The Power of Presence – Creating Connection

Be present. Be in the moment. Be mindful. Staple mantras for yoga, meditation and a plethora of “new age” things. The idealistic preconceptions surrounding presence vary greatly and tend to focus on benefits that are purely philosophical. The required steps and/or time for achieving these awe-inspiring results varies just as widely. But is it necessary to sit and pick lint from your belly button for months or years to start realizing the benefits of being present?

 

I don’t think so. I have found some of the best benefits of being present are in the mundane of daily life. Yes, being

Image courtesy of www.michelemmartin.com .

Image courtesy of http://www.michelemmartin.com .

present may fire up your sex life, it can help you improve your health and at some point you may be able to drop the illusions of time and space and teleport anywhere you want, read minds and fly. Until then, being present has other benefits to offer.

 

The benefit I want to focus on is connection. How we connect to others, how we connect to ourselves, and even how we connect to nature. How quickly will you start to see it in action? That’s the good news. It starts as soon as you start. You just have to know how to recognize it when it happens.

 

I’ve been in yoga classes where the teacher tells the class to “bring your mind to the present and be present in the moment.” I don’t know about you, but that’s always been a little ethereal for me. I like simple, relevant examples so I can really begin to understand something and want to share a few I’ve experienced.

 

Think back to a conversation where you felt truly heard and understood. The person you were talking to, what were

they doing? I’m willing to bet they were doing nothing but focusing on you and what you were saying. No digi-distraction with phones, tablets, television or anything else to draw their attention off of you. They were focused on you and in that moment, they were present with you and that created a connection.

 

 

 

 

Next think about a time (and this one won’t necessarily apply to everyone) when you were either playing with or

Some rights reserved by JonDissed

Some rights reserved by JonDissed

talking to a young child. Could you feel that intense focus rushing out of them straight at you? That intense focus that comes so naturally to them is them being fully present. They weren’t thinking about their friends, what they were doing later or anything else. And in that moment with them, a connection was created because you were both present.

 

Now that you remember that feeling of connection and presence, the questions become how to build it and where else can it be used. The answers are amazingly simple; use it and anywhere respectively.

 

 

 

Cultivating Connection

To be able to consistently build a connection with someone takes practice and a few simple rules. The practice part is easy, build a connection with everyone you meet. The rules I use I’ve listed below.

 

  • Turn off and put away all electronics – not always possible in some environments, but at least the ones you carry with you
  • When you are in a public place and can’t turn off things like televisions, find a place where there isn’t a good view
  • Set aside your own baggage – forming a connection through presence is all about finding harmony with another person; this is almost impossible if your thoughts are occupied by your own stuff
  • Be flexible – trying to force a connection or insisting that it form in a certain way is a sure way to undermine the whole process
  • Hold space for the other person – as tips go, this is one sounds pretty vague; the essence being that as you are forging the connection, you both need to feel safe

 

Where Connections Can Be Created

The answer is, anywhere. The places where people will be most receptive are places that foster a common bond to begin with. Think yoga studio, spin class, pilates class, martial arts class, etc. While it’s easier to create a connection in these environments (there is already some common ground) it’s certainly not limited to these places. Below are a few examples of where else you can build connection outside of these places.

 

Some rights reserved by moonhouse

Some rights reserved by moonhouse

  • In meetings – need to sway a decision for an important project, create connections in the meeting and see just how much more open everyone is to your ideas and point of view
  • Commuting – more for the mass transit crowd, but even on long flights, I’ve met some very interesting people by opening with a present minded ‘hello’
  • Personal relationships – one of the best tools for resolving issues with your significant other is to let them know you have heard them fully and completely without judgment – it works wonders

 

With these ideas in your personal toolbox, I encourage you to go put this into practice. Worst case, you get a little TMI, best case you resolve a challenge you’ve been facing or even better, make a new friend.mentorhands

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Stretching in the Winter; Safe Ways to Stretch When It’s Cold Outside

One of the reasons people take up yoga is to get more flexibility. Men are especially known as being less flexible on the mats than their female counterparts. During the summer months when it’s warm outside it’s easier to get a goodcartoonbigguyyoga stretch, especially in the beginning of a class. It typically doesn’t take much to get the muscles loosened up and ready to go.

 

But during the cold winter months, it can feel like an hour or more of warm up is needed just to get the muscles loosened up to take a class. And for those that are naturally less flexible, it can be very frustrating and potentially injurious. What can be done during this time of stress, super tension and cold? Is all hope of flexibility lost? Fear not, for there is still hope.

 

The key to getting a good stretch while minimizing the risk of injury is a good warm up sequence. Waking the muscles up, getting the blood flowing and getting your whole body warm are the three tips to getting the most out of stretching in the cold months. First a little on why it works, then a handy little set you can use to get yourself fired up inside and ready to go.

 

Why it works

During the warm months (weeks if you live in New York), the ambient heat from nature helps the body to relax. The body, muscles and connective tissues are in a pretty constant state of being warm, and as a result are more relaxed. This state of relaxation is what allows the muscles to stretch and lengthen when stretching exercises are done.

 

Now think to the winter months. It’s cold and the wind is slicing through every layer of clothing you have on. Most

Image courtesy of shootingafly.blogspot.com.

Image courtesy of shootingafly.blogspot.com.

people actively pull in towards their center during this time. This is a protective reflex buried in our bodies. What it also does is put the muscles into a constant state of tension. While tensed in this fashion, the muscles are far less likely to stretch safely as they are actively shrinking and pulling in. And that’s why injuries such as pulled muscles occur. But, take those same tense, cold muscles and warm them up first, and you create a safe state for the muscles to stretch.

 

How to warm up your muscles safely

  1. Take a few minutes to acclimate to the warmer workout environment (assuming it is warmer)
  2. Start *slow* and then build the intensity of the warm ups
  3. Stay focused on the fact that these are indeed warm ups and while some of the exercises contain a little cardio, this is not the cardio portion of your work out
  4. Be honest with where you are in getting warm; some days you may need a little more time to warm up adequately, treat yourself to that time
  5. The more body parts you warm up, the safer your work out becomes; avoid warming up just the legs or just the back in favor of time on other parts of your work out

 

To help get you warmed up, I’ve drawn up a list of exercises that will get the whole body warm and the blood pumping.

 

Warm up set

  1. Body tapping – tap your body, shoulders to palms (palms up) and back (palms down). Tap the around the body and finally tap down and back up the legs. This should leave you with a tingling sensation telling you that your blood is flowing now.
  2. Hand squeezes – make a fist as tight as possible and open as wide as possible, repeat 30 or so times
  3. Elbow and shoulder rolls – rotating the joints to open them up both physically and energetically
  4. Hip, ankle and knee rotations – same idea as the shoulders and elbows
  5. Squats – slow motion and holding
  6. Plank/push-ups – slow, steady push-ups with holding planks in between
  7. Jumping jacks – any variation
  8. Coordination drills (hand/knee and hand/foot) such as ladders or mountain climbers

Yoga (2 of 6)

A note to avoid lateral foot work drills before you are warmed up. Those put a lot of pressure on the connective tissue and muscles of the joints. If performed cold you run a greater chance of getting injured.

 

I know that I’m warmed up enough when I have little beads of sweat just starting to form on my forehead. Another good sign is when I check in with my shoulders and quads. When I feel those loosen and relax, I know I’m ready to start my work out safely.

 

This kind of a deliberate warm up isn’t always an option. The top question I get is how to get into a class safely when

By Kennguru (Own work) [CC-BY-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Kennguru (Own work) [CC-BY-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

this type of intentional warm up isn’t possible. The short answer is to manage the intensity of your work out. If you’ve not had the time to warm up before a class, cut the intensity of the work out down until you are warmed up. You can still do the exercises, but instead of going full bore, you can lessen your effort or limit your range of motion until you feel you are warmed up and ready to go.

 

In the end, it’s about listening to your body. It will tell you when you are and aren’t ready for something. Everyone is different and every day is different. Some days you may need to just think about getting to your work out and you are set to go, no more warm up needed. Other days maybe the warm up is all you ever get through. There’s nothing wrong with either of those extremes or anything in between. Push your limits, challenge yourself, but do it safely so you are able to stay healthy and don’t have to recover from injuries.