Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Practicing Yoga With Children

Photo by Tania Franco


When I was pregnant with my son I fantasized that we would practice yoga together on the beach when he turned 2 years old. I have been practicing yoga for about 15 years, and I always wanted it to be a family practice. I was originally recommended yoga in early adulthood as a supplement to improve my health.  I tried doing yoga with my son at home a couple of times and it did not go according to my plans. He tried a few postures and then was off running, or worse jumping on me.

I waited a while feeling a bit discouraged but I knew I had to be patient about it. Later on I got my hopes up again and took him to a free class at a park.  There were about twenty 2 year olds doing yoga except for my adorable yet high energy child. We ended up running around for 20 minutes. I even broke a sweat. 

So, when I read of children’s yoga classes a few months after this experience I didn’t get my hopes up too high. I tried a few more times at home and continued to have the child jumping or hanging on me. We had some breakthrough moments when he started doing one or two sun salutations and learned how to take a few deep breaths. 

I guess I was expecting him to do a 20 minute session with me, which I now know was not very realistic of me. As he neared 4 years old I read about another class and thought “why not?” and took him to an indoor children’s class. And it went SMOOTHLY. He enjoyed himself and even tried a few postures I had not taught him before. The teacher incorporated singing at the beginning, read a children’s yoga book and did a few postures. 

Now I realized how my expectations were sky high and that I needed to bring them down a lot. I have been practicing yoga a couple times a week with my son and it lasts about 10 minutes.

We have been practicing:

2 sun salutations
Tree Pose
Warrior
Cobra Pose
Two Legged Forward Bend
Tortoise
Corpse Pose

It is extremely important for me to teach my son a large variety of coping skills so he can learn to manage himself and have access to these as a child and as he grows. In yoga, I have personally found a means to calm my mind and physiologically create greater relaxation. It has been comforting at times and at other times invigorating. I continually feel grateful to the young gastroenterologist that sent me to yoga classes when I was 20 years old because it changed my life in such a profound way.

-Tania Franco

The following are great books to support your Parent-Child Yoga practice:
" My Daddy Is a Pretzel" by Baron Baptiste and "Watch Me Do Yoga" by Bobby Clennell

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Acknowledging Things as They Are


Photo by Tania Franco

Acknowledging things as they are can be Liberating. Sometimes the conflict is wanting things to be Different.
-Tania Franco

Friday, December 7, 2012

Meditation Made Easy

Photo by Tania Franco


The truth is meditation is simpler than you'd expect. It is attributed with such a large quantity of mind, body and spiritual benefits that it is definitely worth a try. Meditation helps stabilize emotions, reduces stress, strengthens the immune system, lowers blood pressure, and supports overall wellness. I could write many blog entries just on the numerous benefits one can attain from a daily meditation practice. 

But today we are going to focus on the practice itself. The following are a few easy steps to get you going:

Sit comfortably with your back straightened (or lay down). 
Take a few minutes, aim for 5-20 minutes (or more, but for beginners less is more).
Practice deep breathing (diaphragmatic breathing).
There are many ways to meditate and I will be writing about as many of them as possible but for the sake of beginning I'll propose the simplest.
Count your breaths and when you get distracted start over again.
Choose a word or a phrase that's meaningful to you, or pertinent to something you want to believe or feel.

Know that your mind will not be silent during your meditation. We have about 60,000 thoughts a day, and yes, you will be thinking about the most irrelevant things you can imagine. And this is OK!

Your job during this exercise is to observe without judging and to gently remind yourself to return your focus to whatever you chose to focus on. If you have 300 thoughts during your meditation and only come back once to your breath or mantra you still succeeded in meditating.

Part of the learning experience in this practice is to be okay with yourself as you are, allowing yourself to be, and letting go of expectations.

The paradox is the more you try to change something, the more it will persist. If you just let go and allow something to be just as it is then you become empowered to change.

- Tania Franco

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Cultivating a Friendship with Yourself

Photo by Tania Franco

     People talk to themselves ALL the time, hopefully in silence of course. But seriously, have you ever stopped to listen to the way you talk to yourself? If someone could overhear your self-talk would they think you were speaking to a loved one or someone you dislike?

     If you haven’t taken the time to listen to your inner dialogue, take a few minutes to eavesdrop on the thoughts that go through your mind. Write some of them down, and notice their tone; are they kind or unkind? Are they maybe a bit of both?

     There is one person you will spend your whole life with and that person is you. It is a good idea to think about how you want this relationship to go. People with successful relationships usually work at it continually. Are you working on your relationship with yourself? Believe me; the ride will be much more pleasant if you have a kind and loving relationship versus being at odds with yourself.

     When we are aware of our thoughts we become empowered to do something about the things that are troubling us. You can create a warmer and closer friendship with yourself by practicing the following exercises:
  • Identify which thoughts are hurtful and try to say the opposite of those thoughts. What would you say to a loved one if they thought that about themselves? i.e. “I am stupid” would be a hurtful thought and you could counteract that by saying to yourself: “I am intelligent” or “I made a mistake”

  • Make a list of kind and loving thoughts you think about yourself. You can write achievements you have had throughout your life or thoughts you would like to have about yourself. Sometimes writing down what people who love you like about you can be helpful. Repeat these phrases to yourself over and over again while driving, when you feel bad about yourself, while bathing or looking in the mirror. 
     The more you do this the easier it will be to believe them. You can think about this as re-framing your thoughts, and this is one of the most valuable teachings I received many years ago. When I began these practices it was difficult to be kind with myself. As time progressed and I practiced this continually I became much kinder with myself.

     I will admit that I find it easier to be honest about my defects than my abilities, but I continue to be warm and loving with myself. I can say I am a good friend of mine most days. Creating supportive and kind self talk takes time and continual practice. Give yourself the gift of consciously cultivating a friendship with you. I cannot stress enough that practice is the key to reaping the rewards.

- Tania Franco

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Mindfulness

"Mindfulness allows you to accept yourself as you are right now."

-Tania Franco


Photo by Tania Franco

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Diaphragmatic Breathing Video

Dear Reader,

I am really excited to be uploading "Practicing the Art of Happiness" first video blog. Would love to have been 20lbs. lighter but I guess you'll have to tune in to see how I subtly loose them as you watch the different videos I will be posting in the following months.

I am able to share such beneficial material thanks to my Producer, Editor and Graphic Designer who also happens to be my lovely husband, Edgar A. Morales.

We will be working on improving the quality of our videos and learning as we go along. But before we become experts, we will be "practicing".

I hope you enjoy the material and recommend that you give yourself the opportunity of experiencing the different techniques and make them part of your personal wellness toolbox.

From my heart,

Tania Franco




Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Simple Presence Exercise

Practice being in the moment. This is where you are the most empowered to create well-being.

Take a minute to use your 5 senses, this is a quick way to be present. Breathe in and out while doing the following:

1. Look. What do you see? Colo
rs , objects, etc. Notice carefully.
2. Smell. What do you smell? Notice the most subtle aromas.
3. Listen. Close your eyes and listen. What sounds do you hear?
4. Taste. What flavors can you taste in your mouth?
5.Touch. What can you touch? How does it feel? Rough? Soft?

- Tania Franco

"This infinite number of possibilities is called The Now."
- Edgar A. Morales from





Sunday, November 11, 2012

How “The Happiness Project”, Actually Helped me Feel Happier

Photo by Tania Franco


 I saw this book at a store a few years back and thought it would be perfect for my book club. But then I remembered that I had suggested self-help books to many individuals throughout the years with not-so-grand results. It turns out many disliked the recommendations because maybe it implied that I thought they needed help. But doesn’t everyone need some type of help? So I decided not to suggest it for the book club and just read it for myself.


 I had just had my son and could not, for the life of me, get back to the previous practices that made me feel calm and happy. I used to meditate five to seven days a week between 10-30 minutes, practice yoga around five times a week, was surrounded by interesting and uplifting information due to my work. I had meaningful interactions with friends and loved ones regularly and was involved in what I believe my purpose in life to be, which was truly fulfilling. At some point, I felt like I mastered many aspects of my life and if I didn’t, at least I had somewhat of a handle on things.

After my son was born, my world turned upside down. I had no idea how to get back to a more balanced nature. I felt stressed out for a year or more. I thought I did not master any part of motherhood or homemaking which made me feel frustrated. And I felt tired all the time, apparently this is very common in motherhood. Lovely!

Enter The Happiness Project. 

 I found Gretchen Rubin’s writing refreshing. She can share different parts of herself with humor at the same time that she can share knowledge of great minds about how to achieve overall satisfaction with life. At times, I felt like I was getting the knowledge of many books by only reading one.
Gretchen dedicated a year to creating greater happiness in her day-to-day life. She already felt happy, but believed she could be happier. I respected that she would do all of this while staying home living her regular life and not making drastic changes in order to achieve her goals. Her project took on different themes each month comprised of specific activities or attitudes.

 I read some mixed reviews about this book, but I learned a lot from it. I have this personal philosophy: “take what serves you and leave what doesn’t”. My disposition since I picked it was to enrich my own life and I did.

What did I take? I took many things but will mention a few simple ones:

1.       Boxes. Yes, you read correctly. Boxes make my everyday life much more enjoyable. With a toddler and an insane amount of toys around, getting a few “grown up looking” and easy on the eye boxes to make my home look tidier made one of the biggest improvements in my mood. I know! Crazy, huh?

2.       Pick my battles. I can be a really good nag, which drives my family crazy. When I don’t get what I want done, people will hear about it. Over and over. Now, I really try to let some things go. Now, when something comes up I ask myself: “is this worth getting mad and ruining a perfectly good morning/afternoon/evening?” I can honestly say that 70% of the time I drop it. This amazes me! Who knew I could let go with such ease?

3.       Spend quality time with friends. I have made a conscious effort to make time for my friends. In the past I did not do that so well, but in the last two years I have really tried and seen many of my relationships blossom. It has brought me great joy and comfort. I thrive when I am surrounded by profound and intelligent people I admire and respect.

 Reading “The Happiness Project” helped me to recommit to creating greater satisfaction in my life. I try to be conscientious about my daily practices and how each moment shapes the rest of my day, week or month. I can say that I choose to seek and implement activities that help me feel good. Some days I thrive better than others, but I make sure to be active in my own happiness.

- Tania Franco

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Meditating on What I Want to Create in My Life

Photo by Edgar A. Morales


     One of the ways I create a happier day for myself is by meditating. I feel that most people have great misperceptions as to what this practice is and about who can or cannot do it. If you are alive and breathing you can meditate. It is a practice and like any practice the more you do it, the better you get.

     I have been meditating for many years and I choose to practice different meditations to keep me engaged. Today I chose to pick a thought that is pertinent to my day and what I want to create. I sat down in a comfortable position with my back straight and began to breathe deeply. I chose the phrase “I am sharing my many gifts with the world”.  

     I tend to pick and choose very carefully who I share my deeper thoughts and beliefs with, so sharing in a blog a lot of my professional and personal knowledge makes me nervous.  As I was meditating on this thought I continued to breathe and every time my thoughts wandered to another subject like: Do we have enough coffee? How’s that bench in the park for giving a meditation?  I would kindly remind myself to bring my thoughts back to what I was meditating on. 

     But the mantra I picked did not grasp what I wanted to reflect on, so I changed it into “I am trying to share my gifts”. 

     I use my body as a gauge to notice what feels “right” and what doesn’t. When something is right I tend to feel a loosening in all of my body. I felt more relaxed then when I began but not completely. There was a bit of uneasiness with the phrase, so I continued to change my mantra until my deeper sense agreed that it was “I am learning to share”. Suddenly my breathing was deeper and felt this was much more authentic with my present moment. 

     I did relax but not as much as other times I am meditating and that was fine. When I finished my morning meditation I had a smile on my face and felt happy with the thought that I could share myself with others and that it will be okay. 

     When I meditate on thoughts that I want to become my real way of thinking I somehow give myself permission to become that or to create that. I will be sharing much more of my meditative practices and experiences and hope that this supports your own wellness practices.

- Tania Franco

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Honoring Where We Come From

Altar de Muertos by Tania Franco

     We all are a combination of our parents, grandparents and great grandparents. From our DNA to our thought patterns and behaviors we take a bit of each one of these people and incorporate them into our lives.

     Have you ever been told you make the exact same face as someone you have never even met? Or how you use a phrase that a relative used without you knowing? We have a deep connection with these relatives and oftentimes we are not aware of it.

     It is because of this close relationship that when we have harsh judgments of our ancestors it affects how we feel about ourselves, whether we are conscious of it or not. Learning to honor where we come from allows us to honor ourselves and to be accepting of oneself as a whole.

     Have you ever thought about how unique the coming together of each one of these couples has been? A lot of synchronized events had to take place for this to occur and these circumstances make your life more special. It is thanks to your great grandparents, grandparents and parents union that you were able to be conceived.

     Have you thought of the obstacles they overcame to be united? Are they from different parts of the world? How was their meeting? How special were all the experiences that brought them together? Did they overcome any obstacles? If you are not aware of much of this information, try to ask as much as possible so you can learn more about where you come from and the history that has shaped your own life.

     A practice that supports feeling good about ourselves is one where we actively seek to honor where we come from and to feel grateful for receiving our life, the most precious gift. There are many subtle ways to practice this and here are a few examples:

  1. Whenever you are about to make a difficult decision, close your eyes for a moment and imagine your parents, grandparents and great grandparents standing behind you supporting you in your current endeavors. This can be done for a few minutes in the morning before starting your day. Try it for some time, and see if it makes a difference in your daily life and how you feel.
  2.  
  3. You can add a picture of your parents and other family members around your home as an honoring practice. Look at them and try to cultivate an appreciation for each of them and their personal story.
     
  4. Practice a sense of wonder and gratitude for each one of these people. Do you know their whole story? If not, seek to know more about them and learn some of what they experienced. When did they live? Was it during the war? What were the circumstances in the country they were in during that time? Ask as much as possible so you are able to know more about where you come from and what history has shaped your own life.
     Remember that this is a practice. The more you engage in it the more gratitude you will be able to feel. I hope to hear about how this goes for you.

- Tania Franco