Dec 022014
 

The Happy Jar – Fostering Mindfulness And Gratitude With Children
By Ally Ford

The Happy Jar, Gratitude and MIndfulnes With Children

The Happy Jar, Gratitude and MIndfulnes With Children

Each night when my family sits down together for dinner we end with a lovely mindfulness tradition, “The Happy Jar.” My children named it, I like to think, for the way it makes them feel. We each write a little note about something for which were grateful and at that moment, regardless of what’s happening with any of us, whether there are tears over the healthy dinner mommy cooked that nobody wants to eat, or endless begging for dessert, all worries fall away, the table quiets, and hearts open.

It’s always a fun team project. My six-year-old daughter gathers pens and paper for all and hands them out. Together, in silence, we reflect upon something that made us feel happy and for which we’re grateful, write it down, date it, and fold up our notes. Then, and this is the really fun part, we try to guess what everyone wrote down. Though, as much as we want to tell each other, we do our best to keep it a secret (well, sometimes we just can’t hold it in, which of course is totally awesome). My eight-year-old son then collects the notes and deposits them into the happy jar, which is a vase on the buffet next to the dinner table.

It’s funny, I actually had the vase for years before I was married or had children and just used it for decorative purposes. But it just so happens to have the Chinese symbol for happiness on it, which makes me feel like it must have known it was destined for a more important use. At the end of the year on or around New Year’s Eve, based on party plans and family gatherings, the four of us sit down and one by one draw the notes out of the jar to read at random. It’s a special way to end one year and enter the next with the frame of mind of gratitude, positivity, and love.

Many experts recommend keeping a gratitude journal or adopting a gratitude practice because it’s been scientifically shown to lift spirits and help manage stress and anxiety. Writing it down is certainly poignant, but it can be just as effective to pause and simply think of something for which you’re grateful and notice the sensations it brings to your heart and your entire being. Pause and try it now!

I find that when I think of one thing for which I’m grateful, it plants a seed which then flowers into the recognition of numerous wonderful things I have in my life. It can be a powerful practice which can transform a day of challenge, pain or hardship into one of calm surrender. So I invite you to try The Happy Jar with your family and make it a fun family event. Let the children choose the jar, paper, writing utensils and the special place you’ll store all of these materials. Have them name it anything they’d like, make it their own, and make it perfect for your family. May it bring as many smiles and as much laughter and love to your family as it has to mine.

Let the gratitude flow, and may your Happy Jar runneth over.photo (15)

Sep 282011
 
 Comments Off on Pain During Yoga Practice? Know When to Back Off!

A student of mine with a recent back injury asked me how to know the difference between pain related to her injury versus tightness or soreness she needed to push through in her yoga practice. The key word that stood out for me was “push.” After almost 14 years of yoga practice, 11 of which have been Ashtanga, and having managed several injuries myself, my advice is to never push through anything- soreness or pain. If you push a sore or tight muscle it might tear. If you push an injury you’ll exacerbate it. It may sound cliche but “listen to your body.”

Whether or not pain is ok during asana practice is a subject up for debate depending on your interpretation of “tapas” from the Yoga Sutras, and surely you’ll get differing opinions from different yoga teachers. But my wonderful teachers always taught the no pain, no pain method and this approach has worked for me.

Yoga asks that we tune into a deeper, more subtle state of ourselves. This process begins when we step out of our thinking mind and into our feeling body. We develop awareness through conscious listening to our body’s innate wisdom and language, and part of that language is pain. Consider it a gift as our body’s natural means of communication. Hear it, pay attention to it, and honor it. If you do, it will also educate you on how to make it better. If you don’t, it grows from a  whisper, to a nudge, from a shout to a shriek!

There is a big difference between intensity in practice and pain. You can be challenged and work hard, but you must also work intelligently. Intensity usually feels like you’re exploring new territory. It’s difficult and requires you to deepen your breath. Pain on the other hand, whether mild or strong, usually feels like something’s just not right.

Find a way to practice pain-free. This might mean you need to modify certain poses or even omit them until your body tells you it is safe to return. And trust that it will tell you. Why not back off and practice gently for a few days, perhaps even weeks or months? At least you can keep practicing! If it is an injury you’re managing then it will heal. If it is soreness, then gentle movement will work it out.  Conservative? Yes, but it is a smart approach that will help keep you healthy and keep you returning to your yoga mat safely.

Find this post interesting, want to start a conversation or ask a question? Please, email me at ally@allyford.com.
In peace.
Ally

Feb 272011
 

By Jamey Jones

It has long been known that physical exercise can positively affect mood. Exercise is usually recommended for people suffering from depression and anxiety. This is good news, as exercise is a great alternative to the antidepressants that are given out for many health conditions (not just mood disorders!), especially in women.

Better news yet, yoga has been found to have an even greater effect on mood than regular exercise! In a recent study, participants were asked to either practice yoga or to walk for one hour, three times a week over a period of 12 weeks. Researchers measured levels of GABA (a calming neurotransmitter) over the twelve week period, in addition to collecting information from participants about their moods.

The group practicing yoga regularly experienced less anxiety and greater improvements in mood than those who walked regularly. Further, these mood improvements were associated with increases in GABA levels. Low GABA levels are associated with depression and anxiety disorders. Researchers of this study suggest that yoga be considered as therapy for certain mood disorders.

This study comes as no surprise. How many times do we come into yoga practice feeling not-so-great, and then come out of the practice with a whole new perspective? Your yoga practice is a place where you meet your true self. You discover your true nature, and can begin to work on those qualities which best serve you. It´s a natural progression-certainly with ups and downs-that can bring benefits that come off the mat and into your life.

Jan 242011
 

The number one reason people meditate is to reduce stress, but it certainly isn’t the only benefit one receives from this age-old practice. Meditation also enhances concentration, lowers blood pressure, improves sleep, and more. Check out the awesome article below from www.psychologytoday.com and join me for Introduction to Meditation this Wednesday at White Orchid Yoga:

6 Other Reasons to Meditate

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