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Feelings: real, but not always true…


Kassidy’s first day of camp/daycare!

It’s been a while since you’ve heard from me and perhaps it’s been a while since you’ve thought about me, but the truth is I think of you all nearly every day. I begin my day motivated to write a blog entry and then by the time Kassidy (now 18 months) goes down for a nap in the afternoon other things suddenly seem more important. But today is the day. We are having quite an intense afternoon thunderstorm here in “sunny” South Florida(for those in California who have never experienced a southeastern summer thunderstorm it includes torrential downpour, flash flooding, thunder so booming my lights rattle and lightening that looks so close I fear we will go up in flames). In other words, it’s a perfect day to write.

In January, I began working at a treatment center treating eating disorders as well as various mental health issues for both adults and adolescents. I lead a variety of groups including yoga, mindfulness, expressive movement & art, process and meal support.

Most of my clients there have attempted suicide or have a loved one who has attempted or died from suicide. 

I recently learned that Kate Spade & Anthony Bourdain died as a result of suicide. I don’t know their personal stories, but I do know that, like my clients, they were struggling and hurting so badly that dying felt better than living with emotional pain.

This past year, I too, have experienced a great deal of heartache and emotional pain.  I have felt depressed, anxious, lonely, sad, angry, frustrated, jealous, obsessive, shame, guilt, despair and most of all homesick (for a place that I didn’t fully realize how much of a home it had become for me until I left – Pleasanton, CA).

What I am learning about feelings is that the more I feed them with thoughts, the more overwhelming they get and the longer they last. When I feel guilty, then I worry. When I feel worried, then I rationalize. When I feel overly rational and intellectual, then I get frustrated. When I feel frustrated, then I get anxious. When I get anxious….you get the picture right? When we feed our feelings with thoughts, the feelings snowball and become completely overwhelming. I then find myself stuck in a prison of really challenging & difficult emotions accompanied by harmful thoughts that take me further and further down the rabbit hole of negativity.

I recently learned that an emotion (one that isn’t charged and fueled with thoughts) passes in 90 seconds. 90 seconds?!!

I’ve witnessed this statistic in all its glory with my 18 month old. When she is angry because she is not allowed to hang off of the oven door (I know I’m such a strict mom) and I try to fix her feelings, it only makes matters worse.  But when I take a deep breath, offer gentle soothing and ultimately allow her to feel the anger, it quickly passes.

Of course, we are not toddlers. But let’s face it, when are really upset, don’t we sometimes throw adult-sized temper tantrums? We may use blame, rationalization or dramatization. We may become passive-aggressive, rigid or resentful. And to make matters worse, our sophisticated brain judges what and how we feel, which only leads to feeling guiltier and more ashamed.

I am learning that there are 3 strategies that work really well for me (when I apply them) to help me cope with my emotions.

3 Strategies for Letting the Feeling Pass:

  1. Feelings are real, but not necessarily true. I am often told, “Trust Your Gut.” But the truth is, my gut does not always know what’s best for me. In fact, my gut is often riddled with anxiety and fear. These feelings of anxiety, fear and worry, while very real, are not necessarily true. When I let emotions carry me away and guide me as if a true-north compass, I am often led into the “land of overwhelm”. Instead, I am learning that my feelings, while real, are not my only navigation system.
  2. It’s okay to use distraction, sometimes. Distraction often gets a bad rap and yet the art of distraction can be very helpful for grounding oneself when an emotion is trying to take over. The balancing act, of course, is not allowing the distraction to become a habit, but rather something that helps you ground in the 90 seconds or so that the feeling is trying really hard to sabotage your well-being. I’ve found that reading, listening to audible books and podcasts are incredibly helpful to keep me grounded. When I notice I’m slipping into worry which tends to lead to obsessing, planning and more worry, I really benefit from doing something completely “off topic” from whatever it is I am ruminating on. If it seems extremely really hard to think or do anything else other than focus on your feelings, then that probably means distraction is going to be a really helpful coping skill for you. Again, I’m not saying to use distraction for long periods of time or to allow it to become your only coping skill, but reading a book, watching 20 minutes of tv, or going for a walk will provide you the opportunity to let your emotions pass without an intervention or urgent change (that you will only regret later).
  3. Acceptance, then action. It’s okay that you’re angry, frustrated, excited, ashamed, sad, worried, etc. It is completely normal to experience a variety of emotions throughout the day. When you judge yourself for feeling a particular way, you only keep yourself stuck in a downward spiral. Instead, practice offering yourself an affirmation “It’s okay that I am feeling (x). I am okay even when I feel (x).”  When our only focus becomes accepting how we are feeling, the intensity of the feeling reduces fairly quickly. I have learned that when I experience an urgent need to act, fix, change or manage, it means I am reacting to an uncomfortable feeling by trying to escape, stuff or eliminate it. This knee-jerk reaction usually leaves me back-peddling out of regret, trying to change the change.  At other times, I’m left to clean up the emotional aftermath of my intense need to “do something”, which is usually feeling downright lousy. This is not to say that we never take action. Rather, we respond to our emotions with acceptance and once our more intense emotions have passed, we find ourselves with a clearer mind, a more open heart, a quieter body. It is from this space, that we can truly tap into our deep inner knowing, our body’s wisdom. This wisdom is not loud, it is not urgent, it is not overcome with anxiety or fear. It is also not excited or hyper. It is steady and yet flexible (just like our yoga poses – sthira/steady & sukha/ease).  Dropping into our body’s wisdom is anything but instant gratification. We get here through practicing awareness and acceptance fully & completely, no skipping ahead. Once we have taken the time needed to ride the natural wave of our emotions, coming down from the crest, then and only then can we take action that is satisfying.

I would absolutely love to hear from you and find out how you’re doing! What tools and techniques help you ground while your emotions are taking you on a surfing extravaganza?

If you are struggling with intense, difficult and overwhelming emotions and you’ve been thinking about reaching out for support – PLEASE DO IT NOW!  For crisis line help, Text HOME to 741741 in the US.  SUPPORT IS OUT THERE!

Register Now – BodyWisdom: A Guide to Eating & Living Intuitively

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there’s ALWAYS time and space for YOGA

“I don’t have time to fit in a yoga practice”

“I’m too tired to practice yoga. I just want to take a nap instead”

“I couldn’t make it to the yoga studio this week, so I couldn’t practice at all”

Have you heard yourself or others repeating these types of statements?

Here’s the thing – yoga is so awesome that you can STILL practice, regardless of how tired you are or how much time you have – because YOUR YOGA PRACTICE CAN BE WHATEVER YOU WANT IT TO BE TODAY!

There is ALWAYS enough time, energy and space for your practice.  The problem isn’t having enough time, space or energy – but rather the limiting construct that has come to define yoga that simply isn’t true.

How do you define your practice? Is it only a true practice if it’s at a yoga studio with your favorite teacher? Do you have to practice for an hour and a half to have it matter? Does it only count if you do enough sun salutations to work up a sweat?

What if one or two poses were enough to make your practice truly matter and count? You may think you need an hour  to practice yoga, but I promise you a 5-10 minutes practice will make all the difference in your day, your attitude and your energy level.  Try this simple sequence when you’re short on time. This sequence can be done anywhere as it doesn’t require you to sit on the floor.  It does allow you to ground, energize and open up.

Tadasana (mountain pose) > Virabhadrasana I on each side (warrior 1)  > Standing Yoga Mudra

Still think you don’t have enough time? How about just ONE POSE?  You can choose any one pose –  from a basic mountain pose to a challenging handstand – as long as you are clear in your intention and focused on the breath it will be a real, true practice – one that matters and counts!

Sure your one pose could be a challenging pose like headstand or warrior III, but it could always be a relaxing, supportive pose like supine bound angle position (see below).  If you find yourself too tired to practice, try restorative poses. They require virtually no effort and are designed to “re-boot” your nervous system and balance out your body.  Practicing this form of yoga will give immediate results by lowering your blood pressure and heart rate, loosen up joints and even boost the immune system. Remember – when you are truly too tired to practice, you don’t have to do an hour and a half vinyasa yoga sweat session in order to still practice yoga. A restorative yoga practice counts just as much and if not more!

restorativeSo could five or ten minutes of yoga really make that big of a difference? ABSOLUTELY!

I challenge you to integrate even just one pose every day into your life.  Not enough time?  Practice just two poses for a 5 minute sequence. Too tired? Try a restorative pose that will leaving you feeling relaxed, restored and refreshed.

Remember – yoga isn’t just one style, one format. It can truly be whatever you want it to be so that it meets your needs, wants and desires.

There’s ALWAYS time, energy and space for a practice, if we are open and willing to let it be enough.

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Accepting Your Body’s Wisdom

lf I could scream, “Love Your Body!” from the rooftops, I would! But is anyone listening?

I became a yoga instructor and wellness coach to help people, particularly women,  to connect to their body, be comfortable in their body, and to love their body!  I try to lead by example, being comfortable in my own skin, yet also sharing my struggles. Every day I share messages of body love and radical acceptance.

But it’s rough out there!  And yet, I PERSERVERE!

Our media driven culture has encouraged women that it’s fun to bond over body loathing rather than body loving, to crave the next diet fad (which of course is never called a diet) rather than trust their own hunger cues, and to move their body for the purpose of weight-loss rather than moving to connect, feel and be in their bodies.

For many women, controlling what they eat and how they eat it, is the most satisfying part of their day.  Stories of weight-loss goals, successes and failures become the topic of conversation to avoid talking about what really matters – happiness.  Losing weight won’t make you happy – it may not even make you healthy.  And one thing is for sure – obsessing over calories and points will make you crazy.

At least once a month, I am asked how many calories a yoga class burns. The truth? I have absolutely no idea! I do not practice yoga to burn calories. I do not move to lose weight. I practice yoga and move my body to experience living in my body – to honor my body, to give my body a sacred space to feel everything that I am feeling with unconditional acceptance.

So if you’re tired of believing that weight-loss will lead to happiness, if you’re sick of every Sunday night telling yourself you’ll start your diet of Monday, begin ACCEPTING YOUR BODY’S WISDOM next Sunday, September 22,from 4-6:30 at Downtown Yoga, with myself and Jill Daniels, RD. We will embark on a journey of teaching, sharing and exploring the amazing gifts that come with ACCEPTING YOUR BODY’S WISDOM!  I plan to continue to blog about this journey as we share our experience, strength and hope.

If you’re struggling with the messages of our culture, have been taught and encouraged to self-loathe instead of self love, please join us as we grow and learn how to listen, feel and truly be in our bodies.

Register at Downtown Yoga

And if you’re still listening….LOVE YOUR BODY!!!