1 comment on “A Yoga Teacher’s Review of…Pokémon Go…”

A Yoga Teacher’s Review of…Pokémon Go…

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By Ashley Holly McEachern

Guilty as charged. Just days after Pokémon Go – Niantic and Nintendos’ crowd pleasing app- hit the market, I joined my tech-nerd of a boyfriend for a walk down Toronto’s Bloor West neighbourhood, armed with a big screen iPhone and a map of my city and its lurking Pokémon. During the two hours we ended up wandering through the nooks and crannies of our neighbourhood streets, I felt a blurry collision of complete outrage for the deepening of an already technologically addicted society and absolute awe at the fact that this ‘nintendo’ game was taking otherwise sedentary human beings walking through the great outdoors. With that in mind, here are my top ten reasons why Pokémon Go, while not without its faults, isn’t all bad. In fact, Pokémon Go just might be the antithesis to a culture that stays at home and plays video games, risking their emotional, energetic and physical health. Here is why:

1. People are walking. We walked for two entire hours. Imagine how two hours of active movement rather than sitting, even just once a week, can astronomically transform a person’s health and wellness. During the first week Pokémon Go launched, people were posting incredible Fitbit screenshots on Instagram of the 1,500-3,000 extra calories they had burned just from playing Pokémon Go one day.

2. People are exploring. We meandered into streets we hadn’t visited just minutes from our home and admired art on local schools and graffiti in nearby alleyways. My neighbourhood PokéStops (or points of interest) were awe-inspiring to the point that I started to forget I was in my own country, let alone my own city. The game became a travel guide to my own community, with secrets I somehow hadn’t uncovered until Pokémon Go came around.

3. People are engaging. Two weeks ago, I watched the world walk past, with their eyes stuck on their screens. Those folks never looked up to observe or gawk at an interesting monument or piece of art. Now, when Pokémon Go pops up a PokéStop, they do.

4. People are connecting. Despite the head down posture and eyes glued to the screen requirement of playing Pokémon Go, truth is, people are leaving the dark cyber corners of their homes and discovering other people – other real, beautiful, living, and breathing human beings – who share the same interests and passions. For many single 90’s children, this just might be the next best way to ‘catch’ a date.

5. Families are playing together. Rather than watching television together over snacks, or, more realistically, watching a series of separate shows at each persons individual laptop or iPad – families are hitting the city streets, with their kids, learning, navigating, and exploring. The game provides ample opportunities for parents and kids to connect and teach and learn together.

6. People are dancing. Maybe not all of them, but we did. In fact, on our spontaneous trip to the local park, my partner threw the phone into his pocket and pulled me onto an outdoor stage, where we slow danced beneath the urban stars amidst the cell phone glows and shadows lurking around us.

7. People are going to the GYM… and maybe, just maybe, the repetition of that word alone will filter into their subconscious and encourage them to go to an actual, literal, gym to ease all the inevitable head and neck pain that will come with Pokémon Go playing.

8. People are taking action. In Sudbury, community members involved with the local Pokémon Go Facebook Group had arranged to meet at a local park to play the game together – when faced with city demands for a permit – Pokémon players stood strong as a united front and one player declared that “this game has brought so many people close to each other,” and now the group is working to raise money to rent the park. Who knows what the Pokémon playing forces could accomplish as a united front!

9. People are going outdoors. Despite being hyper-connected to technology, Pokémon Go players are spending more time in nature, which can increase depleted energy, awaken breath awarenes, and sense experiences. The amount of sunlight, fresh air, and active movement Pokémon Go is providing to a predominantly sedentary population is priceless.

10. People are smiling. Perhaps the most powerful series of social media posts I have uncovered post-Pokémon Go relate to how the game – and all of the aforementioned points – have helped to ease the very things most of my students come to yoga for – stress, depression, loneliness, and anxiety. One twitter user posits, “#PokemonGO has honestly helped so much with my depression and anxiety I’m actually talking to people and being active I love this so much,” while another declares, “Real talk – as someone with anxiety/depression, the fact that I’ve spent most of this weekend outside with friends is unreal. #PokemonGo,” to the most powerful post this week, “I’ve made so many new friends with #PokemonGO, it’s helped my social anxiety, and I’m actually getting out. This is more than just a game.”

While I don’t plan on spending my forthcoming days chasing Pokémon, I believe that this shift in gaming – to an outdoor, interactive, and social environment – can have unprecedented benefits for a specific population of people who might never come to the yoga studio. My belief is that yoga is a practice of union and wellbeing, two things I think this new app have already mastered.

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IMG_1395Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Ashley Holly McEachern, who discovered yoga after completing her MA in International Development and working with some of the world’s most at-risk populations. It was during a Yoga Teacher Training in the Sacred Valley of Peru where she realized that mindfulness is the path towards truly eradicating disease, poverty, and exploitation. Ashley currently lives in Toronto, leads yin yoga teacher trainings at YYOGA, consults with Skyfall Blue and Core Essence, and writes for various blogs and magazines across the globe. Visit her online at www.ashleyholly.com and follow her adventures on Instagram.

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8 comments on “Mixed Up About Mindfulness and Meditation? Here’s your simple guide to blissful living…”

Mixed Up About Mindfulness and Meditation? Here’s your simple guide to blissful living…

Simple meditation at Bongeunsa It’s difficult to pick up a magazine or scroll through our social media feeds without seeing a mention of either mindfulness or meditation. Sometimes it can be confusing, as the terms seem to be interchangeable. Here is a simple explanation on the ways that they are separate, similar, and synchronize together.

We can start with two common myths. Mindfulness is NOT thinking really hard about something–that sounds stressful. Meditation is NOT about shutting down the mind like an off switch–that sounds boring.

They are both tools to access inner peace, which is already inside of you. They rely on our ability to be focused entirely on the present moment. Both offer a way to decrease suffering and increase our level of happiness.

We can’t experience peace when we are regretting the past or worrying about the future. Accumulated stress is being blamed for many modern ailments such as heart disease, hypertension, depression, and eating disorders to name a few.

The addition of mindfulness and meditation into a daily routine can make a huge difference to our overall quality of life. Both are scientifically proven to release and prevent the signs and symptoms of stress.

Mindfulness: Awareness of our Outer Life

Mindfulness, by definition is the informal practice of present moment awareness that can be applied to any waking situation. It is a way of being aware. Jon Kabat-Zinn states in his book Full Catastrophe Living“When unawareness dominates the mind, all our decisions and actions are affected.”

How often have we driven somewhere only to wonder how we got there because our mind was on auto-pilot, while we checked into the past or the future, both of which we have no control over? Most of the things we do are done without full awareness.

We eat our meal without tasting it fully, our bodies get wet in the shower while our minds are elsewhere. How many sunsets and smiles have we missed because we feel compelled to check our phones? Our obsession with multi-tasking is an example of trying to do too much at once without focusing fully on each stage of the experience. Lack of awareness also prevents us from listening to our bodies when they need nutrition, rest, exercise, or hydration.

Mindfulness eliminates stress from a situation because we are fully aware and engaged in the activity, while keeping a perspective free of judgment. We aren’t trying to guess the future or create a mountain out of what is actually a small hill. If we get out of our own controlling way and observe mindfully just what is, without labeling it or placing an opinion on it, we can be free of the stress of expectation and fully accept the moment and all it offers.

Living mindfully means we experience something with what the Buddhists call, “a beginners mind.” That means we are listening to someone with our full attention on their words, voice and feelings, as if for the first time, without second guessing, judging or waiting for a pause in the conversation for our turn to talk. According to the Buddhist Monk, Thich Nhat Hanh, in his book, True Love, “Listening is an art we must cultivate.” He teaches “Deep, Compassionate Listening” as a mindfulness practice for enlightenment and to ease pain and suffering.

Obviously, mindful listening improves our relationships because listening with patience, trust, an open mind, and acceptance is going to be a good thing. Couple that with more conscious control over our emotions, can only be monumental for our own personal growth and relationships. Responding to stress instead of reacting habitually, is what Kabat-Zinn calls, the “mindfulness-mediated stress response.”

The usual arguments don’t trigger us the same knee-jerk way. When our buttons are pushed, our reaction time is slower due to a thoughtful presence, in the present. We don’t take things personally when we are aware of someone’s suffering and deeper needs. Life becomes less superficial and more compassionate.

Merging the Two Practices

Combining the informal, wakeful awareness of daily mindfulness with a formal meditation practice is the most effective way to eliminate stress from our lives. Each enhances the effectiveness of the other.

Closing the eyes and becoming aware of the inner world of your thoughts, bodily sensations, sounds and energy while reciting a silent mantra is using mindfulness as a formal mind training technique. We need mindfulness for example when scanning our physical body by focusing on each part to be able to relax and prepare for meditation. One becomes a part of the other.

Meditation: Awareness of our Inner Life

Meditation is the more formal practice of minimizing outside distractions to go within by relaxing the body, calming the emotions and thoughts. Awareness of peace is achieved when the mental chatter is slowed down. There are many different types of meditation to choose from but they all lead to the same place of inner peace.

While meditating, we are being mindful of our thoughts from the viewpoint of observer without clinging to them. Our thoughts can just float by like clouds while we learn something about our inner selves. We can see how negative our thinking can be or how much time we waste dwelling on the past. This is crucial information for anyone wanting to improve. Making changes in your outer circumstances has to begin first with seeing which thoughts created this mess in the first place.

Witnessing the surprising or predictable type of thoughts that flow by while meditating, without following them is stilling what the Buddhists call The Monkey Mind. Our minds are like wild monkeys that jump from branch to branch because we keep following them. When we give the mind something to focus on like a guided meditation or breathing, or mantra, we can become aware of an inner world of love and peace without following the crazy monkeys.

Meditating twice a day for ten minutes will reap benefits in our outer mindful life. It is the perfect way to let go of accumulated stress resulting in many health benefits such as a good nights sleep, more compassionate and peaceful relationships, strengthened brain function and increased physical vitality. Even our immune system is strengthened from daily moments of deep restful wakefulness that meditation offers.

It won’t take long before we can extend the ten minutes and carry that bliss into our life more and more. Practicing mindfulness and meditation goes hand in hand in creating a happy life, no matter what terminology we want to use.

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stacks-image-94b9edfEditor’s note: This is a guest post by Kathryn Remati. Meditating since age 16, Kathryn is a certified Boston-based meditation teacher and creator of the popular Tranquil Spectrum meditation app for Apple devices. Kathryn completed a BA in Psychology and an MA in Organizational Behavior in Australia. For more information and to retain her services for a guided meditation go to: http://tranquilspectrum.com or follow her on Twitter, Pinterest, and Facebook.

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21 comments on “Meditate to Reset and Relax”

Meditate to Reset and Relax

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There is a growing meditation movement happening around the world. Meditation is mainstream and no longer on the fringe. Hip-hop moguls are writing books about it, movie stars blog about it, the yoga studios are packing in stretched bodies with quiet minds. There is a long list of Western spiritual gurus spreading the word too. Balance is the word and meditation is the way to get it.

As stress builds up in our body, we begin to experience sickness, tension, and fatigue. Our emotions become strained and our mind fills with fear and negative thoughts. The convincing link between the mind and body is well established and health and wellness advocates in the medical profession promote reducing stress as a way to avoid disease.

According to mental health research, intense feelings of anxiety and stress can cause a nervous breakdown. The nerves don’t actually break, of course but it’s a signal to shut down and reset. We have become out of balance.

How to Reset:

Closing the eyes and limiting the sensory input will immediately start to slow things down. Deep breaths combined with a meditation exercise will lower the brain wave frequency to a synchronized, more focused level of mind.

Simply put, the brain is like a broadcasting and receiving transmitter running on electricity. Like a radio station it operates on different channels where one predominates at a time. Alpha waves were the first to be discovered by scientists due to its slower, more powerful signal. If hooked up to an EEG machine while meditating, it would register an alpha/theta reading depending on the depth of our meditation practice.

Meditation, due to its positive stress relieving side effects, is being considered as part of a prescription for a growing number of ailments that are physical, mental, emotional, or spiritually based.

The reset button isn’t just needed for excess. Balance needs to be reset due to a lack of something in our lives too. Meditation can fill a spiritual void where there is a lack of purpose, meaning, peace and love. When we move our awareness from the physical body, calm our emotions and still our thoughts, what remains? The answer to that question has ancient philosophers and New Age gurus searching through words to label something there are no words for. We just have to try it for ourselves.

There are many types of meditation to choose from. All paths lead to the same place of inner peace. Finding the one that fits our lifestyle is as important to our health as daily physical exercise. The mind and body are interconnected, so remember to apply the reset button to balance our inner work with our physical work out.

Sitting in silence can become a battle with what the Buddhists call, the ‘monkey mind’ as our thoughts jump from one branch to another, interrupting the flow of peace. A great way to start meditating is with a guided meditation. The benefits are many and even the most experienced meditator will always benefit from a little guidance that can lead us gently to that peaceful place in an efficient manner.

Focusing on a mental picture is similar to focusing on a mantra or on the breath. We do as we are told by the voice and before you know it, no more body, no more thoughts…just peace.

Peeling away the layers until there is nothing but the inner self, doesn’t have to be a struggle or a chore. Just like exercising our bodies in a fun way with a sport we love, meditating can be fun too. We can look forward to putting on the headphones to tune out the stress and tune in to our happy place anytime. There are longer guided meditations with full body scanning relaxation that is an indulgent treat, as well as shorter pick-me-up versions. It doesn’t matter if we are sleep deprived and happen to drift off during the session because the subconscious mind never sleeps so we can still benefit from the affirmations on a deep level. The positive words in a good, guided meditation will feed our soul in a way we couldn’t do by ourselves without monkey mind waking up.

Try a few to find a voice to live with happily ever after, while discovering that peace is within. It is the easiest way to reset and balance our body and mind for a long and happy life.

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Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Kathryn Remati, a Boston based meditation facilitator, creator of the Tranquil Spectrum App for Apple devices. Kathryn completed graduate and post-graduate studies in Humanistic Psychology (BA) and Organizational Behavior (MA) in Australia where she taught Alpha brainwave training techniques. For more info go to: http://tranquilspectrum.com or follow her on Twitter, Pinterest, and Facebook.

42 comments on “Pocket Yoga-Practice Builder iOS App Gets a Great Update…and we’ve got redemption codes!”

Pocket Yoga-Practice Builder iOS App Gets a Great Update…and we’ve got redemption codes!

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I’m sure most of us enjoy a little spontaneity in our yoga practice, but there’s also a lot to be said for showing up to a yoga class with a prepared teacher that puts on a smooth-flowing class.  I do most of my yoga at home, but I don’t have many worse yoga pet peeves than practicing with an online yoga video where the teacher goes through a bunch of asanas for one side of the body and forgets to do the same thing for the other side.

Frustrating, distracting, and seems to happen all to often given the frailty and forgetfulness of the human mind…

Fear not! Pocket Yoga-Practice Builder, an iOS app I’ve used for a long time, came out with a great update this week that adds the ability to create repeating sequences with the app and export the sequence to a downloadable PDF. Very helpful for teachers planning classes or even us home-practitioners who like to plan our practices out.  And most importantly, no more forgotten poses!  Just build the routine, roll out the mats, and practice or teach away.

The app makes it easy to create routines, adjust pose duration, and even add your own music.

PBcreate@2xHere’s a sample practice PDF and click here to check out a video with an overview of what Yoga Builder has to offer.

That’s all good news, but the best news for you is that we have 10 free download codes (currently priced at $6.99) to give away! 

To Enter:  Since yoga apps make it super simple to practice yoga just about anywhere, comment below on the weirdest place you’ve ever practiced yoga and you could be one of our random winners!

Update (12 Jan 15): Contest closed… Thanks for sharing the creative and crazy places you’ve busted out a yoga move or two! 10 lucky yogis are now having a fun time building yoga sequences with Pocket Yoga-Practice Builder. Have an amazing week!

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