Three Obstacles to Your Success

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Whenever we start something new that is achievement-based or goal-oriented, such as a New Year’s Resolution or starting a new health program, there’s lots of excitement and motivation, but experience tells us our enthusiasm will fizzle and fade– especially when we hit the first road block.

Perhaps, if in advance we know some of the obstacles we will come up against, we will be able to overcome them. Here are three of the most common obstacles you will encounter  as you take steps toward positive improvement in your life:

  1. You didn’t complete your action or resolution for the day.

    You missed a day of your program. You ate crappy food instead of a salad. Or maybe today it just seemed harder than usual to fulfill what was set out before you.

    That doesn’t mean you have failed. You are learning something new, so please don’t expect perfection right away.

    Solution: Just do your best each day. Focus on what you CAN do. Choosing to do one small action in the right direction before you hit the hay at the end of the day is still a baby step in the right direction, unlike staying stuck in frustration or guilt and thinking you’ve failed, which puts yourself at risk for quitting.

  2. Negativity

    “I can’t do this”, “I’m not noticing any results… what’s the point?” “I’m too (fat, old, out of shape, etc.) to do this”, “This is stupid”…

    Negative self-talk and attitudes are the root of all failure and misery and it doesn’t just come from you, it comes from others as well.

    Solution: When it’s coming from yourself: be your own coach. Encourage, motivate and respect yourself. When it gets hard, push yourself to keep going. This is where tracking progress comes in. Keeping record of what you do each day and keeping that streak going helps you stay motivated AND reminds you of the progress you’ve already made. (See also solution to obstacle #1)

    When it’s coming from others: Spend less time with the Negative Nancys and more time with friends, family members and co-workers who support and encourage your commitment. It’s better to surround yourself with people who will cheer when you make progress, than those who take joy in kicking you down when you stumble. And don’t be afraid to set some boundaries by telling the naysayers to stop that kind of talk around you.

  3. Feeling Overwhelmed.

    “There’s no way I can do ALL of this!”, “There’s so much to do and not enough time!”

    We live in an age of information overload, so it’s easy to feel overwhelmed when a lot of information is presented to you. Also, we are all so busy, that it seems impossible to fit one more thing into your already hectic schedule and daily routine.

    Solution: Here’s the good news, you don’t have to do it– whatever “it” is– all at once. Start from where you are, doing only what works best for you and what you can feasibly fit into your day. And if something is working well, it’s better to continue doing that while you slowly integrate a new behaviour or action.

    Remember, as long as YOU are making consistent positive action in your life, no matter the size or quantity of actions, you are still making progress. Even little actions turn into big gains.

    Lastly, with positive change comes sacrifice. For example, you may have to give up time in front of the television or playing Candy Crush on your phone so you can prepare healthier meals. At the end of the day, which one of these actions will have a bigger and more positive impact on your health or bring you closer to achieving your goal?

While it isn’t easy, only good can come from creating positive change in your life. Believe in yourself and remember, failure doesn’t happen until you quit. From start to finish, see it through!

 

 

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The Power of Yoga: Sara’s Experience

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Sara Sommers with her inspiration, Prana Team member, Laura Johnson, R.Y.T.

Just over two years ago, I began taking Prana yoga classes at my workplace as part of a centre-wide wellness initiative. I have always been interested in yoga and over the years have taken various classes here and there. I have a close friend who is a yoga instructor and she has been gently urging me for the past twenty years to start to practice. When we began our classes many of us were fairly new to yoga.  Our teacher, Laura, guided us gently and carefully through each class. I remember after some of those early classes I felt a new sense of peacefulness wash over me during savasana and at the same time, a new energy. I began to look forward to our weekly class and even started practicing at home in between classes. Sometimes I would lie in bed at night and practice my breathing and astonishingly fall into the most delicious sleep! Over the months I started to feel stronger, both in mind and body. I was more focused and less stressed, and felt a calmness previously unknown to me (I have been referred to as a hotheaded redhead in the past!).

So, my yoga journey had begun in earnest. My workplace began offering two weekly Prana classes over the lunch hour, and so I began to go more often. I started to feel healthier and as a result, about a year ago I began a weight loss program to compliment my practice. In June of this year, our workplace classes ended for the summer, so I approached our teacher, Laura, to ask about community yoga classes. I wanted a similar yoga instruction style as hers, and felt ready to join a studio. Laura recommended that I try Shangrila Yoga  as she felt it would be a good fit for me. Well, she was right! I now attend four to five classes a week at Shangrila, having had the immense benefit of practicing all summer and fall on their fabulous outdoor deck, and being a part of their community. I have since lost 40 pounds, and feel stronger than I have felt in many years (I am 57 years old). I have learned to really empty my mind (that took a while!) and gained the freedom and peace associated with learning this. Each class I take I feel like bits of bubble wrap are popping inside me and releasing long held tensions and feelings. I am also learning to do a headstand-now that’s a rush!!

When I was asked to tell my story, I thought to myself “I don’t have a ‘story’, I just started doing yoga”. Then I thought of all the ways my life has changed and been enriched in the past two years, and of all the day to day things I incorporate into my life because of my yoga practice. I credit Laura, for moving me forward in the most skilled and gentle way, and for helping me to develop confidence in knowing a new and better way forward in life.

Namaste and Peace,
Sara Somers

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Have Mat Will Travel: Meet Becky Ament

becky-updogBrave. Bold. Daring. Those are the three words that entered my mind the first time I met Becky Ament.

She had answered the call I put out in search of new Prana team members in 2014, and was teaching a private class to me as part of the interview process. She was quite nervous when we first started but quickly found her way and delivered a beautiful yoga class. At the end of our session she offered me sincere thanks for the opportunity to be considered and to push herself out of her comfort zone. I remember her saying, “I’m usually the one hiding in the corner not saying anything to anyone.” She displayed an authentic detachment from the outcome and sincere gratitude for the growth the experience gave her.  To top it off, she hadn’t yet finished her yoga teacher training– there was another month of programming to complete AND her audition with me was her first time ever teaching a yoga class! Now you can understand why I was choked up with emotion. Anyone can teach yoga, but to display one’s ability to push limits in such a big way and manage the anxiety that comes with it was beyond impressive. From where I was sitting, Becky emanated everything Prana stood for and that was why I instantly knew she had to be a part of our team.

Becky fell in love with yoga approximately 7 years ago and was immediately hooked.  Through vinyasa, restorative and hatha yoga practices, she noticed positive changes in her physical strength, flexibility as well as a significant reduction in stress and anxiety.

In 2014, Becky completed her 200 hour yoga teacher training from Yoga Shack in London, Ontario.  The people and lessons learned throughout this training changed her life forever and helped to clearly define her future path.  Shortly after completing the 200 hour certification Becky received the Loti Scholarship from Deva Tree School of Yoga in London, Ontario and was able to complete her 500 hour yoga teacher training. Here she studied advanced asanas, restorative yoga and anatomy, and therapeutics.

 A busy mom of two young boys, “fitting it all in” is sometimes difficult, but Becky finds support and inspiration from her friends and family.

Becky’s technical style incorporates vinyasa and restorative approaches to yoga, making her classes a balance of energizing movement and mindful relaxation.  Her encouraging and compassionate personality makes beginners feel welcome, while her experience with advanced asanas keeps more experienced yogis highly engaged.  Although she has an extremely full plate –working full-time in an office setting and parenting two school age boys who are also involved in extracurricular sports– Becky still finds ways to share her passion for yoga. With Prana, she has taught an outdoor lunch hour (RE)Boot Camp series with our client, the University Student Council at Western University and is always willing to offer her assistance at the various trade shows we attend.  If you are in the Thorndale/ St. Mary’s region you can also connect with Becky about private or group classes at yogabybecky@gmail.com or visit her website: http://www.yogabybecky.com

Here’s how Becky responded to our “About You” questions:

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1. What style of yoga do you teach and how would you describe your flow?

I teach vinyasa flow. I love to teach a class that begins with a high energy flow and then slows down for the second half of the class. A little yang/yin.

2. How long have you been practicing yoga?

I have been practicing for approximately 7 years.

3. Where did you grow up?

I grew up just outside of London, Ontario, near Thamesford.

4. Where’s your favourite place to visit?

I love camping in Tobermory, Ontario or visiting anywhere in Nova Scotia.

5. Vegan, vegetarian or flexitarian?

Flexitarian.

6. What stresses you out the most?

All of the “What ifs…”

7. Most important part of your self-care routine?

Sleep, healthy eating and drinking lots of water.

8. What’s your favourite quote?

“You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.” – C.S. Lewis

 

 



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Ready to Have Your Mind Blown? Check Out the Muse Brain Sensing Headband

I remember the first time I heard about the Muse brain sensing headband I was parked in front of my lap top watching a TED Talk  by co-founder, Ariel Garten and from that moment on I was intrigued with the technology and its possibilities. Five years later, I was delightfully surprised to not only have a test run of Muse, but to also meet and interview Ariel at InterAxon’s Toronto-based office.

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With Muse co-founder, Ariel Garten at InterAxon

When I first met Ariel for our interview, I was taken aback by her quiet, but strong and calming presence. Her piercing blue eyes were alert and very welcoming, making me feel instantly at ease. We chatted briefly about crossing paths at a conference in San Francisco and laughed at the irony of meeting each other so far away when we were a mere 2 hour drive apart back home. Ariel’s schedule is relentless as she zigzags across North America spreading the word about Muse and in the process has managed to befriend mind-body guru and icon, Deepak Chopra. By now, you are probably wondering “what exactly is The Muse brain sensing headband?” I’ll let Ariel explain:

It is a device that helps with your meditation practice. There are sensors on the forehead and behind the ears and it slips on like a pair of glasses. It actually lets you track your meditation in real time, offering feedback on what your brain is doing as it’s doing it. You hear your mind like the weather, so when your mind is wandering or distracted, you hear it [feedback] actually as stormy and as you come to clear, focused attention, it quiets the storms and if you’re very calm you’ll hear birds chirping. So it’s really this beautiful experience of being immersed in your own mind as you meditate.

Chantelle: Let’s talk a little about the different levels to Muse. It works in conjunction with the Muse smartphone app. When I plugged my earbuds in and tried meditating with it at the Wisdom 2.0 conference, I heard birds chirping, thunderstorms and the fluttering of wings… besides giving you feedback, it also has another purpose. Can you talk about that?

Ariel: The birds are in some ways our subtle mechanism to undermine the goal directed behaviour of meditation, because once most people find out the birds represent being in a meditative state the response is “Oh my god! I’ve just heard birds! I’m the best!” but the minute they do that, the birds fly away.

C: (Laughing) So it’s perfect for retraining those with a type-A personality who are really driven by reward.

A: Yeah… and to ask themselves ‘can I not get caught up in the reward?’  So at that moment you learn, ‘oh right, I can neither be mad about not succeeding or excited about my own success’. It’s about non-attachment to both because if you get mad about not succeeding you succeed less and if you get excited about your reward, you lose the reward.

C: That in itself is a great life lesson!

A: Definitely!

C: And it really becomes about sitting with what is. I know there are days when I sit down and my mind just won’t settle, so then it’s about just appreciating where I am at for the time being and allowing my attention to roam, while I make a conscious decision to practice yogic breathing.

A: Exactly. Actually one of the guided exercises on the Muse app is to listen to the wind, or mental noise, instead of fighting with it to be quiet. So you spend time listening to it and often what happens is the wind then goes away. It’s much more productive than sitting and thinking “Oh no! I hear a storm! I shouldn’t be thinking!” or “I need to make these bad thoughts go away!” Nooooo. There is nothing that’s branded as “bad” here. And actually once you spend time with the things that you thought might have been a little scary, that’s when they dissolve for you. And it’s just as acceptable to be in that present moment engagement with those things and truly observing them [negative thoughts], as it is to be in present moment engagement with the good things.

C: What is it InterAxon hopes to accomplish with the creation of Muse?

A: Most of us sit there– particularly if you’re new to meditation– you close your eyes and you try to let your brain go completely blank, but instead it bounces all over the room and then you get frustrated with it, with yourself and you say ‘this meditation thing sucks! I can’t do it, it’s not for me…’ and it ends there. So we built Muse to really help solve that, to really guide you and show you what’s going on in your own mind and teach you that it’s not about your mind being blank, it’s actually about learning to harness and focus your own mind and learning to work with your own internal conscious experience. And so we are able to make that internal conscious experience really tangible, so you can actually work with it in a whole new way.

“…it’s not about your mind being blank, it’s actually about learning to harness and focus your own mind”

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Meditating with Muse brain sensing headband, earphones and Muse smartphone app.

C:  When did your fascination with the brain begin?

A: My fascination about the world in general has always been there, so I was always wanting to know how things worked and how to make stuff. Growing up I made a zillion things, so I was always creative. And then I turned my attention to the self and wondered, how do we work? And then how we worked seemed to come from here (tapping her head), so how does this work? This led to my interest in neuroscience. By the time I got to high school, around the age of 17, I had a job in a research lab that specialized in brain stem cell research and at the same time had a line of clothing that I sold in stores in Toronto and New York– New York came when I was 19 years old.

C: I know you have a really rich background in the arts; your mom is an artist, your brother a musician, you started out in fashion design… I know society has a way of compartmentalizing art and science and often pitting them against one another. It seems like you’ve found a great way of marrying the two. Have you found you’ve been able to break through in areas where maybe others haven’t because of that ability to naturally bring those two worlds together?

A: Absolutely. As I was growing up, there was this opinion of “How can you be good at the arts and sciences? How could you be good at both of them?” And to me that always seemed crazy! The same amount of creativity went into making a garment as putting together a science experiment. And the same sort of dogmatism that goes into executing a science experiment also goes into the actual creation of the garment and the pattern making. Both of them require this leap of thought and insight as well as a rigid discipline of execution. Um… the rigid discipline of execution I was never so good at (laughter) but that’s what other people are there to help you with! So clearly the experience of Muse is something that very much marries really hard, deep neuroscience, you know processing, machine learning, engineering with this creative, human emotive side.

C: And at what point did you have that “a-ha” moment that turned into the creation of Muse?

A: In the early 2000s I was really interested in brainwaves as this ‘thing’ that has information. Then I started working at this research lab where we made concerts for people with peoples minds and you could actually hear the sound of your own mind.

C: That’s wild!

A: That was the first “a-ha”. Like, oh my god… You can hear your MIND! This is making it tangible and experiential. And then we started doing lots of different things with the technology and ultimately the “a-ha” came from Trevor Coleman, Chris Aimone who are my co-founders. So the three of us believed in creating something that was really valuable in people’s daily lives. In particular, Trevor and Chris had the sense that meditation was an amazing application of this and then about 5 years ago, we went to Wisdom 5.0, the same conference we met at, that focuses on meditation and technology and that experience solidified our hunch. That’s when we fully committed to making Muse for that purpose.

C: Do you think timing as well plays an important part as far as people being ready for Muse?

A: An incredible important part. We had committed to making a meditation tool and we spent the first few years calling it a “brain training device” because meditation was still considered to be on the fringe back then. Internally, we knew what we were building and we kept finding other language to talk around it and finally, about a year ago, we’ve been able to say, yes, this is a meditation tool. All these other adjectives were all correct and actually pointed to this thing as a meditation tool.

“We have 120 different researching stations that are using Muse. Mayo Clinic is currently running a study with breast cancer patients.”

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Muse brain sensing headband; sensors on forehead and on ear rests.

C: And I understand that Muse is being used in many different applications, maybe more than what you all have even imagined?

A: It has. We have 120 different researching stations that are using Muse. Mayo Clinic is currently running a study with breast cancer patients. They get a Muse about 4 weeks before their surgery and then a Muse through their pre-surgical period to reduce the stress of surgery and then a Muse post-surgery as well. The theory is it will help improve recovery times and Mayo Clinic has now rolled that out to four different sites.

C: WOW… that’s BIG! Congratulations

A: Thank you.

C: I can imagine it would be rewarding to have collaborations like that happening. It’s so reaffirming of what you already know to be true.

A: It is and for Mayo Clinic, too, for them on their own volition and own dollars to go and say ‘this is so valuable and we want to roll it out.’ They’ve now rolled out the other studies to all surgery patients.

And the other incredibly gratifying part is getting emails from people who have seen change in their life, from moms who are able to say ‘I’m finally present with my child in the park. I didn’t realize every time I was in the park my mind was somewhere else and now finally I can recognize I’m here with my kid and that’s where I want to be’; to people with actual conditions who pilot themselves for anxiety or depression and are able to return to work after leaves of absence or cancer care process or their husband’s care process through an illness.

C: Do health care or other support care providers use Muse?

A: We have lots of psychiatrists, psychologists, life coaches, chiropractors, nutritionists who all now use Muse in their practice. So in the past, if you were a doctor and you had someone come in with a heart condition and you knew meditation would be good for them, as a doctor you tell the patient “go meditate” and as the patient, you think “okay…” and then they go back home and never meditate. So it was completely un-implementable. But now there’s a tool they can send their patient home with that they can actually use and make progress with and then come back and have a language to speak about it. You can look at the data together, review the sessions… so now there is a means for follow up and engaging them in the recommendation for meditation.

C: Do you see any other uses that Muse may evolve into beyond what it is today?

A: Oh definitely! The applications that we have with it will continue to grow. We have lots of developers that are building their own things on top of it. So it’s a tool that’s out in the world that people are using in so many different ways.

C: That would be quite interesting to see the developers creating apps and hacks for Muse. Have you noticed a developer community forming around Muse?

A: Yeah, there are a lot of hack-a-thons that come around that the consciousness hackers love. What’s amazing for me is when I go to a conference and everybody there loves Muse and there will be like 6 guys and gals who all built things with Muse and I don’t know them– I’ve just met them– and they’ve just taken the tool and built something of their own to show other people. It’s pretty mind boggling.

C: That would be pretty amazing.  May I ask when you started meditating?

A: I started trying to meditate at the age of 8.

C: Now that’s impressive!

A: Not really, because I wasn’t very successful! (Laughter)

C: Okay, well the idea that you thought of it at that age is impressive! (more laughter)

A: True! (laughs) And from there I had several attempts throughout my life trying to learn how to meditate. I’ve sampled Zen meditation, used meditation and the principles of it in my practice as a psychotherapist– which I did for 8 years– so I kept sampling it but I really didn’t dive deep into meditation until we began creating and building Muse and I had a chance to use Muse and have an experience of my mind in that way. I was like “Ah! Okay, now I get it!” and that really helped me build my practice.

C:  Over here on the whiteboard I’m seeing the quote, “the world is better off with you having tried to do something very important to you.” In the bigger picture, what is it you’re hoping to achieve with Muse?”

A: In the bigger picture, we’re hoping more people learn that the stories they have in their heads– the ones that hold them back– that it’s these stories that keep them feeling small or insecure or unhappy with themselves or their lives or their situation. My vision is that those stories are something that we learn to dissolve. That we don’t buy into them and as a result we’re allowed to be the healthy, happy, whole complete individuals that we are already are. 

That’s a bigger picture I can definitely buy into. Thank you, Ariel, for allowing us to step into the world of Muse and meditation with you. And of course, I am now a happy owner of Muse. To read more about the benefits of meditation and various ways Muse brain sensing headband is being used, click here.

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February Retreat w/Chantelle

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Every once in a while, it’s good to completely unplug from the chaos of the world and tune into yourself in mind, body and spirit. This is what all retreats have been created for and Chantelle’s annual February retreat is no exception. This year’s theme is “Spiritual Warrior: Brave. Resilient. Vigilant.” and will explore how to stay true to your core values and authentic voice in a world that challenges you non-stop. In addition to classes and workshops, there is a lot of quiet time to reflect or just soak in the freedom from the demands of fast-paced living. It’s a weekend that promises to nourish your soul. For more info, click here and to register or ask further questions email info@pranayogawellness.ca or call 226-234-7565. Space is limited!

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Join Us for A “Mindful Urban Walk” for the InMotion Community Challenge!

October marks the month of community-wide physical activity, thanks to the InMotion Community Challenge. Local service providers and various fitness facilities will be offering low to no-cost activities that will get you moving and feeling great. This year Prana has been invited to contribute to the offerings and would love to have you join us over the lunch hour for “Mindful Urban Walks” on October 5 & 21st. More details below. (Don’t worry… we will accept last minute registrations!)

InMotion Mindful Urban Walk

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Have Mat, Will Travel: Meet Heather Cammaert

Prana team member, Heather Cammaert is an excellent role model for what it means to exercise self care. She works sincerely and with great effort for the benefit of others, but she’s not afraid to take time to refuel her own tank. In Heather’s presence you’ll find her light-heartedness reminds you of times spent with an old friend. With these characteristics, why wouldn’t we bring her on board as a Prana team member? In 2014 that’s exactly what we did.

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Heather waiting for fresh pressed juice after a yoga class.

Heather’s class incorporates various approaches to yoga, thus making her teaching style intuitive and adaptable. She is good at sensing what her students need and delivering. Heather currently teaches lunch time yoga classes with our client, Thames Valley Children Centre and offers coverage for fellow team members’ classes to keep consistency and flow in what we do. You can connect with Heather about private individual or group classes at ahocammaert@sympatico.ca  or also catch up with her at Fanshawe College in her Fitness 101 class– be sure to check the current schedule, as it changes each semester.

Here’s how Heather responded to our “10 Things About You” questions:

1. What style of yoga you teach and how do you describe your flow?

My YTT training was Hatha Yoga including vinyasa, power and yin. I am eagerly learning Sivananda 🙂 The intention of my classes is for students to find a deeper connection with body, mind, and spirit and to leave with an open heart.

2. How long have you been practicing yoga?

10 years

3. Where did you grow up?

I was a small town girl for the first part of my childhood living in Teeswater, and then became a city girl when I moved to London in my early teens. We moved around a bit within the city and now continue to ‘grow up’ in the beautiful community of old south.

4. Where’s your favourite place to visit?

My husband and I were introduced to a quaint and rustic summer lodge about 17 years ago and we have continued to visit Knoepfli Inn near Magnetawan, ON every summer since. It is our time to disconnect from the busy schedule of everyday life, and to spend quality time with the kids while fishing, boating, relaxing and lots of time for lakeside yoga!!

5. What’s your most ‘out of the ordinary’ moment or experience? (think strange, surprising, embarrassing, amazing…)

I’d have to say that the birth of my two children would cover all of the above. Definitely strange and surprising, a tad bit embarrassing at times, but by far the two most wonderful, spectacular and joyful days of my life.

6. Vegan, vegetarian or flexitarian?

I would say ‘vegetarianish’ but if you ask my kids they would say ‘vegaquarium’ because I eat fish.  I’m not sure if this is a term, but they came up with it one day and it’s been an ongoing funny ever since.

7. What stresses you out the most?

A crazy busy schedule

8. Most important part of your self-care routine?

Exercise, yoga, sleep and following the 80/20 rule (80 % eating well & 20% indulging and guilt free)

9. What’s your hidden talent?

I love collecting recipes and cooking in my kitchen, but I guess that’s not really a hidden talent. I guess I’d have to say riding a unicycle is something not everyone knows about me.

 10. What’s your favourite quote?

“Take care of your body. It’s the only place you have to live” ~ Jim Rohn

 

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Using Technology for Meaningful Connection: An interview with Christopher Plowman

Last February, I attended the Wisdom 2.0 conference in San Francisco, which focuses on business, technology and mindfulness. I was fortunate to have the chance to catch up with Christopher Plowman, the co-founder of the Insight Network and CEO of the Insight Timer phone app we featured in our winter newsletter. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Insight Timer, it is a timer app with bell chimes for meditating, as well as a great source for a wide variety of guided meditations. In addition to tracking and providing stats on your meditation practice, you can also track other mindful activities like yoga, tai chi or walking. But the one feature that made me completely fall in love with this app was the ability to connect globally with fellow meditators. After every session users can see how many people around the world were participating in a mindful activity at the exact same time and have the option of sending each other messages of gratitude for practicing together. Users can build social networks with like-minded individuals and participate in various chat groups.

Talking with Christopher–who, by the way, has a wicked Australian accent– provided a great opportunity to learn more about the backstory of the app and find out more about its owner.

Christopher and I met up in the swanky lounge area of the Marriot Marquis Conference Center, where he was in the company of a few team members preparing to take a lunch break. After introductions, hand shaking and declining a polite offer to grab some food for me to eat, his team left Christopher and I to get our conversation started.

 

“And that’s what I love home-community-phoneabout our community. It’s all about connection and contribution and an understanding that the collective is more important than the individual.”–Christopher Plowman, CEO Insight Timer

 

Chantelle Diachina: How many Wisdom 2.0 conferences have you attended?

Christopher Plowman: This is my second.

CD: What brought you back …outside of meeting with your team who are spread out across the globe?

CP: (chuckling) I mean, that’s one of the reasons, definitely! When we bought the app there was 20 guided meditations for users to listen to. We decided to really focus on publishing more of them and in the last 12 months more than 420 teachers have become Insight publishers. This conference is the best place to meet new publishers, so that’s the reason we’re here!

CD: So you’re scouting people! (laughing)

CP: Yep…Plus it’s the one place you can where you can tell people you’re building a meditation platform and they don’t look at you like you’ve got three heads! We’re amongst our own here. (laughing)

CD: Before Insight Timer, what were you doing?

CP: I spent the last 20 years building software. I also founded a company called Tix.com.au which sells discount tickets to sporting events, theatre and concerts in Australia. I did that for 10 years and it now has 1.5 million members. But I reached a point where I wanted to do something a little more meaningful (and which wasn’t just about making money) so I stepped down from the CEO role three years ago and became Chairman which freed up my time because I’m no longer operationally involved in Tix.

CD: And this is where Insight Timer came in?

CP: Yes. At the same time as I was stepping away from Tix, my brother Nicholas became a meditation teacher. Soon after I became a meditator too. He kept saying to me, Come on… We’ve got to do something in this space! At the time I was like, ‘ Ugh… I’ve done my start up, it’s going great… I live in Bali with my family now, I’ve hired a CEO to run my company in Australia… I’m not doing this againnn…”. He kept at me and so eventually I agreed, but on the single condition that we didn’t try and build a platform or community from scratch. I spent ten years at Tix doing this and it takes long. So we decided to buy an existing meditation platform and use it to accelerate our plans. We looked at a whole bunch of meditation apps… and Insight Timer definitely wasn’t our first choice. It was built on a very old code base, and the interfaces were very dated. Yet despite this, it had become a highly engaged community of dedicated meditators. So we flew to San Francisco, met the owner and made an offer to buy it. He agreed and in April 2015 we became the new owners.

And after we started making some cosmetic changes to the app, all things that we hoped would happen, happened! The number of meditation minutes logged each day doubled within 6 months. Guided meditation rates grew by 45%. The number of messages being sent tripled. And the number of one-to-one friendships grew. Best of all we were really grateful with the support from the existing users. We spend a lot of time engaging them, asking them what they like, and running surveys.

CD: Sounds like you’re listening…

CP: We do a LOT of listening. You just can’t be single minded anymore, especially not with the Internet and especially not with a community based app. We’re custodians of the community – nothing more. And if a community doesn’t like the way things are being run they quickly move on. So we always make sure we’re looking out for the community’s interests first. Sometimes of course we have to make decisions based on commercial parameters, and this can be tricky at times, but everything we try to do is about building a better platform for Insight Timer to make sure it has a future.

CD: I can feel that you are really committed to the Insight community and I thank you for that.

CP: Thank you… Nicho and I feel this responsibility very deeply. I mean can you imagine what it would be like if Insight Timer didn’t exist? There are hundreds of thousands of people who depend on the app every single day. This is why I love my new job because before that, in my other companies, when you posed the question can you imagine if “this” didn’t exist, the answer didn’t really matter? With Insight Timer, it absolutely does.

CD: What does your meditation routine look like?

CP: Ahhh… these are easy questions. (chuckles) I’m normally meditate for 20 minutes twice a day…

CD: Do you use the timer?

CP: Of course! Three bells at the start, one bell halfway through, and three bells at the end. I normally meditate at 4:30 or 5:00 in the morning in Bali, before I go for my walk and then I meditate at about 4:00pm in the afternoon, just before the kids come home from school. And by the way, I like to think that I stick to this routine, but obviously I can have weeks where my practice disappears for some reason…

CD: We all do! Let’s be honest… (laughing)

CP: Every now and then I’ll also go through a phase where I’ll play some of the music tracks as well as the 20 mins twice a day. I like the Savasana Crickets track.

CD: The “Theta Mare 20” track is my favourite. What wisdom have you gained since taking on Insight Timer?

CP: Somebody asked me what I like most about my team. And the word ‘humility’ popped into my head. I think humility is so important for peace. And the reason we bought this timer is summed up in our tagline: Peace in our Timer, which is a play on the phrase “Peace in our time” because we genuinely believe that meditation leads to higher levels of consciousness. And in our time means we have to do something now, we can’t afford to wait for years.

I think that that’s what Insight has taught me. There’s stuff bigger than me and I don’t think I really understood that before this app. I mean of course some people do from birth… maybe I’ve just got too many flaws (laughs) but that’s what I’ve learned… the collective is really powerful and humility is required if you want to be a part of the collective.

CD: I can’t help but to get a little choked up because you hit on something that really struck a chord and that is your realization that by doing what you’re doing you are a part of something that is way bigger than all of us.
CP: And that’s what I love about our community. It’s all about connection and contribution and an understanding that the collective is more important than the individual.

After meeting Christopher it became clear to me that he is making an earnest effort to live up to the tag line he has on his Insight Timer profile: Be the ocean, not the wave.

The Insight App timer is free and available in iTunes and Google Play. Also, be sure to check out the two guided meditations I’ve published on the app to help you manage stress: “Relaxation for Busy People” and “Reconnect with Self”.

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Have Mat, Will Travel: Meet Gabrielle Rickman

 

“As a certified health and wellness coach and yoga teacher, it’s a great pleasure for me to be able to support people to find balance in their life through proper nutrition as well as all of the healing benefits that come from an invigorating yoga practice!”

–Gabrielle Rickman, RYT 500

 

A definite zest for life, contagious laugh and one of the brightest smiles you’ve ever seen…  just a few things you will immediately notice when in the presence of Gabrielle Rickman or “Gabby” as we call her, one of our three founding Prana team members who helped us launch in 2013.

Her knowledge of yoga is palpable and you can be assured that you are getting her full attention, focus and support in your practice.  She has been practicing yoga for over 10 years and originally received her 200-hour training from DevaTree in 2012, followed by attaining her 500+RYT in 2014. The fact that she works full time as a senior project manager for a digital agency, doesn’t deter her one bit from pursuing her passion for yoga every chance she gets– even if it means being taking on a supportive role and covering for other team members when they are unable to teach their classes.

Gabby believes that yoga is more than just a physical practice, so she takes a cross-disciplinary approach to her teaching where she weaves yogic philosophy, pranayama, and meditation into her classes to support physical postures while on the mat and as tools that can be used every day off the mat. Her style is playful; yet, supportive. Methodical; yet, fluid. Informative; yet accessible. Gabby believes that we all have an intrinsic goodness and that yoga is the perfect way to explore the real you.

“I encourage you to put everything else aside and treat yourself to some ‘me’ time on your mat focusing on you and how perfect you are!”

Gabby is a strong believer that yoga can easily be incorporated through one’s daily activities to reduce stress, maintain focus and stay grounded… it’s child’s play!

Gabby has taught private clients and offers coverage for fellow team members’ classes to keep consistency and flow in what we do. You can connect with Gabby about private or semi-private yoga classes or one-on-one health coaching at gabrielle@bebalanced.ca

Here’s how Gabrielle responded to our “10 Things About You” questions:

1. What style of yoga you teach and how do you describe your flow?

I teach vinyasa style with all kinds of flows ranging from gentle and grounding to active and strength-building. Whatever the flows, my intention is to encourage everyone to laugh and play, to be authentic as they find “their yoga” and surrender to their body’s intrinsic wisdom, let their breath lead their movements, and above all else embrace what feels best in their body at that precise moment in time in a safe, supported way. For my own personal experience, the best flows don’t come from a plan, but they come from letting my body lead me into a series of poses and movements that light me up from the inside out, make me sweaty and allow me to release on all levels – physically, emotionally, mentally, and energetically. What can I say, I enjoy it all – from handstand to restorative – I’m a fan!

2. How long have you been practicing yoga?
11 years

3. Where did you grow up?
Miami, FL

4. Where’s your favourite place to visit?

Visiting family back “home” in Jamaica

5. What’s you most ‘out of the ordinary’ moment or experience? (think strange, surprising, embarrassing, amazing…)

Researching the Sanskrit name I chose when I graduated with my 500-hr Yoga Teacher Certification. I had a very powerful connection to the name Ananda that resonated deep in my heart and soul. I get goosebumps just remembering that moment!

6. Vegan, vegetarian or flexitarian?

I dabble between vegetarian and flexitarian (chicken and fish) depending on how my body feels, the season, etc. The only consistent part to my eating habits is that it always includes ice cream!

7. What stresses you out the most?

Having to tell someone “no” – especially when I want to say “yes” but I can’t for whatever reason

8. Most important part of your self-care routine?

Visiting my osteopath and indulging in a delicious afternoon nap!

9. What’s your hidden talent?

I’d say I have two:
1) I’m great with kids – love spending time with little ones of all ages! I’ve been told by my 7-year old cousin it’s because I have the mind of a child!

2) I am a wicked good organizer! …some may call this OCD but let the records show I embrace it as “attention to detail”!

 10. What’s your favourite quote?
Oh! So many! My top three:

“Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors for you where there we only walls.” – Joseph Campbell

“Never sacrifice your body for the glory of the pose.” – I heard this nugget from the wise and loving Brenda Dowell

“You’re killin’ me, Smalls!” – Ham Porter, The Sandlot (or pretty much any other line from this classic!)

 

 

 

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Workplace Wellness Excellence

The University Students’ Council (USC) at Western University was one of the very first clients we signed on in 2013 and since then they have become one of our biggest supporters. From instructing yoga to USC staff over the lunch break and stress resiliency sessions with each year’s executive team to offering samples of our services at their employee wellness fair, the USC is not afraid of finding ways to incorporate our offerings into their wellness culture. We caught up with Cassandra Rodenhurst, Coordinator, Human Resources and wellness committee member to find out more about how they promote well being to their staff beyond their work with us.

Prana: While working alongside your team, we’ve noticed team members getting a wellness card stamped. Can you tell us what this card is about and how the idea got started? Is it effective?

20150402_3769USC: We launched our incentive program a few years ago called the Wellness Bingo Card, which is a program based upon the accrual of stamps for each initiative our employees participate in over the year. The ultimate goal is to receive fifty stamps on the card to qualify for an additional value to their wellness benefit. Our wellness benefit is a monetary amount which allows the individual to go into the London community and try new services or products which will enhance their lives (i.e. yoga classes or gym memberships). Last year, we had fourteen people complete this Program. We reward participation along the way by providing healthy breakfasts and lunches, physical activities and recognition for their efforts.

The biggest benefit is seeing our staff able to handle stressful periods with the techniques they have learned, the genuine happiness of participating and a sense of accomplishment. This has translated into zero short-term and long-term disability claims, a decrease in absenteeism and workplace injuries. These are huge accomplishments in themselves and we love being able to help provide this lifestyle change.The biggest benefit can be seen with our culture change in how we execute our events and business.

Full-time employees now request healthy snacks at meetings; they take the time to walk even when our walking group is not scheduled and taking these strategies, like deep breathing, into their personal lives.

Prana: How does the USC define employee wellness and how it’s addressed?

USC: Wellness is not only a form of being physically active; it also includes maintaining mental and social well-being for an individual. We strive to maintain a balance between work and living by rewarding and acknowledging our members through the various programs we have in place to supplement the Wellness Program. The Wellness Committee meets quarterly to discuss planning and implementation of upcoming events which reflect the survey findings taken each year. Our strategy is to marry the creative initiatives of the group with the corporation’s needs. The University Students’ Council’s overall aim is to provide a diversity of programs to appeal to our sixty members. This strategy can be seen with the detailed programming we have offered in the last two years and supplemented with our benefit plan, wellness benefit, professional development and educational staff courses.

We encourage employees to get involved, get healthy and get active by subsidizing the cost of participating in the various opportunities outside of work, such as yoga, intramurals, cooking classes, bubble soccer, the Big Bike and so many more. We also offer workshops, seminars, yoga sessions and nutritional lunches throughout the workday to help balance out their day.

Prana: How is wellness programming initiated and implemented?

USC: The University Students’ Council believes in transparency across all levels of the organization. We begin each year with our annual Wellness Survey to see how employees are feeling about previous programming and to gauge which activities are instrumental in helping them achieve their own health and wellness needs. The Wellness Program was initiated a few years ago with monthly newsletters and activities were incorporated into social events. The Wellness Program was formalized two years ago with an initial committee of three individuals who oversaw the surveying and programming for the corporation. This has grown to now include an entire committee, who meet on a quarterly basis to go over current programming and plan for the upcoming four months. This has allowed us to explore many avenues such as cooking classes, the Big Bike, yoga refreshers, Couch 2 5K runs after work and demands for stress management. At each meeting, the group determines the upcoming programming and everyone actively takes ownership in running the event, session or activity. Our programming is possible
thanks to the countless efforts of the volunteers on the committee.

Prana: Have there been challenges while implementing employee wellness programming? If so, how do you overcome them?

USC: The only way to continue to grow and improve is to engage members in its development. We have completed two wellness surveys, one in January 2014 and another more recently in May 2015. Through the comparisons of the two surveys it clearly demonstrates the increase in health and wellness for our employees. There are always challenges when implementing new programs to make sure the activities reflect and match the corporate objectives with our employee needs. There can also be difficulty in obtaining large participation in a diverse work environment like the USC where we are involved in government, retail and hospitality industries. With these conflicting schedules it can be difficult to have the various departments attend. We try to counteract this difficulty by asking our members what interests them, from choosing which intramural sports team they would like to be involved in to when they would like these activities, such as yoga, to take place throughout the work day. We ask for feedback on previous programming and how the initiatives we offered compared with the results they were looking for. Through this we gained the understanding that our employees are looking for variety and are not just interested in the physical activity but the education surrounding nutrition, stress
management and lifestyle. We have incorporated these findings to offer new programs and work with incredible providers, like Prana, to help us achieve our goals.

 

Prana: What has been the impact of the USC’s employee wellness initiatives?

USC: Our leadership team has been our biggest advocates in maintaining the programming we have been able to provide. With the various USC operations and services it is challenging to offer programming which appeals to the masses while allowing employees with different demands the opportunity to participate. The same can be said with our intergenerational workplace, where we strive to offer programs which reflect the various needs of staff who take care of their parents, children and selves. We are working on improving our sessions with alternative times outside of the lunch hour or after work options. With these improvements to engage every department, we have seen a positive case for increased health in the workplace. Our leadership team can see this with low absenteeism, low turn-over rates and increased enthusiasm to participate. This positive shift has over 50% of our staff implementing these skills into their daily lives and an increase of 31.43% feeling better compared to this time last year.

Prana: As you continue to expand your services with us, what value do we offer to your team that is different from other wellness offerings you engage in?

USC: We offer an all-encompassing program at the University Students’ Council which focuses on all domains of wellness. We began our Wellness Program two years ago with the help of Prana Yoga & Wellness. We were able to incorporate stress management sessions, physical activity and deep breathing into our employees’ lives. The weekly yoga classes and meditative aspects of yoga have allowed our employees to take the break they need and teach them valuable skills to bring into their work and personal lives.The diversity of programming offered by Prana allows us to meet the needs of physical activity, maintaining body and spirit, while incorporating techniques they can take with them outside of the session. Teaching resiliency, how to feed our bodies, how to properly breathe and how our body reacts creates the awareness that has been vital in creating our cultural change over the last few years. The diversity of Prana programming, allows us each year to tailor programming to meet the needs of our staff. The (RE)boot camps, holistic nutrition, meditation, stress management and yoga offerings allows us the chance to touch on the physical, mental and social well-being of our staff. We are a diverse corporation with our various services and having a partnership with Prana allows us to cater to this so
we can maintain our commitment to our employees’ health and well-being.

Prana: What advice would you offer to organizations that may still be hesitating about initiating a corporate wellness program- specifically one that addresses mental wellness in the workplace?

USC: See what your employees are looking for. It can become a daunting task to come up with programming on your own and to understand why some activities are a huge success, while others flop. The best advice is to have an open dialogue with your employees by having a suggestion box, forming a volunteer committee or distributing an annual wellness survey. A survey is a great way to see where employees are and where they want to go. Once you are aware that they may desire more physical activities around the office or quiet time to decompress, this is a great to know which direction to go in first. Once you have an initial idea, the best is to partner with other passionate individuals who are able to help you realize your goal and formalize your plan. We did this with Prana Yoga & Wellness a few years ago, and we have continued our open dialogue. With your help we were able to grow our Wellness Fair, and contact fellow providers regarding health assessments or programming. The biggest step is to ask for help. If a specific program is out of your comfort zone it is always best to approach a professional. The best thing to do is to just start. A Wellness Program doesn’t have to be flashy; it just needs to make a difference for one individual.

 

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