Monday, November 30, 2009

Now Writing For Costa Rica Yoga

Check it out!

The Universal Soul is now writing for Costa Rica Yoga and can be found here: http://www.costaricayoga.org/.

You can fan Costa Rica Yoga's Facebook here: http://www.facebook.com/CostaRicaYoga.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Power of a Good Attitude

C.C. Scott, a writer and reporter, once wrote, “The human spirit is stronger than anything that can happen to it.” And he was right. In life, we will all experience the same rollercoaster ride, with unexpected turns and sometimes thrilling twists, but it’s our attitude as we venture through it that will determine if we enjoy the ride or not. Our spirit is stronger than our tribulations, and it’s a good attitude that will find joy and excitement in the ride, instead of dismay or disappointment. That being said, here are some inspirational quotes on having a good attitude and approaching life with positivity. Please enjoy the quotes and be blessed by the day!

“The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, the education, the money, than circumstances, than failure, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company... a church... a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice everyday regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past... we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it. And so it is with you... we are in charge of our attitudes.” ~Charles R. Swindoll

“Our attitude toward life determines life's attitude towards us.” ~John N. Mitchell

“When we long for life without difficulties, remind us that oaks grow strong in contrary winds and diamonds are made under pressure.” ~Peter Marshall

“He who has so little knowledge of human nature as to seek happiness by changing anything but his own disposition will waste his life in fruitless efforts.” ~Samuel Johnson

“Let us rise up and be thankful, for if we didn't learn a lot today, at least we learned a little, and if we didn't learn a little, at least we didn't get sick, and if we got sick, at least we didn't die; so, let us all be thankful.” ~Buddha

“I don't think of all the misery but of the beauty that still remains.” ~Anne Frank, The Diary of a Young Girl

“Say you are well, or all is well with you, and God shall hear your words and make them true.” ~Ella Wheeler Wilcox

“The greatest discovery of my generation is that a human being can alter his life by altering his attitudes.” ~William James

“We awaken in others the same attitude of mind we hold toward them.” ~Elbert Hubbard

“Look at everything as though you were seeing it either for the first or last time.” ~Betty Smith

“The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function. One should, for example, be able to see that things are hopeless and yet be determined to make them otherwise.” ~F. Scott Fitzgerald

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Healing Power Of Touch

Humans have certain needs that are so vital and intrinsic that if they are not met, the body, mind, and even spirit greatly suffer. If you ask anyone, they’ll tell you that we can’t go without water for more than three days or that we might only last three weeks without food. But what most people don’t consider is as vital is the power of touch. Infants who suffer from touch deprivation fail to thrive, and in some cases, they even die. Research also shows a correlation between touch deprivation and violent behavior. And believe it or not, a recent study even declared that couples who kiss each other every morning live five years longer than couples who don’t.

Facts and stats aside, we can’t deny that human touch is not only powerful but necessary. And though most of us know this, we forget to put it into practice on a daily basis. The perpetual stress and the hustle and bustle of our daily lives help us to build walls between our loved ones and ourselves. It is too often that we can go an entire day without meaningfully touching our children, spouses, parents, or friends. We forget to take their hand, share a hug, or look into each other’s eyes or faces. And as a result, we’re actually denying our loved ones and ourselves of one of the most beautiful, basic acts that humans are suppose to share in order to facilitate bonding, health, and healing.

When we reach out and touch our loved ones several things happen on both an emotional and physiological level. Emotionally, romantic couples that touch and engage in physical intimacy on a regular basis report happier marriages, whereas couples who don’t experience touch, both romantically and filially, are reported to experience less satisfaction within their relationship, resulting in dissonance and even divorce. It’s no wonder couples and family members who don’t make time for each other physically and emotionally are so unhappy. Living a life without loving touch creates unneeded stress and isolation and erects walls where there should be none.

Physically, being touched allows the body to release endorphins, which gives the people being touched an overall sense of well-being, fights disease in the body, and reduces pain. I’m sure you’ve heard that a healthy sexual relationship lengthens the lives of couples and helps prevent illness. According to The Independent, “The Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami School of Medicine says it has carried out more than 100 studies into touch and found evidence of significant effects, including faster growth in premature babies, reduced pain, decreased autoimmune disease symptoms, lowered glucose levels in children with diabetes, and improved immune systems in people with cancer.”

So, if you have been feeling stressed and rundown or even isolated from your lover or family members, it might be because you have forgotten to include loving touch in your daily lives. The next time you are in the middle of a fight, pause and embrace your lover, rather than continuing the argument as it is. Touch is so strong that it diffuses the negative emotions and stress we carry in our bodies during confrontation. If you are feeling anxious or depressed, give a hug to your loved one or child, and you will see that you feel better almost instantly. It’s quite a miracle if you think about it. With touch, we have the power to control not only our happiness and wellbeing, but our overall health as well.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Full Body Makeover for Under $100: Part 1

Given the economy, not many people can afford a gym membership, expensive equipment, or a personal trainer. So here are a few workouts I use throughout the week with equipment that cost me less than $100.00 to acquire. Primarily, I use a swiss ball, a set of 6-pound free weights, an 8-pound medicine ball, and a mountless pull-up/push-up bar. In Part 1, I will focus on workouts that I do with the swiss ball and 6-pound free weights.

Swiss Ball for Your Core and Legs
- There’s a ton of exercises that can be done with a swiss ball. Here’s the best site I found: http://www.sportsinjuryclinic.net/strengthening/swiss_ball.php. My favorite exercises with the swiss ball target core and legs.

1. 20 hyper-extended squats: I do this every other day. I place the ball between the wall and my back as you can see in the picture below. However, rather than ending at a natural stopping point of a squat, I continue the downward motion until my bum hits the ground. This extra step makes the exercise more strenuous and helps to stretch the hip flexors. I also extend my arms out in front of me rather than keeping them resting on my hips like in this photo.




2. Superman: I do this every other day. I place the ball under my belly, and I take the form you can see in the photo below. I hold this pose for 30 seconds, and then I rest for 10 seconds. I repeat this until I begin to feel a burn in my bum and lower back. To mix it up, when I return to form from my rest, I raise my feet higher and higher, as if I am approaching a head-stand against the swiss ball. This gets your arms in on the workout a bit since it simulates a pushup.


Free Weights for Your Arms: I use 6-pound free weights to tone and elongate my arms. This equipment is not only very expensive, but it can be done anywhere at anytime. I try to use my free weights four to five times a week while I watch the news.

Here is a great video that walks you through a 6 minute routine. She does 10 reps per set, but I do 20 or 25 reps per set.




Great Deals on Equipment:
6-pound free weights around $9.00: http://www.amazon.com/TKO-Neoprene-Dumbbell-Tri-Grip-Handle/dp/B00195SJ4O/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&s=hpc&qid=1258495951&sr=8-2
Swiss ball around $18.00: http://www.amazon.com/Mountless-Pull-Up-Push-Bar/dp/B002LBZZYM/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=sporting-goods&qid=1258496099&sr=1-1

Saturday, November 14, 2009

The Power of Forgiveness

Forgiveness is the fragrance the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it.
~Mark Twain



All of the things to truly do right, forgiveness just might be the hardest. It’s painful to be wronged by an enemy, yet infinitely more painful to be hurt by a friend, colleague, or family member. And the last thing we’re ready to do in the heat of it or when the dust settles is to grant our persecutor sincere absolution. After all, our pain and martyrdom have earned us the right to be angry and stay angry.

But what happens to our other relationships and to our personal wellbeing when we stay mad or merely grant a surface-forgiveness? You know, the kind of forgiving that just requires the words “I forgive you” to be uttered? I think we’ve all done it a time or two before. Personally, I’ve struggled with sincerely forgiving when I have been attacked because I carry the words around in my head, unintentionally allowing the event to live far longer than it ever should, and in the end, I’ve punished myself. Meanwhile, the person who hurt me, intentionally or not, tends to move on or may not even realize their actions. Or worse, they may never take responsibility or find sorrow in their malicious actions.

Recently, I’ve been confronted with people who seem to operate in a way that, when they are in my orbit at least, is rude and even confrontational. Due to my nature (easy-going, people-pleaser), they immediately upset me. So straight away, I feel my nerves tighten and my face flush. My words get tied up; my thoughts are totally jumbled, and emotionally, I’d like nothing more to do with them, ever. But we all know life isn’t that easy. We come in contact with difficult people and difficult situations on a daily basis, and we can’t control the masses. What they do and what they think is entirely under their control.

So, for me, I’ve made the decision to not only survive in my working environment, but to try to thrive in my place in time, no matter the challenges I’ll face. The first step in doing this will be to forgive the very people that hurt me. And in order to forgive from a deep, sincere place, I am going to have to pray for those people and for myself. I am going to have to give them the benefit of the doubt and try earnestly to understand where they may be coming from. I want to decrease my ego so that I am humble enough to let my pride go. This way, I can sincerely want the best for the very people who act out against me so hurtfully.

My mother always told me—your mom’s probably said it too—that life is 10 percent what happens to us and 90 percent what we do with it. When someone hurts me or someone I love, all I can do is handle my 90 percent of the situation. The wrong has been done, and there’s no need to dwell on it or prolong the pain.

In my life, I hope to be able to look over my shoulder and know I conducted myself with grace. And I have to believe that if I practice sincere forgiveness, that I will become a stronger, more peaceful person when the next storm rears its head. You see, sincere forgiveness isn’t just what we do for our enemies; it’s what we do for ourselves. And as Gandhi once said, “The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.” So here’s to forgiveness and strength.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Snack on the Right Stuff: Three Snacks That'll Save Your Health

Let’s face it; we all love snack food. Our lives are so busy that most of us will grab a bag of chips or a processed fruit bar when we need a quick snack. Some of us even turn to processed snack cakes or sugary cookies. Well, as you know, chips and processed sweets aren’t good for you; just look at all those ingredients on the back of the bag. If you can’t pronounce it, then you probably shouldn’t be eating it.

So what’s the solution to this snacking dilemma? Well here are three snacks that can satisfy your cravings and meet your nutritional needs.

Blueberries and Pecans:

Instead of falling victim to those unhealthy pitfalls when you have a craving, try blueberries and pecans instead. They are an amazing snack or dessert. It’s quick and incredibly good for you. If you’re craving something sweet, the blueberries have you covered. And if you’re craving something with a crunch, you can count on those pecans.

Nutritionally, blueberries are full of antioxidants, which fight the aging process and attack or eliminate the free radicals that make you sick. And according to The Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry, “pecans are particularly good for you because they contain more antioxidants than any other nut… A handful of pecans contains vitamin E, calcium, magnesium, potassium, zinc and fiber, as well as antioxidants.” Loads of antioxidants also fight cell damage and help with the waistline.

Personally this is my favorite snack. It’s filling and fortifying. I was fighting off a cold last week, and I have to give credit to this dynamite duo for helping me stay healthy! It's especially good sprinkled on a bit of all-natural vanilla ice cream.

Resource:
http://www.durdenpecan.com/health-benefits-of-pecans.htm


A Dollop of Ice Cream and Raspberries:

It’s so hard to stay out of the refrigerator late at night. Sometimes we’re just looking for something sweet to satisfy our cravings. Instead of eating any old ice cream or mound of cookies, try a dollop of Breyers All Natural Vanilla Ice Cream and raspberries on top.

Remember earlier when I said that if you can’t pronounce it, then you probably shouldn’t be eating it? Well Breyers All Natural solves this problem. If you’re going to have ice cream, this is the way to go. Read the label; there’re only a few ingredients, which are all natural, rather than other ice creams that are loaded with unnatural things. Dairy products are good in moderation since you get your Vitamin D and calcium. As for raspberries—yep, you’ve guess it—they are antioxidants that help burn fat with their magnesium and fiber, and they help protect against cancer.

So remember, this delightful dessert is a real waistline manager as long as you keep it in moderation. Just make sure there are more raspberries than there is ice cream! Personally, this is a dessert must-have in my house.

Resources:
http://www.canadafreepress.com/medical/nutrition032104.htm
http://www.todays-women-and-health.com/raspberries.html


Apple with Honey and Cinnamon:

We all know that an apple a day keeps the doctor away, but it can keep the sugary cravings away when done right too! Peel and cut your apple into bite size bits. Then sprinkle some cinnamon on top, and then follow that with a drizzling of organic honey.

We all know that apples are good for you, but do you know for just what? Apples help with asthma, bone protection, and Alzheimer’s prevention. They are cancer-fighters and lower your cholesterol. Research shows that cinnamon is an excellent spice for you because it can reduce your bad cholesterol levels (LDL), and it helps fight Type 2 Diabetes. According to HealthDiaries.com and a study published by researchers at the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Maryland, “Cinnamon reduced the proliferation of leukemia and lymphoma cancer cells.” Not to mention, it’s a wonderful source for iron, manganese, fiber, and calcium. Honey is the ultimate replacement for empty sugars and sweets. It is a panacea for so many things, and it’s even a bit of a miracle worker too. Honey cures some allergies, boosts your energy level, strengthens your immune system, soothes a sore throat, aids in fighting sleeplessness, and much more.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

5 Minute Stress Busters with Yoga

Most of us would agree that we lead stressful, over-stimulated, over-scheduled lives. In fact, you probably are rushing through the words across this page because you’ve got things to do. You probably lose your temper when you don’t mean to due to being overwhelmed, and you have a hard time sleeping at night because you can’t turn off the “things to do” list that peels around like a rolodex in your head. Chances are that you’re so stressed that you are carrying it around in your body, and that stress is making you sick and unhappy.

Most people “carry” the day in three key places: their neck, lower back, and hips. When left to fester, this stress leads to a great deal of pain and ailments. But with just five minutes before bed or at times in the day when you are stressed or aching, you can greatly reduce what ails you. Here are several yoga moves that when used mindfully and in sequence can greatly reduce tension and stress, which means you will be happier and healthier.

Position One: Child’s Pose (coupled with 10 deep breaths, then roll gently onto the top of your head to massage, roll back down and repeat as needed)
Benefits: stretches hips and thighs, calms brain, relieves stress and fatigue, relieves back and neck pain
Directions and details: http://www.yogajournal.com/poses/475gajournal.com/poses/475














Position Two: Lotus Pose (coupled with deep breaths, drop head to stretch vertebrae while in pose, hold and lift again, repeat as needed)
Benefits: calms brain, relieves neck, opens hips, and stimulates pelvis
Directions and details: http://www.yogajournal.com/poses/488














Position Three: Half Lord of the Fishes Pose (follow with roll on back and hugging legs to body for hip and vertebrae stretching)
Benefits: stretches hips, energizes spine, relieves fatigue and backaches
Directions and details: http://www.yogajournal.com/poses/485














Position Four: Corpse Pose (coupled with 10 deep breathes)
Benefits: mental and physical relief, calms breathing, helps insomnia
Directions and details: http://www.yogajournal.com/poses/482

Monday, November 2, 2009

Joy in Dishes: Finding Peace in the Necessary Luxuries

For years I viewed doing the dishes as a monotonous, endless task that only existed to annoy me. I would drag my feet, avoid, ignore, and curse the pile that would miraculously appear as soon as I turned my back. But about a month ago, I was given a lesson that made me realize that I had a needlessly terrible attitude toward something that was really a necessary luxury.

What do I mean by this? Well, one night as I stood over the sink, pruning fingers and all, I began to imagine something quite disparate from anything my mind had ever wondered to before. It seemed as if a chain of images simply materialized from the warm air about me. I visualized the young men, women, and even children of countries very different from our own. In them, I saw The Congo, The Dominican Republic, and Haiti. I saw all their people, thin and tired, carrying their wares atop their heads down to a muddy trickle of a stream. Their hands were rough and their feet looked worn. They worked and scrubbed for a long, long time, but their plates still weren’t the kind of clean we’d call sanitary. Once they were done, they repeated their long journey back to their village where they’d sleep upon the ground or on a rickety cot. Taken in by the images, I froze in mid-stroke, a soapy sponge in one hand and a fine, white saucer in the other. I felt a welling of shame at the pit of my stomach. It gnawed at my insides. Here I was, safe inside my home, soft hands, clean feet, and an abundance of beautiful dishes, and I wasn’t even joyful. Rather than finding thankfulness in each swipe of the sudsy sponge, I was busy counting down the minutes until the task would be done. Instead of reflecting on all I had, I was focusing on my mildly-aching back and feet. My attitude was downright pitiable at a moment when other people a whole continent away were finding joy in the littlest of places and exhorting a brother or sister as they found strength to trek across their land to a little stream.

It’s a simple lesson really. God was trying to show me something, and he’s pretty forward if you’ll listen. We are all given a wealth of blessings and some of them are necessary luxuries, like doing the dishes, folding the laundry, washing our cars, and weeding our gardens. We’ve all been blessed with dishes, clothes, vehicles, and gardens. We’ve been blessed with families, friends, homes and many, many other lovely things. Yet, most of us don’t see the trees from the forest in the grind of our daily lives. We look right through it because we are too busy staring into the eyes of ungratefulness or the face of weariness.

The next time you find it impossible to have a good attitude amongst the daily tasks of life, love, and parenthood, take time to visualize the people who have far less than you. Next time you do the dishes, walk the dog, or pick up after your messy family, take a moment to find joyfulness in these necessary luxuries because it’s a miracle we have them at all.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

One Little Supplement that Transforms Health

If you haven’t heard about the power of omega-3 fatty acids, you’re about to learn about one of the very best supplements you can introduce into your daily routine. It’s even called the “miracle” supplement. The health benefits are endless, and far outweigh the added responsibility and costs you’d associate with adding one more thing to your list of things to do. If you are eating fish (scales required) on a daily basis, then you probably don’t need the supplement. But most of us need to find ways to add this life-changing nutritional ingredient into our diets, and this little supplement is the best way to do it!

Health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids (fish oil):
  1. Mood Booster- According to the November issue of Women’s Health, a study from the University of Pittsburgh reported that people who receive high doses of omega-3 fatty acids are “happier, less impulsive, and generally more agreeable.” It’s been proven that omega-3 fatty acids help reduce depression and ADHD as well (WebMD).
  2. Heart Healthy- Since omega-3 fatty acids are poly-unsaturated, many studies have shown that they help lower triglycerides, which are created due to high-fat or high-caloric diets and are stored as excess fats in our bodies. The supplement also increases HDL levels, which is the good cholesterol. All of this lowers high blood pressure and increase heart health.
  3. Skin Saver- Omega-3 fatty acids cut down on inflammation, which plagues our skin’s health and luster. To support skin health from the inside, “it lowers cholesterol and helps make our blood ‘sticky’ so it is able to clot” (WebMD). It also gives an age-defying quality to you skin as it reduces dryness and wrinkles cause by sun damage. Many people who use omega-3 fatty acid for a prolonged amount of time on a daily basis report clearer skin and some have reported it as a cure to their acne (University of Maryland Medical Center).
  4. Cancer Fighter- One of the most important benefits from omega-3 fatty acids would be their cancer-fighting agents. It has been reported that breast cancer and prostate cancer have been fought on all fronts due to this “miracle” supplement. Women who reported taking omega-3 fatty acids on a regular basis over their lifetime were also less likely to develop breast cancer. For example, “researchers speculate that omega-3 fatty acids in combination with other nutrients (namely, vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene, selenium, and coenzyme Q10) may prove to be of particular value for preventing and treating breast cancer” (University of Maryland Medical Center). Men saw these similar results with prostate cancer.
  5. Brain Food- In March of 2005, The Journal of Neuroscience studied the positive effects of DHA omega-3 fatty acids and learned that they may protect against the accumulation in the body of a protein believed to be linked to Alzheimer's disease. It is also well-supported that the supplement helps with acuity and prolonged mental activities. It boosts memory and performance (University of Maryland Medical Center). So if you have a mentally-taxing job or you need to cram for an exam, omega-3 fatty acid is the supplement for you.
  6. And So Much More- WebMD points out that “the benefits of omega-3s include reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke while helping to reduce symptoms of hypertension, depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), joint pain and other rheumatoid problems, as well as certain skin ailments. Some research has even shown that omega-3s can boost the immune system and help protect us from an array of illnesses including Alzheimer's disease.”

Where else can I find natural sources of omega-3 fatty acids?

  • All fish with scales have it, such as mackerel, salmon, sardines, and herring.
  • Some bread, yogurt, and baked goods are fortified with it. Just read your labels to find out which.
  • Green leafy vegetables, soy, and tofu have it; so eat your salads and veggies.
  • Nuts are full of flax oil, which possesses omega-3 fatty acids, so eat your almonds, walnuts, pine nuts, and flax seeds.
  • Many cooking oils have it, like canola oil, soybean oil, and flax see oil.
  • Enhanced eggs can have it, so search the labels to find which ones.

Sources:
http://www.healthcastle.com/omega3.shtml http://www.webmd.com/diet/guide/good-fat-bad-fat-facts-about-omega-3 http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/omega-3-000316.htm http://www.webmd.com/healthy-aging/omega-3-fatty-acids-fact-sheet http://www.womenshealthmag.com/search/node/omega+3+fatty+acids

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