Category Archives: Therapy & Benefits

self-love, self-esteem, self-worth

Build Back Self-Worth and Unconditional Self-Love

I Am Something.

That’s an expression I have heard to instill self-esteem and self-worth among young kids. 

When babies are born, everyone gazes at them in wonder. People are enthralled with the slightest action from the little ones. Cooing. Gurgling. Smiling. Wiggling. Even burping is deemed adorable.

“How precious” is a common remark, as are “Oh…so beautiful” and “Just darling.”

Somewhere along the way, the layers of positive praise and adoration dwindle. The negatives creep into the cuteness. Remember “Denise the Menace?” Labels like “problem child,” “learning disabilities,” “ADHD” or “on the spectrum” define and separate our children. It may be well-meaning, but kids sense they are being distanced from the total perfection that they were — and still are. No wonder our society is troubled with a lack of self-esteem, self-worth, and unconditional self-love.

School teachers, kids, siblings, parents, family members, neighbors, and friends of families seem to forget that all lives are perfect and precious. All children are worthy of admiration and applause.  

A child’s first frequently blurted word is often “no!” Unfortunately, that’s the most common word for a baby to hear. Granted, parents usually say it to protect the child from dangers. But the caution builds up inside.

Say No to Self-doubt. Say Yes to Self-worth.

No. The negatives. The admonishing. The warning. The criticizing. The comparing. The underlying two letters symbolize “you are something not perfect, not utterly beautiful, not mega-talented, not a genius, not helpful enough, not all-knowing. 

Children are sensitive. They absorb, repeat, and believe what they hear. According to Dr. Rick Hanson, author of “Hardwiring Happiness,” the negatives stick with us like Velcro. On the other hand, the positives slide off like Teflon. (Watch my IGTV and FB Live Virtual Book Club chats about Dr. Hanson’s book.)

It’s all too common for children to think they’re the only ones with the brick walls built around them full of huge blocks that shout out “NO! Forget about it. You can’t. Not for you.” Fear rises and permeates and stays with them through adulthood. I have repeatedly seen, in myself and my clients, that most of us still have so many layers of fear we need to shake off.

Think about it. In a classroom or a family, the child internalizes all the negativity. How many times have you heard the remarks, “she’s the teacher’s pet,” or “my baby brother was the favorite.” It’s assumed that others don’t have those same roadblocks of unending “No. No. No.” Others get the green light to pursue whatever they want. 

Comparison. Too often, kids (and adults) don’t view everyone as equal. How many kids view themselves as a superstar? Aside from in their dreams. In real life, they compare themselves to others. Grammy artists. NBA stars. Role models appear perfect on a TV or movie screen. Not even realistic comparisons. Plus, they don’t realize that even the stars questioned their worth, and had to repeatedly jump over unbelievable roadblocks, or blast them away.

Say No to Comparisons. Say Yes to Self-Love.

Regina Louise, in her third and latest book, “Permission Granted” shares stories about her unfathomable life that was made into a Lifetime movie. As the reader, her amazing talent, intelligence, creativity, and wherewithal, are crystal clear. Yet, it took her most of her life to overcome those barriers from childhood.

Her first two titles were memoirs. “Permission Granted: Kick-Ass Strategies to Bootstrap Your Way to Unconditional Self-Love” is a self-help book. The sub-title makes it clear this work is all about learning to tell yourself, “I Am Something.” 

For several years, I’ve offered First Love Yourself workshops. My next iteration of them will incorporate some of the tips and exercises from Regina Louise’s book. If you’re one of my YouTube subscribers and Instagram followers, I’ll extend a BOGO through November 30. Buy my FLY workshop and bring a friend, free. In-person at www.TheNamasteGetaway.com, or via Zoom. 

I confess. These therapeutic workshops are my favorites. In 2019, I offered these fee-based special treats at The Namaste Getaway and at local yoga studios. In 2020, I began offering virtual workshops designed to stimulate self-esteem, self-worth, and self-love.

Each session includes restorative heart-opening poses, poetry reading, guided meditation, and introspective exercises.

Contact Deborah to schedule your BOGO, or inquire about other workshops or private sessions. Most all options are available in-person, or via Zoom. Reminder: I am a certified yoga therapist (C-IAYT) trained in many holistic modalities. I am not a licensed psychotherapist.

Laughter Yoga: A Daily Dose Feeds the Body/Mind/Soul

kids laughter, natural and therapeutic

Laughter Yoga© is relatively new. I typically turn my nose up at new-fangled yoga trends. But Laughter Yoga is therapy. Medicine. 

Skip the coffee and take your daily dose of laughter first thing in the morning. Or, take a laughter break instead of a coffee break to reenergize you. We know you should never go to bed angry. If you’re feeling resentment, hurt, or distress, laugh it off. Accept that you, and only, you can make that lemonade — or sweet dreams. 

Laughter is a natural therapeutic. Small children tend to laugh more than 100 times each day. Even babies giggle when you tickle their tummies. Kids may have a laugh attack if you tickle their feet or underarms. It is instinctive. Although the chortles can be hard to stop — they are easy to induce. Consider this: humans are the only animals that have a laughter response mechanism. Moreover, no other animal can provoke laughter in others.

The beauty of mankind. The miracles of our beings. The magic of laughter.

Laughter Yoga, Created and Prescribed by a Doctor

laughter is healthy and healing

Most of us can connect the dots between laughter and an immediate surge of good vibes. If you are down in the dumps, a funny joke or romantic comedy movie may lift your spirits. That’s because laughter releases tension and the “feel-good” hormones. Endorphins.

Those chemicals, released primarily by the hypothalamus and pituitary glands, are natural opiates more powerful than morphine. As I detail in my upcoming book, one of my gurus confirms that laughter gave him the pain relief that no pharmaceutical drug could. Best of all, there are no perilous side effects. The only danger is smidgeon of embarrassment if you chuckle at the wrong time or the wrong place.

Laughter Clubs are a safe space. Laugh as loudly as you like. If you have a crazy cackle? Even better. You will contribute to the merriment of the other participants.

Laughter Clubs first began in 1995. A physician in Mumbai, Dr. Madan Kataria, was researching the health benefits of unbridled laughter. So impressed by the indicated outcomes, he gathered people in a park for a daily dose of laughter. Soon after, his yogi wife added breathing techniques from pranayama to boost the benefits. The result: Laughter Yoga.

Benefits of Laughing

laughter brings joy and merriment.

There are so many reasons to try Laughter Yoga. Here are a few:

  • Just 20 minutes of laughter brings about a wide range of physiological benefits. 
  • Don’t tell Arnold Schwarzenegger, but laughter tones your belly muscles. But if you’d rather do a hundred sit ups a day, be my guest. 
  • Loud and deep bursts of laughing flushes the lungs. Or, you can climb Mount Everest to give your lungs a workout. 
  • Hearty laughter increases the levels of infection-fighting immunoglobulin. With no injections.
  • Spurts of laughter ramp up antibodies in the blood stream. That produces a positive effect on the white blood cells that kick in to fight infections like Kung Fu Fighting. 
  • Deep diaphragmatic breathing is a deep cleanse for the lymph system.
  • Just 20 minutes of hearty laughter gives you the same cardiopulmonary workout as one hour on the rowing machine. If I had to row on a river for a full hour, I wouldn’t get too far. 
  • And of course you’ve got your feel-good hormones kicking in to play. So share some of the secret sauce with friend and family.

Free Laughter Yoga

laughter yoga is therapeutic simulated aerobic exercise

To entice people to give it a shot, I’m offering free biweekly 30-minute sessions via Zoom. Contact me for the times and Zoom access code. The first class will be at 3 p.m. CT, Tuesday, March 30. Spread the word. Tag or share with someone who needs some laughing.  Make it a “play date” and invite whomever you think can benefit to the initial session. If that time and date don’t work for you, send me a message with your preferred time-slot.

It’s easier than you think. And as always, the first try can be the hardest. So commit to two of my free Zoom sessions. Make it even better by having someone close to you in another Zoom window with you. 

Easy as Play

clown and laughter

Laughter Yoga can be done seated in front of your computer. Although I may cue you to get up and stretch. Or, shake your booty. 

There are no “poses.” But, it is an aerobic workout. That’s because of the breath work and the belly muscles constantly working. 

You do not need a mat or gym clothes. You can be barefoot, or wearing fancy cowboy boots. Just don’t tighten your heavy brass belt buckle. Loose, comfortable clothing is best. Like what I wear 24/7.

You can get a booster shot of spontaneous laughter therapy by tuning in to SNL. But Laughter Yoga is about the simulation. In other words, “fake it until you make it.” 

Laughter Yoga is playful. Get back to laughing 100 times a day. Be childlike. Lighten up. Get rid of heavy burdens. Even if for 20 minutes. It makes a big difference. 

Relive the childhood merriment. Add merriment into every day without worrying about what others think. Reconnect to your inner child. Reboot true happiness. Connect to the all-important love of self, nature, and everything around you.  

As my coach Liliana De Leo, of Living Laughter, said during a TEDx talk, “Laugh for health, laugh for healing. It’s about time we laugh, and let go more. It’s up to us to laugh bold. Laugh strong. If you get to laugh with others, hallelujah.”

drumming as therapy

Drumming as Therapy: An Eternal Vitalizing Ritual

Heal Your Emotional Pain with Drums

Drumming as therapy is an untapped drug, according to Erica Longdon in her book, “Vibrational Sound Healing.” “Drum therapy has successfully been used with patients and others suffering from emotional traumas including post-traumatic stress disorder. Specifically, drumming promotes the production of endorphins, the body’s own morphine-like pain killers, and can thereby help to control emotional pain. Furthermore, group drumming and drum therapy is currently being used to treat people with brain injuries, physical injuries, arthritis, addictions, and more.”

“Drum therapy has successfully been used with patients and others suffering from emotional traumas including post-traumatic stress disorder. Specifically, drumming promotes the production of endorphins, the body’s own morphine-like pain killers, and can thereby help to control emotional pain. Furthermore, group drumming and drum therapy is currently being used to treat people with brain injuries, physical injuries, arthritis, addictions, and more.”

Just as ultrasound (diagnostic sonography) and the stethoscope are common allopathic instruments based on sound waves, drumming is a form of sound healing. 

Vibrational sound energy, Longdon says, “has been scientifically proven to have an effect on our autonomic, immune, and endocrine systems in addition to the neurotransmitters in our brain. When an organ in the body is out of harmony and not working as it should, its sound pattern will be distorted. It is in a state of disharmony or disease. The reintroduction of the right sound pattern will help it realign and return to harmony and health.”

Children’s Inner Wisdom

percussion instruments: sound therapy

Our bodies know what is good for us. But, sometimes, it’s not easy to tune in.

Before we are born, we are bathed in the music of our mother’s heartbeat. The heartbeat soothes us. The beat of the drum, when slow and rhythmical, mimics the heartbeat. The tone and steadiness remind us of the womb. This is our first sense of safety. Protection. Love. Warmth. Human contact. Life force. Our world.

From the time we are born, we want to play with sounds, beats, and movement. It is our nature. Instinctual. Once kids can stand and walk, they dance. They wiggle and jiggle their bodies. They make their own music. 

Child’s Play is Healing

Children in Africa with drums

All those things are part of child’s play. Often, when I teach kids yoga, I bring my little drums into the class and pass them around. More frequently, I encourage the kids to make their own sounds of the drum by stomping their feet and banging the floor with their hands. The original instruments were simply made out of materials that were everywhere. Still today, there are workshops where you can learn to make drums. Far simpler than the production of a piano.

I am not a trained musician, but I view percussive instruments as second nature. That is why I bring them into my kids’ classes. Kids have fewer inhibitions than adults. They are not concerned about playing music “right” or “wrong.” They don’t care about reading music. Nor, do they care about an expensive Ludwig or Yamaha drum set. Hitting pots, pans, chairs, or non-breakable plates with sticks work just fine.

For adults that can forego self-criticism, drumming (or listening to drums) can lead to a state of bliss. No wonder drums are instrumental to many rites of passage around the world. It is an age-old tradition that Longdon says “is a natural human impulse and one that is growing in popularity.”

Beyond the Good Vibes

drumming as therapy

Sherry Scott’s ties to music are long — but drumming entered her life much later, and then, drumming as therapy. 

“I was raised in a fundamental Christian church where no instruments were allowed [in the church]. I learned four-part harmony at a young age.”

In school, she joined both band and choir, learning to play the clarinet and bass clarinet. Keen on wanting to play the guitar, she got one through trading stamps at age 12 and taught herself how to play.  

Sherry picked up her penchant for drumming after she moved to Austin, Texas. “I attended drum circles for years, and took classes [with the owner of a drum store] and then with several African drummers locally. I always loved music with complex rhythms and danced with abandon to songs with lots of rhythmic inspiration.”

She followed her heart and delved into the “Uses of Rhythm for Healing and Spiritual Practices” for her master’s thesis for St. Edward’s University. Her premise was that “rhythm, and sound, are a powerful part of life on Earth” that contribute to healing and enhanced spirituality. 

For most, a thesis is a drain on one’s time and energy. However, Sherry’s thesis sounds like it was a blast to explore. And uplifting, not overwhelming.

First off, rather than pen a zillion pages, her thesis was presented as a video so that the “readers” could experience the impact of drums. Second, she wasn’t locked up in a library or at her computer for years. She was surrounded by live drumming and the holy primordial sound of Om. Third, she was able to go to somewhat uncharted territories. There was no need for a million footnotes and annotations. Nor, did she have to review tomes of prior statistics or clinical data. Her cohorts may have been jealous of her approach and focus, but they benefited as well. Finally, she got to hang around cool people.

Drumming as Therapy: A Thesis

Traditional drumming as therapy

With a focus on drumming as therapy, she interviewed shamans, modern drummers, African drum builders, a drum shop owner and drum circle facilitator, Arthur Hull (the father of modern drum circles), and Oliver Rajamani, a musician of East Indian and Romany gypsy lineage.

Plus, she dove deeply into similar work done by Mickey Hart, of the Grateful Dead fame and read from the psychologist, Robert Friedman’s “The Healing Power of the Drum.”

“I used footage from drumming circles and special effects with a soundtrack that includes a very powerful recording of Om as a base audio track with intense African drumming overlaid. It had a profound effect on the class when presented and I was then asked to screen it in a large auditorium for campus-wide attendees. I used the largest sound system available. Many people were so intrigued that they asked me to play it a second time, while some laid on the floor, and some danced. It was quite an eye-opener for many who had never experienced anything like it.”

Sherry was not surprised by her research findings. It just confirmed what she had always sensed and felt. “My connection to rhythm gave me the feeling of being connected beyond myself, and my love of science fiction had introduced me to the Gaia principle, all things are connected. That is still my guiding spiritual principle.”

Her thesis conclusions illuminated how cultures around the world regularly use drum-based rhythm and sound in their healing methods and spiritual practices. These traditions arose instinctively and similarly across very diverse geographies. Among the drumming societies are Aboriginal cultures, Native Americans, African tribes, and even fundamental Christian groups. “They all use music/sound as ‘worship’ Sherry says.  

Read more about vibrational sound therapy and tuning forks in particular. Or, search my “Kirtan” archives for my many articles about the benefits of chanting.

First Love Yourself

First Love Yourself (FLY): My February Gifts to You

The American Heart Association dedicates February as a month to love and care for your heart health. I high five that. But, we need to love and care for our hearts from an emotional and spiritual aspect too.

Nourish Your Heart: First Love Yourself

First Love YourselfThat’s why I designed my signature First Love Yourself workshops. These therapeutic workshops are my favorites. And, they’re my treat this February. That means free to you. Last year I offered these fee-based special treats at The Namaste Getaway and at local yoga studios.

Appropriate for people of all ages, each session includes restorative heart-opening poses, poetry reading, guided meditation, and introspective exercises. I’ll treat all the participants at my BarnOm to a cacao ceremony, and music tuned for the heart chakra.

This year, I’ve adapted, as have most my clients and students. For those that want to connect via your phone, laptop, or tablet, I have three days of virtual workshops. Choose between February 8, 9, or 10. Los talleres gratuitos del día 9 de febrero se conducerán en español.

For those who prefer a beautiful drive through Texas Hill Country to Zoom talking heads, book a in-person session in lovely Wimberley. On Sunday, February 14, I’ll lead First Love Yourself workshops at my new 720-square-foot BarnOm Airbnb. With a huge door and high ceilings, the space is perfect for social distancing and air circulation. Choose between a 10:30 a.m. or 1:30 p.m. 90-minute self-care session. Para los hispanohablantes, el taller en Wimberley se ofrecerá el día 9 desde las 10:30 a.m. hasta el mediodía, con una sesión virtual a las 3 p.m

How to FLY

Bird soaring.Freedom. FlyAs mentioned in my recent FLY YouTube video, far more important than a valentine’s card, roses or candlelight dinner is to First Love Yourself.   

To me, FLY means freedom. Tenzin Rinpoche, a Tibetan Bon lama, in a talk about Dream Yoga, said freedom leads to happiness and you must feel free inside to feel contentment.

When I picture the word FLY I imagine a bird soaring, close to the heavens. Of course I also equate those three letters with getting on a plane and taking off. Traveling anywhere in the world at high speeds is an example of ultimate freedom in my mind. I consider travel, priceless.

Let Go of Your Baggage

When you get in the air and head to your intended destination, what happens with all your belongings? You pack one or two bags and leave the rest behind. At airport check-in, you say goodbye to your bags for the duration of the flight.

In other words, you LET GO OF YOUR BAGGAGE. Rid yourself of whatever is pulling you back, dragging you around, or weighing you down. Release what is not necessary, or healthy, so that you can FLY.

overcome your emotional baggage

Many pieces of baggage are heavy, and hard to let go. Maybe we can drop them on the conveyor belt or store them in the overhead compartment. But as soon as the flight is over, we get nervous if they aren’t right in front of us.

What kind of baggage is so hard to release? Low self-esteem, self-worth or self-respect. Nagging self-doubt, self-consciousness, or self-critiquing. Even worse is self-loathing. Regardless, we need to let go of all of that, and stop judging ourselves, or others. Plus, we need to ignore, or disregard what others may say or think about us.  All these are requirements to FLY.

Save Your Space

Freedom. First Love Yourself, FLY.

Did I mention these FLY workskops are FREE? My gift to you. I’ll be happy to accept donations. But, 100 percent of the collections will go to RAICES, HIAS, or SPLC. These are three non-profits I support. They each work to combat racism, prejudice, and injustices against people regardless of their race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, gender, or country of origin. Regardless of if you attend one of my workshops, I encourage you to check out these organizations, and contribute directly.

To reserve your spot in any of the above sessions, or to schedule a private, contact Deborah ASAP.

 

 

 

 

tuning forks, a pythagorean healing technique

Tuning Forks: A Pythagorean Sound Healing Therapy

It should be no surprise that I am a major proponent of complementary and alternative medicine treatments (CAM). To me, they are neither complementary nor alternative. Most often, they are my first choice. As a holistic coach, trained in many modalities, one technique intrigues me: tuning forks.

I experienced an acupuncture session with forks. Only once. Maladies troubling me for many months disappeared after one treatment. I cannot prove that the outcome was from the forks. But, I give the tuning forks the high five.

Getting Back in Tune

acupuncture

My last trip to India got me out of whack. We are not talking about a virus I caught, or bad food I ate. An unhealthy travel schedule turned my dinacharya (daily routine) upside down. Even though I trek the world without losing grip on my dinacharya, this trip tossed my routine into a Vitamix. As a result, my nervous system (and vata constitution) were scrambled and fried.

I’m not a travel wimp. I have walked cobblestone streets in Italy for ten hours a day. In California, I have enjoyed strenuous yoga practices in the 100 degree heat from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. When I’m in Latin America, I have climbed volcanos. On transatlantic flights, I may lose a night’s sleep, but and ready to put in a full day of work when I land.  

But something went haywire in India. From those first inklings of something “off,” I tried to level out the imbalances. I was first in line, before opening hours, at an Ayurvedic clinic. The doctor concurred with my self-diagnosis. He prescribed a handful of herbal remedies and daily head and body massage therapy. 

blood pressure cuff

That helped. But the scale continued to weigh on the side of internal disorder. I skipped my travel group’s farewell dinner to bury myself under the covers at 6 p.m. — an anomaly for me. The next day, starting my solo journey, I made a beeline for an Ayurvedic pharmacy. Every night, I was resting in bed by 7. My super strong energetic self was missing. For many months.

Back home, I rested in bed every day. I felt as if I had mononucleosis. But, when I had mono in college, I felt A-O-K.

I couldn’t get my groove back. I had no strength. After stooping down to move my welcome mat, my blood pressure plunged to 60/40. My heart was racing just from moving a planter.

Finally, at the urging of my medical practitioner partner, I went for lab work. A TB test. Chest X-ray. Lung MRIs. Complete blood work and adrenal fatigue test. The results were as expected. Normal. Yet, I felt so un-normal — until my acupuncture session with the tuning forks. It was as if I was pushing a boulder, inch by inch. The needles and forks gave me strength to propel that heavy rock up and over the hill.  

Everything in the Universe Has a Vibration

tuning forks for healing therapy

Erica Longdon is a U.K.-based meta-physician with a passion for tuning forks. Her new book, “Vibrational Sound Healing: Take Your Sonic Vitamins with Tuning Forks, Singing Bowls, Chakra Chants, Angelic Vibrations, and Other Sound Therapies,” spells out the benefits of forks.  

Erica incorporates tuning forks in massage therapy and reiki. She finds these body tuners are an excellent tool to release tense muscle tissue. Not surprising if you consider that sonar waves can break up kidney or gall stones, dental plaque, and assist with cataract surgery.

Additionally, she points out that “sound healing works on the principle that everything in our universe is energy that has a vibration. Sound has been scientifically proven to have an effect on our autonomic, immune, and endocrine systems in addition to the neurotransmitters in our brain. When an organ in the body is out of harmony and not working as it should, its sound pattern will be distorted. It is in a state of disharmony or disease. The reintroduction of the right sound pattern will help it realign and return to harmony and health.” 

Divine Mathematics

Pythagoras and tuning foks

Long before people were eating with forks and knives, they were tuning with forks. Erica says there are images of tuning forks on ancient Egyptian carvings and that tuning to heal dates back to the time of Pythagoras, around 500 BCE. The Greek philosopher and mathematician discovered the Pythagorean theorem, the Theory of Proportions, the sphericity of the Earth, and Pythagorean tuning.

According to Erica, the original tuning forks were likely made using the Pythagorean frequencies of 8, 16, 32, 64, 128, 256 and 512 Hertz (Hz). Those frequencies are aligned with the Schumann resonances (SR). Erica describes SR as the “vibrational soup in which we live and without which we cannot thrive.” Schumann resonances are the frequency of our planet and recognized by rocket scientists. 

For example, the NASA.gov web site states, “This resonance provides a useful tool to analyze Earth’s weather, its electric environment, and to even help determine what types of atoms and molecules exist in Earth’s atmosphere…scientists have discovered that variations in the resonances correspond to changes in the seasons, solar activity, activity in Earth’s magnetic environment, in water aerosols in the atmosphere, and other Earth-bound phenomena.”

Setting the Scales

a set of tuning forks for healing

Today, tuning forks are set to multiple frequencies to impact different chakras or auric levels. Some healing practitioners use the Solfeggio range of nine forks (which includes 528 Hz). Solfeggio notes are similar to those in “The Sound of Music’s” Do-re-mi-fa-so-la-ti-do. 

The Solfeggio scale is symbolic as the frequencies relate to numerology from the bible’s “Book of Numbers.” Erica says the lower two frequencies “impact deep emotional wounds which may, or may not, present as physical pain. The next three forks prepare a fresh vibrational field for the body, including the 528 Hz fork which can reset DNA, and thereafter, the forks lift the being into greater harmony in all relationships with life and spiritual growth.”

She typically works with forks within one scale (Pythagorean vs Solfeggio) during each session. She says the Pythagorean scale is especially beneficial for physical symptoms, and the Solfeggio for mental and emotional reset.  

When I lead my First Love Yourself workshops, I incorporate 528 Hz music from the Solfeggio scale to open the heart chakra. On the other hand, I choose 432 Hz (a Pythagorean frequency) for deeper relaxation restorative yoga sessions. 

High vibrations = Greater love

piano keys and the solfeggio and pythagorean scales

According to Erica, 432 Hz is the preferred frequency for sound healing — and symphonic music. Beethoven was a fan of 432 Hz. Usually, the Stradivarius is set to 432 Hz. That places the middle C on a piano at 256 Hz. 

“432 Hz is the original and more natural tuning for musical instruments. When a musician talks of ‘being in tune’ they are talking about a standardized note,” Erica says. For some reason, the A nowadays is usually set to 440 Hz versus 432 Hz. “The standardization happened in relatively recent times. There are opinions and conspiracy theories surrounding this event. Whatever the truth, 432 Hz is much kinder to a singer’s voice.”

Plus, sound therapy is kinder to your body, mind, and soul than many other forms of therapy.  “Sound is a healing gift, present in every moment, freely available for all to use. Sonic vitamins are an often inexpensive and easy way to incorporate the healing benefits of sound and vibration into your daily life,” Erica says.

Jai Uttal sings behind the walls

Jai Uttal Supports the Guys Behind The Walls

Everyone is Important–Jai Uttal

Month five of quarantine. Too many have lost a loved one. It’s no longer six degrees of separation. 

And yet, we retreat in our homes, and in our communities. We get in the car, or order pick-up or delivery, and tune in to Zoom sessions. Few of us are surrounded, daily, by the raging virus. 

For those cramped and caged in correctional and detention facilities, there’s no place to hide, retreat, or get away. Even worse, there’s no escape from coronavirus. Today, ICE reports 4,131 covid-19 positive cases throughout its facilities., 72 at Karnes County Residential Center, where I aided women seeking asylum.

Even worse, coronavirus took over the San Quentin high-security prison. As of August 3, there were about 2,200 infected San Quentin inmates (two-thirds of the population). While 22 died. Those who are “locked up,” for whatever reason, are mostly nameless and faceless neighbors thanks to the NIMBY mentality. 

Jai Uttal recognizes the guys at the state prison’s names and faces, as well as their melodious voices and tender souls. That’s why the Grammy-nominated kirtan artist released “Behind the Walls.”

We are All Brothers–Behind the Walls

Jai Uttal has been singing in San Quentin State Prison for many years
Jai Uttal leading kirtan at San Quentin (photo by Wari Om)

 

“For the last 11 years, I’ve been going semi-regularly to San Quentin, singing with the guys. I saw that these men, who at first seemed so hard, were melting and smiling and singing and expressing so much emotion.”

“Standing outside of San Quentin can be quite intimidating. It took me a while to find my way to be authentic and real with the men; to not see them as ‘other’. But once that happened, I found a community of brothers there who were so incredibly committed to their spiritual practices and to finding inner freedom within the confines of their incarceration. Their dedication and deep spiritual longing were completely inspiring to me.”

For example, one of the inmates told Jai, “We are all brothers here (at San Quentin): The House of Healing.”

What’s more, scientific studies confirm that music is healing. Many times, I’ve written about that, and it’s in my upcoming book.  Psychotherapist Viana Vallejo* says, “Music and movement regulate the central nervous system, and when done with others builds connection, and helps counteract trauma.”

Every Human Being Deserves Medical Attention–Jai Uttal

But Jai’s spiritual music can’t heal everything. In May, a facility in Chino, California transferred 120 prisoners to San Quentin. All were over age 65, or with underlying medical conditions. However, they weren’t tested before the transfer. Consequently, it spread like wildfire. 

Not surprisingly, the debacle at the oldest prison in California sickened Jai. “What kind of unconscious person decided to send 120 infected persons to San Quentin?” His new track tells the world about covid-19 spreading among the men he knows inside the high-security fences, gates, and doors.

“Everyone is important. Every human being deserves medical attention and care in times of deep crisis. When I heard about the intense covid-19 surge inside the prison, and how little the authorities were doing about it, I was affected very deeply, and personally concerned with the plight of some of my friends there. There’s very minimal medical care. And, the local hospitals are not overjoyed taking in prisoners.”

Hard Men Shed Tears…Behind the Walls — Jai Uttal

Back in the ’70s, when he sang in prisons while touring with Ram Dass, Jai saw the incarcerated as normal folks that made mistakes. Or, people of color who couldn’t afford the best legal defenses.  

Jai hopes his  “Behind the Walls,” viewable on YouTube will bring donations to a non-profit co-founded by a former San Quentin inmate.  Re:Store Justice aims to heal traumas, find lasting solutions to crime, and build safer, healthier, and more equitable communities.

“We have our local health food store, and our local penitentiary. It’s amazing to me that what’s happening behind those walls is going unnoticed by most of the residents of Northern California,” and beyond.

* In full disclosure, my daughter

 

cacao as medicine

Cacao as Medicine. From My Heart to Yours.

Cacao: A Treat for the Heart

I enjoy cacao as medicine. It’s heart-healthy, and a heart opener. Sunday afternoon. Feb. 23., I’ll be offering cacao as medicine workshops at The Namaste Getaway. Pick from Partner Play, or, First Love Yourself. All will include gluten-free, vegan low-glycemic cacao treats. Made with love.  From my heart to yours. 

Cacao vs. Coffee

cacao as medicine. pure cacao from Costa Rica

I was never really a coffee drinker. In fact, I didn’t have my first sip until I was in college. At 30, I stayed clear when my doctor told me it was a digestive irritant.  But, when I moved to Miami, how could I resist the ritual cafecito breaks? Then, in San Antonio, I began to sip coffee to offset the workplace A/C chill.

When I upped my yoga practice, I put a complete stop to caffeine. Both of my yogic lineages say no to meat, eggs, alcohol, and caffeine. For multiple reasons. Now, I’ve been living pretty much caffeine-free for 15 or 20 years.

However, I still rev up my body, heart and mind, with cacao as medicine treats. Following are some of my reasons why.  Plus, how I make my own cacao as in the image to the right. 

Caffeine-free Energy Boost

I get my physical and mental boosts from cacao. Yet, cacao is caffeine-free. Rather, it contains theobromine which is a gentle cardiac stimulant and muscle-relaxant. Furthermore, theobromine does NOT affect the central nervous system, as does caffeine. 

I view cacao as medicine. One of nature’s good medicines. It has been considered such by the indigenous peoples in the Americas for ages. In fact, the word chocolate, comes from the Nahuatl word Xocolatl. Likewise, the word cacao has its origins in Nahuatl. It’s shortened from cacahuatl meaning the bean of the cocoa tree. While, the word cacahuate, in Mexico, now is commonly used for peanut. The latter was shortened from the Nahuatl tlacahuatl, meaning cacao de la Tierra. 

But let’s forget about the word chocolate. Go a step further. Try to erase it from your pantry, fridge, and mind. Consider this: today’s “chocolate,” like kisses or Crunch, are overly processed. They are loaded with sugar, fats, and basically have no redeeming features. Fortunately, many alternative brands of organic higher cacao content products are available at your Whole Foods or Sprouts.   

Nonetheless, I go to the source. I buy my cacao in Central America.  Real. Pure. 100 percent. 

Pure Cacao as Medicine

This past Xmas eve day, just back from Costa Rica, I held a special heart-opening class at Orange Moon Yoga. I served my pure cacao as medicine, and explained its benefits.  

cacao ceremony by Deborah Charnes at Orange Moon Yoga, Wimberley

First, cacao is loaded with magnesium.
Second, cacao is one of the greatest sources for anti-oxidants.
Third, cacao is high in protein. And meat-eaters always ask, “where do you get your protein.” Ha!
Fourth. Cacao is calcium rich.
Fifth, cacao is great for the mind. In several ways. Many, recognize it as an anti-depressant.
Next. Cacao for the heart. Energetically, it is a heart-opener.  Physically, it can reduce blood pressure and improve heart health. 
Finally, cacao is caffeine-free. However, it contains theobromine which is a gentle cardiac stimulant and muscle-relaxant. Theobromine does NOT affect the central nervous system, as does caffeine. 

Cacao as Medicine with Indian or Indigenous Spices

cacao as medicine. pure cacao patty at Museo del Cacao in Costa Rica

To add to the benefits of cacao as medicine, rather than watering down the benefits with milk and sugar, which was introduced by the Europeans, go for what’s been added historically.

At my recent visit to a Cacao museum in Costa Rica, my guide explained to me that the indigenous people added turmeric, ginger and black pepper to their cacao. Interestingly enough, that’s pretty much what I add. But, my inspirations come from Ayurveda. At the same time, following a low-glycemic diet for many years, I tend to use lots of cinnamon as my “sweetener.” My guide said the indigenous people in Mexico used the cinnamon.

Furthermore, I make my own bliss balls, following plenty of recipes, and always omitting the dates or other sweeteners. Two of my favorite bliss ball recipes come from my Ayurvedic doctor. The first is Dr. Nibodhi’s Cacao Bliss Balls, infused with ashwagandha and cayenne.   The second is Dr. Nibodhi’s Chai Balls, which include ginger, cardamon and cloves. 

So, I was pleasantly surprised when at the end of my Cacao Museum tour, I pretty much made my own flat rather than round bliss balls.  Freshly ground and toasted cacao, with just a tad of water to be able to form the patty on the banana leaf. Then, I was able to sprinkle in cinnamon, ginger, pepper, nutmeg and turmeric. Medicine sprinkled with many more medicinal forms. Pure Bliss.

Now, I look forward to sharing cacao as medicine. From my heart to yours.

 

Goat Yoga

Goat Yoga Hits Urban USA

One of the newfangled yoga trends is goat yoga. It’s not about a new style of yoga where you imitate goat poses. Rather, you practice your cat/cow or downward dog as baby goats walk around—or on top of— you. If you’re lucky, maybe a goat will cuddle next to you in your savasana.  However, on the down side, the goat may decide it’s time for a bio break. On your mat.  

The Birth of Kid Goat Yoga

It shouldn’t be a shock that the origins of goat yoga come from the Western U.S. As recently as 2016, a woman living on a farm in Oregon recognized the healing aspects of yoga. At the same time, she understood that being close to animals had benefits. In need of some physical and emotional boosts, she meshed the two. She named it Caprine Vinyasa and got a slew of media coverage. And, boom. Goat yoga was everywhere.  Not just in the country, or in the trendier spots like San Diego and Austin. But even in Chicago’s inner city.

Goat Yoga in the Inner City

Urban goat yoga

What at first glance seems far removed from the prana in the midwestern cornfields is a hopping spot for goat yoga. Chicago’s west side. The goats are let loose to meander around the yoga mats, regularly, in Austin, the far west side of Chicago. Also, at Garfield Park, 10-15 minutes west of downtown. Both sites are right off the Eisenhower Expressway.

David is the goat herder that supplies the animals for the yogis. An urban farmer, he has a goat refuge just a few blocks from the rapid transit elevated line. From the street side of his house, you’d never know that he’s got a backyard full of chickens laying fresh eggs, and a large family of goats. He and his wife live in a traditional city house with a backyard that’s been converted into an organic mini farm. There’s a milking station where the goats, one by one, are milked. David and his wife then sell the fresh goat milk, plus goat milk yogurt and cheese.

He has about a dozen baby goats in his hay-filled garage. Each day, he loads the goats in his truck and releases them in a neighboring empty lot. Here, his babies graze. And play.

Goat Yoga in Chicago

When it’s time for goat yoga, he can lead the goats to a community garden just down the street. The open space has a pen inside the fencing to keep the babies closer to the yoga practitioners.

Five Reasons for Goat Yoga

Before you jump into the pen with the goats, or start bringing goats into the studio, let’s break down pros (and cons) of Caprine Vinyasa.

First, yoga is fundamentally about surrendering your mind and body. Perhaps one of the end results of goat yoga is that you give it up for the baby goats. You relinquish your control and go with the flow. Like the adorable kid goats. Don’t Worry. Be Happy. Nonetheless, Sarah, a yogi enthusiast and mother of two children, is not particularly a goat yoga advocate. Her take is that the more gimmicky, the more it dilutes the practice.

Second, in American society people get caught up in physical boundaries. Even for yoga practitioners. Many have clearly delineated “no touch” zone. Oftentimes, American yoga students want at least four or five feet of space all around them. The more space between them and their neighboring yogi’s mat, the better, they feel. So, just maybe, the goats prancing wherever they want helps people to get beyond that required emptiness surrounding them. And, maybe, it’ll even get them more comfortable with having a person less than a meter away during their practice. 

Third, yoga is all about mindfulness. Emptying your mind. Closing your eyes, or maintaining a dristi. However, keeping your eyes from jumping around to check the whereabouts and antics of the baby goats isn’t easy. Kim, a personal trainer who has been close to yoga for years, tried goat yoga at a conference. She found it was “distracting.”

Fourth off, yoga should be about absorbing, and relishing, the elements of nature. Prana. Breathing in the fresh air. Pressing your toes into the grass, or sand. Letting your skin soak up the sun.

Ideally, goat yoga is done outdoors in a farm-like environment. But that’s often not the case. My first view of goat yoga was inside a warehouse in East Austin. Definitely not an optimum spot for oneness with nature.

Fifth thought. Yoga teaches us ahimsa. Do no harm to any living being. So, any practice that helps us get closer to animals, and respect for ALL lives, is a plus. Hopefully, goat yoga is an entry point for urban Americans to get closer to farm animals. Then, as they appreciate the personalities of the baby goats, the participants may think twice before they eat goat meat. 

Introducing Yoga a la Ferme

Ahimsa and the Sacred Cow

In India, the cow is sacred. So, I’d expand upon goat yoga.

Sacred Cow, ahimsa is yoga

I’d broaden caprine vinyasa to yoga a la ferme. For starters, I’d let a few chickens scamper about.

More importantly, I’d be sure that beautiful cows were within everyone’s view. Next, I’d require all partcipants to pet the cows, before they get on their mats. Moreover, have them meditate while gazing into the huge happy cows’ eyes. Adding in sound therapy, I’d ensure that each of the cows had cowbells on their necks, tuned to different chakras. For special effects, during savasana I’d lead the cows in a circle around my resting yogis. Or, ring the cowbells myself.

Finally, I’d suggest that everyone’s sankalpa include how they would have greater respect for farm animals, and take the plunge to refrain from eating farm animals for a week. Better yet, commit to a plant-based diet for 40 days.

TheNamasteGetaway Airbnb in Wimberley Texas

A Meditation Practice IS Yoga

In the Western world, too often, yoga means physical fitness practice. People focus on mastering a pose, or hope to work up a sweat in a yoga class. But, that’s not what yoga really is. Patanjali, in the Yoga Sutras wrote Sthira Sukham Asanam. To me, that means stillness in your seat, or space. Sounds much more like a meditation practice to me.

That’s also, why I tend to encourage Yin, Restorative, and Kundalini styles of yoga to my students. There’s great stillness in the first two, and mantra meditation, mudras and breath work are fundamental in Kundalini.

Likewise, I’m happy to announce a meditation and kundalini retreat at The Namaste Getaway in Wimberley, November 15-17. A few spaces are still available.

Following are personal testimonials from me, and Carrie Edmond, a meditation pro who’s leading the retreat.

My Meditation Practice

meditation

My personal path to “yoga,” began with meditation. Having struggled with digestive issues since childhood, early on, I experienced the benefits of stillness. Stillness of body. And mind.

When I added Hatha asanas to my practice, stillness of body and mind was crucial. Basically, my personal asana practice became a meditation practice. With movement.

Off the mat, I also adhere to a meditation practice. Daily, I practice japa mantra meditation. Plus, I have a labyrinth on my property for walking meditation. And, a creek for sound meditation. Finally, for traditional silent meditation, I switch between my deck, my yoga room, or my tree house.

Over the years, I’ve taken many a meditation class or workshop, across the country. In San Antonio, I found Carrie Edmond. She is unique in the way that she tries to pass the torch. On the one hand, she educates others to lead meditation. At the same time, she is expert at making meditation enjoyable and easy to practice.

Carrie’s Meditation Practice

journaling at The Namaste Getaway in Wimberley

“Meditation is an essential part of my life,” notes Carrie, who has been making meditation accessible to San Antonio public school kids for many years.

“Since I was very young, I have experienced intense anxiety. Before I learned to meditate and developed my own practice, life often felt chaotic, overwhelming and unmanageable. Through meditation practice, I have become more aware. With this awareness, I have found an ever-present ability to notice, and allow, in a way that reduces suffering and confusion.”

“Life still offers all its joys and challenges,” continues Carrie. “But my relationships, especially to those uncomfortable hard moments, are easier to navigate. I have learned to embrace the full human experience. I have also seen first hand how others have found healing, peace and a sense of freedom through their own meditation practice.”

Carrie’s Meditation Retreat

meditation at The Namaste Getaway

Joining Carrie, November 15-17, will be Angela Harper. Angela is a San Antonio-based KRI-certified Kundalini instructor. The retreat is designed to help nurture women. In part, because women, too often, don’t have the bandwidth to nourish themselves. The retreat will help ladies to explore the dynamic energy of the feminine. Plus, nourish the body and mind through Kundalini, meditation, gong, Reiki, journaling, healthy foods, and more.

“I love when women come together in this way to share, explore and learn from one another,” adds Carrie. “By applying what we share and learn from each other, we can go back into our daily lives with inner resources along with the collective wisdom to thrive and be in service to others.”

To register, for more information, or links to articles on Reiki and meditation, visit Carrie’s Facebook event page. Or, read more on the health benefits of meditation on my blog. Note: Photos are from The Namaste Getaway, just an hour from Austin, or San Antonio.

yoga and meditation for stress

Yoga and Meditation Beat Stress

When Sat Bir Singh Khalsa told the chairman of the department of physiology that he wanted to focus on yoga for his grad studies, he was met with complete skepticism. That was many years ago.  Today, he is one of the nation’s leading researchers on yoga and meditation. Affiliated with Harvard Medical School, Dr. Singh Khalsa has partnered with prestigious facilities worldwide to be able to unequivocally prove the merits of yoga and meditation on humans.

He acknowledges that he was on the tipping point before there was any tip. Today, he says, 10 percent of the population practices yoga, and about 15 percent have some form of mind/body practice. So, there’s a great need to understand the physiology of yoga and meditation.

Stress Surrounds Us

yoga and meditation for stress

Through his research, as well as his role with the International Association of Yoga Therapists, he has pushed the agenda so that the merits of yoga and meditation are pretty much widely acknowledged. He says that both science and research are supporting the trend for yoga becoming mainstream. It’s a welcome addition in many a school and hospital nowadays, in part due to stress, which seems to be everywhere. 

“Teachers, parents, are burned out. We don’t have skills to cope with stress. We are in a time where stress is a big problem. I think it underlies many of our problems in modern society.   Stress pays a huge role in many conditions. Not only is stress highly prevalent, but it’s getting worse. This whole political climate is not helping,” Dr. Singh Khalsa noted at a workshop I attended in Austin.   

yoga and meditation for stress

“Our social structure has changed over the last few decades. The idea of being overextended is the norm. Being accessible 24/7.” He explained that social interaction is more prevalent on screens, rather than in person. Again, that’s the norm now. Along with everyday scenarios that can cause stress. An alarm clock doesn’t ring. Your boss says you’re fired. On the highway, you narrowly escape an accident. Or, there’s a bottleneck. “These challenges are part of life, and there are life-learning challenges.”

“One person’s stress is another’s nightmare. And, it can change over time.” A kid may get a thrill out of a roller coaster ride, Dr. Singh Khalsa says, but that same thrill for a senior citizen is not a thrill. Rather, they could literally get a panic attack. 

Yoga and Meditation Vs. Maladaptiveness

Dr. Singh Khalsa pointed to a study at UT. An almost unbelievable 90 percent of students said they had “unbearable stress.” More concerning, only five percent said the had the tools to manage stress. “A high percentage of people will say they have no one to talk to about problems. We are social animals. If we don’t do that (interact), we suffer the consequences.”

So, what gives? Something has to give. Though those cracks, problems arise. People reach for what isn’t the solution. Drugs. Tobacco. Alcohol. Junk food. They don’t, or can’t, get adequate restful sleep. These are some of the improper ways people respond to stress. Maladaptiveness becomes the norm, said Dr. Singh Khalsa. The need to take substances to alter the senses, which of course do not address the issues at hand.  

While Singh Khalsa acknowledged that short term (acute) stress has its benefits, such as boosting performance or the immune system, sustained long term stress can increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases. “You need stress in your life to keep you engaged…but not overwhelmed.” 

Yoga and Meditation a Boon

yoga and meditation for stress

According to evidence-based research done in conjunction with Yoga Yoga in Austin, Dr. Singh Khalsa confirmed that it didn’t take long for perceived stress to go down among those that practiced yoga. Not surprisingly, yoga and meditation enables you to respond in a positive manner to stress. In fact, evidence points to a resiliency factor. “You’re giving yourself more resistance (with yoga). You’re becoming a super human. You need to be a Ferrari versus a Lada.”

Our bodies are physical bodies. Regular exercise WILL make you feel better, affirmed the doctor.  

“We spend most of our time sitting on a couch which leads to no resistance. We live in a society that’s becoming increasingly sedentary. I think one of the best mind/body practices is yoga. When we relax our muscles there is a psychological effect. That is what yoga is doing. Mind/body awareness is key in yoga.  Yoga is like cognitive behavior and exercise. Plus, it’s conducive to reducing more stress than exercise, alone. Mind/body exercise can REVERSE fight or flight, and it gives you the skill to do that on an ongoing basis.

Case in Point

yoga and meditation for stress

Sat Bir Singh Khalsa showed excerpts from a 2017 Facebook Live conference, A Nation Under Pressure.  Former U.S. Surgeon General, Vivek Murthy spoke to the director of NIH, about the merits of yoga and meditation, in particular.  Dr. Murthy acknowledged he had reviewed cases of how mindfulness made significant differences in schoolchildren.

In particular, one school he visited in California. It was in a high crime district with 50 murders in one year. Bodies were even dumped on the school grounds. Out of desperation, the school began incorporating meditation.  There was a marked reduction in violence and increase in students’ performance. The principal noted improvement within just two weeks. Over one year, the suspension rate was reduced 45 percent. Parents said, “what’s going on here? (My kid’s) not lashing out like he used to.” Kids recognized the benefits, too. As a result, 95 percent of the kids signed up for meditation the next term. 

Finally, Dr. Singh Khalsa spoke about the cost benefits of yoga and meditation. Especially with the soaring costs of medical care, breath and body work should be a no brainer to put on the doctor’s Rx. Inquire about The Namaste Counsel’s Chill Out series.