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Eating is Messy

Eating – it’s something we have to do to survive and yet it often becomes so complicated. I remember when I started teaching yoga in the evenings around dinner time. I struggled with “When do I eat? Before yoga and risk feeling too full and uncomfortable in the poses? After yoga when I’m tired and just want to go to sleep?” My clients often struggle with when to eat as their busy daily schedule doesn’t always permit them to eat when they are hungry. When should I eat if I can’t eat when I’m hungry? 

The complexity of food timing often means that we eat when we are, in fact, NOT hungry.

Or worse – we eat for comfort, support, connection, love, healing…

As mindful & intuitive eating practices become more well-known and accepted, I fear the term “emotional eating” has become villainized. Intuitive eating encourages us to honor our hunger with food and honor our feelings without food. These are fantastic guidelines and, when possible, are quite beneficial in breaking a restrict/binge cycle.  Lately, however, I find myself cringing when I hear or read about the faultiness of emotional eating & and the rewards of mindful & intuitive eating. Often the promise is still steeped in the diet mentality. It reads something like this: If you follow this “wellness program”  you will feel better and “may” lose weight (but of course that’s not the goal because we don’t promote weight loss because we are a wellness program). Ah, sneaky sneaky.

The complexity of knowing when & why to eat only became more apparent for me when I had my baby girl, Kassidy (now 11 months!).  She is a strictly breast-fed baby (refused to take a bottle) and she seemed to nurse 24/7 for the first 3 months. The more I reached out to moms in real life, (not the internet) I discovered I wasn’t alone – most newborns nurse nearly constantly. But she can’t possibly be hungry ALL THE TIME?! As a new mom, I was now responsible for not only figuring out if I was hungry and when to eat, but now I had to figure out if my baby was hungry and when to feed her. I soon realized how completely defenseless this baby was and that I held all the power. If I deemed that she couldn’t possibly be hungry because she just ate, I would fight to find other ways to soothe, comfort, love and connect with her.  Sometimes it worked. Sometimes she kept crying for what felt like hours (but was probably 10 minutes) until I nursed her. She was doing the unthinkable, the forbidden – emotionally eating.

My baby spent nearly the first 8 months of her life emotionally eating. Of course, she was receiving necessary calories for growth, but most of the time she wanted the comfort, love, support and connection that accompanied nursing. (I strongly believe bottle fed babies have the same emotional attachment, but I don’t have personal experience). There are certainly “experts” who would argue that after 3 months (or even younger) that a baby should only eat for nutrients, but I think most would agree that a baby needing food for comfort is “normal” and “acceptable”.

I can’t help but wonder then, why is it okay for food to also provide love, soothing, comfort and connection in addition to nutrition when we are babies, but not as we get older? Why is emotional eating getting such a bad rap? The message we get from an early age is that it’s bad to eat for reasons other than hunger. When we “catch” ourselves emotionally eating, we are ashamed so we numb out and typically eat more than we would have to begin with because the guilt is overwhelming.

What if emotional eating could ALSO be mindful and intuitive? What if we didn’t have to choose between being emotional, mindful or intuitive?

GUIDELINES FOR BEING AN EMOTIONAL, MINDFUL & INTUITIVE EATER WITHOUT SHAME & GUILT
1) HONOR YOUR EMOTIONAL AND PHYSICAL HUNGER – Sometimes we aren’t physically hungry, but we still want food. Sometimes we are able to recognize that we are bored, so we engage in an activity or we are tired, so we sleep. BUT sometimes even when we aren’t physically hunger, we still really want to eat. If you aren’t physically hungry, but you want to eat, can you stay in the present moment and identify what it is that you are feeling without judgement?
2) ONCE YOU’VE IDENTIFIED WHAT YOU ARE FEELING, STAY HONEST WITH YOURSELF – Perhaps you are able to identify that you feel frustrated and you want to eat pretzels. You know you aren’t physically hungry for pretzels, but you still really want pretzels. Instead of denying yourself pretzels, give yourself full permission to eat the pretzels because you are frustrated. You may even say out loud “I am eating pretzels because I am feeling frustrated” or “I feel frustrated, I want pretzels”. This is so important because you aren’t checking out, numbing out, or using food as a weapon. You are staying present with what you are feeling and being intentional in your choice to eat. Stay connected to the part of you that is needing something. If you are eating brownies because you are sad and need to feel loved – stay connected to the part of you that needs to feel loved and acknowledge it fully.
3) CONTINUE TO OFFER YOURSELF PERMISSION, COMPASSION AND ACCEPTANCE – Remind yourself that eating while NOT hungry is okay. Eating isn’t destructive – denying that you are eating and denying your feelings is destructive.  You deserve love, compassion and acceptance. You have permission to eat whatever you want without fear. Sometimes a bubble bath, a hug, a walk, a call to a friend is exactly what we need when we are experiencing difficult emotions. But the honest truth is sometimes the answer is food. Notice when you give yourself permission to have whatever you want, if it’s easier to stay present with what you are feeling – whatever you are feeling in that moment. Continue to offer yourself compassion and acceptance, and you may find you are free from shame and guilt, thus allowing yourself to avoid a binge/restrict cycle.
Eating is complex. Eating is complicated. Eating is messy. But it is also joyful, pleasurable, fun, soothing, comforting & nourishing for the body and soul. There isn’t a right or a wrong way to eat. Eating isn’t a punishment nor is it punishable. Our relationships to food are emotional – let’s not pretend that they aren’t and then be surprised when we eat for comfort.  You are an emotional being – there will be times when you eat for some reason other than hunger. Practice patience, kindness and acceptance and you will find exactly what you are hungering for physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually.

PS I am currently offering a free BodyWisdom Coaching Session. Contact me to set up your free session – sessions are done over the phone so you can live anywhere!

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Permission to Rest

“Just doing yoga won’t ever be enough for me”. I remember saying these exact words when I first started to practice yoga regularly my freshman year of college. I liked yoga, I quickly grew to love to yoga, but it was always something that came in tandem with another activity. It was a cool down after a sweaty 30 minutes on the elliptical machine or a warm up before a kick boxing class.  My need to always be moving was powerful. I had tons of energy and spent a lot of time getting rid of it, until I was finally exhausted enough to relax. This ‘don’t stop until you’re asleep’ motto was modeled in my home and stories were often told of my grandmother not sitting down until 11 pm at night when she would finally fall asleep after being on the go all day long.
My relationship with yoga changed when I got sick during my junior year of college. I was tired and weak. I didn’t have the energy that I was used to and couldn’t do all that I wanted to do. At first, I was really annoyed – I wanted to go for a bike ride, hike or get to the gym, but my body wasn’t in agreement with my mind. My body needed to rest. After struggling with this perceived “set back”, I gave myself the space to accept that “just yoga” would have to be enough (for right now anyway). But something shifted within me once I accepted that yoga was enough – I began to crave my yoga practice.  When I was feeling antsy, anxious, busy, sad, angry, overwhelmed, I would get on my mat and the practice would fill me up – physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.

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Do I still hike, bike, walk and stay active outside of my yoga practice? Of course, but I what I learned about myself during this time was that I used those activities to escape from my body and shut off my mind while yoga brought me in union with my body and helped to quiet my mind without numbing out. Yoga gave me a space to tune in to what I was feeling and sensing so that eventually when I did return to my other activities I could do so with more awareness and steadiness to avoid burnout and fatigue.
“Elisa, I hope you find a way to bottle your energy and sell it one day. You’ll make millions”. This was written by 8th grade English teacher in my yearbook. Short of making millions, yoga has done just that for me – it has allowed me to utilize my energy so that I can be steady, balanced and calm in all of my daily activities. Slowing down is still a challenge for me, but I remind myself every day that I have permission to rest. Stillness and rest – both within my yoga practice and as a part of my day have deepened my connection to BodyWisdom. When I am in tune with BodyWisdom, I move, eat, relate and live more intuitively.
I would love to know how your relationship with yoga as changed over the years. Did you also feel like yoga would never been enough? Maybe you still feel that way? The awesome part about yoga is that the practice itself can adapt to what we are needing (vinyasa for when we have energy to be released versus restorative when we need our energy contained.)
Whether yoga alone is enough for you these days or it’s a complement to other activities, please respond to this email if you’d like access to my next audio yoga class, “Slow and Steady”.
Namaste,
Elisa
PS Interested in trying a BodyWisdom Coaching session? I have slots available for a FREE BodyWisdom Coaching session next next Tuesday and Thursday (Sept 26th and 28th). Please email me by Sunday the 24th to claim your spot. 

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Om Shanti, Om Peace

If you have ever been to one of my yoga classes, you have probably heard me repeat the phrase, “Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti, Om Peace, Peace, Peace“.  I must admit, there are days when I repeat these words and it feels like rhetoric, like something that I say out of habit. But, then, there are other days, like the morning after the horrific shooting in Orlando, when I repeat these words at the end of my yoga class, and something deep within me feels their power. The words themselves seem to hold their own vibration, their own energy. When I repeat these words, I am not speaking directly to you or the class in front of me, but to all beings. For a brief, still second, it feels as if these words may touch each individual on this earth.

I am not naïve, I do not believe prayer or meditation, or chanting alone will bring about peace, but I do know that for me, my yoga practice is always a support and beacon of hope in even the darkest times. What I love so dearly about my yoga practice is that it is always in flux, always in transformation to meet me exactly where I am each day.  Some days my practice is quiet and still, other days it is energetic and quick. Some days, I love listening to Motown while I rock  my downward dog, while other days it is the haunting Kirtan chanting of Deva Premal. What matters most to me, is that I do not judge my practice or myself – instead I practice acceptance and santosha (contentment).

During this difficult and tumultuous time in our country, it is often tempting to turn our backs (however consciously or unconsciously) on that which brings light into our lives. But it is vital, now more than ever, that we move toward the light, toward hope and support.

What brings you toward the light in dark times?
What prevents you from reaching out for hope and support?
What keeps you stuck in negativity and pain?
What can you do today to restore your faith in Peace?
Om Shanti, Om Peace,Elisa

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Love, Love, Love

Ah, February, the month of Love.

I must admit, I am quite partial to celebrating love this month.  My husband proposed to me on the beach in Kauai on February 14th, at sunrise three years ago. We were married the following year on February 23. For me, February has become a month of celebrating and honoring our relationship.

For some, February can be a difficult, disappointing and even depressing month.

But what if this month, you decided to LOVE yourself – no matter what??  

I don’t mean waiting to love yourself when you lose weight or choosing to love yourself when you feel worthy of it.

YOU ARE WORTHY OF LOVE RIGHT NOW!

love

This month, take time to slow down and honor and celebrate your relationship with yourself and your body.

Here are some helpful tips for loving yourself and your body on and off your yoga mat.

On the Mat:

  • Experience what your body is doing and how your body is feeling in each pose.
  • Explore the purpose and action of each region of your body.
  • Notice where you feel strength, flexibility, challenge and ease.
  • Honor when your body needs to become more active and when can your body can become more relaxed.
  • Notice the flow of energy(prana) in your body.
  • Offer yourself empowering or soothing mantras through your practice.
    Ex. “My legs are strong and powerful and keep me grounded.”
    “My heart is open, my breath easy.”
    “My arms open wide to let in love.”

Off the Mat:

  • Feel the love you have in your heart for others, and offer a gesture of love to yourself.
  • Practice loving yourself  – give yourself a hug, an embrace, a self-massage(foot massages are great for this!)
  • Give yourself permission to receive love – remember you are worthy of love right now!
  • Accept any difficulties or challenges that come with offering self-love – it may feel uncomfortable or new.
  • Try repeating a loving mantra through out the day.
    Ex. “I am worthy of giving and receiving love.”
    “I am lovable just the way I am.”
    “I am enough!”

We could all take a lesson from the Beatles…

…All you need is love
All you need is love
All you need is love, love
Love is all you need…

There’s nothing you can know that isn’t known
Nothing you can see that isn’t shown
There’s nowhere you can be that isn’t where you’re meant to be
It’s easy

All you need is love
All you need is love
All you need is love, love
Love is all you need

Songwriters
LENNON, JOHN / MCCARTNEY, PAUL

Published by
Lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

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“Everchanging and vital, but never perfectible”

NEPOIf ever you’ve joined me for practice at Downtown Yoga or heard me speak at conferences, then you know I love an inspiring or thought provoking reading or poem at the end of a class. The last few years, I have thoroughly been enjoying reading The Book of Awakening by Mark Nepo, given to me by a dear friend around the holidays. His passages never fail to resonate with me, even when I’ve read them several times over, year after year.  9781573241175

With the holidays upon us once again, and resolutions just a week away, the passage on December 21st is representative of how I feel about the journey of Accepting Your Body’s Wisdom.

“There is nothing to do and no where to go. Accepting this, we can do everything and go anywhere. One of the basic notions of Taoism is that the world in all its mystery and difficulty cannot be improved upon , only experienced. We are asked to believe that life in all its complexity and wonder is complete as is – everchanging and vital, but never perfectible. I’ve come to understand that this doesn’t prevent our being involved. On the contrary, accepting that the world can do quite fine without us, allows us to put down the burden of being corrective heroes and simply concentrate on absorbing the journey of being alive.” Mark Nepo

As weight loss, diets, cleanses, and fresh starts are touted as the only way to enter 2016, I encourage you to re-read Mark Nepo’s passage as it pertains to your body and your journey to Accepting Your Body’s Wisdom.

Give it a try:

“There is nothing to do and no where to go. Accepting this, I can do everything and go everywhere. One of the basic notions of Taoism is that MY BODY in all its mystery and difficulty cannot be improved upon, only experienced. I am asked to believe that MY BODY in all its complexity and wonder is complete as is – everchanging and vital, but never perfectible. I’ve come to understand that this doesn’t prevent my being involved. On the contrary, accepting that MY BODY can do quite fine with WEIGHT LOSS, DIETS, CLEANSES, allows ME to put down the burden of being a corrective hero and to simply concentrate on absorbing the journey of being alive!”

As you enter 2016, enjoy the journey of being alive in THIS BODY EXACTLY AS IS!

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Heart and Hands

I recently taught a yoga class in which I asked the class to be particularly aware of their hands – more specifically the action and purpose of their hands.

I prompted students to consider:

“What are your hands doing in this pose?”
“What is the purpose and the action of your hands in this pose?”
“When do your hands need to become more active and when can your hands become more relaxed?”
“How do you experience the flow of energy in your hands?”
“Can you sense the connection of your hands to your heart and your heart to your hands?”

Lately, I find myself increasingly aware of this direct connection between my hands and my heart. In my restorative practice, as I rest deeply and in stillness,  I can sense the flow of energy, prana, that moves outward from my heart to my hands and returns again from my hands to my heart.  In my more active yoga practice, I am aware of the energetic action that stems outward from my heart to my hands and the increased heat from my hands back to my heart.

My increased awareness of hands and heart has not only had an influence on my practice on the mat, but off of the yoga mat as well. As I am in relationship with others,  it is simply not enough to feel the love I have for another in my heart, I must offer my love with a gesture of my hands. I may embrace with a hug, hold their hand, touch their face and or rest my hand on their shoulder.  My hands provide a direct link to my heart and it’s with my hands that I express and offer all the love in my heart.

On the Mat:

Experience what your hands are doing in each pose.
Explore the purpose and action of your hands in each pose.
Honor when your hands need to become more active and when can your hands may become more relaxed.
Notice the flow of energy in your hands.
Sense the connection of your hands to your heart and your heart to your hands.

Off the Mat:

Feel the love you have in your heart and offer a loved one a gesture that exhibits such love.
Start small – a touch on the shoulder, a rub on the back.
Accept any difficulties surrounding offering love with your hands whether it feels uncomfortable or new.
Practice loving yourself  – give yourself a hug, an embrace, a self-massage(foot massages are great for this!)