is Life reminded me of my time sitting with others who were experiencing extreme pain, loss, emotions, and the aftermath of trauma. As a grief and bereavement counselor in hospital, hospice, private practice, and a variety of health care settings, I was touched by the many occasions of shared humanity. There were times when I would be detached, and others when I was completely overwhelmed. The moments that were most precious, and I believe the most helpful, were when I was able to be completely present, loving, and compassionate. Ms. Riordan’s words, and experiences in this book, helped me remember how to find those moments again.

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