Mirror Mirror

When we look at ourselves in the mirror, we always look good, don’t we?
It’s just a way to speak. What I mean by that, is simply the fact that we feel relaxed and we can’t see our jaw tensed or our frowning or our wrinkling forehead. This happens when we are stressed, or anxious, or even simply concentrating (often looking at the computer screen.)

Yet, watching people in the street, especially after a certain age, we can read those signs of stress or anxiety on the faces. We can indeed watch those people having a neutral expression, yet the down-turned corners of their mouths give us the impression that they are feeling extremely unhappy. Or people constantly frowning and looking pretty anxious.

So how can we prevent those facial expression? I keep repeating “Relax your face” or “Relax your jaw” during a yoga class, but how can we do if we don’t really feel it?

1. Smile
It seems pretty basic and it works very well. When people smile, they engaged different muscles than the one used to frown or to clench their jaw and they immediately look more relaxed.

2. Facial exercices (in front of a mirror)
Some facial exercises really help to release facial tension especially into the jaw. I remember this yoga teacher in India doing those exercises and I was completely impressed. Here is funny video. Yet nothing is better as imitating Mr. Bean

3. Facial massage
Last week, I had an amazing back massage and I have the tendency to clench my jaw at night… going through a rather stressful period in my life. I simply said that to the woman taking care of me and she has helped to release a lot of tension by pressing on trigger points. I can only highly recommend it.

4. Cognitive therapy –  Mindfulness
Every time you feel anxious or stressed, pay attention to your face and where you concentrate your stress.

5. Medicine or herbal strategies.
Apart from drinking plenty of water, some herbs can help, namely the one helping to relax like Valerian.

All these helps us to release our facial muscles and increase our awareness. To prevent facial tension caused by stress or anxiety, I believe that it is important to recognize the cause of it. Deep breathing and Meditation as always help us to get rid of stress and prevent those symptoms.

 

Stop and Smile

Life is precious.
Every present moment is precious.
Let’s remember that always. And let’s Stop and Smile.
I am so grateful to my neighbors. We have not even met and I appreciate them already for putting this sign on their doors.

Indeed, since yesterday, I feel extremely tender and vulnerable, as a friend, Jeff Fisher, a positive spirit and generous soul, has passed away. Jeff was always encouraging and positive. I have never seen him without a smile on his face, sharing his experiences, always looking how he could serve others better. A true inspiration.
I admire and thank his wife, Ezgli, who organizes a life celebration in his honor tomorrow. What an amazing idea. I will definitely join in spirit.

Life is too short for drama or petty things, so laugh hard, love truly and forgive quickly.

Star Wars

Sometimes books fall into your hands and you are really meant to read them. This has just happened to me last week. Indeed, I was listening to a lovely Australian lady advising the person next to me about the very book I have in my hands. It is like “The Secret”, that you have probably heard about, except that this one is funny and gives simple experiments to verify the power of your beliefs, your thoughts. Ok ok, you already want to know the title: E-Squared from Pam Grout. I highly recommend it.

More importantly, as I was going through this book, I couldn’t help but copy the following sentences:
“God is more like the force in Star Wars, a presence that dwells within us, a principle by which we live. That’s why Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader have become such a phenomenon. Star Wars is a myth that speaks to us at a deep, gut level. Some part of us knows that “the force” is with us and that we, through our words, thoughts, and deeds, create the world.”

For those of you that have come to my yoga classes, you know that I sometimes welcome you to a “Star Wars class”. Indeed the deep breathing we do makes so much noise, especially at the beginning when we are learning. It could even make us think to Darth Vader, anyway I think of it particularly with my own breathing. Max Strom, from which I am largely inspired speaks more poetically of it as “Ocean breathing”… and the yoga jargon refers to it as “Ujjayi Breathing”. (Victorious breath in sanskrit)
However breathing that deeply is a fantastic remedy against stress, and more importantly it helps connecting to ourself. I really enjoy Pam Grout’s comparison with this life force, because that’s the exact reason of this breathing. We become so focused on our breath, we release so much tension that we connect again to the “force”.
I hope that you can either enjoy and read this book, or go to yoga class where you breath deeply and connect to this life force within, or even better do both. Whatever your choice is, I would love to know your opinion about it.

Community is everything

Community is everything. I truly believe that we connect and create communities among the people we know.

So how do we define a community? I mean how do we define a community on a relational point of view? Is it only about sharing or having certain attitudes and interests in common?According to McMillan and Chavis, the sense of community can be defined as “a feeling that members have of belonging, a feeling that members matter to one another and to the group, and a shared faith that members’ needs will be met through their commitment to be together.”

We somehow all create our own communities. They meet our basic human needs for
love and belonging, respect, structure, involvement and ultimately, meaning. Having had the chance to live in different countries, I have build what I have called “my tribes” in those different places. I am indeed always keen on connecting people and sharing moments or knowledge.
I want to keep on building a community wherever I live. Lately I have tried to gather all the wonderful persons I get to know, trying to link those persons and enlarge this community. I am convinced that it is an ongoing process based on:

  • Caring and supportive relationships
    Those relationships rely on the values of compassion, understanding and respect. They are grounded in attentive listening and trust.
  • Positive and high expectations
    This allows me to highlight strengths and assets as opposed to problems and deficits.
  • Opportunities for sharing and meaning
    A community is based on gathering people that share common interests, even passions like yoga. I know that I always create international gathering, sharing moments of I hope joy and laughter.

Where are your communities? Where do you belong? What do you get from it?

 

The Power of Words

It is interesting how synchronicity works. Today I have had a few interesting philosophic discussion with different people. We were developing our thoughts about life perception and, with our different backgrounds and experiences, we were agreeing on how important it is to look at things in a positive way. We all know that eventually all that we experiment is a way to teach us how to better interact with people and to learn more about ourselves. (Actually I feel I could sometimes benefit of a break from those learning experiences, don’t you? )

And I have just been remembered of the power of words as I have received the Goop update, that I encourage you to read as it expresses perfectly what I want to share with you. It is all about Dr. Emoto’s experiences of words and music over water. Yes our body is constituted of 70% of water in average, so words have a huge impact on us. So when we discuss about looking at things in a positive way, let’s start with expressing ourselves and communicating with positive words.

I let you enjoy this article!

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The Art to Disconnect

I am addicted, or at least I was.

Until that weekend where I decided to disconnect. Disconnect but from what? I had simply decided to shut down my computer for two single days – and actually my (smart)phone as well.

I was flabbergasted! Indeed, I have then realized that I was totally addicted: I missed checking my phone – messages, different social networks – as soon as I woke up and just before going to bed. And I have re-discovered how much more time I have on hand with none of those constant distractions. It is interesting to observe the possible negative impact of our interaction with the Internet and social medias in our life, on our well-being, and on our relationships with others.

Back at university, everyone started to get a cell phone, and as I was studying in Italy, it was said that some people even got a fake one, just to show how “in” they were. I remember that sunny day, where a group of friends and me were gathered at a beautiful terrace. We were all having an entertaining conversation (and nice drinks…) I felt happy and privileged to share this moment… until someone decided to send an SMS to a friend to join us, which seemed a good idea after all. That led all my friends around the table to do the same, one after the other. And I suddenly saw them all looking at their phones, escaping this moment. Watching that, I promised myself never to get a mobile phone. Obviously, despite my reluctance, a few years later, I had to adapt and I eventually got a smartphone! But am I becoming this this very person checking her phone despite nice social interactions? Hmmm, it seems so.

We are massively connected nowadays, yet virtually connected. I am always surprised at the number of messages, phone, email, Skype, What’s app, Facebook. Studies show that  our concentration span diminishes, and our feeling of loneliness increases.

Should we then completely disconnect and unplug all our devices? I don’t believe so, yet I believe that we can use technology in a wiser way that serve us, instead of “slaving” us. Here is an article of the benefits of technology http://www.trendhunter.com/course/technology-keynotes

So this weekend, let’s get off the phone. Still looking forward to meeting you so we can watch our phones together. Kidding, simply looking forward to sharing, enjoying and living every single moment at the fullest.

Love is all we need

“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself you have built against it.” —Rumi

This is the quote of today’s meditation, from the 21-Day Meditation Experience with Oprah Winfrey and Deepak Chopra. By the way, I can only recommend this “Finding Your Flow” meditation experience.

“Et voilà”, today I have kept playing the song of the beatles in my head: All you need is love

And it is true, what is more important in our lives than love. All we need is LOVE. However it starts with SELF-LOVE. Too often, it seems that we seek love from an external source, from a partner, our family, our friends – what I would call our extended family. In order to love someone, we must love ourself first.

Yes but how do we love ourselves? When we love someone, a large part of it is accepting the person “as is”. It is the same with ourselves. This week, I have been told that we are loved for who we are, not for what we do. It sounds so simple, yet it was really liberating for me as I have this tendency to define myself by what I do or what I have done. To come back to this quote from Rumi, it has helped me to find one of the barriers within me.

So a few tips to loving ourselves would be to:

  1. Accept ourselves the way we are right now.
  2. Celebrate our accomplishments…  and also our progresses toward them.
    Sometimes we set high goals and we are moving toward them. We are human and far from being perfect, so let’s celebrate our steps toward our achievements. It also means letting go of the things we have not done yet.
  3. Set healthy boundaries by practicing saying “no”.
    It is okay to say “no” to people when we do not feel like doing something. We have the right to do so and should not feel guilty. We cannot please everyone.
  4. Nurture ourselves.
    We need to set up some time to be by ourselves, just by ourselves. This weekend has been just about it, spending time to nurture myself, it is after all about self care.
  5. Forgive
    This is so important. It starts with forgiving others and letting go of the past. Even more importantly it is about forgiving ourselves, for what we should have done or not done: it is sometimes the most difficult thing to do.

Let’s spread the love…

Is Sugar that bad for us?

During this Easter weekend, it is all about chocolate, bunnies and so forth… It seems so normal to indulge into sweets over the coming days. Actually, I am not so sure about it anymore. Indeed, since last August I have quitted refined sugar. I am realizing that it is almost nine months ago! I confess that at the beginning, I found it extremely difficult, especially the first three days when I went cold turkey. I felt exhausted, had headaches, and was wondering what was happening to me… I was addicted to sugar and sugar was a way to respond to my emotions.

I am very thankful to the friend who has inspired me. She had indeed read a book called Sweet Poison and had explained to me how glucose is good and can be used by every cells in the body, while fructose can be damaging. Fructose? The sugar that we find in fruits, not good for us? I could hardly believe it. Actually in a fruit, where fructose is associated with fiber, it is healthy, while in fruit juices or in a refined sugar, it goes directly to the liver and is transformed into fat. I love this video, which explains it in a funny way: That sugar film teaser but if you prefer there are many articles including this one from Harvard Health publications.

Now, this coming weekend is traditionally all about Chocolate and we should never be too strict, so I might and will most probably indulge in some chocolate and I wish you the same. Happy Easter!

Inspiration – Conscious Breathing

“Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky. Conscious breathing is my anchor.”
- Thich Nhat Hanh

Last weekend, I had the chance to attend a workshop with Max Strom. This was fantastic for me, as those of you who have come to my classes know how much I am inspired by his teachings, especially the breathing techniques. This time, I felt very privileged as I have assisted him and could observe the students in the room. Throughout the weekend I could watch the faces becoming more relaxed, the people becoming kinder to each other and this simply with a few yoga classes and conscious breathing. I am feeling so grateful and now empowered to teach those breathing techniques even more.

How many of us could benefit for taking a deep breath during the day when we are feeling stressed or overwhelmed by a situation. Do you sometimes realize in a tensed situation how your breath becomes shallow and sporadic? Yet how many of us take that deep breath? Breathing deeply and consciously helps us to feel more present and anchored.

The “Ujjayi breath” or “ocean breath” is a simple and effective technique to warm up the body and calm the mind. Ujjayi comes from the Sanskrit and means victorious. We simply fill in the lungs deeply and contract the back of the throat, while making a Ahhhh sound. Does simple mean easy? Not always! And yet Max Strom has succeeded in teaching all the students how to do it. Last weekend, I closed my eyes, listening to them breathing deeply and consciously and I could imagine myself on a beach hearing the ocean. Using this technique during the entire yoga practice is powerful, as it really helps to focus and be present.

This is one of the breathing technique that we can use throughout our entire yoga posture practice. I am looking forward to sharing this with you.