Using Mindfulness to Create the Habits You Desire

Right about now is the time when most of us (myself included) start to fall off the New Year’s Resolution wagon:( I’ve found mindfulness to be an awesome tool to help me climb back on for the long haul.

Mindfulness in its most simplistic essence is defined as a process and state of continually coming back to the present moment with non-judgmental awareness. The practice of mindfulness teaches us tools to bare witness to our thoughts, feelings, actions and reactions, and see them as a passing waves in the ocean of our lives; rather than ways of being that define us or are permanent.

So how can mindfulness help us create the habits we want and let go of the habits we don’t? The first thing is that mindfulness teaches us tools to tune-in to what is happening in the present moment with deeper attention; helping us catch ourselves when we fall into mindless behaviors (like going for that extra piece of chocolate, potato chip or glass of wine).

We learn to turn toward these behaviors with compassion and dive into the feelings and thoughts that may have triggered our mindless behaviors or old patterns. Rather than engaging in self-flogging for having fallen off the wagon, we learn to embrace these moments of imperfection as opportunities to learn more about ourselves. To dust ourselves off and hop back on the wagon with greater conviction to make the changes we desire, a deeper understanding of ourselves and patters, and most important, a lighter heart.

We also learn tools to help us reinforce the changes we want to make by paying greater attention to the baby steps along the way and progress we make towards our goals. We learn to use our breath and body sensations to tune-in to how great we feel when we are consistent with the exercise regime we have followed for a whole week – or even 10 minutes! This helps to build new neural pathways in our brain to connect the thought and action of doing these activities with positive feelings so that eventually the desire to engage in these new behaviors is transferred to the automatic part of our brains and the battle of finding the will, time, energy to get to the gym is partially won.

So to help you on your journey toward using mindfulness to create the habits you deeply desire, here are a few tips:

  1. Get clear with yourself about the real reason why you want to create the new habit or let go of the old one. Visualize yourself having been successful for a whole month. How does it feel in your body when you imagine this state of being? Do this everyday, first thing in the morning, for at least 30 days.
  1. When you fall off the wagon, rather than letting your inner critic take over, let your inner best friend take the lead. Remind yourself of the progress you have made, that you are in fact doing the best you can. Ask yourself why you may have been triggered into the old habit or away from the new habit. Remind yourself that this is the normal process of learning something new and remind yourself of why you want to make the change and how great it feels in your body when you do.
  1. Celebrate your successes along the way. Identify some specific ways you can reward yourself for milestones achieved and take the time to share these moments of success with the people you love. In the wise words of one of my mindfulness mentors, Thich Nhat Hanh “ Every time you recognize a moment of happiness, happiness comes.”

Namaste,

Sari LaBelle MA (HSI), CYT, n.d.

Curious about for learning more about mindfulness or shaping your future creatively, join Sari for two of her upcoming workshops: The Magic of Mindfulness and Flow into Your Heart’s Desires Vision Collage and Yoga Retreat.

The Power of Intentions & Affirmations

A powerful tool for our yoga practice and our daily life is intention. Intention is a course of action that one intends to follow, an aim that guides action. As we begin our yoga practice setting an intention can be a great guiding force of how we will practice on that specific day and how we will approach the rest of our day off the mat.

An intention is your true self`s desire to come into balance. When we quiet the mind and tune into our inner knowing our intention will surface. You can set your intention in many ways. An intention is in the present moment – what would help you cultivate more balance in this moment? An intention can be a word, a prayer, an affirmation, a quote, etc.

A simple way to set your intention at the beginning of your yoga practice or day:

  • Sit on a chair with both feet on the ground or on your mat in a simple cross leg position with a straight spine, hands resting on your lap.
  • Bring your attention to your breath, inhaling and exhaling deeply through the nose, eyes closed or open with a sliver of light coming in.
  • Feel your muscles relaxing with every passing breath, feel your attention moving away from thoughts into your body.
  • Bring your hands in front of your chest, press your palms together, thumbs press against the chest.
  • Continue to breathe and ask yourself what is your intention? What would bring me the most balance at this moment?

As you do this it might be a word that comes up; compassion, relax, self-love. Whatever arises is perfect.

Turning your intention into an affirmation:

We can then use our intention as an affirmation in our yoga practice or day. For example: if the words that came up during your intention setting were compassion, self-love then perhaps the affirmation becomes:

-I love myself fully and have compassion for myself.

During your practice you can take moments to come back to your affirmation and notice what you need to continue doing or change in the way you are practicing to embody this intention. Perhaps you notice you are judging yourself in a certain pose and it`s making you become frustrated. You can then come back to your intention of loving yourself unconditionally and having compassion, when you reiterate this intention then you can let go of the judgement to maintain your equanimity. Continue to repeat the process throughout your practice and your day.

You are creating a new habit of embodying this intention and affirmation, the more you practice it and create this neural groove of compassion and self-love, the easier it will be to make this become your habitual way of approaching yourself in your life on and off the mat.

Sat Nam,

Jacynte Léger, CYA-E-RYT500

Jacynte is a Kundalini, Yin and Restorative Yoga trained teacher specializing in the therapeutic application of yoga at Shanti Yogi.

Yoga to the rescue!

Every now and then we all need to be reminded of the reasons why we continue to make the time and space for yoga in our over scheduled, hectic lives. Luckily, with the increased research into the health benefits and therapeutic applications of yoga, the reasons to return to our mats have never been so widely reported by mainstream media and supported by the medical community.

Research into the science of yoga has shown that moving our bodies mindfully in and out of the physical postures we call asana, in synch with our breath, puts healthy stress on our joints warding off osteoperosis, improving flexibility and strengthening and toning the nervous system. We have also learned that yoga provides a pumping action of lymphatic fluid and blood throughout the entire body, improving detoxification and immune system functioning.

The practice of yoga has been demonstrated to help in the treating of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, migraine headaches, asthma, chronic back pain, arthritis, constipation, diabetes, menopause, multiple sclerosis, varicose veins, the management of chronic pain as a result of disease and injury, and the ease of menstruation and child birth. A recent study has even demonstrated that a regular yoga practice can help slow the deteoriation of telomeres, which are the end caps of our chromosones who’s slow deteoriation is associated with the aging process. So yes, there is now scientific proof that yoga helps us age more slowly! And if you want proof of that, take a look at this 3 minute video about a 96 year-old yoga teacher living in New York who is clearly defying the aging process!

But beyond the myriad of physical benefits that the practice of yoga has been shown to induce, we don’t often discuss why and how yoga helps us mentally and emotionally. In yogasana we learn to channel our breath and mind in a more conscious direction.   We teach the mind to not waste energy on thoughts that don’t pertain to the present moment. We learn to breathe more consciously and move more consciously – not just on the mat but off the mat too. The training in focus helps us perform tasks with more clarity and purpose.

We learn to relax with increasing ease in both movement and stillness; which helps us tap into a sense of inner peace that exists within us all even during times of intense stress, conflict and tragedy. We become more connected to the wisdom of our emotions and felt sense, and learn to use this guidance system to connect more deeply with the hidden aspects of ourselves, with the people in our lives, and with the roles, responsibilities, and tasks we undertake.

We learn to pay attention to and accept our changing mental, emotional, physical and spiritual states and approach these elements of ourselves with increased curiosity, compassion and honesty. And finally we learn to tap into a deep well of love that connects us all and by staying tuned into this love, experience ways of interacting with the world with greater authenticity, empathy, trust and integrity. Looking forward to seeing you all at Shanti sometime soon.

Namaste, Sari LaBelle MA (HSI), CYT, nd