5 ways singing is good for your health

Singing is good for your health - singing squirrels

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.

 3. Choir singing creates social bonds. A project called, “The Sound of Well-Being” in Norway showed how shows how cultural activities like choir singing positively impacts work environment and improves the psychosocial health of employees who participate.

4. Singing improves pulmonary function. According to a study from Canterbury Christ Church University in Kent and the International Journal of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, singing may ease symptoms of COPD, improve lung function and quality of life in people with chronic respiratory illness.

5. Singing can help you cope with pain. According to a report published in the Journal of Music Therapy in 2004, help patients cope with chronic pain. A joint study by Harvard and Yale Universities in 2008 went one step further, claiming that choral singing in a Connecticut town had increased residents’ life expectancy.

So take a cue from Buddy the Elf…

Sing your heart out, and sing yourself happy and healthy!

Namaste.

– Your Charmed Yogi

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‘No’ is a complete sentence

No

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.

Namaste.

– Your Charmed Yogi

Photo: Ecosalon

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Are we afraid to just be happy?

relaxed frog

There are so many ‘happiness solutions’ out there today – from books to seminars to pills – promising that joy is just a spend away. We all want happiness as if it’s something that we have to save up to buy or earn.

In fact, I had a conversation with a mentor recently about finding peace through sacrifice. She looked at me as if I’d lost my mind, “What?”

“I mean, there are so many people that need so much and I can help. I feel selfish if I’ve got some downtime and I’m not using it to help someone in need or contribute in some way,” I said, “I mean if I want to be a truly spiritual person, shouldn’t I always be looking at how I can be of service? Look at Buddha, Jesus, the Dalai Lama, Mother Teresa, and everyone else who sacrifices themselves for others.”

She looked at me, and said, “We can’t all be Jesus.  And, I think that you doing things that bring you joy (whatever that is) brings joy to everyone around you.  And that joy ripples through everything you’re connected to.”

And there it was in my face. I realized that I was afraid to just do things that made me happy for fear that I was being less of a spiritual being.

We work so hard to achieve happiness, and yet, it’s always with us. Peace isn’t something that we have to earn by suffering, it’s there in spite of suffering.  We’re living longer and yet, don’t live much at all.

To quote George Carlin, “We’ve added years to life not life to years.”

Do you have to stop ‘giving back’? No.  But you can be of service in so many ways without sacrificing your own health and happiness.

No matter how someone approaches me or what they ask, I try to think to myself, “How can I be helpful?”

Sometimes that means I stop what I’m doing, and help carry something heavy for my neighbor, help a friend, or donate money or time.

And sometimes being helpful to others starts with being helpful to yourself first.

Namaste.

– Your Charmed Yogi

(Photo: Wikimusiquita)

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You have an infinite capacity for gratitude

gratitude tattoo

gratitude by Fancy Hunt on Flickr

When I was little, I’d say my prayers before bed.  “Now I lay me down to sleep….” I’d ask God to bless and watch over my mom, dad, gradmas and grandpas, aunt and uncle, brother, dog, cat, friends, anyone I didn’t know and everyone I forgot to mention.

I believed that I had to squeeze it all in during that prayer or someone might be left unprotected. As  a child, I had no parameters for what I asked of God.  As I got older, ‘the list’ became more condensed as if there were only so much room to ask God for a favor.

I used to think about Gratitude kinda the same way, like I had to find only the most prolific or beautiful things to be grateful for.  As if there were somehow a limit on gratitude or that unpleasant experiences weren’t worth considering.

But, I’ve come to realize that just like our hearts have an infinite capacity for love, there’s no limit to how much you can express gratitude for, and nothing is too trivial.

You can be grateful for the big ones, the obvious ones like, “I’m grateful for my health, and the health of my family, and my job, and my home, etc.” and those are great.  But it’s also OK to express gratitude for the little things or oft forgotten things like toilet paper, clean water, green lights, toast, toothpaste, not stubbing your toe on the table again…

And, it’s particularly liberating to be grateful for the not-so-awesome things that happen in our lives like people who drive us crazy, traffic or pain.  

When you begin to find ways to be grateful for everything, you can begin to let go of assigning value judgements like good or bad and take the ‘me’ out of what happens.  It just happens.

How many things can you be grateful for today?

Namaste.

– Your Charmed Yogi

(Photo: Fancy Hunt / Flickr)

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Liberation is a truck stuck in the mud & a yoga mat

Yoga freedom quote

I’m going to admit something publicly that very few people know.  While I typically avoid reality television like the plague, I’ve succumbed to the fantastic spectacle that is ‘Duck Dynasty.’  I don’t know how it started, but the friends that know me find it quite amusing because my ideologies and theirs couldn’t be more different.  Or are they?

I don’t own a firearm (we’ll steer clear of this argument for now), I don’t hunt or kill anything for fun, and I’m not exactly conservative.  That said, there have been some (dare I say insightful) quotes to come out of that show that have made me think.  We all of the same basic needs and desires; at our inner most core, we act from a place of love; and we all want some sort of freedom.

In one particular episode, the characters have an argument about becoming ‘too corporate’ which leads to an ‘off road’ tantrum of mud bogging only for their truck to get stuck in the middle of nowhere.  The parting quote made me laugh out loud, “If you are going down the road and see a truck stuck in the mud you know what happened… liberation.”

We all want freedom.  Freedom from obligations, freedom from constraints whether it be work, health, finances, dependence or family. Liberation can take on any form, and is different for everyone.  For some people, liberation is jumping out of an airplane.  For others, it’s sending the family on vacation and curling up alone with a book for the weekend, and for others, it’s getting a truck stuck in the mud.

While I’d love to go ‘off the grid’ at some point, for now, I find freedom in other ways. For me, time on my yoga mat always creates space for liberation within.  Even if it’s only 5 minutes, I find liberation from thought, obligation and time.

“Freedom is what you do with what’s been done to you,” -Jean Paul Satre

Where do you find liberation?

Namaste.

– Your charmed yogi

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When you can’t make everyone happy

I often joke about being like a Golden Retriever.  I’ve always been the person that tries to make others happy, and if I make someone unhappy, it makes my heart hurt.  And of course there’s the flood of obsessive thoughts on how I can rectify the situation.

At work, if you pat me on my head, I run off with my tail wagging looking to produce more biscuit-worthy results. When I’m teaching, I get immense satisfaction when I send students home feeling relaxed and accomplished. Even at the holidays, I’m happier giving gifts.  I love to watch people light up.

But we all know the age old saying, “You can’t make everyone happy all of the time.”

In fact, chances are if you made an enemy or pissed someone off it means that you stood up for something you believe in, or for yourself.

So how do us ‘people pleasers’ cope? First, recognize that it is exhausting to live for someone else’s happiness and begin to witness when you’re putting someone else first unnecessarily. Sure, you may have to put your child’s need for dinner above your own need for downtime, but I’m talking about the constant ‘back seat taking’ we do with our own energy.

We must bear witness when we find ourselves constantly deeming others’ happiness as more important than our own.  We have to do some soul-searching to understand why we feel the need to find ‘validation’ outside of our own being. And, we have to give ourselves the same amount of energy we give others, or we find ourselves depleted.

Does this mean that we should no longer try to help people or have compassion? No it doesn’t. It simply means, that we should stop trying to make others happy as a means to find satisfaction. It’s a short-lived attachment. Rather, allow your authentic self to shine through.  If people like it, great.  If some don’t, who cares.   You WILL rub some people the wrong way, and quite frankly, that’s their issue.

But, you will have unearthed a truer you, and there’s no greater peace than sitting in the seat of your authentic ‘self.’

Namaste.

– Your Charmed Yogi

(Photo: Pinterest)

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Light as many candles as you can

Buddha happiness quoteShare your happiness with everyone you meet, and accept it when it’s given to you.

Namaste.

– Your Charmed Yogi

(Photo: Zen Pencils)

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Your extraordinary life

arm with extraordinary tattoo

I love this post from Amber of My Crazy Healthy Life blog.  A beautiful story of transformation and a desire to help others embrace their ‘extraordinary-ness’ and live a wholesome life.

“Make your life extraordinary” has been my mantra for the past fourteen years. Somewhere in my late twenties, I realized that regular just doesn’t work for me–I want more out of life. And so began my quest to become extraordinarily healthy. I traded in my running shoes for a yoga mat, stopped eating meat, and learned how to meditate. My new life was anything but regular. It also made me stronger, healthier, and happier than I had ever been before. Read the full post.

Namaste.

– Your Charmed Yogi

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(Photo: WeLoveIt)

Be willing to look stupid. Check.

“If you’re not willing to look stupid, nothing great is ever going to happen to you.” ~Gregory House

Take every chance. Drop every fear.

Namaste.

– Your charmed Yogi

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All that matters is right now [Video]

Anyone who knows me, knows that I tear up often, tears cleanse the soul.  My real soft spots are acts of human kindness and reunions.  Extreme Homemaker over caused a boon in Kleenex sales at my home when the show first aired.  And, just about any kind of reunion will have me in a puddle– especially military reunions.    What I love about reunions is that for a moment, we experience pure presence.  There’s no past or future, just the blissful now.

Here are a few videos of some military reunions and amazing animal reunions that will touch even the most resistant heart. Even you don’t cry easily, you may find yourself getting joyfully teary as you empathize with the happiness of these families.

Soldier surprises family at USC football game

Soldier surprises daughter on her 6th birthday

School creates ‘mock’ spelling bee for soldier reunion

Anita and the Wolves

Military reunions with man’s best friend

“The soul would have no rainbow had the eyes no tears.” -John Vance Cheney

Namaste.

– Your Charmed Yogi