Why Yoga Therapy?

Yoga Therapy is somewhat different from yoga and other therapies.

Yoga Therapy looks at the big picture of a person’s life and uses holistic tools to empower the client to confront the challenges they face.Forward Fold

Yoga Therapy works with the medical system, giving additions and/or alternatives to the patients diagnosis.

While talk therapies are great for help in healing the past, Yoga Therapy can be a great addition as it takes talk therapy and adds body movement. By addressing feelings inside the body, the therapist and client can explore together the meanings of the feelings and open new ideas and dialogue for healing. By combining movement with talk therapy, the client addresses, evaluates, finds viable solutions and is then given permission to move forward, away from the past and in to a more fulfilled life experience.

There are no therapies I know of that specifically work your spirit, your essence, your feelings and emotions or the core being of who you are. This is the strength of Yoga Therapy. Trauma victims often shut down these feelings in an attempt to go on living. Denial doesn’t work in the long run. Eventually, those hidden feelings will rear their ugly heads in the form of depression, anger, fear, rage and anxiety.

Bessel Van der Kolk  writes in The Body Keeps the Score:

Research from the disciplines, Neuroscience, Developmental Psychopathology and Interpersonal Neuro Biology have revealed that:

“Trauma produces actual physiological changes. Including a re-calibration of the brains alarm system, an increase in stress hormone activity, and alterations in the system that filters relevant information from irrelevant. We now know that trauma compromises the brain area that communicates the physical embodied feeling of being alive. These changes explain why traumatized individuals become hyper-vigilant to threat at the expense of spontaneously engaging in their day to day lives.”

Behaviors we once thought were a lack of will power, moral failings or bad character, have been found to be “actual changes in the brain.”

This new information has allowed us new treatment plans to help patients and “opened up new possibilities to palliate or even reverse the damage.”

We can now introduce ideas that increase the brains ability to self-heal, helping trauma victims to move on with life.

There are three avenues to this healing process.

  1. Talk Therapy. Processing the memories of the trauma in a supportive setting helping us learn what has happened to us.
  2. Medicine therapy. Shuts down inappropriate alarm reactions. Drugs rearrange the way the brain organizes information.
  3. Yoga or other movement therapies. “By allowing the body to have experiences that deeply and viscerally contradict the helplessness, rage, or collapse that result from trauma.”

Any or all of these methods may be needed based on the individual. Yoga Therapists are not medical doctors and work along side the medical system engaging the client in examining their own lives, habits and beliefs.

Yoga Therapy is non-prescriptive. What works for one person may not work for another. The intent of the Yoga Therapist is to begin shifting thoughts from negative past experiences, to positive forward thinking emotions. This shift is combined with body awareness done at the appropriate level of the client.

Yoga Therapy also looks at outside stressors: work, family, lifestyle, diet, nutrition, relationships and all the facets that create a whole life.

Yoga Therapy is a whole life compassionate approach to wellness and healing. With the help of our client, we give them tools to become more grounded in who they are and who they truly want to be.

If you’re interested in learning more, please contact me. 

Am I a Good Friend?

You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with.

Divorce and any trauma not only affects ourselves, our family, extended family, and children, it also affects our friendships.

I had a pre-arranged lunch date scheduled with a friend that happened to coincide with the day after my ex left the marriage.kenn1

That lunch date, which I kept even though I was terrified to tell my friend what happened, opened up the door to my eventual healing.

I remember walking into the restaurant trying to keep a sane face. I felt the energy in my body vibrating and wanting to run for cover in embarrassment and shame. I sat down at the table and for a mere 45 seconds we small talked.

I don’t remember what the small talk was about. My friend noticed my agitation and asked about it.

The torrent opened. The first release of the pent up frustrations began. My friend held that space for me as I let go of as much anger, frustration, sadness and confusion as she would allow.

She allowed me a place to feel safe while I poured my heart onto the unserved table.

That is what friends are for. That is the sign of a good friend.

She didn’t ask for me to show up and vomit life on her. She had no idea the emotions that would be tossed into her lap.

And she took it all on, lovingly and brilliantly.

She understood, felt and saw my anguish as I told her the events that abruptly created the beginning of my new life. She is still a good friend.

Real friends are like that. They sense the unknown. They see when there is distress. They understand and reach out.

Since my divorce, the landscape of my friends has changed. Many of the friends I thought I had when I was married have been replaced with new friends. As I change and grow, I open to friends who want to share that growth with me.

Friends, like life, are not stagnant. They ebb and flow like the tides.

When we are faced with trauma, friends have no idea what to do unless they have experienced the same trauma. My friends could only see what was presented to them on the outside. They were not mind readers. I have empathy for those friends who did not know how to react.

Friendships are complicated. As I look back, I can only surmise why the friends I had seemed to vanish or morph into acquaintances. Here are some questions I asked myself to understand if I would be the best kind of friend I can be in a similar situation:

  • Do I Speak up when I see my friends struggling? I remember when one of my friend’s father died. I didn’t know what to say. I imagined they were crying and upset and busy. So I said nothing. After the funeral I mentioned that I didn’t know what to say. My friend, in her kindness, said she would have appreciated a simple message knowing I was thinking of her at this time. That’s all. Acknowledgment that someone is suffering. Don’t ignore suffering. Suffering and reaching out is what makes us human. Feelings and emotions are what make us different than other species. Hiding behind the fear of the unknown is no excuse to not say something. Step into that fear and be a friend. Or don’t be a friend.
  • If my friends divorce, what side do I pick? In my experience, I found that generally, friends go with the side they came in with. Losing friends is painful. I had a few friends who tried to stay friends with both of us. For me, that didn’t work. I had friends who told me they didn’t want to pick sides. Not picking sides, is picking sides. If you choose neither, you made a choice. You picked a side. Cowards walk away. Cowards aren’t friends.  I am divorced because the values in our marriage were not in alignment. Another way to look at picking sides is that I too get to choose who my friends are. Knowing that values are important to me, if you want to choose my Ex and his value system, that tells me something. I don’t want friends who value what my Ex values. These friends are not my friends. We all get to choose for ourselves who we hang out with. Our friends also get to choose. Try to understand the complexities of all the decisions that have to be made. It isn’t all about you.
  • Could my happiness be a threat to my friend? I find this logic hard to believe but have learned about it so often, I feel compelled to add it. I will never know if it is true but there is something about being single in a married culture that gets your name removed from the party list. A few years after my divorce was final, I got happy. Really happy. Women who are in marriages where they only exist in their self-perpetuated cage, see your life as one of freedom. Your freedom looks from the outside as it came at no cost. Your happiness is a threat and challenge to their unhappiness. Jealousy is a virtue I choose not to partake of. Jealousy is not a good place to live. If we cannot be happy for one another, what do we have to offer as a friend?
  • Do I pity the traumatized victim? This reason sucks. Pity is that look, “You poor thing. Now you will be living a life of struggle and pain. I feel so sorry for you.” They don’t say that out loud, you can see the expression on their face. Let those people go. The first thing you need to do is get rid of the victim mentality, not perpetuate it. Pity keeps you down, get up and walk away – fast.
  • Were they really your friend in the first place? It’s often hard to understand who is really a friend and who is only hanging on for the social life, the perceived success you may portray by the cars you drive, the vacations you take and who is on your invite list. While married, I was social. We had parties, vacationed with “friends”, we lived the life, whatever that means. In hindsight, there were people who only liked us for the invite list. But they disappeared faster than a plate of spaghetti at an Italian wedding when the divorce hit. When there isn’t an invite list to be on, these people disappear. They aren’t your friends. Be glad they’re gone and don’t waste your time missing them. They will move on to another invite list.
  • Do I judge my “friends”? Judging others is human. If we didn’t judge, we would all be silly nilly pinheads pretending to like everyone when we cannot possibly be friends with everyone. However, judgments can be taken too far. Judgments that project our own beliefs on to others to the detriment of truth is destructive. Judging comes from fear. “I don’t want that to happen to me” so if I push that feeling onto others and judge those who do it as evil or me as better than them, I can live the illusion of feeling safe. That kind of judgement sets you up for a life full of judging. Judging is not living.  Judgers create the illusion that they are “better than” others by pretentiously lowering others by their judging. All this hurts is the one judging. The judger creates a place where friendships can only be based on lies of who they think the person is, not who they really are. Stop judging. Stop being an asshole. Accept your friends for who they are, how they dress and wear their hair, the color of their skin, their sexual orientation, the shoes they wear and whatever else it is that makes them who they are. If you can’t do that, please don’t be my friend.

Being a loving friend takes courage. It takes courage to be there when the chips are down. It takes conquering the fear of intimacy and asking the tough questions. Our culture has taught us disconnection. We need to re-connect to our human spirit.

Most people don’t have what it takes to be a real friend. Being a real friend is hard work. If you want to be on the invite list, wear the right labels, look good to the outside world and deep meaningful relationships aren’t in your vocabulary, leave now. This list gets rough.

Friendships are a two-way street. Following are some points you may want to consider to find out if you are the best friend you can be. This list goes for both sides of any friendship.

  • We cannot assume our friends are mind readers and know we need help. Reach out and help us when we have been upfront and asked for help. If you need help, don’t hide behind the conformity culture has told us we need to live. Ask for help. Make that call. Be human. None of us need to struggle alone, we all need one another to survive and thrive. Reach out.
  • True friends would still invite us traumatized and scared people to dinner and treat us like they used to. Or better yet, ask us if there is something they could do for us. We would politely smile and in all honesty, ask them for help. Whatever that help may look like. Sometimes that help may mean we need time alone. Allow us that too, without judgement.
  • We would honor the fact our friends do not want to live our story over and over. Our story is to be told once (maybe a few times) to our friends and only brought up again when they ask for an update. We need to understand that our friends are there for support, not therapy. If you need therapy, find a therapist. If you want a friend, respect the boundaries of friendship.
  • We need to be grateful for the friends who do step up. We need to give emotional support to them when they tell us they need it. We need to show through our ongoing efforts that we are not going to get stuck in the story of our trauma. We will do the work, with their support, to heal and become the friends we always were.
  • If you have a friend who always calls you to ask to do something fun, you will call them in return. Phones work in two directions. Don’t always be the caller. Don’t always be the one who is called. Pick up the phone. Don’t expect your friend to do all the work in the relationship.
  • Stop making excuses. Excuses are not reasons. I crashed my car, I am sick, I have other plans, and the truth are reasons to not do something. I have too many kids, it’s cold outside, I have too much to do, are excuses. Know the difference. Your friend knows the difference and will stop calling when you are lame and full of excuses.
  • Are you a gossip? Friendships based on gossip, or meaningless and hurtful information relayed about another person, aren’t friendships. Those are acquaintances you may want to stay away from. They will talk about you when you aren’t around too. Friends talk about life. Not the color of someones hair. Who cares about hair? Gossips do. Friends don’t give a crap what color your hair is. They love you for you. Friends love you because they are interested in YOU, not your clothes and not the clothes others are wearing. Get rid of gossips that do nothing other than bring you down.
  • We will choose our friends by real life feelings and emotions, not the lives they “live” on social media. Social media is the life we want others to think we have. Social media is fake. Pick friends who talk about their down times as much as their up times. We all have down times. Be that friend. Be the one who holds space for feelings – good and bad. Don’t be the fake friend. I want you to be you, in all your glory.
  • I will take responsibility. I will ask my friends: How are you today? I will apologize when I wrong them. I will bring up hurtful events and listen and not judge for their eventual mistakes that I too will make.  I will be fearless in my love for my friends. I will laugh with my friends and let them cry on my shoulder. I will acknowledge and not hate them when they lovingly point out my mistakes. I will politely call them on their shit and honor my feelings when the shit gets too deep. I will learn from that experience. I will bring the best of me to my friendships.
  • We will acknowledge and separate in a friendly manner when we have outgrown our friendships. As we grow and change through our healing, our friends may also change and grow. That growth may not be in the same direction. This is life. Don’t hold on to what used to be. Allow yourself and your friends to grow into who you and they are supposed to be. Support their growth as they supported yours. Love them for who they are, not who you want them to be.

love1Ask yourself the tough questions. Ask yourself if there is something you may be doing that is pushing others away. Ask yourself if you are the same person you used to be. Ask yourself if your circle of friends support you the way you want and need to be supported and you support them.

Friendships are organic. They shift and move with life. There are a lot of gray areas in this process. It’s painful to lose friends. It’s more painful to place and hang on to blame where there may not be any need.

I haven’t always followed my own advice and asked myself these questions. I have made some of the mistakes I point out here. I don’t always know what to do and how to relate. Often, we get caught up in the moment and find ourselves incapable of looking at the big picture. Sometimes we let friends go when we shouldn’t. Often, we hold on to them too long.

As time passes, I have learned to be forgiving of myself, knowing I did the best I could with the information I had. Eventually, who knows, I may go back and apologize for my indiscretions. That’s all I can do, take responsibility for my mistakes.

Try to look at the shifting of life through the lens of everyone involved. Try not to judge. Step back and look at the big picture. Use some calming techniques to clear your head from the clutter of anger. Try not to react from a place of anger. Pause before reacting in anger.

Give it time.

Step back and decide for yourself the kind of people you want to surround yourself with. You won’t be able to make your friends be who you want them to be. They, like you, can only be themselves. You get to choose.

Yoga Saved my Life, Literally

I used to be a head walking around with a body attached.

All I cared about in regard to my body was how it looked to the outside world. My head understood my body was a vessel that carried my head around. My head fed me when my body was hungry. I obsessed over calories. I voiced my opinion when I felt like it. I judged others by what I thought I knew.bound-side-angle

I lived in the external world of thinking that what others saw of me was who I was. I became what I thought others thought of me.

What a confusing way to live.

Of course, at the time I was unaware of any of this thought process. I thought my shit didn’t stink. I thought I had all the answers. My opinions mattered. To me. I assumed that what I said to others, those others believed too. It never occurred to me that other people thought other things that didn’t agree with the things I thought.

My head decided how to take care of my body. What to eat, how to exercise it so it would keep my head’s thoughts busy, how to keep it strong to better carry my head around, and keep it looking good so everyone around me would like me.

Phew, what a way to live.

I didn’t think my body had any wisdom. My brain had the wisdom, the smarts, and my body was at the mercy of my brain.

My body was a means of transportation. My head told it to go here and there. Get involved in this and that. Do this because it makes you look good. Do that because it makes you look good. If you look good, people will like you.

I never understood that as I followed my head around, my body was trying to tell me things.

I was a slave to my brain.

I don’t want to be too hard on myself. It’s not like I was a bad person. I was a formidable fundraiser and skilled organizer. I got the job done and moved onto the next job. I was and still am, a good mother, I volunteered, I worked, life was good. I don’t have regrets for how I lived. As the saying goes, I wish I knew then what I know now.

Now I have wisdom which my body is attuned to.

I was a train on the tracks going where the tracks led and picking up the people along the way who wanted on for the journey.

I had no connection to the ride other than the fact I was being transported through life. Doing what I was “supposed to do” according to my head.

I was young, youth doesn’t carry with it a wisdom that older age affords. I was not someone who self-reflected very often, if at all. When I saw something I wanted to do, I set a goal and did it. I did not waiver. If an obstacle came in my path, I worked around it, through it, or over it. I got the job done no matter the consequence. I accomplished my goals, then moved on to another task. I didn’t, and couldn’t sit still. Sitting still made me uncomfortable. I didn’t understand why and I didn’t try to figure it out.

Then yoga came into my life and screwed it all up.

A yoga studio opened in my small town. I showed up to see beings laying on the floor in little balls (child’s pose). I giggled, thinking how stupid this exercise class was. What kind of exercise is laying on the floor in a small ball?

But I went back. For some reason I tried it again, and bought a 10 class deal that made me show up.

As I moved my body in ways I hadn’t done since I was a high school gymnast, my life began to change. I began to notice subtle changes in how I thought. My anger and head strong drive became subtly softer. My head began to slow down it’s constant thoughts. The thoughts became more clear. I began to notice my interactions with others became easier, kinder, gentler.

Yoga made me aware that my body talked to me as often as my head did. I just never listened.

This became abundantly clear one day I went running on the boardwalk. I put on my headphones, warmed up and took off. I thought nothing other than what song was streaming in my ears. I noticed the ocean and the fresh salted air as it entered my nostrils. As I ran along I sang to the tunes as they ran through my cue. I didn’t care what people thought of the singing runner.

When the run was over, I removed my headphones. The silence erupted as I began to look around, removed from the reverie of song. As my head began to hear the occasional screech of a seagull and the crash of a wave, I noticed an uncomfortable tightness creeping into my hips.

My shoulders were tight, my jaw felt unusual and my knee was trying to scream at me.

I ignored those signals, proud I had finished the run and burned off the wine and pizza from the night before. Feeling happy I could go home, have a snack and drink more wine tonight. My exercise was complete.

A few days later in my yoga class those aches began to talk to me.

I started yoga trying to alleviate the pain I felt from running. I wanted to keep running so I picked up another form of exercise to allow me to do that. I assumed yoga was stretching.

It was, plus a lot more.

As my yoga practice grew, I began to notice the way I moved my body made me feel other parts of my body. When I circled my arm, my hip moved. When I grounded through my feet, I felt something in my hips. When I turned my head, my shoulders and spine went along for the ride. I began to realize my body worked as a unit, not separate pieces that had a life of their own.

But yoga was more than learning that connected movement.

I began to notice the crap in my life was becoming more manageable. I didn’t use my middle finger waving in the air to drive my car. I began to smile more often. I began to build boundaries in my life. I began to stop saying yes when I really wanted to say no. I began to think for myself instead of following along and parroting those I thought were smarter than me. What I once thought of as troublesome became easier to deal with.

The grounding of my feet in postures grounded me into who I began to believe I truly wanted to be. Not the person I tried to be so I would be liked by those I thought I wanted to like me.

I began to realize I was just as smart as everyone I thought was smarter. I noticed smart is subjective and we are all different and can feel, look and think differently. We can all be who we choose to be. I learned it’s okay to be me and to think for myself. I began to learn that I am fine the way I am. That no one can take who I am away from me. I am enough and those who judge me don’t get to decide for me how to live.

I didn’t understand how a simple and seemingly stupid exercise program could have such profound effects on me. I pushed back at this belief, not wanting to believe it could be that simple. Not understanding the complexities of the path I was about to take.

A few years later I found myself abruptly divorced in a manner that was not kind or considerate.

Feelings of fear, anger, betrayal, confusion and sadness created so much fear where once there had been no fear. My body began to react to the emotions my mind could not control.

I immediately went to my mat, hoping it would give me the answers I so desperately wanted. I got into my body. I tried to drive the pain away using chaturangas, triangles, arm balances, sun salutations and side angles to make it stop.

Yoga gave me the temporary mental relief and the strength of mind, body and a growing spirit to know what I had to do.

As the emotional pain coursed through my body, I didn’t understand how these feelings had manifested. I had never felt anything like that before. The tightness in my chest as it beat wildly, hardly holding the thin containment my skin allowed. The feeling that I wanted to jump from my skin and run forever, away from the pain I didn’t understand. I didn’t understand why my brain who I had spent so much time training the way I wanted it to be, was failing in my attempts to control the anguish and anxiety I had no control over.

One day, instead of running, I sat.

In stillness. I sat still. No distractions.

Instead of running, drinking or driving my pain away, I sat with it. I let my heart beat wildly. I let the pain in my chest open up. I felt the anger and betrayal course through my system.

Yoga taught me to be with me. Yoga taught me the only way I could possibly understand who I am, is to sit with me and learn.

When the emotions ran their course, I was sure I would be found dead in a heap of cells on the floor in front of my sofa. I was sure the pain would literally kill me.

But it didn’t.

I was still there.

I was whole.

I had survived the pain.

My body holds the infinite wisdom that my head ignored. My body constantly sends me signals to dangers, injuries and intelligence that my head, in its self-imposed intelligence chose not to react to.

As my yoga practice increased, I began to notice the trauma that had been gaining momentum in my life. I began to stand up for what I wanted in life. I began to fight back for what I believed to be true for me, not live the way anyone else wanted me to live.

Thank you yoga for bringing me back to me. As I continue this journey to self-awareness and self-actualization, I thank yoga for leading the way.

How to Breathe in 3 parts

I see new students eyes roll in my yoga classes when we start with breathing. Many of us think of breathing as automatic. It is automatic. But intentional breathing has a profound effect of how we move through this world. Literally.Easy Seat

Yoga means union, or to yoke. To bring the mind and body into synchronicity. The mind doesn’t tell the body what to do and the body can’t run away from the mind. They work together, as a team.

The way we unite the mind with the body is through the breath. When we focus on our breath, we bring our attention into our bodies. It’s hard to concentrate on the laundry or work when we are focused expressly on an inhale, or an exhale. Life pauses and our bodies calm down when we concentrate on our breath. Paying attention to the breath makes us mindful, gives us insight and brings awareness to the exact moment in which we are living. Sounds simple and basic but mindful breathing can have a huge beneficial impact to how you interact in life.

Here’s how: Continue reading

The Simple Act of Breathing

The act of breathing is simple but profound. Something most of us take for granted.

Breathing allows us to focus on the internal sensations of the body, letting external  events subside. Teaching yoga students to learn and listen to what is happening inside begins the process of calming down. Internal awareness helps us better relate to the external life we need to be part of. Breathing puts us in touch, feeling the sensations of our body.Childs Pose 11

When I first began my yoga journey, external and internal made no sense. They were the same. I was the Donald Trump of yoga. What I thought, I said, never knowing, seeing or feeling the consequences of my own never ending thoughts.

I did not have the awareness to understand that the external things in my life were not where my happiness lived. I believed that maintaining my business and the stuff I owned was directly correlated to the happiness I felt in my heart. The subtle shifts in my beliefs were the effects of my yoga practice that brought about my true internal happiness. Continue reading

Yoga for the Mind and Body

Science is beginning to back up the many benefits of a yoga practice. 

Having a healthy mind and an unhealthy body is unhealthy. The opposite is true too. Your body and mind work together for optimum health. Bound Angle

 Not only does yoga benefit your body, yoga has the ability to change the way you think. 

 I look at my life in two separate time frames; before and after I started practicing yoga. 

 Before yoga, I was a Type A over achiever. I was constantly  busy. Though my busyness was also productive, sitting still with myself wasn’t something I was comfortable with.

 I wasn’t aware of the reasons then and I would have defended my busyness with comments like:

“I have a lot to get done.”

“I get bored when I’m not doing something.”

“If I’m not doing something, I may as well be asleep.”

“I’m not the kind of person that can sit around and do nothing.”

“I must be worthless if I’m not busy. I have to prove myself worthy.” Continue reading

What is Awareness or Mindfulness?

As I look back on what I have and have not learned in life, I realize I used to live in a state of constant agitation.

I was always “on,” I was always moving and doing. I was perpetually busy.Busyness

For me, busy was good. It kept me busy! I liked busy. I was taught an idle mind is a lazy mind. So I stayed busy.

I talked fast. I moved fast. I did things fast. I got a lot done in a day. I thought that was efficiency. Doing, doing, doing. Getting things done.

In many cases, it was efficiency. I could get things done in a day that most people couldn’t do in a week. I look back on all that I accomplished and feel a sense of pride in my production.

And a sense of trepidation that I may have missed out on some other things in life that my busyness created.

Being efficient is all well and good. Frankly, at that age, getting things done is what is “supposed” to happen. The 20’s and 30’s, and now the 40’s as we live longer, is thought to be the most “productive” times in our lives. Depending of course on what it is we are “producing.” Continue reading