We’ve all heard about the ritual practices that surround tea drinking, which seem to arise from various cultures around the world. In England, tea time has developed into a late day meal with its own etiquette and special traditions. But tea takes on a more personal meaning in Asian cultures, where it becomes a form of meditation.
Most of us spend a lot of time at our desks, both at home and work. Sitting for prolonged periods of time cause our spines to slouch into a C-shape producing poor posture and resulting in back, neck and shoulder pain. A healthy spine has a slight S-shape and our bodies were built to be in motion more than sit in a chair. Our bodies are designed for motion rather than remain sedentary. In addition, improper ergonomics also compound the problem. Leaning too far forward to look at a computer monitor or having your chair above or below the desktop or slouching can cause neck and back aches, stiffness and cartilage compression. Your muscles are constantly working to maintain your spine in alignment. When you are able to stretch your muscles, the tension is released from the spine and is also very energizing.
Maintaining good posture allows you to take fuller breaths as the muscles around the lungs are stretched. This boosts productivity and improves both concentration and focus. For those of us who can’t get to a yoga studio, there are some simple yet effective exercises that can be done when you can’t leave your desk.
1. Seated Spinal Twist. This pose is helpful in releasing back tension that collects when you’re holding a seated position for several hours. Place your feet on the floor and elongate your spine aligning the crown of your head with your tailbone. Next, cross your right leg over your left while you exhale, twist from the lower belly towards the top leg, allowing the upper body to follow. Hold the pose on each side for 30 seconds to one minute.
2. Forward Bend. Sitting towards the front edge of your chair, place your feet slightly wider than your hips so your shoulders can fit between your knees. For those with less flexibility or a sensitive lower back, lean forward, resting your forearms on your knees and elongate the spine into a half-forward bend. If you can go further, drop your shoulders between your knees, so your head hangs toward the floor. Forward bending brings fresh oxygen to the brain and puts some needed space in the rear section of the spinal disks.
3. Hands Alive. This pose is a variation on the upward facing salute. It stretches your shoulders and armpits, helps relieve mild anxiety and improves circulation in the back and arms. Sit tall, pushing your pelvic bones into the chair. Imagine a string is attached to the top of your head that gently lifts the crown up, putting space between your vertebrate. Inhale and raise your arms towards the ceiling with your palms facing each other. Make sure to relax your shoulders away from your ears. Spread your fingers wide and then close them into fists six times. Keep your spine long and make sure your rib cage isn’t jutting out. Exhale and bring your hands down.
4. “I dream of Genie.” Sit straight in your chair and fold your arms at shoulder height like a genie, keeping your torso stable. Swing your arms from one side to the other in that position, keeping your ribcage and spine stable. Everyone has tight thoracic spinal muscles, rhomboids and para-spinals that run along the spine between the shoulder blades. This pose breaks up tension in these muscles.
~ courtesy of Touchstone Business Advisors, Golden Colorado.
You may also be interested in the following yoga books we offer:
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Almost every activity we do has a purpose and generally, a specific goal in mind. Whether it’s driving to work, exercising or doing laundry, the activity is aimed at achieving something. What would happen if we gave up the goal? What would a journey without a goal look like?
Imagine going for a bike ride with no particular purpose. You plan on taking a new path to explore and wind up taking another direction because you become
curious about what is around the corner. No destination in mind, nothing to achieve. Just curiosity, having fun, and the anticipation of not knowing what the outcome will be.
What would it be like to try doing a project or task without a goal? Set your intention to express yourself without knowing the effect of the outcome you achieve and have fun. Imagine figuring out the work as you go, allowing yourself to go where it takes you. This process stimulates your curiosity to keep going because each new step wants you to find out more, do more and experience more.
Taking this concept a step farther, Leo Babauta, author of Zen Habits, asks what would it be like to live life without a fixed plan? Without knowing where you’ll be living in five years, or what you’ll be doing, or what you want to achieve? While the answers are unknown, he has experienced a new level of freedom by letting go of goals, fixed plans and destinations.
Our parents and our society have taught us to be organizers, planners and goal-setters. To let go requires a radical shift in thinking to one that allows for the free-flow of ideas and just being in the moment of the experience.
There is no right or wrong way to get started with free-flow. That is the real undiscovered beauty with this shift in thinking. Ideas form without goals, planning or intent on how the end result should be. Tomorrow, wake up excited about being alive. Ask yourself what you would like to do that perhaps you have always wanted to, but haven’t. You Remember, you aren’t bound to anything at this point, but the question is important.
Get started! Do something that you enjoy or are excited about. Have fun just experiencing each step with this new perspective and see where it takes you in the process. While the project may be a goal or destination, remember, it’s not fixed! There is no set plan and the destination doesn’t matter as much as the process- the journey itself. Your focus may shift as you go. The flow of ideas or unforeseen circumstances may change your course. The key is to adapt. No plan
can anticipate every outcome and neither can you. Without predetermined goals and destinations, you will find the path much more rewarding, uninhibited and a richer learning experience in the end. Discovering new and different outcomes create flexibility and you will become better at change and uncertainty instead of fearing it.
As new challenges arise, you will be better equipped to adapt and let go of tightly held beliefs that may hold you back from new and rewarding opportunities. You are free to do this because you don’t mind where you end up – it is about being present in the journey, excited about each step and having fun along the way. Each step becomes the destination, and is exactly where you should be.
The Calendar may be saying ‘March’ but we won’t be marching anywhere this month – swimming is more like it. As the planets move in their assigned orbits around the Sun, from our perspective here on earth we see them against the backdrop of constellations of stars. This month 5 planets and the asteroid, Chiron, are all swimming in the emotional and sensitive sign of Pisces.
Pisces is associated with the planet Neptune and both are symbols of imagination, spirituality, creativity, intuition, dreams, illusions, compassion, forgiveness, drugs, alcohol and transcendence. We might just as well consider ourselves “under the influence”. Remember too, that Mercury, the planet of thinking and communication is not only in this very touchy-feely sign, but is also moving in a retrograde pattern until March 17th. Our usual ways of thinking through problems and communicating are being filtered through our hearts. Those of us who tend to rely more on the brain than heart are likely to feel confused, foggy and maybe a bit overwhelmed. Just what happened to all my great planning, agendas and protocols? Right now they are all wet!
But also consider, Neptune harnesses the power of the heart and of water – able to dissolve boundaries between people and allow creative solutions to emerge. Your imagination is never as powerful as now, under the guidance of Neptune. On Monday March 11, the Moon will join all these planets in Pisces and as it comes into alignment with the Sun a new lunar cycle will begin. New Moons are always powerful symbols of new beginnings – this one is infused with the power of wisdom derived from our inner search for truth and meaning. We are encouraged to connect with our inner source for direction and guidance.
This is not our usual March. As occasionally happens, the cosmos throws a party and many of the planets attend. Right now that party is at the beach – so grab your swim suits and don’t forget your snorkel gear. There is a vast world of imagination to explore down there.
C.A. Brooks is a clairvoyant astrologer, writer, speaker and coach
You can find her at 12Listen.com and read her weekly astrology column in Mark’s Power Peek at 12House.com. She hosts a daily radio show “A Course in Miracles Daily Lessons” on 12Radio.com at 7am Pacific – 10 Eastern. You can also tune into her weekly Astrology radio program, Simpletales, on 12Radio.com every Tuesday 11am Pacific – 2 Eastern.
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Winter is waning and spring is around the corner. With the longer days, we begin to enjoy our favorite outdoor activities; gardening, picnics, heading to the beach or the park. Our wide selection of sun hats will help protect you against the sun’s harmful UV rays. These hats are rated UPF 50+, blocking 97.5% of the sun’s ultraviolet rays. The Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF) shows how well a fabric protects your skin from ultraviolet solar radiation. If you’ve never tried wearing an SPF or sun protective hat, you might consider them to be more about function than form, but the best new sun hats are both comfortable and stylish.
Sun hats are more popular and better looking than ever. Whether you prefer to wear a classic straw or safari style hat, you can sport a fashionable look any time of the year. In fact, sun hats make the perfect gift for hikers, gardeners, nature lovers and children.
Here is just a sampling of our spring collection available now at Chopa.com:
Wallaroo Jasper Men’s Sun Hat – This men’s versatile lightweight hat is available in beige or brown check. Designed with the outdoorsman in mind, the 3” brim makes it ideal for hiking, golf, fishing or mowing the lawn. The adjustable chin strap keeps it secure, even on a windy day. This practical style allows the face and neck to remain in perpetual shade.
Wallaroo Reversible Resort Sun Hat – This women’s fully reversible hat provides twice the wardrobe options. One side features a solid color with a contrasting band and the reverse is a fully solid color. The Velcro adjustment on the back wraps around a ponytail or long hair, and makes the hat size adjustable. The brim can be turned up or down for maximum sun protection. This is available in taupe/black or chocolate/pink.
Children’s Sun Hats – Say “Hello” to playtime with our colorful, children’s surf hat. Available in solids or a pink floral pattern, they offer great sun protection at the pool, beach or playground. This hat can be worn in the water and the specially designed microfiber fabric will be dry in no time. The all-around 3″ brim offers protection for the face and neck. The petite Nantucket is sized for smaller heads. Brightly colored ribbons are sewn together to create the soft pastel stripes. For the creative children, we offer a paint-your-own hat. This art kit features a plain white hat and the coloring paints to make your own design. This is a great activity for a rainy day or a play date with friends. It encourages creativity and helps develop fine motor skills. All of our children’s hats are UPF 50+ rated.
California Hat Company Capri Sun Hat – This 5” wide brim sun hat provides maximum sun protection for your face and neck. Fashioned with cool shades of blue, green and brown, it will compliment any outfit. Accented with a bow tie, it is soft, lightweight and perfect for travel. UPF 50+ rated.
California Hat Company Monterrey and Pacifica - These hats offer a dressy or casual appeal with the wood and earth tone colored bead trim. The 4” brim offers superior protection from the sun to keep you cool. UPF 50+ rated.
Before you plan your next escape to a sunny destination, make sure the whole family is equipped with a practical and stylish sun hat. They make the perfect gift for someone who enjoys the great outdoors. Visit our website to see our entire collection of men’s, women’s and children’s sun hats that offer superior protection from the sun’s harmful UV rays.
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I have encountered a lot of people lamenting their feelings of restlessness, desiring change and wanting more meaning and fulfillment in their lives. Striking a chord within me as well, I thought perhaps it’s the dead of winter and we are all longing for spring, a time of renewal? The common thread that seemed to be pulling these discussions together was the notion of feeling stuck, plodding through the motions of daily life and unsure of how to find the answers leading to greater happiness and meaning.
While we all have the best intentions to take more time for ourselves, life and the responsibilities of work, home and family always seem to take precedence while our personal needs take the back seat. Once we realize where we are – far from our own deep spiritual connection with the universe, how do we find our way back?
Feelings of restlessness or the sense that we are “missing our greater purpose” can often be found in the need to become reconnected with our divine inner spirit. I have found one of the most consistent and enjoyable ways to stay centered and grounded is to count the blessings in my life. I have been keeping a gratitude journal for over 3 years. Every night when I crawl into bed, I take a few deep cleansing breaths, clear my mind of the day’s clutter and become quiet within. Within this reflective place, I take stock of my day. I focus on the positive things that happened to me and enter those in the journal. I start each entry with “Today I am grateful for”… and begin listing all the blessings that I encountered throughout the day.
When I first endeavored to begin my gratitude journal, it was somewhat daunting and a challenge trying to find good in some otherwise not so good days. When I look back at the initial entries, they were pretty basic, but none the less important, for example, I would enter, I am grateful for my home, my job, my family. As time went on, I found myself looking forward to my journaling time each evening. It has become a time where I can look within, clearly and honestly and be able to count the abundance of blessings for what I have, what I desire and most importantly, honoring and acknowledging all the good in my life. Blessings are not only for what we receive, but what we can impart to others. I often find my heart overflowing with all the abundance when putting my blessings to paper and this simple act often takes me away from the disconnected feeling I may have been experiencing that day.
I have found that expressing gratitude and counting my blessings has also dramatically changed my outlook on life, on my relationships and my overall perspective of “my greater purpose” in life. Gratitude offers a conscious awareness of focusing on what you do have rather than what you don’t and I have found that expressing gratitude brings more to be thankful for and a richness to my life that is always with me now.
My gratitude journal inspires me to focus on the positive more than the negative each day. I welcome new opportunities with excitement and think to myself, I need to write this in my gratitude journal tonight! On many days, I can’t even wait to write in my journal. I stop what I am doing and give thanks to the universe for whatever blessing I’m experiencing right then and there!
Expressing gratitude is a powerful tool that aligns with the universal law of attraction. To that which you are grateful, the universe responds by attracting more of those good things to you. This applies as much to challenges and problems we encounter as it does the good things that come into our lives. I discovered not too long ago, that my perception on how I approach difficulties has changed dramatically. The change occurred ever so subtly that I surprised myself with this realization. All the frustration and complications that used to come with challenges is no longer there. I see challenges presented to me as gifts from the universe. It becomes an opportunity to grow, learn a new skill and to advance both emotionally and spiritually. When faced with a challenge, I even find myself saying ok universe, you really threw a good one at me this time. What do I need to learn from this? As my focus changed, so did my energy. Staying positive and grateful raises your vibration and provides you with the tools you need to tackle a problem. As I work through the challenge, I express gratitude for each step of the process, for what I have gained by the experience and for who I am for having come through it. Each step forward is a step towards something bigger and something better than the current situation you find yourself in. Gratitude helps you grow and expand and the happiness you experience from that can enrich your life and the lives of others. Being able to express appreciation for moving through obstacles and gleaning what is to be learned from it, you won’t be attracting any more of those challenges into your life!
Over time, I have found my gratitude journal is much like peeling an onion. Each day offers a new layer of self-discovery, full of reward and appreciation for the infinite possibilities available to me. It also provides a special, dedicated quiet time to connect with my inner spirit. It is a time to offer my deep appreciation to the universe for all the good and yes, even the challenges – all through the simple act of counting my blessings.
Karen Phillips is a holistic nurse practitioner. She works with animals and their humans “healing both ends of the leash” using Healing Touch® energy therapy for health and behavioral issues and for preventative care. She lives in Centennial Colorado. To contact her to learn more about Healing Touch®, she can be reached at (303) 995-6677 or by email at
In case you’re not familiar with the concept of a Zen garden, let’s just say “it’s not your grandmother’s garden,” and probably not your mom’s either. As nontraditional as Zen gardening may be to the Western eye, it has an effect on people that borders on transformational. One visitor who sat in the Zen rock garden at London’s Three Wheels Temple said this: “It is very hard to explain… suddenly you feel a great peace and you feel just completely happy sitting there. All your mind wants to do is be there, taking in the tiny details like the shapes of the rocks and little patches of purple in the dark green of the moss.”
It seems like this time of year everyone starts thinking about spring. With the official start of spring just a month away, women start looking for ways to introduce more color to their wardrobes. The February birthstone, amethyst, offers more than just a burst of violet color; it has a host of healing qualities that transcend the ordinary. It is precisely these powers that have made the amethyst such a well-known and sought after stone.
When one pictures a Japanese kimono or yukata, the image that comes to mind is usually a traditional robe worn by a Japanese woman; but this is no longer the case. While the kimono robe was always known as a hallmark of Japanese society, the trend has expanded to include men’s “Happi” coats and lightweight cotton yukatas. The shape and pattern of these simple Japanese robes hasn’t changed much over the years, but they are worn in more casual settings.
We often go through our days following routines and patterns we’ve developed over our lifetime. The motions of home, school and work life become comfortable without requiring a lot of effort or thought. Now, contrast this with the idea of intention. Everything you do is done with mindfulness, a consciousness of fulfilling one of your core values such as love or compassion.
While many activities of daily living are initially done with intent, once it is figured out, we tend not to think about it and it soon becomes lost in the repetition over time.
What if you could change that? Creating a mindful intention with your actions can transform each day and perhaps your life.
The next time you have a load of laundry to wash, say to yourself that you are doing this as a service to your family, to make them happy and as a form of meditation to practice mindfulness. Doing the laundry will take on much more importance, and would cease to be mundane.
The only difference is intention.
What if driving to work was done after affirming an intention to help your co-workers, to make people happy and to find satisfaction through your work? The drive might be much happier, and you might be less likely to get irritated when someone inevitably cuts you off in traffic.
This is the Intentional Life.
Leo Babauta, author of Zen Habits practices living life with intention and finds life more purposeful, lived more consciously and ultimately, finds greater contentment. Before you start your next project whether at home, school or work, pause a moment, close your eyes, and mentally affirm your intention. Why are you doing this? Is it out of compassion for others, or yourself? Is it to make someone happier? Out of gratitude for the work and kindness of others?
As you begin the task, be mindful of your intention throughout. This is a small step, but in those few moments, you will be living an Intentional Life.