I’ve always been a fantastic singer…in the shower or car. In the privacy of my own home or vehicle, I happily sing at the top of my lungs. When I need an energy boost or catch myself getting into a mental loop of some sort, I’ll throw on some of my favorite tunes to switch my thinking and mood. Singing helps me pass the time during a potentially stressful commute, and helps me to regulate my breathing when I’m stressed or anxious.
As it turns out, there is some actual science to how singing can improve our body and mind.
There are hundreds of research studies on how singing and music therapy can help treat everything from chronic pain to attention deficit disorder. Singing creates vibrational frequencies that have been found to have a direct effect upon physiological systems. All you have to do is Google it. When is Google going to be able to understand when I sing my questions into search anyway?
Here are 5 ways singing is good for your health:
1. Singing is good for your heart. According to a study in the Journal Frontiers in Neuroscience, music structure determines heart rate variability of singers. In fact, singing demands a slower than normal respiration, which may affect heart activity and be beneficial for cardiovascular function. According to researchers, the controlled breathing used in both activities may have positive long-term effects on heart health and blood pressure.
2. Singing improves your mood & helps you cope with stress. A study out of the U.K. on choral singing and psychological well being found the benefits of singing include: experienced focused attention; deep breathing; social support; cognitive stimulation; and regular commitment.
Sing your heart out, and sing yourself happy and healthy!
- Your Charmed Yogi
If you’ve ever gone on a ‘diet’ you know that it’s typically about removing something. Something a doctor or society has deemed ‘bad.’ And those diets inevitably fail because they aren’t sustainable. But, when you decide to make a lifestyle change that involves replacing or ‘adding’ good foods instead of just removing the bad ones, you shift your perspective about food and it becomes a gradual path to success. It’s the same thing when it comes to our thinking.
When you start to notice your thought patterns and what drives your suffering i.e. fear, guilt, worry, shame; you can then begin to find ways to replace those patterns.
In the past three days, I’ve read several passages, social media posts, and had conversations about this very topic. So, it seemed like something I should write about.
I can say from personal experience that when I decided I wanted to find peace and freedom from fear, I tried my hardest to ‘let it go’. But, that didn’t seem to be enough, and I found myself somehow lacking. It’s because I’d lived with the fear for so long, just like someone struggling to give up sugar lives with donuts as part of their diet.
Then I read a passage from a teacher about shifting perception by replacing unhealthy or unhelpful thoughts with their opposites. For example, if you’re feeling angry at someone, try to find something positive about them to be grateful for. If you’re worried about something, replace that thought with something that you trust or are certain about. Like when I’m nervous about going to a doctor’s appointment, I try to replace that worry with trust. Trust that the doctor has my health in mind. And acceptance that my body is going to do what it is going to do. Replace that self-judgement by celebrating you.
When I feel lost in a thicket of thoughts, I try to step out of the trees and see the whole forest. For me, the serenity prayer often helps, “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things that I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
The process is slow, just like a successful dietary change. So, I try to celebrate and acknowledge even the smallest progress. Crash diets never work.
- Your Charmed Yogi
(Photo: Pinterest/Merchant Mechanics)
Related post: Have yourself a thought-b-cue
One of my readers recently sent me a message asking about yoga for fertility. Admittedly, I’m not certified in pre-natal yoga, but I do know a few amazing teachers who are. Jill Petigara, literally wrote the book on yoga and fertility. Her book, Yoga and Fertility: A Journey to Health and Healing, delves into the role yoga can play in helping women conceive.
The book can be a great guide for soon-to-be-moms, and it includes exercises they can do at home. However, if you ARE trying to get pregnant, I highly recommend you find a yoga instructor or workshop that specializes in yoga and fertility. A certified pre-natal instructor, particularly someone who specializes in fertility yoga can help guide you though an optimal practice for you. Of course, check with your doctor before starting any kind of exercise program.
If you can’t find a class specific to fertility, a restorative yoga class is a great place to start. Many of the same poses are integrated, and the class is a gentle, nurturing, ‘restorative’ environment. That said, there are some things in addition to the physical poses in yoga to help with fertility.
Trying to get pregnant can be stressful and emotionally trying, so it’s a perfect time to begin a meditation practice. A daily meditation practice, even for five minutes can help reduce stress and balance emotions and hormones. Keeping a journal to unburden yourself of intrusive thoughts also helps. You also may want to try acupuncture and massage.
Fertility Yoga & Meditation Videos
To help you along with your home practice, here are a couple of videos as you journey toward pregnancy and motherhood.
Yoga poses that aid fertility
Fertility Meditation through the Chakras
The most important thing to remember during this time is to let go of all self-judgement. Be kind to yourself, nurture yourself, and allow any emotions that arise to be. Accept them. Breathe.
- Your Charmed Yogi
Photo: Joyful Birth Babies
“Mindfulness practice is simple and completely feasible. Just by sitting and doing nothing, we are doing a tremendous amount.”
In Buddhism, practicing mindfulness enables us to live peacefully within our own minds. We know our minds run amok like spoiled children without discipline, but it’s never too late to reign it in.
I used to think that I wasn’t meditating unless my mind was completely free of any activity, but that’s not quite right. Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche from the Shambala Sun makes a wonderful point that may help many of us put the concept of what it means to meditate into perspective, ”An important point is that when we are in a mindful state, there is still intelligence. It’s not as if we blank out.”
So what exactly is mindfulness meditation?
(Photo: Unitarian Universalist Church of Fargo)
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If you’re like me, you’re a people-pleaser. You’d rather avoid disappointing someone, so you say yes to more than you should. You’re afraid someone might think you’re not a good friend, employee, sister, aunt, yoga teacher, etc. if you say no. The reality is, you can’t be everything to everyone. And if you think you can. you’re probably not truly ‘being there’ for anyone, especially yourself.
A while ago, I had a conversation with a friend about a situation in which I felt guilty for saying no. I decided to put myself first for once, and said no to substituting a yoga class. The person who asked gave me some “not-so-subtle” non-verbal cues to let me know of their disappointment. I found myself trying to justify my decision, when in reality it was the other person’s issue, not mine. They were upset that they’d be inconvenienced, and yet I somehow took on the responsibility and the guilt (my issue). WRONG.
What my friend said to me when I told her the story was, “No, is a complete sentence.” It was so simple, and it made me start to think about how many times I’ve felt incredibly guilty for saying no or putting myself first. How many times did I rehearse a conversation in my head or replay one to see how I could say no with the least amount of hurt feelings? There were a lot.
So, how do we walk the line of being charitable and giving of ourselves without depleting our energy? What I’ve found out is that the people in your life who really care about you, don’t love you because what you can do for them. They just love you. The art of saying no will also reveal who really is in it just for them. Saying no recently led me to lose someone as a friend which tells me they weren’t really much of a friend at all.
In yoga, bramacharya is often — mistakenly — thought of as ‘chastity’ or a preservation of one’s sexual energy. But it’s really about moderating all of our energetic resources; allocating them consciously.
Many of us need to learn to conserve our personal energy as much as we try to conserve the electricity in hour homes. When we do, our personal energetic battery has a chance to recharge. Then we truly CAN be there for others in a deliberate, complete, loving way. When you are at your most joyous and fulfilled, you will bring that light to everyone you meet.
- Your Charmed Yogi
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After practicing yoga, the feelings and memories that bubble up can be so vivid. Even though we can spend a lot of time talking about the body in a yoga class, yoga is primarily about the mind. When a yoga practice is designed with the intention of bringing attention and focus to our complex and very distractable mind, and it works, it’s so cool to get a glimpse of what is in there.
"To know yourself, be yourself. To be yourself, stop imagining yourself to be this or that. Just be. Let your true nature emerge. Don't disturb your mind with seeking. There is no such thing as a person. There are only restrictions and limitations. The sum total of these defines the person. The person merely appears to be, like the space within the pot appears to have the shape and volume and smell of the pot.
I’ve received a lot of wonderful feedback on my post, “The things we hide (get ready for the raw).” Many of you as well as friends and family said that they were touched by my honesty and courage, and even told me about the things they hide in order to protect themselves. The feedback got me thinking about what it means to have courage.
I’ve always thought of myself more as the cowardly lion from the Wizard of Oz. But, I’ve come to realize that having moments of being afraid or insecure about uncertainty doesn’t make me cowardly, it just means that at that moment, I’m feeling something that is real for me.
We all have things we are more courageous about than others. For instance, I have no problem picking up a spider and escorting him out of the house. But, every three months as I’m headed for my doctor’s visits, I’m a mound of jiggly anxiety-jello. But I go. And that’s the courage. Until recently, I thought of myself as a wimp because I freak out over these appointments, but I push through and go anyway.
Right now, I have a friend whose son is fighting an unimaginable medical fight. He’s three and He. Is. Fighting. He’s fighting through pain that no one should have to endure. His courage is tremendously inspiring. We call him ‘the little ninja’. He’s taught me a lot this past week about endurance and bravery to the extent that if I catch myself hemming and hawing about doing something I think, “if the little ninja can plow through his fight, you can do anything.” He truly is an inspiration.
What I’ve learned is that I used to think that word courage was reserved for warriors headed into battle, uncertain of what’s awaiting them. But we’re all warriors fighting our own battles aren’t we? Each one just as real for us as the soldier on the front line.
Feeling afraid doesn’t make us cowardly, it makes us human. Pressing on despite those fears is what makes us warriors. And the bravest move of all is letting go and having faith.
- Your Charmed Yogi
Maybe you don't have any trouble with your thoughts, but I do. Thoughts pop into my mind without my permission faster than a mosquito bites my skin on a sweltering summer afternoon. And, equally without my permission.
Descartes, father of modern philosophy, pointed to both the distinguishing characteristic of human beings and to the biggest curse of human beings when he made his famous statement, "I think.