Restorative Yoga: Beyond Exercise
It's called restorative yoga. The goal is total relaxation: laying in a dimly lit room, listening to either silence or calming music (Enya is the obvious the go-to; and yes, she's still making music) with a blanket draped over you and firm pillows, called bolsters, to support your body. The restoration comes in the state of being just before falling asleep. Getting there is harder than it looks.
According to April Reiersen, a New York City-based family nurse practitioner with a holistic specialty and a 500-hour registered yoga teacher with training in restorative yoga, this practice facilitates a quality of physical and mental rest that promotes balance in the nervous system response.
"It's a recalibration of the body's physiological response to stress, away from reactive patterns that lead to chronic activation of the sympathetic nervous system-rapid heart rate, rapid breathing, tense muscles, and slow digestion," Reiersen says in an interview with The Daily Beast. "This 'fight or flight' response is key to human survival; however, when we remain in these states of chronic stress long-term, it is a setup for disease in the body," she adds.
The science behind mind-body medicine is rapidly growing. Reiersen cites rising consensus around the undeniable link between state of mind and health of the body. Studies in psychoneuroimmunology and psychoneuroendocrinology show improved immune responses and balanced hormones, respectively. She considers the art of relaxing as a form of preventative medicine.
"Chronic stress triggers inflammatory responses, and increased inflammation plays a central role in many diseases. Studies have shown that relaxation therapies promote a decrease in inflammatory signaling in stressful situations. When the body is allowed to rest we see a physiologic response that promotes the health and healing of the body," Reiersen explains.
In many ways, it's easier to exercise--the act of movement--than face the stressors of life head on through a more passive practice like restorative yoga. This may be because we never really learned how to handle stress without exercise. We never learned how to be ok with being still.
QUANTUM HEALTH TIP: The stress that can really damage health is the stress we have gotten used to. With mindful resting, one becomes aware of new places where stress has taken up residence in the body. Use our E-1 Formula (Stress Relief) to harmonize and balance body systems that are out of whack.
Joy Does Not Have to Be Intensity
We find what we look for. Neuroscience calls this phenomenon the brain's "confirmation bias". Your brain tends to see what it believes to be true and misses whatever doesn't confirm its hypothesis. If you don't think you experience much true happiness because you're holding an image that it should be a peak experience of ecstasy, you probably will keep confirming that belief.
However, if you see moments of "okayness"--moments where you're not suffering--as moments worthy of appreciation, you open the channel to true well-being. And the more you notice and take them in, the stronger that flow of true well-being naturally becomes--not through force but through wise attention. As neuroscience expert Rick Hanson says: "The brain is like Teflon for positive experiences and Velcro for negative ones."
When you let go of looking for ecstatic states, you can find joy in the most commonplace moments. Edith, a student in Germany, had somehow equated joy with intense positive experiences. But when she stopped looking for those and just opened up to a simple feeling of well-being she started to experience things very differently. She put it this way:
"I noticed how much joy there already is and how I had somehow looked for a kind of super-mundane, 'spiritual' joy, more profound and lasting than our ordinary joy, that I would only reach if I practiced hard and in the right way. By having this concept, and by looking for this other kind of joy, I had missed out on a lot of 'ordinary joy' moments. As I focused on them, appreciated them and felt them more fully, I was so happy and sometimes almost overwhelmed at all the joy and blessings in my life."
I remember many years ago hearing a wise teacher give instructions on the Buddhist heart practice called "loving-kindness" or metta meditation. He said that sometimes the word "loving-kindness" can seem so lofty and noble that we imagine it's beyond our reach. He suggested connecting with the simple feeling of "kindness" or "friendliness" towards oneself or others. That's so much more accessible and it will start the gentle flow of good-heartedness we're looking for.
In the Buddhist model of happiness, refined states of well-being are ultimately more sustainable and more satisfying. As wonderful as it is, rapture is considered a coarser level of happiness that, after a while, becomes jarringjangling to the system. Gladness, then happiness, followed by contentment are considered states that are much more developed and fulfilling. Ultimately, deep peace is the most satisfying state of all, and is said to be the precursor to true enlightenment.
QUANTUM HEALTH TIP: Appreciation and gladness for what we already have, and a sense of adventure about the future is the key for well-being of mind and body. Use our Meditation Elixirs (particularly Zen and Higher Guidance) to discover new pathways to joy.
Put Those Sounds Around you and Heal
Just tuning in to the latest hits can relax, inspire or motivate you, but there are so many other ways that sound has been used throughout history as a healing modality.
In the middle ages, sacred vibrations in the form of sound were employed as a form of prayer in the powerful Gregorian chants, named after Pope Gregory the Great. An ancient, six tone scale that may be traced to these medieval chants, called the Solfeggio frequencies, is believed to impart spiritual blessing and healing. The mathematical resonances of original Solfeggio frequencies were thought to be capable of elevating ones connection to the Spiritual Divine. Documented results include improved relationships, release from feelings of guilt and shame, and they may also play a role in restoring DNA.
Tibetan singing bowls, made from both crystal and brass and played with a wooden mallet, produce unique, subtle tones that are used to focus attention, reduce stress and improve health. Indigenous tribes have long employed sacred drumming in spiritual and healing ceremonies, and Australian aborigines use the didgeridoo to invoke the sacred and alter consciousness. A research study known as "The Mozart Effect" indicates that listening to this classical genius improves ones execution of certain mental tasks, including problem solving. Baroque classical music is thought to elevate ones mood and productivity.
Music has been compiled to enhance children's learning abilities, as well as to calm animals. The sound of waterfalls and chimes are often used as an environmental relaxer. Tuning forks can be used for Chakra energy balancing. Mantras are used in meditation to raise your vibration, center and balance your energy. "OM", the ancient Sanskrit seed mantra thought to contain all the power of the universe, was recorded by NASA, and interpreted by many, as a sound emanating from the Sun!
This is just a hint of the profound power therapeutic sound can have. Pay attention to the sounds that surround you and take notice of their effect.
QUANTUM HEALTH TIP: Create a clear, clean space with our Clean Sweep spray, then delve into some of these sources of sounds as a daily meditation.
Company & Product News
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Gem Elixir for the Month
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This Quantum Life
by Boyd Martin, President
Take a Moment
An article inspired me in this newsletter about joy not having to be an intense experience, and that cultivating an awareness of "okayness" is a valid path to well-being. In fact, unamplified states of gratitude and appreciation for the "little things" in life goes a long way to de-stressing the system, and allowing the body and mind to restore.
I think it is a part of the human condition to strive for intensity of feelings; a way of creating a narrative of grandness and transcendence that rises above the "normal", the "mundane" or "average". It is born out of a numbness to routine, and a sort of blanking out of the repetitive or regular, much like retinal fatigue or the numbness from rubbing an earlobe. Society's highest expectations and rewards are given to those living the most outrageous and intense lives, and we all have embraced this paradigm as a judgment on how we measure up. You know, the "star" factor.
Modern psychologists would chalk these attitudes up to bad mental health, and here's why: Most of what happens to us in our daily lives certainly is unremarkable, and yet we seem to measure our joy factor or happiness factor by how intense our perceptions are as we put a priority on extreme events.
We've all heard people say, "It was really dangerous, but I've never felt so alive." The reality of this is that if this danger you speak of that was making you feel so alive just kept going without respite, the stress of it would certainly kill you.
Another aspect to this is finding fault with experiences, judging them as "boring" or "monochromatic" or "disappointing" in some way. It's a mind set that has an expectation of intensity that sets a standard against which all experience must measure up. This is validated with TV dramas, big movie adventures, and sweeping novels--all stimulating our nervous systems and exacerbating our sense of the extreme. Our lives by comparison certainly become dull.
Everything Science tells us about the human mind-body system is that excitement, danger, peak experiences, are all stressful to the body; causing the restorative systems to shut down, the adrenaline flight or fight systems to ramp up, leading to cell damage and oxidative stress injuries. The life of the adrenaline junkie is certain to be shorter and less satisfying over the long term.
As an alternative approach, start to become aware of these conditions:
- At this moment, nothing hurts
- Right now, I am not upset, and I'm not suffering
- Nothing is actually bothering me at this moment
- I don't really need anything right now
- I'm fine with the way things are right now
- I'm grateful for just being able to be
- I appreciate everything around me at this moment
When you start breaking it down like this, it becomes apparent that what is really causing any of your well-being and any of your happiness is happening at every moment. Lifting all the judgments about how we're not living up some "superman" or "superwoman" intensity, allows us to become aware of and enjoy those small moments to ourself, and allows these moments to rise to equal priority with moments of intensity.
I'm not saying one shouldn't strive for something fantastic in their life, or plan big adventures. I'm saying that the time between the intensities of life is just as valuable, if not more so in terms of body repair and mental well-being. We tend to forget that this is important amidst all the bombardment of MMA fighting, 200 MPH car races, super-hero blockbusters, acid trips and rock star stadium concerts.
Just take a moment, to have a moment.
To your quantum health,