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.

#selfcarefriday

slefcarefriday3It’s Friday again and I haven’t really decided what I’m doing for myself today. I’ve been thinking a lot about self-care though. What does it really mean and why is it important. Our mothers didn’t need it, right?

I grew up in a generation that didn’t know about self-care. Our mothers didn’t model it. In fact, exactly the opposite. It was the hyper-indulgent 80s and everyone bragged about not sleeping and how go-go-go their weekends were. Martha Stewart was teaching women that they weren’t enough if they couldn’t re-grout their bathrooms, while baking a souffle and hosting 25 for a mid-week dinner.

Even as a high school kid I pulled all-nighters and swilled black coffee at all hours. We didn’t know about lattes yet.

So now 30 years later the buzz word is self-care and it’s still a little foreign selfcarefriday2to me. When I teach yoga I believe one of my jobs is to hold space for people’s pain and exhaustion, confusion and worry. I like to nurture and pamper my students. I tell them it’s okay to have their feelings, no matter what they are. I bring lotion and massage their necks. I’m a care-giver who loves to give.

Ask me about what I need, though and that’s a different story. I have so much lovingkindness and compassion towards my students, especially when they struggle in a difficult pose or release into a gentle stretch. I can not extend that same compassion towards myself.

Well, at least it takes a lot  more for me to get there. I have to really be hurting, deeply struggling for me to ease up on myself. And so has been the case for the past few weeks. Really hard stuff has made me soften towards myself. A little.

selfcarefridayWith this softer attitude towards myself I’ve been tossing around the concept of self-care. What is it and why is it so important. Why do I struggle with it?  Even when I’m the A+ self-care student I feel guilty. I actually feel less guilty when I eat junk food or drink too much.

Now, how crazy is that? I can partake in damaging foods and arguably self-destructive behaviors and I feel like I deserve it, Cholesterol laden, fat filled potato chips make me feel like I’ve treated myself, but a massage makes me feel guilt-ridden.

How often have you thought to yourself I’m just going to slow down and take care of myself and get out the ice cream, a spoon, a chick-flick and a bottle of wine and then you park yourself on the couch for the weekend. Now, by itself there’s nothing wrong with this behavior once in awhile. But why is this our go-to? Why when I’m hurting and suffering from loss do I not think I’m going to take a long walk and drink some tea, get a massage and then call my best friend?

So, I’m working on thinking of self-care as the new Pinot Grigio. I ask you to join me. Share your #selfcarefridays either here in the comments or on FB or IG. And I will share mine.

Today, ask yourself what can I do for myself that will help me relax/rejuvenate/refresh/reset/renew/release…be the best me?

While i was planning my travel to Lawrence nest week I couldn’t stop thinking about how we beat ourselves up. I think those of us who do it the most are those that need it the least. So, I decided rather than teach two workshops Yoga for Depression and Yoga for Anxiety I would offer one Free Intro to Yoga for Anxiety and Depression session and one full Yoga for Anxiety and Depression Workshop. Please join me at Om Tree Shala on 5/23, 12p for some FREE yoga and great tips how to care for yourself. While the workshop is geared for those suffering from anxiety and depression the information and practice is practical, helpful and wonderful for everyone! See you there. Check out details at A Yogi Kitchen

Spring life hacks for depression and anxiety

birdsThe birds are singing outside my window in Lawrence, Kansas and yesterday I watched a male and female robin flirt. Today it’s going to be 55 degrees and all the snow has melted. It’s Spring.. Maybe not officially, but it’s on its way. I’m going to get out there, get some sun and a lot of exercise today, cause tomorrow it’s supposed to be cold again. For a lot of us Spring is a time of huge energy. It’s the time with Mother Nature is renewing; pushing out buds, shooting up sprouts, growing tiny animal families. The energy of Spring is near palpable. It’s an exciting time of year. The air holds possibility. Except, if you have anxiety or depression. Years ago I was told that my insomnia would get worse in the Spring, my ulcer would act up in the Spring, feelings of unease and difficulty adjustment would be stronger in the Spring. Spring and Fall tend to be the more difficult times for those of us who experience difficulty with anxiety and depression. And you don’t have to be chronically affected to feel the effects of the season. So what do we do? This is the time of year to be doubly vigilant. I do what I yogastretchknow works and do more of it. So, maybe add ten minutes onto your fitness routine. Going to Zumba? Maybe add ten minutes of stretching to the end or walk on the treadmill for ten minutes to warm-up beforehand.  I know that exercise is the number one thing I  can do to naturally manage my anxiety. It works even better for depression. I’m not suggesting you dump your meds. I’m just saying get in at least 30 minutes of intense exercise a  three times week-whatever intense means for you. Dr. Stephen Ilardi explains in one of my favorite TED talks. The other really big thing I can do is watch what I eat. For me I watch my carbs and sugars. I have an insulin issue (yes, the diabetes was a misdiagnosis) so this is super important, but for anyone dealing with depression and/or anxiety sugar can make all our feelings of high emotion feel even bigger. Sugar causes mood swings and a lot of us already have issues staying even. Sugar also depletes our energy and staying energized is important for managing our moods-and just for feeling good in general. We’re all individuals, though, and you probably know what makes you feel bad and what can make you feel better. At least for the Spring try to cut out the things that make you feel bad. I eat lots of fresh veggies and fruits. Luckily it’s so easy to eat well in the Spring. There are so many yummy veggies, think tiny asparagus and succulent lettuces. My doctor says forget the food pyramid. Try to get eight servings of veggies and eight servings of fruit a day. Getting 8 & 8 in makes me feel great! I also eat high protein and I try to skip the white rice, potatoes, desserts and candy snacks. Even chips can make me feel down and worry.  There are times when I can eat those things in small doses and know that there might be mild consequences, but not in the Spring. I’m certainly not perfect, in fact I’m writing this after a night that I had a few beers. I am the first one to want to grab a  slice of pizza or a night out with the girls, but for this time of year I need to weigh out whether it’s worth it or not. If I really need some girl time I plan for it.  I try to hydrate early in the girls  nightday. I make sure I eat lots of protein before and after and when I’m out I limit my drinking and resist the urge to munch on carbs that are so inticing when there’s alcohol in my system. While it’s really fun to cut loose, this time of the year it can be harder for me to recover. Being smart makes the difference between a difficult and a great day. It can also make the difference in spiraling deeper into anxious feelings. Once the spiral starts, it’s hard to get out. I’m human. I fail. I certainly still have nights where I don’t sleep because I can’t turn off my brain, days where I have trouble being productive. There are times where being in a new situation, a party where I don’t know many people or a networking event, makes me sweat and my heart pound and there are times when I just can’t. Learning these simple tools from dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) and being a yogini has made all the difference in my anxiety. It’s what inspired me to teach Yoga for Anxiety and Yoga for Depression. I’m not a doctor. I’m not an expert. I’m someone who has been through a lot of difficult shit in her life that left some scars. legsupthewallIIInterested in learning more about what works for me? I’m working on private long distance learning, but for now join us for in Lawrence, KS  for workshops, Yoga for Depression March 7 and/or Yoga for Anxiety March 14. They are life changing! Questions? Interested in more info about long distance learning? I’m so excited about his new program. Let’s connect!