Finding Peace within through Yoga

I’ve talked before on other blogs about my quest for finding peace in this busy society that we all currently experience. Every event and every person appears to be rushed and I want to slow things down for myself. I find that I can find that moment of peace through yoga and meditation.

My physical body is riddled with dance injuries from when I was younger. I hurt many joints starting from my waist down including a hip, both knees and one foot. But, I kept dancing because I loved the way it made me feel. The movement from dance gave me an outlet from my worries and it also helped make me feel whole as a person and gave me purpose. I learned quickly that movement allowed me to find strength within me that I never knew I had.

As I have mentioned before in other blogs, yoga outside in nature for me is like bliss. It takes me outside of my head and reminds me that I am alive and well. It reminds me that I can rely on my body, even if there is pain. It also reminds me that there is much more to this life than just work and the normal hustle and bustle of a busy life.

While taking a moment for yourself today, find a comfortable seated position that is right for you. Maybe it is outside or in a quiet room. Place a small cushion or folded blanket under your hips to stabilize them and lift through the crown of your head to elongate your spine. Now, begin to breathe slowly while at the same time relaxing your jaw and releasing your shoulders.

Place your right hand on your heart and your left hand on the earth. Connect with Mother Earth for a moment and allow her to connect with you. Imagine that you can send her negative energy from your feet. Next, imagine that Mother Earth can recycle that negative energy into positive and send it back up your spine from your feet to your head. Imagine a surge of happy and peaceful energy flowing freely throughout your body. Continuing to breathe softly and slowly for the next several minutes.

Begin each day with this practice or a similar practice that promotes peace. It only takes a few minutes. Setting your intention during this moment may help relax you as well. Try this for 30 days and see if you don’t notice a difference for yourself in this busy world.

Namaste

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Views from a Yoga Mat

Changing your perspective

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 relaxation.

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!

Yoga For Empty Nesting

Filling Empty Spaces

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?

DIY Home Yoga Studio

This post contains Affiliate Links. I may receive a small payment if you chose to have a look.

I first practiced Yoga in my apartment while in Medical School. While studying at a Starbucks within a Barnes and Nobles, I picked up a book about Yoga and bought it.

18 years later, Yoga is now part of my vocabulary and has been one of the most important self care tools I use.

I frequently advise patients on doing poses at home, or even starting Yoga at home. You can start with no equipment at all. Just the floor can work, but having a few simple pieces of equipment can set you up for a fulfilling, healing self care regimen at home.

I encourage beginning Yoga Students to consider starting at a studio with a well trained instructor. This may not be available for many reasons (time constraints, money, location), so equipping yourself at home is a great alternative.

Additionally, your Yoga practice is an individual experience. It is a journey of self discovery, with the ultimate goal of bringing you back to yourself. There are luxuries of being in a Yoga Studio, but being able to access your practice on a regular basis is the most important.

Yoga Supplies for a Home Practice

If you don’t own any of these, and your planning to start practicing at home, the initial investment will pay off for years to come. The above picture are examples from my home practice.

Yoga Blocks

Yoga block have multiple uses during a practice. The term I’ve heard frequently during a class is the blocks can be used to “bring the floor closer” to you hands. They are best used during a pose such as Forward Bending, but help with lunges. There are several types of blocks available, but I recommend foam that are softer and more versatile. You can use Yoga blocks at work for a foot support, or an impromptu lumbar support.

Yoga Blankets

Yoga Blankets have nearly limitless uses in your home practice. They can be a mat alone (although they don’t provide the sticky surface your after). folding 1-2 Yoga Blankets make a great cushion for seated postures. The blankets can be placed under the knees for cushion. They are excellent after for outdoor activities, especially as beach blankets or cover ups in the cold.

Yoga Mats

This is where it gets fun when your shopping. Other than you cute tights, you can go wild with you mat. Some recommendations I have, if your home space is carpeted, you may enjoy a thinner mat. Consider a thicker mat on hard floors. Try to get a sticky mat for extra support. I like colors and patterns. The mat has a special place in your practice. You’ll likely take it with you to classes if you choose to attend one. You’ll find the more you practice Yoga that every time you unroll your mat, a deep sense of calm and centering will enter you. Buy a mat in a color you may have dreamed of decorating your home with.

Yoga Bolster

The Yoga Bolster is optional. 4 Yoga blankets equal one bolster, so consider starting with blankets if you don’t want to spend the money. I purchased round bolsters, but I think the rectangular shapes would be nice. The Yoga Bolster Make a great seat for meditation, knee support during Savasana (or Corpse Pose). The bolster can be used for support in various Yoga poses as well. If you are limited on storage room, consider using Yoga Blankets which can double for other uses.

Blue Tooth Speaker or Headphones

An overlooked aid in a home yoga practice is your sound system. I usually use a Bluetooth speaker since I don’t like to have anything in my ears during my practice. Likely, you’ll either have music, or a class your taking on your phone or tablet. Of course, if your using your television, you won’t need this.

Optional Equipment

I also recommend Yoga Straps, which can assist with any forward bend or leg extension. These aren’t recommended, but they really aid in your home practice.

Most of all, if you’ve committed to starting Yoga, have fun shopping! I had so much fun searching for my equipment. I now have my own little oasis at home.

Thanks again for stopping by!

Similarities between Yoga and Counseling

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 coping strategies.

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 the mind. 

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!

Namaste

Setting your Intention

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 intention today?

Yoga as Self-Care for the Counselor

                Counselor 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!

                Therapists 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.

                Yoga 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.

                Next 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.

                Take this moment to recharge!

Taking Time out for myself utilizing Yoga

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 relaxation.

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!

I do have time for this. Do you?

Yoga as a Coping Skill

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.  How do you relax?

Map for your Healing Journey

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Photo by Ylanite Koppens on Pexels.com

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.

Healing Modalities

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.

 

Online Reiki Resources

IARP- International Association of Reiki Practioners

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.

The International Training Center for Reiki Training

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.

Reiki Rays

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.

Reiki Healing Association

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.

Yoga Resources

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).

Finding a Yoga Studio

One of the best resources are family and friends as far as a yoga studio to try.  This link will send you to a directory of registered yoga instructors in your area.

Gaia

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.

Yoga International

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. 

Reading List

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.