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“Move and the way will open.”

Zen Proverb

REMEMBERING THE RESTORATIVE: FROM CLIENT-CARE TO SELF-CARE

As someone who has guided clients through the intrinsic healing experience of yoga from yoga studio students to combat veterans I know how amazing and rejuvenating it can be.  Likewise, when I integrated yoga into the equine therapy practices I felt this light of finding a combined practice that resonated so profoundly for people that I wondered how I could bring this gift to every client I ever worked with that day forward.  Combat veterans and other trauma survivors seem to find drastic levels of healing in the experiential practices of mind/body medicine with a yogic edge and relational therapy through the silent compassion of a horse.  I had seen this therapeutic magic in action, seen the teary eyes of a modern day warrior gently petting the flank of his equine companion.  I knew this was something un-ignorable and I wanted to spread the concepts and conjoined practices to every place of pain I could, and to every person in need of connectedness. 

In my fervor, however, I had still never been a participant so I had never experienced the combination of body scans, somatic attunements, centering and grounding exercises, yoga, and horses all in one gloriously zen package.  I got the chance to see the results as a therapist and take part in the clients’ processes but not indulge myself in the participant role.  By the time I was packing up my boots and jeans for my trek to Arizona I was ready for a temporary role shift and some horse & yoga indulgences of my own.  Perphaps even a few revelations and epiphanies of my own as well.

I knew there would be mind/body practices in Shelley and Nancy’s equine program but when I received the email 3 days before leaving for Arizona stating, “Bring yoga clothes for the morning,” I nearly wept from excitement–seriously.  I had been putting self-care on the back-burner for a while; a fact that came fully into focus while giving my “Room to Breath” self-care workshop to a room full of women desperately in need of self-care a few weeks prior.  I was exhausted, I was drained, and part of me was wishing to be on the other end of the room–to be more participant than guide (although I love both roles in their own way). 

What is it about the nature of a woman that makes us constantly take from our own personal well of energy long past the time that every drip has been ladled out of it–until we are digging up moist dirt looking for water?  That is a mostly rhetorical question because I could give about 50 answers off the top of my head–ones that always come up when I give self-care workshops and ones that always resonate with me being someone who preaches far more than I practice when it comes to self-nurturing activities.

Well, I thought, I would, finally, give back to me.  And the deliciousness of yoga mornings, greeted by a dawning sun in the guesthouse of a cozy Arizona farm, was definitely enough to bring tears to my tired eyes.  Since ending yoga school for my teacher training life had caught up with me fast between a new job, private practice, workshops, and fine-tuning materials for upcoming trainings, not to mention 3 weeks of a killer sinus infection.  I had not even had time to maintain my own personal yoga practice in any way.  I needed a dose of the yogic in a big way.  I always felt the response of my body, mind, and spirit when I fell into a yoga drought–my brain got more distracted and white noise crept in, my body stiffened up, and my shoulder muscles tightened to rigid blocks of muscular tissue.  I felt distanced from any semblance of soulful peace.

CHECKING INTO THE OM HOTEL…

So, you may be wondering, what is the Om Hotel?  Is it a place? Is it a state of mind? The answer is–yes.  You create the space in a place and it becomes the conduit to a state of mind.  The place can be as simple as a yoga mat or a wooden floor or if you have a penchant for improvisation, it can even be on the back of the horse.  It can be a squared off corner of a room, or a particular room in a house, or an Arizonan guesthouse down a quiet dirt road with plenty of sunlight, soft yogic crooning, and a singing bowl or two.  The latter is where I laid myself at 9:00am on the first day of the “Riding Your Way Into a Mutual Relationship” workshop which Shelley and Nancy had crafted with the Epona Method as a base and the flavors of their expertise sprinkled throughout which, to my great delight included a very qualified psychotherapist yoga teacher at one end (Nancy) and an expertly intuitive horsewoman at the other (Shelley).

My “Om Hotel” experience began every morning for 3 days with a fluid, peaceful, and restorative yoga practice led by Nancy which was such a gentle yawn into the morning I could have spent about 3 hours in the guesthouse studio.  Nancy wove together the best of somatics and language from both psychotherapy such that the merging was seamless and helped evoke people’s true states of self without feeling invasive or probing.  Her postures were gentle and meditative, bringing the practice to a room full of horsewomen without yoga background in such a palatable way that it left them all wanting to go home and begin a regular practice of their own–which I always love to hear.

The studio walls were coated in a sunlight shade of yellow and mats were lined across the cream tile urging anyone entering to melt into the cool earth and let their yoga take them away from the external and come back to the root of themselves.  As I always like to quote e.e. cummings, taking us equine yoginis on a journey to, “…the root of the root and the bud of the bud and the sky of the sky of a tree called life.”  There were sun salutations, light meditations, restorative postures, and soft melodies; the perfect sampler of the practice to a room of beginners and one lapsed-yogini in need for a lot of softness in her practice.

The “Om Hotel” practice provided me with a return to my inner yogini with a side of self-reflection and introspection.  I loved the morning practices and relished a return to my private practice every evening, returning to the Xanadu Ranch and taking my practice to a comforting place–for muscles sore from saddle sitting and other unfamiliar farm-related aches.  Another beautiful revelation was the increasing level of yogi in each of the workshop participants leading to the creation, by Cathy (one of the participants with a very earthy sensibility and highly attuned intuition), of such equine/yogic terms as “om trot” and “spiritual legs”.  I was in love with the blossoming of vocabulary and the embracing of the yogic in the equine.  Although my ability to achieve my own “om trot” later in the week was quite a difficult thing.

THE PRANA EQUUS IN ACTION…

Prana, in yogic terms, is the vital life-sustaining force that is the root of our root and is embodied in our breath–life begins and ends with breath and, in my study, how we breathe says a lot about how we live.  The same can be said about how we ride.  Our breath acts as a barometer for our emotional experience and while riding your horse, part of the communication in the “mutual relationship” and the language we silently convey to the horse, comes in the forms of movement and breath.  Much like in yoga it is in the movement and breath that all communication and all of the emotional experience is acted out.  So to find your yoga in the equine is crucial in my opinion–and luckily, it seems, it also is the same for Nancy and Shelley’s work and workshops.  I loved how much they integrated body awareness, emotional experience in the body, and our body and breath language into their workshop–for me it proved to be even more revelational than I expected.  And resonated so much with the work I had been doing integrating the two practices together in my own little South Florida pietry dish of life.

My riding, I have learned, brings out all of the survival mechanism responses and discomfort spoken in physiology which I will discuss more in the next few posts.  This was a vital deepening of my own body awareness and attunement to how the oldest of habits die hard.  I carried my om with me and my breath skills as much as I could but my personal mounted equine work definitely tested my yogic capacities.  

I am one of those people for whom it is difficult enough to, say, tie my shoes and chew gum symultaneously let alone find my horseback seat, balance, breath, and hand placement–this I am going to need to work on.  Perhaps I need to chew gum and tie my shoes more often to build the tactile multitasking.  For now I am going to try a few oms to recalibrate my brain after an already long week–even longer while reminscing and longing for days spent alongside roundpens, on horseback, or on a yoga mat.  There is something diminishing about the return to an office-based week and paperwork-laden life.  Here is hoping all of you find a little bit of “The Om Hotel” in your daily life!

Stay tuned for the upcoming posts in this series:

  • RUNAWAY BRIDLE: THAT WHICH IS LOST & FOUND AMID HORSES
  • FEET FIRST: A HORSEWOMAN-STYLED REFLEXOLOGY
  • REFLECTIVE ROUNDPENNING & BOUNDARY GOATS
  • ….& ending with a NEW interview with yoga & equine enthusiast, Margaret Burns vap of COWGIRL YOGA & BIG SKY YOGA RETREATS!

“The infinite is in the finite of every instant.”

Zen Proverb

Pegasus on Pont Alexandre, Paris by Max London.

O for a horse with wings!

William Shakespeare


SO THIS IS YOUR PASSION?

I am sitting on the plane trying to whittle out the nuances of stories, looking for a way to bottle the last three days of experiences in the container of words.  It’s hard.  The woman next to me looks anxious and I brace myself for another flight next to a severe flight-o-phobe but instead she asks me why I was in Tucson while staring with curious amusement at the large and stiff ring of rope I am trying to stuff below my seat.  I say, “Horses,” but seeing that she isn’t quite satisfied and her eyes, still shifting between me and my lasso ring, are asking for a little more than a one word description.

I pause, thinking how to encapsulate what I was doing in Arizona, knowing that whatever I say could be less than enlightened.  I tell her I am a mental health therapist and I work with horses to help people through emotional problems but admit that I am trying to learn more about riding and horsemanship for my work.  She pauses and then in rich rolling espanol she says, “So this is your passion?”  Both question and answer, as if something in my eyes or the tone of my voice revealed the not-so-hidden-truth.  I smile, sigh a deep ujjayi breath, and say, “Yes.”

THE PRELUDE…

I knew in going on this journey out west and into the mountain-ridged skies of Arizona that I would be confronted with many things: emotional truths, passions envisioned, and dreams taking flight.  I set out from West Palm Beach prepared with pen in hand, yoga pants in tow, and hiking boots–yes, I still had not yet managed to get myself a good pair of riding boots.  I knew there would be yoga, creative exercises, mindfulness, and riding.  It was a yogini-equine-therapist-writer’s dream!  Although, before even landing I was already very nervous about the riding.

My riding experience was limited to the blissful summer camp experience and a variety of trail rides in a variety of countries; all with horses that were either spastic or sleepy from being over-riden by clunky tourists (like myself).  All my therapeutic “horsemanship” came from face-to-face time with my four-legged counterparts, not bottom-to-back.  I remembered the little girl who fearlessly cantered on her last day of summer camp and I hoped to rediscover some of her bliss–but I was afraid that age had only instilled skepticism and fear where imagination and bravery used to reside.  But as my stomach flopped with daydreams and fantasy I was hoping there was as much childlike excitement to outweigh the adult mind’s pesky critical thinking.

CHASING DREAMS TO THE BORDER OF MEXICO.

In the southeast corner of the southwest, an hour south of Tucson and less than an hour north of Mexico sits the unassuming town of Sonoita where the biggest restaurant is gas station adjacent and you can map out every constellation in the night sky.  I had chased my passion all the way to the Mexican border and found bliss on the first morning waking at the Xanadu Ranch, named by the owners since they had carried the sign and their horses from Ohio to New Mexico and finally settling on a large stretch of land in Sonoita.  Three black horses grazed in the tall dry grasses and the quiet of the air and the laziness of the hammock out in front of my door made me think I could spend days just hammocking my way to a higher state of being.

I had come out here to commit.  To commit to the dream of mine that included horses, yoga, and healing–something I believed in so strongly and had seen impact people so profoundly but I wanted to experience it at the other end of the lunge line and see what my clients saw.  In creating Prana Equus I knew I was giving myself over to my dreams but in coming out to Sonoita I was giving the dream wings and seeing what magic might come from seeing a space of healing outside of my own little cul-de-sac space with Angel Smile Farms and Maurette in South Florida.

I think the first morning, 9:00am, sun brightly shining through the windows of Shelley Rosenberg and Nancy Coyne’s yoga house on the property of their home and their barn, breathing in unison with my workshop-mates Deb, Cathy, and Ann at the direction of Nancy Coyne (MD, psychiatrist, and yogini-du-joir) I realized this was a special space and I was about to share a wonderful three days with a beautiful mosaic of souls.  Maybe horses can’t sprout wings like the golden Pegausus in the photo above but my dreams and my work with them felt like they were already taking flight to new and beautiful lands–in my mind and on the ground in every deep ujjayi breath.

So. This is my passion.

Nancy whispered softly with a little hint of jest, “Welcome ladies to the Om Hotel…you can check out, but…well you know the rest.”  I felt like I had come home inside and out.

CHECK OUT THE NEXT POST IN THE SERIES “GREETINGS FROM THE OM HOTEL”…UPCOMING!

Plane Wing by aka Kath. //

The modern airplane creates a new geographical dimension.  A navigable ocean of air blankets the whole surface of the globe.  There are no distant places any longer:  the world is small and the world is one.

Wendell Willkie

Well, maybe not my life but definitely the last month feels like it has been more in flight that on the ground.  I have been flying and flying and flying and between plane changes and 24 hour turnarounds between trips I find myself contemplating the excitement of what my next beverage will be on my next flight–seltzer or tomato juice or tea, oh my–or who my intimate plane seat companions will be.

Heading from NJ to Palm Beach in April after giving a training “Emotion In Motion: Yoga for Trauma Survivors” I sat next to a woman with a flying phobia who downed two Bloody Marys while asking me questions like, “How do you think this heavy metal can stay in the air without careening to the ground?” and “What does it mean when the plane shakes like this?”.  We discussed breathing and grounding methods, although she seemed to prefer the liquid courage to my techniques and I gave her my card, at her request, before we disembarked.

On the way back from my sister’s college graduation in NJ heading to Ft Lauderdale I found myself next to an elderly Messianic with loose teeth which, mid-nap, mid-flight, and mid-drool, accidentally lost their grip on the gums they were held to and his dentures flopped suddenly onto his shirt.  Later in the flight as we were landing he asked, “Young lady, what do you do for a living? I saw you scribbling the whole trip.”  I had been engrossed in my audio from the IAEDP (International Association of Eating Disorder Professionals) Conference and was writing down notes, apparently copious enough to rouse even my dormant elderly seat neighbor.  When I told him I was a therapist he proceeded to disclose, quite loudly, that his nephew sitting in the seat in front of us was dyslexic and had “a lot of problems”.  He also discussed the mission of the masons to give money towards good causes in anonymity to avoid accolades saying, “We do good but we don’t need or want people to know about it.”  My husband assured me later that, that is because free masons run the world; if running the world means anonymous donations to good causes then I will take more of that in the world–although perhaps with a little less of the denture mishaps.

Waiting for my delayed flight back again at the West Palm Beach airport, eagerly anticipating my Equine training in Arizona, I took a moment’s reprieve on the $1.00 massae chair tucked behind the newstand.  The 10-year-old boy gleefully “riding” the chair next to me like it was a carousel asked if I was a teenager.  I replied, “I am a little bit older than a teenager.”  The boy’s younger brother came running over and chimed in, “She’s not a teenager!  She’s a mommy! You are a mommy aren’t you?”  I tried to explain that I was not a teenager or a mommy but apparently the delineation of any role between teenager and mommy didn’t compute to the 10 and under crowd.  I left before I had to pick on category between the two.

The West Palm Beach flight finally took off and upon landing in Fort Worth/Dallas airport (the first leg of my journey to Arizona) a toddler sitting in the row in front of me lifted his hands in the air emphatically and shouted, “All done!”  Although I was not done with my flights for the day, I still had an hour wait and a flight to Tucson ahead of me I was definitely “all done” with the plane delays and the uncomfortable position of being in the person in the  middle seat which was code for “one-who-gets-no-arm-rest”.

Flying back from Arizona I met a melange of interesting characters between 3 airports and a 3 1/2 hour layover in Dallas/Ft Worth I met a woman traveling from Sierra Vista , AZ to go to her grandchild’s graduation and asked me (when I told her I was a therapist) if there is such thing as sex addiction.  I met woman flying to New York to visit her boyfriend and about to move across the country from Arizona with her children in a month to live with him on the east coast.  I met a trainer of airplane pilots who flies for free and asked me about real estate in South Florida as he is beginning to plan for retirement.  Oh, and a little British boy who had way too many “sweeties” in his system and could not stop making noises like a Halloween wind-up toy: “Wooo hooo hooo haaa haa haa!”

So I have been in a haze of rumbling engines, condensed air, tray tables, and iphone records for the past month.  Turbulence, turbulence.  Prayers, prayers.  Complimentary beverages and in-flight yoga stretches.  And passing the time with the vocal stylings of talents like Marsha Linehan (creator of DBT, zen& centering prayer enthusiast), Bessel van der Kolk (trauma guru), Andrew Weil (natural medicine titan), and the cast of the Integrative Mental Health Conference, Psychotherapy Networker Symposium, and IAEDP Conference (all great performances if you can get them on audio).  And, yes, I am a nerd.  While others are listening to jazz, country, pop, or musicals I am listening raptly to the rhythm of psychological exploration and the melody of theory and practice.  Hence the psycho-nerdish scribblings my Messianic neighbor astutely observed.

One training given, one training taken, and one sister’s college graduation attended–all respectively amazing and profound in their own wonderful ways.  I am finally just sitting back and absorbing the sum total and taking the time to breathe–between having seen a client in North Palm Beach, running to teach a yoga for trauma class in Lake Worth and then back to Delray to discuss potentially giving some educational programming on Centering Prayer (Christian contemplative practices) in my local spiritual community.

So, between trips, starting a new job, and 3 weeks of a monster of a bronchial sinus illness, the blog has been so sparse!  I apologize sincerely and promise that beyond a few new interviews on their way, some great activities I am so excited about on the horizon, I have a whole series I will be dedicating at least the next few weeks to but probably about a month in total around equine therapy, yoga, passion, and an amazing experience in Sonoita, Arizona with SHELLEY ROSENBERG, NANCY COYNE and my lovely group members for this training DEB, CATHY, and ANN.  I am excited about this new leg of both my cerebral and visceral journey and to explore the profoundness of this trot into the new with all of you!  I will begin with my first post tonight or tomorrow but in the meantime please feel free to look back at the preceeding equine posts to get in the zone :).

HORSE & YOGA POSTS ROUND-UP…

Equine Enamored: Adventures in Equine Facilitated Psychotherapy

http://myembodiment.com/2009/10/25/equine-enamored-adventures-in-equine-facilitated-psychotherapy/

Present Moment Living: Horses, Yoga, Therapy & How They All Come Together

http://myembodiment.com/2009/11/23/present-moment-living-horses-yoga-therapy-how-they-all-come-together/

Yogic Equus Part 1: Finding the Yogic in the Equine

http://myembodiment.com/2009/12/07/yogic-equus-part-1-finding-the-yogic-in-the-equine/

Yogic Equus Part 2: Horse as Metaphor for Relationship

http://myembodiment.com/2009/12/14/yogic-equus-part-2-horse-as-metaphor-for-relationship/

Horses & Finding Freedom

http://myembodiment.com/2010/01/28/horses-finding-freedom/

Q&A with Nancy Coyne, MD:  Trauma Therapist, Yogini, and EFP Practitioner

http://myembodiment.com/2010/02/28/q-a-with-nancy-coyne-md-trauma-therapist-yogini-efp-practitioner/

Q&A with Shelley Rosenberg: Horsewoman, Author, Trauma Survivor

http://myembodiment.com/2010/03/03/qa-with-shelley-rosenberg-horsewoman-author-trauma-survivor/

30 Days of gratitude- Day 16 by aussiegall.

At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person.
Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.

Albert Schweitzer


Hello All & An Early Happy Weekend!  Between being sick with a sinus infection since this past weekend and back to the doctor for a second time this afternoon for a nebulizer treatment of albuterol due to serious bronchial issues from a secondary infection I have been a bit of a sick-ful mess this week.  I was, as well as the rest of the sick staff at my job, pretty much ordered to go home and get well which I hope to do!

I have been left with little time, energy, and unfevered brainspace with which to write this week and I missed it.  I really relish the reflective moments on this blog and love to share in the community of the blogosphere!  Next week promises to be HEALTHFUL and BLOGFUL if I can get myself back on track internally and externally to do so.

I had my clients in group today end the week with a statement of gratitude to begin their weekend and I would like to do the same and go back to my enjoyable past time of a Friday LIST! Yay!  Fevers make me a bit punchy and jubilant–when not coughy and curmudgenly (also aliteration inspired apparently).  And I think ESPECIALLY when we feel low and depleted it is important to reflect on the metaphorical food that feeds us.  The literal food that feeds me today is pizza and sinus medication.

10 THINGS I AM GRATEFUL FOR RIGHT NOW ARE….

1. …A husband that will bring me soup on a tray and a seltzer in bed when I am hacking up my lungs.

2. …A wonderful holistic community in South Florida that continues to amaze me with the passionate professionals in mental health and beyond that are working to bring care to people : mind, body, and spirit.

3. …Sunshine.  I don’t think I even want to take for granted to wonders of sunshine and the plentiful sun of South Florida.  To be able to take a therapy group outside and by the beach is an amazing blessing.

4. …To be able to teach what I love to those who want to hear about it.  The other day I mentioned to a co-worker that when I was a child I wanted to be a teacher and a detective.  She replied, “So you sort of did that then didn’t you?”  I laughed and thought that is true–as therapist alone I am sort of an investigator of the psyche and teacher of coping skills.  It is even more rewarding that I get to be part of an academic sphere even beyond that–giving back what I learn as therapist-detective-teacher with my clients to other passionate professionals.

5. …Family.  I have an immediate and extended family and circle of friends that, especially hearing so much about the painful family histories of my clients, I know how lucky I am to have a system of support, caring, and mutual respect that many people struggle long and hard to find one tenth of the same.

6. …Yoga.  Especially lately with changing jobs and getting sick and having almost 3 WEEKS now yoga-less I am reminded again of how much yoga is at the core of my own grounding, self-care, and centering.  I gave a Self Care workshop last Friday (right before getting sick) in Delray Beach and I found myself leaving rejuvenated by the energy of the collective of women giving back a little peace to themselves–and found myself hungry for more moments of the same for myself.  I am so thankful for my yoga practice and cannot wait to stop hacking up my lungs and start down-dogging myself and my  limbs back to limber bliss.

7. …Virtual Communities & Live Communities.  There is so much power in the intimacy of a collective–whether in cyberspace or in physical presence–the healing power of communities and sharing constantly astounds me.  There is such a profoundness in group therapy–I love leading groups in collective healing and love any form of collective healing–community acupuncture, community EMDR (both which are done at my current job for patients), group equine facilitated psychotherapy programs, group creative arts workshops (like are being explored at the WISH STUDIO), and all avenues of sharing life experience and the journeys with others.

8. …The beautiful ANGEL SMILE FARMS in Loxahatchee where I cannot wait to begin presenting PRANA EQUUS workshops for self-care through yoga, creative arts, mindfulness, and equine relational activities!

9. …What I learn daily from others.  My clients are so profound–and often most profound when they don’t even intend it.  I love being able to take their journeys with them and in the process move forward on my own path with the richness of their experiences and their own revelations about life, self, and happiness.

10. Being asked to present at the 2010 National NARHA Conference in Denver!  I just found out today & I cannot wait.  Both because I always miss Colorado since I moved away in 2003 and because I cannot wait to talk with a national audience of equine mental health professionals about this integrative programming I am so passionate for–bringing yoga, horses, and mental health together in a creative package.  Check out this link for more information on the conference (I will also be speaking with Maurette Hanson at the Region 5 NARHA Conference in Alabama in August): http://www.narha.org/Conference/2010/Conference2010Home.asp

Breathe Deeply by creativedc.

“It is impossible to be in a state of panic and to breath deeply, slowly, quietly and regularly.  It cannot coexist.

The subjective experience of anxiety is often of being out of control.  If you deal with this by giving a patient a drug you are reinforcing the notion that the locus of control is outside.  If patients can discover that they have within them access to controls over emotional states it is a revelation.  And when you try to deal with this with an outside suppressive measure the effectiveness of the measure decreases with frequency of use. Whereas when you rely on an innate measure like this the power of technique increases with repetition.  This is the single most effective anti-anxiety measure I have come across (breathing exercise).

When I tell colleagues about it it is TOO simple.  How did we get to this state where we think the only effective medical treatment is drugs? ”

BY DR. ANDREW WEIL,  BREATHWORK Workshop, INTEGRATIVE MENTAL HEALTH CONFERENCE 2010.

BREATHWORK:

I am a huge proponent of breath as a potent healing activity and so I was excited when I got my 2 disc CD recording of the first ever INTEGRATIVE MENTAL HEALTH CONFERENCE in the mail and found an entire workshop with Dr. Andrew Weil on a biological, neurological, scientific and psychological affirmation of the power of breath for healing!  His quote above only touches on the mastery of the workshop, the hopefulness of breathwork integration in the field of psychotherapy, and plenty of rich data from the anthropological to the biological as to why breath can alleviate many of the ills we, as a society, might presently over-medicate before looking for alternate solutions.  He perfectly synthesizes above the crux of the reason why internal resources can be more potent and long lasting than chemical and external solutions for issues of anxiety.

In Dr. Weil’s workshop “Breathwork for Optimum Health” he discusses breath as the “Master Key” and I could not think of a more apt description of this tool that I have imparted to every client I see–and so, apparently, does Dr. Weil.  I feel in good company.  He stated that his simple breath exercise, similar in structure to my own, is the one thing he teaches everyone he sees.  I take clients through a breathing exercise and ask them how they feel, when they say how relaxed they feel I remind them that THEY not I got themselves to that state of relaxation.  I may have said the words but the only thing that got their body and mind relaxed was their own body and mind.  Another thing I was excited to hear resonate with Dr. Weil’s description above of the internal resources versus the external crutches that over-medicating can produce.  We have such powers for change inside ourselves which I explored in the NEUROBIOLOGY & NEUROPLASTICITY post a short while ago–we just don’t tap into that power for change for the positive nearly enough.

If I can teach one client breath and they can sleep better, calm down faster, diminish their anger in one situation they would not have had the internal resources to deal with prior then, to me, it is a valuable tool.  When I hear a COMBAT MARINE VETERAN tell me he is practicing alternate nostril breathing at home for anger and sleep or another telling me that he presses his palms together at his chest and practices nostril breathing for anxiety, both with amazing anecdotal results, then I can say that if it works for them it could work for any of us–given the chance!

If you have not tried a basic breathing practice then maybe just try listening to a quick soundbite, mp3, cd of a simple breathing technique or maybe I can outline a simple one on the site if there is interest.

INTEGRATIVE MENTAL HEALTH CONFERENCE:

Am I a nerd because I checked my mail anxiously every day awaiting it’s arrival?  Answer is: yes!  But I was waiting all last week to receive the INTEGRATIVE MENTAL HEALTH CONFERENCE recordings as I could not make it to the conference but I wanted to imbibe every moment of the rich material with speakers like Jon Kabat–Zinn, Dr. Weil, Amy Weintraub and many other academics, researchers, and practitioners in the field of integrative practices for mental health and wellness.  The CDs, which contain 40 hours of material, are a rich and hopeful array of work in this field and an inspiration of what is possible within the field.

The conference was made up of social workers, nurses, doctors, psychologists and psychiatrists and was sold out weeks before the event.  If this doesn’t show the hunger in the health and mental health field for treatments outside of the scope of what western medicine is capable of then I don’t know what is.  It shows that this field is burgeoning and that more professionals than ever before are integrating holistic approaches into the course of traditional treatments they already provide.  The point of INTEGRATIVE is not to get rid of anything just to find the perfect complement of what is being done and what else can be added to the equation for more effective results for a whole person: mind, body, and spirit.

The recordings are phenomenal and I recommend them to any professional in the healthcare field or any person interested in a variety of treatment approaches for their own health–body and mind.  The conference sessions can be purchased as a complete set or a-la-carte per workshop for $15.00 per session.  Each one has a dense collection of material and each presentation gives a variety of resources where you can learn more about the practices discussed in the lecture–a lovely bonus.

A few of the amazing lectures included:

  • The Psychoneuroimmunology of Resilience, Optimism, and Hope
  • Mind-Body Medicine: Clinical Hypnosis for Medical and Mental Health Conditions
  • Transforming Your Mind: Meditation and Neuroplasticity
  • Spirituality and Mental Health: Paradigms and Evidence
  • Deficiencies in Omega 3-EFAs & Substance Abuse Mechanisms
  • Creating the Chemistry of Joy
  • A Vision of the Future of Integrative Mental Health
  • Lifeforce Yoga: Empower Your CLients to Manage Their Moods

Can you see why I was in love with these CDS?

For more information on the Conference & The hosting facility ARIZONA CENTER FOR INTEGRATIVE MEDICINE: http://integrativemedicine.arizona.edu/integrative_mental_health_conference.html

For more information on the recordings go to: http://www.conferencerecording.com/aaaListTapes.asp?CID=IMH10


Breathe by szlea.

Fear less, hope more; Eat less, chew more; Whine less, breathe more; Talk less, say more; Love more, and all good things will be yours

SWEDISH PROVERB

Everything in life lately seems to be both sped up and slowed down simultaneously;  it seems that way when we are on the precipice of the new and the verge of jumping out of the old.  When things shift in our world they can appear seismic and one shift can propel multiple shifts–with the change of pace to our life steps we can, in the process, leave people, lose people, separate from what doesn’t work from what was and finding what could work in the new.  What an exhilarating thing–the possibility of possibilities!  And how frightening as well.

As I launch of the edge in my present life and change the pace of my step I am both these things–exhilarated and frightened.  I think about my clients, coming into a therapy office is often the precipice of life–wanting something new, something else than what we have created in our world but so afraid of what that change could mean.  For a trauma survivor change means opening up the wounds of old ghosts and the things that haunt us, having to look them head on, and find a way to move beyond survival living and finding a way to thrive in existence.  For persons suffering from the disease of addiction coming into therapy or treatment means owning up to the first STEP in the recovery process: Admitting that my life has become unmanageable and I have no control over my addiction.  But isn’t that the way with all of us when we have to own up to what is not working in our life–admit that there is a problem and that life has become unmanageable as is.  What a brave thing to do!…And how frightening.

And so I return to breath as I often do in times of stress and renewal.  Breath is our life source, our origin, our beginning and our end is all breath and silence.  So we can go back to the root of ourselves through breath and silence.  I teach my clients breath first to find a way to bear the daunting task ahead–change.  And I constantly remind myself to return to breath when life and those in it surprise, disappoint, injure, or exhilarate.  Yesterday I taught a workshop at THE RED TENT in Delray Beach, Florida and I told a wonderful and strong group of women the importance of breath and keeping one’s gaze on a fixed point in life and in yoga, because without it we cannot maintain balance through the chaos and storms that always, inevitably come.  I continue to remind myself, as I do my clients to do this–breathe, find inner silence, and keep my gaze on the fixed point in the distance.

What is your stability–the point you can fix your gaze on in your life?

When do you find silence and breath in your day?

20 minutes dedicated to YOU per day can make a vital shift internally to help find the resilience and resolve to deal with all the externals that life throws at us!

Give yourself some time, some care, and some room to breathe.

PLEASE TAKE SOME TIME CHECK OUT MY NEW VIRTUAL WORKSHOP now available at THE WISH STUDIO called, apropos, ROOM TO BREATHE!  I AM VERY EXCITED ABOUT THIS NEW VENTURE THAT HAS BEEN SOME MONTHS IN THE WORKS!

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http://wishstudio.com/events/

And I wanted to thank Durga at YOGA OF RECOVERY for linking to the EMBODY MENTAL HEALTH TIMES PAGE!  Thank you Durga for both your thoughtful interview and your virtual “shout-out” to the mission of this blog and EMBODY MENTAL HEALTH of being able to discuss on issues of integrative and complementary mental health!  See Durga’s interview in the previous post.

I realized that in my excitement to present this exciting interview with everyone I neglected to give a paragraph primer for this wonderful woman and yoga professional, Durga!  Most of what is most interesting about her life story, her work, and her process of creating YOGA OF RECOVERY is in the interview below but I will give you a little bit to introduce and thank Durga for her her thoughtful interview.  I approached Durga via email a short while ago asking if she might have a moment for an email interview for this blog and the EMBODY MENTAL HEALTH TIMES blog.  She graciously gave me more of her time and her poetic prose than I could have asked for and as you will see below her story is moving, profound, and passion-filled–all the best that one can find in the field of integrative and complementary mental health treatment!  I thank Durga for her efforts in creating YOGA OF RECOVERY and for sharing her journey with me and the readers of these blogs!

Q:  How was “Yoga of Recovery” created?  What made you decide to combine aspects of yoga, ayurveda, and the 12 step process for recovery from addiction?

I had originally gone to an ashram in a bid to stop smoking, on a challenge from my therapist, who had diagnosed me as clinically depressed and suggested that I see a psychiatrist to be prescribed medication.  I was wary of being medicated.  I was still using nicotine (15+ cigarettes per day) but was being advised to bring in another chemical to help my mood and mind. I was 18 months abstinent from alcohol at this time.

During my ‘trying to stop smoking’ period, I attended a party hosted by my AA Sponsor and met a woman there who suggested that I go to the Sivananda Ashram in Grass Valley, California, as a supportive way to get through the initial days of abstinence from cigarettes. At the ashram, smoking was not allowed and the busy schedule with practices of yoga and breathing exercises would help me connect to a healthy more conscious way to the body. I knew I needed to be sequestered from society in order to achieve complete abstinence!  In the back of my mind, I also knew that I had unrealistic expectations about the anti-depressants they were planning to give me, I was looking for the “Happy Pill” and would be disappointed with anything less.  I had a sneaking suspicion that an anti-depressant would not meet my expectations of chemically-induced happiness.

I went to the ashram to support my recovery and I have been relieved of my nicotine obsession for over 9 years now.  I am also medication-free.

During one of my stays at the ashram, I heard a lecture on Ayurveda, the science of healing. Ayurveda says that disease begins when we forget our true nature as spirit – we forget that Divinity resides within each of us.  If we understand ourselves only as body and mind, we become wrapped up in the nature of the physical world. This was very interesting to me as it fit with what I’d been told in AA – that addiction was a “spiritual malady” and that I was “spiritually sick”.  The Big Book of AA says that we are “beyond human aid.  Our human resources, as marshaled by the will, were not sufficient: they failed utterly”.  I had never considered that prospect/explanation before entering AA but when I heard it there it did make sense to me – the more efforts I made to marshal my will and stop drinking and smoking, the more I felt an utter failure, never being able to manage what I set out to do.

My work now is bringing this message to others who suffer from addiction or who have been impacted by addiction. My desire is to help others remember that essential piece that I, and others have forgotten: our true nature as spirit.

Yoga of Recovery is a body of work that introduces people to the Yoga philosophy, Ayurveda and 12 Step Recovery. These systems of healing are complementary and provide guidance for us to develop a fit spiritual condition on our journey to the perfection of the soul.

Q:  What is your background in the field of addiction?  What made you passionate about assisting others in their recovery process?

My background is simply my family of origin, some might also say the country where I was raised – Scotland!  It caused me great pain as an adolescent to see my mother succumb to the disease of alcoholism, which I know first hand to be progressive and fatal, it took 20 years to kill her.  During that time I became the thing I most ‘hated’, the alcoholic, so I was angry, confused, scared, lonely and baffled – I had moved to England to escape the pain of alcoholism and found that ‘wherever you go, there you are’.

Q:  What drew you, personally, to the practice of yoga, meditation, and the healing techniques of Ayurveda?

Even as a practicing alcoholic I was drawn to yoga, I had been a member of the Sivananda Yoga Center in London before I moved to the US.  I would go a few times per week for a hatha yoga class, and that was one area of my life that I felt good about, I was doing something worthwhile and self-caring, but it ran right alongside the many other self-destructive things I was doing, that I just could not stop.

Q:  What drew you to the Sivananda yoga tradition?  How has your experience been within this community?

As I mentioned, I had began my practice of yoga at the Sivananda center in London about 20 years ago.  Somewhere I picked up a leaflet about an Open Day at their center on a Saturday and  I went along.  I enjoyed the class, was not so sure about the ‘Om-ing and chanting’ but went ahead and signed up for a Yoga I Class then a Yoga II then I became a member and continued to go to open yoga classes after work and at weekends.  I lived about a 15 minute drive away from the London Center.  After some years I moved to the US (a geographic!) and got into recovery in AA and was undergoing the agony of ‘trying’to stop smoking.  Through my AA Sponsor I met a woman who suggested I go to the Sivananda Ashram Yoga Farm to help me get through the initial few days of abstinence from cigarettes.  I looked them up online and realized they were only about a one hour drive from where I lived in the US, and that they were the people I did yoga with in London so felt comfortable enough to book a Yoga Beginners Week.  I was nervous about being in a retreat, an ashram, I had only done yoga class with them before, however, I went and have been going back there ever since, that was April 2001.

I believe now that the Guru and karma pulls you back to the place where you belong, Sivananda has become a second home to me.  I love it especially because they offer a synthesis of the yogic paths.  I enjoy (and need) the discipline of the daily schedule and I have a great respect and honor for the Swamis of the organization and the staff, who are all volunteers, working selflessly to bring yoga to the guests who come to the ashrams.  I meet amazing, interesting people from all over the world.  It is a blessing to be a part of such an organization.

Q:  Is “Yoga of Recovery” based on the practices and postures of the Sivananda tradition?  How is “Yoga for Recovery” different, augmented, or specially sensitized for helping persons recovering from addiction?

“Yoga of Recovery” is based on the practices of classical yoga, which includes the Four Paths of Yoga – Karma Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Raja Yoga and Jnana Yoga.  When taught at Sivananda ashrams the asana classes are based on the sequence of postures given to us by Swami Vishnu-devananda.

When teaching the course for counselors we have yoga teachers and non-yoga teachers (social workers, youth leaders, therapists etc.) so these classes are different.  The YoR course is not exclusively a hatha yoga training course. We honor the training the yoga teachers come in with and develop their ability to teach to the varied audiences of people in recovery by bringing the wisdom of the 4 paths of yoga to the physical practice of yoga.  Yoga teachers learn how to augment and be sensitive to the needs and vulnerabilities of persons recovering from addiction.  The physical practice encompasses spiritual, emotional, and pranic aspects of healing.

Q: When did you create this program?  What is the focus of the retreats? What tools and skills did you want to impart to your students/retreat participants?

I undertook my studies of Yoga and Ayurveda for the purpose of improving my own health and well-being and to bring holistic healing to people in recovery.  My own recovery began in 1999; my studies began in 2001; we offered the first Yoga of Recovery retreat in August 2005.  The focus of the retreats is a consideration of the story of our addiction – how we act out and why.  We then look at the understanding and description of disease according to yoga and Ayurveda.  Guests learn about their unique Ayurvedic constitution and their tendencies.  By understanding their Ayurvedic constitution, they learn the areas in which they may become vulnerable when under stress – and they can determine what kinds of activities and changes in their lifestyle can best help them restore balance in mind and body.  We discuss simple and practical methods to maintain health and prevent disease through the use of such tools as proper daily and seasonal routines.  We aim to revitalize the body’s systems and boost the immune system so we have a strong foundation in health to face the challenges and stresses of daily life without resorting/relapsing into old addictive behaviors.

When people are introduced to the Yogic psychology of how to deal with the mind, the Yogic philosophy of the Self, and the practice an Ayurvedic lifestyle, and make use of these alongside the principles of the 12 steps, they then have a truly empowering personal program of recovery.

Q: When did you create the Training and Certification part of your program? What specialized expertise or knowledge does a professional yoga teacher or mental health professional come away with when attending your Certificate training in “Yoga of Recovery”?

The first Yoga of Recovery for Counselors Training was offered in August 2008 in response to demand from people who wanted a more in-depth training so they could use the tools in their work.  It is the first comprehensive course to combine Ayurveda and Yoga with traditional recovery tools to offer a more holistic mind, body, spirit approach to addiction and self-destructive behaviors.  The course is for therapists, social workers, addiction counselors, sponsors, yoga teachers, Ayurvedic practitioners etc. Anyone interested in a more holistic and complete view of the problem and its solution.
Upon completion of the course they have the skills to introduce the healing potential of the holistic sciences of Ayurveda and Yoga into their own life and those around them.

Those in counseling roles leave with additional tools and a deeper understanding of the comprehensive approach to wellness, emotional sobriety and sustained spiritual development using Ayurveda and Yoga as extension therapies to any 12 Step work.

Yoga teachers become uniquely qualified and more confident to teach yoga in rehabs or to people in recovery from any addiction by fully understanding the root of the problem and the holistic approach, extended from limited understanding of substance abuse/behavioral problems to be treated with asana alone, to a full range of therapies for mind, body and spirit from these powerful healing modalities.

Q:  What effects or changes have you seen in persons coming to your retreat programs?  What have you seen or experienced in teaching this method that has surprised you?  What has been most rewarding about the experience?

Perhaps here I can let guests of the retreat answer this from the comments we have received from them – their response is what is rewarding for me..

“The retreat was an amazing life-changing event for me.  It worked for me mentally, spiritually and physically.  I left feeling inspired, refreshed, renewed, full of hope, strong and satisfied.  The lessons continue to grow each day so, for me, the work was substantial, not hype.  The workshops were great, useful, practical, well prepared and presented…The retreat is important for us in recovery. More please!”

WA, Reno NV

I can’t speak highly enough of the Yoga of Recovery course.  After 14 years in a 12 Step Program … I had a spiritual awakening.  Durga’s blending of the divinely inspired path to recovery of the 12 Step Program, with the Yogic path…and the tool box…is the Key to my recovery.  This is a wonderful program … it can only help everyone on a 12 Step program.

VM, Bahamas

This was an extraordinary class…it showed exactly what I had to do to not only transform this addiction but many other addictions I did not quite realize I had…Durga made Ayurveda simple, clear, practical and accessible.  A rich course.  Practical, comprehensive, simple, fun, shows how the 12 Step Program is one of the best kept secrets in the world of spiritual growth.

BK, MA USA

I am able to take a lot of information from this retreat.  I learned much about yoga, not just the asana yoga but the wonder of the other aspects.  The Ayurveda aspect was also very informative.  I feel that my tools for recovery have increased tremendously.

JM, CT USA

I loved the workshop.  I found the information confronting and enlightening…

To see the correlation between the perils of addiction, imbalance in doshas and the path of yoga all in an upward spiral was an epiphany.

CF, FL USA

Q:  On the “Yoga of Recovery” website’s FAQ you talk about this practice and retreat program also being appropriate for persons with eating disorders?  Have you considered cultivating a program model specific to eating disorders?

When I first began the retreat I assumed the guests would be people in recovery from drug and alcohol addiction.  What I found was that many of them had maintained sobriety for considerable lengths of time from their initial drug of choice but had shifted into dependence on some other substance or behavior in recovery.  I had witnessed both in myself and what seemed like a majority of 12 step members this switch of addictions – the main culprits being sugar addiction and codependency in relationships. Several ‘food addicts’ came to the retreat and I wondered if the work presented would feel totally relevant to them.  I was concerned that I did not fully understand that condition and that I needed to understand more about it from the Ayurvedic perspective.  Also, if the 12 Step solution was spiritual, allowing us to recover from a “seemingly hopeless condition of mind and body” then why did the addiction simply shift into another area, even for those who genuinely ‘worked the program’?  How spiritual did we need to be in our daily lives to fully recover from all dependencies and addictions?

The modern addiction problem shows us how people can become addicted to anything: alcohol, drugs, relationships, work, Internet, cell phones etc.  This provides a clue to the universal root of all addictions – the fact that we have externalized an inner spiritual need; an easy path to take in our society of over-consumption and hyper-sensory stimulation.  In this 21st Century we can consider the view of the addict as a seeker, someone who is inherently trying to transcend the mundane.  In “Overcoming Addictions”, Dr Deepak Chopra describes the problem as “self-destructive outlets for an unrecognized spiritual craving”.

Yoga of Recovery is for people who are looking to overcome any of their own addictive or self-destructive behaviors and also for people histories of addiction in themselves or within their family.   Guests range in age from 16 to 84 years old and experience every type of addiction – this means both the ‘primary’ addiction and all the cross-addictions that have come up since abstaining from the ‘substance/behavior of choice’.  We investigate the root causes and reasons for our compulsions, attachments and addictive imbalances.  What in our nature compels us to this continual external seeking?  We look at the stress response of the different doshic types, unmanaged emotions, how the mind works by repetition, creating deep grooves of self-destructive habits.   The approach is from the point of view of Sattva, unity (Vedanta) and not from separation, the ‘them and us’ mentality that stems from egoism, Rajas (turbulence) and Tamas (dullness).  This is important since in the media portrayal of the problem of addiction, both historically and currently, it is presented as a case of ‘them and us’, but in truth we are all addicted to some degree.

The more subtle and ubiquitous ‘attachments’ that we all suffer from and that no one can avoid entirely are our addictions/attachments to food and people.  These are the first and last ties to our embodied existence in our human condition.  The founder of AA, Bill Wilson, speaks of these same concepts when he discusses our “instincts run wild” which involve our “legitimate, natural desires to eat, to reproduce, for society, security and companionship”. (Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous)  It is also interesting that the AlAnon program (the ‘people’ addiction, co-addicts) was the second 12 step program formed and perhaps a little-known fact that Bill Wilson’s ‘sponsor’ was a man with an eating disorder, not alcoholism.

During our retreats and courses we talk about our experience with any addictive habits that we are recovering from. This helps us develop more openness and compassion around both our own lingering compulsions and the struggle of different ‘drug of choice’ than ours.

Q:  Do you believe we all, as humans, have addictive natures in some respect?  Do you believe anyone (not just someone in recovery from a drug or alcohol addiction) could benefit from your program?

Yes, see answer above.  Ayurveda is the science of life so we can all benefit from its  lifestyle recommendations.  Ultimately, the purpose of life is Self-realization, so everyone who is drawn to the philosophy, psychology and physical practice of yoga would enjoy this retreat.  It is like yoga applied to our daily life.

Q:  What is your hope for the program and your work over the next 5 years?  Do you hope to see expansion of the program?  Do you have any plans to create programs for any other specific populations of people?

My hope is that people come to the retreats and discover and reclaim their own health and healing, becoming empowered in their daily life choices.  I hope they leave with a feeling of awe and reverence toward the Divine healing power and ways to participate in the healing energy of nature, the world around us.  I hope students from the course will introduce people to these concepts in their local communities.  One day we hope to offer an extended Yoga of Recovery residential retreat, where people can join us for 2-4 weeks, like a Vedic sober living home.  We also hope to bring the retreat to special groups like ‘at-promise’ youth and young women who are struggling with addiction problems.

Q:  What are your hopes and aspirations for the field of mental health, addiction treatment and the integration of complementary and holistic practices for mind, body, and spirit wellness?

I believe integration is the future and that the mental health field will lead the way by accepting the experience of patients with complementary and holistic practices for mind, body, and spirit wellness as evidence of their efficacy.  I believe we need to experience healing, not wait for evidence of it from scientific sources!

Q:  Any final words, thoughts, inspirations, or experiences you would like to share with the readers?

“Remember, Forget” – last words of swami Sivananda

“Health is Wealth, Peace of Mind is Happiness, Yoga shows the way” – Swami Vishnu-devananda

LEARN MORE ABOUT DURGA & THE YOGA OF RECOVERY AT: www.yogaofrecovery.com


Durga is a Clinical Ayurvedic and Pancha Karma Specialist, trained at the California College of Ayurveda and also in Kerala, India. She leads several Ayurvedic Retreats at International Sivananda Yoga Ashrams. Durga has been involved with the 12-Step Fellowship for over 10 years. She completed her Sivananda Yoga teachers Training Course in May 2002, the Meditation Immersion Course in January 2005 and the Advanced Yoga Teachers Training Course in March 2006.

Brain by dierk schaefer.

“Every man can, of he so desires, become the sculptor of his own brain”
Santiago Ramon y Cajal

Santiago Ramon y Cajal was a nobel laureate and one of the greatest neurobiologists in history.  His assertion above has been proved more and more true as time has gone on and more elaborate science has been able to affirm the brain’s ability to change.  REMEMBER one of my favorite words for 2010 NEUROPLASTICITY?  I have been, as a trauma therapist, trauma survivor, and passionate advocate for people’s ability to find healing out of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, more invigorated by the day with the overwhelming new science proving that my experience and beliefs are more than just hypothesis in the mist.

I went to a lecture last Friday on “Neurobiology & Trauma” presented by the highly esteemed and eloquent Dr. Amanda Evans of Florida Gulf Coast University (and President of Florida’s National Association of Social Work).  I love a good neurobiology and trauma lecture as much as the next person–well, ok I guess I love it probably more than MOST of the people next to me–but I never know what to expect and get nervous for a 101 type generalist discussion.  I was blown away by Dr. Evans workshop–she affirmed all of what I have already learned and threw her own vantage point into the mix in a refreshing way.

One of the things she stressed, and I loved her description (I will paraphrase), was the difference between a traumatic experience, trauma survivor, and a person living with Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).  I loved that she made this distinction because as a trauma therapist in a small field with this focus–most mental health professionals don’t specialize in this area–I have found there are so many perpetuated myths and misconceptions about PTSD that often get passed on as truths to clients and other professionals.  Some of the greatest myths I have heard perpetuated by other mental health professionals (well-intentioned but can be so damaging for clients and the perceptions of PTSD as a whole) are:

  • PTSD is a terminal diagnosis–You will have it forever.
  • PTSD is incurable, un-healable and can only be moderated with medication.
  • PTSD exists if you have even one or two of the symptoms and even if they go away if they return (even one symptom) then it means you have had it all along.
  • PTSD happens to anyone who has experienced trauma–if something traumatic happened you have PTSD.
  • PTSD is treated with talk therapy and medication–there are no other treatment approaches that do any good.
  • …I know there are more but these are the biggest.

Dr. Evans, in her eloquence, stated: (paraphrased)

“Having a symptom of PTSD does not make the diagnosis.  A person may have a flashback or intrusive thought at some point triggered by something that happens but that does not mean they have PTSD.  Post traumatic stress disorder is a persistent cluster of symptoms so great and overwhelming that they impact functioning and living life.  They affect a person’s ability to work, have personal relationships, and generally function in the world.  If you are not experiencing these elements in your daily life then you are having a normal response to a traumatic experience if you occasionally are reminded and it brings on a singular nightmare, thought, flashback–that is ok and does not mean that you have a disordered condition.  There is a misrepresentation of the difference between a normative response of a trauma survivor and a disordered way of being.”

Again, this is my paraphrasing of her words but the gist is what she stated.  It is always exciting for me to hear another professional, especially a well-versed specialist in the area of trauma, neurobiology, and diagnosis, describe what I know to be true as well.  Our brains can change.  The very nature of our own capacity for survival–mind,body, and spirit–that help us to SURVIVE are what can entrench that survival instinct and create a disordered response to the world–one that is all survival mode all the time.  This entrenched way of being that becomes a disordered response to the world in all aspects (mind,body, and spirit) are PTSD.  We can chip away at those responses and CHANGE our brain with the same resilience and survival capacity that brought us into a PTSD state in the first place.  The brain and our humanity are complex but also simple–we survive and hopefully through work we can do more than that and begin to THRIVE.  This is true for trauma survivors and everyone overcoming difficulties in life.

This also relates so much to MIND, BODY, and SPIRIT WELLNESS in that it gives hope and the potential for hope and change in ourselves and our lives grounding in reality and science!  Whether you are dealing with traumatic issues, stress, anxiety, or any emotionally distressing experience you can know that there is hope in our world and in our own BRAINS for CHANGE.  Neuroscientists are saying it, therapists are saying it, and the illusions and myths are being dispelled to make way for the truths of hard science and soft science.  I have known my own truth in my life, PTSD, and recovery journey in a visceral way…these new facts only help me to depict this truth concretely for others and be able to be an instiller of hope in my clients lives rather than handing out terminal diagnosis of disorder with no end.

APRIL is the beginning of Sexual Assault Awareness month and in the honor of that I wanted to discuss the exciting world of hope in recovery and healing from traumatic experience.  I hope more people can believe in themselves, their brains, their spirits, their bodies and the ability to find healing from a variety of sources!  I discovered yoga as an avenue to my own wellness and found, through neurobiology and the roots of trauma and trouble with speech in trauma, that movement can often be a great outlet for emotional pain when talk cannot.  I hope everyone, trauma survivor, and just those surviving their own issues of life, takes the time to search for their own avenues to wellness!  What do you love? What brings you comfort? Start there and reach out for professional help if you need it–there are ways to healing and there are people who can help!

All my thoughts and blessings to those suffering from emotional pains today and every day.


NOW ADDED to my WEBSITE at www.embodymentalhealth.com and it’s own BLOG PAGE at http://pranaequus.blogspot.com is my newly launching program called PRANA EQUUS!  I am super excited about this as I have been working towards it since I began integrating yoga and creative arts into Equine Facilitated Psychotherapy programming!

I will be working in collaboration with Therapeutic Riding Instructor Maurette Hanson of ANGEL SMILE FARM, LLC.  Check out the blog for more information and new posts here and on that blog upcoming!

YAY–exciting things on the horizon!

ALSO: I made the logo myself on my software I have been fiddling around with–thought it was worth a shot to try on a Sunday afternoon :).  It may not be the permanent solution to a logo but it encompasses the essence of what I want to convey so it is a beginning!  Feel free to weigh in on your thoughts about the look or ideas–I would love to hear!  My initial thought was to have the horse breathing colorful (pink, purple,or  grey) smoke but I lack the skills for that so perhaps another draft might integrate that piece.  Again, let me know your thoughts–on the program, the logo, and my phrase–which, yes, is an equine play on “off the mat” philosophy in a psychotherapy context!

Namaste and hope you all had a great weekend!

“The horizon leans forward, offering you space to place new steps of change.”

Maya Angelou

This week has brought a plethora of wonderful blessings and magical gifts my way!  Let me list the three prominent highlights:

  1. New Partnership with Lisa Kelly & THE RED TENT : A Healing Arts Center for Women in Delray Beach, Florida.
  2. PASSED my Yoga Teacher Training Final Exam last night–85% thank you very much.  And I thought NYU Graduate School was hard.
  3. Article on “COMPLEMENTARY THERAPIES FOR TRAUMA” was posted at Michele’s HEAL MY PTSD “Professional Perspectives” section of her website today.

Every time I wonder how I am going to take the next step forward into the wild blue yonder of my life and then something beautiful and wonderful happens.  I would say, without hesitation, this was the case in meeting with Lisa Kelly, owner of The Red Tent, trained Doula, massage therapist, and passionate advocate of the ability to heal oneself by accessing the body to get to the emotional content inside.  In our discussion of our mutual passions for healing and wellness and vision for a community of holistic healthcare I realized I had stumbled upon–in one short email, a Facebook connection, and 48 hours–one of those kindred spirits that I thought were so rare.  What I have realized is that the more you shout into the abyss your passion, the more kindred souls you find echoing back.

I have begun the embryonic phases of a partnership with Lisa and her wonderful center THE RED TENT whose name is meant to symbolize (as the book by the same name does) a community of women joining together for healing.  I will begin practicing at her oasis of a location (complete with outdoor foot bath/ jacuzzi!) providing services such as: individual, couples & mother/baby therapy, individual, couples & group yoga for mental health/wellness, and a mosaic of creative workshops.  My practice in this soothing environment will be given the freedom to apply the tools I find so healing including: breathing exercises, guided visualization, yoga techniques, mind/body and somatic attunement, creative arts, and imagination.  I believe this new venture is going to be the beginning of a wonderful journey towards cultivating a healing community and bringing the intention of “embodying mental health” to life in full 3 dimensional form.

I titled this post “New Horizons: Watching Life Unfold From the Driver’s Seat” because that is how it feels as I begin this process of rebirth, as it were.  The horizon shifts and the sun peaks out from the landscape without any help from us, we only direct the path of where we drive, towards it, away from it, or meandering slowly in it’s direction.  There are times in my life were I definitely went in the opposite direction of light and other times where I took the winding hard way to get to the sun on the horizon.  But today, in this moment, in this breath, it feels like I am full of intention and on a steady path towards the sun rising ahead.

The sun rises and sets in our life and we either go with it or steer away–I am ready to gaze into the sun and drive right into the warmth and brightness of its glow.

One exhausting and wonderful adventure, yoga school, is coming to a close.  And so it seems an apt time for the newly donned subtitle of the “MY EMBODIMENT” blog: “…exploring mind, body, and spirit wellness.” That is where I think I am headed, on an exploration and continued journey into self, wellness, and continued healing paths of myself and others.  I am leaving yoga school having learned much and knowing that I have much to learn–the best educational experiences provide more questions than answers, more quests into the unknown and momentum forward.  I have stretched in every meaning of the word: mind, body, and spirit.  I have met wonderful people and found some kindred spirits along the way.  And I am grateful for every moment spent struggling towards balance and head stands along the way!  I am proud to say I can finally balance on my head, even if momentarily, and I think this progress is literal and metaphoric as my life propels forward into the upside downs and unknowns.

Whatever tomorrow brings I want to stare into the sun and drive straight towards the horizon of my life!  Sometimes life reminds you that you are on the right path.  I imagine a road sign on my metaphoric highway towards the sun with a sign reading “Next Destination Just Ahead: Beware of Speed Bumps”.  Reminding me that I have the potential to enact all the things I want to, I just need to make sure I keep myself in check in the process.  In yoga and in life, our human flaws and egos are the enemy of all good works.  I want to be on the side of Karmic Service & try to leave as much of my human flaws at the last rest stop before I reach my next destination.  I hope yoga gave me some of those tools.  I hope my passion for this work has given me the energy and stamina for the trek.  And I hope my car’s tires have warranties–because there are always bumps along the way.

**ALSO my “Yoga for Trauma Survivors” at Yoga & Inner Peace in Lake Worth, FL continues tomorrow 1:00-2:30pm: visit http://www.yogapeace.com for more information!**

CHECK OUT…

The Red Tent: A Healing Arts Center for Women at www.redtentwellness.com

Heal My PTSD: Conquer the Past. Create the Future at www.healmyptsd.com

May 2020
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