• Start Meditating with Guided Meditation Videos and Audio

    You’ve heard about the many benefits of meditation, but you’re not sure how to start. Guided meditation can be a good jumping-off point for people who want to begin a sitting practice, but clearing your mind or focusing on your breath seems intimidating.
    Listening to a calming voice giving instructions can help the mind focus and remove some anxiety you might feel about starting a meditation practice.

    You don’t need anything special to get started meditating. All you need is a comfortable place to sit and time.

    Many people who want to practice wrongly assume they must begin by sitting in absolute silence for an hour, trying to clear their mind. As a beginner, if you try to do that, you’ll feel quite frustrated. And jumping into the deep end like that can be a lot when confronting your thoughts for the first time.

    It’s much better for your mind to practice for 5 minutes daily. The frequency at which you meditate is far more important than how long you meditate in a single session. The repetition of the practice trains your mind. As you come to your place of stillness every day, you will understand the process more.

    Connect with your Unconscious Mind

    Your unconscious mind controls 95% of your actions. This includes all of your internal systems that you need to stay alive. It also includes your habits, automatic reactions to things, and emotions.

    Your mind is the architect of who you are, and most of it happens behind the scenes without you even having a say.

    When you meditate, you build a bridge between the unconscious and the conscious mind. You can tap into that power and make it easier to change the habitual responses your mind has built over time.

    Begin with the Breath

    Breath is life. It’s universal for all living things. When you start a meditation program, whether it be an online meditation course or something that you do in person with a teacher, you will begin with the breath.

    You are told to pay attention to your breath when you learn to meditate. Your natural instinct might be to breathe rigidly and more forcefully. Instead, breathe with normal inhalation and exhalation while focusing on the space where the air enters and leaves your body. Draw your attention to your nostrils and your upper lip.

    How does the air feel there? What are the sensations you feel when you inhale and exhale?

    Give Your Mind Something to Hold Onto

    When practicing meditation, it is natural for all kinds of things to go through your mind. We are humans, and we like to grab hold of things in our brains.

    An old Hindu saying compares the mind to an elephant’s trunk. An elephant’s trunk is restless and curious. If you walk through the market with an elephant, its trunk will stray, picking up objects to examine and explore. It could cause quite a lot of chaos.

    But if you give the elephant a piece of bamboo to hold in its trunk, it will walk through the market concentrating on holding the bamboo and not cause any destruction.

    During meditation, the breath is like the piece of bamboo in the story. It gives you something to come back to when your mind strays. Your mind will stray. All kinds of thoughts will pop into your head, but the trick is not to hold on to them. Instead, acknowledge that it’s there and let go of it. Then bring your mind back to the breath. You’ll find that meditation is mostly this… over and over again–allowing the thought to float away and bringing your mind back to the breath.

    This is how you train your mind to focus. Over time you can drop down into the deeper brain waves and get in touch with the subconscious mind.

    If concentrating on the breath is too difficult for you and you need something else to focus on, listening to online guided meditations is a good solution. In addition to the breath, the sound of the person giving you instructions gives you something to return to when your mind begins wandering.

    Omstars has a vast library of online guided meditation programs for you to use as you start your meditation practice. These online meditation videos are perfect for people who are learning how to meditate and want to make it part of their daily lives.

    Try practicing with this guided meditation video with Kino McGregor.

    Do you want more meditation classes like this? Sign up for a free trial with Omstars to get started. 

    Image by vined mind from Pixabay

  • The Science-Based Health Benefits of Meditation

    As meditation has emerged into the modern zeitgeist and grown in popularity, more and more people are beginning to appreciate it not for the spiritual element but for the practical benefits it brings to their day-to-day life.

    Now that meditation has taken root in the west, many therapists, neurologists, and other healthcare professionals have become more and more interested in the measurable health benefits that meditation can offer a person. 

    If you’re getting into meditation, or you’ve been practicing it for a while, and you’re interested in learning more about its effects, here are seven science-based health benefits of meditation and a brief guide on how to meditate for the first time.

    It Helps Reduce Anxiety

    It’s common knowledge that meditation reduces stress levels, which translates to a reduction in anxiety.

    One meta-analysis on studies covering a pool of over 1,000 adults showed a general reduction in anxiety among participants and that the positive effects were strongest in people who reported the highest levels of anxiety.

    A separate study focusing on mindfulness meditation, one of the most popular forms of meditation today, showed that people who struggled with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and took part in group meditation significantly reduced the ACTH, a hormone related to stress.

    Various other experiments and reports show that those who meditate to deal with anxiety are less likely to experience the manifest symptoms of anxiety, such as irrational phobias, panic attacks, and obsessive behaviors. 

    It Reduces the Risk of Heart Disease

    As an offshoot to reducing stress and anxiety, regular meditation has been shown to help reduce the risk of high blood pressure, which can contribute to coronary heart disease. 

    One AHA study focusing on African-Americans suffering from heart disease showed that regular transcendental meditation almost halved the risk of cardiovascular problems like myocardial ischaemia and atherosclerosis, as well as medical emergencies like strokes and heart attacks.

    A separate meta-analysis of 12 studies, also dealing with transcendental meditation, found that the practice helped reduce blood pressure, especially in older participants who reported higher blood pressure before taking part in their studies.

    It Improves Cognitive Abilities

    In the course of reducing stress and anxiety-related symptoms that can impair your ability to think clearly, meditation can also offer a range of benefits that actively improve your cognitive abilities.

    For example, in one study published by the journal Frontiers in Neuroscience, it was found that people who listened to meditation tapes exhibited better attention while completing a predetermined task when compared to a control group.

    Another review of multiple studies that dealt with different meditation techniques practiced by elderly participants also showed that practicing meditation can improve attention span, mental quickness, and memory, showing promising potential to offset the symptoms of age-related memory loss and general cognitive difficulties.

    It Can Mitigate Pain

    As physical pain happens entirely within the brain in response to external stimuli, it follows that the mental health benefits of meditation can help mitigate our experience with pain. 

    Though this may be hard to believe for people who are new to meditating, several studies have shown that regular meditation practitioners are better at coping with physical pain.

    This meta-analysis, for example, which covered 38 studies of people experiencing chronic pain conditions, showed that mindfulness meditation can decrease pain and symptoms of anxiety, improving chronic pain sufferers’ overall quality of life.

    Another large-scale meta analysis, covering studies with a total of 3,500 participants, also showed that practicing regular meditation could mitigate the effects of both chronic and intermittent pain.

    It Can Improve the Quality of your Sleep

    Between 33% and 50% of American adults experience symptoms of insomnia at some point in their lives. Though these symptoms usually pass naturally, there’s still a universal demand for healthy, natural ways to get a better quality of sleep.

    One study published by Oxford Academic, a journal aggregator for Oxford University Press, found that people who meditated regularly were able to stay asleep longer and reported less severe symptoms of insomnia, and a separate academic review showed that people who meditate regularly are able to fall asleep faster than members of a control group.

    Because meditating teaches you to reign in and redirect racing, overactive thoughts, it would make sense that those who are practiced in meditation have an easier time relaxing their mind and avoiding the kind of restless thought patterns that can keep anyone up at night.

    It Improves Self-Awareness

    Certain forms of meditation are geared towards helping the practitioner gain a better understanding of who they are, their thoughts, and actions, helping to dampen common sources of cognitive dissonance and strengthen conscious self-improvement.

    For example, self-inquiry meditation, a relatively young form of meditation that was first codified in the 20th century, is used to gain a better understanding of yourself, your thoughts and actions.

    One study review focussed on the mental health of tai chi practitioners showed that the meditative aspect of tai chi could cause an improvement in self-efficacy, a term that refers to a person’s belief in their own abilities.

    It Dampens Mental Sources of Unhappiness

    One of the most interesting health benefits of meditation is that it can reduce the mind’s tendency towards directionless and impulsive thoughts that can cause unhappiness, thereby improving a person’s overall mood.

    A study by Yale University showed that regular mindfulness meditation effectively reduced activity in the default mode network, or DMN, of the brain. This circuitry of the brain is responsible for wandering, self-referential thoughts that characterize those moments when you feel like you’re not thinking about anything particular.

    Separate studies have shown that these kinds of wandering thoughts are associated with worrying about the future and ruminating about the past or feeling troubled due to more abstract, existential issues. In meditation, a practitioner is consciously trying to quieten these kinds of thoughts, and with enough experience, they’re able to snap back to the present moment more easily than non-practitioners.

    How to Meditate

    Now that we’ve looked at some of the great health benefits that meditation can offer you, here’s a quick step-by-step guide to how you can get started with mindfulness meditation. There are many different forms of meditation, but mindfulness is generally regarded to be the easiest and most accessible for people of all backgrounds.

    Step 1: Find a Place to Meditate

    Though experienced practitioners can meditate anywhere at any time, when you’re first starting out, it’s a good idea to find a peaceful environment free of as many distractions as possible, such as a quiet bedroom, living room, or yard. 

    Some people like going to a beautiful nearby location to meditate too, and studies have shown spending time out in nature can have an array of mental health benefits.

    Step 2: Find a Comfortable Position

    Though most people sit cross-legged to meditate, it can be done in almost any position that’s comfortable to you, such as sitting straight in a chair or kneeling. As long as it’s a position you feel you can stay in comfortably for however long you’re planning to meditate, then you can take it as a good meditation pose.

    The only position we’d advise against is lying down. Meditation is a very relaxing experience, though you need to remain conscious to do it effectively, so don’t risk falling asleep!

    Step 3: Find Something to Focus On

    Meditation involves focusing the front of your mind on a single stimulus so the rest of the mind can relax and heal. When most people begin meditation, they’ll focus on their breath, but if this doesn’t work for you, there are plenty of other options. 

    White noise, the sound of birds singing, waves breaking on the shore, and similar calming sounds are all popular stimuli that you may want to use for meditation. For some practitioners, it’s easier not to focus on any one stimulus in particular, and instead listen to the general sounds around them in the same way they’d listen to music.

    If you want to lean more into the spiritual side of meditation, then Better Me has a great list of simple mantras rooted in Buddhism, Hinduism, and other eastern religions.

    Step 4: Notice When your Mind is Wandering, and Bring it Gently Back to your stimulus

    Unless you’ve spent your life in a Tibetan monastery, it’s inevitable that your mind will wander away from your stimulus and break your meditation. This happens to everyone, and it’s nothing to fret about. The important thing is realizing when your mind has wandered and bringing it back to the stimulus you’re focusing on.

    However often your mind wanders, and whatever the content of your thoughts are, make sure you’re re-focusing gently and not judging yourself or obsessing over the way your mind wanders. Directing kindness and goodwill to all things, including yourself, is a core principle of the religions that meditation originates from. Remember to practice this “maitrī” for a more effective and enjoyable meditation session!

    Final Thoughts

    We hope you’ve found our round-up of these science-based health benefits of meditation helpful as you work to improve your physical and mental health. 

    For more information on meditation, yoga, and general wellness, be sure to check out our other articles and tutorials here!

    By Sophie Bishop

    Sophie Bishop is a medical journalist. Sophie aims to spread awareness through her writing around issues to do with healthcare, wellbeing and sustainability and is looking to connect with an engaged audience.

    Find Sophie on her social media accounts:
    Twitter: @SophBishJourno
    LinkedIn: /sophie-bishop/

    Photo by Sage Friedman on Unsplash

  • An Unmoving Mountain: Reflections from a 10 Day Vipassana Course

    I felt the need to run away, away from the work they were asking me to put in. I was looking for distractions in conversations, emails, planning, doing. I quickly realized I wouldn’t have access to any of them for 10 full days. At first, being there sitting from moment to moment, I wanted to do anything else.

    Reintegrating into daily life is easier than I thought it would be. 

    It’s the day after I completed my first 10 day vipassana course and reintegrating into daily life is easier than I thought it would be, because going from no talking, only sitting with yourself to interacting with the outside world and answering emails should feel abrupt. Or at least I thought it would. For the time being I’ve undone my knee jerk reaction of reaching for my phone, because I feel more settled in my own skin, and somehow that makes being in the world simpler.

    The happiness of liberation. 

    I was given the opportunity to participate in a vipassana course, ten days of silence learning one of India’s most ancient techniques of meditation. Vipassana was rediscovered by Gotama Buddha more than 2500 years ago and passed down to the present day by an unbroken line of teachers. It is taught as a ‘universal remedy for universal ills’ aiming for the total eradication of mental impurities and the resulting happiness of liberation.

    I was looking for distractions. 

    Nestled in the Rocky Mountains with not a town or neighbor in sight, I was asked not to communicate in any way. I sat with myself, in silence, alongside 50 others. Initially, I felt the need to run away, away from the work they were asking me to put in. I was looking for distractions in conversations, emails, planning, doing. I quickly realized I wouldn’t have access to any of them for 10 full days. At first, being there sitting from moment to moment, I wanted to do anything else. But what? Why?

    Before external action there’s an internal sensation. 

    With the Vipassana technique we work with felt sensation in the body. Before external action there’s an internal sensation, and according to the technique it’s at this level we need to think about transformation. Our subconscious experiences a sensation it’s come to associate with pleasure, and we automatically act towards it (cravings), it experiences another sensation associated with pain and we act to avoid it (aversions). We are asked to observe and dissect these subtle and gross sensations by observing the moment before the automatic reaction towards or against the sensation and re-route.

    A sensation in the body that will eventually pass. 

    We re-route to simply being there with the sensation and thereby break its association with pleasure or pain. We observe it for what it is – a sensation in the body that will eventually pass. Before bringing our awareness there, our actions and the way we are in the world, seem to only be interfaced with experiences outside us, which leads us to believe it’s someone or something else dictating our reality. That notion that its me, it’s always been me—or rather my unconscious mind calling the shots by reacting to those sensations – flooded my understanding.

    Our subconscious mind has come to associate the sensations. 

    An example to paint a picture – you have a big presentation coming up and you get anxious. Our subconscious mind has come to associate the sensations that come with anxiety with something to push away, so the usual avoidance strategy kicks in. We spin out, go over in our heads the worst possible outcomes, maybe figure out a way to bail, or we say something to bring someone else down. With vipassana, we are asked to observe the anxiety and bring the discomfort to our conscious mind. Feel the tension and how it actually feels in the body. For me, it’s a knot in the throat, shallow breathing, tightness in the chest.

    They are just energy vibrating without our awareness. Until they aren’t. 

    The pleasures and discomforts are merely sensations felt in the body that shouldn’t be labeled. They shouldn’t be considered good or bad, right or wrong, craving or aversion. They are just energy vibrating without our awareness. Until they aren’t. Until we become aware and discover the mind body connection and how that determines our external world. The process put forth by this technique seemed almost scientific to me. We feel the sensations and retrain our bodies and minds to not react by our deeply rooted patterns of attachment and aversion, patterns ingrained internally by past experiences. We do this by observing objectively. From this space we can retrain our actions to be less reactive and therefore less tainted and more connected to our authenticity. If all our reactions and unconscious patterns were to be erased, there would be nothing fogging our view of the present moment, and we could experience the world as it is.

    You can consciously choose your next set of actions. 

    Back to the example – by observing the anxiety, you settle the mind on the body, into the present. Maybe you watch the anxiety pass soon after, or it remains until after the presentation is over. Either way, the anxiety is there but it’s not taking hold of you dictating your actions. You can consciously choose your next set of actions from a clearer state of mind. It’s not easy and it’s something that takes practice. It takes doing it consistently in a daily seated meditation practice, when your effort is focused on objectively observing the sensations in the body, for it to be a new way of operating out in the world, when the attention is mostly outwards.

    The work needs to start beneath the surface. 

    Changing external circumstances is useless because the method of perceiving and interacting with the world would remain the same. In other words, you’d be looking at something different on the outside, but the lens through which you’re looking would be the same, with that same warped tint. There would be the same unconscious reactions to things feeling good or getting tough, so from where you’re standing the world would look the same. The work needs to start beneath the surface for real change to happen. You don’t change the presentation, you change your reaction to the anxiety that comes up because of the presentation.

    Around the 4th day the staying got bearable. 

    The first 3 days were mentally challenging. Getting through an hour of just sitting in the same room, never mind not changing positions just yet, was hard. Really. Hard. I had to come up against all the reasons why that was so difficult and find the mental determination to overcome them. I had to tell myself to just wait it out and no matter what I wasn’t going to run back to my room (sometimes we had the option of meditating in our rooms but I knew I would just take a nap or start stretching to distract myself). So I stayed, and stayed and stayed. At some point, I think around the 4th day the staying got bearable, and I was able to face the next challenge—staying without moving. That’s when the pain came. To some extent the physical pain was easier for me to deal with: there were moments it was excruciating, but it felt like something tangible to work with, whereas the mental discomforts of restlessness were so hard to pinpoint in my body. But the sharp precise pain was a clear place to rest my mind. The challenge at this point came from observing objectively, removing the mental anguish from the physical pain and simply witnessing the sensation within the body. I went in.

    There was one particular experience during the 10 days. 

    When there was discomfort there was pain, uneasiness, anxiety, more pain, sadness, a scattered mind and then more pain. And then there was the other side of ease, calm and glimpses of peace. I watched and trusted that what I was told was true—there’s always another side, and it’s worth going through the pain to get to the other side. There was one particular experience during the 10 days where I was able to observe the pain without reacting and see through to the other side of pain. I watched as the intense pain in my left shoulder was broken down into vibrations moving faster and stronger, taking all my attention. I studied it long enough to eventually watch it dissolve into the sea of vibrations contained in the rest of the physical, energetic body.

    I couldn’t let this experience inform future ones. 

    There’s a catch though, in this process of looking through to the other side of pain. After moving through the pain in my left shoulder, I felt good. The vibrations dissolving into the rest of the body felt ecstatic. It felt so good that I wanted more of it and just like that I was again caught up in the cycle of craving. I faced another challenge—continuing with objective awareness even as the gross sensation passed and the other side was sensed. Moreover, I couldn’t let this experience inform future ones. I needed (and still do) to develop the capacity to observe for the sake of observation, not for the promise of a particular sensation arriving or disappearing. Instead there should be genuine objective observation, without the expectation of a particular outcome.

    I was with myself and that’s it. 

    Another profound part of this course was the silence. No talking, no communicating in any way with anyone (unless you had an emergency you could talk to the course administrators). Since I wasn’t communicating externally all my attention was internal for 10 full days. I was with myself and that’s it. The first couple days I realized just how much actually goes on in my head. With no other noise to cover it up, it was all I could hear. Then to watch as these thoughts slowly faded as the days went by felt so settling. It was a relief to know that all the thoughts, conversations and stories created in there aren’t really necessary. I had this deeply rooted idea that I needed to keep these thoughts active to maintain a valuable identity.

    Who am I without these stories?

    Who am I without these stories? Who am I without the person that comes up to interact with others? Who am I without people around me I know and share a common life with? Who am I without a job to do and people around me telling me that I am doing it well? Who am I without my parents and family showing me where I came from and those who came before me? Who am I without all the distractions covering up who I really am underneath all that? I think these are all questions that will take a lifetime (probably more) to discover and definitely a 10 day course didn’t answer for me. But what it did do was offer a path to understand that the labels we give ourselves can’t define who we truly are because they are always changing, in the same way the sensations in our bodies are always changing.

    I knew I just wanted out to distract myself from the work. 

    There were moments I wanted to run after the next car that passed and beg them to take me with them. There were moments I grew so restless and agitated knowing I needed to be there for another day and another… but the bigger picture of getting through day by day (rather than getting through one sit) put things in perspective for me yet again. Why did I need to get out of the course? To be who? To do what? I would continue being the same person out there that I was in the course. No matter where I go, I’ll be there, with the same reactions, cravings, aversions, with my insides reflected on the outside. I knew I just wanted out to distract myself from the work. Wholeheartedly coming to terms with all this gave me the determination about halfway through to really get down to work. To look in and keep looking in and keep looking in. I found the determination to put in the work. And that’s something I wasn’t prepared for—just how much effort this would require.

    What first meets the eye isn’t the whole story. 

    It was amazing to me, and still is that I experienced this whole process through the means of looking inside, by my own effort! Every sensation I experienced, whether mental or physical, came and went. To experience the reality of impermanence inside myself was a sort of paradigm shift in the way I see myself, but also beyond that – how I see the way events and people unfold before me. What first meets the eye isn’t the whole story. It’s just a glimpse of a moment in time. There is so much more. There’s the inner world, the whole story of the entire universe. To think we understand someone or something fully by only perceiving the superficial external aspect in a particular moment is misleading. Because that will change and therefore we must look deeper. What we’ll find is true for everything—nothing lasts forever. People aren’t set as the person you see or think they are. Events aren’t set in one condition. I think it’s important to re-learn the people we think we know and to look at situations with a new perspective. Refusing to accept the truth of impermanence will only lead to suffering, because contrary to what the subconscious is trained to believe, nothing lasts forever, so we might as well surrender.

    There’s nothing about us that remains the same. 

    The mountains surrounding the center helped me get through the course and understand the process I was going through. They hovered over me, strong, stable and unmoving throughout the entire 10 days; yet their external appearance never the same as the sun rose and set, the shadows and the way the sun rested on their sides was always changing. Likewise, we are always changing—our minds, bodies, ideas, everything. There’s nothing about us that remains the same, yet we act like we are this one unchanging being with a perfectly constructed image. An image that can so easily be shattered at any moment. Only awareness is always there looking out— the unmoving mountain.

    This course is truly accessible to anyone. 

    To learn more about Vipassana 10 day courses taking place all over the world, visit https://www.dhamma.org/ This course is truly accessible to anyone! No prior meditation experience is necessary, although having a daily practice of even 10 minutes a day is helpful. They even give the option to sit in a chair, if sitting on the floor is uncomfortable. I highly recommend participating in one and I’d be happy to answer any questions you have about the course, just reach out. For some guided meditations of varying lengths, check out my YouTube channel.

    By Monica Arellano

    Meditate with Monica Arellano

    Monica’s teachings are informed by the knowledge carried on from her teachers and the first-hand experience from her daily asana and meditation practice. Her classes emphasize the breath, alignment, proper foundations and methods of concentration; in hopes of exploring the deeper intention of Asana and the resulting expression in each student’s unique body and mind. In this space, she believes we can deconstruct unhealthy patterns, facilitate healing on many levels, and find our way back to the most honest version of ourselves.

  • The Power of Meditation

    In the last 10+ years, both yoga and meditation have grown significantly in popularity across the globe. For most of us, however, the path of yoga begins with a focus on the physical aspects of the practice, like building strength, flexibility and coordination. It isn’t until we begin to further develop and deepen our practices that we actually discover the truth – yoga is more about the mind than anything else.

    I, like many, began my pursuit of yoga with a focus on movement, eager to flow my way into a stronger & suppler body. So, I practiced frequently, both at home and at my local studio. With time and dedication, I was indeed able to achieve the results I was looking for, but I also noticed other effects – like the fact that I felt less stressed and more at peace in my body. As someone who had always been a bit of a worrier, this was huge.

    Yoga became a place of solace for me. The more I practiced, the more I began to realize that it was the moments I spent in stillness that truly impacted me. So, naturally, I became increasingly interested in the stillness part of the practice – the meditation.

    I like to think of yoga as training for meditation. The physical postures work as a means for helping us find more comfort in our own bodies. This in turn, allows us to sit in stillness for longer periods of time without getting too distracted by our bodies. The best time to meditate is after asana.

    Unfortunately, most yoga studios don’t offer time for meditation after practice. For this reason, it’s important to get comfortable practicing yoga at home. That way you can move into meditation straight away after you’re through with asana. But, what if you don’t know how to meditate?

    Figuring out how to sit for meditation is a lot more difficult that you might think. When we’re new to meditation, most of us simply don’t know what to do. We often find ourselves wondering, am I doing this right? Then, when we notice that our minds are going a million miles a minute, we start to think we just aren’t meant for meditation.

    This could not be further from the truth. Every single person on the planet who sits down as a beginner in meditation will find a million thoughts racing through their heads. Even advanced meditation practitioners have a hard time getting their minds focused sometimes. The important thing to remember is that like yoga, meditation is a practice, and it takes some getting used to.

    If you’re curious about meditation or think you might want to give it a try, there are tons of meditation classes you can practice with on Omstars.com. I recommend moving through an asana practice with one of your favorite teachers first, then transitioning into a meditation class. Try clicking the button below to browse through some of the available meditation classes offered online, or sign up to become an Omstars member by clicking here.

    If you’re interested in giving meditation a go on your own, check out this Beginners Guide to Meditation, or just follow these steps:

    Step 1: Find a quiet place where you can sit comfortably for at least 5 minutes. You can sit in a chair, on the floor, in your bed – really, anywhere that works for you.

    Step 2: Sit up tall, let your spine be long, and find comfortable stillness.

    Step 3: As you settle into your seat, bring your awareness to your breath, observing each inhale and exhale.

    Step 4: Try deepening the breath so that the belly begins to expand as you breathe in and out. Keep your focus on your breathing.

    Step 5: If your mind starts wandering, just notice your thoughts. Then, let them go and bring your awareness back to your breath.

    Step 6: Continue focusing on your breath for at least 5 minutes. Each time your mind wanders off, notice, and come back to your breath.

    That’s all there is to it.

    It’s important to know that your mind will wander off – probably several times. You will get distracted and you will most likely feel like you can’t focus. This is part of the process. That’s why it’s a practice. We have to practice bringing our mind back to our point of focus (in this case, the breath) again and again.

    Learning to focus the mind in meditation can carry over into everyday life. In time, we can learn to let go of stress and anxiety with ease. We can learn to keep our attention on projects and work for extended periods of time. We may even find that we become better listeners, better students, better partners, and better human beings. That is the power of meditation.

    By Alex Wilson

    Practice Meditation on Omstars

     

    Alex Wilson is a writer, yoga teacher, and Ayurveda Yoga Specialist. She is passionate about empowering students to create space for healing and self-discovery in their lives. She is also the content manager for Omstars.com.

  • What is Tantra? A Primer on Tantric Meditation

    Tantra is as misunderstood in the West, where it’s become synonymous with sexual rituals, as in the East, where it’s considered magic alchemy. But Tantra is actually a vast science that encompasses wisdom from Ayurvedic medicine, Samkhya/Yoga philosophy, Vedanta, Jyotish astrology and spiritual practices using yantras and mantras. The ultimate goal of Tantra is to systematically utilize all of the methods we can to accelerate transformation and help the practitioner to create a life that is richer and more complete. Its focus is on providing the correct approach and specific techniques to cause an individual to grow, become stronger and more capable by undoing all obstacles to freedom in the fastest way possible. According to Sandra Anderson, senior faculty at the Himalayan Institute, “Tibetan Buddhism, the philosophy of Kashmir Shaivism, and shakti sadhana (worship and practices centered on the Divine Mother) are all examples of the diverse faces of Tantra.”

    There are three paths of Tantra: the Kaula path, which relies on external rituals; the Mishra path, which blends internal and external practices; and the Samaya path, which is purely internal and meditative. Samaya Tantra is ultimately more like a deep communion with the creative force of the universe, Shakti, than worship in a ritualistic sense. Yantras, geometric figures, and mantras, vibrational sounds, create a locus for these universal powers (shaktis) to manifest in our inner and outer lives. Patanjali’s teaching on Tantric alchemy can be found in the Yoga Sutras, chapter 3.

    Tantra, in essence, signifies to expand beyond limitations. Its ideology recognizes that all of the powers, or shaktis, in the universe are encountered in the individual: Tatha brahmande, yatha pindande (“As in the macrocosm, so in the microcosm”). In Tantra, the ultimate yantra is the body, and our self-realization potential (kundalini shakti, the vast powers dormant within us) is awakened through the use of asana, pranayama, bandhas, mudras and mantra. Through these systematic technics, the practitioner harnesses prana shakti, the creative lifeforce, to enable the dormant kundalini to rise through the chakras, riding on the river of the central channel to the crown, where it can join pure consciousness. This “awakening” brings an intense and inexplicable joy that is beyond time, space and causation. We feel empowered, healed and fulfilled.

    Tantric meditation, then, would use multiple tools and techniques to help us “pierce the veil” that obscures our awareness of limitless potential in the quickest and most effective ways. Using the simplest of asanas, one can stabilize the pelvic floor, strengthen the sacrum, and increase flexibility and stability in the spinal column. Pranayama serves to energize the solar plexus, access the heart center, and enter the eyebrow center, or third eye, to replenish the brain and nervous system. Subsequently, one can engage in the samyamas: Dharana (concentration), Dhyana (meditation), and Samadhi (union/merging with the Infinite).

    Look for my guided Tantric Meditations on this platform to have a direct experience:

    Tantric Meditation for Clarity & Wisdom – The third eye (ajna chakra) is the center of clarity and wisdom. Blending breathing techniques (pranayama), chanting, visualization (kriya), and vibrational sound (mantra) to gain access to Turya, the fourth dimension, tap into the wisdom of the third eye and rest in a pool of restful, effortless awareness.

    Tantric Meditation to Clear Difficult Emotions – Tantric meditation is about the alchemy of transformation. In this meditation, you will use breath, concentration, visualization of energy movement and color, and meditation to transform difficult emotions in the heart center.

    Tantric Meditation for Empowerment – Connect to the creative forces of will, power, and determination residing in your manipura (third chakra), known as the city of gems, by using breathing techniques, visualization, concentration of prana at the navel center, and mantra.

    Tantric Meditation to Awaken Sushumna – One definition of a yogi is “one whose prana, or energy, is in the spine.” Connect to the spinal energy channel known as sushumna, clearing the path for Kundalini to rise, using breath, chanting AUM multiple times, visualization and meditation.

    By Inge Sengelmann

    Inge Sengelmann is a somatic psychotherapist and certified ParaYoga teacher, initiated in the Himalayan Tantric lineage of Sri Vidya. ParaYoga is a living link to the ancient traditions of yoga, meditation, and tantra. 

    Join Inge For Meditation on OMstars

  • Why Yoga

    Why do you practice yoga? A yogi is a seeker of the truth. Intention sets the tone for what kind of journey you‘ll have along the path of yoga. Align yourself with the deeper dimension of yoga, practice with a sincere heart, and cultivate an attitude of devotion. Set your intention to know the deepest, most subtle, truth about yourself and about the universe because this is the goal of yoga from time immemorial.

    The yogis of ancient times in India were human beings like you and me. They were on a quest to directly experience the truth about who we are and why we are here and how this crazy thing called life works. The answers they found are the methodology of yoga that we continue to practice today. We cannot divorce yoga from its spiritual roots. In fact, I think the whole reason so many people are drawn to yoga is that in an age of spiritual vacuousness, rampant materialism and cut-throat capitalism, we have reached a kind of inner boiling point.

    So many people are hurting and wounded in their bodies and in their hearts and mind. So many people desperately want to scream, but instead, stand silently in shock. So many people show up to the safe and sacred space of yoga to discover the unfelt parts of their own bodies, to finally heal, to learn how to listen and ultimately to directly and personally experience the highest and ultimate truth, the truth that sets you free.

    If you haven’t asked yourself why you practice, ask. Dig below the surface for the hidden answers and you will find your true self.

    I practice because practice is prayer, a holy space of worship where I lay down all my heart and all my soul to the temple of the Eternal. I practice because in the quiet space between breath and body, I am free, immersed in the Infinite, replenished, restored. I practice because the simple purity of the seeker’s path keeps me real, humble and raw, it breaks my heart open so that love shines through just that little bit more and makes my world a more peaceful place, one breath at a time.

    Why do you practice?

    By Kino MacGregor

    Kino MacGregor is a world renowned yoga teacher, the youngest ever teacher to be certified in Ashtanga Yoga by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, author of several yoga books, and the founder of OMstars.com

    Practice Yoga With Kino On OMstars

    Try Meditation With Kino On OMstars

  • Who needs Yoga?

    The imagery of modern yoga has an ethereal edge.  Wherever we look, we see lissome bodies bending into improbable forms, and balancing elegantly on the precipice of medical disaster.  This imagery can lend the impression that yoga is for people who live an ethereal existence, people who may be missing bones, who drift through the atmosphere, and rarely touch ground with their feet.  But these images are incidental.  They do not reflect the profile of the ordinary yoga practitioner.  On the contrary, they do something more interesting.  They reflect our fascination with the contortive potential of the human body, and in doing so, they symbolize, however imperfectly, our inherent admiration for resilience.

    Yogic imagery is remarkably old.  It provides the earliest evidence we have for yoga in the ancient world.  One of the earliest pieces is the Pashupati seal from the Mohenjo-Daro excavation site in present day Pakistan.  It features a humanlike figure with long horns seated in what appears to be Mulabandhasana.  The seal predates the current era by more than two millennia, and represents a civilization about which we understand very little.  The meaning of the seal is veiled in obscurity, and this is usual for artifacts that pertain to the ancient origins of yoga.  Sometimes we can decode their symbology enough to tell a coherent story about what they might mean, but we can only imagine the consciousness in which they were composed.

    Throughout its long and complicated history, yoga has formed countless alliances with  diverse alchemical and soteriological traditions.  In light of the diversity, many scholars now argue that there is no single thing called “yoga” whose tradition we can trace.  And so that may be.  But if we look at examples of yogic imagery throughout the ages—from the ancient seals of the Indus River Valley, to the medieval temple carvings of Tamil Nadu, to the Kalighat paintings of colonial Bengal, and to the crystalline images that stream through our social media channels today—there is always that ethereal edge.  There is always that evident longing to elevate consciousness above our limitations, and so to enrich and expand the human experience.

    This ethereal edge is the common thread to what we recognize as yogic imagery.  And if we can follow that thread through the ages, weaving through countless social and ritual contexts, this is arguably because of the way that what we recognize as yoga practice answers an archetypal human need—the need to be resilient, to be malleable, and to meet the persistent pressures to adapt to the ever changing circumstance of life.  That need has been understood in diverse and often opposing ways, as demonstrated by the Vedic, Tantric, and Advaitic approaches to the problem.  Arguably no single one of these is definitive, but neither can any one of them be discounted.  What is pertinent is the way that each of them answers our felt need to break up our inveterate patterns of conditioning, open our minds and evolve.

    Modern yoga does not cohere around any particular philosophy.  It exists more simply as an open set of practices and techniques for helping us overcome our psychological limitations.  Whatever the promises of yoga practice might be, the most pertinent and most compelling is that yoga allows us to relate more openly to otherness.  The practice teaches us to hold an open space of compassionate awareness for our own thoughts, emotions and memories to unfold, no matter how excessive or threatening they might seem.  Through this practice, we give ourselves space, and we allow our minds to breath, so that otherness can appear within our consciousness, and we can relate to it more openly, without being impeded by our fears and anxieties.  That is, we can receive otherness, and be impacted by otherness, adapting to its reality without having to reinforce any particular idea or image of ourselves in the process.

    The reception of otherness within ourselves helps break up our self images.  And in this sense, the practices of yoga are vehicles for psychical release.  They help us release ourselves from the tangles of thought, emotion and memory to which we so ardently cling.  They help us to let go of things, so that we do not congeal into the imprint of our experiences, but we can continue to change and adapt to our circumstances.  To put it simply, the techniques of yoga help us break ourselves up.  They help us break up the congestion of our delusions and conceits, piercing the armor by which we conceal and protect ourselves from the otherness of the world.  And in doing so, they help us liberate ourselves from the stagnation of our conditioning, so we can open ourselves to new relationships, and new possibilities of experience.

    The orphanage of modern yoga practices from the historical traditions from which they descend is often regarded as corrosive to their potency, but arguably the reverse is true.  However rich and compelling those traditions might be, it remains essential that we translate our experiences with yoga into our own living language, into words that bring those experiences home to us, and engage us as we are.  The elision of antiquated concepts from the language of yoga is therefore an essential and not entirely regrettable aspect of its adaptation to modern life.  Without imposing upon ourselves the arcane limitations of historically distant ideas, we can have a more authentic experience of ourselves through the practice.  The removal of those ideas means that we can give ourselves more room to breathe, more room to settle into ourselves, and more room to follow the currents of awakening that are already flowing through us.

    This is part of the intelligence of modern yoga.  As a global phenomenon, yoga is not bound too tightly to any particular philosophy, nor to any particular conception of the relationship between the human and the divine.  And for just that, it can focus on what is more compelling, namely, the process of breaking up the self, and creating more space for the natural processes of creativity to unfold.  There are, of course, people today who would argue endlessly about the relative credentials of dualism, non-dualism, monism and the like, but the modern yoga movement is largely agnostic on these speculative questions, and understandably so.  In these late modern times, we have no need for the kind of thinking that hangs so breathlessly on these delicate distinctions, and evidence abounds of the problems that arise when we allow that kind of thinking to congeal into certainty.  Moreover, the speculative questions that underlie these distinctions tend to lose their force under the softening influence of the yogic experience, and that experience is really the center of the attraction.

    What holds the attention of most modern yoga practitioners is not any particular view of reality that may or not be encouraged by the practice, but the immediate experience of psychical release that is so warmly invited by each and every breath.  The most intriguing thing about yoga practice is that it works—when we undertake the practice assiduously, without pause, for a reasonable amount of time, we find that we can break into ourselves, creating space within our minds to relate to otherness in a more open and authentic way.  And here is the point—it is only by relating openly and authentically to otherness that we can evolve, for it is precisely in relation to otherness that we express creativity, awareness, compassion, and resilience.

    So the process of breaking into ourselves, and creating space for otherness, is crucial for our psychological development.  And we all could use some kind of internal practice to help make that process unfold, for we all tend to stagnate into our own psychological patterns.  This is perhaps the fundamental problem that yoga practice has always been called upon to solve, the problem of pulling us from the mire of our own conditioning.  This problem is arguably more pressing now then ever.  Modern life, after all, draws us into extremes of isolation, where we shun our collective problems with dangerous apathy.  It is perhaps no coincidence, then, that an unprecedented collective effort is the only chance that we have to reverse our destructive patterns today and resolve the colossal problems of our time.  At this pivotal moment in history, when we have nuclear weapons pointed all over the globe, and our patterns of extraction and consumption are quickly destroying the conditions of human life on our planet, our survival depends on our ability to break our conditioned patterns of thinking and acting, to come out of ourselves, to recognize the stark reality of our crises, and then to join together, with the rest of humanity, to take radical and immediate measures to cope intelligently with our nearly apocalyptic problems.

    Today, we can no longer afford to limit yoga to spiritual purposes.  Yoga is perhaps the most powerful instrument that we have for breaking out of ourselves and overcoming the paralyzing effects of our psychological conditioning.  On the same account, we can no long afford to restrict access to yoga, or create divisions within yoga that reinforce that archaic and destructive “us-versus-them” mentality.  What we think of as “real” yoga might not be for everyone (or anyone living now for that matter) but everyone today needs the kind of provocation to openness and change that even the more popular forms of yoga can inspire.  The real yoga is not the one that comes down to us through this or that authority, but the one that rattles us out of our delusions, draws us out ourselves, and exposes us to the fact that we are not isolated from one another, but bound together inextricably, and tasked to find ways of living together that express our basic resilience, kindness and generosity.

    The popularization of yoga, whatever its drawbacks might be, can help to inspire this kind of realization, by giving us simple and compelling methods for breaking up our mental congestions and our practical stagnations, and dissolving the individual and collective delusions that obscure our deeper and more loving nature.  This is something that we can all support without reservation, if we can only set ourselves aside, and look at the bigger picture.  Instead of creating more divisive hierarchies, more elitist obscurations, or more structures of restricted access and protected privilege, we should work together to churn the collective mind, uncover the potent essence of yoga, and then allow it to flow, so we can share it with absolutely everyone.

    By Ty Landrum

    Have you tried Ty’s Ashtanga course on Omstars? He explores techniques and tips for jumping through and jumping back, the energies of prana and apana in practice and also teaches a full primary series practice as well! Stay tuned for more articles and courses from Ty on omstars, but in the meantime you can read more of Ty’s brilliant articles on his website tylandrum.com!

    Practice Ashtanga with Ty Landrum today on Omstars

  • Blow your mind with Meditation

    To me, the popularity of the war-time phrase ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ seems out of place in one of the most prosperous and war-free societies in the world. In our connected, fully wired 24-7 society, it can be hard to switch off.  Our normal rhythms are easily out of sync and ‘stress’ has become an everyday word.

    As a lawyer, I remember hearing stories about how – before email – documents took days, if not weeks, to be passed around by hand, typed and re-typed with corrections handwritten in different colours – now it takes seconds to ping an email to everyone and complex contracts can be marked up overnight with tracked changes. The pace of modern life is sometimes astounding. 

    It’s easy to lose ourselves in the rush and pressures of modern life.  Meditation is an antidote; a route to perspective and calm, to navigating the hectic traffic we experience in all areas of our lives. Meditation can change how we work, it can improve our health, and it can affect how we relate both to ourselves and to others.  Beyond a mechanism for coping with stress, mediation can be a vehicle towards finding more meaning, purpose, depth and connection in our lives.

    The mind is a surprising instrument. So powerful that science has yet to understand more than the basics of how it fully functions. But then, trying to understand ourselves has always been a tough, yet valuable pursuit.

    Our minds (along with our bodies) have developed over millions of years of evolution to give us the best chances of survival in a sometimes hostile world. Our brain is rewarded with pleasure – with substances such as dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin – when we do something that evolution would suggest is survival-enhancing. And, of course, the other side of the coin is pain when our survival is threatened.   When we sit in meditation and train our attention, we are acting against many of the reactionary tendencies that we have developed as a result of evolution.    

    Our evolutionary tendencies have helped us to survive so far, but some of them now lead us to overreact.  We have, for example, developed a bias towards negativity, giving far more weight and attention to negative events and emotions than positive ones.  And, particularly, under stress, we overestimate and ‘dial up’ the perceived ‘dangers’ around us. The evolutionary ‘down’ that we sometimes experience after the ‘high’ of being with a partner, is designed to draw us towards that person helping us to mate and procreate. But if that evolutionary tendency is too strong in us, our neediness may get activated and end up pushing the person away. Meditation helps us to temper the reactions that evolution has set in motion, so in that sense it is going against some of our evolutionary instincts.  But maybe, that’s what’s needed for us to evolve even further.

    Previously the purview of monks and lamas, meditation is now being used by the likes of Google, hedge fund managers  and MBA students to boost their performance. Scientific research supports many health benefits of meditation mainly associated with stress reduction, and ability to focus.  Cautiously promising research in its early stages even suggests that meditation may have some effect on a cellular level on patients in remission from cancer. Further evidence is needed to confirm that. So, maybe, in terms of health and focus, meditation is giving us an extra edge. 

    Meditation affects the quality of your attention and where you place it. And, as Stanford scholar and international meditation teacher B. Alan Wallace, PhD explains in his book The Attention Revolution, ‘Our perception of reality is tied closely to where we place our attention’. What we focus on shapes our experience and the things we ignore, pale into insignificance for us. In 2012, Usain Bolt says he won the 100 meters in 2012 by concentrating on his strength on “concentrating on his strengths” (execution) rather than his weaknesses (his poor start). Meditation allows us to choose where we place our attention.  That, in turn, gives us more control over how we shape our lives.

    Meditation also helps us to navigate our emotions. Neuroscientists debate whether regions of the brain perform specific functions or whether a more interconnected view is more accurate.  It is, however, established that the amygdala (emotional centres) play a huge role in the fear response. In order to deal with the fear-causing – at an evolutionary level read ‘life threatening’ – situation, we dissociate. We stop using the logical, decision-making functions of our brains. I interviewed Louann Brizendine, neuroscientist and author of bestseller, The Female Brain. She described this to me beautifully, using the analogy of a car with the clutch being pushed in. When we are in a state of stress and fear, the gears are unable to engage with the decision-making functions of our brains.

    Of course, modern day stressful situations are not always related to mortal danger. And, in a non-life-threatening situation such as work, most of the decisions we make would probably benefit from some logical engagement! Awareness developed through meditation can help break the cycle and get you back there. 

    Meditation helps us to press ‘pause’ on our reactive patterns. It gives us perspective and choice. This allows us to be cool under fire.  In this sense, it helps to blow the patterns that have been deeply ingrained in our minds out of the water, leaving us clearer, calmer and more available for genuine meaningful connection.  Any takers?

    By Mia Forbes Pirie

    Watch Mia’s course, Intelligent Start, on Omstars

    Join Mia’s 5 day meditation challenge and see how meditating for as little as 5 minutes a day can make a difference to your day https://intelligentchange.life/five-day-challenge/ or be part of Mia’s small Facebook “Not too Perfect”  Yoga & Meditation community https://www.facebook.com/groups/379578869076090/

  • Forbidden Curry

    Dive into this incredibly delicious curry recipe with fragrant spices, and rich flavours. Warming your body as the winter season approaches, this recipe is also packed with health benefits from it’s key ingredients. Black rice is extremely high in a class of flavonoid antioxidants called anthocyanins, Black Rice is also rich in iron and, according to Chinese herbal medicine, considered to nourish and replenish your blood. Curry and Turmeric are a great choice for people that are suffering from arthritis as Turmeric itself has long been known for it’s anti inflammatory traits. 

    Ingredients

    • 1 Organic Cauliflower
    • 2 Organic Zucchini
    • 2 cups of Forbidden Black Rice (makes extra rice.)
    • 2 cups Coconut Milk
    • 1 heaping tbsp of Almond Butter
    • 2 tbsp of your favorite curry powder
    • 1 tsp Coriander Seed
    • 2 cloves garlic
    • pinch of black pepper
    • pinch of pinch himalayan salt
    • Coconut oil

    Directions

    Rice

    It is best to soak forbidden rice overnight allowing the rice to remove surface starches that cause the rice to stick together.   If this is not possible be sure to rinse well 3 – 4 times.  Place the rice into a large pot with twice the amount of water.   I usually eyeball it to look where the water line falls on the pot.  Once ready put pot on the stove with rice in it.  Bring to a boil then cover and simmer for 30 – 40 mins.  When it is close to finishing I usually add a little bit of Coconut oil, dash of pink salt and black pepper.

    Mixed Veggies

    I like the simplicity of pairing two types of seasonal vegetables.  Begin with chopping the Cauliflower into smaller pieces, prepare the pan by adding a little bit of water to cover the bottom.  Add chopped cauliflower and cover on medium.  Once The cauliflower is softening up a bit, add the chopped garlic and chopped zucchini.   The zucchini will cook very quickly so time with the cauliflower.

    Curry

    Begin the curry by add a tablespoon of coconut oil to the bottom of a sauce pan.  Put on low and add 1 tsp of coriander seed.  You will here the seeds pop once this happens turn off the burner.  Allow the oil to cool down.  good thing to do now is start prepping the veggies.  Once oil has cooled poor Coconut Milk in. Allow this to heat up.  Once it is close to boil add heaping tbsp of almond butter and curry powder.  Take the heat back down to med low.  Allow this to simmer for 15 mins, stir occasionally.  Finish it with a dash of pink salt and black pepper to taste.

    Plating

    Very simple plating.  Begin with a bed of the black rice.  Next add the Cauliflower, Zucchini and garlic.  Then pour a desired amount of curry over the top.  Finish with chopped cilantro.

    Health Benefits

    Forbidden Rice 

    This medium-size heirloom rice is treasured for its delicious roasted nutty taste, soft texture and beautiful deep purple color. Extremely high in a class of flavonoid antioxidants called anthocyanins, Forbidden Rice is also rich in iron and, according to Chinese herbal medicine, considered to be a blood tonifier.  A new study shows that a spoonful of black rice bran or 10 spoonfuls of cooked black rice contains the same amount of antioxidants as a spoonful of fresh blueberries.

    Curry Powder

    Curry powder is a mixture of spices. It is well noted that the most powerful healing herb in the powder is turmeric which gives it a yellowish color. Curry is most known to Fight Alzheimer’s and degenerative diseases. Curcumin, the yellow pigment in curry powder is being seriously looked at by scientists as a tool that fights Alzheimer’s Disease. One of the culprits in Alzheimer’s is a dangerous plaque that debilitates victims ability to function properly. Curcumin effectively blocks this plaque, subsequently protecting the brain. It should be noted that India, a country famous for its use of curry powder in several dishes, has an Alzheimer’s rate that is four times lower than the U.S. Curry is also known to block genes that are responsible for the trigger and spread of some forms of cancer. Curry and Turmeric are also a great choice for people that are suffering from arthritis. Turmeric has long been known for it’s anti inflammatory traits.

    Coriander Seed

    In addition to medicinal properties, coriander has many qualities that benefit general, daily health. It is great for digestion, relieves gas, prevents nausea and is an excellent source of fiber. Anti-inflammatory properties not only aid in digestion as well, but also alleviate arthritis. Coriander works to detoxify the body and also protects against Salmonella bacteria. Similarly, it can be used both internally and topically to ward of allergic reactions.

    Almond Butter

    The number one health benefit of almond butter is that it is good for the heart. It is rich in monounsaturated fats, which are the type of fats that reduce levels of cholesterol and decrease the risk of heart ailments. Almond butter is a sweet and tasty dessert that will not do any damage to your blood sugar levels. In fact, it can even help control levels of blood sugar in your body by reducing the sudden increase in blood sugar and insulin which usually happens after you eat a carbohydrate-packed meal. This makes it an ideal part of the meal if you are suffering from diabetes. Oxidative stress is a common problem in today’s society. Free radicals that do cellular damage to your body are present everywhere. This is why it is important to have proper intake of antioxidants, such as vitamin E and flavonoids, which fortunately can be found in almond butter. Almond butter, thus helps protect cells from oxidative stress and reduces the risk of heart disease and other ailments associated with it.

    Cilantro

    Cilantro is most often cited as being effective for toxic metal cleansing and rightfully so, as this herb is a powerful, natural cleansing agent. The chemical compounds in cilantro bind to toxic metals and loosen them from the tissue. Many people suffering from mercury exposure report a reduction in the feeling of disorientation after regularly consuming large amounts of cilantro over an extended period. Cilantro is also antibacterial and antifungal.  It aids in lowering blood sugar levels, so it is very useful for people suffering with diabetes.  Cilantro has also been studied for it positive benefits as an anti anxiety remedy. Made as a tea or along with food, it helps reduce stomache gas and is a great option for bloating.

    Turmeric and Black Peppers synergistic effects

    Turmeric has long been studied for its anticancer properties, anti-inflammatory effects, and tumor-fighting activities known in nutrition-speak as anti-angiogenesis. The active agent in the spice is a plant chemical, or polyphenol, called curcumin. One problem with turmeric is its low bioavailability when eaten on its own.The solution is to combine with black pepper. Adding black pepper to turmeric or turmeric-spiced food enhances curcumin’s bioavailability by 1,000 times, due to black pepper’s hot property called piperine.

    By Adam Kenworthy

    Follow Adam on Instagram (@adamkenworthy) where he’s constantly posting new and exciting dishes, drinks and snacks and check out his facebook page for some more long form recipes in the meantime. We’re thrilled to be launching a full course on Omstars with Adam in the new year!

    Tune into Omstars for more recipes on our Wellness Channel

     

  • Your body is not a car, it’s a living vehicle

    The key to unlocking flexibility is not just practice, it’s about understanding how to speak the language of the inner body. If you practice the wrong technique over and over, chances are that you will not get the desired result. Practicing a flawed method is like driving in the wrong direction. Hitting it faster and harder will only take you that much further away from the goal. Slowing down and checking the roadmap gives you time to recalibrate your course for the right target. In yoga it’s important to remember that the target is always about the inner state. The yoga of yoga is never the pose itself. The pose is the method of experience, but it’s not meant to be your final destination.

    Every pose requires you to embark on a journey to the innermost regions of your body, mind and soul. There are subtle cues to encourage you along the right path and warning signs to discourage you from making a wrong turn. Yoga is more about learning the language that your body’s own navigation provides than it is about forcing your body into a shape. The first step in yoga is more about listening than it is about telling. You have to “meet” your body and bring your full awareness into the quite space of user the surface of the skin. Only then will be able to really hear the messages that your body sends you. There is a natural intelligence in the body and yoga has the ability to tune you into that ancient and powerful wisdom. I like to think of the body like a car that has been designed by a master engineer. Your body has its own GPS and it comes equipped with everything it needs to accomplish its mission. It has been perfectly formed, but it requires care and the right type of sustenance. Flexibility is evidence of a well-oiled and cared-for machine. At the same time, the body is so much more than just a car. The vehicle of the body is alive itself, so it’s more like a partner on the journey than a static piece of machinery. In order to truly find freedom in the practice you and your body have to walk together in unity as friends and learn to speak the same language.

    So often we treat the body as an adversary and blame it for all our problems. We think our vehicle is flawed because of its size, shape or age. And truly, yoga poses can frustrating, sometimes painful and even lead to injury if performed wrong. The deeper work of the yoga practice is about finding a way to practice while avoiding all the damaging pitfalls of unnecessary pain and traumatic injury. But despite our best efforts it’s not always possible to travel the inner roads with absolute ease and flow. Sometimes you hit a traffic jam. Tightness and stiffness in the body feel like congestion. Everything is blocked and there’s no way forward. Sometimes you can find an alternate route, but most often you just have to sit there and be patient. Honking your horn is a fruitless endeavor only certain to annoy everyone around you, just like getting mad at your body for it’s lack of flexibility is a dead-end. Ramming your car into the car ahead of you is criminal and injurious, just like jamming your body into a pose that your body isn’t ready for is also a kind of assault that leads to pain and suffering. So, what can do you? Sit there. Observe. Practice patience, kindness and tolerance. Focus on the breath. Remain equanimous. Breathe. Surrender. Have faith. When the traffic jam is over it will be over. When body is ready to open it will. Sometimes there are good reasons for traffic just like sometimes there are good reasons that the body isn’t full released. All you can really do is make friends with your body and accept where you are on the journey today.

    By Kino MacGregor

    Join Kino for Heart centered meditations on Omstars