How to do Pigeon the Right Way

How to do Pigeon the Right Way

Pigeon is a yoga pose we all love to hate. Its dynamics are intense and liberating at the same time.

This pose can aid in a laundry list of issues and symptoms, but for many, pigeon is a pose that we often just flop into with no real direction or understanding of how we should position our body and why.

Pigeon is about unlocking our deepest fears, traumas, and anxieties, a pose that releases the pressures put on our lower two chakras. These lower two chakras, the root and the sacral, house our relationships with ourselves and our relationship between you and me (one-on-one). Our needs for survival, intimacy, trust, and stability reside here.

Pigeon Pose the Right Way

It’s been my observation that we’re a society in dire need of grounding, and releasing and developing trust. It will be difficult to trust others if you don’t trust yourself.

Having spent most of my life in recovery, I never really understood what that meant until I myself realized that I did not trust myself, honor myself and (to be blunt) like or love myself in any shape or form. The anxiety I’d feel in pigeon was the same anxiety I was feeling in life, in those tight uncomfortable situations. As I practiced and journeyed down the road of recovery, I began to notice a huge parallel in the two experiences.

To me, a big part of yoga is allowing yourself to feel.

I don’t just mean coming into class, flying around your mat for 75 minutes, and then laying down and calling it a day. Feeling on your mat means that you get in touch with your emotions, but also feel in your body what is actually going on, both on a physical level and an internal level. As we better understand what a pose is trying to offer us, we can then better appreciate the need for it and maybe even sustain a longer period of time in the pose.

For many people, their pigeon is lost from the nest with little awareness as to where to go. They are just mimicking the gestures of the other pigeons, hoping it is right.

I have come to understand and appreciate that not all poses are created equal. When your body can’t do something you want it to do, it will compensate with another body part. I like to make sure students are very clear about why they are moving in certain ways and what they might be feeling.

This Is What I Like To Call “Functional Pigeon”

– Begin in a tabletop position, with two blocks nearby.
– Exhale and slide your right knee forward so that the femur (thigh bone) and knee are directly in front of its hip socket.
– Comfortably align the right heel over towards the left hip without letting the knee slide to the side.
– Check the back leg and make sure you are on the top of the knee and thigh, your foot is laying flat and the leg is in line with its own hip socket as well.
– Inhale and begin to draw your torso upright, taking hold of your blocks to allow more stability to support the body.
– Draw your attention to the pelvis and notice if your ASIS (anterior superior iliac spine), AKA knobby points on the front of the pelvis are dropping forward and your lower back is crushed.
– Activate your pelvic floor to adjust the pelvis from a largely forward tilted position to a more upright position, this will take the load out of the lower back and also direct the stretch more fully across the front inner groin.

Pigeon Pose the Right Way
-Remain here for ten slow steady breaths, directing the release into the area of concern. Remember to keep the shoulders relaxed and the abdomen active and the outside of the left hip (back legs hip) moving forward, and at the same time feeling the hip of the front leg moving back.
– Now exhale, keeping the pelvic floor active walk your hands forward of your shoulders and being to come forward keeping your front femur bone in line with your hip socket. If you feel the need for more stretch draw the right foot forward of the left hip a few more inches, but still not allowing the knee to slide out.
– Flex the front foot and lengthen the back foot a bit more by rolling the toes under and drawing the leg back a few more inches, after which extending through the toes and pressing through the top of the foot.
– Work to sit your right hip back even more, and draw the left hip even more forward. Do not fall into the right hip, instead, prop up the hip with a block or blanket to stay aligned.
– Finally, extend your arms as far as you can forward, when extending the arms you better lengthen the spinal muscles. Use head support if needed not to strain the neck and to add pressure to the third eye point, sending a wonderful signal to the central nervous system to relax.

Those that suffer from lordosis will most likely find this difficult but beneficial. Those with hip replacements will have better success in this version, as well, as the femur is not turning inward into the hip not but directly back into the muscle. Those with sciatica will have more long term relief and for the rest of us, this unwinding that we are stepping into will have a de-layering effect that will last longer and see more long-term benefits.

When Working With Functional Pigeon

Students get a deeper more beneficial stretch through the gluteals: medius, maximus, and minimus. The head of the femur is now directed directly back into the buttock flesh rather than inward into the sacrum.

This variation has a more positive effect on:

  • Piriformis, whose origin is the inside surface of the sacrum and sacrotuberous ligament and inserts on the tip of the greater trocanter (greater trocanter is the head of the femur that does not go into the hip socket)
  • Quadratus Femoris, whose origin is the side of the sits bone and inserts on the back surface of the greater trocanter.
  • Hamstrings engage in a more full stretch as the femur head directs itself back rather than in.
  • When upright in pigeon, the psoas and iliacus has a more complete stretch and release.

This is just the beginning of what functional pigeon can do for you. You can get the full breakdown of the foundational yoga poses in my Asana Library ($137), but it is included FOR FREE in my Premium Online Studio.

Take some time with this new version of pigeon. Many find it more difficult as we are digging deeper into the body. I find it essential to remember in yoga that it is not where we are going, but where were we are right now that is important. This reminds us to take a moment to better understand where that is exactly.

This post was originally written for MindBodyGreen.com
What is Mental Health and Why Does it Matter?

What is Mental Health and Why Does it Matter?

I didn’t want to write this blog post. Not one bit. But I felt I needed to share some insight from someone who has struggled with mental health for most of her life.

If you could only see the look on my face right now, you would wonder what gives? What’s the deal? Why is it so hard to say that?

I do not accept this as my bill of health, or that this is my end game. I have mood swings, I have highs and lows, I have anxiety. Sometimes I don’t sleep well. For most of my life, I expressed my feelings by self-harming.

Does any person ever really want to say something like that to anyone, let alone the entire world?

The truth is, writing those words makes me feel broken. Like a young lamb incapable of fending for herself. And if you have ever met me in person, you would say emphatically that I am anything but an incapable little lamb.

But that’s just it.

Mental illness (there it is again, that pit in my stomach when I refer to myself with those words) is real and it’s not verbiage I like to throw around lightly. Why? Because I do not believe I am a victim of anything, and I do believe that I can live a happy life. I know I can. Because 98% of the time I am.

Maybe the cards were kind of stacked against me.

My father is one of the most hardworking men I have EVER met in my entire life. Someone who has done and seen things in his lifetime NO ONE would EVER choose to do or see. But there he was. And in some ways, he is my hero. In other ways…well, it’s complicated. But like me, he has had his own demons to face in this lifetime. I am pretty certain if I would even whisper “mental health” to him, the hairs on his back would stand up like a dog ready to attack.

As for me, I’m pretty sure I was in the boat before I even knew it. But in 1996, (I was 12 by the way) who was talking about mental health? Unless you were a PhD attending elite conferences far away from my Wisconsin hometown, you didn’t even know that existed. People with mental health issues lived in institutions with padded walls and were drugged to the point of walking zombies, right?

And I say that with slight humor, but that is my cover for the complete discomfort I still feel when I categorize myself as someone with mental health issues.

I wish I knew then, what I know now. Things may have been different.

I wish my parents would have been more comfortable and knowledgeable with dealing with a child with addiction, depression, and anxiety. But then they would had to have been more comfortable with their own confrontations with it as well.

I wish I would have understood more about what was going on inside me when I was 12, 14, 18. All the while, feeling alone, embarrassed, and judged.

But truly, I don’t want to change any of it. It’s my life. My story.

And maybe it doesn’t bother me quite as much as it used to because I’ve survived. I decided long ago to fight. To not just mask the issues, but uncover them, and start dealing with them.

I was chemically imbalanced and a holistic nutritionist helped me with that. I was low in just about every single vital nutrient, thanks to an eating disorder, and I got help.
I ate my feelings for more than a decade, and I got help with that.
Talking about my feelings, expressing my feelings, or just feeling anything was scary to me. And I got help with that.

Mental Health Awareness

I lost a friend two years ago who she struggled with mental health as well. Something she said to me years before has always stuck with me. “Hope, I can’t go get help, because it will be in my file, and I might then lose my job”. Be that true or not. It was true to her. And as a result, she didn’t feel she could get the help she needed when she wanted… she passed from drug-use two years ago.

What if she had felt comfortable enough to get help?
What if she had felt safe enough to share her struggles?
What if she would have felt mental health was as easy to care for as a broken bone? Or as accepted as seeking cancer treatment?

I will never know that answer.

But I do know help is available. And it is VITAL. Let me say that again. It is VITAL that you reach out. Those uncomfortable feelings you feel just thinking about reaching out won’t last.

See your mental health as a priority. Not as a silly stigma.

Talk to your partner about your struggles. Let them in. Do not be embarrassed about seeking out a therapist. Everyone can benefit from an outside perspective and sound advice.

Support others on their journey. They may not be ready to talk about their struggles or concerns with you. And they may never be, but support them by simply holding a space of safety for them by learning what the warning signs are that they may be struggling. By giving them room to breathe and letting them know you are there with a card, a text, or a call.

And if you are feeling like you need the care yourself, then do not hesitate. The world needs you. You have something amazing to offer and this one moment is a part of that amazing journey unfolding.

We all have to take care of our health: physically, emotionally and mentally. And let this be a gentle reminder that there is help out there. I’m living proof it works.

 

For More Information about Mental Health, check out these articles:

Mental Health and Parenting: What No One is Talking About

6 Simple Self-Help & Recovery Tips for an Eating Disorder

Mindful Ways to Reduce Stress

Ground Yourself by Coming Into Your Root Chakra

 

 

This was originally published for Thrive Global on May 28, 2019.

How Yoga Saved My Life

How Yoga Saved My Life

Much of my life has been as an addict. And many of us on some level are all addicts. But for others, their addiction becomes who they are: their identity, their only lifeline.

It may be slowly killing them, but it is also what is keeping them alive.

For me, there is no question that yoga saved my life. Yoga found me when I couldn’t pretend to save myself any longer. Ever been to a high-security prison? That is what a full-blown addiction feels like-24/7, except you are trying to live a normal life at the same time. You are usually trying to hide it or pretend it doesn’t exist. My life was much to this drum, a ten-year battle with a wide variety of eating disorders, depression, drugs, and anxiety. Ten years ago I would be asking for your pity, now I am hoping to help.

Yoga Showed Me Addiction is Not a Choice

Imagine having an evil twin that never leaves your side. Imagine that every move you make, every bite you take, every breath you take is being ripped apart constantly by someone else.

Addiction is not a choice, you don’t wake up one day and decide, “Hey I am going to start bingeing and purging all my food from now on,” or “Maybe today I will starve myself to get attention.” Addiction doesn’t work that way. As an addict forever in recovery, I get this.

I did not choose to starve myself, to drop 32 pounds in 60 days at the age of 15. I didn’t choose to relapse and binge and purge up to eight times a day, as I put stress on my heart, rot my gums and teeth, kill my stomach lining, messed with every system in my body. I, like many struggling with addiction, spent many hours, days and months in this horror. I was trying with all I had to be normal, to fit in, to hide the only thing at that time in my life I could control.

As an addict, you realize that the numbed feeling or “high” you get from your drug of choice (food, alcohol, medications, exercise, restriction of food, smoking) is what you have been searching for. Nearly half my life I spent in addiction, where I cycled anorexia and bulimia. I dabbled with drugs, found myself binge drinking (under age of course), made several attempts at suicide, experimental cutting, and was obsessed with calorie counting, exercise, my weight, my size, every pimple on my face, every imperfection possible… I was obsessed with it.

And at one of my lowest points, this craziness wound me up in the hospital with gastric obstruction surgery after I swallowed a toothbrush, desperate to purge just one more time. To many, you may not understand, but for some, this rundown seems like a horrible mirror.

Yoga Was My Path to Recovery

If you are struggling with addiction and are at a place that you know you want to move forward, you probably already know that it’s one tough uphill battle. Yoga was what kept me holding on to that tiny microscopic string. My Wednesday night yoga class kept me hoping and praying I could do this. I could survive. In my first few classes, while still struggling with an eating disorder, my mom and I attended yoga together. That one class each week was a new chance. I remember many nights walking out praying to God, “Please help me to go home and not binge and purge, praying with all my might that tomorrow I’d wake up and be normal.” I probably wouldn’t have gone each week if my mom wasn’t going. Not knowing, she kept me accountable and kept giving me my string of hope each week.

You can’t think straight as an addict. The Yoga Sutra talks about eliminating the dualistic mind – you ask any addict, and they totally understand the double mind. You have your “eating disorder mind” saying one thing and your “sane mind” saying the other. For many years, I couldn’t even hear my sane mind.

Yoga has saved my life. Yoga has given me a second chance, and has taught me to live in the most in-touch, real way possible. Yoga has taught me how to breathe again, feel again, and somehow someway it has helped me loosen the grips on life a little and trust a little more.

For a long time I didn’t believe that there was anything from my past that could have triggered this experience in my life, but yoga has helped me to realize that some of this was learned behavior. Some of this was the reaction to cruel kids in school, and some was simply fear of not being enough in my life. At some level, we have all been there. We have all cried tears of fear, control, sadness, imperfection. And to all of you out there still walking up hill – it’s way easier with a yoga practice.

Conclusion

Yoga teaches you to want to live again. It teaches you what it really means to be in the moment. Those struggling with addiction know better than anyone what a moment is. Because on the same note, you are trying to stay alive or sober for just a moment.

Yoga lets you know it’s not your fault; even when you feel alone you are feeling, and that is a start. Don’t stop feeling, let the feeling pass, and they will.

Yoga gives you a second chance a million and one times. It reminds you that your life is just as valuable as everyone else’s, in your own unique way.

Today is a call to action.

If you struggle with addiction, I beg you to try yoga.

Be careful – us addicts gravitate to that which can feed the need. So mix it up, most recovery programs that incorporate yoga use styles like Yin, Hatha, or Restorative. These styles are great to really help you learn how to be present, be still and be in the feeling. Don’t throw in the towel and don’t hate your first class because it asked you to step out of your comfort zone. Keep at it. If you want to live, if you want to come out on the other side… for me it wasn’t a choice anymore, it was a matter of life and death. And I chose life, and I continue to choose life each day.

If you are an outsider to a person with addiction, most likely they know there is a problem. Don’t shove food in their face, point out their appearance, or tell them they are killing themselves. Ask yourself this: “Am I helping or hurting?”

Addiction hurts loved ones too, but be a forklift as a friend, bring your friends up with you.

Take them to a yoga class and keep taking them.

In Savasana, hold hands with them.

Say “I love you” with no strings attached.

Be there for them instead of telling them where to be.

Most importantly, don’t give up.

 

This content was originally published in the June 2012 edition of MindBodyGreen.

Getting to the Core of Things

Getting to the Core of Things

“Now, activate your core,” is a phrase you’re likely to hear in any fitness class, yoga included.
But I wonder, what does that mean? And does the instructor even know what that means? 
It’s been my experience teaching both students and teachers from all over the country that most people assume they’re using the core, assume they know where the core is and assume the cues they are using are helping more than hurting.

To be able to cue the core, one needs to understand why it’s so important. 

Everything is an extension of the core, and every muscle above and below eventually feeds into the core (or more specifically the pelvic floor). Muscles in the body are not separate but connected, one turning into the next.
Our body consists of layers, and our core is no different. These layers help us better understand the concept of the core being the Motherboard for all movement. And if one does not know where the Motherboard of any device is, then how will you ever be able to tweak it to operate better?
Every person needs to begin at what I know as the Local Layer. This is the permission layer. The layer of the core in which we stabilize before we mobilize.
Sadly, even in core-focused classes, this is often ignored because it’s difficult to locate, awaken and continually keep awake. It can take many sessions before someone feels confident they are using the proper muscles.
It’s important to remember that the body is an amazing piece of machinery unlike any other. If one body part can’t do what you are asking it, and then another body part will step up and try to do it for us. The problem with this is that it gives us a false idea that we are properly performing the movement.
So this local layer consists of the transversus abdominus (which is a hoop-like muscle), multifidus, diaphragm and the pelvic floor, consisting of the perineum, anal sphincter, and area surrounding the urethra (to simplify things). This is our permission layer, our layer of stability, and I like to focus here.
I created Core Functional Fitness as a way to teach people how to find and use their true core. It’s better for you and your health. You can find many other core-specific works in my Mindful Movement Premium Online Studio.
Mindful Movement Premium Online Studio

Ground Yourself by Coming Into Your Root Chakra

Ground Yourself by Coming Into Your Root Chakra

Chakras are our body’s wheels of light and energy centers. Our root chakra is our first chakra and it resides at the base of the spine. It is also known as the Muladhara, which literally means foundation or root. Mul means base and Adhara means support.

The Muladhara correlates with the adrenals. The release of adrenaline prepares us to react or act in any situation. This activation of fight-or-flight is brought on by real or imagined danger. The adrenals are the body’s call to battle. The need to be grounded and secure goes hand-in-hand with our ability to soundly react to what is going on in front of us.

When balanced, our root chakra holds a foundation of security, safety, order, and routine. Muladhara offers us nurturance, a sense of organization, and honesty. We become flexible and responsible with our own being and those around us.

Issues of the Root Chakra

When our root chakra is unbalanced, we may see physical, emotional, mental or spiritual symptoms calling us back to our bodies three-dimensionally, to seek balance and grounding. The chakra is asking us if we are able to stand on our own two feet.

Constipation is often a symptom of a blocked root.

Others include struggles with weight to the point of obesity.

It could also be expressed as ailments related to the legs or knees.

Those who struggle or suffer skeletal or sacral issues are often energetically asked to seek balance in the root chakra. Other issues of imbalance can manifest as feelings of hopelessness, anxiety, phobias or disconnection.

When we are financially troubled, materialistic, greedy or resistant to change, it is time to look at our root.

Do This: Take a moment and self reflect. We can often feel defensive when we are confronted with the reality of what is really holding us back. Make note of the above, and meditate on where that is all coming from.

How Can I Balance my Root Chakra?

  • Crystals and stones like jasper, clear quartz, tiger’s eye, hematite, smoky quartz or bloodstone
  • Aromatherapy using scents that create security, stability, and grounding like cedar, sandalwood, and cinnamon
  • Food like root plants, whole grains, dairy, minerals, calcium and nuts
  • Commune with nature: When is the last time you walked barefoot or laid in the grass? Take time with nature to help grow your roots back where they belong.

In balancing this chakra, it is important to focus on the relationship with the individual self. Who are you? When is the last time you did something for you, or something to nourish your entire being?

Mantras for Balancing Your Root Chakra

The vowel sound “oh” correlates with our root chakra a sense of letting go and coming into the self. We often use this sound to create a sense of release.

Do This: Try verbally releasing the sound “oh” whenever you need a moment to just drop baggage and come back to yourself again.

Consider chanting “lam” (long a) 108 times to help gain a greater sense of grounding and balance in your root chakra. Use this chant in your meditation or yoga practice. This can enhance your experience and ability to sink into your root chakra.

The verb “I have” directly correlates with Muladhara; when is the last time you used this phrase? When is the last time you allowed yourself to have strength, have health, have security? Many of us feel the need to live in lack (often trained from early on to live this way). This martyr syndrome often stems from the root chakra. Tap into your own unique honesty and see what needs to surface. Then use it pared with the phrase “I have” and see what manifests. You deserve to have all that you need and more.

Postures for Balancing Your Root Chakra

Yoga can help balance your root chakra. Practice grounding postures like bridge, tree, goddess, runners lunge, seated pigeon (foot cradle), and bound angle. You can also practice pranayama by breathing into the pelvic floor with pelvic tilts. You can find all of these root chakra-focused poses in my Mindful Movement Online Studio.

Do not rush these asanas – practice with more love, acceptance and honesty rather than force, fear or anger. Yoga is about finding the best version of our self. Does your practice have that?

So slip your shoes off and step into the unknown. You have all you need, and you are grounded and connected to something greater than yourself.

 

This post was originally published in the July 2013 edition of Nature’s Pathway Magazine.

Get a Better Down Dog with Puppy Dog

Get a Better Down Dog with Puppy Dog

If you are a yogi, then downward-facing dog is probably a staple posture in your practice (you may have never heard of puppy dog).

But as a yoga teacher for over a decade, I have discovered that not all down dogs are created equal. Many people, in all actuality, are simply too restricted in the upper body (shoulder girdle) to safely and properly practice this mighty pose. For those of us who are not so stiff, we are so loosey-goosey that we lack true stability to hold ourselves properly.

Several years ago, I wasin a training with Gary Kraftsow (creator of Viniyoga Therapy). He stated quite bluntly,

If you never do another down dog again in your yoga practice, you will survive just fine.”

He unknowingly stemmed my interest in this mysterious pose, and I soon began my quest to understand more.

Here’s the Quick Scoop.

Most of our daily postures, habits, and routines ask us to round our bodies forward in a kyphotic manner. This leaves many of us locked in a very hunched position. We allow minimal mobility in our scapulae, which essentially allow our actual shoulders to move. Add tight hamstrings and a lack of good core awareness, and you’ve got yourself the hunchback of downward-facing dog.

It is unfortunate that many repeatedly force themselves into this posture. They find any pinhole of flexibility they can grasp and milk it for all its worth. Because that is what they think they should be doing.

So what is a teacher to do?

The answer: Introduce her students to their new best friend — puppy dog. Puppy dog allows students to face the true restriction in their scapulae and surrounding muscles. In puppy dog, students are not able to sag into the underarm or bow outward in the elbows. The deltoids and adjoining muscles are too tight to move otherwise.

As for the hamstrings and rounded lower back… It’s now time to calm the ego and learn that bending your knees is actually a better option for both the hamstrings and lower back muscles. Plus, it will take the stress out of the shoulders (in down dog too).

Here’s How to do it:

  1. Grab a yoga block and turn it to look like a rectangle on the floor in front of you.
  2. Position yourself on all fours (hands and knees) in front of the block.
  3. Frame the block with the palm of your hand on each side of the block, palms facing inward.
  4. Step back into forearm plank and find pelvic neutral, drawing actively on your pelvic-core (bathroom muscles + deep core muscles). Be mindful not to sag in the belly or push the booty to the sky.
  5. With a broad upper back and a long neck, press evenly through the forearms from your elbow to the pinky finger.
  6. Exhale deeply and float the hips up and back as you take a small step in hinging the body into a triangle like position.
  7. Continue to press evenly through the forearms and inward on the block. Imagine you are ready to kick up into a forearm balance (basically push away from the floor, not to collapse into the upper body).
  8. If you notice the back very rounded, bend the knees to help gain length in the spine again. Even if the knees are bent, you can still press the heels and get a nice calf stretch.
  9. Finally, where the body is hinged (the hip fold), deeply contract the belly and pelvic floor muscles. Imagine they are drawing you back toward the wall. Your shoulders should not have to do all the work; utilize your core for that.
  10. Work five to ten breaths and then release to sit on the heels.

 

Incorporating puppy dog may take some getting used to, but the long term benefit for your practice, shoulder health, and progression to other poses will be priceless.

Have any questions, or want to learn how to use puppy dog in your practice? Join the Mindful Movement PREMIUM Online Studio for unlimited access to all my yoga classes, PLUS live classes, online community, and my entire Asana Video Library, breaking down poses (Just like this one!)

Namaste!

 

 

This post was originally published in Nature’s Pathway Magazine.

 

6 Simple Self-Help & Recovery Tips for an Eating Disorder

6 Simple Self-Help & Recovery Tips for an Eating Disorder

Recovery from an eating disorder or any addiction can feel like an uphill battle. Admitting you need help is the first step. However, what comes after that is usually everyone around you telling you what you should do.

How you should act.

What you should or shouldn’t eat.

What you should stay away from.

What therapist you shouldn’t see.

What book you should read. 

And for anyone who has been struggling with addiction, directives like that can surely trigger a relapse. 

I struggled for years trying to step into recovery, only to find myself drowning in a sea of failure. The harder I tried, the more I felt like I was failing. Not meeting everyone’s expectations of what they think recovery should be like. 

So I hid. I hid my progress, or should I say lack thereof. I felt like the fear of failure on top of being an addict was just too big to uncover. So I lied. I lied to everyone around me on and off for years that I was in-fact “better.” 

I want to let you know that there is hope. You can do this. And it all starts with you deciding that you have had enough.

Coming to a place where the fear of judgment is outweighed by the fear of living with an eating disorder. A life cut short because this could eventually kill you. 

That was my greatest push. I didn’t want to live this way. I didn’t want a family, to be married with kids, living in secret, Living a lie. I didn’t realize it but I had observed addiction in my household growing up. I had observed co-dependency not knowing it. I took it on as “normal behavior.” 

For a big part of my life, I didn’t think it was fair that I didn’t get a choice in the matter. But I wanted a choice for my kids, and the biggest truth… I didn’t want to die. 

I believe that conventional wisdom may have your best interests at heart. But unless you have actually struggled with this kind of hell, seeking help itself, and then receiving it can be overwhelming. It’s a struggle all it’s own. 

The following tips are my suggestions to consider as you work fully into recovery. What I did, what worked for me, and what I hope for you to consider so you can live the life you have always dreamed of. 

1. Say It Out Loud

For years I couldn’t even get myself to say it out loud. That I had a problem and that I needed help. What I recognized is if I couldn’t even say it to myself, how was I going to say it to someone else? Today, look at yourself in the mirror. Look in your eyes and compassionately tell yourself “you can’t do this alone anymore, you need help. I have an addiction, and I deserve a future without this addiction”.  

The first time I said this, I could barely get the words out. I was so ashamed. So afraid. But also so relieved. For several years I kept talking to myself in the mirror. So I could hear and see me. Eventually, those conversations turned into forgiveness, and conversations on how to move forward. Working to stay positive is essential. Try using affirmation exercises or mantras to help curb the negative inner voices. 

 

2. Make A List 

Addiction can make you short-sighted. It can, in the moment, leave you unable to see the future. It can also fog the past.

You weren’t always like this. You have also done a lot of great things. You are a good person, despite what your addiction mind says to you. 

So today make a list of all the things you are good at. All your talents, gifts, and reasons why people love you. I had so many talents I wasn’t giving myself credit for. I was a great writer, amazing with kids, super creative, and later on, a pretty kick-ass yoga teacher. I had many gifts, but my addictive mind made seeing those things (especially in the heat of the moment) very challenging. 

So make a list. Do not hold back. Everything you can think of. Even if in your head, mid-sentence your addictive mind says “that’s not true”. Don’t believe it. 

Call this journaling. Or simply and officially putting out to the universe how you are an amazing person. Hang this list on your mirror and read it every day.

 

3. Allow Yourself to Feel Whatever You Feel

I was overwhelmed, and to be honest, I felt a lot of guilt. Part of addiction is guilt. Guilt for what you did or didn’t do. How you may have felt that things went a certain way because of you. And the overwhelming feeling of not being able to control them. 

I had a lot of anger, frustration, and grief when I began to step into recovery. I was very angry with family members. And yes, very angry at myself. It appeared that everyone kept telling me to forgive this person, don’t blame that person. It’s not their fault.

But here’s the thing. I was not at a place in my recovery to be able to do that. I had spent 10 years perfecting the art of not feeling. Now I was beginning to feel all this stuff, and here are outsiders telling me that those feelings aren’t fair to others.

So I’m telling you as someone who has been there and made it successfully to the other side: Feel what you need to feel. Don’t attach to it. But give yourself permission to be pissed off. Mad. Happy. Sad. Angry. Whatever. Those are your feelings and you are entitled to them.

There will come a time when you are at a place where you can now do something with them. You have felt them enough. And now you don’t feel the need to have them. That will be the time to look at forgiveness, or releasing, or allowing yourself to see your situation with family or friends in a new light. But please know, it is okay to feel what you feel. 

4. No One Expects That You Can Do This Alone

I had in my head for years that I needed to do this all by myself. And I was wrong. Not only does no one expects you to do this alone, but it is 100,000 times more difficult to do it all by yourself. I thought I had something to prove to myself, or my parents, or my husband. But the truth is, the only proving I needed to do was that I would do anything to get my life back. 

So I am going to ask you what I asked myself, “How bad do you want it?” Once you decide that, everything becomes an option. I realized I could not do it anymore on my own. And that pushed me to a place where I finally opened up to my mom that I was not better, and needed help. 

I cried when I told her this. I felt both humiliation and relief. I was free. Free from this life. Finally, I could really get better.

Sending myself to an out-patient treatment was the best decision in my recovery. I needed to be with others who were struggling like I was. But also I needed accountability, ideas, and a place to be honest. When you enter into specialized eating disorder treatment programs, the entire game can change for you. It did for me. 

5. Buddy Up

I didn’t realize this until I entered into out-patient treatment, but having someone there that “gets you” and understands your situation without judgment was pivotal in my recovery success. I would come home from treatment and go back into my life. Although my family knew I was in treatment, it wasn’t like I could or even felt ready to open up about how I was feeling or when I was struggling. 

Through outpatient treatment, I connected with a woman named April. At the time, we lived an hour apart, but that didn’t matter. She got me. And we made a pact to call each other when we were struggling. When it was hard. When we felt alone. When we just wanted to use food, or our additives to punish or run away. Calling her helped me step over hurdles that I struggled with for years. 

Letting April into my life changed everything. It helped me feel safe. It reminded me that I wasn’t alone. I felt no judgment with her. I believe everyone needs a buddy, a sponsor, someone in their corner. Someone that is just there for you. That gets you. That has been in your EXACT shoes. I want to encourage you to find that. 

6. Try Yoga

Yes, I am serious. I would not be here if it wasn’t for yoga. I found yoga before I found treatment for my eating disorder. And Yoga taught me how to feel. Yoga taught me how to be still. Yoga taught me how to be patient. Yoga taught me how to feel, and not be afraid of what I felt. 

When I came to the out-patient treatment, I realized right away that I was further along than many of the women there. Not because I thought I was better than them. But because I had a different perspective. I had done quite a bit of work that I didn’t even realize prior to treatment. 

I don’t suggest choosing yoga over treatment. But I do whole-heartedly believe that yoga can be the difference between making deep changes to truly live addiction-free and the lesser.

If you don’t choose yoga, choose something that asks you to be quiet. That challenges you to get uncomfortable in a safe place. Something that allows you to come as you are. That may mean shopping around for the right style or teacher. Now almost twenty years after embarking on my yoga journey, it still serves me. It still uncovers aspects of my addiction and recovery. I am so grateful to dig in because I have a lifelong toolbox I call yoga to help me. 

Never Lose Hope

Despite all the obstacles and unfortunate circumstances that I was handed at an early age, I overcame them. Every time I was beaten down, I kept getting back up. I never lost hope. I never gave up. Deep down I always knew I could get through this. 

Sometimes that voice was faint. That spark small. But even at my lowest of lows, I never lost hope. I believe that if you are alive and breathing on this earth, there is still a purpose for you. Your life still has value to contribute. 

Today, it is because of trudging through addiction into recovery, overcoming the loss of my daughter, and facing adversity in my personal and professional life that I get to stand here and offer gratitude for my life. And at the same time help others find their light and develop tools to help them shine. 

It’s the “how” and “why” I created the HOPE Process: Helping Others Purposefully Excel. How I built a toolbox of tools that actually work. I want that for you. I believe in you. 

An eating disorder is a serious and sometimes fatal disease. But they are treatable, and there is hope. With the right tools, support and perspective on life you can do this. Everything I have created in my professional life is because of what I have been through. I am actually grateful for it.

Yes. You heard me.

The thousands of classes taught, trainings led, book and blogs written, and my newest program coupled with online coaching is all because of my journey. 

Practices for a Positive and Productive Life Masterclass – All of these things are for people just like you. Because I know what it’s like to struggle. To feel like no one gets you. To feel like you just want to give up. Don’t give up. Never give up. Never lose hope. 

Why? Because I am living proof that believing you are worth it, is worth it.  

A Message From Hope

An eating disorder is a real and complex mental illness. It is something that no one should ever have to face alone. I 100% believe in every suggestion above. However receiving proper treatment from a qualified professional is above everything essential and necessary for your health, safety, and future. If you do not know where to reach out, orr if you cannot afford treatment, connect with National Eating Disorders Association Hotline for help. 

Foam Rolling Rehab for Every ‘Body’

Foam Rolling Rehab for Every ‘Body’

We have all felt it: Our hips are tight, our back is sore and aching, and our neck is stiff or sore. We have all been there and sometimes, straight-up stretching either is too much too soon or just doesn’t seem to be hitting the spot. Foam Rolling is the answer!
Using a foam roller is an excellent way to help decrease pain, stiffness, and tightness while actually improving the function of muscles, tendons, and fascia.
When incorporating something like mayo fascia release (foam rolling), it’s important to educate yourself on the many types of foam rollers out there. I always suggest to my students to always use a soft foam roller. You don’t want something that will be too abrasive with your tissues.
Second, more does not always equal better. Rolling for hours a day will not necessarily be more beneficial than rolling out for 10 or 15 minutes every day or just a few days a week.

Roll Your Back

80% of Americans have or have had back problems. Rolling your back top to bottom is an amazing way to decrease pain, aches, and discomfort. Try this:

Place the foam roller behind you on the floor and lean back onto the center of the roller. Lift your bottom off the floor and support your head in your hands. Using your legs, roll yourself along the foam roller in long strokes or sections along your back, being sure to work your entire back body.

Experiment with rounding or arching your back in places, or leaning only to one side and rolling. Also, try raising one arm straight out above your head at a time. If your balance is good, try extending both arms while you roll your upper back.

Spend a few minutes here and notice the improvement in your back’s comfort and your back stretching. You can also try this standing against the wall with the foam roller behind you.

Roll Your Legs and Hips

Many people complain of hip, sacrum and leg pain. Rolling is a very safe and effective way to decrease knee, hip, and even back pain. Try this:

Starting on your right outer leg and hip, place your left foot on the floor. Using your leg and arms, push and pull your right leg along the soft foam roller, being sure to work the entire area from upper hip to the outside of the knee.

After several times over, move to your quadriceps. Using your forearms, push-pull yourself across the foam roller from pelvis to knees. Play with internal and external rotation to hit all areas. Move onto the left hip and repeat the same process.

Finally, sitting onto the foam roller, with the help of your arms and hands, push-pull your hamstrings along the foam roller.

Siacitia Soother

Oh, that pain in my butt! Many of us have been there, and sometimes stretching can actually cause more discomfort. Working with a foam roller can soothe sore muscles and give you the relief you are looking for. Try this:

Sit onto the foam roller and lean onto your left glute. Cross your left ankle over your right knee and begin to roll on your glute tissue (your booty). Be playful with different angles and in rolling high or low on your glute.

If you find a sensitive area, feel free to just hold there for a few deep exhalations and then move on. After a few minutes, switch to the other side, repeating the process.

No More Neck Pain

A stiff neck, a tight jaw, and even shoulder pain can all be soothed with a few strikes of the foam roller. Try this:

Lying on the floor, place the foam roller behind your neck and rest your head on the foam roller. Kindly turn your head side to side, feeling the relieving pressure at the base of the skull and neck against the foam roller.

Second, moving only a few inches, rock your head and neck back and forth to work any other tightness out. Be sweet, as the neck for many is a sensitive area. But, this may be the relief you are looking for.

 

Foam Rolling does not replace stretching or other maintenance care, but it can assist in a more effective stretching routine or yoga experience, not to mention improved athletic performance. Mayo fascia release can also improve your massage therapy sessions, as the therapist does not have to work so hard at the surface of your tissue. It also can help your adjustments hold longer.

I may be a yoga teacher, but it is my goal to teach my students how to take better care of their bodies — because you only get one, and replacement parts are never as good as the originals.

 

Want more from your foam roller?

Join me and “Roll This!” Click here to access the most detailed workbook you will ever own with step-by-step details to every move you’ll want to know when it comes to the foam roller and Dr. Cohen’s acuBall.

This post was originally published in the July 2014 Edition of Nature’s Pathways.

Ethical Practices of Yoga – “How is One to Act in this World?”

Ethical Practices of Yoga – “How is One to Act in this World?”

Ashtanga yoga is the pathway to attaining “absolute truth.”

Yogic philosophy and the Yamas and niyamas (the first and second limbs of yoga) offer us a roadmap on how to treat ourselves and others, and as a result, connect more fully with our inner truth. The eight limbs of yoga offer anyone who is willing to partake a wonderful guide to more mindful living, and they teach us the ethical practices of yoga. This pathway to absolute truth is one combining inner and outer work, physical practice, our breath, mindfulness, concentration, and meditation. Yoga is not a religion, but it is an opportunity to live a better quality of life, and a more purposeful one at that.

Attaining Absolute Truth 8 Limbs of Yoga

1. Yamas: Restraints for One’s External Tendencies or Behavior.

  • Ahimsa – non-violence. Are you a bulldozer or a forklift to those around you through your thoughts, words, and actions? Ask yourself if this is lifting people up or crushing people down.
  • Satya – truthfulness, honesty. Ahimsa helps us to not use truth as a weapon. Satya questions us being nice vs. being real.
  • Asteya – non-stealing. We steal others time, attention, power, and confidence. ADHIKARI: the right to know or the right to have; you are a visitor in life, not an owner. Take note of all that you take that is in fact not yours. Reflecting on the first two yamas, we may steal more than just someone’s property.
  • Brahmacharya – nonexcess. “Acting in Brahman (Holy Spirit)” means entering each day with a sense of holiness rather than indulgence, remembering that everything is sacred.
  • Aparigraha – unselfishness, non-possessiveness. Non-attachment and being able to “let go.” We are like a monkey in a cage with a banana; we choose our attachments rather than our freedom. Why?

2. Niyamas: Self-Control Over One’s Internal Tendencies.

  • Saucha – internal and external purity. What is your process of purity? Think about what used to be our “Sunday best” purity in each moment? Focus on consistent purity rather than selective purity.
  • Santosh – contentment. Gratitude will keep us out of our own pettiness and allow us to receive our own abundance from the Universe. We tend to “play things up” when we don’t feel content with what is; here we must take responsibility for ourselves and our actions.
  • Tapas – austerity or self-discipline. You are not rocked by the external world. Here we are offering the next higher version of ourselves. A crisis is a terrible thing to waste …
  • Swadhyaya – scriptural study or self-study. Knowing our true identity as divine. The world reflects what we are seeing, not what is actually there; it is a mirror. Self-study breaks the ego (Ahamkara). Take some time each day to read and study that which invokes the greatest good in you.
  • Ishvara Pranidhana – surrender to God or universal consciousness. Life is not meant to be a battle. We are not here to have to “prove,” but rather to become one. Here we no longer need the moment to be our way; we see a higher purpose for us.

3. Asana: Physical Exercises.

We can use asana to help train the physical body and teach discipline and all that is reflected in the Yamas and niyamas. We treat ourselves as an aspect of the divine.

4. Pranayama: Breath control.

Our breath is everything; without it, we do not exist here on this earthly plane. Our breath is the gateway to the many dimensions and layers of the self and higher consciousness. (Note that Ayama means a dimension, not control.)

5. Pratyahara: Withdrawing the Mind.

Understanding that this is not just our senses but the mind as well. Iyengar says pratyahara means “to draw toward the opposite.” The normal movement of the senses is to flow outward and this limb is concerned with going against that grain; a difficult reaction. Our minds are flooded with negativity; we must work to move towards the opposite.

6. Dharana: Concentration.

We are a society of quick and CliffsNotes. Unfortunately, we can miss out on valuable knowledge and relationships by skimming over everything. The value of pointed thought, self-analysis and introspection cannot be understated. Time spent on self-observation of inner thoughts, desires, and conduct helps guide us toward Dharana.

7. Dhyana: Meditation.

“Dhyani,” which means “to think of.” In the process of meditation, we calm the mind, which leads to the realignment of our inner self to the right path. Meditation is everything we engage in; initially, we sit to meditate and eventually, we live to meditate.

8. Samadhi: Enlightenment.

There are different stages of Samadhi and one can experience it at any moment: a blip, a moment, that takes you towards your bliss. We all experience these blips. The goal of the above practices is to attain Samadhi infinitely.

 

This post was originally written for Nature’s Pathways.

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