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Break Bad Habits with Yoga

20 Aug 2016   Shanti Gowans

When was the last time you really thought about what you were doing whether it was reaching for coffee 
in the morning, the high energy drinks such as ‘V' or ‘Mother' at work, or your smartphone to check your email? For most people, it’s been 
a while. We all run through thousands of habitual behaviours such as these a day. Some serve to make us more efficient, allowing us to breeze through small tasks as if by second nature, but others have the potential to become life disrupting or even life threatening. And, while you may get a small thrill from eating sugary foods, spending money, checking your phone, throwing back another drink, or flirting, chances are you are just distracting yourself from the stress and pain that you are reluctant to really deal with, by removing yourself from the present moment, and jeopardising your long-term health and well-being in the process.

Facing your demons is essential for breaking bad habits. And, many so-called self-help methods and treatment-systems focus on addressing symptoms, rather than helping you discover why you are reaching for distractions. The real solution arises when, instead, you reach inwardly, 
and this is where yoga and meditation can help. 
Practitioners know that mind-body such as these can foster the self-awareness, self-control, 
and self-realisation necessary to go through a deeper detoxification. A 2013 review on the efficacy of mindfulness as a complementary therapy for addiction at Duke Integrative Medicine (a holistic health-research center at Duke University), helps to confirm this. Researchers there concluded that mindfulness-based interventions, including yoga, may enhance addiction treatment, prevention, and recovery.

In spite of being armed with all the benefits yoga and meditation provide, it can still feel like an uphill battle to change a bad habit. This is because these behaviours get hardwired into our brains. Neuroscience researchers have determined that the more we do an activity 
that feels good, even one with bad consequences, 
such as abusing drugs or alcohol, the less neural activity we use when deciding to engage in that activity. Instead, we act on autopilot, even if we are no longer getting that initial ‘high'. But this does not mean that we are helpless. Recent findings out of MIT suggest that our prefrontal cortex, the brain region responsible for integrating past experience with present action, seems to favour new habits. The aim to making these habits stick is to rewire your neural circuitry by finding something that gives you a similar thrill, but 
on a deeper, healthier, and more sustainable level. Breathwork, mindfulness training, and Shanti yoga deliver on all fronts.

Shanti Yoga, specifically, is designed to strengthen intuition and willpower. Shanti Gowans, who brought Shanti Yoga from India to the West, was interested in helping people break unwanted habits and addictions. She has created a rehabilitation and retreat center in the hinterland of the Gold Coast that is part meditation and yoga retreat, and part detox. Through asana, pranayama, mudra, mantra, mindfulness and deep relaxation, Shanti Yoga asks you to summon the physical and mental strength to mindfully maintain repetitive actions, such as using the breath while holding  yoga poses. By committing to each movement in this way, despite your mind’s desire to stop, you are training your nervous system to resist temptation (in this case, the temptation to give up), similar to the way you might train your muscles at the gym. It may not always be fun, but it comes with some pretty incredible benefits. Your endocrine system reacts by secreting chemicals that create feelings of balance and harmony, and you gain the awareness and power you need to resist the temptation to fall back into those bad habits you are resolving to break for your ultimate wellbeing.

 

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About Shantiji

Shanti Gowans is the globally recognised author and founder of Shanti Yoga™, Meditation and Ayurveda for the self, family and community.

Shantiji has brought the concepts and practices of a healthy body and a still mind to thousands of Australians through her Yoga and Meditation programs on national television... Read more about Shantiji's biography


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