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Daunted by Meditation? Try Eating a Raisin!

by Deborah Metzger

If the thought of meditation conjures up sitting in a lotus position for hours or chanting something unintelligible with knees screaming and legs falling asleep, let’s dispel that myth right now!

The fact is that most of us cannot sit still for even a nanosecond without time traveling in our minds – concerns about the future, or lingering thoughts about the past or that itch that comes up within seconds that just won’t quit….so, let go of any notion that you ‘can’t” meditate.

One technique that we teach at the Princeton Center for Yoga & Health (PCYH) is Mindfulness Meditation, which is really about training the mind to focus so that we can live our lives more fully. It’s about doing things and noticing that you’re doing them.

Mindfulness practices aid us in stopping and focusing our minds. Mindfulness helps you turn down all the noise in your head- the guilt, anger, doubts, and uncertainties that upset us moment to moment. It is a technique that encourages you to stop and smell the roses. Developing our ability to stop helps us reduce the amount of stress in our lives and be more available to the present moment – an opportunity to see reality as it is and to experience life in its fullness.

Though it sounds simple, mindfulness takes practice, and the longer you practice, the easier the process becomes.

We typically begin our Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) and Mindfulness Based Habit Change (MBHC) programs at (PCYH) with a raisin eating exercise. It’s an easy introduction to the practice.

Try it now!

Take a raisin (yes, just one!) and hold it in the palm of your hand or between your finger and thumb. Imagine that you have just dropped in from Mars and have never seen an object like this.

Look at this raisin. Let your eyes explore every part of it, examine the highlights where the light shines, the darker crevasses, the folds and ridges, and any unique features.

Feel the weight of it. Turn the raisin over between your fingers. Notice its texture, its ‘topography’. Hold the raisin to your ear. Squish it a bit. Does it make a sound?

Hold the raisin beneath your nose, with each inhalation drink in any smell, aroma, or fragrance that may arise, noticing as you do this if there is anything interesting happening in your mouth or stomach.

With awareness, slowly bring the raisin up to your lips, noticing how your hand and arm know exactly how and where to position it, perhaps noticing that saliva starts to get secreted just as you bring the object towards your mouth. Gently place the object in the mouth, without chewing, noticing how it gets into the mouth in the first place. Spend a few moments exploring the sensations of having it in your mouth, exploring it with your tongue.

When you are ready, prepare to chew the raisin. Then, very consciously, take one or two bites into it and notice what happens in the aftermath, experiencing any waves of taste that emanate from it as you continue chewing. Resist the urge to swallow it. Notice the sensations of taste and texture in the mouth and how these change over time, as well as any changes in the object itself.

When you feel ready to swallow the raisin, see if you can first detect the intention to swallow as it comes up, so that even this is experienced consciously before you actually swallow the raisin.

Finally, swallow the raisin – see if you can feel the raisin going down towards your stomach and even entering your stomach. Perhaps noticing what it feels like to be one raisin heavier.

Sense how the body as a whole is feeling after completing this exercise in mindful eating. Notice your thoughts.

Notice that there is nothing magical about mindfulness. Most of us do a lot of different things when we’re eating—read, talk, watch television. Notice how slowing it down and really tasting your food helps bring you into the present moment and can really change the nature of your experience.

Often, when we do one task, we are already thinking about the next task.

So, relax, slow down. Stop and smell the roses – or taste a raisin!

About Deborah Metzger
Founder and director of the Princeton Center for Yoga & Health, Deborah Metzger, is a certified 500 Hour Professional Level Kripalu Yoga teacher and certified Dharmic Yoga Teacher and Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapist, 500 Hour Registered Yoga Teacher with the Yoga Alliance, and a Body-Centered Therapist trained in the Hakomi Method and Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy. She is a graduate of the 2 year comprehensive Hakomi training and has taken advanced Hakomi training modules. Deborah is a licensed social worker and holds an MSW from the University of Pennsylvania. She completed the Yoga of the Heart: Cardiac and Cancer Certification Training, and additional courses in Structural Yoga Therapy and Reiki, trained with Jon Kabat-Zinn and Saki Santorelli and completed the Practicum in Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction Program at UMass Medical Center.

Perinkulam Ramanatha (Rama): Yoga is Life. Life is Yoga.

Yoga has been a integral part of Rama Ramanathan’s life since his late teens. He truly lives and breaths yoga and he loves sharing his deep knowledge in his classes.

Who should come to my yoga class? 

Anyone wishing to meet the goals they have set for themselves; it could be “discovering one’s true potential,”  overcoming stress in life; how to face life’s challenges; how to attain calmness,  to improve one’s physical and mental health; or to discover the true purpose of yoga, and so on.

My classes are suitable for all ages and levels.

As a big picture, what do I hope to teach my students?

That the application of yoga is universal.   Yoga empowers one to reach asana siddhi (mastery of postures) and thereby facilitates body stillness thus aiding meditation.  Yoga takes one beyond the physical into the subtle and spiritual.  It is a path to freedom from misery.  Yoga is far beyond any dogma or doctrine.  It is the perfect system of self-development.  Yoga can be as gentle as you want it to be. It is not the performance of magical feats.  Neither is yoga a religious cult.  Ultimately, yoga is founded on true science.  Truly yoga is the experience of oneness with the true Reality.

What inspired me to become a yoga teacher?

I became passionate about yoga ever since my uncle taught me when I was 16 years of age.  After spending a few years practicing yoga, I found it invigorating and I thought by becoming a yoga teacher I will also help others and at the same time understand the deeper aspects of yoga.

What do I enjoy most about teaching yoga?

When I find that a student by attending regularly has improved considerably in his practice as well as in his demeanor and well being, it is a great satisfaction.  A few students who learned under me have become yoga teachers and are contributing to society.

What are my greatest influences?

I received a letter from Swami Sivananda when I was 16 years of age and in it he accepted me as his disciple.  Then later on I was able to meet his senior disciple and Guru Swami Vishnu Devananda who founded the Sivananda Yoga in North America.  I also had the opportunity to study under great masters of yoga who include the late 125 year old Swami Bua and  Srivatsa Ramaswami, who spent 33 years studying under Guru T. Krishnamacharya.

What is my favorite yoga pose and why?

Sirsasana –  This is the king of all yoga poses with a great deal of benefits. My teacher Srivatsa Ramaswami, and many other yogis, say that gravity and increased blood flow to the head benefit the brain, aiding memory and increasing the intellect. The pose is also meant to slow the breathing, giving a sedative effect that might cure insomnia. Famed yogi BKS Iyengar claims headstand can ease tonsillitis, bad breath and constipation.

Come and meet Rama at his weekly classes:

Mondays
10:00 am – 11:15 am Yoga for Complete Health & Peace
11:00 am – 11:45 am Beyond Asana: Pranayama and Meditation
Sign up here

The Non-Yogi view of Yoga: So far and yet so close

by Franziska Raeber

Tuesday is my yoga class day. My time out. Just me and my yoga mat and, well, a bunch of other people doing yoga in a room. An all level class, so you have the ones that go into a head stand as their ‘relaxing’ pose and the commoners like me, that just want to flop on the back and rest. Finally we all have worked through our ‘standing ovation’ poses and are down to floor work. Forward bends… who doesn’t like those, right? Well, there is always that one pose where we have our legs straight out and lean over our legs to reach for your feet and rest your head on our legs. All level means that some can reach waaaaaaaaaaaay beyond those toes. And others like me, have tremendously long legs and our arms seem T-Rex sized and resting the head on our legs is just wishful thinking. So what do you do, lift your head. Sure enough you hear that voice of your former yoga teacher Deborah in your head: “Don’t look up, don’t check on what others are doing. That will just destroy your ‘contentment’.” So you lower your head and reach for those toes. Little by little, breath by breath you can relax. Yes, I was able to hold on to my feet and what was far at the beginning felt closer the more I let go.

So here I am today: In desperate need of that box of pasta on the very top shelf in my cupboard. So far up. On my toes, arms up and I reach… still too far… inhale, exhale and I get closer I can touch it! YES! I can do this. Breath by breath, I inched closer to that box of pasta. Finally I was able to grab it! Yes, I made it! Applied Yoga 101! So cool! That very moment my son looks up from his book and says: “Mom, you should just have used the step stool.”

Conclusion: Sometimes it is hard, but trying can be worth it and sometimes you might just get the stool.

 

 

Franziska Raeber took her first yoga class in 2005 and soon join the team of Princeton Yoga as SEVA. When she moved to Florida in 2010 she couldn’t quite let go of Princeton Yoga and is now manager for all things marketing and business. Next to working and being a busy mom of three, she enjoys photography, yoga, gardening, cooking and being involved in the community.

Viki DeSalvo: Teaching with intention, purpose and prayer into movement and breath

Viki expresses the intention of yogic philosophy with the art of creative movement in her classes. She has studied Thai Massage and threads elements of hands on assists and anatomical adjustments while she teaches.

Who should come to your yoga class?

Anyone with a body and a brain. People of all shapes, sizes and experience are welcome. Whether an advanced practitioner or brand new to yoga, you will find something you can take away from the class.

What are you focusing on right now in your practice?

My focus is ever changing and transforming, the season, the weather, the energy of the students all impact a practice. In general, I have come to find intentional, controlled movement is most beneficial. Combining elements of slow moving, strengthening postures with fluid transitions.

As a big picture what do you hope to teach your students?

That when we focus and still the waves of the mind, we can see our perfectly divine nature more clearly.

What inspired you to become a yoga teacher?

I knew I wanted to live in service to others but was in a job that was making me unhappy. During that time, I started going to yoga regularly and fell in love. It was an escape from my reality, from my lack of direction in my life. It sparked something in me that gave me purpose. I jumped right into a teacher training and the moment I embarked on that journey in 2012, I knew that I had found my dharma (life’s work). Even in the moments when my ego crept in and I doubted myself or the path I had chosen, there was something that remained stable and unshaken. The more I rested in the deep knowing that I was living my life authentically, the more confident I felt in myself as an individual and as a teacher.

What do you enjoy most about teaching?

I enjoy connecting with people and witnessing the evolution of them connecting with themselves. I like knowing that yoga and bodywork have the power to alleviate people’s suffering, whether it be mental, emotional or physical. Being able to facilitate a sense of relief in the body and mind is the greatest gift.

Who are your greatest influences?

My parents who both dedicate their lives to serving others. Children have also impacted my life greatly, their innocence and bright perspective on life inspires me to celebrate simple joys.

Come and meet Viki at her weekly classes:

Fridays, 9:30 to 11:00 am Hatha (Moderate)
Fridays, 12:00 to 1:00 pm $5 Hatha (Moderate)
Sign up here

Thai Yoga Massage Privates with Viki

By appointment

Thai Yoga Bodywork is an ancient healing modality where the receiver has the opportunity to surrender as the practitioner actively stretches and mobilizes them through assisted and supported yoga-like postures. There are elements of traction, energy work, accupressure, compression and deep breathing. The practitioner uses their own body weight and leverage to create pressure and effectively support the receiver in deep muscular release. This practice is ideal for anyone who is looking for increased range of motion, enhanced flexibility and it is beneficial and gentle enough for someone with tightness, previous injury and physical limitation. Thai Yoga is done on a futon on the floor, the receiver must wear loose fitting, comfortable clothes. Come prepared and ready to relax and reconnect.

Please call (609.439.8390) or email Viki to schedule an appointment

 

 

New Year’s Resolutions are you in or out?

Resolutions Humans have been making – and breaking – New Year’s Resolutions for thousands of years. Improvements in health are perennial favorites: losing weight, quitting smoking, exercising more, and taking time for relaxation, are likely to top many people’s lists.

Unfortunately, research and surveys show that a small minority of resolutions last even one month. According to Deborah Metzger, Director of the Princeton Center for Yoga & Health, the problem is not in the resolutions themselves, but in our mindsets as we make them.

Metzger explained that – from a yogic lens, most people make three serious errors as they set their resolutions. First, they judge themselves harshly. This leads to the second error, choosing unattainable goals. They magnify the gap between where they are and where they want to be. That causes the third error, thinking that the only way they can climb such a tall mountain is by beating themselves up until they reach the top.

So inspired by this understanding regarding the challenges associated with resolutions, fail we came up with a list of 31 items to inspire you a or to simply explore a new perspectives. Call it a trail of resolutions. Make some choices and see what happens!

Follow us on Facebook for your daily ‘Resolution Inspiration’ all they way to the end of January! Or read them all here.

  1. Start Somewhere

The New Year stands before us like a fresh chapter in a book. What will you write for the next chapter of your life? It’s entirely up to you.

Thought about starting a list of resolutions? Why not? Not all at once, but one at a time. Follow us for the next 31 days as we give you some inspiration on how you can fill the 2018 chapter with new, old, simple, complicated, easy, hard resolutions to make 2018 a special one.

So let’s start somewhere. Right here. Right now. Nowhere else just here. So for today set the intention to start somewhere. Just the set the intention!

  1. Say Your Oms.

Say OOOOOOOOOOOO MMMMMMMMMMMM and feel the vibrations. Close your eyes and say it again. OOOOOOOOOOO MMMMMMMMM. Guess what you just did a quick meditation.

Taking up meditation will help you to reduce stress, lower your blood pressure, strengthen your immune system, and even improve your ability to concentrate.

Need a place to start or want to learn more?  Check out our Mindfulness-Based Programs at Princeton Center for Yoga and Health:

https://princetonyoga.com/mindfulness/

  1. Learn something new

What have you always wanted to learn to do? Do you want to learn to play an instrument, code, knit, whittle? The possibilities are endless. Take advantage of all of the information that exists out there on how to learn new skills. Get inspired to try something new.

Applied to yoga this can be as simple as choosing a yoga pose or better yet, choose that practice and resolve to approach it with ‘beginners’ mind’. Talk to your yoga teacher and ask her/him to give you tips and options to move toward your goal.

  1. Take one deep breath

A breathing exercise for calming both the nervous system and the overworked mind is a timed breath where the exhale is longer than the inhale – so that your exhale is even a few counts longer than your inhale.

Start with 2 counts in, and 4 counts out, with a one count pause at the top of the inhale and a one count pause at the bottom of the exhale.

Try it! Right now, before a speech, entering a meeting, at a traffic light or as a calming exercise after work, see what happens. Just one deliberate breath!

  1. Laugh

Laughter is great medicine. It helps you reduce stress, lower blood pressure, even boost your antibodies. It can be a workout. Can’t make it to the gym? Try watching/reading something funny and just laugh. And finally who can resist a good laugh and who doesn’t like to see someone laughing?

  1. Play a game

Play is an important source of relaxation and stimulation for kids AND adults. In addition, it can make you more creative and productive. Bring more play into your life and discover your playful and maybe your competitive side! So bring out a board game and find a friend to play with.

  1. Pick Up a Hobby.

Did you know that having a hobby is good for you? Hobbies can lower your stress levels, boost your brain power, improve your ability to focus, and more.

How about Yoga? Need a place to start! Check out our schedule – or not sure where to start, contact us!

  1. Make a healthy choice

Pick the apple instead of the chips. . Park the car further away and walk. Take the bike or stairs.  Try it once a day. One conscious healthy choice a day, worth a try, right?.

  1. Move More

It doesn’t matter what you choose to do: join a sports team; get a pedometer and take at least 10,000 steps a day; get up every 20 minutes and stretch; or join a dance class, start a yoga practice. Just move!

Think of the following quote from the movie “Madagascar“: “Move it nice and sweet and sassy, alright!”

  1. Read

One of the benefits of reading is that it’s one of the activities that produces the state of flow. When you’re fully engrossed in a book, all of your attention is placed on its pages. This means that there’s no attention left over to listen to the little voice in your head, which is absolutely blissful.

Psychologists believe this is because the distraction of being taken into a book’s world eases the tension in muscles and the heart. Cognitive neuropsychologist Dr. David Lewis, who conducted the research, said: “Losing yourself in a book is the ultimate relaxation.”

Reading is a lot more than just a pleasant pastime. Reading sharpens comprehension, teaches your mind to focus, and improves your vocabulary. It also boosts your brain power: just like jogging gives your body a workout, reading gives your brain workout.

Furthermore, studies show that reading can reduce stress by 69%. Since reading also helps you sleep better, a good time to practice this hobby is right before bedtime.

Check out your local library. Many now have online books so there is always a great book just a couple clicks away.

  1. Be Grateful.

Did you know that studies have shown that gratitude can make you 25% happier? Being grateful will also help you to overcome adversity, improve the quality of your sleep, and allow you to get along better with others. For next year, resolve to be more grateful. Try once a day to pick something for which you are grateful. Write it down, take a picture… so by the end of the year you can revisit and you might realize that often the smallest things/actions have the greatest impact.

  1. Do it now.

What is it? This only something you will know. But here is a clue: it is what you keep putting off till tomorrow, or next week, or next year…. Just do it now.

  1. Call someone and just say hi!

With all the many ways we can connect with someone, we often don’t just call and say hi. So why not do it today. Pick someone whose voice you would like to hear and just say hi and that you are thinking of them.

  1. Spend More Time In Nature.

Humans were not made to be cooped up inside all day. Spending time in nature makes you happier, it boosts your immune system, and it even makes you more creative. Instead of eating your lunch at the desk choose to go outside and sit on a bench. Take a walk and listen. 15 minutes stroll through a forest can be your meditation. Skip the tread mill and go for a run in your local park.

  1. Don’t rush

There are days you might feel that you are always behind and are playing catch up. Let this not be one of them. Try deliberately to not over schedule yourself. Leave 5 minutes before you intended to go. Not rushing, means you are less stressed and maybe even have time for more than just a “hi”.

  1. Enjoy the Little Things.

Living life to the fullest doesn’t just mean setting big goals like going bungee jumping or learning to scuba dive. It also includes learning to enjoy the little things. That is, learning to appreciate life’s simple pleasures, such as the following:

  • Going outside at night to look at the stars.
  • Going to a pet shop to “ooh” and “aah” at the puppies and kittens.
  • Walking barefoot in the grass.
  1. Bring More Peace Into Your Life.

Who couldn’t use some more peace in their life? Mainly inner peace and serenity is what we all need and desire. Aim to bring more peace into your life by accepting what is, practicing non-judgement, and teaching your mind to become still. Set this intention for today.

Sounds too ambitious? Need some more guidance on how? Check out Princeton Yoga’s Mindfulness-Based Programs:

https://princetonyoga.com/mindfulness/

  1. Be Kinder to Yourself.

You may not be able to control how kind other people are to you, but you can always control how kind you are to yourself. Give yourself some credit. Believe in yourself. And treat yourself with respect and be kind to yourself. All too often we are ours own worst critics. Time to appreciate yourself!

  1. Be positive.

Having a positive attitude opens your mind to new possibilities, it makes you more resilient, and it can even help you to live longer. Take a moment to consciously greet this day with smile and resolve to stay positive, no matter what happens.

 

  1. Tell joke

Remember a few good jokes. Everyone loves to laugh. Having a few good jokes up your sleeve can help break the ice when you meet new people.

Need some inspiration? Look up online or here some of our favorite yoga jokes (yes yogis can tell jokes too):

Q: Why didn’t the yogi buy the vacuum cleaner?
A: It came with too many attachments!

Q: What do Yoga meditation and an apple peeler have in common?
A: They both take you to the core.

Q: What do Yoga meditation and a fudge cake have in common?
A: They each bring you a piece or peace of heaven.

In yoga, it’s just one thing after another — breath, breath, breath

  1. Tame Your Monkey Mind

Life isn’t easy when there’s a monkey in your head. Especially if that monkey won’t stop screeching and jumping uncontrollably from one branch to another. Taming your monkey mind is to know that it is possible to do so. Your thoughts don’t rule you. You don’t have to believe them or react to them. Acknowledge the thoughts, but don’t let them become loud or wander into ‘bad neighborhoods’.

Yoga and Mindfulness are great practices to learn to tame you monkey mind.

  1. Keep a Journal

Journaling is a powerful life tool. It can help you to organize your thoughts, plan how to achieve your goals, and get in touch with your true feelings and wants – or simply see and affirm the progress you’ve made. While handwriting your journal can also serve as a meditation practice, with today’s technology a journal can take on different forms. For example take a picture every day that represents that day, in form of an activity, a dream, goal, or feeling.

  1. Put yourself in a timeout

Today, set aside 30 minutes of nothing. Turn off the phone, the TV, the computer. Lock your door, and go to a quiet place and just be. Don’t try to meditate, but just sit and see what kind of thoughts come to your mind, don’t judge, just sit, be in a timeout. You might be surprised where your thoughts wander, what ideas come to your mind.

  1. Go on a journey.

Plan a vacation, trip, retreat. Plan to see something close by that you haven’t seen before (example: that park that you pass every day on your commute). Visit a country/place you’ve always wanted to see. Plan a time away to learn a new skill, be adventurous or just relax.

Volunteering can give you a sense of purpose, increase your self-esteem, and make you happier. Once or regularly, contact a local organization and see how you can help.

  1. Grow Something. 

Gardening is a surprisingly beneficial hobby. There’s the obvious benefit of growing your own fruits and vegetables, as well as pretty flowers, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. It also does all of the following for you:

  • It reduces your levels of cortisol, which is the stress hormone.
  • Nurturing a plant from seed to fruit-bearing reinforces your ability to cause positive change in the world.
  • Studies show that gardening reduces incidence of dementia by 36%.
  • Gardening allows you to be outside and you can reconnect with nature.
  1. Cook

Reacquaint Yourself With Your Kitchen. Studies show that those who cook their meals at home are healthier and live longer than those who regularly eat out.  When you pick out your own food at the grocery store, you tend to buy less processed foods, less sugary foods, and less fat. Instead, you make healthier food choices (and can help you save money as well).

  1. Treasure a memory

Flip through your pictures and pick one that you truly treasure. Share it with your friends and tell them why that moment was special to you. Honoring our past, (no comma) lets us live in the today and makes us hopeful and excited for the future.

  1. Meet someone new.

When we get stuck in a rut, we usually end up staying at home most of the time, missing out on a lot of interesting opportunities for networking and having fun. Meeting new people can be beneficial to your mental well-being and help your career, so don’t be afraid to get out there and make some friends. Overcome your shyness, get some knowledge and go and get to know new and interesting people.

  1. Be kind

Being kind will make you feel happier, doesn’t cost a cent and it is contagious. In making others feel good, you inspire them to want to do something kind for you or for someone else.  When you commit a kind act, those around you will take note and your kindness can have a ripple effect. Start that ripple now by being kind to those around you.

  1. Look back and smile

The month comes to end. And now our resolutions have either failed or are well on their way. Knowing that no matter how big or small that resolution is/was trying to change isn’t easy, but always worth a try. !

And, remember, you are always in a position to make a course correction – so perhaps modify some of those resolutions into more bite-size pieces or ones you know would be more do-able!

Visit our blog if you are looking for simple ideas to make a change in your life, in a non-judgmental and laid back way.

But for now: Look back, smile and march into 2018! May we all be happy, healthy, kind and come together to make this world more peaceful!