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david-simon-portrait-webThis is Part II of  an interview with Dr. David Simon,  featured in the December issue of Elevated Existence Magazine.   Dr. Simon explains the connection between emotions and disease, and the holistic way to find wholeness and health.  Read Part I here.

Making Changes
The Chopra Center offers emotional healing seminars, which Simon says he has been
developing for years. The first of the two-part series dedicated to emotional healing is called Free to Love, which takes place over three days and is about identifying, mobilizing and releasing emotional toxicity getting in the way of good health. The second part is Free to Heal, which dedicates five days focused on rejuvenation for
the body.

“Fee to Love is intensely healing, but we are finding people are pretty raw afterward, and so we encourage them to learn how to take better care of themselves in a compassionate and loving way through the second course, Free to Heal, explains Simon. “With both, they have the deep insights to release the pain, and also have the tools to move forward, treat themselves lovingly and have healthy relationships.”
In his book, which is a guide to the Free to Love process, Simon reveals a variety of methods for emotional clearing, including heart-opening yoga poses, breathing exercises and specific “intuitive self-reflection” exercises that take the reader through a series of questions to both reflect upon and journal about.

Yoga for Emotional Healing

Yoga on the beach.“Breath and thought work closely together, so we find that by consciously using the breath, we can access information we previously suppressed,” he says. Also, the yoga poses were developed over the years to make it easier for people to bring awareness into the places of the body associated with emotions, and stretching, moving and
breathing helps the release of toxic emotions from the body.

“If people are tuned in, they feel emotions in the heart, gut and occasionally the sexual organs,” Simon explains. “The yoga poses are designed to open up the core emotional center and release the energy trapped inside.”

And while many who go through the program or do it themselves at home may be tempted not to do the journaling element, Simon says it is a very important piece. Rather than going through the steps in the mind, writing them down is necessary — not only to remember the insights revealed, but to get them out of our minds and onto the paper.
1128174902kD2fi8“We carry all this stuff around on our internal hard drive, and when we write it down, it’s like downloading it to a flash drive and creating space,” Simon says. “We need to quiet down the usual conversation of our mind and start asking questions from a deeper place. We may not think we know what we need, but we do know it somewhere, and intuitive self-reflection is a way of hearing the truth and bringing into awareness.”

The key to emotional health, and in turn physical health, is learning how to stay centered, no matter what life throws at us. It’s about learning to make better choices, and knowing we all deserve to be happy and healthy, have nurturing relationships and have a meaningful life by expressing our unique purpose. By ridding ourselves of toxic emotions — some we may have been carrying around for a lifetime — and learning a new, healthy way to live and love, we can find our center and know how to return to it when we fall off.

“If we have an inner state of wellbeing, where the mind is relatively quiet and the body is in comfort, we can evaluate, and listen to our bodies and minds to get
information from a deeper place,” Simons says.

When evaluating a decision in life, our mind and body will often generate signals, letting us know when something doesn’t feel right. The more centered we are, the more likely we will be able to recognize the signals, he notes.

“The more your baseline is centered, balanced and comfortable, the more sensitive you will be to going out of your center. But if your baseline is one of chaos, you won’t even notice you are out of balance.”

To learn more about upcoming Free to Love, Free to Heal workshops in 2010, click here.

[This is Part I of  an article featured in the December issue of Elevated Existence Magazine.]

The Chopra Center’s Dr. David Simon explains the connection between emotions and disease, and the holistic way to find wholeness and health.

david-simon-portrait-webBeyond the Symptoms
By Tammy Mastroberte

When our head starts pounding, our stomach starts churning or our chest is on fire from heartburn, the first place we usually run to is the medicine cabinet. And when we can’t find relief on our own, the next step is the doctor’s office, where the physician often turns to his or her prescription pad to alleviate our symptoms.

This has been the routine for many of us, who learned over the years that when we feel bad — physically or mentally — a pill is the answer. And in some cases, this is absolutely true. But what if there was an alternative to medication that would soothe anxiety or depression? What if our stomach cramps or acid indigestion is really the body’s way of letting us know our emotions need tending to?

book-cover-web2These questions are the reason Dr. David Simon wrote his newest book, Free to Love, Free to Heal: Heal Your Body by Healing Your Emotions, and created an emotional freedom course at the Chopra Center, both of which are based on his experience as a physician who has looked at life and health holistically for more than three decades.

“If you give people the safety needed, you will find everyone has a story underlying their symptoms or illness, and if we can bring that fromthe subconscious to the conscious, there are opportunities for healing,” he tells Elevated Existence.

“It’s about revealing the underlying story and writing a more empowering chapter. This can often help people get off or reduce their medication needs for a variety of things.”

Of course, there are some cases where medication is required, such as an auto accident, sudden heart attack or a urinary tract infection, Simon says. In these cases, medication can be lifesaving. But there are many instances where modifying a person’s lifestyle and looking at emotional factors can help alleviate ailments just as effectively as a pill.

“Traditionally, the physician’s job is to find the biochemical to relieve someone’s suffering. They don’t think of stress when someone has high blood pressure, it’s more about giving them a medication that can bring it down,” he explains.

Heart in the Sand“If someone is depressed, a doctor often doesn’t look at what’s happening in the person’s relationships, how they might not be nourishing themselves, or even if a person has found meaning or purpose in life. It’s more about a deficiency in serotonin. That is the conventional model.”

Simon approached medical school from a different perspective, majoring in anthropology and studying medicine in non-Western cultures. He did his thesis on shamanism, and in between his graduate studies and medical school, became a meditation and yoga instructor.

“I learned health was about love, but in medical school they teach that people are molecular machines, and when the machine isn’t twirling properly, to introduce a new molecule. We are taught to treat symptoms rather than look at the root of illness,” Simon says.

The Role of Emotions in Illness
He believes there is an emotional component to all illness, and a mind/body approach works well, especially for psychosomatic illnesses such as functional bowel disorders, chronic pain, migraines and fibromyalgia. Even heart disease has some emotional component, he explains, although genetics, diet and exercise do play a role.

“At any one time, 20 percent to 25 percent of the population is struggling with digestion, whether its heartburn or irritable bowel, and these have a strong emotional component,” Simon notes.

Many autoimmune diseases, including multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis, also have a direct correlation to emotions. “Most people with an autoimmune disease say their illness gets aggravated when they are stressed, and when they are not, the symptoms get quiet for a while,” he says, citing a study done with people suffering from an autoimmune disease who were admitted into a hospital.

Patients were asked about physical, emotional, sexual or drug abuse in the family as a child, and the study showed an increased risk of an autoimmune disease as an adult when one or more of these factors are present. Additionally, issues about food — whether eating too much or too little — all have underlying emotional components.

The answer is to help people fill their needs directly rather than going through food, Simon says, explaining that whether it’s food, drugs or alcohol, addictive behaviors are a person’s attempt to self-medicate.

The Hidden Message of Symptoms
But whether it’s self-medicating or turning to a doctor’s prescription, when the underlying emotional components are not addressed, new symptoms will often crop up over time, he explains. The body will continue to create disease until the emotional causes are uncovered and resolved.

“The body is trying to get our attention because it is carrying some pain — often emotional — that needs some direct attention,” he explains. “Whether it’s a headache, backache or irritable bowel, the body is asking ‘Can someone please pay attention?’ But rather than doing that, we just suppress the symptom with some type of medication, and then it often finds another way to get our attention.”

AppleStethoscopeFor example, a patient will often go to the doctor because of a migraine headache, and the doctor will prescribe a medication. Then the patient comes back into the office saying his or her headache is better, but now they have a side effect, or a new symptom. The doctor will then prescribe a new medication for the new symptoms or side effect, and that is why people often wind up on five or six medications, Simon says.

“You have to look back to the beginning and see what triggered the episode. When I see people like this, it often goes back to one thing — such as being emotionally or physically abused as a child — and they often need someone to hear their story and help them heal that story. Once it’s resolved, the symptoms often go away.”

Alleviating Anxiety and Depression
When dealing with many mental or psychiatric disorders, medication is extremely important. Illnesses such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder — often based on a deeper genetic, biochemical imbalance — require medication, Simon says. But
for issues with anxiety, depression and insomnia, a mind/body approach can have amazing effects. And when used in conjunction, can get people off medication sooner.

“Medication for these things can be such an easy shortcut, and we need to raise the threshold of how readily doctors are giving them out,” he explains,
noting often people will feel better from the medicine and the underlying issue will never be addressed. “When someone dies, suddenly a person is put on an antidepressant, and they are not even allowed to grieve.”

Reducing our Dependence on Medication
Ideally, Simon believes medication should be used for a short period of time while helping people work through their issues, along with teaching them alternative lifestyle changes, such as meditation and yoga.

“People often just want relief, and if doctors offered them relief without going on a psychotropic medication, most people would opt for that, but so many just give the pill,” he says.

While a psychiatrist might know that if a person started meditation on a regular basis and reduced the amount of caffeine they take in during the day, it might help with their anxiety, many assume the patient won’t do these things, and so they just offer a pill, Simon explains. But in essence, people are “outsourcing their biochemistry.”

“I work with people trying to get off medication all the time, and I tell them, ‘If you had a manufacturing plant in the United States and you learned you could do the work overseas for much less, you would fire everyone and move. But then, if all of the sudden you decide you want to start back in the United States, you can’t just open up the same day — it takes time.’”

Simon says the same is true with the human brain. Once you start giving it serotonin from the outside, it realizes it doesn’t have to make it from the inside anymore. So getting off of medication can take four to six weeks, “until the brain says, ‘Oh, you’re serious. You really are going to make me manufacture this myself,’” he explains.

By looking at diet, exercise and sleep habits, shifts can be made to produce the same chemicals from within, rather than depending on an outside source. Getting to bed by 10 p.m., eating healthy foods, walking in beautiful, natural settings and more can help create a feeling of peace and keep a person centered.

woman meditation on hill XSmall“The practice of meditation is key because it gives people a glimpse of how they can generate peace inside their own body,” Simon says. “Good, healthy food; good smells; nourishing sounds; and good relationships — if everyone had these things we would all be healthy and happy. At the Chopra Center, we recreate the memory of wholeness, and teach skills to allow people to stay connected to their center.”

Particularly when it comes to anxiety, Simon believes by putting time into it and learning these new skills, people can learn to live without anxiety in a natural way. “Living without anxiety is a skill set that we have to be taught, and then the need for medication will go away,” he explains.

Read Part II of the interview tomorrow: The Heart of Emotional Healing

_________________________________________________
David Simon, M.D. is the medical director and co-founder of the Chopra Center
for Wellbeing in Carlsbad, California.  Visit www.chopra.com/freetolove or call 888.736.6895 to learn more about the Free to Love process and David’s upcoming emotional healing workshops.

yoga-graduates102609

Chopra Center University is proud to announce our newest yoga graduates! Chopra Center co-founders, Drs. Deepak Chopra and David Simon have designed a daily yoga practice to help you unite body, mind, and spirit, bringing you into alignment with the magnificent rhythms of the cosmos.

The Seven Spiritual Laws of Yoga infuses your practice with spirit while bringing the seven laws into action each day. Every class plays a crucial role in yoga’s path to enlightenment while providing you with a wealth of meditation techniques, mantras, breathing exercises, and yoga poses.

To learn more about Chopra Center University, please click here.

To read and post comments, click here!

Yoga-Class-MediumQuestion: I’d like to practice yoga once a day. Is the morning or evening a better time to do it?

Answer: Generally speaking, it doesn’t matter very much whether you do your yoga in the morning or evening. Twice a day is, of course, the ideal. But if you’re only going to do it once a day, and you have the option of either time, then we recommend taking advantage of the early morning hours. The freshness of the air at that time of day is considered most beneficial for rejuvenating the body and its tissues.

To read and post comments, click here!

Five-Pointed Start / Half Triangle is an energizing pose that strengthens the shoulders and arms and promotes the flow of prana – the vital life energy – throughout the body. Enjoy the sequence and allow yourself the freedom to move your body in any way it needs.

Instructions:

  • Standing in Five-Pointed Star with your feet wide apart, extend your arms out to the sides.
  • Gently extend through your fingertips, lengthening your arms. Allow your shoulders to drop back and down, feeling any tension you have been holding there melt away.
  • Close your eyes and take four to six deep breaths, focusing your awareness at the center of your chest.
  • Inhale, expanding your chest and rib cage; exhale, extending out through your fingers.
  • Breathe in and exhale over to the right, moving into Half Triangle. Press the fingertips of your left hand up toward the sky and gaze up.
  • Inhale up into Five-Pointed Star.
  • Exhale Half Triangle over to the left, moving into Half Triangle.
  • Repeat six to nine times each side.

Safety Tips

  • If your shoulders are uncomfortable, lower both arms so that they are extended out at the same height.
  • If you have knee or hip discomfort, sit in a chair to perform the poses.

Benefits

  • Improves posture
  • Strengthens shoulders and arms
  • Nourishes large intestine
  • Improves digestion and elimination
  • Increases blood flow around the heart and lungs

To read and post comments, click here!

book-cover-web3Week 10: Writing a Great Love Story
This is the final week of a 10-week series based on David Simon’s new book, Free to Love, Free to Heal.

Congratulations on reaching this point! Assuming you have been following along each week and doing the exercises, you are not the same person you were when began the Free to Love process nine weeks ago. You have identified emotional residue from your past and brought it into your conscious awareness, where you have separated the emotional charge from the facts of the experience. You have let go of many stored feelings of regret, resentment, and guilt, replacing them with understanding and forgiveness. You are committed to practicing conscious communication and creating loving and fulfilling relationships.

The question now is What story do you want to see unfold in your heart from this point forward? You have the opportunity and responsibility to create an authentic life, one in which you are the writer, director, and lead actor, rather than a bit player in someone else’s tale. You have the capacity to create a compelling life story – a story in which you are free to love and in which you love freely.

Falling in Love with Your Self

You are powerful, intelligent, and interesting. You are complicated and valuable. You are attractive. You are a good person. You are worthy of love. You are deserving of happiness.

You have these lovable qualities and more because you are living the gift of a human incarnation and have this rare opportunity to be a conscious manifestation of the universe. You are the universe playing hide-and-seek with itself. You are the sacred in disguise. You are God in drag. Knowing this, you cannot feel sorry for yourself for very long, because your heart and soul retain the memory of your essential divinity.

balancingBe Kind to Yourself

When you love something, be it a puppy, your garden, or a child, you naturally want to take good care of it. Now that you are committed to choices that support and reinforce your happiness, treat yourself with the same intention and caring you’d give to anything else you love. Minimize toxicity; maximize nourishment. Life-damaging habits, which in the past provided temporary relief from your sense of unlovability, have outlived their usefulness. You no longer need to anesthetize yourself from yourself.

Look at your use of love-substituting behaviors and begin trusting your internal pharmacy of well-being, rather than depending upon chemicals that temporarily modulate your emotions. Commit to a regular practice of meditationyoga, exercise, and conscious communication and enjoy the power you have to create balance from within, reducing your need for outer acts of manipulation.

Detoxify your Life
Look at every aspect of your life and identify experiences that are depleting rather than nourishing. Evaluate your food, water, air, music, TV, and job choices and see how you can reduce the ingestion of energy and information that is not serving you, while replacing it with that which does.  If you have been coping with emotional pain and the physical toll it has on your body, consider attending the Chopra Center’s Free to Love, Free to Heal workshop.

As you are making your commitments to be more nurturing to yourself, it is essential that you make conscious choices about your relationships. As you know by now, relationship toxicity can be as or even more harmful to your psychological and physical health as a poor diet, excessive alcohol, or recreational drugs. And, sometimes freeing yourself from a toxic relationship can be more difficult than letting go of a toxic substance. It takes courage and sobriety to become disentangled from associations that are boundary violating or energy depleting.

People remain in toxic situations primarily out of fear – fear that they will lose financial security; fear of being judged harshly by family, their religious community, or God; fear that they will irreversibly harm their children; and fear that they will not find anyone else to love them. If you are currently in such a relationship, your highest and healthiest self must take the lead in guiding you to freedom. If you feel stuck in a relationship that is creating ongoing pain for you, start planning your exit strategy now. Using your creativity, timing, and finesse, you can be free to love again.

Take time for yourself

People often find the motivation to engage in emotional healing when a relationship ends. The pain and loneliness of going from being a couple to being single provide a powerful incentive for looking at oneself and one’s patterns. Although it may not feel like it at the time, being in-between relationships can be an incredible gift. I encourage you to take full advantage of this opportunity to recreate a state of lovingness that transcends the need for a lover.

If you have recently come out of a painful relationship: wait. If you immediately jump into a new love without taking the time to find your center and heal your heart, you are almost guaranteed to perpetuate the turmoil. Take time to fall in love with yourself. As a rough rule of thumb, take one to two months for every year of your last relationship before you even consider starting a new one. Spend this time with yourself and with supportive family and friends until feelings of desperation subside. They will. Not until you are genuinely happy spending time with yourself are you in a position to begin engaging with another person.

walk-in-the-parkBeginning New Relationships
Every aspect of our being is present in seed form. When you are ready to find love, recognize that all potential patterns of a relationship are broadcasting their promise from the moment you begin exchanging energy and information. It’s natural when you fall under the spell of love to see those aspects that reinforce your ideal and ignore those that do not. Everyone has light and dark elements, and most of us have become good at disguising those characteristics that we’d prefer others not see.

An important question to ask yourself when you notice a pattern is Can I live with this behavior if it persists? If your willingness to create a deeper bond is predicated on the expectation that you can “fix” someone, take a few steps back before diving in too deep. Now that you have brought the light of healing into your heart, you do not need to look to someone else to make you whole because you now know that wholeness is your inherent state.

The Seven Laws of Loving Relationships

Almost everyone would like to experience peace and harmony with the people in their lives but often struggle to manifest these desires. Most people envision an ideal intimate relationship based upon shared interests, open communication, mutual nurturing, and passion.

Although there is no proven formula that applies to all relationships, embracing a few key principles in your heart will reduce conflict and enhance the flow of love. These principles are valuable in friendships and business relationships, as well as in families, marriages, and intimate partnerships. Click here to find the Seven Laws of Loving Relationships.

Love Is a Practice
Cultivating your lovability – your ability to love and to be loved – is a lifelong pursuit. You now have the basic skills to play the game of love with finesse, but do not imagine that you can master it, for love will challenge you throughout your life. Listen to the wisdom of your heart and allow it to guide you into higher expressions of love.

I wish you all the best on your journey.

With love,
David Simon

If you would like to learn more about the Free to Love, Free to Heal workshops led by David Simon, M.D. at the Chopra Center for Wellbeing, please click here or call 888-736-6895.

To read and post comments, click here!

Instructions

  • Lying down, bend both knees with your feet flat on the floor. Breathe in and out 6 to 9 times. Take full, deep breaths.
  • Exhaling lift your hips toward the sky – like a mountain rising from the sea. Keep your head on your mat with your chin toward your belly.Inhale lower your hips down. Continue this movement exhaling hips up, inhaling hips down, 6 to 9 times.

Benefits

  • Strengthens the muscles around the spine and legs.
  • Nourishes and massages the liver and kidneys.
  • Increases blood flow to the muscles and nerves in the face.

Safety Tips

  • If your back bothers you, just rest and bend both knees with your feet flat on the floor. Feet are hip’s width apart, your knees gently touching each other.
  • Avoid this pose if you have a back injury.

Spiritual Practices For This Month

  • Be aware of your spiritual essence, which is the greatest aspect of who you are.
  • Allow yourself to be more light-hearted and playful.
  • Practice non-judgment of yourself and others.

To read and post comments, click here!

The Seven Spiritual Laws of  Yoga Retreat begins today at the Sheraton in Carlsbad, California! Led by davidji and the Chopra Center’s yoga director, Claire Diab, the yoga retreat is based on a unique style of hatha yoga that integrates practices for body-centered restful awareness, ancient Vedic wisdom, and the principles of Deepak Chopra’s book The Seven Spiritual Laws for Success.

We’re looking forward to meeting everyone and sharing a profound experience of spiritual awakening.

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To read and post comments, click here!

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