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Welcome to BreatheEcourse

Hello and welcome to BreatheEcourse!

I’m so honored that you’re joining me next week, and if you’re not, I hope you’ll consider it!

Thank you for your interest, your support and for choosing to look at your mental health in a new way. Implementing these skills and tools into my life has changed my anxiety and PTSD. I still struggle at times, but for the most part my life is manageable and even enjoyable. Most days I feel pretty grateful to have the life that I have and know that whatever comes up, I’ll be able to handle it.  That’s a lot different than it used to be.

Starting October 22nd we’ll be spending 7 days together. What that looks like is completely up to you. What I will do is send you emails daily with a core Breathe concept to bring some ease to your life. I’ll talk about a tool or skill that helps me. In the secret FB group, I’ll share my own experience of how the skill or tool works in my life.

I can’t promise you that everything is going to be shiny-happy right away, but I can promise you that these tools will help you shift your thinking and your mood, at least temporarily. I can teach you how to stop a panic attack, sleep better and start to feel a little lightness. I can show you that, but it will still be up to you to utilize the tools and skills. That’s the rub, isn’t it? To manage our anxiety, depression and/or PTSD we have to show up and do what we know how to do, Every Single Time. Cause it can spiral down incredibly fast, right?

Okay, so what will you need next week?

I always start BreatheEcourse and BreatheOnline with Let’s Get Clear and actually, you can start thinking about this now. Let’s Get Clear is about really being honest with ourselves about how anxiety, depression and/or PTSD is affecting us. Is your anxiety making you feel an overpowering need for control? Is that manifesting in skipped meals, washing hands, bullying your partner? Tough questions, but if you’re like me you don’t want to kid yourself anymore. You are ready for some brutal honesty, cause whether you do the work with me or with a therapist or in a group, brutal honestly is imperative. Aren’t you tired of trying to trick yourself? I absolutely am.

So, think about that. In addition, consider your time commitment over the next week. How important is managing your mental health to you right now? Are you really struggling? Or is life humming along okay and this is just a way to add some tools to your toolbox?

How fast do you want to make some changes? I’m a rip-the-bandaid-off kinda woman. I would rather put my life on hold for a bit and jump into healing with both feet so I can feel better fast, than take baby steps. Having said that, there’ve been plenty of times when I’ve had to do a little bit often. Feeling better is not where I like to do that.

First, you’ll need a journal to record all these honesty thoughts, take notes and just be present during the week. 

You can use absolutely anything you like.  It can be a notebook from the dollar store or a fancy leather bound journal. It can be your everyday journal or something new that you buy just for the week, or just for recording thoughts and feelings around your mental health. Whatever works for you is perfect. The only thing that I ask is that it be bound in some way, not just loose pages.

Well, I also insist that you write and not type. There’s lots of research out there that suggests the act of writing things out longhand is completely different than typing, when it comes to our brains.  The healing happens when we write longhand. The healing? Yes, healing. Journaling can even speed our physical healing. You don’t even have to write about your physical ailment.

What else? You also need an open mind and heart. We’re going to work on this, so if that scares you, don’t worry. All week we’re going to work to reach a place that’s called Wise Mind. I’ll explain more when we start, but basically it’s where we consistently look for the middle ground, a hard task for people prone to black and white thinking. Everything we do next week is going to be about centering  body, mind, spirit, so we can stand in Wise Mind as much as possible.

When we’re in Wise Mind, we’re not reacting to partial information, we’re using both sides of the brain to see the whole picture and then we can make observations about how we’re actually feeling and are able to make wise choices about how to act. Take action, not react is the key. 

So, let’s get in Wise Mind and create some changes in our brain chemistry! You’re going to get the most out of these 7 days, if you can stay on top of reading the emails, do the exercises and connect on the FB page. It’s 7 days! The more work you’re willing to do, the more things will shift for you and the better you’re going to feel after a few weeks of implementing these tools.

The secret FB group is not a whim. i really thought hard and long about what’s been the biggest help in managing my anxiety and PTSD. Overwhelmingly, it’s been connecting with people who get what I’m going through. Cause how can you really understand a panic attack unless you’ve had one? Saying, it feels like you might die, or explode, just doesn’t make sense to the person who’s never had one. It doesn’t. We need our people and for me, that means other people with similar health issues! Listen and share and connect and enjoy a whole group of like-minded people who get it.

So, find the perfect journal and the perfect writing implement and let’s join together in community, a core yogic concept, and take a step towards ease, wholeness and maybe even a little happiness.

If you’d like to join us, but haven’t signed up yet just drop me an email at Mel@ayogkitchen.com and I can add you to the list.

I’m starting BreatheOnline November 12th, for those of you interested in a longer session with some deeper work.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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DBT Skills, Cope Ahead, Attention Shifting and Temperature Change

Over at BreatheOnline, the six week course for managing anxiety and depression in a new way, we’re picking up again in the middle of week 4 with DBT skills.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy changed my life! As you’ve heard me say here before these skills are simple, but not always easy skills that help you manage your mood, mental health and especially times of high emotion. Developed by Dr. Marsha Linehan for helping people with Borderline Personality Disorder, it has been instrumental in changing the lives of people with Bi-polar Disorder, Anxiety, Depression, ADD and PTSD.

As most of you know, I struggle with anxiety and also have a PTSD diagnosis. For full disclosure, I’m not medicated, but work with lots of folks that are. I manage with diet, exercise, yoga and dbt skills. As with every human on the planet, there are good days and there are bad days. I am extremely grateful that these days the bad days are not the lows that they once were.

One of the skills we’re talking about in BreatheOnline is Cope Ahead. This is one of my favorites. This is a bit of what I wrote to the class in the FB group this week.

What does your week look like from here? Are there meetings, activities, events, interactions that you know might be difficult for you? Are you likely to be triggered?

Where can you anticipate needing to be especially skillful?

Cope Ahead is a skill that I use every morning. I wake up and think about my day and note what absolutely has to be done, what can shift if it needs to, where I have breaks or where maybe I’m going to be in high gear for a long period of time. This helps me know that I need to eat more in the morning and pack a snack, cause the day is going to be FULL and that maybe tonight is not the night to meet a friend for drinks, cause it’s going to be long and, oh yeah, I have to be across town by 7am. Drinks is something that I can easily shift,  so that I can feel more calm and be successful in terms of what I want to accomplish.

Do this with your week and think about what kind of dbt skills might be helpful. This week, I know that I’m traveling and my daughter is picking me up at the airport, then the whole family is going to dinner, before she and my ex head out on a cross-country drive the following morning. So, I need to be “on” when I arrive. I need to navigate a potentially difficult evening of high emotion on everyone’s part. Lots of excitement and sadness and anticipation. A mine field, right?  I need to be at my most skillful. Despite the travel plans to work while I’m flying, maybe the better choice is to work in the airport and then sleep on the plane. If I can’t sleep, maybe watch something totally mindless, so I’m Attention Shifting from anything upsetting or worrying. When I arrive, if I have time, jump in and take a cool shower to feel refreshed, but also to soothe my nervous system, using Temperature Change,  so that I’m in relax and repose.

The next morning, the girl and her dad leave for a three day drive. So. being perky and confident and excited for them is my job. Another shower with some cool down at the end will help me feel energized and help my brain feel calm.  I also will get up fairly early to make a big breakfast, get our son off to school and make sure everyone feels good about their day.  It’s the first time in a long time that I’ll solo parent, so I’ll hit the grocery store and start a week of cooking ahead for my ex and son. I’ll freeze big batches of soup, pasta sauce and breakfast burritos. THEN i will have a little down town, cause the day after I travel always requires a little downtown. Thursday and Friday, as well as the weekend are pretty open. I’ll probably work a bunch and get ready for some private yoga clients and cooking gigs next week. So I just have to be on top of it for a few days and then I can nap, take long walks, watch movies with my son and chill a bit before I get back into work mode next week.

What are you focusing on this week? What are tools that you’re going to be using to make sure you don’t get emotionally hijacked? It happens, there are things we can’t predict, but what can you see coming?

Check out A Yogi Kitchen for more information about BreatheOnline. There’s no session scheduled as this time. Contact me  and let me know if you’re interested and I can get a group going. . I’m nothing if not flexible, I AM a yogini.

Week 3 Yoga Poses to Manage Your Mood

Week3yogaposes`Over at breatheOnline we’re starting week 3 and focusing on yoga poses to help us manage our anxiety and depression. 

Getting ready for this week I’ve been reading, researching and even just reflecting on my own practice, what it’s meant to me and how I manage with yoga.

There are so many yoga poses that help mange my anxiety and ptsd. Legs up the wall, supported child’s pose, supine supported twist, prasarita padottanasana. I use them regularly to manage my emotions. 

The biggest gift from yoga though is that feeling that I got the first day I pressed up into down dog. it was this scary, exhilarating, peaceful feeling. It was coming home to me. I was 26 and I’d never felt that feeling.  I felt it for a moment and then it slipped away. I remember thinking, wait! what was that? it came back for savasana and I was hooked.

Now 21 years later, it comes quickly and lasts past my practice. Sometimes it stays with me for days, but a yoga practice is like showering. You have to do it often to get the results.

Without this simple gift I would be lost.  Well, more lost than I normally am, but it’s a tool that I can pull out quickly and easily.  When I feel lost, which I often do, I can get on the mat and find myself. And not just find myself, but my most honest and authentic self. This is the place where I can’t lie to myself. I can’t hear the voices in the back of my head or the critical people around me. On the mat, there’s only Melissa.

I invited my BreatheOnline class to practice legs up the wall for at least five minutes every morning this week and notice the difference after just a week. Join us! 

BreatheOnline is a six week long course to manage anxiety and depression in a new way. We’re just starting our third week. You work in your place, at your pace, so you can join us and I’ll get you caught up! 

 

It’s Like Showering

I’ve been honored enough to work with some pretty amazing clients over the years. I’ve had students whose anxiety was so big they needed to sit in the HS parking lot for a full hour before going in those scary glass doors. I’ve worked with people whose chronic pain would flatten me, but they go through life with a smile as they explain that the pain is an 8 today. I’ve worked with people brand new to the practice, but so willing and eager it melts my heart.

In almost every class I mention that yoga only works if you do it.

Seems pretty straight forward right?  Over and over again in my life, though, I think I should get to do something just once or think about doing it and I’ll get all the benefits. Yet, there are so many things I know i have to do over and over again to get the benefits. I shower everyday, I wash the dishes everyday, I work everyday.

So, why do we get confused and think we should just go to one yoga class and if we don’t get the benefits, it’s not working. Or that working out isn’t helping,  we’re not getting stronger, we’re not losing weight. Oh yeah, maybe cause I just did it twice last week and only thought about it this week.  Well, no that’s not really going to get me stronger or help me lose weight, but then my nutty mind says it’s not working and I shouldn’t even bother.

Yoga is like showering. You have to do it over and over again to get the benefits. I can know this. I can hear this. Yet, there are times that I get frustrated because my neck hurts or the anxiety gets big and I think WHY! I’m a yogi, WHY is this happening.

Well, nine times out of ten it’s because it’s been a busy week and I haven’t practiced as much as I need to to  manage my neck pain or my anxiety.

Last year I was home in Chicago and found out some stuff about my parents and their health issues. viparita-karani-asanaMy mom is on blood pressure meds for her high blood pressure. So, I showed her Viparita Karani, legs up the wall. At 73, she was able to get into it easily.  Luckily, getting on the floor was okay for her. It’s not always easy. You sit next to a wall, with your hip next to the wall, and swing your legs up and lay down flat on the floor. Simple. Easy. For most of it it feels pretty yummy.  You shouldn’t feel like it’s a big stretch. If you do, you just scoot away from the wall till it feels comfortable. I know, though, for a lot of people her age getting on the floor can be hard or the thought of getting back up can be scary. She popped into it and then popped out. Good for mom!

She enjoyed the pose. She said it felt good. While I knew that she was getting these amazing benefits, she just relaxed.  A few months later when I visited again, I asked her about it. First, she didn’t remember doing the pose. Then when I prompted her and reminded her, she was like, Oh, I didn’t notice any difference so I didn’t do it again.

Yoga is like showering. Or taking your vitamins, or meds. You do it everyday. Or at least a few times a week for the benefits to be real and long-lasting.

Is there anything we do just once that lasts for months and months? Yet, we think that’s how it should be.

Feeling frustrated? Just remember, it’s like showering.

 

Need some help remembering your practice? We can work together long distance. Let’s Zoom! Need help using yoga to to manage your mental health? Sign up for #breatheonline. 

 

 

 

There is no behind. You’re perfect.

You all know how I like to beat myself up about stuff, right? You might be able to identify with me. You might find it charming in the same way my mentors over the years have found it. One after one throughout my 20s and 30s they get this warm, indulgent smile on their faces and shake their heads slowly. Oh, Melissa they’d often say.

girlfriendsNow, I find myself the mentor and I try to avoid that knowing indulgence. More often, I find myself smiling at myself, Still making those same mistakes years later. I have to wonder if I ever learn.

A few days ago I blogged that I had signed up for some self-care online challenges and courses and hadn’t done any of them. Of course, I’ve spent some time beating myself up about it.  I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t. I’m working on it.

I signed up for Sheila Pai’s Nurturing You: Online Retreat. So instead of continuing to beat myself up, I decided that even if I was behind I could sill benefit. This is growth for me. So, I took some time to listen to the interviews and meditation that she offers weekly.  They were wonderful and I urge you to check sheilaher out.

Surprisingly, my biggest takeaway was just from what she shared in her email reminder. You’re not behind. It’s okay if you’re catching up. It’s okay to be right where you are. It’s the perfect place for right now.

I teach this ALL the time. I urge my students and to stay on their own mats. I tell them it doesn’t matter what the person next to you is doing, it doesn’t matter what they think about you-they should be staying on their own mat too. I remind them that they’re right where they’re supposed to be and the beauty of yoga is that it meets you right where you are every single time.IMG_20140527_083649_671

Yoga has this amazing capacity to bring you the lesson on the mat. The one lesson that you’re really supposed to get. I believe this is true in life, just walking down the street, but it never ever fails when you get on the mat. You open your heart and listen. and yoga helps you smack right into yourself until you get to the core or the practice that you really need.

When you think of your practice whether it’s yoga or just taking moments of quiet you can’t really be behind. Only the moment that you’re in matters and that moment is always here.

This crazy idea of being behind is my biggest  illusion. There’s so little that matters outside of this moment and this moment is always right where I’m supposed to be.

If your brain is like mine and is busy with thinking about the  future, join me in staying in the present. Breathe, a yoga group for anxiety and depression is a six week course for connection, sharing, mindfulness, breath work and yoga poses to help us manage emotions. We start in person October 14th in Salem, MA and in January online. See the schedule for more information. 

Working Through Your Emotions

I just read a sentence from artist and business coach, Jennifer Lee. She said, “Painting helps you move through your emotion.”

Not being an artist, I was a little surprised by that. I thought, that’s exactly what yoga does! You don’t have to know what the emotion is. You don’t have to understand where the emotion comes from or if it has a purpose. You just have to get on the mat and be present with your feelings.

Supta Baddha KonasanaAnyone who has taken a class with me knows that I always start with a check-in. Whether I’m practicing at home on my own or whether I’m leading a class I always ask what’s happening body, mind and spirit.  I invite students to lie on their backs, arms at their sides and just start at the top of the body and notice what’s happening physically in this moment. After a few moments of silent listening, I ask them to move their attention to their heart space and listen to what the heart has to say. I encourage them not to worry about naming an emotion, if they can’t easy identify it. Rather, just be present with the emotions. It’s perfectly normal and natural to have lots of emotions at once and sometimes those emotions can be conflicting. That’s completely okay.

As the practice begins keeping  in mind that check-in with the heart can really help both your practice and process feelings.  Moving from a down dog to a runner’s lunge may bring some things IMG_20150317_174745482_HDRup body, mind and spirit. What comes up isn’t always important. As I’m moving from standing poses to a restful child’s pose my heart may sigh and the emotions may not feel as big. What I’m feeling doesn’t matter as much as allowing myself to feel and letting those emotions shift and possibly become lighter and more manageable.

Sometimes the opposite happens. Sometimes the feelings become bigger and maybe even manifest physically. Those are the emotions to be present with. Those are the emotions that may need action. For me, these are the emotions that mean something needs to shift or change in my life.

Not long ago my personal practice was difficult to get through, not because big, ugly emotions were coming up. The opposite, actually. I would get such a creative spark in the middle of my practice that I couldn’t resist jumping off the mat and writing in my journal or looking something up. What I’ve learned is that those emotions aren’t fleeting. I don’t have to jump off the mat, because most likely they’re not going anywhere.  The practice allows my heart to open and signal to my brain what’s really important.

So for, Jennifer Lee, it’s painting. For me, it’s yoga. The important thing is to find a way to work those emotions. As Jennifer asks in her last newsletter, is there something you’re working through?  I would ask, is there a place you’re feeling stuck or unsettled. Get on the mat. You don’t have to focus on that thing, even. Just be present with how you’re feeling body, mind and spirit and let yoga do it’s work.

Next month in Salem, MA I’m starting Breathe, a yoga group for anxiety and/or depression. We’ll learn some new tools and move through our emotions to make them more manageable. For more info or to sign up http://ayogikitchen.com. 

Staying in Gratitude, Staying out of Anxiety

gratitudeGratitude is such a powerful place to be.

And I’ve e so far away from that place. It’s not that I’m ungrateful. It’s that I forget. Something happens and I start to obsess about fixing it or changing it or obsess about obsessing over it. Slowly gratitude slips away. Then I’m in that place. That place where there’s never enough. I’m not smart enough to figure this out, why is life so hard and so consistently full of obstacles. What am I going to do?  How am I going to fix this?

My shoulders get tight. My neck hurts. My breathing gets more and more shallow and then I can’t sleep and I’m nauseated on a daily basis. The anxiety has slowly crept in while I wasn’t watching and now I’m deep in it. What am I going to do?

Last week was like that. Many, many things crept up. Slowly, like the cat trying to climb into bed with me. A tiny step, then a pause to see if I’m paying attention. Then another tiny step and then another long pause. Meanwhile, I’m drifting farther and farther away from being awake, in both the spiritual sense and the asleep sense and the cat’s on the bed and the anxiety has taken over my life.

Now, as you probably remember anxiety and I are old friends. (Me and my companion anxiety). She doesn’t like to just visit. She grabs the comforter and settles in.

So, last week it all came to a head. Everything that was a tiny bit wrong seemed enormous. I couldn’t seem to manage my moods, which I’m pretty good when it comes to teaching and helping other folks. And to be fair, I’m good at it a lot, but not last week. Last week was anger and tears and feelings of hopelessness. So what’s the answer?

Being in mindful gratitude-taking time to meditate and do one thing mindfully eases the negative thinking, distracts from the problems and increases concentration. (I created a different relationship to the voice in my head)

Writing that gratitude list that everyone hates to do really helps. Start tomorrow morning. In your journal or in a notebook make a list of ten things you’re grateful for. Begin by listing the numbers 1-10 on ten separate lines and then don’t think, don’t take your pen off the page, just write ten things. They don’t have to be big things. Once I took a journaling workshop and we had to write 100 things.  Somewhere around 43 I started listing things like my toothbrush. Really, I AM grateful for my toothbrush, but you get the idea. They can be silly, they can be meaningful. My kids were early on in that list.

Start the list tomorrow and write another one the next day. Try it for seven days and see what happens. I’m not promising magic, but I do believe it helps.

Cultivate an attitude of gratitude and take back your comforter. Anxiety will find somewhere else to bunk.