As I look up from my mat and open my eyes, the bright blue
sky of the early morning envelopes my view. With the birds singing and the
locust croaking, my hearing is completely engulfed as well. This moment takes
me back to a more simple time as I slowly draw in a deep breath through my nose
and exhale slowly through my mouth. I have begun taking my yoga practice
outside on purpose. That purpose, total
My mind’s eye craves moments of silence, just like my body
craves rest and stillness. We all live
in a fast paced, busy society, but I also work in job that requires my full
attention and awareness; mental health counseling. If I don’t learn to take
care of myself first, I am no good to anyone else that walks into my office. This
moment of stillness and silence leads me to my mat where I feel most calm and
secure. I recognize when I have not been spending enough time on my mat by the
way my body aches and my mind races.
Throughout the years, I have learned to spend more time on my mat each day not as a way to be selfish, in fact, quite the opposite. It is a way for me to remain healthy and mindful. Many times I have utilized my yoga practice as a way to gain a different perspective on an issue I am having. I have even found it useful to practice some yoga during stressful times or times when I am angry to assist myself in releasing those negative emotions and changing my view on my situation. I may not be able to change what is going on around me, but I can change the way I think and feel about the situation through my yoga practice.
My yoga practice includes starting with a mindful breathing exercise to calm my nervous system and then slowly transitioning to larger and deeper yoga postures, or Asanas. Then I close with a restful pose to once again slow down my breathing and nervous system. Maybe that pose is Legs up the Wall, or Childs Pose. Take a moment for yourself! You deserve it!
December 10th and May 2nd will be
dates that will forever remain burned in my memory. December 10th was the date my son
was born and then 19 years later on May 2nd he moved out of my house
and into his own apartment. Those two dates are huge due to the enormous impact
my son made on my life. He bounced into this world with tons of energy and
love. He immediately taught me things as a mother such as being compassionate,
patient, loving and caring. He also kept me on my toes and reminded me I had
someone else to always fight for besides just myself.
May 2nd was emotional as he utilized that
assertiveness once again and moved himself into his first apartment with some
friends. He had saved up money and had a good job. He remained steadfast to his
word that he would remain in college and pursue a career for himself. (Today he
is entering his sophomore year.)
Suddenly the house was empty and quiet! What was I do to?
The dogs moped around and sighed heavy sighs when no one came by to rub their
bellies. My stepchildren had moved out years earlier but my son was still
around to fill the space with sounds of laughter. He was in Band for many years
so many times my living room was full of other band kids laughing and playing
their instruments. There was never a dull moment.
So, I set out on a journey to fill that empty space. Yoga
seemed most appropriate for me. I shifted and changed the back bedroom so that I
could provide private yoga sessions in my home and have my own space for a yoga
practice. I decided during the early morning hours, which usually meant
hustling around getting ready for early morning band practice, now was my Yoga
time. Me time!
I began by setting my morning routine with a cup of coffee and then a 30 minute yoga practice followed by a 10 minute meditation. Sometimes I would take my mat outside and listen to the birds while I grounded myself in meditation. Other times, I would light my candles, turn on my diffuser and music and find a beautiful yoga flow in my yoga space while the dogs looked on in wonder. Either way Yoga allows me to fill gaps that are missing because Yoga is about expanding, joining, nurturing, and learning. Maybe I am learning more about myself in this moment without my child physically here in my home. Certainly I am learning more about nurturing myself in this very moment.
Finding something positive to fill that void was most important to me. What will you do for yourself in time of need?
As I continue on my path of researching Yoga both personally
and professionally, I have realized how closely related the two fields are.
There are so many similarities in fact that we really should be combining both
worlds at the same time. When we are emotionally
well, not only do we connect with others better, but we also become more
creative, motivated, focused and attentive to our bodies.
Many people come to yoga or counseling initially because of
some health issue whether it be physical, spiritual or mental. Most individuals
are looking for outside help because he/she has exhausted each of his/her own
Clients learn in Yoga as well as in Counseling, that there
is a fine line in finding balance between “letting go” and “gaining control”.
In both forms of treatment, we look to let go of what no longer serves us, and in
turn strive to gain control of a healthier lifestyle. For example, letting go
of negative thought patterns in counseling, so as to gain healthier more
positive thought patterns.
According to Judith Hanson Lasater, PhD, PT, and Yoga
Therapist, “with yoga we want to relax the mind and body so that tension can be
released and healing can begin.” By letting
go or relaxing certain muscle groups in Yoga we can begin to gain control in a
different muscle group such as our breath or reducing our thoughts. For
example, in Tree Pose we want to ground down through our feet while at the same
time lifting through the crown of our head. Therefore, two different actions
simultaneously acting together to create one goal.
Yoga and Counseling could complement each other beautifully
if practiced together. Many clients find while in counseling that they aren’t
even connected to their physical body because they are so wrapped up in what is
going on in their head. Same thing can happen in Yoga and then injuries could
occur because we are not practicing awareness. Being aware of where our body is
currently placed is just as important as understanding where our thoughts are
driving our moods and behaviors. Deep Breathing relaxes the physical body by
lowering blood pressure and heart rate, which then in turn continues to relax
So, take a moment and stop what you are doing and just take
notice of where your body is currently. Is it sitting in a chair, or standing
in line? What do you feel? What do you notice? Without judgement, just try and
slow down the breath, by breathing in through your nose to the count of three,
and out through your mouth to the count of four. Do this 3-5 times until you can
begin to notice a warmer more relaxed state in the body and mind. Continue to
this until you feel better and more relaxed. Then you can move on with your
task and focus. This moment of
relaxation might even change your mind!
With the beginning of every yoga class I like to remind my students to set their intention for class. Maybe it’s a desire to release something that no longer serves, or it is a desire to gain something. Maybe the intention becomes a way to honor someone or something. It can also be an alignment towards our higher power.
When I perform an intake session with my counseling clients,
I will ask the same questions. What is your intention or hope for this session?
What do you want to let go of, or gain with this session? How do you want to
feel once completed with this session? Or how will you know you have made some
progress with this session?
Setting intentions are like setting a goal, or aim, or
attitude. It gives us a purpose or a reason for us to pay attention to this exact
moment. I would like to believe most of us have goals and goals tend to keep us
motivated in life. Intentions also tend to help keep us focused. Our
brains are extremely powerful and tend to overwhelm us at times with thoughts,
memories, desires, etc. With intentions we can narrow all of this and become
more focused on the here and now, in the present moment.
Deepak Chopra, MD, defines Intentions as being “a starting
point and creative power.” Everything begins to happen when we set an
intention. He goes on to further explain that an intention “is a directed
impulse of consciousness or seed”. Intentions
should come from the heart and should align with your personal values.
Intentions are a way to align the heart with the mind by connecting what
matters most to you.
The best time to set an intention is during meditation or
stillness. Take a deep breath in, let it go with a big sigh. Do this several
times while at the same time relaxing your body. Set an intention and then give
it to the universe and let go of any anticipation or desired outcome. Let the
universe do with it as it will.
Intentions are a wonderful way to begin your day and help
keep you grounded. What is your
fatigue is often overlooked in our field. Sometimes even completely ignored. We
try to balance work and life by carrying heavy caseloads, maintaining copious
amounts of paperwork that professors never tell you about in graduate school,
all the while still taking care of ourselves, our health, households, etc. We counselors have learn to care for ourselves
just as well as we care for our clients.
If not even more, perhaps!
are taught to be “containers” of others thoughts, feelings and beliefs. We are
taught to hold things and keep them confidential. These thoughts, feelings and
beliefs of our clients are often a result of traumatic life events and they may
simply not align with our own thoughts, feelings and beliefs.
The energy transferred from our
clients to us in a session can leave us feeling exhausted or even depleted
emotionally. Therapists are encouraged to educate our clients about healthy
lifestyles, self-awareness, and emotion regulation. But what about our own
stuff that we carry with us each day? Sometimes Counselors feel that we should
have all of the answers and therefore don’t reach out for help at times when we
may need it the most.
cultivates a welcoming attitude for all that arises in the mind, whether it be
positive or negative. Yoga not only brings the mind and body together but
relieves stress, increases moods, and assists in work-life balance. Yoga helps increase our awareness of our
physical bodies and souls if we just take the time out to listen. The best
thing about Yoga is that you can take it with you and do it anywhere! At your
desk, in the airport, or even standing in the grocery store check-out line.
time you have a few moments alone and in a quiet space, make sure your feet are
firmly placed on the ground. Now, place your right hand on your belly and your
left hand on your heart and just pay attention to your breath. What do you
notice? How does it feel? Does it come in through your nose rough or soft? Is it
cool or warm? Try not to change the breath, but just notice it and see if you
can’t slow things down for yourself for a moment.
In today’s society there is a liquor store, dry cleaners, and nail salon on just about every corner. Everyone is constantly in a hurry. Everyone wanted “it” yesterday. “Ain’t nobody got time for that!” Like the lady said. But in fact, that’s the very thing we need. Time. More time! But also more relaxation.
Every day in my private practice I hear people tell me they
don’t have time for self-care and relaxation. Sometimes I hear that response even
after I tell them I am only asking for 15 minutes a day! Break it up into 5 in
the morning, 5 in the afternoon, and 5 in the evening. Surely, you have that
kind of time to do something nice for yourself that encourages healing and
Two years ago I was diagnosed with a heart issue. I couldn’t
believe it! I was just 44 years old at the time. What? High blood pressure and
a leaky valve! You can imagine the shock that set in my body. That diagnosis
totally changed my line of thinking. That very moment made me rethink my line of
work and my self-care. What was I doing to relax and how could I do more? Not
to mention, how am I modeling self-care for my clients?
Since that time, I have made yoga a main priority for
myself. Every morning for 30 minutes I practice yoga in my house or my back
yard if the weather is nice. It brings my mind into focus and sets the tone for
my day. Yoga is my self-care. If I don’t practice yoga every day, I feel “off”.
Yoga is more than the poses, or Asanas, that everyone thinks
it is. It’s about living in your body and breathing. It’s about bringing more
awareness into my body and making my body, mind and soul unite as one. It’s
also about slowing things down essentially. Without it I wouldn’t be able to
complete tasks and concentrate, slow down, breathe and unwind.
Watch a sunset, read a book, take a walk, or listen to
music. Make it your time to do whatever it is that’s healthy and brings you
joy. Take just 15 minutes for yourself.
You deserve it!
Yoga in Sanskrit means “union” of the mind, body and spirit.
So it makes sense that I myself being a
licensed mental health counselor, also practice yoga. With my yoga practice I
feel I am joining my mind, body and soul to becoming a whole and complete
being. I feel there is so much more to healing than talk therapy although it is
useful. The body stores energy whether positive or negative and stress, a form
of energy, can be held in the body causing pain and illnesses.
I was probably first introduced to yoga as a small child as
I watched my mother stretching down in the floor in front of the TV in the
evenings after supper. As a child I was full of energy and probably was difficult
to keep still. My mother could tell you stories about me dancing in the pews at
church. Dance became my first love. I found I could escape any negative thought
or feelings through dance and release excess energy. I also felt whole and
complete when I danced, as if nothing could tear me down. It became a source of
resilience for me.
Then once I became older and a dance injury kept me out of
dance, I began to try other things. I found yoga again after my divorce. On Tuesday
nights I would take my very young son to spend time with his dad while I would
attend a very crowded yoga class. I immediately reconnected my mind with my
body and spirit again. If you have ever been through a divorce you understand
how emotionally draining it can be and how overwhelmed with feelings you can
become. Yoga gave me a peace of mind through not only the poses, called Asanas,
but also through the breath, or Pranayama.
Three years ago I decided to become a certified yoga
Instructor with the intentions of combining it with my private practice
therapy. Today in my private practice, I teach my clients how to breathe and
reclaim their Yoga which we are all born with, but must find.
After my first Reiki attunement, I had no plans of sharing Reiki with others. I soon learned, like many Reiki practitioners, that once you open yourself to Reiki, the healing energy finds you in numerous ways. One of the most interesting things that happened after each Reiki attunement was the shift in my patients. Without being prompted, patients began asking me about using energy medicine, crystals, essential oils, herbal supplements and all kinds of healing modalities to aid in their healing. Even more interesting, many of my patients began to acknowledge a sense of wanting to know more, wanting to dig deeper within themselves. The year after I became a Reiki master, many patients would share with me having a spiritual crisis at the same time as a health crisis, often relating the two without me even asking.
My own personal healing journey was brought on by a crisis on multiple levels. I went through the end of a relationship, as well as the beginning of burn out in my practice. I begin to experience intense anxiety despite cognitively knowing I was in no imminent danger. A dear lifelong friend had mentioned to me a particular yoga studio which I should attend, and after many weeks of insomnia, I started attending classes at Yoga Home of Therapeutics.
One of the topics that will come up frequently for many of my patients or Reiki clients is what to do or where to go once they begin to question life, and what steps to take to heal and grow has a human.
I’m going to post several resources I use, as well as books I’ve read that hopefully can help others wondering where to start.
The healing modalities I am most familiar with are traditional allopathic medicine, Reiki and Yoga. I will reference those I am familiar with. On occasion, I will recommend patients and clients to try one of these healing modalities as I am familiar with these.
Part of a healing journey is continued learning. I plan on updating this list frequently.
IARP is a wonderful starting resource for those seeking a Reiki Practitioner as well as for Reiki Practitioners looking for support for their practice. This website has information for those considering receiving Reiki such as this link. There is also research information on applications of Reiki in Healthcare, one of my favorite resources. Reiki Practioners will find that membership is very affordable, and there is an exciting new affiliate program you may consider, have a closer look here.
This website is better if you already have started or will be pursuing your Reiki training. There are many Reiki lineages, but the Usui lineage that many of us learn was founded by William Lee Rand is found here. One of my favorite activities is the World Peace Meditation. The link will take you to a PDF that describes what the World Peace Meditation is, as well as crystal grids that can be used to aid in your meditation experience. The World Peace Meditation takes place every month. I usually try to post a reminder when I receive the reminder as well.
This is a great website for experienced Reiki practitioners as well as those that are interested in learning more about Reiki. I highly recommend signing up for the newsletter if you are a Reiki practitioner. In addition to the wonderful articles, there are frequently many free ebooks with so much useful information.
Online directory to locate a Reiki Practitioner near you. If you are a Reiki practitioner, this a a great website to find online resources and grow your Reiki business.
Your local yoga studio is one of the best places to start. I will always recommend for any new student in yoga to try a local studio first. If you have a friend that can recommend a yoga studio that’s a great place to start. If you don’t live near a yoga studio, starting a home practice is easy. You can easily purchase a mat, a couple of yoga blocks, and a yoga strap (all can easily be found in most stores that have work out equipment).
Online paid membership site with several yoga courses that are appropriate for beginners. In addition to beginner’s yoga classes, there are many guided meditations. Membership is reasonably priced, and access is easy.
Online paid membership website that focuses on yoga. There are many wonderful articles that can take you deeper into your yoga practice as well as guide you in a Yogic lifestyle.
Books are a wonderful resource if you are wanting to dig deeper into your healing journey. There are a large number of books covering chakras, yoga, meditation, Tai Chi, Qi Gong, crystal and essential oils. I am an avid reader, but I understand that many people do not have the luxury of time to endlessly explore books in order to make progress in their healing. I have started a reading list with books that may be a good place for you to start. Please see the link on my blog page. I am open to comments as well if any if you reading have further comments or suggestions. We’re all in this together so any knowledge we share can help each other.
Thank you so much for being patient, and please leave any comments.