Monthly Archives: July 2014
Meet Pippi. No, I didn’t get a dog. I’m just dog sitting this week while a friend is out of town. You can see that Pippi is an adorable, teeny, tiny poodle. She has a teeny, tiny bladder to match her size so every 3 or 4 hours we go outside for a walk since I don’t have a yard.
It’s nice to be outside, but it means I’ve had to adjust my entire schedule. Most of us have our daily routines and I’m no different. I especially like my morning routine, which has been upended by dog sitting duties.
While we were out walking at 5:30 a.m. this morning, I was reflecting on my adjusted schedule and, true confession, missing my morning routine. Then I wondered – when does a routine become a rut causing our brain to go on auto pilot so we no longer focus on what we’re doing? What does that do to our brains?
This month’s blog has talked about brain health and the critical role a sharp, healthy mind plays in healthy aging and total well being. We’ll finish up July’s topic by focusing on FOCUS.
Medical researchers know that much of age related forgetfulness is due to not paying attention. It can be easy to not pay attention, to go on auto pilot, when some activity is completely routine and, perhaps, boring. The obvious solution is to pay attention and focus on the activity.
In yoga, we talk about focus as “being in the moment” and “being mindful”. Frankly, it’s much easier said than done. Our minds can be so unruly. But, FOCUS (mindfulness) is the key component to improving memory.
Steps to Boosting Memory
There are numbers of ways to improve focus and with it memory. You may have some techniques that work for you and I would love to hear about them. (email@example.com) Following are some that work for me. The first four are yoga related followed by three non-yoga specific suggestions. By the way, you’ll find the postures I describe in The Five Yoga Essentials e-book published last week.
- Incorporate Asymmetrical Postures into your yoga practice. Our brains like symmetry. In a forward bend, for example, feet are kept parallel and we touch same hand to same foot. If we change that and step one foot in front of the other and bring opposite hand to opposite foot our brain isn’t used to that and pays closer attention. Brain synapses also improve.
- Incorporate Balance Postures into your practice. My teacher says that the balance postures will tell you immediately how good your focus is and I’ve found that to be true. Try standing on your toes or one foot while thinking about something else.
- Be Present; Practice Mindfulness throughout your practice. I like to explore the postures by asking myself questions. Where is my breath? Where do I feel this posture? How can I modify the posture to keep it fresh? Questions like these help keep postures I’ve been doing for decades from becoming routine.
- Meditate. There are many benefits to meditation and we’ll delve more deeply into them next month. One major benefit is that it reduces stress, which improves concentration because it is difficult to focus when stressed out.
- Schedule attention requiring tasks for the time of day when your brain is sharpest. For many people, myself included, that time is morning.
- Minimize External Distractions. I’ve never been one of those people who can focus on attention requiring tasks with loud music, or the TV or people blaring in the background. Learn what breaks your concentration and try to avoid these distractions.
- Change Your Environment. Take a break and do some other activity when you can’t concentrate on the task at hand. Go for a walk, call a friend, etc and come back refreshed and recharged.
By the way, Pippi loves the calm and relaxation of yoga. She sits next to me during my practice and goes to sleep in Savasana. Too Cute!
Enjoy and Breathe Easy!
Download and enjoy your free e-book The Five Yoga Essentials
I hope you are enjoying this weekly educational blog, Breathe Easy. It is a lot of fun for me to provide tips and suggestions for healthy living and successful aging through yoga. (And, as we have discussed, the term “yoga” includes postures, breath management techniques and meditation.)
Ever since I was a child I have been interested in health and fitness. My focus and interests have changed over the years since I was an avid 7 year old tennis player but my fascination with the subject has not. And, I am deeply fascinated with the understanding our most ancient of ancestors had about health and well-being and how they passed it down to us through yoga. This information has surely stood the test of time.
There are so many benefits that come from yoga and each of us experiences yoga in our own special way. But, a deeper awareness is one of its universal benefits. Yoga for Self was founded with the desire to help people become more aware and to live healthier lives, especially as we age. If there are topics you would like to explore and discuss, please feel free to let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In appreciation of your interest in healthy living and this weekly blog, please download and enjoy The Five Yoga Essentials. I would love to hear your feedback and suggestions; so, feel free to email me at email@example.com. I am always interested in ideas for making things better.
Enjoy and Breathe Easy!
“Most folks are as happy as they make up their minds to be.” Abraham Lincoln
That quote by Abraham Lincoln is one of my favorites. Good and bad things happen to all of us. That’s just a fact of life. Another fact of life is that we determine how we will react to any given situation and these decisions directly impact our health and well-being. Life truly is a head game.
Which age group do you think is the happiest? Is it those in their 20’s, 30’s and 40’s? Or, is it those in the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s and up? Surprisingly, new research is showing that many folks actually get happier as they age.
A friend recently told me about a magazine called Live Happy. I just love that title. The current (August) issue features an article – “The Golden Age of Happiness” and it is really worth a read. They discuss a research project on the pursuit of happiness. As you would expect, all participants found happiness in exciting experiences and adventures. But, only the older participants found just as much happiness in their day to day activities as they did in the exotic. For me personally, there is no question that I’m happier now than I was in my 20’s.
Researchers are linking happiness to better physical and mental health. And, did you know that laughter has been proven to reverse illness? Attitude is everything.
I’ve been blogging this month about the importance of keeping your mind sharp as the third step to Total Well-Being. Psychologists tell us that negative emotions and attitudes narrow our thoughts and actions while positive emotions and attitudes make us more creative, open to possibilities, and happy. It certainly makes intuitive sense. I know that I feel lighter physically and emotionally when I’m feeling positive. It’s just the opposite when I’m feeling negative.
What and or who makes you feel positive and happy? My yoga practice is one of my primary happiness tools. Just rolling out my mat begins to relax and calm me no matter what type of day I’ve had. It nourishes me physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually and I feel so blessed to have found yoga.
What makes you feel wonderful? Maybe it’s a sunrise or sunset. Perhaps it’s being outdoors in nature. Whatever it is for you, it’s good to know that every time you feel joyful, positive, optimistic, you’re enhancing your well-being and health.
Enjoy and Breathe Easy
I’m not a shopper. In fact, I usually go out of my way to avoid the experience. So, when I went shopping yesterday in the middle of a workday, it was unusual behavior for me. And, I had a great time because I was with a group of very fun ladies.
Here’s a little background. Last January I joined a group of like-minded businesswomen known as a mastermind group. There are six of us in the group plus our dynamic leader and organizer, Cheri Ruskus of Business Victories (www.victorycircles.com). We meet monthly to discuss various topics and to serve as sounding boards for each other as we grow our businesses. We are becoming more and more connected as the months go by and our monthly meetings are a favorite time for me.
One of our members, Ann Fulton, owns a woman’s clothing store called Never Pay Retail (www.nprsamples.com). We made a field trip to see the store and, of course, shop.
Ann is an amazing image consultant and gave each of us insights into our own unique look. As you might imagine, each of us was different and the “secret” to dressing successfully is to emphasize that uniqueness. With Ann and her knowledgeable staff as guides, we experimented and played with all sorts of styles, colors and looks. We were brutally (in a nice way) honest with one another and each of us found the best way to express our unique selves. It was a very fun afternoon and I left feeling even more connected to this group of amazing women. Plus, I have some terrific new yoga outfits!
Connections. As humans we are hard wired to be with others and our natural tendency is to form social support networks. This need goes back to our earliest time on earth when individual survival literally depended on the group.
Humans aren’t the only creatures who seek out emotional attachments and connections. It is pervasive among the animal kingdom and studies have demonstrated the need to feel useful and connected.
For example, when bees grow old they are re-assigned from hive related duties such as caring for the young to going outside the hive to find sources of food. A 2012 study showed that their brains actually deteriorated with this re-assignment of duties. When the bees were experimentally reinserted into the hive to care for the young, the brain deterioration reversed. Isn’t that amazing! Even bees need to feel connected and useful.
It’s not that different for humans. One of the challenges for the elderly to stay involved and guard against isolation as they become less and less connected to their prior duties, associations and social structures. Study after study proves that social connectedness has a powerful influence on humans’ brain health and overall well-being.
I remember standing in a grocery store line behind an elderly gentleman who was “talking the ears off” the cashier. I felt impatient as the conversation went on and on. Then it hit me – he needed to connect with another human being and this cashier could quite possible be the only opportunity he had to do that.
We need to feel part of a community. Our brain health and overall well-being depend on it. Think about your social communities. How do they nurture and support you?
Happy 4th of July! I hope your holiday is fun and safe. It is hard to believe July is here already.
This month we focus on the mind and the critical importance of keeping it sharp. This is Step Three to Total Well-being. It seems that every health-oriented publication I read these days emphasizes the importance of exercising our mind to sharpen thinking and memory skills. No matter what our age, brain health impacts quality of life.
Our ancient yogi ancestors believed in stimulating and educating the mind to keep it healthy, and they did this through chanting. Before the printing press, books were scarce. The ancients transmitted information and knowledge through listening and memorizing chants. I have memorized several Sanskrit chants and, true confession, it is hard, especially when the instructor doesn’t give you the printed text. Thank goodness for the printing press.
As adults, it can be all too easy to stop learning and stimulating our brains. We all get so busy that it is easy to fall into regular routines and patterns just to get through the to-do list.
Fountain of Youth
Until recently, scientific theory held that brain function declined as we aged and that there was nothing to be done about it because the brain did not make new tissue. That theory has been exploded as the field of neuroplasticity debunks all the myths around aging brains.
It is now known that the brain can rewire itself in response to learning, changes in the environment and injury for our entire lives. How exciting!
Just as we have a lot to do with how our body ages, we have a lot to do with how our brain ages. As in so many things, the responsibility falls on us – use it or lose it.
Shake Things Up
This week’s picture is one I took from my cabin at the ranch where we stayed during my trip to Yellowstone. The expansiveness and openness remind me of the importance of staying open to new experiences, especially as I age. My brain needs the variety of being pulled out of its day to day routine if it is to be stimulated and create new brain cells.
Stimulating your brain cannot always involve travel to wonderful places. But, that’s okay because there are many ways to shake things up and change your routine from your home base. Here are a few no cost ideas each one of us can implement.
- Go a different route to work or to run errands
- Eat with your non-dominate hand
- Walk up and down stairs backward (Please be careful)
What are some of the things you do to shake things up and change your routine?
The field of brain science, neuroplasticity, is an exploding field and the potential for maintaining vibrant brains for our entire lives is exciting. We will continue exploring ways to enhance brain health over the next several weeks.
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