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Developing an Unshakeable Mindset, Pt 2: Exercises to Strengthen Your Core

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It’s impossible to live through our hearts and in faith when we live in fear of the unknown and anxiety around our lives. While trying to use the mind to change the mind is often futile, we can actively move towards living through our hearts and in our own strength by strengthening our core.

In Kundalini yoga, the core is three fingers below the belly button. This is where a plethora of nerve endings, hormones, and emotions live. By creating a strong core and a harmonious inner system, we re-connect with our intuition and are able to live as our true selves, out of the way of fear and in our highest light. It is possible to do this through physical movement, breath work, and nourishing food.

The following practices strengthen our core, inside and out, and let us unfold into our true brilliance.

  1. Twisting asanas

Doing twisting poses helps to wring out toxins that contribute to physical discomforts and emotional stress. They push us to our limits physically which provides us with a good opportunity to breathe through the challenge while maintaining calmness within. Try twisting crescent, twisting chair, and twisting half moon. Lead with your heart, holding for three to six breaths and remember to draw your breath slowly and deeply into your stomach during the poses.

  1. Leg lift crunches

Slow, deliberate movements create a strong awareness of our core. These crunches let us draw energy from the fingertips to toes to activate and strengthen the core. Lie on your back, arms by your sides. Life your right leg and reach forward with your fingertips, then reach your arms overheard, keeping your shoulder blades off the ground while activating your core as your lower your leg. Lift your left leg while reaching forward again, and alternate between legs taking a moment with your arms overhead and legs straight out in between sides. Do this slowly and with mindfulness of your core, remaining aware of your naval to spine connection.

  1. Fibrous foods

It’s critical that we allow our bodies the space and energy for effective maintenance. Fibrous foods such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains are the best for this as they bind to toxins and escort them out of our systems. Digestion is the most energy intensive process of our bodies, and fiber assists with this, energizing our systems. When our stomachs are cleansed and are properly eliminating, our core is strong and our minds have the space to be clear and focused.

  1. Probiotics

There is a delicate yet powerful balance of microflora in our stomachs, and many critical hormones that regulate our emotions, energy and physical needs. The standard American diet, lifestyle, and practice of taking antibiotics for every ailment disrupts this critical balance that affects every area of our health. When we have discord in this area, it affects our immune systems, our ability to effectively absorb nutrients from our food, and contributes to emotional issues like anxiety. Probiotics restore the intestinal balance and promote growth of healthy and nourishing bacteria, contributing to a harmonious inner environment that supports a calm and stable equilibrium.

  1. Breath of fire

This cleansing and energizing breath connects you to your core and charges the nervous system, powered by abdominal contractions. Breath of fire creates and builds a cosmic change that brightens the body and clears the mind, creating radiance and light throughout your entire system. It helps release the need to control and enables us to surrender to the higher power of the cosmos that is always working to support and enhance our lives.

To do: Sit relaxed, eyes closed and focused on the point in between the eyebrows. Allow your breath to move in and out through the nose, mouth closed. Breathe rapidly in through your nostrils letting your stomach fill and expand  with air.The time is equal on the inhale and the exhale, with no pause in between. Starting out do for 1-3 minutes. It may make you light headed at first, so be aware of how you feel. As time goes on, you can do it for longer. It will pump fresh air deep into your lungs and stomach, and will give your body a great aliveness and connection with the divine.

Having a fortified core through these practices enables us to live through our hearts and in our own strength. It empowers our intuition, and gives us the courage we need to pursue our goals, our true love, and rise towards our higher selves. It enables us to call forth our divinity and to feel truly alive and vibrant. Choose one or two of the things above to begin to cultivate a strong core, and feel the power move into other areas of your life.

Photo by Anton Repponen

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5 Tips to Developing Good Habits… and living life to the fullest!

‘Freedom is the power to make the decision today that is the best for our future self’

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Habits are behaviors that are acted out subconsciously. They create grooves in our brains, which is what makes them so hard to change. A habit can be lighting up a cigarette first thing in the morning or lacing up your running shoes first thing in the morning. Both are subconscious, behavioral and automatic.

Our habits define us. They are what encourage us to make the decisions we make every day. The decisions that we make shape our lives and lead us to blissful self-expression or a downward spiral of self-destruction.

The body loves routine, so when we settle into one it becomes very comfortable and difficult to change. Is your routine energizing and exciting or is it causing you to gain weight, feel lethargic, and take you out of touch with yourself?

When it comes to nutrition, having good habits is everything. Will I have a croissant for breakfast or a fresh organic mango? Will I pick up a bag of walnuts for a snack or a donut? Will I eat fast food for lunch or something from the Co-op?

So many decisions are made in haste and have only short-term benefits: I’m in a hurry, I’m craving something sweet, it’s the only thing in my house/office/purse.  

Being mindful enables you to break out of habits that inhibit your ability to make the best decision for yourself, and to instantly become more energized and joyful.

What’s important to know is that changing one habit creates a domino effect, so making more changes becomes very natural and enjoyable. This is why it’s crucial to focus on one thing at a time.

Drink a latte every morning? Switch to green tea 3 days a week. Those caffeine (and dairy) cravings will quickly quiet down. Love snacking on candy bars or ice cream? Try natural sugars such as berries, and when indulging look for delicious and chemical free dark chocolate covered pretzels, or coconut-based ice cream alternatives. Used to unwinding at happy hour after work with your colleagues? Try hitting a spin class or finding an interesting talk to attend.

The key is not to cut out things you love, but to replace them with more wholesome habits that you can still enjoy and that create positivity in your life.

A huge part of emotional and physical health is paying attention to your mind-body connection. If you constantly fall prey to habits that you know aren’t good you create a conflict in your system. When you make positive, mindful decisions, your personal environment becomes harmonious, leading to more overall happiness and wellness.

Steps to changing habits

  1. Introspect  – What habit do you do every day that you want to change- pick ONE. Eating late at night? Too much sugar? Facebook addiction? Ask yourself, why do you do these things?
  2. Cultivate the opposite habit – Drink calming tea at night instead of eating – a lot of times we think we’re hungry when we’re actually just thirsty. Look for something to snack on without added sugars. Read an interesting article or watch a TED talk instead of flipping to Facebook to zone out. Take time to think and be MINDFUL- don’t look for a quick fix.
  3. Be gentle with yourself – Big change starts with small steps. The most important thing is to have the right intention and to constantly reinforce the fact that you are not controlled by your habits. Remember one positive change leads to many more.
  4. Have a buddy – When you tell someone your goal is becomes that much more real. We tend to feel more obligated to succeed when someone else is watching and supporting us. Set a goal with a friend or partner and notice how much more motivated and committed you feel.
  5. Listen to your body – When you notice your cravings or bad tendencies your habits are no longer subconscious. They are out in the open and available for you to recognize and choose a better option. In need of caffeine around 3pm? Talk a brisk walk around your building for ten minutes and breathe deeply- it will energize you and get you to do something different than just heading to the vending machine or coffee shop.

Remember that change comes from will power. You must have the will power to want to get the most out of your life. When you commit to doing the best for yourself your life will become a lot more harmonious, with love, opportunity and happiness appearing in abundance.