Week 6 Wrap up

New Mind Map-2

Yoga and your outside world

This is the last week of this course. We will start with looking to the benefits yoga can give to you and your world. After that i will give my reflections on this course and what i have experienced and what i will take with me.

Why is yoga important for you and the world

When you start with yoga, and with that i mean the yoga exercises and the breathing exercises (pranayama), you can experience direct the positive effects for yourself. But there is more………..

But first the positive effects for your well- being. Practicing Yoga with a mindfulness mindset (with curiosity, non judgmental and with compassion) you cultivate your ability to observe and experience your mind, with all the thoughts, emotions and also your preferences, your dislikes and your mind patterns. This is what Dan Siegel calls mindsight.

DrDanSiegel_WheelOfAwareness

In his wheel of awareness exercise he has developed a practice to cultivate your self-knowledge.

By developing a fresh sight on your own mind you can also learn to make better and more healthy choices for action in stead of acting from your auto pilot. We can have a better insight in our own patterns and update these for better, more healthy patterns which are better for your own well- being and for the well being of the rest of the world.

For a practical model see my blog of week 4 about stress and rebalancing the autonomic nervous system. Week 4

This well- being can be explained by the notion of integration. This is what Dan Siegel introduced as the river of integration. Here the integration is explained as integrating the different functional parts of a system and keeping the functions of the parts and by integrating (or connecting) them you can have SYNERGY. Meaning that the whole is more or better then the parts. The different parts are then the different parts of the brain, the body and your relationships.  More information click here 

This integration is the outcome of mindful practices as Yoga but in my opinion the key is the mindful mindset. So it is also valid for Mindful Walking, Mindful Running, Mindful Eating etc. And with all this the breathing is an important key or mind body connector. So with this you can develop to experience more and a more real self-esteem leading to well- being.

And by integrating also your outer world, your relations, you can start creating a better world.

The power of meaningful connections

We are social beings. And when we personally have a well integrated brain/ body we can experience as well the feelings and emotions of the other. This is the basis of empathy and compassion.

Better and more healthy relationships are leading to a more positive feedback giving you:

  • A better self image
  • More positive circumstances

In this digital age, despite that almost we are constantly connected, the feeling of loneliness is becoming more and more a problem. We can have many connections but can even feel lonelier then ever. Where in 1970 11-17% of the population felt lonely. Now it is more then 40%! So when you feel alone your are not alone.

What is important are meaningful relations, what these are and how you can develop them is described in this article: 6_power of meaningful relationships

So with mindful practices you improve your self esteem and skill to observe and experience whatever comes into your mind. This has advantages for your well- being and the well- being of the world.

“A human being is part of a whole, called by us the ‘Universe,’ a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separated from the rest—a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circles of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”

                                                                                                            Albert Einstein

 

Yoga and mindfulness in your daily life

So to cultivate these positive outcomes it is important to integrate regular mindful practices into our daily life. For myself i have discovered the richness of Yoga and Mindfulness. And it is surprising that these practices already exist such a long time. They are so simple and powerful. The biggest challenge is to make them a real part of your life style. For that you need some motivation and this can be different for each person. A good motivator is a health problem and doing these kind of practices are proven beneficial and maybe even better then medication. Another motivator could be that you are looking for more meaning in your life and that you would like to take more control over your own life. Offering these practices to other people could also be as an integrated low-treshhold practice as walking or running which are much better accepted in the West. However the scientific acceptance of Yoga and Mindfulness helps a lot in giving it a broader acceptance.

But what helps anyway to keep doing it:

  • Look for a yoga style which suits you, which feels good and try different styles and keep doing this because your need can change. There is a lot of high quality Yoga offering on the internet.  With this one i have good experience and here you can follow a program to discover different yoga styles: click here
  • Try to do your practices on a fixed time of the day.
  • Accept that each day is different, one day all goes smoothly and other days it will be harder.
  • Simply start every moment you have planned.
  • Take the open mindful mindset (curiosity, non judgmental and with compassion) with you in daily life.
  • Write regular in a journal about your experiences during Yoga and also in daily life.

My reflections on this course

My goal for this 6 weeks course was:

“I want to follow all the 6 lessons in the pace of the course syllabus with an open, curious and non judgmental mindset and to (re) discover interesting practices and results coming form scientific research to integrate it in my own practice and in my profession.”

This goal is achieved and i have experienced this course as very useful and helpful first of all for myself. I have found extra motivation on my path to continue with my practices and improved theme here and there.

For my profession as a stress counsellor i was especially interested in the scientific content and for that reason i created this website and linked it to my own site. For me as a reference book as well for my clients when they are interested in mindful practices.

This year i have made my offering more complete, meaning that i have integrated all the different parts for a healthy life style in a system approach.

  • Reset of Mind and Body, integrating:
    • Mindful exercises (preferably outdoor in Nature)
    • Mindful eating, pure and fresh
    • Relaxation and self- care

More information can be found here (in Dutch): click here

This is an approach from Dan Siegel:

HealthyMindPlatter

And this from Duke University

Wheel_of_Health_2010_rev

 

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Week 5

Bewegen-voor-je-brein

Linking Mind and Body

This week was all about the interesting subject of the Mind Body connection. In the western world, until recently, we have divided these in 2 separate domains leading to a kind of tunnel vision. And from scientific studies we learn that we all can benefit regarding our well- being knowing how this connection works and what practices will be helpful to strengthen both.

We all know that negative thinking affects the body and also that doing certain bodily activities influences the mind. A study from Richard Davidson with asthma patients showed that patients who where shown negative words activated certain areas in their brain and from there they showed more lung inflammation compared to a group at whom these negative words where not shown. And we all know that physical activity, and then preferably outdoor, has a very relaxing effect on you mind.

Scientific studies show that slower breathing has an very quick impact on relaxing the mind. There is a direct connection between breathing and cognitive functions. On the how and what we go a little more in detail below.

Your breath

The breath is the only function which mostly is under control of the autonomic nervous system and that we are capable of, on an easy way, to breath voluntary. Consciously we can change the 4 different parameters of the in- and out-breath: In, Pause, Out, Pause and we can also vary the depth of our breath. In this way we can adjust the rhythm and the volume. With the in-breath we inhale oxygen and with the out-breath we exhale CO2. By slowing down the breath we can immediately calm the mind.

Your breath and the nervus vagus

The vagus nerve is the critical link between the mind and body. The vagus nerve (vagus means wandering or straying, named for its wandering course) meanders throughout the body to the heart, lungs, stomach, liver, and other areas. Described as the single most important nerve in the body, the vagus nerve is essential to the regulation of the heart and keeps the heart rate under control. Even more importantly, the nerve serves as the master regulator, controlling inflammatory processes, glucose regulation, and hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) function. The vagus nerve is vital for a healthy immune system. The nerve helps contain acute inflammation and prevents the spread of inflammation to the bloodstream.

vagus-nerve-symptoms-organ-systems

One way that activity of the vagus nerve is measured is through heart-rate variability, known as HRV. For more information click here breath and the vagus nerve

Deep breathing increases activity of the vagus nerve, activates the parasympathetic nervous system, and increases HRV.
Breathing-out increases the signal to the vagus nerve and decreases the heart rate. Breathing-in decreases the signal and increases the heart rate.

Dr. Patricia Gerbarg showed us here important work with traumatised people, and even children. She has taken many yoga (pranayama) exercises and adapted them to our western world mainly by changing the name. She booked good results and we where introduced to a very simple practice: Coherent Breathing; meaning 5 breath per minute in and out through the nose, gently and kind. By practicing coherent breathing you change the message from your body (breathing is a bodily activity) to your mind. With this Coherent Breathing practice you send the message to your mind that you are safe and this has the calming effect:

  • Calming the body
  • Calming Thoughts and Feelings (emotions)
  • More compassion

She has a nice website: http://www.breath-body-mind.com

Balancing Body and Mind

Yoga is ment to balance Body and mind. With breathing we can use the body to calm body and mind. In Yoga there are many different forms of breathing techniques (pranayama) with different effects. With the knowledge of the mind body connection and the functioning of the Vagus Nerve we can explain the effects of the different techniques.

The different postures of yoga (asana’s) are ment to balance mobility and strengths. Our structure limits our flexibility. We can not change much in our structure but what we can change are the different tissues keeping the structure together and moving it.

We are now just as much inside as we used to move outside.

In this Digital age, where people work inside buildings, and many times sitting after a screen, there is a big chance that your posture gets affected by too long in the seating pose. In the Netherlands the slogan now is “Sitting is the new smoking”. When you look at the development of humans we have millions of years lived and worked outside in an environment with lack of everything. Most of the people live now inside sitting with an abundance of information, (unhealthy)Food and stress.

Staying too long sitting affects the muscles of our back (becoming longer), breast and shoulders (becoming shorter). And also our hips. And on top all muscles reduce; Use it or loose it.

To move is therefore essential during the day and also to do regular physical activity. And then a variety of activities. For myself i do and promote Walking/ Running combined with Yoga  both with the mindfulness mindset.

I like Yoga very much you have a variety Yoga styles and practices that affects the whole body making it stronger and staying it flexible. Through the body mind connection this affects also the mind on a positive way. For Yoga i use Ashtanga and YinYoga.

What i liked also very much was the interview with Cathy Eason from the Nutritional Therapy Association. See combines the Yoga/ Mindfulness mindset to promote a path to more pure and healthy food:

  • Mindful Choosing (food)
  • Mindful Preparing (food)
  • Mindful Eating

Promoting making a change in behavior for well- being step by step on an individual base.

Good to integrate this to 1 BodyMind approach with the 3 pillars for Well- being:

  • To move
  • To eat pure and healthy nutrition
  • And self-care

Nice to be part of a worldwide community.

 

Week 4

1zp1e2

This week was about the topic stress. First we will dive into this topic and will discover that we need stress to survive and to reach goals and on the other hand too much stress or better chronic stress can be the cause of many health problems;

  • 80% of doctor visits is stress related and stress is nr.3 in health expenditure (after heart disease and cancer).

After the lectures about stress and the impact on the processes in the body we will discover how we can handle and use stress in a positive way, supporting our well- being.

Unknown Finding your balance

What is stress?

“Everybody knows what stress is but nobody knows it really” (Dr.Hans Selye)

The experience of stress is very subjective. What is stressful for one person is for another person a challenge.

We can divide stress in two parts:

Acute or Functional Stress prepares our bodies for a challenge. It provokes a pike in cortisol and a small increase in blood pressure and when the stressor is gone the body relaxes.

However Chronic Stress provokes a continue high level of cortisol and blood pressure stays high and the body does not come in the recovery mode. This will lead to diseases because Chronic Stress impact all organ systems in the body.

Stress is a part of our lives and we will continue to meet stressors so we can not get it out of the way. However what we can learn is the way how we react or respond. But first a look in our bodies:

What happens in a stress situation?

For the answer we are going to look first to the Nervous System

NSdiagram.svg

The nervous system controls all the processes in our body together with the endocrine system. Looking at the Nervous System first we see the somatic nervous system controlling the voluntary function as moving your arm. The stress respons however is controlled by the Autonomic nervous system. This autonomic nervous system consists of 2 parts:
The Sympathetic part: this part prepares the body for fight or flight (gas handle)
The Parasympathetic part: this part brings the body in recovery mode (brake)

The nervous system works together with the endocrine system via the hypothalamus and this system produces hormones which take care of the chemical information needed to handle stress.

THE ENDOCRINE SYSTEM

This system regulates temperature, sleep, hunger, thirst etc. and also the stress respons:

hpa-axis

In case of a threatening event this system produces finally in the adrenal glands the stress hormones in the bloodstream.

Autonomic imbalance

Normally after an acute stressor the body tries to go back to a balanced state this is called homeostasis. This is a proces in our body that is called allostasis. So when we are experiencing many stressors, which can come from outside and also from inside our body. Inside our body is mainly thinking and in many cases negative thinking, you can imagine that this proces (allostasis) has to work hard and this causes a progressive wear and tear of the body. This wear and tear of the body is called the allostatic load. And this causes the stress related diseases.

The allostatic load leads to an autonomic imbalance:

ans_imbalance

With stress the SNS is dominating the PNS.

Premature aging and diseases are the markers of this imbalance.

One of the first things what is affected is our Self-Regulation capability, and this is what we need most in fruitful coping with stress.

Yoga can help to rebalance the autonomic nervous system.

ans_rebalanced

 

Yoga can be a solution because it can bring us from our heads into our bodies. It focusses on:

  • Body awareness
  • Breathing techniques

These can first of all calm our nervous system.

And then further with Mindfulness we can strengthen our Self- Regulation capabilities. With these we can develop a more productive stress respons. And also further more in many facets of our live we can experience big advantages for instance in our work, in our relations etc. This develops very well our Emotional Intelligence which is the key to thrive or flower.

As a stress counsellor i work with a model what i call the 7G’s and the HOE_RA model. The G’s and HOE_RA are the beginning letters (Dutch) of the different processes.

First the 7 G’s are the beginning letters of how we experience and respond in daily live. Responding on a stressor is one example of this proces.

  • Gebeurtenis (What happens) is something from outside in this case the stressor.
  • -out>in
  • Gedachten (Our Thoughts) These can also be the cause of stress and especially of chronic stress.
  • Gevoelens (What we feel)
  • Gemoedstoestand (Our mood)
  • Gedragsimpulsen (Our impulses to react)
  • -in>out
  • Gedrag (Our behavior)
  • Gevolg (The results of our behavior)

Then the HOE_RA is the mindful responding on a stressor

  • Herken (Notice) this is where mindfulness is very important. Notice what happens in your body as a reaction.
  • Observeer (Observe) experience that what you feel without judgement. Bring your awareness to your body (mindful breath in and out)
  • Erken (Acknowledge), Let it be, accept that what is (even if you disagree). It is a fact.
  • _ Stands for the Pause, this creates the space where you can make space for a healthy answer. This is your freedom.
  • Reflecteer (Reflect), what is the best way to respond? Is it necessary to react? Is it good for me and the other person(s).
  • Antwoord (Answer), very important to do this, to act. And even not acting can be your choice.

This proces can be practiced in real live situations and the first part in very important to create the space. Practicing this creates many freedom. It gets you out of your auto pilot.

The process is easy but very difficult to implement, what is needed is a firm commitment and dedication.

The practices in this weeks course are very similar.

My experience

By practicing first Yoga (since 20 years) and later adding this with Mindfulness i can say that many things in my live have changed for the positive. And from this experience i changed my work field from a marketing and sales manager (speaking about stress!) to my own practice as a stress counsellor. I still develop myself in Yoga and Mindfulness and the real live practices and in my work i have developed some more low threshold mindbody activities to help people suffering with stress.
What i always do is bringing the attitude (of myself also) coming from Yoga and Mindfulness:

  • With Curiosity
  • Without Judgement
  • With Compassion

And what i noticed is this also what Kristin Neff told in here video about Self- Compassion and that this is an important key.

For more on Self Compassion click here  science of self-compassion

So here is the importance illustrated of Self- Regulation and Self- Compassion for your walking, running, breathing, working etc. Shortly affecting all area’s of your live.

Week 3

yoga 3

Why is western science important for Yoga?

It is important to create in General Healthcare more confidence in MindBody approaches as a science based therapy to cure and prevent certain diseases. Further on in this blog we will focus on yoga, but it is plausible that this is also valid for other MindBody practices.

  • It helps health professional to prescribe MindBody interventions like Yoga.
  • It gives evidence based prove about the effectiveness of Yoga.
  • It shows what health benefits can be experienced by practitioners, this is a health education interesting also for individual practitioners.

Some obstacles to overcome

In our Western healthcare we have divided the healthcare in 2 separate fields; the Body and the Mind. Both with their own educational institutes and professions.

Also in Western Science we have a different perspective on the scientific approach compared with the Eastern perspective.

The Eastern perspective is more based on an individual (client centered) and holistic (MindBody) approach. And the approach is more based on the energy patterns in the body. Here the focus is more on acceptance, observing and experiencing.

The Western approach is more with a questioning, analytical and logical reasoning and the setting up of Randomized Controlled Trials and meta- analysis, leading to Evidence Based interventions.

However change is coming since the lasts decennia and especially Mindfulness and Yoga are key subjects of many studies. And for instance in the USA an official acknowledged agency drives the research and validation of these typical MindBody interventions. The name of this organization is National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH).

The digital age and well- being

Our Digital age with the abundance of information, food and stress, and the lack of physical exercise and being outside leads to some typical diseases like:

  • addiction
  • obesity
  • diabetes
  • cancer
  • heart and vascular disease
  • depression

For these there is not 1 solution possible because these diseases have a genetical factor and many environmental factors.  A broad approach is needed, mainly to realize a behavioral change in lifestyle.

MindBody solutions

More and more therapeutic interventions like Yoga and Mindfulness are being valued in the west.

  • Yoga and mindfulness is practiced by many western people for decennia already. Studies under these people show that 80% of these people experience clear improvement in well- being and many people who started with Yoga showed later a healthier lifestyle by stopping with smoking, eating healthier and doing more physical exercise.
  • In the lasts decennia many RCT’s and meta analysis show the positive effects of yoga

To conclude

In the West the Scientific approach is important and have taken care of overcoming many health issues in the past. What is nice to see now is that Yoga (in the meaning of connecting, bringing together) can be seen as a bridge between the Eastern Wisdom and Western Science. What stays very important is the Positive Health approach where each of us can take the direction we want and strengthen our resilience and self regulation and for that we can use MindBody interventions right away.

Put your own experiment in to place

To start choose an intervention like Yoga (also men;) ) and try the different forms of yoga and extra’s like meditation, breathing exercises, combine this with outdoor activities like walking and/ or running with the same mindset.

Experience the effects on you, do you feel better? do you enjoy it? Adapt if needed. Eventually you can do pre and post blood testing in consultation with your general practitioner. Do it for at least 100 days, then it will become a more healthy new habit.

My goal

Doing this course and the positive experience of reading the scientific studies with the Yoga benefits gives me the motivation to continue and even improve my lifestyle. I do Yoga now for more then 20 years and experience that it is a path that you can do during a lifetime. It also gives me confidence and tools that i can use in my profession. For that reason i have made this blog and coupled it with my own website.

 

Week2

Changing habits for your well-Being

This week was all about the way how to create new habits that support your well-being and making the link with yoga and mindfulness.

The picture above shows our environment in the digital age. We live more and more in cities and we spend most of our time indoors and sitting. And we are surrounded with growing quantities of:

  • Information
    • coming from newspapers, magazines but more and more from digital devices. We are always connected and we receive as a human in our digital age each 12 hours twice the quantity of information.
  • Food
    • When you walk through a supermarket you see that 80% of the available food is what you do not really need, but what most people like.
  • Sitting people
    • Most of our work is based inside, sitting and often behind a screen. And when you look at people working behind a screen you can notice that they seem in a frozen position.

This causes many really health problems and has a negative impact on our well-being.

However with the constant flow and availability of information most people know this and you could ask yourself why do not we change. You could ask:

Who is controlling your live?

Are these the digital devices but also television, or the food and are we seeking more the comfort zone and live our lives on auto pilot?

Later i come back on this but first this week we looked at the definition of well-being and it is defined as:

“Health or well-being is the ability of people to adapt and to take their own responsibility in the light of the physical, emotional and social challenges of life”

This is a new definition developed by the Louis Bolk institute in the Netherlands and is called Positieve Gezondheid (Positive health). A definition defined by many stakeholders in health including the people in contact with health professionals. The concept of positive health was introduced in 2012. This emphasizes the strength of people and focuses less on the absence of disease. Health is seen in terms of resilience, functioning and participation.

In the course the meaning of well-being was developed form the Greek way (Aristoteles) of looking from a eudaemonic to a hedonic approach. Which look very similar to the above definition. It is more a proces oriented approach then a result oriented approach. Based on self-knowledge and self-regulation. And this is where the yoga comes in as a way to develop both.

The Yoga and mindfulness approach

Many scientific studies related to mindfulness show a positive impact on well-being. Modern brain science discover the value of these long time approaches from the east. This is a good support for people to change their lifestyle for their well-being. For some people however yoga and mindfulness meditation can be difficult to accept, they see it as something soft and for new age people.

For that reason i do yoga and mindfulness meditation as a personal approach and offer this approach as:

Welzijn op groen recept (Well-being on a green recipe)

A combination of Nature & Physical exercise for well- being

Introducing the same physical and mental attitude on more low-threshold forms in the Netherlands:

Physical: Outside walking and/ or running (we call it mindful walking, mindful running), combining the positive effects of being outside (Nature, air, light…) and physical exercise.

Mental: Using the same proces oriented approach as yoga and mindfulness with the same mindset (curious, nonjudgmental and with compassion).

Changing habits for your well-being

In the “of the mat” exercises this week it is all about taking control over your live and in particular your habits regarding the use of digital devices like computer and smartphone.

  1. Noticing your actual habits in real live
  2. Observe your impuls (this shows your habit). But do not react.
  3. Pauze, take 5 mindful breath
  4. Reflect om what is most favorable for you and the beings around you and act like that.

It is explained that during these pauzes your brain is creating new paths to support your new, more on well-being based, habits. This is called neuro-plasticity.

I noticed by writing down the intention to do it and daily reflections what you observed is a good starting point. I know that it takes a rather long time (100 days) to really change the wiring and from time to time you fall back. Most important then is to keep practicing it (in real live). Maybe a good way to do this in a group. And with mindful activities you train exactly this proces.

Indeed pausing is key, and it is very helpful to do something completely different then your first impuls. It can be also a walk outside.

On the same topic i have written a blog in Dutch click here

 

Week 1

Mindful?

So for a first week you can ask yourself: Is it possible to be mindful or is your head full? In a first week starting a new course you need time to get to learn your new environment and you need to decide several things like for instance how to publish your experiences.

So i have decided to use this way, writing every week on Sunday a blog.

My first week experiences:

On Tuesday i followed the 1 hour yoga class and from my experience i could see some styles i knew and it was for me a nice combination of astanga yoga and some yin yoga.

During the week i viewed the video lessons:

What is yoga?

A nice overview of people giving their viewpoint. People giving all kind of definitions of yoga. What i wrote down was that yoga is a way to connect body and mind. A path to get to know the way you proces the information and energy coming in to you mind through the senses and to learn to calm, know and regulate your mind processes.

During the video about the role of meditation in yoga it was interesting to see the integration of all around mindfulness and yoga. This was nice and also to bring it a little bit out of the spiritual corner. And to define yoga and mindfulness as a physical and mental workout.

A healthy mind in a healthy body

In seral video’s well known people from the mindfulness movement passed by which i knew from the past but rediscovered some nice practices like the wheel of awareness from Dan Siegel.

About the practice of yoga good tips for how to do things, for the breathing exercise i miss a little bit the explanation what is the role of breathing, and the importance. It was explained as the most interesting object for your mental training because you have it always with you. But i assume that there will come more about this subject.

During the mindfulness meditation there was asked to relax, is it not so that in this type of meditation you are asked to have an open, non judgmental and curious attitude? This means to accept all what you experience and do not want to change anything. So when you are not relaxed, you feel tension, to notice it and let it be.

The mini self check in looks very familiar with the 3 minute breathing space and is very good to do regular. I noticed that many simple things look to simple to have value. Some times you continue looking further. The biggest challenge is to stick to these simple things and following a course like this, also for an experienced practitioner of yoga and mindfulness, is making you aware of this again.

My goal for this course:

I want to follow all the 6 lessons in the pace of the course syllabus with an open, curious and non judgmental mindset and to (re) discover interesting practices and results coming form scientific research to integrate it in my own practice and in my profession.