A New Paradigm for Healing Through the Power of Ritual with Dr. Monisha Bhanote

A New Paradigm for Healing Through the Power of Ritual with Dr. Monisha Bhanote

A New Paradigm for Healing Through the Power of Ritual

by Dr. Monisha Bhanote

From the moment I entered the room, it was buzzing like a swarm of bees, with an energy in the air that seemed about to erupt. This was the energy of two hundred human bodies and trillions of cells, synchronized to a vibration I believe could be felt even in the deepest oceans. We gathered for a weekend of connection and learning, old friends and new, all united by the desire to heal the world. Yet, in the midst of this gathering, a common theme emerged that is best characterized as a caged bird.

“The caged bird fluttered its wings, trying to fly, but with each flutter, the wing smashed against the cage walls; as she continued to bang the walls, the exhaustion overcame her, and the door finally opened. Her last ounce of energy was devoted to flying through the open door and feeling the freedom to heal, breathe, and follow her intuition.”

This is what it’s like to be a physician in healthcare today. It is becoming increasingly difficult for us to keep our wings free of the cage in which we are restricted. So let me tell you, if you feel like a caged bird without a purpose, let me open your cage door for you. I’d like to extend you an invitation to my family, to my community, which is embracing a new healing paradigm.

What is a ritual?

A ritual is a set of actions or behaviors you repeat in the same way with a specific purpose, a great deal of self-awareness, and intention. Rituals can be as simple as washing your hands before eating or brushing your teeth at night, but they can also be more complex, like cooking an elaborate meal for your family on Sunday nights (or any other day of the week).

Rituals have power because they give us structure in our lives; they provide us with something to look forward to each day—a moment when we know exactly what’s going on around us, who we’re with, and what they’ll say next. When we don’t have this predictability in our lives, it can make us feel anxious or scared because there are no clear boundaries between ourselves and others; therefore, creating rituals helps us feel safe by giving us boundaries within which we operate in addition to assisting people in coping with stressors such as illness or loss during times of crisis by providing comfort through familiarity (i.,e., using familiar foods). Rituals also allow individuals experiencing stressful situations such as trauma-related disorders (e.,g., PTSD) to maintain a sense of control in their lives.

“When we set aside time to meditate, practice yoga, or engage in other self-care activities, we’re strengthening our minds and bodies, and initiating #CellCare,” says Dr. Monisha Bhanote, founder of WELLKULÅ.

Dr. Bhanote’s approach to health care is about more than just treating symptoms; it’s about treating the whole person. The goal is to support people as they transition from unhealthy lifestyles to healthy ones by incorporating an integrative lifestyle into the daily rhythms of their life. Integrative lifestyle medicine is a relatively new field of study within Western medicine, but its origins go back thousands of years—and many cultures have long been using rituals as tools for healing both physical ailments and mental wellbeing issues like stress, anxiety, and depression

With this new paradigm in mind, Dr. Monisha Bhanote shares some simple steps she takes with her patients whenever possible. This means supporting them with changes in diet, exercise, and sleep habits; working with them through medical conditions (such as diabetes or high blood pressure) that can be managed with diet and lifestyle changes alone; and providing support during times of stress or anxiety so they don’t fall back into old patterns of behavior that are harmful to their health.

The practice of Ayurveda has always been holistic – that is, it views the body as a whole rather than focusing on individual parts. By addressing all aspects of your health at once – mind, body, and spirit – you’re more likely to achieve lasting results than treating just one symptom at a time. Our ultimate goal is and should be to prevent further deterioration of the body’s ecosystem by improving cellular health.

In this way, she says, “You become an active participant in your healing.”

Dr. Bhanote believes that you can take control of your health. She says that you are the most important part of your healing process, and by making changes now, you can prevent the disease from occurring later in life. “It’s never too late to start making changes,” she says. “You don’t need a diagnosis or even an illness to benefit from these practices.”
In this way, she says, “You become an active participant in your healing.”

There are many ways to strengthen your mind and body — you may be surprised by some!

How your cells function and, ultimately, how your body supports you can be affected by each of these lifestyle practices.

Aside from strengthening your body, exercise has been shown to lower blood pressure and reduce inflammation in people with chronic conditions such as diabetes and heart disease.
Meditation can help people with chronic pain manage stress, improving sleep quality and reducing pain levels.
Yoga combines meditation and physical exercise into one activity – perfect for those who want an all-around mind-body boost! And bonus: yoga has been shown to improve moods by reducing depression symptoms among people who suffer from depression or anxiety disorders (but don’t worry if you haven’t tried it yet – there are many other ways to incorporate healing into your rituals).

The bottom line? You don’t have to look far to find the benefits of a healthy lifestyle. Regular exercise, meditation, and sleep help your body stay strong and fight disease. But they also improve your mood and mental health by helping you manage stress more effectively. Try incorporating some of these practices into your daily rhythms to improve your health.

#CellCare is self-care.

We are living in a time when people are seeking healing. Whether physical or mental, we have an innate desire to feel better. The good news is that there are ways to do this, and they don’t require expensive visits to the doctor or therapist! I hope that if you have ever needed to heal, you have had the opportunity to experience the healing power of ritual.

Learn with Dr. Bhanote in person at our 10-year anniversary celebration April 27–30! Passes available here

A Yoga Hug to Midline — The Foundation for Asana

A Yoga Hug to Midline — The Foundation for Asana

A Yoga Hug to Midline

By Donna Schnoor, E-RYT500/YACEP owner of Yoga4Ullc
Lead image by Arin Pitcher

As yoga practitioners, most of us have heard the term sthira sukham asanam. It is one of the most often quoted aphorisms in Patangali’s Yoga Sutras, (2.46). In general translation it stands for steadiness and ease in your seat. So what does all this have to do with the term “hugging to midline”?

The “midline” is the imaginary vertical axis that bisects the whole body, from the crown of the head all the way down to the foundation. If you’re familiar with construction, think of it like a plumb line. In Yoga think of it as the Sushumna, the vertical axis or channel in the subtle body where your pranic energy flows. The midline is the foundation in which each posture is built.

Physically drawing or (hugging) into the midline will help make your practice stronger and more stable. Instead of using the outermost muscles to support the pose, we learn to engage the deep inner muscles, so the pose starts from the inside out, rather than the outside in.

On an emotional and spiritual level, finding your midline helps us to find that inner strength and stability to cultivate balance in our lives. This balance between action and stillness, or steady and comfortable. This balance supports you from the inside, just as the physical action of muscles hugging to midline supports our bodies in practice.

Eckart Tolle speaks of “feeling the inner body as a way of connecting to the present moment”.

When we come to our first seat of practice, we find our own physical space, we turn inwards to access something deeper within ourselves in which to build our practice.

As we start to move, we begin to learn to ‘hug-in’, to firm the muscles around the bone, to create a strong and stable foundation in our practice.
Learning to ‘hold our center’ gives us the support we need when being pulled off balance with life’s experiences, whether they be physical, emotional, or mental.

When we reach Savasana, our opportunity for relaxation and integration, we find our center once again, both physically and mentally, and from this center we can experience a sense of letting go.

Explore your midline and the foundation for functional asana with Donna at SYF2023, April 27–30! Passes are available here.

Role of Odissi Movements in Trauma Healing

Role of Odissi Movements in Trauma Healing

Role of Odissi Movements in Trauma Healing

by Nilanjana Banerjee, RDM Studio
Lead image by The Dreamy Pomgrn8

Odissi is a 2000-year-old dance from Eastern India. This dance is rooted in yoga, bhakti and spirituality. It connects the human spirit to the divine and was performed for centuries inside the temples by female dancers. These women were the equivalent of the priestesses in the temples using powerful Sanskrit mantras and dance movements to worship and invoke the Gods and Goddesses.

Dance movement is another somatic modality like yoga, breathwork, meditation and sound bath to open up your chakras, and create more space specially in your ribcage, and hips. These are areas in the body that are most stuck in todays modern world.There are senescent cells that form when someone undergoes trauma that holds onto the memories within their cells. It’s like they are frozen in time.

Odissi dance movements are unique in the sense that there is a significant movement of the neck, rib cage and opening of the hips. According to Dr Mima, who specializes in mind body connection,

“As a woman in modern day life, you spend very little time on these areas and in fact sitting at desks, driving cars actually keeps the hips and ribs closed. Over time this constricts proper airflow and the energy within the sacral chakra. By opening the hips and ribs in this dance you increase blood flow to your sacrum and oxygenation to your lungs and chest organs. Dancing barefoot also connects the body with earth’s energy. The earth carries an electromagnetic field and when we connect barefoot with the earth we literally ground our energy and rebalance ourselves. This relieves anxiety and stress and also helps rebalance the adrenal and endocrine glands in the body.”

Both masculine (shiva) and feminine (shakthi) energies are addressed in this dance. Once the strong masculine moves and softer feminine moves are mastered, the dancer begins to internalize the moves and their meaning. This is very similar to meditation. In dance you not only connect with yourself in flow, but you are also connecting with the divine. There is deep healing when this occurs.

Nilanjana says, “working with numerous adult students, over a period of time I realized the power of my dance, how I was not only teaching them an ancient art but also healing them with my energy, giving them the power and confidence of a Devi. Be it physical injuries or deep emotional trauma, most of their traumas came to the surface during the course of my regular teaching. There was an emotional release and sometimes continuing the practice helped many deal with traumatic life situations, empowering them to find and embody the strength of the Gods/Goddesses and even transform their outcomes to a point of reaching bliss. Of course this takes time, dedication and practice. But it’s the discipline and commitment that makes all the difference.”

It is believed that one can access the Anandmaya kosha by regularly practicing this dance and being immersed in this sadhana.

Please join Nilanjana and RDM Studio for Trauma Workshop 8.00 am on Friday April 28th and an upcoming dance performance at SYF2023. Passes are available here!

The New Paradigm in Healing Body-Mind-Spirit and Planet

The New Paradigm in Healing Body-Mind-Spirit and Planet

The New Paradigm in Healing Body-Mind-Spirit and Planet

by Dr. Keneen Hope McNiven D.C., Founder of Hope, Grace and Gaia Transformation Retreats and Hope Chiro Yoga
How has life shaped you? What is your relationship with gravity, which is a form of Grace?

According to Liz Koch, author of the Psoas Book, “Gravity is a cohesive, graceful and loving support between heaven and earth. Gravity informs the rise and fall of the tides, our cells and the relationship between the earth and the sun.  It is responsible for the health of our bones, joints and nervous system, as well as for optimal brain health and well-being. To engage and feel gravity deeply, is to also embody a deep sense of Grace, of being lovingly held.”

Fall from Grace

Do challenging residues from the past burden your body, mind, or spirit in the present? Our posture, spine, muscles and fascia contract with and reflect unresolved stresses. Some of the “shapes” we inhabit reflect our fight, flight, freeze and fawn responses to previous stress or trauma.

Additionally, some of the shapes are much more subtle and reflect memories of needing to duck, dodge, brace or protect our vulnerable underbelly. All these postural reactions or shapes contribute to back pain, joint pain, stress, fatigue, sleep loss and PTSD, along with a host of therapeutic issues that many of us experience in yoga. On and off our mats these shapes and disconnects from gravity or Grace impact our well-being and the embodiment of our awakening as well. The unconscious energetic memories and trapped energy they carry also have an impact on our relationships and communities.

Call of Grace

When we learn how to “re-shape” ourselves, recognize and honor the wisdom and messages inherent within our posture, pain and health challenges, then they become a graceful guide to optimal healing and recovery. A profound sense of Grace infuses us when we befriend gravity and re-align physically and spiritually between heaven and earth. We become healthier, emotionally authentic and enjoy more optimism, hope, trust, peace and joy. As we reshape the past and embody more presence, we enjoy a profound connection to our true nature depths, and our lives, health and actions are Grace-filled.

Hope, Grace, and Gaia

“One who has health has hope, and one who has hope has everything.” – Thomas Carlyle

When we resonate from embodied Hope and Grace, we radiate enhanced health and we emanate an abundance of vitality and awakened consciousness. The more Grace-filled we are, the more “fully human and fully divine” we are. We feel part of a oneness that includes all of reality, animate and inanimate, and from which we are not separate. Our relationships, communities, politics and our planet reflect this evolution, and also reverberate with cooperative synergy and wholeness. This Non-Dual “Gaia consciousness” is the realization that we are all truly one unified Being.

Learn more about the connection between personal awakening and healing with Dr. Keneen Hope McNiven D.C. in person at SYF April 27–30! Passes available here

Using Polyvagal Theory to Attune to Your Nervous System

Using Polyvagal Theory to Attune to Your Nervous System

Using Polyvagal Theory to Attune to Your Nervous System

By Nina Bratcher, LCSW, Owner of Bay Area Therapy Services

Every moment, of every day, in every interaction, our autonomic nervous system (ANS) is moving us toward connection or protection. Have you ever noticed walking into a room and feeling a sudden sense of dis-ease? It is likely your ANS picked up on information that was interpreted as threatening to your overall well-being. This information could be coming from what you experience through the 5 senses, from an internal thought or sensation, or from cues of dysregulation in the emotional states of others. The mind and body are interconnected and in constant communication with one another. While the body physiologically experiences a state of being, the mind generates a story. Deepak Chopra said it best when he stated, “The body and mind are like parallel universes. Anything that happens in the mental universe must leave tracks in the physical one.”

Understanding how the ANS works is crucial to understanding your emotional self and why you react in the ways you do. Let’s first breakdown the ANS. It consists of 2 branches, the sympathetic and parasympathetic. Many of us are familiar with the concept of the “fight or flight” response. This is part of the sympathetic branch. When under stress, the sympathetic branch is activated, mobilizing us fight or flight to protect ourselves. The parasympathetic branch is where our relaxation response is housed. The vagus nerve, which starts at the brain stem, branches up into the face connecting to our sensory organs and wanders down through the body connecting to our vital organs including the heart, lungs, stomach, intestines, pancreas, etc.

It is through the vagus nerve that the body and brain communicate back and forth to one another. This is where the term “gut feeling” comes from. This nerve plays a crucial role in activating the parasympathetic branch.

Polyvagal Theory, introduced in 1994 by Dr. Stephen Porges, posits that the autonomic nervous system consists of a hierarchy of physiological states between the 2 branches. According to polyvagal theory, there are 3 nervous system states that have developed over time. The most evolved is the ventral vagal state, housed in the parasympathetic branch. In this state our system is at ease and functioning well. There is a sense of safety and we are able to connect with ourselves and others. The second response, a bit older in time, is fight or flight. This response is housed in the sympathetic branch and mobilizes us to take action to protect ourselves in the face of danger.

For our distant ancestors who lived during the Stone Age, this response was necessary for day to day survival. The third and most primitive response is the dorsal vagal response housed in the parasympathetic branch. When we are unable to protect ourselves through social connection or by fighting or flighting, we drop into a state of freeze. In this state, we become immobilized and unable to take action to protect ourselves. This state is necessary at times and does provide respite from the emotional overwhelm that can occur in sympathetic.

Each of these ANS states brings a cluster of emotions and sensations that reflect what the state is designed to do. For example, in a ventral state we may feel at ease, relaxed, curious, grounded, allowing us to connect with others and access creativity. In sympathetic, we may find ourselves feeling activated, on edge, alert, restless, angry, inflamed. Sensations might include increased heart rate, labored breathing, temperature changes, unsettled stomach, tension in the chest, muscle tightness. In a dorsal state, we often feel shutdown, disconnected, withdrawn, numb. Intuitively, the human body knows how to navigate its way back to ventral.

However, because we live in a chaotic world where safety is not guaranteed, there may be times when the system is overloaded and gets stuck in a sympathetic or dorsal state. Tuning into your ANS state can help you become aware of what you might be needing to move toward ventral. We must first emerge from a place of survival in order to truly live and allow ourselves to thrive. You can practice tuning into your nervous system by pausing, taking a deep breath, observing sensations in the body and naming your emotional state. Once aware, ask yourself “what am I needing in this moment to take one step toward safety?” Perhaps it’s an action, connecting with a safe person or relating to yourself with compassion.

To learn more about this topic and tools for building resilience in the nervous system, join Nina in person at the Sedona Yoga Festival from April 27–30! Passes are available here

6 Ways to Fall in Love with Your Yoga Practice

6 Ways to Fall in Love with Your Yoga Practice

6 Ways to Fall in Love with Your Yoga Practice

by SYF2023 presenter Nancy Gerstein

For years I loaded my yoga lesson plans with novel sequences and philosophy aperitifs, and I believed I was teaching from the heart. Still, my home practice felt more like I was writing a one-hour script than examining my daily flow of consciousness. Then came the time when my yoga practice, the very thing I depended on for a clear head and able body, wasn’t fulfilling the contract.  My heart was uncommonly weary, and I felt ungrounded, disconnected, and heavy with sadness.

The Dreaded Obstacles to Practice

If you’re human, you’ll find an excuse for not practicing yogaI’m too tired, I’ll do it before bedtime, my kids, spouses, roommates, or pets are in the way.

If you’re looking for even more excuses, the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali are way ahead of you. According to the ancient text written some 1,800 years ago, the main obstacles to practice are illness, misperceptions, mental and physical pain, unsteadiness of the body, doubt, cravings, dullness, laziness, failure, sadness and frustration, and irregular breath. At one time or another, I’ve found myself using every one of these excuses, which is like saying, “I don’t practice yoga because I’m not flexible.”

Your Practice, Your Rules: 6 Tips for Falling in Love (and staying in love!) with Your Yoga

Create a Practice that Supports You. A home practice lets you cater to your needs alone. Get clear about your intentions: sit for a few minutes and ask yourself the important questions. For instance, do I want to soothe a busy mind, work out the kinks in my shoulders, or relieve today’s digestion issues?

Begin with centering. Sit still, close your eyes, and connect with your body. Drop your sit bones, lift your spine, and relax your face. Breathe, connecting with your physical and mental consciousness. Wait for your inner cue to begin movement.

Start Small. Most of us don’t think we have time for a daily practice. But a practice can be any length you want it to be. You can build a habit with just 5-10 minutes a day, lengthening the time as needed.

Yoga gear is optional. You can do yoga on a mat, your carpet, or a bare floor. If you don’t have blocks, use books. If you don’t have a strap, use a belt or towel.

Include all the movements of the spine. Moving the spine in all directions includes forward bends, backbends, side bends, twists, and elongating the spine. Move slowly, letting your breath be your guide.

Give thanks. At the end of your practice, take a moment to sit in gratitude for your body, your health, your loved ones, and all the gifts in your life. Gratitude is transformative; it leads to contentment and appreciation for what you have, instead of what you’re lacking.

Keep It Interesting, Your Way

Once you’ve established the habit of practicing, try a new twist to keep your yoga feeling lit.

  • Include pranayama. Start out strong with the bhastrika breath to elevate your energy and productivity of your practice. In a seated pose, exhale and pull the navel center and pelvic muscles in and up; inhale and release the muscles in the pelvic region, widening the belly and back. Continue for 8 to 10 breaths. After a few breaths, you’ll feel the heat turn on from the solar plexus, the body’s power source.
  • Study the eight limbs of yoga.When you learn that asana is one of eight limbs on the yogic path, you’ll see your practice and your life in a whole new light.
  • Add (or subtract) music.If you already use music in your practice, try a different kind of music, or subtract the music and listen to your breath, nature, or the sounds of your environment.
  • Seek Out Like Minded Souls. Try different yoga classes and teachers, or attend yoga festivals where you’ll find hundreds of like-minded souls.

They say, the more you practice yoga, the more you’ll want to practice yoga. Fall in love with taking care of yourself.  I can’t think of a better way to start your day and celebrate life.

Learn from Nancy in person at our 10-year anniversary celebration this April! Passes are available here. You can learn more about Nancy and other presenters here

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