Thursday, July 6, 2017

Depression, Anxiety, and PTSD : Coaching and Yoga Therapy as Healing Salve

"Follow the Sun by Xavier Rudd a song I listen to when I need inspiration."

I do not know if this is true in research or what the data (feel certain it is)  is but I do know from first hand knowledge. Depression and anxiety are often triggered by trauma. I know this all to well from my many bouts of months and years of  dealing with this myself.

No matter how smart, savvy, self care knowledgeable we are. No matter our credentials,  degrees or the level of comfort in which we live, no one is immune to pain and heartache. Some people get more than their fair share and some people get less.  I have never met anyone that has not experienced it. Sometimes I wonder if it is a prerequisite for spiritual growth.

The past two and a half years I have been writing a manual, book, textbook, semi self help book about yoga and during that time I have been hit with a major bout of PTSD. I was diagnosed at the age of 19 with PTSD by a therapist after I had a still born baby. The PTSD was not only from the loss of my child but also from trauma I had sustained growing up. Most of us have some sort of trauma at some time in our life, some of course much worse than others. I don't know anyone who has not endured some severe pain or loss.

At the age of 46 the one thing I have going for me is perspective. Yesterday one of my senior students commented to me that "You are always so happy.", which my response was "Oh I have my stuff but when I show up for work I am here for you not me.". And that is true, when I show up to work it's not about me, I have to flip the switch and be there for them. And that is not always so easy. This year I was thrown into a major post traumatic episode with a family member who I dearly love, but who is suffering severe trauma and substance abuse issues. Many old memories and pains came to the surface and before I knew it I was in my own full blown depression once again. So what do to do? The only things I knew how to do are more of what I teach as a yoga therapist and Solution Focused Coach:  yoga, meditation, and hardcore radical self care. It is the only thing I know that remotely  makes life bearable during a depressive, anxious, period. I say period because you can't "will" yourself out of this, it has to take it's time.

So here is an example of how I cope and what I do. It is much like taking an aspirin. It temporarily takes the pain and makes it bearable. Then over time you heal and can manage on a more balanced level.
During normal times when I am not going through an episode I do all of these things, during a painful period I up it as much as possible.

1. See a therapist, it's helpful to have a non biased person to speak to that you can trust.
2. Go to Alanon or AA, or any 12 step meeting, support group if that is relative. Find a sponsor if that is relative to your situation.
3. Go to gentle yoga classes that are balanced by a qualified teacher.
4. Meditate. I use Insight Timer, and I use daily meditation books like "Journey to the Heart", or simply sit quietly and observe your thoughts without attachment.
5. Have a mantra that you say anytime you feel yourself going into the uncontrollable crying. Mine are "I am Brave", "I am whole", "I am worthy". Write it down and post it so you can see it.
6. Walk, exercise.
7. Go outside in nature and connect. It helps to watch animals and realize that life goes on outside of our heads.
8. Have a gratitude list. You need to write it down, it makes a difference.
9. Feed yourself nutritious food.
10. Get adequate sleep.
11. Talk to a friend you can trust.
12. Have a calendar with self care appointments. I know that each day I have one of these things :yoga, an Alanon meeting, a date with myself at the gym, or dinner with a friend. I plan each day with something to refocus and get out of the loop in my brain.
13. Take it one day at a time. One hour, one minute. Just get through the day. You don't have to figure out the future.
14. Say the "Serenity Prayer" often.
15. Get yourself cleaned up and look your best. At all cost do not look pitiful. It makes you feel pitiful.

We are all imperfectly perfect human beings. All experiencing this life as one big school house, I am certain we are here to learn.
Be compassionate with yourself and others.

Love and Light,

Sunday, February 12, 2017

How to live a Holistic Life

 The five points of yoga or using cognitive (mental) and somatic (movement) therapy.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Preparing for a Big Time Commitment

As the New Year approaches I know many people will be thinking about commitments. There will be old commitments revisited and new things to explore. I'm a curious person and there are many adventures I would like to take. Many things to learn. There is one thing I know in my four and a half plus decades of life. You can have it all but you can't have it all at once.

Twice in the past month I have heard that people don't really change until they become uncomfortable enough to change. You eat a poor diet and the doctor tells you have high blood pressure and high cholesterol but you feel fine so maybe you don't really change until you have a heart attack and vow on that hospital bed to change your life. When I was in Virginia this past year at a yoga therapy conference I heard one of the speakers say there are two ways to learn. The hard way is to have to pay a consequence or suffer from your mistakes and the easy way is to observe others. If you want to have money do you ask a rich person or a poor person how to accomplish your goal? If you want to be happy do you ask a negative person? Heck no, you find a pleasant and peaceful person.   

My career is one that has been based on many, many years of trainings. It is also a career that has required to me to constantly train and keep up. This means working sometimes seven days a week. I have learned quite a few lessons over the years to keep up with this schedule and I thought I would share them here in hopes that it would help the readers and especially in hopes that it might help some of my students. 

1. Keep a nice big paper calendar and sync it with your calendar on your phone/computer. Do this every couple of weeks. 
2. Fill your calendar out in advance. 
3. The week of your training or big commitment do not make any unnecessary appointments. 
4. If something comes up that you must do, such as a child's school event, then go but plan so that it's not to exhausting. Go right home after. Have an easy meal prepared that evening before you go.
5. Avoid alcohol the week of the event or training. Also avoid artificial sweeteners a few days before something that requires heavy thinking.
6. Eat a healthy diet.
7. Take your vitamins. 
8. Have a regular sleep pattern. 
9. Avoid negative media. 
10. Plan time off. I plan my summers with as few working weekends as possible. I make sure I am off two weeks at Thanksgiving and no weekends for three weeks during Christmas. Most months I have to work Monday to Thursday at my day job, every day at my home office and two to three weekends a month teaching or taking trainings. It is imperative that I "KNOW" I have some time off coming up so that I don't get exhausted. 
11. Take mini breaks during the week. If you are working seven days a week can you sneak in a couple of hours to do something you enjoy. Maybe a pedicure or a massage, maybe a 4:00 matinee, or dinner with a loved one. These little mini breaks are very important to not getting worn out. My dear friend once told me she enjoys one hour of mindless t.v.. One hour of relaxing is very helpful to your nervous system. 
12. Do mini exercise sessions. I do 7 minute workouts, 10 minutes on the treadmill, 5 min meditations. Sometimes I'll do them throughout the day. This is essential to my mental and physical health. 
13. Do not take on many commitments at once. Stay focused on one goal at a time. Occasionally things overlap but be very careful to not allow this to happen to often. 
14. You can not do many things well. There are so many hours in the day and simple daily activities that you must do take up much of your time. If you take on a big commitment try not to take on two at once. Sometimes this is unavoidable. I had three schools going when a dream job came along that I couldn't turn down. I immediately hired extra help to give me a break. It's hard paying that extra money but I also know that I would be mentally drained if I worked 7 days week for a year. So if you find yourself in this situation try to find a way to give yourself some relief. Hire a sitter, a house cleaner, a yard service, or someone to give you a break.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Ten Simple Things You Can Do To Reclaim Your Health.

Ten Simple things you can do today to reclaim your health for nearly no cost.

1. Exercise for 10 to 30 minutes. Take a walk, go on a hike, ride your bike, do an internet workout video.
2. Meditate or sit quietly for 5 to 10 minutes : I like the Insight Timer app on my Iphone. It's free.
3. Eat some veggies (not fried).
4. Eat a serving of fresh fruit or a healthy fruit smoothie without the sugar.
5. Drink a few glasses of water.
6. Talk to someone you trust about your feelings or call and ask about how they are.
7. Make a meal plan for the week that includes beans, peas, grains, fruit, veggies, clean soy, nuts, and yogurt.
8. Give or get some hugs.
9. Shut off all social media and news for one day or at least 1/2 a day. Turn the dang phone off.
10. Go to bed on time or an hour early allowing for a full 8 to 9 hours of sleep tonight.

Ten Simple Things You Can Do To Reclaim Your Health.

Ten Simple things you can do today to reclaim your health for nearly no cost.

1. Exercise for 10 to 30 minutes. Take a walk, go on a hike, ride your bike, do an internet workout video.
2. Meditate or sit quietly for 5 to 10 minutes : I like the Insight Timer app on my Iphone. It's free.
3. Eat some veggies (not fried).
4. Eat some fruit in it's natural state.
5. Drink a few glasses of water.
6. Talk to someone you trust about your feelings or call and ask about how they are.
7. Make a meal plan for the week that includes beans, peas, grains, fruit, veggies, clean soy, nuts, and yogurt.
8. Give or get some hugs.
9. Shut off all social media and news for one day or at least 1/2 a day. Turn the dang phone off.
10. Go to bed on time or an hour early allowing for a full 8 to 9 hours of sleep tonight.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

A Letter to Yoga Teachers:
Dear yoga teachers, I know we came to this practice because of our own problems most likely. Possibly it was physical, probably anxiety, depression, back pain, or stress. Possibly you were introduced to yoga by a friend, social media, your local gym, or maybe you saw some ad and thought it would be cool. Then you decided to become a yoga teacher/ instructor. You went through a 200 hour training, hopefully a good one and felt more nervous about teaching then you did the day you walked in the door because you realize how much there is to learn. The more you teach the more you realize you have to keep learning. You realize the world of yoga is so vast that you will never know everything. And that is okay.
Social media is covered with people of all shapes and sizes doing yoga. Any topic you can think of now you can find with the word yoga attached to it. There is goat yoga, dog yoga, restorative yoga, power yoga, prenatal yoga, children's yoga, acrobatic yoga, aerial yoga, Ashtanga yoga, Iyengar yoga, chair yoga, yoga therapy, yoga for healthy aging, face yoga, yoga for trauma, yoga for PTSD,and the list goes on. It almost makes your head spin.
It's commonplace now to see people wearing mala beads, headbands, flowing clothes, fitted yoga pants with sustainable footwear. Call me guilty, it's my favorite style.
You have people in the yoga world fighting over the integrity of yoga, over what's the real yoga, or what is acceptable and not acceptable. What is a good teacher training what is not a good teacher training. Who should be allowed to teach and who should not be allowed to teach. It's just so dang un-yoga like much of the time. The whole concept of do not harm (Ahimsa) seems to be very lost.
I believe it's created a crisis for so many yoga teachers, people with well intentions who get disgusted with it all. I've fallen into this trap myself especially in the area of Sanskrit. I'll pronounce something a certain way only to be corrected and then be corrected again. Usually to find out I was saying something correctly in the first place.
I can only speak from my scope of practice and my experience.  Many years ago I walked away from yoga for seven months and came back to train teachers. Here is what I have learned and still work on every day. Don't try to keep up because you can't, just be yourself. I've been practicing meditation for 31 years and yoga 27 years. I have been blessed with awesome teachers, some famous and some not famous at all but just as awesome as the famous ones. The best gift they gave me was to constantly remind me and my fellow students that yoga is about losing the constructed self (ego little self i.e. hungry, tired, cranky self, look at me self, vs big self i.e. connection to something bigger). Boy does that seem to be lost. So much of the time when I turn on social media or open a magazine or see a yoga ad I just get so turned off I think to myself "Nah, I don't want to be part of that". The pressure is unbelievable to keep up. Here is what I would say to sustain yourself or what helps me: "Separate your personal yoga practice from the commercialism of yoga." Study what you're interested in not what you think is going to sell. Dress in a manner that makes you feel comfortable in your own skin. And be mindful of self-promotion and what message it sends to other people. The only people who really care about your ability to teach are the people you serve through your work. And remember at the end of the day the person in the grocery store line, your kids, your spouse,the people who will likely come to your funeral don't give a rats patootie about your yoga pants or your headstand. Be mindful of where you put your energy for your own self preservation.

Monday, July 25, 2016


Yesterday I found out that a friend of mine joined "The Club". This is not a club that meets weekly to have drinks and play cards, this is not a club with dues, or officers. No, this is a club that nobody wants to belong to. It's the club of broken hearts and betrayal.
Because I am a student and teacher of philosophy I spend a lot of time pondering things. Yesterday when I heard the news my heart hurt. It often takes being in the club to want to be around other people in the club. People in the club are often sad and vulnerable and angry, especially in the beginning, and in the middle and not as often a few years later. Not exactly good times for the most part. The sucky thing about being in the club as a veteran is that you know there isn't much you can do but say "I'm sorry Honey, I love you and it really sucks".  It just has to play out.

When I heard the news about this I immediately thought of the Kleshas and how for thousands of years wise people have known and tried to help us understand our suffering. When I am faced with a tough situation that brings suffering I ask myself "What Klesha applies to this situation?" If it's pain from a fight with my partner it may be all five, however primarily I may realize that my first pain seems to be from my attachment to my partner and my fear of losing my partner and the life we have and the life I thought we would have in the future. Then as I go through them I can recognize and start to deconstruct my pain and in doing so one by one I begin to process my pain. 
Though no one wants to belong to the club of betrayal, or the club of having a terminal illness, or a chronic illness, a disabled child, etc... often times we have no say. The universe puts us in these situations and you have no choice but to deal with it.
The silver lining is this, finding other people in the club that you can talk to and process with who offer you love and support can be very healing. They have walked the path and often you will find love in the most unexpected places.

And at the end of the day what matters is love. Not necessarily romantic love but the love from a friend, the love of self , the love a kind stranger, the love of your animals, children, family, and so on. Regardless of how much you hurt try to find your club members and get the love and support you need.