Archives for posts with tag: mental-health

The thunder was rolling, like the growl from deep in the gut of the discontent and indifference I had been feeling for the last few weeks: A familiar, yet long unvisited territory. As the thunder was reminding me of the shifts that were set to occur, the lightening was the resurrection. The sharp flash of lights that would stretch from one edge of the cloud through the belly of the thunder was fierce, powerful, determined and necessary.

Just like change.

As I sat and watched Mother Nature’s magical theater display I was struck by something all at once: when I feel like this I feel disconnected and separate, when I feel like that I feel connected and supported. Just as the thunder and lightening are created by each other, they create for each other. What they create for each other is meaning- a purpose for their moment in time. When I feel disconnected and indifferent I feel no sense of purpose or any good reason why.

I find it so interesting what even a small dose of depression will completely un-do any kind of motivation or momentum that you might carry into any and all aspects of your life.

Sometimes, stepping away from our ‘normal’ state of living gives us the breathing room to redefine the life we want to be living.

So there, in rural Missouri, I started to look at what in my life was working, and what wasn’t. I started to ask myself about the things I was holding myself accountable for. I needed to understand what was serving me and what wasn’t so that I had a road map to redirect these feelings of discontent and exhaustion, really. How could I make reasonable changes that would serve to create the life that I wanted to live: a life of love, contentment, creativity and fulfillment.

Here are a few things I was able to distill:

  1. I was spending a lot of time supporting people who didn’t necessarily support me in the same way. Relationships of all kinds can be a big piece of the exhaustion puzzle.
  2. The 30-day challenge is not my gig (anymore). After trying a few of these and ‘failing’ miserably I’m ready to let this Insta-standard go. At first I thought it was because my life didn’t have the room for this type of commitment. Now I realize I just haven’t ever bought in 100% because it’s not authentic to me.
  3. Several of my daily habits- even self-care habits, weren’t helping to restore ME. Now- I am a yoga teacher. I know all about meditation, and breathing, and eating right etc. But some of the things I was doing because I ‘should’ were adding pressure on me to achieve them. They were great rituals and they served a purpose at some point. But I needed to revitalize in ways that were effective for ME.

From these realizations I’ve created a new check-in list. Something to keep me on track with decisions about time management and truly living the life I want to be living:

  1. I am done with ‘shoulds’! I intend to pause and ask myself: Is this something I should be doing, or is this something I want to be doing. Inevitably there will be coffee dates that I want to do, and those that I should do. At least this mantra helps me to create a moment of pause before I make the commitment. Time is a valuable commodity!
  2. Acceptance and Authenticity. My life is what it is because I created it this way. Accepting it and accepting myself gives me room to breathe and to be. One of my core values is authenticity. When I feel the competitive voice speaking up I intend to remind myself of acceptance and authenticity, and to move, work, love, post from that place.
  3. Mindfulness. It truly is important to me to live with intention, to love with intention, to teach with intention. So a lot of what this comes down to is time. Making the time for myself to light a candle and be still, or to wake up just a bit earlier to drink some lemon water. But maybe more than that, mindfulness allows for the opportunity to explore: what am I really needing to feel good, grounded, balanced, alive.

I have intentionally kept this list short- reflective of the main realizations I had while I was away. When I need to be tender with myself the last thing I want to do is write up a shopping list of all of the things I’m unsettled about. Instead I choose to focus on these main ideas that cast a broad net so that more of the little things are impacted by my new way of thinking and tuning in.

I also head in to this challenge fully aware that it doesn’t happen overnight. I don’t just wake up and say: I’m gonna change x,y and z so that my life is more fulfilling. It takes time. Besides- I have a great life, yet something in me was still stirring. The press to improve ourselves is a process. And if we are lucky enough we get to watch it and participate fully in this dance with grace.

The process itself can be quite transformative. Like the fade of a magnificent thunder and lightening show into the tranquil dance of tall green grasses in the residual wind of the storm across the plains. A beautiful reminder that the storm magnifies the tranquility. One gives purpose to the other. Its the dance between the two, storm and serenity, that makes us whole.

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If you’ve taken my class or know anything about my professional background, then you’ll know how I feel about Plank.

Its such a fundamental pose, yet SO many students, clients and yogis have a hard time with plank.  This is a challenging pose… but why is it so hard if all it takes to create the proper alignment is to stand up straight? Yea, its that simple (not easy), plank pose is the same as standing tall with a neutral and erect spine, except we turn it on its side.

Most commonly what I see is that people are not able to draw in and up through their core. This creates a sagging effect through the lower back, and puts more strain on all of the joints in the upper body. Another challenge people usually have, is to not let their head pull them down. A human head weighs upwards of 10 lbs. Letting it hang down pulls the whole pose in to a collapsed state. Keep your head in line with your spine, eyes forward and up with the back of you neck long.

Here are some tips for you the next time you are in plank pose:

1. Engage your WHOLE body! Fingers, forearms, biceps, triceps, chest, back, core (front and back), glutes, quads, hamstrings and calves. Yep, thats one of the main reasons I love it so much- its a full body workout! When you are engaging these muscles, do so in such a way that makes you feel like you’re pulling the muscles into the bones, rather than bracing for some kind of impact.

2. Keep a buoyancy in your shoulder girdle. A lot of times this is where things start to fall apart, and unfortunately I hear a lot of instructors cueing this incorrectly. You’re not trying to only round your shoulders NOR only squeeze them together- you are doing BOTH. The shoulderblades should be in an in-between state to create the strength and buoyancy I’m talking about.

3. USE your legs! So many folks try to hold their body weight in their arms- which will be eternally challenging in this position. Your legs are super strong and can help to distribute the weight more appropriately. Try this: when you are in plank, pull your hands and feet toward each other. Then when you move to Chaturunga you’ll feel light as a feather! (well, almost!)

4. Mind over Matter. Without any training or pre-run I held a 4 minute plank. I’ve had students who trained and held plank as long as 20 minutes! Its ALL in your head. Consider what comes up for you when the pose gets challenging. When you want to give up, take one more deep breath… then maybe another… and another…

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For fun, set a timer and see how long you can hold plank. Then start doing 60 seconds every day. On the 7th day- don’t rest, time yourself again 😉

See if you’re able to hold it longer. Then set a goal- after 3 months of training how long would you like to be able to hold plank?

My goal: Dec 21- 8 minute plank!!!

http://willpowerlife.com/galleries/world-plank-2013/

Within the span of 1 week I had several people around me make remarks about their reality, that may have normally wizzed right by me, but maybe not.

One person said “I have this idea about what my body is, and then I have what my body REALLY is, and they are 2 very different things.” The other person said “Oh no, my body just isn’t made for that.”

I’m generally a very supportive person, its the big sister in me, but these comments from these people really hit me because I feel they both know better!

When we have a relationship with ourselves that continually recreates a reality in which we are less than or not good enough or wrong (my body isnt’ meant for that) then we can never win.

The Sanskrit word is Santosha- contentment. I prefer to think of this as an action, rather than a state of being. Its like lunges and pushups, you have to do them in order to receive the benefits.

For example, if you want a tight butt, you better do your squats everyday! If you are not content with your body or yourself, you better start practicing contentment. This is important because you can only change your reality if you understand what you are not content about right now. If you sit in the moment and realize you are not content, nor can you become content where you are, you better get moving! Why are you wasting anytime with a sub-optimal reality?

Don’t misunderstand me, not everyone has to have a six -pack abdominal wall and a Beyonce booty to be content. Most of us are content in the fact that we get up everyday, set an intention, get in a 30 minute workout, check some stuff off our list, enjoy a glass of wine, and go to bed next to someone we love. But if you aren’t doing the work to be where you want to be, then you are just complaining. This is something big sisters don’t have much patience for- nor does anyone else for that matter.

So for my friend(s) who think their body isn’t what they want it to be- what IS your body that you appreciate. What could you do to create a healthier, more living relationship with your body? Generate your intention from that. The magical thing about your body is that you can train it to be whatever you want! pushups, situps, whatever- its not stuck. Your reality WILL be unless you get to work. Where are the areas of your life that you are content with? Do you tend to them everyday? What about them fills you up?

And every time you do your crunches, or run an extra half mile, do it out of love instead of punishment. Be exactly where you are, allow your body to be exactly what it is, and go from there. Your contentment experience and work will start to reshape your reality.

…Lunges will too! Reshape your butt that is!

These past 2 weeks have been quite the roller coaster!

My little boy turned 1, weaning coincided. The emotions that followed were completely unexpected and overwhelming.

I started a cleanse, which I felt totally ready for, but nonetheless am struggling with horrible caffeine withdrawal and wanting to gag on vegetables.

Work is stressing me out.

Over the weekend I was completely convinced that the only thing that would make anything feel better was to just stay in bed and be sad.

To top things off I have decided to open Pandoras Box and begin taking my own personal yoga training- which always proves to be rocky and mucky before its serene and peaceful. (enter the lotus flower)

I’m a firm believer in the Buddhist concept that we have to have experienced darkness (suffering) in order to appreciate light (non-suffering). So when I get these moods, which happens less and less often, I know to just go with the flow. This could be quite the undertaking for someone who didn’t have an understanding of the necessity of dark in order to see light.

Sometimes the harder we try to ignore the bad mood the worse it gets. Like a craving for a chocolate chip cookie. We end up eating everything BUT it, just so we don’t feel we’ve lost the battle, when if we would’ve just had a small chocolate chip cookie, we would have avoided fighting ourselves and been able to move on much more quickly. (Note to self- stop using food analogies while on a cleanse!)

I have to let myself feel down because I believe I will feel even better when its over. Some of my best tools besides just laying low are yoga, running, music. I like to be by myself, keep things pretty quiet, and unplug as much as possible. Instead of letting it be total depression I try to make it an introspective opportunity.  I’ve been through this enough in my life that I know as long as I keep breathing I can get through ANYTHING- even the most difficult moments with myself.

It might even be a good thing that I’m cleansing through all of this- because if I wasn’t I would have eaten MORE than my share of chocolate chip cookies- mmm!

I was at a yoga event last night to assist the students by providing physical adjustments. Sometimes these assists are done to help you deepen your practice, and sometimes they are meant to correct your alignment. Part of this process, from an adjusters point of view, is to first scan and observe the students as a way to assess who could benefit from what type of assist.

Well as I was walking through the students in this class Monday night, I noticed how poor some of the alignment was. There were a handful of yoga poses where bad form was viewable throughout the room. Two thoughts crossed my mind: what are we doing as instructors that is contributing to the bad alignment, and how can we improve the alignment of the largest number of people possible at any given time. Now one answer to these questions in this scenario are to make sure we, as teachers, are teaching to the students in front of us, instead of relying too heavily on a script. Also, there are adjustments we can make to the sequences and yoga poses we are teaching so that people, in general, benefit from the practice instead of reiterate bad habits and poor alignment.

The reality is that form matters A LOT. In the fitness world there is a method called ‘mind in the muscle’, and it suggests that you can increase the success of your results as a weight lifter by up to 30% by paying attention to what your doing. So when you are doing biceps curls, even if you use a 3 lbs dumbbell, if you think about the muscles you are using and connect your mind with your body- your results will be maximized. In the world of yoga this is nothing new. After all, the mind-body connection is the whole point of moving through the poses and breathing with intention.

Bad form generally comes from favoring bad habits, or even a lack of understanding of what the actual intention of the pose or exercise is.  Something as simple as stacking your joints or feeling your alignment can prevent injuries AND deepen your practice.  When we work from proper alignment then the appropriate muscles engage/ disengage to help make our bodies stronger and more efficient. For example, if your shoulders are rounded because you have a bad habit of slouching over a computer all day, then in yoga or at the gym you should focus on strengthening your upper back, stretching your chest and standing upright.

In order to make your form work for you pay attention to the alignment of your joints- they should all stack in straight lines or 90 degree angles (for the most part).  Think of the muscles engaging around the bones to support and create movement. Most importantly, whether you are performing a yoga pose or an exercise at the gym, think about what you are doing, where you feel it, and what you want the outcome to be. A little mindfulness and awareness will go a long way.

So a few days ago I got a text from one of my girlfriends.  ‘Hey there, any interest in doing the Colfax Half Marathon?’ she asked. I remember thinking ‘Colfax, May, could be nice.’ But for whatever reason I didn’t text her back right away. The longer I thought about it the more obvious it got that this was something I should probably do. What I came to realize over the course of the 2 days that I didn’t get back to her was that I have gotten lazy.

Any success that I’ve had toward any goal I’ve set for myself has come from focus and consistency or training. Well, the brutal truth is that the only thing I do consistently these days is be inconsistent!

I am someone who thrives on regiment. I excel at organization and structure. I look forward to making schedules and setting up plans, lists and charts.

I think what has happened is that in my effort to go-with-the-baby-flow I have accidentally become one of those moms who doesn’t put herself on the list. This is a big deal considering that one of the things that kept me from becoming a mother earlier in life was that I knew I was selfish and I wasn’t ready to give that up. I guess I could look at that 2 ways: yay, I’ve let go of some of my compulsions to put myself first which has helped me to relax into mommyhood, or wow, I am the only one who is in the way of getting my butt to the gym! And really I think both are true.

So now that I’ve made it through January and can stop beating myself up about not doing all of the things I thought I would do in the new year, I can get started on some serious goals. As I stated before, my previous successes (of all types) have all come from focus and consistency. So here’s the plan: Every Tuesday, beginning February 5 will be my blog day. My intention is to highlight a different aspect of the Mind Body Battalion Trinity every week to provide you and myself with some consistency. I would like to commit to practicing yoga Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and maybe Sunday.

And yes, I am doing the race in May, so I will have to run 3 times a week. Mondays will be my distance day, Thursdays will be my Red Rocks day, Fridays will be my trail day. It truly does feel good to have a plan and a goal. The Type-A in me is finally getting the structure its been looking for.

In the December issue of Yoga Journal there is an article about ‘recapitulation’. The article states that in order to move forward, as so many of us aspire to do around New Years Day, we have to first relive and relinquish mistakes or lessons we’ve learned from times previous. The suggested practice is to discuss or journal about your past year and the challenges or near regrets you have, thus creating space for the resolutions you may be wanting to set.

Now I’m certain I’m not the only one who doesn’t love the idea of reliving moments in which I behaved less than graceful or that caused anyone else discomfort or resentment, but I do see this recapitulation as an appropriate step to moving forward.

There’s a saying among my yoga peeps that The Universe will give you the same lessons over and over again until you finally learn them. The challenge often times is actually being able to identify a life lesson, or to see the woods through the trees so to speak. What better way to get a little more clear than to spend some time recalling the memorable moments from the past year that make you think ‘I could have done that better’. Once we can identify those scenarios we have direction and intent. Then our New Year’s resolutions are practically made for us.

Consider, very simply, a to do list. You can either- keep adding things to the list and watch the list get longer and longer, or, you can cross things off as they get done and ease the stress of feeling you will never succeed.

I encourage you to try on this practice of recapitulation this year as you stop to set your intentions for 2013. Sit, breath, even meditate on the moments you remember that you didn’t do your best and simply let them go. Turn them in to opportunities to do better and to be a better you. Take advantage of the opportunity to start the New Year with clarity and freedom.