Indigo30 DAY 29: Your words

All of this Whole30 and yoga stuff is a really super good idea, but if we never found out from anyone if it actually worked, then none of it would even matter. It’s because we tell each other about the results we’ve experienced (or haven’t) that we continue to learn and be motivated to be better. Human beings are results-driven, even in the minor things. We expect our car to start and run. We expect certain things to happen at specific times of day. We want to know that our efforts are seen and that some things in life are certain. The expectations and desire for results are driven by habits, which mold and frame and direct our days — thousands of them. Some are simple, like the habit you have of making your coffee in the morning, with the reward of the delicious, foamy first sip. And others are complicated, like the habit you have or know of someone having of fighting an addiction. They all swirl about and pull from emotions and often times feel vastly out of our control. “But every habit, no matter its complexity, is malleable. The most addicted alcoholics can become sober. The most dysfunctional companies can transform themselves. A high school dropout can become a successful manager,” writes Tal Ben Shahar, of Happier. 

In the course of the last 28 days, really more like 35 days, because the preparation week really counts in my opinion, you have shaped, formed, shifted, reorganized and changedimage.png some of the biggest habits a human being can have. You have done this. Your willpower has a pattern now, and you are the one who made that happen. You decided, consciously, to do the work, see the cues and the rewards that drive your routines, and create new rituals around your daily behaviors — rituals that have meaning and value not only to you but to the people in your lives. Your families have been impacted. Your friends have watched you shift and change and stay the course. People who were once strangers, are now your friends, with their superhero capes ready to throw on and help you back up anytime you stumble.

You did other things too, things that no one could predict and things that won’t sell diet books: you became accountable for your behaviors.

“I realized that I am the reason my family eats out so much. My lack of organization around meal planning and just plain laziness at times created chaos during what would have been time of comfort for me and my family. By not having a plan, I made their evenings hectic while we all tried to figure out dinner and usually made an unhealthy choice,” writes one I30 participant.

I have been working with students for over a decade, helping them to come clean and get straight and own up to their role in relationships and breakdowns that occur in their lives. Especially when the default is to blame.

Very rarely does anyone own it like this.

“I realized I’ve been dropping the ball,” she said. “Cooking for my family for the last 28 days has been so lovely. They can’t wait to hear what’s for dinner. They have never once said, ‘I wish we could just go out to eat.’ My daughter even said, ‘Momma, I love this whole thing you are doing because the food is so good!”

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You can’t put a number, especially a scale number, to something like that. These children are going to remember this time for years to come. They will be in college someday longing for their mom’s healthy home cooking. It will be part of the reason they can’t wait for the holidays. They will remember going to yoga with their mom and remembering holding her hand at the end. They will remember her encouragement and how she took care of herself. And the pride in their eyes when they look at their mom — glowing, healthy and happy, is nothing anyone can put a number to. That is what quality of life looks like. That is happiness.

“When I was told I had to stop running because of an injury,” writes another participant, “I spiraled into what I couldn’t do. I got depressed and ended up having surgery. Surgery didn’t help. It made things worse. Had I found yoga, I wouldn’t have gone that route. Yoga reminded me that I could exercise and not injure myself. I just do what I can do. Some days it’s not much, but it’s better than me sitting at home and feeling sorry for myself. Thank you for putting this program together. I’ve learned so much it’s crazy.”

Many of you have remarked that the combination of nutrition and movement has been a game changer — that the diet without the yoga might have left you feeling a little obsessive over the food, and that the yoga without the diet might have kept you eating stuff that wasn’t really working for you but that you might have dismissed “since you were working out all the time.” The two components are what creates the balance, the effort and the ease. The two disciplines actually hold each other accountable. As we have learned, you cannot be all in on one and sort of in on the other. They work together. Add in meditation/mindfulness/self-reflection, and you have a perfect triad of balanced wellness.

“I’m actually more nervous to end the Indigo30 than I was starting it,” writes a student new to the Indigo30. “I’ve never had so much energy. It makes me a better speech language pathologist, a better friend, and a better person to be around. The meetings were so helpful and I loved hearing about other people’s NSVs. The blogs helped me A LOT — the introspection is huge for me. I tell others that it’s not about losing weight; it’s about seeing how your body reacts to certain foods. It’s about gaining insight into your own habits with food, and it’s about doing something you didn’t think you could.”

Some of you were looking for education, and were curious. Others were looking for a reset. Still others were looking for a distraction from the hardships of life, something to redirect your focus. You all have admitted that this was more than you thought it would be — why were you suddenly finding yourself crying tears of gratitude on your mat? Why and how were you suddenly not craving a drink amidst friends and normal social circles, totally content to say, “no, thank you” with ease? Why was it easier than you anticipated?

Because you didn’t do it alone. You redefined what “hard” really is. And you saw change occur.

“I probably would never have done this type of regimen without Indigo as a support group.”

“I have struggled with anxiety and depression. Over the past month my mood swings have been almost non-existent. I have not felt so ‘stable’ in several years. My chronic migraines have almost disappeared. I have decreased my caffeine intake significantly. These are things I never, in a million years, though possible.”

“I’ve had personal challenges/disappointments/losses that I’ve experienced for years. All of THAT was hard. And it still is. Pouring my energy into what I thought was going to be a ‘distraction’ that turned out to be a blessing — this reset — was not hard. I have learned so much, made new friends and bolstered my confidence as I prepare to take the next steps on my journey.”

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It’s not always easy to know what our purpose is. There will be days when you feel aimless and lost, alone and so vulnerable. You will think you are just chasing your tail or wandering directionless, feeling like no one and nothing even notices the path you are traveling, because they are so hyper-focused on their own path. Most of all, you may battle mostly with yourself, relentlessly seeking achievement and perfection; running toward some intangible goal of “finally good enough” when all the things have, at long last, perfectly lined up. Until the day comes, and it will if it hasn’t already, when you realize that the battle is only with your own reflection. If you reach out and try to touch it, there will be nothing there. But if you look around and see what’s outside of, and beyond that reflection, you will find real people with real feelings and similar, real battles, whose hands need to be held and who also need to be pulled away from the enticing reflecting glass so that they can see, in your eyes, who they really are.

The mission of the Indigo30 was to educate participants in nutrition and yoga in such an impactful, but balanced way, that how they live — their lifestyle — will automatically, by default, impact and balance others as they exemplify and share what they have learned.

“As I now look toward my future,” a hesitant-to-share Indigo30 participant writes, “this experience will always go with me. My degree is concentrated in Nutrition and Wellness; my goal now is to work with individuals who want to make lifestyle changes to improve their health. Therefore, I thank you, for providing this experience. It has not only helped me but will help others with whom I share it.”

Mission accomplished.

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One more day.

Keep going.

B

 

Indigo3O DAY 24: Cleaning house

You’ve spent 23 days cleaning your insides. Can you believe that? Your digestive tract is now like a water slide! And because of that, your skin is clearing (or clear!) your eyes are brightening (or bright!) your hair is shiny-ing (or shiny!) … just by changing your food and getting on your mat, every darn day. You have successfully created a routine, and even your BRAIN is clean. Sure you are still feeling emotions, but I bet the mood swings aren’t as drastic. And I bet the smiles outweigh the frowns.

In the ancient texts of yoga, there is a practice called sauca. Sauca literally means purity, cleanliness and clearness. So good job with the body, food and digestive sauca! Kidding image.pngaside, sauca is first of the niyamas on the eight limbed path of Ashtanga Yoga. (This topic is as expansive as the horizon, so I won’t go into great details about the eight limbs … you can come to teacher training for that! You are, however, on the path, you may just not know it yet …) Suffice it to say that sauca has very great and deliberate importance.

I like to think of sauca as a blank canvas. A clean slate. An open field. Space for creation. What we know about life is that it is very hard to create anything of significance on top of something else. Think of a house that has been run down, neglected, beat up, littered with trash and losing its structure. Would we just build over and around it? No. If we had the resources we needed, we would likely tear the whole thing down and start fresh. This makes perfect sense, don’t you think? And yet, we do not do this with our own bodies and minds. Instead, we pile on more without taking the time to scrape the lot so that we can use our resources wisely. Enter, the practice/niyama of sauca.

Sauca refers to purity of mind, speech and body. We all know that you can look super fab on the outside, but if you are a wreck in your heart and falling apart in your mind and cruel to the people around you, no amount of makeup, weight loss, designer handbags, expensive cars, big houses or big talk will make a difference. You are still a wreck in your heart and falling apart in your mind and cruel to the people around you with a whole bunch of stuff to (try to) hide it from everyone. The irony? People see through it all. Sooner or later, in whatever way, they start to back away.

This niyama is considered essential for happiness and general well-being. Anger, hatred, prejudice, greed, pride, fear, aggressive, passive aggressive, shaming, impatient or dominating communication, intolerance, negative thoughts … these things cause what the yogis refer to as “impurities of the intellect,” and according to these pretty dialed-in dudes, they are cleansed through the process of yoga — but not just poses. The poses help us get to the next level of “cleansing,” which is stillness. It is ONLY when we get still enough to listen that we are able to then clean out thought, or more professionally stated, inquire or self-examine. We cannot know ourselves if we are running around chasing the clock and chasing our tail all day. Busyness is an epidemic. We are not more important to others because we are busy. And we are not lazy if we are not busy. What a complete and total black hole of despair we have created with this busy culture! And in the meantime, we are losing our sense of self. When we sit quietly and practice mindfulness and meditate — or even just pray — we get still enough to listen and self examine. We stop talking and start listening. That is the third step of sauca.

“Sauca doesn’t lie beyond asana (poses) so much as it lies before it,” writes Emma Newlin. “If we turn up on our mats with a sense of aggression instead of ahimsa (non -violence), self-denial instead of satya (truthfulness), laziness instead of tapas (discipline or burning passion) and impurity instead of sauca (cleanliness), then we’re not likely to progress as positively throughout our sadhana (our practice).”

Sauca also calls for a cleanliness of surroundings. Home space, car space, office space. I am a very organized person and keep my spaces pretty clean and neat. Zen space for me is comforting. image.pngSo my routines for cleanliness are ingrained. My children often tell me that they love how tidy I keep things because it helps them feel calm. And they know where their stuff is which keeps them from getting frustrated looking for something, extends the life of their toys and belongings and keeps them from panicking and freaking out in the mornings before school. That is a huge win. It’s more work for all of us to keep up with, no doubt. But the trade-off is immense — peace in a typical time of struggle.

Perhaps for the remaining days of your Indigo30, since you have most all of the routines down now, you can take a look around at your spaces and start to clean them out too. Clean out some junk drawers. Purge your closet. Organize your desk. Choose just one thing a day so you don’t get overwhelmed.

You know how to scrutinize the contents of your food — now do the same with the products in your home — household, personal care, pet care. If you took some personal inventory of all the things you slathered on your body each day, I bet you would freak out. Shampoo, conditioner, body soap, shaving cream. Toothpaste, face cleanser, face lotions, makeup. Hair detangler, volumizing mousse, hair spray, on and on with the hair products omg. Body lotion, perfume, deodorant. And don’t forget, you then dress yourself in clothing that has been washed in laundry soap, softener and sometimes bleach.

I could keep going. I haven’t even gotten to all the stuff you clean your house with. Listen, I’m not trying to get you to use fewer products or stuff — the idea of practicing sauca is to pay attention to what’s in what you use. Examine the contents for harsh chemicals. Your body has to work so much harder to deal with all of them. Emma Newlin uses a great example, one of simply eating an apple. “You may or may not know that apples have the highest amount of pesticides of all fruit, which is why it’s best to eat organic apples. If we eat an apple full of pesticides, our body has to detoxify and digest the impurities before being able to absorb the goodness of the apple.” What a shame!

And it’s really no different on your mat. If you come into class holding onto a whole bunch of negativity, it’s going to take a little while to burn through it all. And friends, I’m here to tell you, after 25 years of practicing, that some days, the fire isn’t stoked hot enough to burn through all the funk. But you get on your mat anyway, because some is better than none. Even if you have only 20 minutes — PRACTICE FOR 20 MINUTES. There is no apathy on a yoga mat. You get on it and you do the work, the work of purity of heart. Because you know that on the other side of that hour is a new perspective.image

Zoom your lens out macro this week. Start looking at the bigger picture, the wide-angle of your life. Look and listen for what needs some attention, some sauca. Perhaps it’s your sock drawer, or perhaps it’s how you speak to your spouse when he/she isn’t meeting your expectations. Perhaps it’s your garage, or perhaps it’s a relationship that needs some clean up (a.k.a, you taking accountability for your role in it.) Whatever it is, on the path of the yogi, we stop, we breathe, we get present, we own who we are and how we are showing up in every situation, and then… we take action for what is right and good and clean and pure.

You’ve got this.

KG,

B

Indigo30 DAY 12: It’s here again. The weekend. Don’t downshift; level UP.

Welcome to Weekend #2 of your Indigo30! I’ve already given you some super fab tips on how to survive social situations. So … here’s a thought. I bet most of you have already figured out that staying home is slightly easier. You’re also not drinking so you’re not crashing on the sofa after your third glass and you are likely getting up earlier. Suddenly, you have time you didn’t have before. MIRACLES ARE HAPPENING.

So, maybe, just maybe, you could use this new-found time and energy, for something that will absolutely, positively, level you up and leave you with all kinds of new insights, creativity, emotional balance and even deeper rest. I’d be willing to be this little thing will also make your relationships with your partner, kids, co-workers and friends better. Now that you have the basics of the Indigo30 down — your diet and your yoga are cruising along at a lovely little tick and you’ve got the hang of it — maybe you could use this weekend to take on a new challenge. All it will require is 5-10 minutes a day.

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Oh gosh, there I go again. Pitching the crazy. Well before you deem it a new-age trend that only the patchouli-drizzled, mala bead clad wizards and witches on Platform #9-3/4 practice, I want to share some really interesting scientific research in the field of mindfulness.

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Back in the 1960s, a guy named Dr. Paul D. Maclean devised the “Triune Brain” model as a way to explain the brain’s evolution while reconciling rational human behavior with more primal and violent outbursts. The Triune Model suggests three parts to the brain:

  • Reptilian (posterior, brain stem): the source of instincts
  • Paleommamalian (mid-brain): the source of emotions
  • Neomammalian (cortex): the source of rational thought

In this hierarchy, the older brain structures (reptilian, paleomammalian) are ruled by the newer one (neomammalian). The cortex regulates and inhibits instincts and emotions so that you control behaviors and responses. Thank goodness for that!

When you experience stress, mostly extreme stress but it could be any level, this model is thrown into disarray; your survival instincts assume control. In this scenario, the lower brain structures hijack and override the cortex. Theoretically, when stress ends, you shift out of survival mode and back into regulated mode. Sometimes, however, the shift fails to properly or fully occur. When this happens, the rational mind doesn’t reclaim control and the lower brain, with nothing to inhibit it, floods you with so much stimuli that you shift into meltdown mode. Reclaiming control relies on helping your cortex resume its regulatory and inhibitory activities; the key to this is your prefrontal cortex. 

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This part of the brain is like mission control in so many ways. Known as the seat of your executive function, the prefrontal cortex affects self-regulation, decision-making, and attention processes. After high stress, this part of your brain can experience a decrease in its capability. From lessened blood flow on the left side (the location of analytical processes) to increased activity on the right (the location of sadness and anger), changes in your prefrontal cortex can cause stimuli flooding, emotional overwhelm, and dark mood swings.

Getting your cortex back on track (or, as one neuroscientist described it in this research, “getting your drunk CEO sobered up and out from under the desk”) can be done naturally through two simple daily practices. Both processes train your ability to focus your attention, the major inhibitory effort of your cortex.

Yep, you guessed it. And it’s not food. And it’s not exercise.

Reduce Anxiety Through Mindfulness

Many times the lower brain structures focus on the past or the future. If you can pause for a moment and think about any worries or fears you have, you will realize that they are all about the past or the future. Because right now, you are just sitting wherever you are, reading this blog. There is no actual threat in this moment. This one. Not the one two hours ago or the one three days from now. This one.

Mindfulness deliberately places attention in the present moment, activating the cortex through an observational process that shuts down unnecessary instincts and emotions, while activating rational thinking. << READ THAT PART OVER LIKE FIVE TIMES. 

Try this exercise two to five times per day in moments of tension and also relaxation:

  1. Deliberately pause what you’re doing.
  2. Take a deep breath in; imagine in your mind taking a step back.
  3. Turn inward; notice what you feel inside your body and mind.
  4. Suspend judgment; let anything come up. Observe without evaluating.
  5. Label what you notice (“I’m feeling _______________.”)
  6. Observe the experience as if you were watching a friend move through it.
  7. Notice when the emotion or experience subsides.
  8. Redirect your attention to a pleasant or desired focus.

So what is mindfulness? Getting present to what is actually happening, in the moment. The opposite is living in the fantasy world of thought and Storyland. And in Storyland, there lives judgment, fear, anxiety, assumption, irrational narrative, me-centered dialogue and most of all, illusion. Mindfulness helps us get present to what’s real.

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Reduce Anxiety Through Meditation

The process of meditation is a terrific strategy for training your brain in the area of attention because it deliberately creates neural pathways dedicated to deliberate control of your focus. Studies have shown that in as little as five minutes per day over a period of just ten weeks, meditation can significantly increase prefrontal activity and strength, resulting in a quieting of your overall mind and specific lower brain structures. The myth about meditation is that you have to empty your mind in order for it to be successful. In fact, your mind must wander in order for meditation to have the desired training effect. Try this:

For just five minutes every day take yourself to a quiet, safe space and close your eyes. Choose something to focus your mind on; this can be a sound, a word, an image, anything. Let all thoughts subside and maintain an attentive focus. When your mind wanders or becomes chatty, simply redirect it to your chosen focus (and know that every time you do, you are successfully training your brain).

My first meditation teacher, John Freese, taught me this, and I will never forget …

Remembering … is progress.

What that means is that if your mind wanders during a quiet sit, and you remember to come back to your point of focus (the sound, the word, the image, whatever it is) — that act of remembering? That is progress. Remembering means you are getting stronger mentally. Don’t you just LOVE that???

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Mindfulness and meditation are the two most effective brain trainers to support optimal prefrontal cortex functioning. Do you see now … this has nothing to do with religion or faith or spirituality or world view or belief system. It has to do with exercising your brain so that you can more effectively manage stress and cope with difficulty with ease and grace and problem solving creativity. The more you incorporate mindfulness and meditation into your daily experience, the more you will be training your brain to recalibrate, balance, and control.

What’s better? The more you strengthen your brain in moments of low stress, the better it will respond in high-stress situations allowing you to reduce anxiety.

I promised you that I would not let you focus only on food or the latest coffee creamer or who has the most stars. I promised you that I would teach you about balance in all areas. Gandhi is famous for saying, “One man cannot do right in one department of life whilst he is occupied in doing wrong in any other department.” My team of nearly 60 teachers, employees and contributors at Indigo are constantly hearing of my demand to “walk the walk,” and I accept nothing less from them. They must do and be what they teach others to do and be. They must be true in all areas of their life, because they are leaders of truth. They are seekers of balance and authenticity in all areas. So to lead a yogic lifestyle means that we take all areas — our nourishment, our yoga, our mental health, our emotional health, our word, our behavior and our relationships — as equals parts of the whole. If you are going to take care of your body in this program, then you must also take care of your mind. And do you know what really ends up winning? Your soul.

Get on your cushion, my love. Your brain is waiting.

Keep going.

B

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INDIGO YOGA MEDITATION SCHEDULE

WESTSIDE STUDIO: 

Monday through Friday, classes held 12:50-1:25pm

Thursday (Zen Den “Quiet Zone,” 6pm-close) class held 5:35-6:10pm

Saturday/Sunday, classes held 9:15-9:50am

SUNDANCE SQUARE STUDIO:

Currently we do not have any meditation classes at Sundance BUT, we invite you to come to one of our Vinyasa/Restorative classes, where you will experience 40 minutes of mindful movement, 5 minutes of rest, followed by 45 minutes of restorative yoga, which many find to have similar benefits as meditation and yoga nidra. Try it all! See what is your best fit. And as always … more to come!

Vinyasa/Restorative Classes held Saturday/Sunday 4:30-6:00pm, Tuesday 6:15-7:45pm