Tuesday, June 19, 2018

How Yoga Works

Even though we are serious about helping people live healthier, happier lives- that doesn't mean we can't have some fun!

Laughter truly is the best medicine, and having a sense of humor about the craziness of life goes a long way to helping us cope with the challenges we face.

Yoga is a beautifully complex and varied practice, with many aspects to it.

However... maybe it's best to just show this graphic, instead of explaining all the details!


HOW YOGA WORKS
Yoga -> Magic -> Energy

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

June 2018 Yoga Classes

Loretta has been teaching yoga classes at The Fit Barn on Delsea for a few months now. They have been going really well, & I try to attend as many classes as possible to support my lovely fiancée.

We began practicing yoga relatively recently, but it has become an integral part of our lifestyle over the past couple years. Yoga has greatly increased the quality of our lives- giving us more strength, flexibility, energy, muscle tone, and better overall health.

People of all shapes, sizes, ages, and skill levels have been coming out, and it's wonderful to see people making the effort to live a healthier lifestyle. We have seen a lot of new faces in the classes, and there are many people coming back after feeling the benefit of the all-levels classes she is teaching. Those who attend the classes leave feeling happy & invigorated.

I just made the new graphics below for June's classes, showing the schedule & pricing.


Graphics by Paul Micarelli Design
 

-Paul

Thursday, June 7, 2018

The Duality of Fear

One way I want to help reach people through our Conscious Living for You page is using my design skills to create motivational or inspirational graphics.

This was the first one I thought up, dealing with the mind-killer, FEAR. Loretta & I hope to provide tools and ideas to tame the mind and control emotions such as fear that can hinder our growth.


 FEAR
is a Means of 
Self-Preservation...

But It Can Also Be 
a Means of
Self-Destruction.

-Paul Micarelli

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Improving Human Health by Observing Animals Self-Medicating


By watching animals in the wild, scientists have learned that animals do indeed self-medicate. Animals use herbal remedies and plant therapy, and it is believed that humans have learned some of these remedies by watching animal behavior in the wild.

When it comes to observing the animal in the wild, there are two criteria that must be met before documenting a study. #1: Is this plant a regular part of the animals diet? #2: Is this plant being used as a medication to combat/control a disease and not as a food?

PNAS:

African great apes have been known as the most common species to use herbal therapy through plants. Chimps, bonobos, and gorillas have been observed, as well. Chimps have been seen swallowing, but not chewing, whole leaves which have no nutritional value. They have also been seen eating noxious plants that they would not normally consume in attempt to purge themselves of an intestinal parasite. This observation has been seen in multiple areas across Africa.



The study of animals using natural remedies is called Zoopharmacognosy.

 Cambridge University Press 

Science has been observed animals using plants and herbs to rid themselves of parasites and bacterial infections, for pain relief, curing disease, and to increase fertility. The most highly-used plant remedies were used for ridding intestinal parasites and GI upset. Parasitic infections can affect reproductive fitness and behavior in humans and animals.

There is widespread antibiotic/anthelmintic resistance in humans and livestock, and with this issue affecting human health, observing animals in the wild self-meditating can be of help. Self-medication with nature and plants being added to the human diet, along with herbal medicine, can be an alternative insight to the human world.

Reports of elephants, civets, jackals, rhinoceros and bears across Africa have been observed using specific plants as medicine. Tabernanth Biota, a plant in the wild, contains alkaloids which effect the CNS and cardiovascular system. animals have been observed using this plant as a stimulant and aphrodisiac. This plant particular plant is used by secret religious societies in Gabon, and it is believed that the discoverers of this natural substance observed gorillas, bush pigs and porcupines, and learned of the effects by watching the animals' behavior change after ingesting this root. Other animals such as Indian Tigers have been observed eating Carey Arborea, which is not a normal part of their diet. This plant also contains alkaloids, to help rid them of tape worms. Elephants were observed eating Entada Sceffer, for stamina and a possible pain relief, before long walks. Just like domesticated dogs have been observed eating grass on a walk, or in the yard to relieve stomach upset and to induce vomiting and elimination, wild animals all over the world eat plants to relieve their aliments, as well.

Physiological adaptions are not always enough to rid an animal, or even a human being, from disease or sickness. Animals in the wild have been observed partaking in different behavior changes, such as avoiding or limiting contact with parasites and pathogens. They change sleeping spaces or feeding sites. Some animals, such as baboons and monkeys, have been seen changing drinking sites.

Animals in their natural environment self-medicate and somehow naturally know what works and what does not work. Animals are believed to be in touch with their bodies and nature. It is believed that humans watching animals in the wild led to experimentation with the same natural medications. Western science and medicine have drifted away from ancient remedies and treatments, but now the times call for a change. Maybe the next direction of Western medicine will steer more in the naturopathic direction!

Thank you for reading :) Loretta DeStefano


Tuesday, May 15, 2018

The Link Between Breath & Awareness

 
I have already touched on the elements of breath meditation in this blog, but it is important to understand the processes that make these practices effective.

This study from the Psychophysiology journal helps us to understand the scientific basis for the connection between breath control and the ability to concentrate the mind.


The study cites the ancient yogic & Buddhist practices of breath control as a fundamental aspect of meditation and focusing consciousness.

From the introduction of the full paper:

Chale vāte chalaṃ chittaṃ niśchale niśchalaṃ bhavet
Yoghī sthāṇutvamāpnoti tato vāyuṃ nirodhayet

"Respiration, being disturbed, 
the mind becomes disturbed. 
By restraining respiration, 
the Yogi gets steadiness of mind."

-Hatha Yoga Pradapika, Yogi Svatmaram

Although the method of pranayama (breath yoga) has been known for centuries, science is now examining the biological & neurological mechanisms that make it work. As a practitioner of pranayama in my broader yoga practice, I can personally confirm that it definitely does work.

One possibility for this connection between the mechanical process of breathing & the electro-chemical processes of the mind is the phenomenon of synchronization, in which "weakly interactive forces (e.g., mechanical vibrations, heat, or sound) cause autonomously oscillating systems to tend toward a synchronized state."

An example of mechanical systems "syncing" up can be seen in this video:


 Neural & physiological systems exhibit similar synchronization, creating a feedback loop of self-reinforcing activity. The paper looks at the reasons controlled breathing is connected to the functioning of the area of the brain called the locus coeruleus (LC).


There are several factors involved, related to biochemistry, oscillating systems, and neural activity. The evidence all helps confirm the relationship that has been known to meditators and yogis since the beginning of these mindfulness practices millenia ago:

By controlling our breathing, 
we can intentionally stabilize the mind.

-Paul

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Poor Fitness Linked to Neurological Decline

Brain imaging shows yellow and reddish pixels 
representing areas where the functionality of white matter is associated with higher fitness levels.

This study by the UT Southwestern Medical Center's O’Donnell Brain Institute looked at the correlation between cardiovascular exercise and the strength of white matter fibers in the brain.

The brain's white matter is formed by millions of bundles of nerve cells used by neurons to communicate throughout the brain. Obviously, keeping these neural pathways strong would have a major effect on the functioning of both our mind and body.

UT Southwestern Medical Center:

Journal of Alzheimer's Disease:

The takeaway here is that regular exercise can actually improve the white matter in patients with mild cognitive impairment. This leads to better neurological functioning and improvement in executive functioning for people with high risk for diseases such as Alzheimer’s.

On a physical level, the increase in blood circulation and oxygen delivery to our cells helps things run more smoothly. On an energetic (& perhaps a bit more abstract) level, this same activity stimulates the "chi", or vital energy that flows through us.

Science has discovered tremendous amounts of evidence that we humans need regular exercise for optimal functioning- in addition to a healthy diet, sufficient sleep, and other positive lifestyle choices.

Through Conscious Living for You, Loretta & I hope to bring information that will help you make more positive, healthy decisions to improve your life. Regular exercise is especially crucial in maintaining a positive physical and mental presence, which leads to an overall better quality of life.

-Paul

Thursday, May 3, 2018

May 2018 Yoga Classes

Loretta has been teaching yoga classes at The Fit Barn on Delsea for a few months now. They have been going really well, & I try to attend as many classes as possible to support my lovely fiancée.

We began practicing yoga relatively recently, but it has become an integral part of our lifestyle over the past couple years. Yoga has greatly increased the quality of our lives- giving us more strength, flexibility, energy, muscle tone, and better overall health.

People of all shapes, sizes, ages, and skill levels have been coming out, and it's wonderful to see people making the effort to live a healthier lifestyle. We have seen a lot of new faces in the classes, and there are many people coming back after feeling the benefit of the all-levels classes she is teaching. Those who attend the classes leave feeling happy & invigorated.

I just made the new graphics below for May's classes, showing the schedule & pricing.





-Paul

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Am I An Addict?


Addiction is a description we use when referring to people who need drugs to function optimally. Its rare to hear a person state "I am a food addict," but how about the commonly used phrase "I am a sugar junkie." Well guess what... most likely, you are addicted to sugar whether you realize it or not!

In the 60's, the sugar industry made sure you were a sugar addict, and even worse, they used science to make you believe that you needed sugar and that it was OK! The sugar industry downplayed the HARM of sugar and made a huge deal out of placing all the blame on the macronutrient FAT. In 1976 scientific authorities of the time claimed that heart disease was caused by fat, and if you lowered fats in your diet you would decrease your chances of getting heart disease. Come to find out, subsequent studies showed that heart disease was actually caused by excess SUGAR in the diet, not fat. The Sugar Research Foundation (SRF) put TONS OF MONEY into influencing the scientific inquiry, and making sure you knew that "sugar", was not as "bad" as fat. People were told to replace fat with something else when they knew that sugar was not good for you, and even worse for you then fat.  
 The sugar capita capitulated after such claims.

Studies have shown that sugar has similar effects on the brain as opioids. It has been said that sugar intake can even lead to some some drug addictions. What about cravings? Like children, for example- our society shovels sugar into children's mouth with the intention to cause pleasure or happiness. Think about this. What exactly are you setting your child up for? Possibly food cravings, or addiction in their future?

Of course, the sugar industry denies high consumption of sugar in our society. WHAT???? Houston, do you copy? Sugar is in everything processed, hidden but right in front of you. It's in the ingredients list, but covered up with a fancy chemical name. The sugar industry actually had the audacity to state that most everyday people do not over-consume sugary sodas. Coca-Cola has a very close relationship to sponsored researchers that defend sugar, and have stated that sugary drinks are NOT related to obesity. Unfortunately, food companies set out to manipulate research in their favor. The SRF has stated that children who eat sweets have a healthier body weight. Hmmm, maybe that's why pediatricians tell you to start with sugar-based baby foods first. This industry has a whole "science" to support the argument that foods filled with sugar also have good nutrients in them. They claim that increases of sugar in the diet are NOT linked to diabetes mellitis. This industry blames carbohydrates, but the the fact is that the American diet is filled with both. The funny thing is, sugar falls under a carbohydrate.

Only by educating ourselves and becoming conscious of what we are eating can we break this unhealthy addiction to sugar, to prevent the life-long negative effects that this substance can cause in our bodies.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Pratyahara- "Withdrawal of the Senses"


 When people think of "yoga" they usually think of the physical aspect- of getting into all kinds of strange & difficult poses. However, yoga actually defines a broad practice that can evolve into a lifestyle of physical, mental, and spiritual discovery.

Although it is derived from ancient India, even before the Vedas and the development of Hinduism, it is beyond any one religion or culture. It is an individual practice with many possibilities, in which the aim is simply the improvement of the self.

There are actually 8 aspects or "limbs" of yoga:
• Yama (moral disciplines) • Niyama (positive activities or observances) • Asana (postures) • Pranayama (breath control) • Pratyahara (control of senses) • Dharana (concentration) • Dhyana (meditation) • Samadhi (absorption into pure consciousness)

Over a year ago, I listened to an audiobook version of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, from which these 8 limbs of yoga were derived. It gave me a deeper understanding of the many aspects of yoga philosophy that can be used to develop the body, mind, and soul in a practical manner.

In the past year, especially since my lovely fiancée (and partner in this blog) Loretta began teaching, I have began a regular regimen of Asanas, or the physical aspect of yoga. This is only one part of an overall approach to conscious living that I have been implementing over the years. In many cases, I wasn't aware that the techniques of right living, sensory control, and meditation that I had incorporated from Christianity, Buddhism, and other sources were part of the yogic tradition, as well.

We have also begun exploring Kundalini yoga, which aims to channel the energies and life force that animate all living beings. I will probably post more about this in the future, but we recently watched an interview with Raja Choudhury in which he described the fundamentals of Kundalini in as clear & concise a way as I've ever heard.


In this video, he mentioned one of the limbs of yoga- Pratyahara, or "Withdrawal of the Senses". This is a practice which I resonate with deeply, because I have been working on mastering my sense perceptions, to dwell within the mind, for a long time.


Our mind is constantly bombarded with sensory input, especially in this world of digital media and endless stimuli. By withdrawing our consciousness & cutting off this stream of external sensations, we can begin to gain control of our own mind and ultimately understand our fundamental nature.

What is our fundamental nature? One-ness with God, the quantum field, Tao, the incomprehensible sea of energy patterns that creates all things. Our senses and perceptions divide this Unity into fragmented thoughts that distract us from the reality of the situation.

By withdrawing inward, strengthening our focus though meditation & visualization, and gaining mastery over our own consciousness, we can develop a deeper and more satisfying experience of life.

We can start with something as as simple as the breath, controlling how we breathe and focusing our  attention on it, to hone our mental acuity. From here, we can practice visualizations or other meditative techniques to draw the senses inward and re-connect with our source.

It is the essence of Conscious Living for You, and one that we will continue to revisit as we explore the many ways to live a healthier, happier life.

-Paul

Monday, April 9, 2018

IN-SHADOW- A Modern Odyssey


This short film written, directed & produced by Lubomir Arsov is an unsettling, yet eye-opening look at the artificial facades and mental prisons constructed by modern society.

It stylistically represents the many facets of our culture that keep people in a state of un-consciousness: mass media • info-tainment as news • the pharmaceutical and medical fields as a for-profit industry • vulture capitalism • ad-driven social networks • factory farming and overly-processed foods • soul-less urbanization • commodification of sex, art, & music • and so many other aspects of our experience that have been relentlessly exploited by greed and the desire for control over the minds of our fellow humans.

There is so much compelling imagery in this video, that's it's difficult to pick out examples. Just watch the video, and let it peel the veil away from your eyeballs. Although it explores the dismal state of world affairs, it ends with an uplifting return to the spiritual reality and inner light that exists within all of us. Each one of us, through more conscious living and a deeper awareness, can shed these imaginary shackles to live in a more meaningful & fulfilling way.

It is up to us to recognize our situation and pursue the methods that will allow us to break free of "maya"- the world of illusion that has entranced so many into a state of cognitive slumber. More people than ever are "waking up" to the lies we've been told and the systems of control that oppress our souls. This is one of the many works of art that calls to our souls and encourages us to transcend into a new way of thinking and being.


-Paul