Mindfulness Meditation in the Supermarket

MANY THANKS to friends at the Cenacle Treatment Centre for dinner last night and some interesting, thought provoking conversation. As you would expect when your dinner companions are made up of a hypnotist, a herbalist, two massage therapists and a homeopathist, the conversation was varied and covered a whole bunch or weird and wonderful topics. I like evenings like that!

The conversation arrived at detoxification, cleansing of the liver, kidneys and colon, pasteurisation (and all its pitfalls), and helping to improve the proportion of good bacteria in the gut by eating natural Greek yoghurt, or failing that camel dung.

Before I go on, don’t do any of this at home (especially the camel dung bit) without seeking medical advise first. Or if you do then don’t blame me if any of the medications you are taking aren’t getting absorbed because you are drinking so much water that you are flushing them straight out. Okay, health and safety over, here goes….

It all started when I mentioned that I have cut down to one decent cup of fresh coffee every two or three days, otherwise I get the jitters and my eyes go dry. The same goes for tea – since I have cut down on the coffee, I find I am drinking more tea, and three or four cups a day has also started to make me jittery, or as I explained (with my tongue sticking out) – yuk.

Cutting down on tea and coffee is the obvious one, but isn’t addiction hard to overcome no matter how seemingly small? Drinking more water is always a good one – all the books say 8 glasses per day, or enough so that the urine is straw coloured. This is quite hard to do at first simply because we seem to have got used to living in a dehydrated state. From now on I am going to add a pinch of cayenne pepper to my pint of luke warm water and lemon which I have every morning, as this will further help to cleanse my liver.

Then there are all the sugars hidden in the foods we eat. We think we are doing well by eating low fat yoghurts for example, but check out the amount of sugar in them! Those little yoghurt drinks that contain so called ‘good’ bacteria can have several grams of sugar, and ironically it is the sugar which can stimulate the ‘bad’ bacteria in the gut. So the advice to me was to go for the normal ‘full fat’ (but low sugar) Greek yoghurt and be done with it.

And then (please do check this out for yourself), it got onto Louis Pasteur who caused us all to think that all bacteria are bad, whether he meant to or not. So instead of pickling things to preserve them, and then eating the vinegar which is beneficial to good bacteria, food stuffs are boiled to death. And these days everyone is obsessed with disinfecting everything around them, with the chances that this is doing more harm than good. Quite simply we need micro-organisms to help stimulate and strengthen our immune system.

The fact is that the human gut contains a myriad of symbiotic micro-organisms which help to maintain good health, and an imbalance of gut microbes can cause a reported wide variety of ailments from obesity and auto-immune disease to autism. Some medical professionals see the link between antibiotic treatment and poor microbial diversity in the gut leading to auto-immune disease, and this can be corrected by faecal transplant – taking the good bacteria from donor poo, and injecting it into the bowel of the patient.

A similar thing happened during the second World War when many German soldiers suffered from dysentry and noticed that the locals ate freshly laid camel poo as soon as the symptoms started. It cured dysentery due to the Bacillus subtilitis bacteria in camel dung, which crowded out the bad bacteria.

So the next time I go into the supermarket, I am going to do this in a mindful way, take my time and check the sugar and fat content of some of the so-called health foods that I consume, buy a few more lemons and apple or cranberry juice (natural, no added sugar), and think about what I do with unrefined foods such as white bread and pasta. The trouble is that these are the things I love to eat, so maybe not cut them out completely, but cut them down. After all, this is the middle path, isn’t it?

I am now off to make myself a cup of camomile tea….aaah.

About David Glover

David is a qualified yoga teacher with the British Wheel of Yoga, and has been teaching in and around Stockport, Cheshire for the past six years. For more information see www.bendyoga.co.uk

A brief history of yoga

Yoga has been practiced for around 6,000 years and originated in the Indus Valley region situated in Northern India spanning from Afghanistan in the west to Lahore in Pakistan to the north, and down as far as the Arabian Sea in the south.  This area is widely believed to be the cradle of civilisation.

Yoga is a science which helps to bring balance to the mind, body and spirit.  This is achieved by practicing physical postures, meditation practices and leading a balanced lifestyle.  Nothing is forced, but gradual and significant changes simply happen to one who practices yoga on a regular basis.

In early traditions the teachings of yoga were passed down orally; the earliest written references are found in Hindu scriptures dating back around 3,500 years.  The Vedas describe yoga practices as a means of steadying the mind; other classical texts include the Upanishads which were written around 800-400 BCE, the Baghavad Gita (500 BCE) and the Yoga Sutra’s of Patanjali which were compiled around 200 BCE. 

The Sutras, or threads, attempt to apply a systematic principle to yoga practice and provide a structure known as the eight limbs which can be taken to take control over the mind. These eight limbs are referred to as Ashtanga Yoga, covering:

  • Yama – five social restraints and ethical values including non-violence, truthfulness, non-stealing, continence, non-greed and abstinence
  • Niyama – five personal observances including purity, contentment, accepting pain without causing it, spiritual study and surrender

(try comparing these to the Ten Commandments, or Buddhist Precepts)

  • Asana – physical postures (This is where most people generally get into yoga)
  • Pranayama – breath control
  • Pratyahara – withdrawal of the senses
  • Dharana – concentration
  • Dhyana – meditation
  • Samadhi – superconsciousness

Finally, the Hatha Yoga Pradipika was written in medieval times in the fifteenth century, and focussed on the use of Asana, Kriya (purification practices), Pranayama, and Mudras and Bandhas which are subtle but powerful energy locks and seals which help to direct and contain Prana, the life force which is within us. Some would argue that this is the true alchemy, turning our worldly selves into spiritual gold.

Modern yoga focuses on the physical postures and indeed this is where most western yoga classes focus their attention. This is a result of Krishnamacharya who lived between 1888 and 1989 – 101 years! He was a great teacher who taught B. K. S. Iyengar (Iyengar Yoga), Patabi Jois (Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga) and his son T. K. V. Desikachar (Viniyoga). These are some of the great Hatha Yoga ‘brands’ which most people who practice yoga are aware of.

So what are the benefits of practicing yoga?

There are so many. It is great for curing bad backs, by helping to improve core strength around the abdomen, and in doing so it helps to improve posture. It also helps to stretch and strengthen muscles in a way which helps to heal injuries, or simply just stops muscles aching as a result of hard physical exercise, leading to greater flexibility.

Yoga helps to heal from within by helping to release physical and mental tensions, resulting in less anxiety. This leads to more energy and a stronger immune system, better sleep, better moods, more focus and vitality. It is interesting that people who practice yoga on a regular basis just don’t get ill as often. Even those who come to a class once a week always sleep really well on that night.

The physical postures help to stretch and strengthen the muscles, and open up the joints to allow circulation of synovial fluid which helps to lubricate and nourish these areas. By bending and stretching, the internal organs are massaged and the nerves are toned. The heart rate increases and the lungs are expanded which helps to develop greater lung capacity.

All of this helps to purify the body by releasing chemical and mental toxins which helps to relax the body and mind relating in less anxiety, more positive thoughts and greater self acceptance.