Friday, December 29, 2017

Steps to Creating A Soul Nourishing New Years Resolution for a Great 2018!

Steps to Creating A Soul Nourishing New Years Resolution for a Great 2018!

Creating a soul nourishing and sustaining New Year’s Resolution is an ancient art. In fact, New Year’s Resolutions have been around in some form or another since the Babylonians.  As an art form, the New Year’s Resolution has had many years to evolve to a place of accessibility for all.

The art form is ready for you and your success. Below is a list of guiding Dos and Don'ts.

First, clear a space (see Then, the definition.

A New Year’s Resolution is a promise to yourself to engage in some form of self-improvement during the New Year.

Breaking that down:

      (a)  Promise: promise (according to Mariam-Webster): a statement telling someone that you will definitely do something or that something will definitely happen in the future, an indication of future success or improvement, a reason to expect that something will happen in the future;

      (b) Engage: to pledge oneself, promise, to make a guarantee;

      (c)  Self-improvement: improvement of one’s condition through one’s owns efforts;

      (d)  Condition: the circumstances affecting the way in which people live or work, esp. with regard to their well-being (

To craft your Soul Nourishing New Years Resolution you must-- make (engage in) a promise to yourself in order to improve your own well-being. How do you do this?

There is A LOT of research on how to improve your own well-being. According to research it is very likely that as you improve your well-being, you will be doing a lot of good for others. If you dig into the research articles you will see that well-being has a ton to do with gratitude, giving, generosity, health, and love. So here we go!

1. Do: Build a larger framework for your resolution.

Everything from a yoga asana (pose) to a home is strongest when built within a solid framework, a solid foundation. For resolutions, it can be very helpful to begin by seeing yourself 5 years down the road. Take your age right now and add 5 years (your age + 5 = X). See yourself at X. What are you doing? Who are you with? What is the weather? What is around you? How do you feel? Set this vision. Get out a journal or a piece of paper and put your vision on paper. Write a paragraph describing your 5 years from now self (X). Create a collage of X.

Remember, you will be 5 years older in 5 years anyway. So don’t let fear of aging stop you. It is happening. So what kind of 5 years older form of you (X) do you want to be? Doing nothing, holding on to your same patterns is also a plan. Know that. If that is what you want, perfect. If not, make a plan. From this plan, build your goals and then your New Year’s Resolution.

2. Don’t: Work from an anti-dream, anti-goal, or anti-vision.

Work from what you want to create not what you want to avoid. If you want prosperity, say that. If you want sobriety, say that. If you want contentment, say that. Work from what will be manifested and not what you want to avoid.

It is always good to have a sense of what you want to avoid (e.g., debt, addiction, alcoholism, etc..). However, to be effective you want to work from a place of creation. For example, as you work toward presence and sobriety, as result you are not drunk and dissociated. On the other hand, if you say, “I will not be anything like my Father,” you are still beholden to the mold. It’s mirror image, still the mold. Create your own vision, something new (I know there are some who say to do this [e.g., work from an anti-vision]. You can if you if you’d like. It won’t be as powerful, creative, or positive).

You might need to clear a space for your New Year's Resolution- see this post

3. Do: Envision yourself as healthy and strong.

Healthy is beautiful. Healthy is beautiful. Healthy is beautiful. Healthy is beautiful.

We are completely inundated with media messages telling us that we need to be smaller, thinner, leaner, and-all-that. New Year’s Resolutions and visions based on being smaller or closer to an idealized media image-- backfire. Don’t do it.

Consider the Health At Any Size Movement. Here is an excerpt from their web-page.

Let’s face facts. We’ve lost the war on obesity. Fighting fat hasn’t made the fat go away. And being thinner, even if we knew how to successfully accomplish it, will not necessarily make us healthier or happier. The war on obesity has taken its toll. Extensive “collateral damage” has resulted: Food and body preoccupation, self-hatred, eating disorders, discrimination, poor health... Few of us are at peace with our bodies, whether because we’re fat or because we fear becoming fat. Health at Every Size is the new peace movement. Very simply, it acknowledges that good health can best be realized independent from considerations of size. It supports people—of all sizes—in addressing health directly by adopting healthy behaviors.” An excerpt from Health at Every Size: The Surprising Truth About Your Weight by Linda Bacon, PhD.

4. Don’t: Base your New Year’s Resolutions on deprivation, restriction, and withholding from yourself. It backfires too.

A good example is dieting. Dieting won’t get you where you want to be. Here is one of the many reviews: Long-term Effects of Dieting: Is Weight Loss Related to Health? A. Janet Tomiyama, Britt Ahlstrom, & Traci Mann (2013)- reference below.

Worse yet, in the restriction and deprivation you will feel like you are restricted and deprived. Humans hate this. We fight against it. We rebel. And guess what happens by January 15th? Yes, you will have completely ditched all restriction-based resolutions and will be knee deep in your anti-vision.

5.  Do: Set your sights on a practice that enhances well-being. 

Here are many, many ideas. Choose one or more and set intentions to practice any one or more of these things often.

      a.     Embodied practices: yoga, running, Tae Kwon Do, etc.
      b.     Meditation (go here for a great app- I love this one)
      c.      Travel
      d.     Communing with nature (e.g., hiking, bird watching)
      e.     Commitment to a cause (e.g., the Africa Yoga Project)
      f.      Religious practice
     g.     Artwork (e.g., draw, take photographs, make mala beads)
     h.     Music- listen, practice, create
     i.      Writing- poetry, blogging, journaling, etc..
     j.       Family and friend time
     k.  Set an amazing world changing goal with specifics
     l.     Be in Service- support others, lift the world up in some way (maybe help Yogis in Service, Inc. 

6. Don’t: Choose something because you feel like you should.

Don’t choose the thing you think people will like, approve of, or admire. Pick the thing that makes you excited, the thing you want for you, the thing that makes you feel a feeling all around your heart when you think of it (see [k] above). You were brought to this world for a reason. We need you to manifest the reason for your soul. It will set you on fire. Do that thing.

"If you are what you are meant to be, you will set the whole world on fire."
St. Catherine of Siena

Note: There may be a few small goals you should address first. It's okay, and maybe even good, to start small-- engage in small accomplishable steps (e.g., eating vegetables twice a day, hydrating each day). These smaller goals are the foundational work for larger dreams. Create the foundation first.

7.   Do: Find a Partner

I joined Snyder Running Club a few years ago. We post our runs and get each there to get out there and run in the hot and the cold. It is the community that keeps us going when the love-of-the-run is elusive. We have gained so much more than running form this club- life long friendships and many, many fun times. 

8. Don’t: Set standards so high and so pure that a human being can’t be successful.

Weave in struggle. Make promises you CAN keep. In 2009, my sister and me made a commitment to daily exercise. In order to help us be successful, in the making of our commitment contract we wove in human error. There is room for missteps and life that allows us to pursue this goal and be successful. Here they are.

      (a)  Each week you get a skip day
      (b)  Every six months you can burn two skip days a week
      (c)  You need only do something physical for 30 minutes and that counts

Another example- I set a goal in 2015 to meditate 108 days before the new year. I set guidelines giving room for error (i.e., room for success).  Important to my success, I had a make-up rule- that is- I could meditate for twice the amount the next day and not consider missing a set-back.

My husband has a great way of looking at it- he says, "I just need to see someone is trying. That is all that matters." Yep- I had most certainly been trying for 108 days!

9.   Do: Write it down or get an app

Make it yours, own it, and write it down. There are lots of ways to do this. You can use an old-fashioned pen and paper. You can keep a log on your computer, or a blog on the Internet. I put mine in the front cover of my daily planner and on my iPhone- there are apps…. (see below).

“Goal setting involves establishing a plan and creating steps to help you achieve what once was just a dream. Two vital parts of achieving your goals are motivation and habit building. Thankfully there are some apps that will help you create some healthy new habits that will move your life in the right direction to help you achieve your goals. We compare the best ones in this AppGuide.”

10.  Don’t: Automatically Keep your New Year’s Resolution a secret or tell everybody

As an impulse or mindless action, neither of those is a good idea. Your New Year’s Resolution is yours. It is yours to share or keep for as long as you’d like. Choose thoughtfully, mindfully. If you share, choose to share with those who will empower you. Sometimes it helps to hold it close to your heart. I like to do this. I set goals and sometimes-- I don’t tell anyone. It is between me and me (and me and God). After I have accomplished my goal, sometimes I tell my husband or a friend. Sometimes I don’t tell anyone.  This is one of those things that varies person to person. As much as I like to keep things to myself, other people do better when they share their goals. Share goals only with people who will let it be yours. No matter which you choose, make sure it stays your goal and your commitment.

11. Do: Mix great effort with great rest.

Make sure you have built restoration and recovery time into your plans. I say this over and over in my yoga classes, “With great effort, take great rest!” You can Google, study, and research any great man or woman and you will see that sustained effort was paired with support and periods of restoration. I have taught the History of Psychology for many years at the University at Buffalo. What I have noticed is that longevity and impact, without tragedy, was paired with a restorative life. The moral of the story, if you want to do great things and have a great life, match great effort with great rest.

12. Don’t: Make your goals someone else’s job.

It is so easy to tell a bunch of people, your partner, a best friend what you want to do and then make it their problem to monitor you, remind you, and inspire you. You are giving your success away and people find this annoying (unless they are co-dependent and even then they should not be doing it). It’s your resolution, your job, and your success when you get there. And trust me, it feels amazing to set, work for, and accomplish a goal.

13. Do: Make it concrete

Make your New Year’s Resolution concrete. Do not create broad open-ended New Year’s Resolutions like, “I will love others more” or “I will contribute to world peace.” These are good ideas AND they can also be concrete. For example, “I will love others more” might translate to, “I will call my dad and mom every Tuesday and Thursday to check in and tell them that I love them.” Also, “I will contribute to world peace” might translate to, “I will volunteer to teach yoga at the youth detention center one hour a week.” Those things are real, concrete.

Like my sister and I did with our exercise plan, we said exactly when it started (that day), how often (6 or more days a week), what (30 minutes or more of physical exercise including walking), and a monitoring system (text each other the workout each day).

These examples are so specific there is no question of whether happens or not. For my sister and I, sometimes we check on this or that asking if the other thinks that a particular thing counted. Usually we agree that it counts because it meets our basic criteria- 30 minutes of exercise. Please note, we excluded house-cleaning. That does not count- see how clear we are? That is how clear and concrete you need to be.

As I write, I have written 6 books. I did this all, one word, one paragraph at a time. I make a commitment to write for a certain amount of time, a certain amount of days per week, depending on the time of year and my commitments. I don't try to "write a book" that is too big and abstract. I would toward tangible hours writing and sometimes- I set a goal to get an idea across on paper. Something like, "Today I will write until I have laid out what it means to be secular when delivering yoga in schools." In these ways, my plans are concrete and accessible

14.  Don’t: Base your goals or resolutions on resentment or showing someone something.

I did this for a while. I fueled my achievement with anger. Anger is not a half-bad fuel. But it burns dirty. You are left with your achievements in your hands and black smoke everywhere. Goals built on “I will show you” lack the shine, the inner glow, and the love that you see in victories that come from the heart. Work on your anger, process it, and let it go. Then, build your dreams on something more beautiful than anger.

And this- You might need to clear a space for your New Year's Resolution- see this post

15. Do: It for love

Ah, this is the stuff. LOVE. Build your resolutions and goals on (a) what you love, (b) for love, and, (c) on love of life. Not only will this be more pure and light and beautiful. It will be full of joy and fun. Goals and resolutions built on passion and love…….well that is the stuff of dreams.

This is what I want for you. I want you to accomplish your dreams- one goal, one resolution at a time- from a place of love. So, DREAM ON!

Have fun with these. We get this one shot at life. Make it great. I am.
Your soul will love you for it.

"If you are what you are meant to be, you will set the whole world on fire."
St. Catherine of Siena



The Yoga Bag


Long-term Effects of Dieting: Is Weight Loss Related to Health? A. Janet Tomiyama1, Britt Ahlstrom1, Traci Mann2,*;jsessionid=CC1FAF44A3FDD1965B4C69A1EE00684A.f02t04?deniedAccessCustomisedMessage=&userIsAuthenticated=false


“Success” in dieting interventions has traditionally been defined as weight loss. It is implicit in this definition that losing weight will lead to improved health, and yet, health outcomes are not routinely included in studies of diets. In this article, we evaluate whether weight loss improves health by reviewing health outcomes of long-term randomized controlled diet studies. We examine whether weight-loss diets lead to improved cholesterol, triglycerides, systolic and diastolic blood pressure, and fasting blood glucose and test whether the amount of weight lost is predictive of these health outcomes. Across all studies, there were minimal improvements in these health outcomes, and none of these correlated with weight change. A few positive effects emerged, however, for hypertension and diabetes medication use and diabetes and stroke incidence. We conclude by discussing factors that potentially confound the relationship between weight loss and health outcomes, such as increased exercise, healthier eating, and engagement with the health care system, and we provide suggestions for future research

How to Survive 108 Sun Salutations January 10th, Lafayette Hotel

How to Survive 108 Sun Salutations January 10th, Lafayette Hotel 

What to expect:

  • A room full of happy yogis
  • Between 2 and 2 and 1/2 hours of Sun Salutations
  • The suns will start slow, expand to a challenging set of salutations, and then slow down at the end. 
  • A lot of fun. 
  • A raffle
  • T-shirt sales
  • Finishing card!

What to bring:

  • Water bottle- bring between 20 and 40 ounces of water. You can refill at the 1/2 break
  • Electrolyte drink
  • Yoga mat
  • Hand towel
  • Mat towel
  • Cash, credit card, or checks for raffle/t-shirts
  • Your love of yoga!

To prepare for a 2+hour  practice/exercise (e.g., 108 Sun Sals): 

   Just eat normally leading up to that day, maybe increase your calories a bit but nothing major. 
   You do not need to eat some massive carb meal the night before, that will only hurt you the next day because your body will still be breaking that down and trying to eliminate it. 
   Trying to drink excessive water leading up to that day to hydrate won't be additionally beneficial. 
   Add a bit more fluids each day, a bit more than normal and a bit more calories/carbs and you will be fine. 

What to do the day of the Suns:

   The day of: I would eat a nice balanced full breakfast, get fats, carbs and protein. Examples. Oatmeal and fruit. Nut butter and toast with a banana. A green smoothie. Eggs, toast and fruit. Something along the lines of that. Keep it on the lighter side. 
   Start increasing your water a bit early on in the day. Something like 2 water bottles before noon. Have another done before 3pm.
   Have a snack late morning. Greek Yogurt, some almonds or brasil nuts or dried fruit, or fruit. 
   Then, the key is to eat your next meal before 1:30, whatever you normally eat for lunch that works for you.  
   Have a small snack about an 60-90 min before 4:30 PM. Dates are great. A handful of granola. 1/2 an Avocado with a little bit of salt. Celery is a great natural electrolyte (e.g., maybe celery and a touch of hummus). 

During the Suns: 

   During practice make sure you have a water bottle to hold enough water, either choose an electrolyte drink you always use or grab another brand, Vega products are  good. Coconut water. Water is fine for at least an hour, your body doesn't really need to get any extra calories until after an hour of strenuous exercise. So even if you brought a Date or two, an energy gel, half a banana and took that half way through you will be fine. Depending on how long you have been doing yoga you may not need anything. Our bodies become efficient when we do the same exercises and we don't need as much. 

After the Suns:

   Post work out your most important thing is to replenish the carbs you lost, not protein. About 4 Grams carbs to every 1 Gram of protein. Or you can grab whatever makes you feel good. Get some carbs first and then add some protein. 
   Drink plenty of fluids later and you will be fine. You can add a touch more salt to your food to replenish your salts lost. (I know this sounds serious, I am just giving you the broad facts so you can take what you need for you). 

Mostly, HAVE FUN and eat and drink enough. You can always take a break in child's pose and grab a drink at the water fountain. We will be pausing at 1/2 for drink, and bathrooms. Raffle results posted at end! 

Can't wait to see you there!

The Sun Salutation Team, 

Catherine, Steve, Kathleen, and Leslie
Yogis in Service

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

What have you been practicing for?

What have you been practicing for?

Catherine Cook-Cottone
The Yoga Bag

This is the question of the week, 

“If you wonder what you would have done to help the Underground Railroad, the tireless mission of the suffragettes, during the early years of the civil rights movement, or during the rise of the Nazi rĂ©gime— 

know this- 

you are doing it now."

Consider, that you have been practicing for today.

Consider, that yoga practice is not a practice of getting really good at being really good on your mat.  I guess it can be. Not for me. I am practicing to be the person I hope for myself. To be silent now is to condone what is happening. To be in inaction now, is to yield to those who are in action. 

I grew up in the 1970s and 80s. As a military child, I lived all over this beautiful United States of America.

From coast-to-coast, I was raised to love and respect each of my neighbors as fellow Americans worthy of every human right.

The daughter of an English teacher, I was raised to admire scholars and poets for their ability to make art of their unmatchable paths in life- never wanting any one of us to be too like another as it would dull the magic, the beauty, the surprise inherent in our art and risk the vibrancy, the source-threads that make up the glorious tapestry that is the narrative of the United States of America.

I was raised to believe that the United States of America is the safe place for people who weren’t safe other places. That we are that great father and mother that hold out our arms for those who might be hurt or go hungry somewhere else.

I was raised to see the wonder that comes from this kind of open-hearted, open-armed love and acceptance that makes us all so much richer.

What I saw and heard yesterday was not the United States of America that I was raised to know and love. And I knew, in my heart, THIS is what I have been practicing for.

I am practicing to support my commitment to our work in Yogis in Service that connects all of us, from across this beautiful city of Buffalo and over oceans from the Middle East to Africa- in service of something bigger than anyone of us-- our love of and service in support of each other.  

I practice to be the change I want to see in this world and so that I will be strong enough to do it with grace.

I practice so that I don’t get tired, because I have a feeling this is going to take some time.

I practice because you can’t give what you don’t have. Only inner peace can support world peace.

I practice so that I am aware. So I can feel and see each and every thing that is happening.

I practice so that I have the courage to say, “No, this is not okay. This can’t happen. Not here. Not now.”

I practice because I believe in me and us.

Why do I practice?

So I can keep working on love no matter what. 

What are you practicing for? 

Catherine Cook-Cottone
The Yoga Bag