shutterstock_312426383Habits are behaviors or thoughts so strongly wired into your brain that you can perform them without thinking. Why, if the brain is plastic and able to change, are bad habits so hard to break? Here you can learn about the neuroscience of how habits form—and how to use that knowledge to replace bad habits with positive ones.

The Defining Features of Habits

Your brain is fundamentally lazy. When it can, the brain wires thoughts, emotions, or behaviors into circuits deep below the surface where they become automated. Habits allow your brain to work on autopilot.

During the course of a day, hundreds of habits—automated chunks of thought, emotion, or behavior—come online and offline, usually with little conscious awareness. Some habits you might think of as good, such as washing your hands after you visit the bathroom, brushing your teeth, or meditating daily. Others you may consider bad, such as negative self-talk or snacking on junk food. But in reality, most of your habits are neutral—by habit, you steer along the same roads to work, position yourself in the same spot in a gym class, fill your shopping cart with the same food at the same supermarket, and tune your ears into the same music.

Good, bad, or neutral, neuroscientists have found that all habits have a few defining features:

• Habits are triggered by a particular cue, situation, or event.
• Habits are learned over time by being repeated over and over.
• Habits are performed automatically, often with little conscious awareness.
• Habits are persistent—once formed, they are very hard to break.

Where Habits Are Stored in the Brain

Your brain’s coordination center for habits is called the striatum, which is located deep beneath the cortex where it forms part of the basal ganglia. The striatum is richly connected to the prefrontal cortex (involved in higher-order thinking, feeling, and sensing) and to the midbrain. The midbrain provides input from dopamine-containing neurons (brain cells). Dopamine is a brain chemical strongly associated with creating positive feelings related to reward and events of emotional significance. A malfunctioning striatum is seen when habits become disordered, such as obsessive-compulsive behaviors and addiction.
How Habits Form

Consider how negative self-talk, a common and damaging bad habit, forms. Negative self-talk is the inner voice in your mind that repeats a subtle yet demeaning running commentary. Examples include:

“I’m useless; I’ll never succeed.”
“I never look good in any outfit.”
“I’m a bad parent; my children will grow up and hate me. They deserve so much better.”

As you repeat a negative statement over and over to yourself, neurons in the prefrontal-striatal-midbrain circuit fire together over and over. The connections between neurons become strengthened, and eventually the circuit wires together, storing the thought as a habit. This is where the mantra “Neurons that fire together wire together” comes into play. Turning a thought into an enduring habit is brain plasticity in action.

Once the negative self-talk habit is stored, another brain region—the infralimbic cortex—causes you to carry out the habit when you are triggered by a particular cue, situation, or event.

Use Neuroscience to Break Bad Habits

So how do you break a bad habit? Neuroscience research provides two clues:
Habits are triggered by a particular cue, situation, or event.
Habits are persistent—once formed, they are very hard to break.
Therefore, to break the habit:
Learn to recognize the trigger for your bad habit.
Wire a new healthy or positive habit to override the bad-habit trigger.

Breaking your bad habit could be achieved by carefully paying attention to what, where, when, and why your habit is triggered. Once you recognize the trigger, the trick is to consciously and mindfully repeat your new desired behavior, action, or thought instead. Similar to forming the old habit, you must repeat this process over and over until the new habit is wired to the old trigger—eventually masking the old habit.

For example, in the first few years after having my children, my negative inner voice was automatically triggered when loading or emptying the dishwasher. I’d habitually tell myself, “Your children deserve a better mother … you can’t even empty a dishwasher without crying.” I learned to recognize that opening the dishwasher door was my ‘trigger’. I now use the opening of the dishwasher door to practice mindful and careful loading and unloading of crockery and cutlery. Over time, I replaced negative self-talk with a mindfulness practice.

Of course, the process of breaking bad habits is not always easy. But choosing a new habit that is enjoyable and rewarding will engage the dopaminergic neurons in your prefrontal cortex-striatal-midbrain circuit, and make the process of wiring in the new habits quicker and easier.

Also, understand that old habits never die; instead, they become masked by new habits, and you may sometimes experience a momentary relapse. If you do fall back into your old ways, don’t be too hard on yourself. Mindfully pick yourself up. Treat yourself with compassion. As Artistole once said, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”

– See more at: Neuroscience Insight

family-togetherThe New Year is a time for renewal and rebirth. It’s a time to shed what doesn’t serve you and set goals and intentions for what you want to draw into your life. Better than having personal goals is setting family intentions, things that you can work toward as a group. Not only does this help to bring the family closer, it’s the best way to hold each other accountable and ensure success with your goals.

This year, gather your family and create your resolutions together. The best part is that you get to start the year on a positive note, by bonding with your loved ones.

1. Write a Mission Statement

Have each family member write a list of things that matter to them most. This can include ideals and morals, lifestyle behaviors, or food choices. Compile the list and create sentences that everyone agrees on. For example, “Our family practices conscious communication.” Under that you can add bullet points to further explain what that means:

– We pay attention to what has heart and meaning
– We speak our truth
– We offer words of good intent
– Another example might be, “We practice a healthy lifestyle.”

And the bullet points might say:

– We choose to eat organic foods
– We exercise regularly
– We meditate every day
– Don’t forget to include one mission statement that is meant to serve others. What will your family’s mark be on the planet? What’s your mission in life and for the greater good of humankind?

These are not strict rules. They are guidelines that keep everyone on the same page. Everyone slips up sometimes, but mission statements can act as that haloed angel whispering in your ear to help keep you all on track.

When the family is following a righteous path and practicing trustworthiness, it sets a good example for the children. They learn how to listen to their own inner guide and make good decisions. This helps their consciousness expand and grow as they become more mindful of their actions and create a stronger connection to their higher self.

2. Create a Vision Board Create a Vision Board

Dig up old magazines and copies of photos for a cut-and-paste crafting fiesta. Vision boards are great tools for setting intentions and creating the life of your dreams. You can have a giant board that everyone pitches in on or everyone can make their own. Chose images that cultivate warm feelings and spark creativity and passion.

Some of the images you can stick on your board might capture your dream home, a country you want to travel to, images of your family, and even words, phrases, or quotes that have meaning to you. As in life, there are infinite possibilities with vision boards.

3. Set Goals and Celebrate Success

Be sure to celebrate your accomplishments. You should celebrate life every day anyway so this is a good excuse. Get a giant calendar or simply keep a goal chart for each family member. When a goal is complete, check it off. Complete 10 goals and it’s party time. Goals can be as simple as thoroughly cleaning the house or finishing an art project. Or they can be something more noteworthy like writing a book or meditating every morning together for 21 days straight. You can celebrate with an indoor dance party to loud music or with a family outing to a children’s museum or park. It can be anything just as long as you’re together.

4. Everyone Gets to Choose

Every member in your family, even the teeny tiny ones should have a voice. Include everyone, because we all deserve to feel important. Let each person write their own goals and then pick one or two goals for the family. Consider things like meditating together every morning or saying what you’re all grateful for every night. Your goals could also be things like writing a song together and singing it on video, or attending a weekly family yoga class. And yes, coloring together and playing dress-up are both legitimate suggestions.

5. Keep it Simple

New Year’s resolutions are often made with enthusiasm and carry a lot of steam coming out of the gate. But by the time Valentines’ day hits, the motivation is gone. Even if you have your own New Year’s resolution, keep the family goals separate and super fun. This exercise should not be a burden, and the goals should not be stressful. Set intentions that everyone can look forward, so that they have a better chance of sticking for the whole year … and maybe even beyond.

– See more at:

The frigid cold weather we had this past Tuesday, reminded me of the importance of keeping up with our yoga practice during the winters months. In winter, life naturally slows down. It’s a time of year that nature gathers itself inwardly. And because we are apart of nature, it’s also a time that we move inward – we consolidate our core values and strengths – its a time for family gatherings and of drawing together.

It’s important to honor ourselves this season – to rest and rejuvenate. And let’s face it, getting motivated to move is difficult in the winter months. But we still need the energy to create or buy those loving gifts we give to one another and to create all those delicious meals that bring us all together. It’s easier to just stay tucked up in bed. And sometimes (like on Tuesday) Falcon Yoga Studio is closed because of inclement weather conditions – on days like these you need a solid home practice to help get you moving.

By developing a home yoga practice we can create the energy we need to move through the winter months – in a way that honors the rythms of nature. Henry Thoreau put it perfect when he said: “live in each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influence of each.”

A wonderful and nourshing way to to create warmth and energy in the body during the winter months is the Sun Salutations. Following is a step by step guide to the Sun Salutations or Surya Namaskar from the Chopra Centers “7 Spiritual Laws of Yoga” that we practice regularly at Falcon Yoga Studio. These twelve poses offer an opportunity to enhance flexibility and strength while improving circulatory health. The set of postures has been described as the most complete exercise available, so if you have only limited time for yoga, the sun salutation are your best choice. If you find the following poses too difficult, you can also do the same poses in a chair. See Chair Yoga

Through the twelve poses of the sun salutations, all major muscle groups and all major joints are exercised. These poses also massage and stimulate your major internal organs. These postures are designed to awaken the connection between your agni, or inner fire, and that of the the sun. The word agni is the root of the English word ignite. When your agni is burning brightly, you are capable of digesting the energy and information you ingest on a daily basis, be it food, ideas, or emotional experiences. When your inner fire is weak and sputtering, you do not fully metabolize your daily life experiences. The residues of the incomplete metabolism are stored in your body/mind, leading to fatigue and weakened immunity. When practiced along with following a healthy diet, a good daily routine, and the conscious avoidance of phycial and emotional toxicity, the sun salutations are designed to kindle your inner fire so you can radiate the best of who you are.

The poses of Surya Namaskar represent the full experience of human life with all its highs and lows and ins and outs. Traditionally performed at sunrise and sunset, the postures represent the metabolism of the suns energy into life energy. the sun is the source of all life on this planet. ultimately we are beings of light, and the sun salutations acknowledge this primordial connection.

Performed slowly, the twelve poses encourage flexibility and strength. Performed rapidly, the sun salutes can provide a vigourous cardiovascular workout.

Along with each posture of Surya Namaskar is a mantra that awakens an aspect of the energy of the sun. Say these sounds outloud or in your mind as you perform each pose and your mind will quiet and expand while you focus on the posture.

Screen Shot 2015-12-17 at 12.10.07 PM1. Pranamasana – Salutation Pose

Begin with your feet firmly planted on the groun in the saluation pose, inhaling and exhaling easily. Allow your attention to go inside and become aware of the current level of energy in your body. The mantra for the salutation pose acknowledges the unconditional life-giving power of the sun. This pose resonates with the heart chakra and the Law of Giving and Receiving. The mantra for the salutation pose is Om Mitraya Namaha.

Screen Shot 2015-12-17 at 12.13.56 PM2. Hasta Uttanasana – Extended Mountain

With your tailbone toward the floor and the muscles of the legs hugging to the bones, begin stretching up toward the sun while inhaling into the extended mountain pose. Stretch upward through your back, chest, arms, and neck. The mantra for this pose acknowleges the darkenss-dispelling power of the sun. This pose awakens the throat chakra of expression. The mantra for this pose is Om Ravaye Namaha.
Screen Shot 2015-12-17 at 12.14.03 PM3. Uttanasana – Forward Fold

Next gently stretch forward while exhaling, Place your hands on the outsides of your feet, gently pressing your head toward your knees. Bend your knees as much as you need to in the forward fold. In this forward flexion, you balance the extention of the previous pose. The mantra for this pose acknowledges the continuous movement of the sun, which induces daily and seasonal rhythms. It is associated with the creativity chakra. The mantra for this pose is Om Surabaya Namaha.
Screen Shot 2015-12-17 at 12.14.09 PM4. Ashwa Sanchalanasana – Equestrian Pose
Now stretch back your right leg while looking upward, breathing easily in the equestrian pose. The mantra aknowledges the wisdom that dawns when the light is brough onto the subject. It is associated with the chakra of intuition. The mantra for this pose is Om Bhanave Namaha.
Screen Shot 2015-12-17 at 12.14.15 PM5. Adho Mukha Svansana – Downward Facing Dog Pose
Next move into the downward facing dog, with legs hip with distance apart, sitbones moving into the air, fingers spread wide, pressing down into the paddings below each knucke of the hands, stretching your arms straight and pressing the floor away – bend the knees as much as you need to in this pose. The mantra for this pose celebrates the unlimited power of the sun. It is associated with the throat chakra of expression. The mantra for this pose is Om Khagaya Namaha.

Screen Shot 2015-12-17 at 1.33.58 PM6. Plank to Low Plank – Chatarunga
From this downward facing dog, move your shoulders over your hands so that your wrist are directly under your shoulders. bringing your body into a straight line. Keep your thighs lifted and take care not to let your hips sink low. If your butt sticks up in the air, drop your knees to the floor and take a modification. Over time, you will develope core strength to create a straight line from your head to your heals. Hugging the elbows intoward the body, slowly lower your body to hover a few inches from the floor. Keep your back flat. Lift through your chest, keeping your shoulders in line with your elbows. Do no let your chest drop or sag toward the floor. Fully engage your abdominal and leg muscles. This pose is a reminder of the nourshisment the sun provides to all living beings on earth. It is associated with the solar plexus (energy) chakra. The mantra for the eight limbs pose is Om Pooshne Namaha.
Screen Shot 2015-12-17 at 12.14.28 PM7. Bhujangasana – Cobra Pose
Move directly into the cobra pose, rising off the ground using primarily your back and chest muscles. Do not overextend by pushing off with your hands. The mantra for this pose acknowledges the inner light that is reflected in the outer light of the sun. This pose resonates with the creativity chakra. The mantra for this pose is Om Hiranya Garbhya Namaha.
Return Cycle
The second half of the sun salutations is a retracing of the first half.

From Cobra to Downward Facing Dog
to Equestrian with Left Leg
then Forward Fold
to Extended Mountain
then Finish in Salutation Pose
The speed and vigor of the poses should be adjusted to suit your body type. It’s best to start with a total of ten sets. As you become more comfortable, you can gradually increase the number. Breathe in harmony with the movements, so that you’re inhaling each time the body is extended and exhaling each time you move into flexion. The postures are most beneficial when performed in a smooth, flowing, sequenial manner.

Creating Meaningful Homemade Gifts
By Madisyn Taylor  DailyOm

During this season of giving, it is the intention behind the thought that is most important.

Join us On Friday, December 11th for our Yoga Craft Workshop. We will be making sustainable Gifts from the heart. READ MORE DETAILS HERE!
Screen Shot 2015-11-29 at 8.23.25 PM
The gifts we craft with our own hands are often the most significant because the love that drove us to create is infused in the products of our creation. And the recipients of these homemade offerings receive a token of our willingness to invest ourselves in their joy. Allow these ideas to inspire you:

1. When you craft a beautifully decorated prayer box (or jar) for loved ones, you give them the gift of spiritual awareness. As you share this gift, explain that it should serve as a receptacle for their hopes, dreams, and loves˜as well as worries˜and thus a reminder of who they were, are, and will someday be.

2. If you love journaling, share your writing joy with family and friends by giving each a unique, handmade personal journal. A simple spiral notebook dressed up with paper, fabric, photographs, or other embellishments will give your loved ones a special place to record their private thoughts.

3. Erase the distance between yourself and your far away loved ones by presenting each with a photo journal documenting how your life has changed in the past year. Or introduce them to your locale with a homemade guidebook that highlights everything you love about your town or city.

4. When you sew medicine bags for the people you care about, you can rest assured your gift will always be close to their hearts. A small pouch can be filled with many meditative or symbolic items, such as quartz crystals, sage, or magical objects.

5. A progressive photo album, wherein pictures tell the story of your relationships from the past up to the present, can be a simple yet poignant reminder of the many wonderful experiences you and your loved ones have shared over the years.

6. Give the gift of serenity with a guided meditation you create and record to CD or tape. Your loved ones will take pleasure in being led through tranquil landscapes by the soothing sound of your voice.

7. Hand-crafted ornaments that can be hung on trees, in windows, and on walls afford you an opportunity to surround the important people in your life with beauty. Whether you prefer to work with clay, crystals, fabric, baked dough, or natural objects, your gift can serve as a calming focal point in your loved ones‚ homes.

Whether you choose to give a gift or simply share your friendship and love, remember that it is the intention behind the thought that is most important.

Register For our Yoga Craft Workshop on December 11th.

Meridian Therapy

Meridian Therapy

The use of complementary and alternative medicine is on the rise with increasingly positive results. The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) recently surveyed 20,000 adults and nearly 10,000 children in America and found that about 40 percent of adults and 12 percent of children use some form of complementary and alternative medicine. Women, people ages 40 to 60, and adults with higher levels of education and income tended to use complementary and alternative therapies more frequently. There have been considerable increases in the number of people using common forms of complementary and alternative medicine, such as yoga, meditation, acupuncture, massage therapy and other forms of bodywork.

One type of bodywork that has seen great results is Integrative Meridian Therapy (IMT). IMT is an unique blend of working with the body’s structures along with the meridian system. The meridian system is a pathway of energy channels. IMT is the application of specific pressure points along the meridian in conjunction with subtle movement of the body’s structure. This type of therapy plays a major role in stimulating the body’s own healing potential and preventing future imbalances.

Some of the benefits of IMT are deep relaxation, increasing blood circulation, easing of chronic pain, relieving back pain, alleviating Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, decreasing inflammation, and so much more. On November 21, 2015, Falcon Yoga is hosting a workshop with IMT practitioners and students that will offer demonstrations. Please come by the studio from 3-5 pm to experience this incredible form of alternative medicine.
By: Terri Long

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