Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Look Outside

Image compliments of
Here in Vermont, the beauty is just astounding.  The land is known for its explosion of color and this year the reds, yellows, and oranges spring up and transform daily.

I completed my yoga therapist certification in late August!  Woohoo!  This (above) image is actually the spot where I went to do a photo shoot for my business website last week.  It's just a stunning view.  I used to live nearby this spot and it's very powerful and meaningful for me to do work photos there.

I find myself in the midst of many pots on the stove, so to speak.  There are many projects I’m cooking up.  Connections to tend, roots to spread, content to create.  With so many to-do’s to make progress with, it’s easy to feel frustrated with the ebb and flow of family life.  But I am so grateful for my family!  And each dinner hustle that breaks over the dining room table into a moment of shared thanks, our hands clasped, is the heart of life and I wouldn’t change it for the world.

So I take this autumn as a time to reflect on change.

Change is at the heart of our yoga teachings.  Usually, we're trying to hold onto things and fearing change!  However, there is also a competing desire - the desire to enact change in the face of the status quo.

I get frustrated with my stasis... my inability to make all my projects "come true" on my timeline, my inability to shift my daily habits as much as I'd like.  But then I look around and know, deeply, that change swirls around us, constantly.

Observe change.  Bless each day.  Give thanks for life.  

And may the projects unfold in a harmonious manner.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Matter over mind

Image compliments of McGill Packlab
I'm enjoying my lunch.  Wait... am I?

As I packed up the leftovers from dinner last night, I thought, "Hmmm... this might make a good lunch."  Then I picked up the tupperware this morning to find that the "mice" (dear husband) had gotten to it in the night, and there was half as much as was there last night.

I had a sinking feeling this morning that, "It wouldn't be enough."  

One chicken thigh and a cup of sauteed cauliflower.  I threw in some lettuce greens and headed to work.

On my way back to the office from an appointment, I had to resist the urge to get a small soup (ooh - white bean soup - protein - it will be perfect.  It will make my lunch an appropriate amount).

I force myself to slow down and enjoy the food, because if I don't, it will be gone before I know it, and I will be sad.

Instead of bemoaning the "too small" amount of food, I take smaller bites.  I imagine how one chicken thigh could be 30 bites, or 10 bites.  I take breaks.  I chew completely and swallow before having more.

And somewhere along the way I realize, this is just right.  This is just the amount my body needs, not too little at all.

I wonder for how many years (and pounds) thoughts about my body:

  • I'll be hungry later.
  • I need more protein.
  • This isn't enough food.

have been taking the place of the TRUE needs of my mind:

  • I need more relief.
  • I need more downtime.
  • This isn't enough self-care.

Because with a SLOWER, smaller lunch... there actually seems to be no downside.  Matter is satisfied.  It's the mind that needs to be understood, soothed, and given times of rest.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Take a break (for goodness' sake!)

Thanks to Rev. Dr. Michael Bernard Beckwith at for the inspiration for this technique!

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Three tips to fall asleep and stay asleep

Three tips to fall asleep and stay asleep with yoga breathing in bed in under two minutes!  Enjoy!

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

When it seems like nothing is changing

Image compliments of Everyday Goddess on Pinterest
Currently, I'm manifesting:
- A 100 lb weight loss
- Self-employment as a Yoga Therapist
- Happiness (relief from depression)

Whew!  That's a lot to work toward!  For more on manifesting, go here: Abraham-Hicks

Sometimes it looks like nothing is happening.

I recently purchased a manifesting course from Lucky Bitch by Denise Duffield-Thomas.  So many wonderful things have come from learning with and from Denise.  Firstly, I learned the importance of decluttering as a first step in manifesting.  This makes a ton of sense!  You have to free up bandwidth for the new energy/stuff/habits to have room to grow.  So we have begun a house over-haul... cleaning out closets, rooms, setting up exercise equipment, and generally getting rid of things that don't "spark joy".  (Learn more about the Konmari method in this great video: Lavendaire on Youtube).

Part of decluttering, Denise Duffield-Thomas points out, is decluttering our emotions, beliefs, and relationships.  I am a huge believer in therapy repairing and healing relationships, and I'll leave that there without getting too personal.  She asks us to take part in an inner child meditation that had me bawling... as I brought smaller versions of myself into a room and gave them kindness and love.  I am now practicing offering love and care to many versions of myself.  I have pictures of myself at many ages and am working through some exercises in The Inner Child Workbook by Cathryn Taylor using these pictures of myself from when I was younger.

Also, from Lucky Bitch by Denise Duffield-Thomas's course, I have reconnected with the importance of affirmations said with feeling and gusto.  I've also learned some great affirmations from Sondra Ray's The Only Diet There Is.

- I deserve to maintain my ideal and perfect weight of 142 pounds.
- It's my time.  I'm ready for the next step.
- I am calm and peaceful.

So as I work all these bits and pieces, when I have time, and build trust and calmness within... what is changing?  So far, it's not my weight.  I haven't weighed in in a while but last I checked, though my clothes are fitting differently, and I'm eating differently, I'm not seeing what I'd like on the scale.  YET!!  Something so big is happening and changing and I feel and I trust it.

I do feel a greater sense of joy and happiness as I unlock this dam of inner love for myself.  As I love myself more, and turn more over to God (as I understand them - more on this later), I'm feeling spacious and peaceful.

I'm able to leave some food on my plate at every meal if I choose.  And, I'm halfway through recording many videos for my video course coming out at the end of the year.  I can't wait to help others, as I've helped myself.

So I hope you enjoy this resource-oriented post and can find something that resonates with you, and inspires you.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

My fat told me it would make me famous

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In the book A Course in Weight Loss by Marianne Williamson, the second exercise is to write a letter to your fat, and to write a letter back.  It's called "Thin you, meet not thin you."  Here's an excerpt:
Any reaction to your not-thin self that is based on fear - judgment, attack, self-criticism, self-loathing - will only keep your excess weight in place.  If the miracle you are seeking is the removal of excess weight, then learning to love all aspects of yourself - even her - is your liberation.
As counterintuitive as it sounds, it is your learning to love Not-Thin You that will cause this aspect of yourself to disappear.  She didn't ask to be here; she isn't comfortable here; she was summoned up, and summoned up by you.  As you make her your ally rather than your enemy, she will disappear into the light of your true being.  She is quite literally a manifestation of a ghost, a mere twisted thought given form by your subconscious mind.  But before [the force of] love... all that is nothing.   ACIW p. 43
And two more freaking insane gems from this chapter/lesson:
Consciously, you feel like Thin You is the real you, while Not-Thin you is the imposter; but subconsciously, you feel like Not-Thin You is the real you, and Thin You is the imposter.    ACIW p. 46
... [I]n keeping her out of your heart, youve kept her on your body.   ACIW p. 47
Just let those rip through your system for a moment.  (Pause).
OK, now to proceed!

I fulfilled the lesson, writing two letters.  The first, not surprisingly, had the message that it's getting hard to get around, I don't want to feel this way, and that the way the fat seems to keep adding on is one of my few experiences of true abundance.  (Interesting, that!)

The letter back was... we'll just say... pointed.

You NEED ME.  I have so much to give you that you have been unable to receive.  How can you let me in?  Daily breaks.  (Some notes about my yoga practice and teacher.)  I want massages and acupuncture and therapy.  I want a pre-meal embrace and ritual.  I want a break at 10:30 EVERY day.  Don't f*cking stuff me away with food anymore.  And if you're having a second drink (or, especially, a third, or a fourth), I'm being shut out.
A little later, this:
I WILL be heard I WILL be felt even if I have to drag you kicking and screaming I will be heard.
Whoa!  She's a strong and feisty one.
I will make you famous.  I am your gift to share with the world.  Use my programs and I'll start to shapeshift for you.

So that said, I'm starting work on an online yoga program for managing the nervous system.  Starting to shoot videos even at my current weight.  I'm hoping to launch something (fantastic) by the end of the year!

That said, it's getting on near 10:30 in the morning and this lady needs her break.  Try writing a letter to your Not-Thin self.  You might be surprised what you hear back!

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Doing nothing helps me eat less

Being frazzled.  Feeling like you're moving in a million different directions.  Jaw wired shut with stress.  100 different things on the to-do list... and an antsy feeling in your gut.

Feeling this way is such a trigger for me!  If there is a candy dish around when I'm feeling this way, watch out.  That sweet melting piece of chocolate or sugar is a momentary sweetness to combat the sensation that I'm a cog in the wheel, who better get the job done, AND FAST, and doesn't deserve sweetness, respite, or relaxation until the (never-ending) task list is complete.

The other day, after speaking with my yoga therapy training mentor Mary Hilliker, we discussed my energy.  I had been so spread thin in service to others (clients, day job, and family) that I was feeling like a husk of myself.  I felt dry, from my lips to my heels.  I felt burnt out by the pace and demands I had put myself through.  And, I had gotten very sick from a cold.  All of this shows me that my Ojas is depleted.  Here's a little on OJAS from Joyful Belly:

Ojas is the poetic term used in Ayurveda for heartiness. If a person has a healthy skin & flesh, is resilient to disease and injury, and has "juiciness" Ayurveda says they have good ojas. Ojas is associated with mental stability and an earthy strength to endure. It nurturing presence is calming and grounding. It brings quality and peace of mind. It satisfies the flesh, bringing with it the confidence needed to protect the body, mind and spirit from burning desires. Ojas may be compared to a cement or glue that binds and contains the body, mind, and spirit into a functional whole.

Mary encouraged me to find a way to nourish myself, not just in my morning practice, but also by taking breaks during my work day.  I've instituted a little ritual at 10:30am every day that I'm in my office.  I stop what I'm doing, rest quietly in my body, and watch a calming video.  There are many wonderful pit stops on youtube for you to enjoy.

By giving myself this break, I'm acknowledging all of myself.  I am NOT just a cog in the wheel.  I am a human who takes up space and needs nourishment to feel balanced.  And balance is exactly what I'm searching for!

This break is not only for the super efficient me.  It's for the dilly-dallying, dreaming, intuitive me.  It's for the part of me that will turn to food when oppressed by excessive over-scheduling.  It's for the part of me that is so strong in its desire to protect me that it will add on layers of fat to protect me.

I'm peeling back the layers and taking off the armor with small nourishing breaks like these.  What do you do to protect your humanity?  

Monday, June 8, 2015

Lean Habits 3: Eating Just Enough and the tipping point

Image compliments of a nice post at
Last week I had an interesting discussion about habit 2-3 with some fellow Lean Habits devotees.  The discussion was about how difficult it is to stop eating when you've had "just enough."  We've played with fewer start times to eating before.  Now we're going to move up the finish line on those eating experiences.  It's quite an intelligent way to trim the amount of food going in.  And not without its ups and downs.

When you've worked to cut out snacking, and eat three meals a day, you can have the sense of relief when it's time to eat.  "Finally!  I get to eat!  Yes!!!!"  And when you're eating out of hunger, and you're not too used to feeling hunger, regular hunger can feel like ravenous hunger!

So when someone made the point that the eating itself is so enjoyable that we don't want it to stop... I recognized my truth in that.  I thought about the sense of sadness that came over me when I thought about stopping a little sooner (a few bites sooner).  The implication is that the pleasurable activity, which has been whittled down already, is going to get whittled down even further.

However, there is also sadness at being at a higher weight than I want to be, and frustration associated with the way my clothes are fitting, where I have to go to shop for clothing, and my ability to move and play with my 4 year old son.  So there are opportunities for "sadness trades" that I'd really like to make!

Can I associate the little bit of sadness I feel at not spooning out such a large portion of a delicious food (this is a pre-game way to eat just enough that's a brilliant strategy) with a possibly more happy experience in a changing room in a few months?  Just what would I give for a positive experience shopping for clothes?  How much suffering have I done in dressing rooms over the last 20 years?

These things were bouncing around in my head... and this weekend I had what might be the mother of all realizations.  As we tighten up the "loopholes" in our eating - grazing, and eating too often and too much - I finally felt a major shift this weekend.

For years, I was at the mercy of whatever food happened to pass in front of me.  If it was there, I was probably going to eat (and overeat) it.  So eating strategy was about "what am I going to say NO to and how hard will that be?"

This weekend, I saw food as three meals... made up of WHAT AM I GOING TO SAY YES TO because it will give me the most distinct pleasure, and satisfaction.  By tightening up the loopholes, I see a whole new way of being with food.  And somehow it did not seem based on deprivation.

While I may not be experiencing a tipping point yet... I think I see the tipping point taking shape.  And it's beautiful.

Monday, June 1, 2015

The "Treat" Mentality

Imagine this: You've kept up with your schedule, all week (barely).  You've just returned from spending your lunch break running errands, setting yourself up with all the things you needed before the weekend starts - groceries for the dinner you're hosting, bandaids for the first-aid kit, sunscreen for the trip to the beach and the kids' birthday party you're attending this weekend.  Thank goodness you already picked up that bubble-shooting gun and wrapped it last night before bed (while binge watching a few episodes of Frankie and Grace on Netflix... after you got the little one(s) to bed.

It's Friday!  TGIF!!!  You're rushing back to work to scarf down your lunch... and you see the sign at the bakery.  And you think to yourself...

Hell yes, I deserve a treat.

Thankfully, the bakery is there to lend you support (calories.)

When it comes to treats, like a daily latte, scone (I actually hate scones, but I hear some people like them), cookie, brownie, or insert your treat of choice, there is a good deal of scientific research and some fantastic books about rewiring these habit loops.  Check out Charles Duhigg's Book The Power of Habit or Christine Carter's free e-course Crack the Habit Code for more...

Identify your cue, routine, and reward... then rework the routine (toss out smoking a cigarette, add in taking a five minute walk with a friend).

However, the reworking of the habit or the routine around a craving is tricky.

One of the things this research does not encompass is the time factor.  In the above instance, the person needs to unwind, to take a break from the stresses of life.  So let's look at some things that might fill that routine out nicely:

  • A 60 minute yoga class
  • A nice hot bubble bath
  • A massage
  • A chat with a friend
  • A walk in nature
  • A sweaty exercise session
  • A 15 minute breath session followed by 15 minutes of silent meditation

What do all these things have in common?  They take WAY more time than eating a cookie.

In our rushing around culture... it is so hard to stop.  Food has taken the place of a candle-lit bath, a phone call with a friend, full of giggles (we text instead), or just sitting around, lazily thumbing through a magazine.

When was the last time you took time to nourish your do-nothing bank?  If you're working hard to manage your eating habits, take a (quick) moment to reflect on this.  And notice the advertising all around us urging us to soothe ourselves with food.  We're craving something different, something deeper.  

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Habit 2: Witnessing the Energy of Longing

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Habit 2 in Georgie Fear's Lean Habits For Lifelong Weight Loss: Mastering 4 Core Eating Behaviors to Stay Slim Forever is basically this:
"Commit to feeling steady hunger for 30 to 60 minutes before each meal."
Further in the chapter, we get more information in this choice quote:
"It may be helpful to remind yourself that hunger is not an emergency, and that feeling appropriately hungry for each meal is your assurance that you're eating just the right amount for fat loss."


I travel back, backwards in time, to my beloved babysitters' house.  I remember so clearly the summer days when the clock would trudge between 11am and noon, when lunch was served.  I can feel myself standing near the refrigerator, getting another drink.  Wondering when lunch will come, wondering what I'll get to eat.

My Dad, bless his heart, likes to say that my favorite food when I was a kid was cheerios with ketchup.  My guess is that, had I some different choices on the menu, that might not have been the case.  Now, with my minimal research into nutrition I know that I respond very well to protein, and lots of it, first thing in the morning.  It sets me up for an amazing day.  However, at this time, I was a child of the 80s, when the low fat diet was all the rage (but please, a few more servings of margerine soaked pasta over here, ok?)

So come 11am, I'm queasy with hunger, blood-sugar crashed, feeling unstable.  The word "hangry" hadn't been invented yet, and I was also a people pleaser and would never had lashed out at grown-ups.  I just felt gnawing hunger on a regular basis, and this developed into practiced anxiety and fear in my nervous system.  For more about stress and the autonomic nervous system, check out this post.

Deep fear and anxiety around hunger.  OK... so that's what we're dealing with here.  We're working to unwire about 35 years of reaction based on these early childhood memories.


For many of us who deal with compulsive food issues (both on the indulging and restricting side), we had family situations that were unsafe in some way.  Maybe a parent was unpredictable or frequently angry or abusive.  In these kind of situations, full emotional expression was not on the docket.  We spent so much of our time "reading the room" and trying to avoid angry outbursts that any emotional "bursts" (read: normal feelings) were dangerous.

This kind of wiring (also in the nervous system... fight or flight) is extremely tricky.  Many people develop compulsive behaviors to cope with strong feelings that arise, because feeling the feelings, expressing the feelings, in any way, is not safe.  

Feelings include - fear, anxiety, anger, happiness, joy, frustration, boredom, and more.  If a compulsive behavior helps you NOT FEEL the feelings to their full extent, you've somehow protected yourself from the scary consequences of feeling that feeling - like getting screamed at.

However, as a grown-up, I, at least, live in my own house, with my family, and have few people screaming at me.  In fact, I can't think of a single person in my day-to-day life who would treat me like that, including my parents, whom I both have developed loving relationships with.

But taking away my compulsive overeating, I have to feel my strong feelings.  I have to witness the energy of longing.  I have to feel the deeper hungers... for love, for understanding, for deep friendship, for fulfilling work, for some of us... for connection with the Divine (as you understand it). The Sufi poet Hafiz (or Hafez) always nails the quest for the Beloved Divine connection:

“Every child has known God,

Not the God of names,
Not the God of don’ts,
Not the God who ever does Anything weird,
But the God who knows only 4 words.
And keeps repeating them, saying:
“Come Dance with Me , come dance.” 
― Hāfez
How often do we experience that kind of joy?  For me, my daily grind offers me joy on a limited basis.  I'm working on it (especially seeing the joy of the mundane as the blessing it is)... but I think we all struggle with joy in this hustle-bustle consumer's paradise of modern day America.


As an emotional eater for many years, I was scared when I saw this habit!  I decided to continue to eat 3-4 meals a day (habit 1) and just watch.  I decided to pare down a meal that I was having on a regular basis - my breakfast.

One of the key safety factors was having food on hand for lunch and knowing that I was truly safe in experimenting with my hunger.

For breakfast, I'd been having my Raw Meal Shake, a small low fat greek yogurt, and a swirl of coconut oil in the yogurt.  As I got curious about this habit, and felt ready to experiment with my hunger (that alone probably took a week), I decided to drop one thing at a time and see what happened.  Another factor to my success, strangely, was that I was nursing a sprained ankle and not working out at lunch, so I had extra time and bandwidth to dedicate to this experiment.

One day, I pared down the tablespoon of coconut oil in the yogurt.  Wow... I'm still not hungry till 1pm!

The next day, or maybe two days later, I took a HUGE RISK and didn't eat the yogurt.  This felt like a huge risk.  I paid close attention (but went on with my daily work as usual).  I was shocked that I didn't really feel anything in my stomach till after noon.

Wait, you've gotta be kidding me.  This 300 cal nutrient rich shake is lasting me till 12:30 or so before I feel true sensation in my stomach?  Holy moly.  This shows me how much I've been eating on a regular basis beyond my true caloric needs.

You see letting hunger be a guide in learning what's right for your EXACT METABOLISM right now is a huge revalation!  Hunger goes from being the enemy to being the friend that's going to get me exactly what I've deeply longed for - which is a body that is not overweight and can function in the world, chase after my kid, do all the yoga I like, and not experience joint damage.

My grown-up hunger, after a shake that supplies 34 g protein, a 40% recommended daily fiber intake, and is pure veggie?!?!  It's creepy crawly stomach sensation hunger.  It is not blood sugar crashing hangry hunger.

I'd also like to add that I do not think everyone should run out and buy this shake.  This happens to work for my lifestyle because I have to be at work early and have a kid and I just can't get my yoga done in the am and get to work on time while eating eggs and spinach, which is my favorite breakfast of all time (especially if there's a slice of bacon thrown in there....)

So once I had a breakfast amount that seemed to satisfy me for a good few hours (shake at 8:30 or 9am)  but left me feeling antsy and wanting to eat between 12-1, I wrapped up the experiment.  The last thing I do to burn some "hungry" minutes, since the experiment is over.... is that I often have a lunch appointment of some kind.  Therapy, acupuncture, the gym, a pilates class...  I'm always back at my desk and ready to DIG IN to lunch at 1pm.  I'm never distracted by hunger during these activities but am always aware of how I am really ready to eat at 1.  So I do NOT advise sitting around wallowing in hunger once you've got a sense of it.  There's no need to torture yourself!

Stay tuned on what IS torture for me, which is cooking dinner without eating dinner before it hits the table!  Now that is still torture for me.

I think I'll bring this to a close... congratulations, reader, for making it this far.

Open up to witnessing the longing!  Join me... let me know how your practice is going in the comments, and please share.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The Seven Realms and the Gayatri Class

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It's almost impossible to write about this class... so here's a blog-post-arm-chair stroll through it.  It is one of the most profound classes I've ever experienced.  I taught it, but I've practiced it as well.

I'll assume you can chant the Gayatri (what a blessing!!!)

Start in a comfortable seated posture.  We'll first identify the central channel by walking down the front and up the back.  Attention to the third eye, the pit of the throat, just below the ribcage, navel, 2" below the navel, perineal floor... then to the sacrum, the mid-low back across from the navel, the center of the back at the bottom tips of the shoulder blades, T1, base of the skull, crown...

Then inhale down the central channel... exhale upwards.

Chant the seven realms Om bhuh... all the way up to Ogm Satyam.  Hands on cakra points.  Repeat chant at each cakra point 10x or until there is vibratory sensation, then move upwards.  Pitch constant.  Include Ogm Satyam gesture.

Chant the Gayatri 3x... increasing volume.

Come to the floor for apanasana.  Enjoy the sensation of the Earth supporting your arms, trunk, skull and feet before picking up to prep for asana.  Repeat 5x... then chant Om Bhuh on exhale 5x.  Connect again with the Earth.

Pelvic tilts for second cakra... connecting with the water.  Let the breath initiate the pelvic tilts and hear the breath as the waves lapping the shore.  After five silent reps to develop the bhavana, chant Om Bhuvah on exhale.

For the structure, a few repetitions of urdhva prasarita padasana, one leg at a time, with a little pointing and flexing at the ankle in the mix.

Cakra Vikasana next, with krama exhale.  Connecitng with digestive fire.  After five repetitions with great attention to the navel, chanting on first half of exhale Ogm Suvah.  Rest.

Virbhadrasana with mudra.... hands to heart center (base center of ribcage.  Inhale hands/arms open wide (feel the air inside the chest for a short retention), exhale hands to mouth to feel the air escaping.  Drop hands to heart center to repeat.  After five repetitions to connect with the air element, chant on ex Om Mahah.  Catch the last ha sound in your hands.  Repeat both sides no chanting then alternate again for chanting set.

Uttanasana with Jalandhara Bandha and arm gesture - Inhale arms sweep out in space.  Retain, drop the chin (slight jalandhara bandha).  Exhale, firm belly and bend forward, tracking the hands down the backs of the thighs.  Five repetitions to connect with the space all around... then chant Om Janah on exhale.

Minor lateral with hands in anjali mudra, index finger against third eye point.  Keeping an internal focus (individual consciousness), inhale and create lateral flexion to one side.  Exhale to center (this movement is wonderfully small and cocoon-ish).  Repeat five times to each side silently.  Then chant Om Tapah on ex (five times to each side, second set).

Finally, Tadasana with the arm mudra for Ogm Satyam.  Five repetitions silent.  Five repetitions with the chant active.

Stand in stillness.  Profound stillness.

Chant the Gayatri three times.

Counter pose to prepare for pranayama (maybe just cakra vikasana or maybe vajrasana, supine twist, and apanasana).

Pranayama four repetitions of nadi sodhana for each cakra point ascending.  Just sense energy point, don't worry about mental chanting.   (Clear the nadis for optimum central channel openness).

Rest in silent stillness.

Take a savasana.  Tour the realms then drift.  See the picture at the top?  There's a stone/mountain.  The waves lapping the shore.  Maybe further on there's a beach campfire raging tall.  The fire burns smoke into the air above it...maybe a kite flies in the wind.  The sky background opens up into infinite space.  The individual consciousness exists.  And then merges into All-That-Is.

Rest for 5-7 minutes.

Chant the Gayatri 3x, from soft to loud.

Best. Class. Ever.  I was so crystalline-ly present for hours afterwards.  I had to do this practice the next day!!!  And hopefully as a regular occurrence for the next while.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Pants that button?

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I figure if I'm going to share my struggles... I ought to share my successes too!

Today I'm wearing pants that button.  It's been many months of pants with elastic tops?!?!!?  (God save you L.L. Bean.)  I just randomly tried on some pants that button... and...

They fit.

This feels like a minor miracle.  Just as I am reading about in A Course in Weightloss by Marianne Williamson.

According to A Course in Miracles, "Miracles occur naturally as expressions of love. Within the sacred love within your heart, miracles are in infinite supply.  The course is not about your relationship with food; it is about your relationship with love, and your relationship with yourself.  Miracles occur naturally when you remember who you are...  It is... humble, not arrogant, to accept the divine perfection of your true self. 
This is the love I want to build within!  The love that helps me to care for myself and to slow myself down.

Even in the midst of all this "uncontrollable chaos" just trying to eat three meals a day has been helping me move toward my goals.  Thank you Lean Habits!

I've also been practicing some powerful thought exercises (affirmations at strategic times) found in The Only Diet There Is by Sondra Ray.

I think I'll keep right on at it...

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Eating three meals a day when life gets hectic is tough.

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These eating and other compulsive behaviors are so hot right now.  It is exactly correlated with me having an increase in contact hours with students and a crazy schedule.  In the next ten days I'm seeing one person 3 times and another once.  I am subbing for an advanced Viniyoga group that I sometimes see.  I also have full time job and one other group class that I teach.  Oh, yeah, and... next Wednesday is my son's fourth birthday and next Sunday is a big party... we have guests coming in.

It's easy to say that I'm so busy and it's causing a deep rebellion inside of me.  What's harder is to go deeper, and see that the anger and fury is over the fact that nothing ever seems to come out of my schedule, it only seems to get piled on higher and deeper.

I'm managing to eat three meals a day these last few days, but I did have an ice cream incident over the weekend, we'll just call it.  No guilt... moving on!  But ice cream is an old "danger" food, and I've analyzed it in therapy as well - cool, creamy, mother's milk type stuff.  Sometimes good for hot anger, sometimes a balm for sadness.

Though the first habit of Lean Habits is to eat 3-4x a day, I always try to stick to three meals.  That leaves me room for a beer after dinner.  Sometimes these days I have a beer with dinner and a beer after dinner (or a glass of wine).  I know that I'm saving that fourth meal for something that I enjoy during this epic workfest as a means of managing stress (not the best way, but a way...).  I'm still getting to bed most days having consumed less than I used to.  I believe I"m on my way toward creating a deficit, even in the face of some of the longest hours I've ever worked.

As I finish these case studies, I will get to the point where I only have one more full four visit case study left to finish my training.  I am planning to give myself June as a break while I reach out to the healthcare community to find a third client dealing with Rheumatoid Arthritis.  I'll have a couple more contact hours to add beyond that for my practicum, but knowing that I can see previous clients to fill those hours rather than having to document a whole extra case is fantastic.  I document all my work using SOAP notes and short and longterm treatment goals.  However keeping these notes and compiling a case study are two different beasts!

I was lucky to receive the work of an AVI graduate Aggie Stewart in advance of my recent work in Rhuematoid Arthritis.  She published a fabulous piece that helped me prepare for my work with my next few clients dealing with this condition.

Stewart, Aggie.  "Joint Ventures: Helping Those With Rheumatoid Arthritis Live Well."  International Journal of Yoga Therapy No. 23 (2) 2013

I was reminded of the importance of joint protection and also reminded that the primary focus of RA treatment is breath work.  All else leads to breath work.  I know the intention is to soothe, to activate the parasympathetic nervous system... secondarily to activate the circulation with some standing postures... but generally to work in a langhana direction.

Aggie's article specifically reminded me to put breath first... meaning to spend a good deal of instruction time with the breath before moving into gentle asana.  She also reminded me of the art of the break... with the suggestion that one of her clients had used the moment when the mug is warm and full of tea as a way of sending soothing to the fingers.  I loved that!  The last suggestion that seems small but is so important (and had sort of slipped off my radar) was to get the joints moving before putting weight on them in the morning.  Just gentle flexing and extending of the fingers, the toes, the wrists, and the ankles.

So as I type I see the joy this work is bringing me.  Would that I didn't feel at war with myself over it.  Would that some things could fall off my plate instead of the plate getting ever bigger.  And as the plate gets bigger with responsibilities, my hunger grows deeper.  But it's not for food.  It's for me to slow down.


Monday, May 11, 2015

Saving an awesome video for later...

Loaded Movement, Mobiization, Flexibility During Pregnancy from Jenny Burrell on Vimeo.

Relief, Arrival, Awe

Image compliments of by Dr. William C. Welch, Extension Horticulturist, Texas Cooperative Extension
I had a wonderful Mother's Day.  After a leisurely morning including an extended yoga practice and ceremony for the Divine Mother, I went to The Spa at Stoweflake, which is my happy place.  I got the Shirodhara treatment, which involves warmed oil flowing over the forehead.  The utter relaxation this causes in me is so dreamy and wonderful.  I was fully "under," or passed out, but not in a sleep state - in a state of deep relaxation that I find so tonic for the nervous system.  (For more on stress and the autonomic nervous system, check this out.)

I then soaked, lounged, napped, and enjoyed a spinach tofu salad.  After lunch I listened to my man, Reverend Michael Bernard Beckwith, for some spiritual nourishment.

In his sermon, he shared council he had given someone yesterday who was struggling.  Practice this every hour, on the hour.  It was a three-pronged approach that I will share with you.  It will, just like a deeply relaxing spa treatment, contribute to resetting the nervous system.  If you've got a chronically zapped out and fried up nervous system like I do, it needs a good deal of help to not see every moment as some kind of crisis.

1) Relief:  Take a breath to feel a sense of relief at being through the stressful time.
2) Arrival:  I have arrived!  I am here!  I am in the space of knowing I am enough.
3) Awe: Take a look around from this non-stressed vantage point, feeling enough.  Isn't it beautiful? 
Well I can just say that I've had a smile plastered on my face for like 24 hours straight with this!  And it's funny the way the first instruction strikes me - Whew!  I am through that stressful time.  That stressful time?  It's the last 36 years of my life!

I have arrived in a more deep sense of knowing that my spiritual nature exists, is pure, is love, is Divine.  This is great news for me.

And taking a moment to look around, it's all that same Divinity, everywhere I look.  I am surrounded by so much beauty.  And there is pain in the world too, but it is bittersweet.  And the heart-rending sensation of viewing Maya as she is (the material world) is the stuff of true awakening.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Saying No

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Saying no is not something I usually do.  For a long time, being the nice "yes person" was a sure-fire way of being liked.  I tend to be able to suss out the needs and wants of others before they come to the surface, and for years I used this as a skill to endear myself to others.  And even, at times, as a tool of manipulation.

The ability to discern what others want before they even know they want them... comes from being on eggshells when I was younger, trying to avoid wrathful interactions with my mother (with whom I am on good terms today).  Turning this survival mechanism into a skill seems like a positive progression, but I see now that there are deeper pitfalls behind it.

Living by discerning the needs of others has a downside.  My deeper connection to what is right for me has been covered over by the needs and wants of others.  What is right for me may come through that still small voice that Marianne Williamson talks about - that connection to soul, to truth, and ultimately to God (as you understand he/she/it.)  Of course the still small voice is a biblical reference originally (Kings 19:11-13).

How does this relate to compulsive eating?

As I say yes to everyone else's needs I put my needs last - I see that I say no to myself on a regular basis.  

Saying yes around food seems like the only indulgence I have left.  When you give your time and your attention away for others, there is little time for cultivating personal joy... fun experiences... fulfilling needs like meditation and prayer.  Food provides an endorphin rush, a way of saying yes to myself that takes no time.  It is my time that I give away to others and refuse to give to myself.

It is painful to paint these truths in words.  I've been in therapy 7.5 years, which is where I explore these themes over. And over. And over again.  I see it writ large and yet I do it again and again.  

However, with some of the yoga tools I've been learning recently, I can also learn to see above, below, and around the psychodrama.  In my practice every morning I end in meditation - only for about seven minutes or so (I'd love to stay longer).  But my goal is to be in the prior state.  The place before the drama arises.  I am loving awareness, as Ram Dass says.  The drama about where my patterns have come from, what damage and good they've done, how I keep repeating them...  There's also a bigger perspective available that is just space, just love, just open wide in awareness.

I look forward to seeing how the contact with this loving awareness prior to the drama will help shift the drama as it plays out.  If you feel like meditation might help you and you're curious about some wonderful free resources, head over hereTara Brach New to Meditation Online Resources.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Compulsive Overeating Disorder: The Something's gotta give lifestyle

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The fact that writing these words brings up sensations of nausea means it is real.  Too real.

I've struggled with Compulsive Overeating Disorder (COE) and Binge Eating Disorder (BED) for as long as I can remember.  For most of the time, I didn't know it was an eating disorder.  I just thought I was a terrible dieter (and person).  

When I first read about the OTHER eating disorders (not anorexia or bulimia but COE and BED) I was on top of the world.  There's a name for this!  There's a treatment strategy (therapy).  There are other people like me!  I thought it might be one of those nice, linear experiences of healing one fantasizes about.  I did read that it takes 7-10 years to recover from an eating disorder, but I never thought that would be me.  Let's see... that was October 2007, and here I am, April of 2015.  Time and Date tells me that it's been 7 years, six months, and 15 days since I had my big "problem solving" epiphany.

Let's take a look at Wikipedia on COE and BED:
Individuals suffering from compulsive overeating are obsessed with food and typically eat when they are not hungry. They devote excessive amounts of time and thought to food and secretly plan to eat or fantasize about doing so. Compulsive overeaters engage in frequent episodes of uncontrolled eating, or binge eating. The term binge eating means eating an abundance of food while feeling that one's sense of control has been lost.[2] People who engage in binge eating may feel frenzied, consuming between 5,000 and 15,000 calories in one binge. As a result, some will cancel their plans for the next day because they "feel fat".[3] Bingeing in this way is generally followed by feelings of guilt and depression.[4]
Unlike individuals with bulimia nervosa, compulsive overeaters do not attempt to compensate for their bingeing with purging behaviors, such as fasting, laxative use, or vomiting. When compulsive overeaters overeat primarily through bingeing and experience feelings of guilt after their binges, they can be said to have binge eating disorder (BED).[2]
In addition to binge eating, compulsive overeaters may also engage in grazing behavior, during which they return to pick at food throughout the day.[2] These actions result in an excessive overall number of calories consumed, even if the quantities eaten at any one time may be small.
Fantastic summary.  This talks about the what of it.  Not the why, of course.  That's much more complicated.

First thing to work on was bingeing.  I remember it clearly - having stopped at the store while my husband was away on business to pick up a few things (pretzels and ice cream?) to take home "for dinner..." and then I sat on the couch and ate them in the thundering silence of our cabin on the mountain.  It dawned on me mid bite, "Oh this is a BINGE."

I legalized all foods and went through some of the quality literature on the subject:
When Women Stop Hating Their Bodies
Geneen Roth's Breaking Free from Emotional Eating
Intuitive Eating

I am happy to say that I was able to stop binging after a year or two of therapy.  In the above example, I was eating to avoid loneliness or boredom.

I still suffer from the last part of that definition above - I eat emotionally, and I take in more food than I need throughout the day which results in a bodyweight that is too heavy for my liking, and for my function in the world.

I've used mindfulness training and have gotten to the point where I can see that I'm about to eat when I'm not hungry.  Sometimes I can stop it.  Sometimes I don't stop it... so there's awareness and then a "diving into" the compulsion anyway.

I've recently started having some success with the wonderful book Lean Habits by Georgie Fear.  I plan to document my journey through these next few months/years becoming a competent eater... I consider this blog to be the beginning of the Patient Zero series where I work openly with my yoga practice - which is transcending these compulsive behaviors, resulting from compulsive thoughts, resulting from complete identification with my emotions... attachment... ego... etc.

The past few days I was at a business conference, at the end of a stressful month where strep throat ripped through my house, I sprained my ankle, had lots of turmoil at home, and was WAY overbooked with job 1/job 2/job 3 and oh yeah my family my health my sanity...  So as much as I was trying to stick with the practice of eating 3 meals a day and feeling hunger before each meal...  I pretty much tanked.  I've had some success with these new habits, but the stress of traveling and everything else caused me to lose touch with my power.  Something's gotta give... and so I'll eat for pleasure.

I find that I eat for almost every emotion!  Tired?  Food.  Happy?  Gotta celebrate by filling up.  Sad, lonely, bored - well that's a no-brainer right?  I mean I jest here... to lighten the reality that I've been eating every emotion on the spectrum for way too long.

So here I am, in wonder and awe and observance of the human condition... laying it all bare and sharing my story in the hopes that others will see themselves and feel a feeling that does not require a food to accompany it.

Monday, April 20, 2015

What's a spiritual practice for, anyway?

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After I returned from my last session of yoga therapy training, on mental and emotional health, I felt an awakened urgency in developing a relationship with _____ (insert your word of choice - God, the Universe, Divine Mother, Nature... something greater than myself).  I finally felt capable of sitting in wonder and silence and not controlling the outcome.  I've struggled with meditation for years and so its availability to me as a tool was quite exciting and novel.

I came home and proudly declared myself a theist of some sort.  I've been relishing this new identity.  Reading Nietzsche in college, and a healthy dose of skepticism in my early childhood experiences with religion, had sort of ruled out spiritual experiences for me.  However, I'm a deeply spiritual person.  So I found these types of trances of connection and immersion in other ways (food, alcohol, etc.)  At first, my new-found ability to connect with that-which-is-greater-than-myself seemed like it could be a tool in dealing with my own anxiety and depression, and serving as a substitute for less healthy "trances."  A very solo pursuit... though worthy.

The past few weeks have been a wild ride.  Especially for me as a mother and a wife.  Not only have a few minor illnesses ripped through the house, but there has been a lot of arguing.  I'm not proud of how I've acted on all occasions.  I have a ton of very negative conditioning around inter-family relationships.  I often feel I'm being criticized when I'm actually being hyper-sensitive and reading negativity into interactions when there is nothing behind it.  My go-to reaction to perceived criticism is overt hostility and passive aggressive behavior.

I had a chance to explore some of my new practices this weekend (of the new moon).  I took part in a meditation using Liberation Breathing combined with Mantra and Murti (Om Namaha Shivaya) and Babaji on Friday night.  Yesterday I had the time to listen to some uplifting words of Reverend Michael Bernard Beckwith about the yogic practice of calming the mind (9AM service).  And I enjoyed some Hebrew chanting with a women's Rosh Chodesh group yesterday afternoon.  I've also been reading a WONDERFUL highly recommended book about women's spirituality called The Unknown She - Eight Faces of an Emerging Consciousness by Hilary Hart.

I have experienced a truly awesome shift in my understanding of a spiritual practice over the weekend.  Before I was craving me-time to solve me-problems and seeing my family situation as a barrier to getting there, which was leaving me feeling tapped out, angry, snappy, and highly dissatisfied.

What I see now, thanks to all of these inspiring sources (but especially to Hilary Hart's book), is that my spiritual practice is a tool to be more present with my family and more loving with them.  Even through the hard times.  I see now that my me-centered spiritual goals have some merit, but that the true work I have to do here is to learn to be kind, and to not overreact.

I still need to carve out time to refill my tank from sources like these.  But I grow increasingly confident that I can do that (and less and less desperate) as I give myself these treats of soul nourishment.  And I can do it in the midst of my rich family life.  And my family life is not to be avoided.  It is the day-to-day that will provide the rich soil for my peaceful being to grow.  Nurtured by my ability to break the chains that have been passed down through many generations of people doing the best they could at the time.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Cultivating gentleness

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Consider this blog post 4,561 that you've clicked on to read about how destructive "chronic busyness" is to our tender souls.  So welcome!  Take a breath!  Slow down for a second.  There is no rush to reach the end of this post...

I can't remember a time I wasn't over-scheduled and living a bit beyond my means in terms of time.  Even at this point in my yoga therapy training I'm still working a full time job, juggling family, teaching a group class or two a week, and trying to see clients individually.  In order to do all of this, I sort of crash and thrash my way through the clock... always feeling like I'm a little behind.  I've learned to schedule self care like going to the gym and the occasional massage... and I'm finally at the point where I'm not rushing to and from those appointments.  Rather, I try to take time to feel the sun on my face and my feet on the ground.

I've had a longstanding resistance to meditation.  I've got a hyper, screaming, monkey-mind and some very negative thought tendencies.  Moving from crash and thrash through the world (doing) to sitting in meditation (being) has been a difficult transition energetically.  I thought that captured the essence of the issue - but I've gone a bit deeper and found something else that I'd like to share with you in hopes that it helps others find a way to a few peaceful minutes here and there.

Not only is going from moving to stillness difficult, when where you land is a very discursive place... but going from aggressive to gentle is an even bigger shift and challenge.  Doing the first without the latter is a gruesome transition.

I've never learned to be gentle.  There are natural times when gentleness manifests... like caring for an infant or cultivating seedlings.   However my day-to-day life does not manifest gentleness.  Within busyness, gentleness is a hindrance, not a value.  And that is, from what I'm learning, a fantastically easy way to waste a life.

There are a few things that I've put in place that have the effect of allowing a touch of gentleness, or tenderness, to enter.

  • A pre-meal blessing with my family, touching each other's hands.
  • Some kind of transition to honor the moment before sleep - whether it's breathing, reiki, or a 10 minute practice of asana and pranayama geared toward slowing down.
  • In my morning practice, using chanting to awake feeling, then allowing asana to transition to pranayama to prepare for meditation... to lead to prayer/sankalpa (intention).
  • In pranayama technique itself, being mindful of how the breath starts.  It's so easy to have a forceful beginning to every exhale.  I find that desiring gentleness in the moment of first exhale really gets me in the gentle and tender heart space.
In love and hope I share these small gifts I've found to help me cultivate gentleness in a crash-and-thrash world.  How does it work for you?

Friday, February 6, 2015

Words to a student

image compliments of Amy2121 at Deviant
I was corresponding with a student and sharing about adding in variations of movement in my personal, daily practice:

I'll tell you what I do.  In my own practice, I do lots of little variations.  I never do any one thing more than four repetitions (usually two on each side).  I try to make each repetition a quality repetition that is breath-centric - so I feel movement not just in the limb but in the spine.  Inhale is for the upper back.  Exhale I try to sense around my belly and pelvis.  The intention is to move the spine and breath together while making these movements "out in the limbs" if that makes sense.  That coordination of breath and movement is all we need.  Things shift and change just from that gentle focus.  At least they do for me.  :)

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Bye bye, bells palsy

image compliments of wall art hd gorgeous lavender

Over three and a half years ago, I suffered a scary event on the day before my due date.  My face stopped working on the left side.  Thankfully, it wasn't a stroke.  Unfortunately, it was bells palsy.  The good news at the time was that the baby was fine!  (And he still is).  The news that sort of slowly dawned on me was that my face, my gateway to the world, was a bit damaged.  It took a while to sink in during the early days of motherhood.

However, upon my return to the workforce, I realized I had lost something.  I'd lost a sense of confidence.  I felt tentative and vulnerable, especially in speaking and sales roles.

Without the bells palsy, a nervous system condition, I never would have come so far in the world of yoga therapy.  Without having been left so low, I never would have had the guts to spend the time, money, and effort to pursue training with the American Viniyoga Institute.  First through the teacher training and finally now, I'm about seven months from completing the Yoga Therapy certification.

I am continually progressing with seeing the opposite (Pratipaksa Bhavana) and understanding this process as a gift, rather than a hindrance.  Through this process I've come to find my path - the service I was meant to perform in this world.  I'm still figuring out how to reconcile this path with sending two kids to college - but my faith is developing.

The practice that has helped my bells palsy is a daily event.  It has been supplemented with gentle exercise, acupuncture, myofascial release massage, and craniosacral therapy.

I start on my back, with arm movements coordinated with breath.  I then add pelvic raises to those movements.  I move to my belly for many small variations of breath-centric movement.  I transition through a kneeling posture and to a standing forward bend with arm modifications, and a standing twist, also with arm movements.  I close the asana part of the practice with a table/child's pose variation called cakra vikasana.

I move to my cushion where I chant vowel sounds, in a rising pitch, with nyasa (gesture) and then I chant to ojas, tejas and prana to balance the doshas and perform some cool inner alchemy.  I ask for my faith to be nourished.

I move to a pranayama (breathing) practice with alternate nostril exhale (segmented and regular), alternate nostril inhale (segmented and regular) then nadi sodhana for a few rounds.

Meditation for a few breaths....

At my upcoming training I will be adding the final touches to my practice - meditation and prayer... modification of chanting possible.

With this post, which I've considered writing for some time, I recognize that the bells palsy is on its way out... and that I am SO CLOSE to recovered.  And I am grateful to the process it has engendered.