The call of your voice

Posted by on Sep 22, 2013 in Spirit, Uncategorized | 1 comment

Last night, a frenetic New York City showed me its softer side. After a couple of days of bobbing along in the frenzied swoop of Manhattan, I found myself surrounded by beautiful people and sounds in a serene mecca on the island’s Lower East Side.

Stanton Str Yoga

Stanton Street Yoga played host to Kirtan Soul Revival, or KSR. These vibrant ‘kirtaneers’ delivered a unique blend of traditional mantra based chanting and lively soul music, to an enthused ‘loved-up’ audience. For those not in the know – kirtan is a call-and-response form of singing performed in India’s bhakti devotional traditions, where chanting of mantras is accompanied by instruments such as the harmonium, tablas, pakawaj drum and karatalas or hand cymbals. It is basically pure love captured in sound.

Kirtan Soul Revival

Singing never played much of a role in my life until recently. I think failed childhood attempts at perfecting the art and reaching stardom left me somewhat dismayed. But through Kundalini yoga and things like kirtan I am slowly rediscovering the call of my own voice, as well as its metaphysical and healing power.

The fifth chakra, the throat chakra is vitally important. It acts as a conduit between the heart and head. If blocked, the head and heart remain energetically disconnected. Maintaining health in this area is not only vital for the physical throat and the enteric areas it controls, but for fluent, honest, verbal expression of thought, and a strong heart/mind connection. Singing is one of the most powerful means of opening this chakra. It relaxes and strengthens the throat and gradually releases blockages.

Kirtan provides a safe, loving environment to explore this relationship between your voice and wellbeing. And this most recent experience proved exactly that.

As the evening drew to a close, I was plucked from the cotton wool embrace of KSR’s soothing performance and deposited back onto the anarchic Saturday night streets of NYC. I made my way home filled with an overwhelming appreciation for an experience which came in stark response to my ponderings of just how New Yorkers find balance and healing in a city of unrelenting pace and stimuli.

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Mind-body Connection

Posted by on Sep 17, 2013 in Body, Mind, Uncategorized | 0 comments

If nothing else, what has truly marked a paradigm shift in our Aquarian age thinking is the realisation of the interconnectedness of our mind, body and spirit. Essentially, we are what we think, eat, drink, say, believe and breathe.

Love Yourself

mindfulness around all aspects of life creates a joyful and healthy state of being. Caroline Young from Builtlean.com has done some interesting research on the body-mind connection:

1. We all have the mind-body connection
Whether consciously aware or not, each of us experiences the mind-body connection everyday of our lives. Instead of thinking of the connection as something far out of reach, or something only obtainable through hours of yoga and meditation, remember it is always here. Mouth-watering over a delicious-looking dessert, or “butterflies” in the stomach before making a presentation are perfect examples of natural mind-body connections, which most of us have experienced at some point. Sometimes, the mind-body connection can produce negative outcomes, like failing to meet athletic, academic, or professional goals due to fear created by the mind.

2. Our bodies react to how we think
“All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts, we make the world.”
–Buddha

In other words, if we are constantly thinking negative, self-destructive thoughts, our bodies will follow suit. Emotional and mental imbalance can start as something like stress-induced headaches, tight shoulders, and a sore upper back, and lead to unhealthy weight gain or loss, insomnia, and high blood pressure. On the other hand, we can make a conscious effort to think more positively and to develop healthy coping mechanisms for life’s stress and trials. Over time, the state of our emotional and mental health can hurt or help the body’s immune system.

3. We can make ourselves sick and we can make ourselves well
Studies show our coping mechanisms and ways we handle stress directly correlate to how we deal with serious illnesses, including cancer. Chronic stress affects the body in a negative way, and over long periods of time, long-term stress can make us more susceptible to diabetes, hypertension, heart diseases, and some infections.
However, by using our innate mind-body connection in a positive way, by keeping our minds and bodies in shape with exercise and nutrition, we can keep stress levels lower. In other words, the better we are able to cope by staying calm and reducing psychological stress, we will in-turn reduce physical stress, along with the chance of developing a disease.

4. We also have a body-mind connection
If we pay attention, it is easy to see the impact the body has on our state of mind as well. For example, when women’s bodies are preparing for menstruation, it is the hormones inside the body causing all of the dreaded symptoms (cramps, bloating, fatigue, emotional imbalance, etc.). Another example of body-mind reactions is the flu. More than likely, a person starts to feel out of sorts mentally the day or a few days before the body exposes the sore throat, nasal congestion, and other common physical symptoms.
On the flip side, body-mind connection is incredibly positive, whether it is endorphins produced after exercise or stress relief during a massage. In the physical postures of yoga, it has been discovered certain poses produce certain mental states. Backbends, for example, usually stimulate the mind, while inversions usually bring on a quieter state. Exercise is a cheap way to boost our focus, moods, and overall health.

5. Food affects both our bodies & minds
It goes back to that old saying, “We are what we eat.” Every single morsel or liquid passing through our lips has some sort of effect on our brains. Our nutritional intake, every day, can have huge impacts –- both negative and positive — on how we feel, thanks mostly to the chemical serotonin. In a nutshell, when serotonin levels are high, we’re happier, and when they’re low, we become depressed.
Eating too many carbs and sugar can decrease sensitivity to serotonin, which leads to bad moods, and eventually obesity. To balance serotonin levels, eating protein can be the solution, especially before carb-intake. Instead of eating a sugary pick-me-up midday, go for a snack high in protein to keep the mood positive and energy up, avoiding a crash later.

6. Regular sleep is a must for mind and body
Aside from food and exercise, sleep also plays an enormous role in maintaining healthy serotonin levels, and keeping our minds and bodies happy with each other. Serotonin’s primary action in the body is to sedate, therefore, it is closely tied to how energy is — or is not — expended (i.e. exercise and sleep). Without sleep, our brains can be negatively affected, by messing with our brain’s response to serotonin. In other words, it is important to keep up a consistent sleeping pattern, in order to keep the mind and body healthy.

7. Meditation can help our hearts
According to the American Heart Association, medical evidence reveals a genuine reciprocal connection between the mind and body. Practices like meditation and other relaxation techniques have shown to alter not only mind-body, but also mind-heart connections. While there is a scarcity of studies directly addressing how mind-heart interventions can help patients with congestive heart failure, the AHA concluded meditation could help with anxiety and depression, which often coincide with serious illness.
Meditating for about 15 minutes daily can also help anyone who wants to stay centred and calm throughout the day. Exercises like meditation can help shift mental perceptions and reactions to situations. By becoming aware of tension and anxiety, and connecting to the breath, the mind will relax and the body will too. Even taking a few moments out of a stressful day to breathe quietly can have similar effects.

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