You may be among the millions who posted #metoo on your social media page. In fact, it’s very likely that you are. A recent study found that nationwide, 81% of women and 43% of men reported experiencing some form of sexual harassment and/or assault in their lifetime.
So to say sexual harassment and assault are prevalent would be a ridiculous understatement. These experiences are wide-spread and affect many more of us than we ever knew before.
Throughout my studies for Yoga Therapy, I have learned so much about all kinds of trauma – from childhood experiences to military situations, to natural disasters, to – yes – sexual harassment/assault.
Depending on a whole host of factors, each person experiences trauma differently. Even the SAME trauma. Even a #metoo trauma. One person in an auto accident may go into fight mode and do everything possible to escape an overturned car, while the other person in the same car may freeze and be unresponsive until well after help has arrived.
What’s fascinating to me about the different responses is that we have little to no choice over how we will respond in any given situation that we perceive as potentially life-threatening. Our body, through a truly amazing chemical process, has decided for us the “best” response before our rational mind has even gotten the full download of what’s happening.
So there’s really no benefit in going back over what happened to figure out WHY we didn’t act differently. Because honestly, it’s not really up to us in the first place.
Regardless of what happened exactly, something important to note is that very often in life- or safety-threatening situations, our frontal lobe (or thinking part of our brain) goes off-line while our limbic brain (survival part of our brain) takes charge. This is important because we process trauma in the pre-language part of our brain. This can be true in any type of trauma, even a #metoo trauma.
But, why is this important?
It’s important because it’s very difficult (or even impossible) to process trauma through talk-based therapy when our language center was checked-out for the event in question. Makes sense, doesn’t it?
Our limbic brain is all about fight/flight/freeze and the ACTION that needs to be taken to avoid the threat. So, we can address the trauma through – action. Movement-based therapies have been found to be extremely effective in supporting the healing process. What’s super cool is that we can support healing and movement through past traumas (that we haven’t even been able to talk about yet) through movement therapies like yoga.
(summarized from Yoga and PTSD: A Primer on Symptoms and Potential Mechanisms of Change, Yoga Therapy Today Winter 2018):
All in all, the research and preliminary studies are very positive in showing that yoga can be an excellent support to primary care options*. Trauma-sensitive Yoga Classes are available in many cities. If you think you’d like to try it, check with local studios, gyms, and community centers.
Yoga students, friends and family ask me yoga questions all the time. And it makes sense. After all, I AM a Yoga Teacher, a Yoga Trainer, and a Yoga Therapist. So it’s not all that strange that people ask questions. What IS really interesting to me is how almost every single question can be answered with the same answer.
Would you like to know what it is? I promise, it’s going to be a little underwhelming. It may even be disappointingly simple. In fact, I would venture to guess that most people would even PREFER for the solution to be something more complicated.
But it’s not.
It’s super simple.
But it’s not easy.
Yep. That’s it.
Question: Jenn, I’m having issues with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. What yoga can I do to help?
Answer: How’s your posture? Are you standing and sitting up straight? Especially your neck and shoulders. Especially if you work at a computer a lot. Check on your upper body posture.
Question: Jenn, my low back has been bothering me. Are there any yoga poses I can do to relieve it?
Answer: Yes. There are a few poses to do to alleviate the discomfort. But let’s also get down to the deeper issue. How’s your posture? Do you stand and sit straight? Two areas to consider – your foundation and your abdominal support. Check to see if you stand with your feet hip width and toes pointing forward. Also, gently lift your belly button up and in to create low back support.
Question: Jenn, I’m having lots of neck pain and headaches sometimes. Is there anything I can do that’s yoga-related to help?
Answer: How’s your posture? In particular, do you spend a lot of time at the computer or on your phone with your head pushed forward and looking down? Create ways to sit up tall and put your phone down more often. At the very least, take breaks and do some stretches to get out of that pattern for a little bit every so often.
Three seemingly unrelated issues may all be alleviated, or even completely resolved, by adjusting your posture! It is AMAZING how much pain and discomfort we can relieve when we do something as simple as correct our posture. Here’s a quick video on setting up the foundations.
Strengthening our postural support muscles takes a fair amount of effort and concentration. Going to the gym or even yoga class a couple times a week isn’t going to cut it. This is something that you have to focus on every single day. Any time you notice that you are slumping forward, standing with one hip kicked over to the side, or spending hours looking down at your phone – pause – make an assessment – and then make an adjustment. It may only last for 1-2 minutes at first. But that’s ok! When you notice that you have gotten into the poor postural pattern again, simply adjust into good posture again! No need to beat yourself up. These things take time. Simply re-adjust any time you notice that you need to adjust.
Now, of course, there are specific yoga poses and sequences that can expedite this process and address your particular concerns. Your local Yoga Teacher or Yoga Therapist can help you with your individual needs.
I’d love to hear from you! Please comment below something you’ve been wondering about. “I wonder if yoga can help with…..?”
This used to happen to me all the time. I’d be rushing around day after day and before long, the wheels would fall off the whole thing before I’d even left the house. I know you know what I’m talking about!
Yep. Me too. It feels terrible and if you don’t rescue it somewhere along the way? The same scenario (or something similar) unfolds again the next day.
I used to honestly believe that if the wheels fell off on Monday, then the rest of the week was doomed!
But it’s not!
After PLENTY of my own experience trying to salvage yet another day waking up too late and getting to work late, I began to realize some things. There are some little changes I can make along the way (even on the REALLY bad days) that can consequently turn the whole day around.
Are you ready for the biggest one? This is THE single best way I know to take a wheels-off day and turn it into a dream day! It will literally REVOLUTIONIZE your life.
Drum roll, please….
Yes, I’m serious about this one too – even more than that hair tie!
If you are serious about recovering after the wheels fall off your day and your entire lifestyle – it’s ALL about gratitude.
Do you see how even the yucky day can be SO MUCH BETTER when you add in the gratitude? My experience is, when I start purposefully adding in gratitude even when the day starts off awful, it’s not two hours until the whole thing has turned around!
Most of all, when I go to sleep with gratitude on my mind, I’m much more likely to wake up well and ready for my day! Why? Because, it’s a choice. When I choose gratitude at night, I am choosing to end my day the way I want tomorrow to go. Therefore, choose gratitude!
So what do you say? Will you choose gratitude today?
I LOVE to hear from you! Comment below and let me know what YOU are grateful for!
Ah, Taylor Swift! You are a sage of this age. Your peppy tunes and thoughtful lyrics speak to our culture. And not just the kids. I’ve seen many an adult know every – single – word to your catchy songs. It’s possible that I may be among those who know all the words to entire albums. One song in particular caught my attention the very first day it released. Which one, you may ask? Shake It Off! I love simplicity behind taking all the things people say and just “shaking them off.” I find myself wondering though – can it be that easy?
This may seem like a HUGE switch in train-of-thought, but stick with me.
For the past few years I have been exploring how Yoga Therapists are using yoga to heal. Not just things like stress and anxiety, even though these are two very powerful things to overcome, but also deeper things. Much deeper things. Things like trauma (physical and emotional) and PTSD and serious injuries and even chronic illness.
Well, one of the techniques used to help people move through these deeply-held traumas is to, quite literally, shake it off.
We hold some of our deepest emotions, especially those related to traumatic events in the muscles of our bodies. Most specifically, the psoas, or hip flexors. Without getting too deeply into anatomy – these muscle resides deep in our body – starting on either side of our low back, running straight through our mid-section, crossing over the front of each hip, and attaching to our femurs in our inner thigh.
Here’s where Tay-Tay comes into the picture. When, with the guidance of a Yoga Therapist, we purposely and systematically fatigue the psoas, we are then able to put our bodies into postures that cause the psoas to shake. And I mean SHAKE! The tremors exude throughout your body and can feel intense and funny and liberating and so much more. After experiencing this practice, many people find that old triggers don’t set them off as intensely as before, or that deeply-held fears of the past seem softer. Over time and practice, the intense anxiety or sleepless nights start to subside. Our body literally takes those old traumas and “shakes them off!”
When we move through this practice with our Yoga Therapist, we are able to let our body process things that our mind may not remember or understand or be able to process in other methods of therapy. Therapy through movement is showing itself to be a powerful way to move through some difficult experiences that haven’t been very responsive to other treatments.
If this sort of work sounds interesting or appealing to you, please contact me. We can explore if this is a good fit for your specific concerns.
Now, I know you can’t get that song out of your head – so go ahead – listen to it!
While it was quite chilly when I woke up this Spring morning (30-something!), it has gotten quite beautiful this afternoon. We’ve had fair amounts of rain over the last weeks, and the flowers are blooming and the grass is growing. Believe it or not, even the cacti look “fluffy” from all the rain!
While it’s officially still a couple weeks away, when Spring really gets going, we often notice changes in our bodies as well. You may feel energized to clean out the garage, or start up your favorite outdoor activities. Or, you may feel the onset of dreaded allergies and congestion. Have you noticed yourself clearing your throat a lot lately? And if that’s the case, oh for some relief!
Ayurveda, the sister science to yoga, has lots to say about Spring (and all the seasons) and how to structure your day and diet to feel our best. And that is great news! I’ve found that when I establish and follow my daily routines and best nutrition practices, I feel SO MUCH BETTER!
If you’re looking to make some changes so that you can really enjoy Spring, I highly recommend trying just one or two to start off. After you have successfully implemented those, try adding one or two more. Taking things a step or two at a time is more likely to stick than trying to do 10-15 at a time!
Starting the morning off right is a fantastic way to set up your day. Try one of these morning routine options:
Many of these routines are great all year long, so establishing your patterns now will set you up for season after season of feeling great!
Tell me, which of these resonates the most with you? Which one(s) will you implement?
Do you have a bedtime? Like a time when you know you will actually turn out the lights (and not have the tv on in the background)?
Last week I was talking with my son and he was feeling under the weather and asking what he could do boost his immune system. Like most college kids, he burns the candle at both ends – going to classes all day, working through the afternoon and evening and then staying up studying (or playing video games, or whatever) really late into the night. Anyway, as we talked about how important rest is I said, “give yourself the gift of a bedtime.” To which he promptly rolled his eyes at me. “The gift of a bedtime? Seriously, mom?”
Ok. I admit it. It was a cheesy thing to say. Especially to my 18 year old son. But it IS true. One of the best things we can do for ourselves is to establish a bedtime and wake-up routine. When our bodies got to sleep and get up at the same time everyday, everything works better. And not only that, it makes a difference HOW we go to bed. For example, there’s a big difference between tumbling into bed with our clothes still on and teeth feeling all furry OR taking care of our personal hygiene and changing into pjs before we turn out the lights. Right?
How we prepare ourselves for bed really does matter. We are creatures of habit. Those habits can help us improve our lives when we choose them wisely! When we work all day and fill our evenings with activities, it can be hard to rest well. We need a bridge between the busy-ness of the day and the restfulness of the night.
Ok. So it doesn’t sound fancy or even exciting. But if you haven’t tried a bedtime routine, I highly encourage you to give it a go for a couple weeks and see what you think. You may be pleasantly surprised! It can be whatever you like. Not everyone will enjoy the same routine. And that’s ok!
Here are some ideas to try:
I’d love to hear from you. What are some of your favorite bedtime routines? What helps you get ready for a restful night’s sleep? Let me know in the comments below!
A few weeks ago I went to a YogaFit Mind, Body, Fitness Conference and took another Ayurevda* training. Oh how I love learning in general, and about Ayurvedic routines and recipes more specifically!
Anyway, one of the recommendations that the trainer mentioned was to get up earlier. Like BEFORE 6am.
I don’t like to get up early. I get grumpy when I have to be up early. I will set my alarm for the last possible moment so I can stay in the cozy covers.
Well, she could see the resistance on my face, and said (oh-so-kindly), “Just TRY it. Set your alarm for 5:55am tomorrow.”
Begrudgingly, I did it. 5:55am. Ugh.
HOWEVER, would you believe it? Instead of feeling MORE tired getting up 30 minutes earlier, I felt more AWAKE! How did THAT happen???
Well, it turns out Ayurveda knows what it’s talking about! When we get up before 6:00am (even if it’s just 5 minutes), we wake up during the time of day when we are most able to get going for the day. We have more energy and are able to jump into the day with enthusiasm instead of drudgery.
I felt so much better when I got up that extra few minutes early, I have been doing it every day since (well minus a couple sleep-in days). It’s truly changed how I feel about getting up in the morning. Since I am choosing to get up early, I don’t hate it! I get up, smile at my choice, and start my morning routine. And I even get all the things done I want to get done because I’m not hitting the snooze button two or three times.
5:55am – wake up!
6:00am – tongue scraping, brushing teeth (and you know, going to the bathroom)
6:10am – meditation time
6:30am – Sun Salutations
6:40am – start getting ready for the day
What new choices are you making to feel your best and improve your life? Please tell me in the comments!
You know what that means. Yep, lots of people are making New Year’s Resolutions. Resolutions range from productivity goals, to weight loss goals, to new-and-improved bedtimes. Other people are wholeheartedly against the whole Resolution business.
Here’s what I do think about it all though. Any time we feel the trigger to make changes that affect us in a positive way, good things can happen! It doesn’t matter to me if you make these changes and commitments to yourself because it’s January, or because your doctor said so, or for the simple reason that you got a super-cute pair of yoga pants as a gift and you simply MUST find a class so you can wear them! What matters is that you are doing something for yourself.
Or whatever the equivalent is for you. Maybe your new Resolution or goal is something more like:
Most of the time our biggest hurdles are in our head. If that rings true for you, put your new goal in your calendar and treat it as important as a meeting with your boss. Then, when the time comes, get your yoga pants on (or whatever is appropriate), and make it happen!
And, just in case you really do want to go to yoga class, check out this little video I made with some nice things to know before you walk into your first class.
Let’s make this actionable! Tell me what you are working to implement right now in the comments below. Why are you excited to do it? What’s the hardest (or scariest) thing about getting started?
I don’t know if you’ve ever experienced it, but sometimes it can be a challenge to enjoy the holidays. Maybe it’s been a tough year, or there’s a conflict with someone in your family, or you’re working a second job to make ends meet, or whatever. And once it gets going down that road, what to do then?
Yep. Make a conscious choice to enjoy the holidays anyway.
Here’s the thing – our life situation is really only responsible for about 10% of our happiness. The other 90% of happiness is attributed to, you guessed it – choice. How we perceive our life, and choose to view it and respond to it is THE number one factor in us experiencing JOY.
You’ve seen it – the person with no money and a terrible life circumstance that somehow rises above it all to show kindness to others, or the homeless person who volunteers to help out the “less fortunate.” All you have to do is take a 5 minute tour through FaceBook to see one of those heart-warming stories that makes you cry over the goodness of humanity and the ability to overcome.
Now, I’m not saying this is easy. Not by any means. I’m sure the people in those stories didn’t FEEL like life was full of sunshine and roses as they walked through their days under such hardship. I would imagine that it seemed like an unbearable load most days.
Each of the people in those inspiring videos did the same thing. They CHOSE to see things differently. They CHOSE to rise above the hardship and spread love and light ANYWAY.
Those people in the tear-jerker videos don’t have any special super-power. They are just regular people who decided to enjoy life no matter what.
If choosing to enjoy the holidays as a whole is too daunting, try enjoying today. If there is a particularly challenging event or get-together coming up, decide now to see the joy that IS there. Because there is always something to enjoy and be grateful for. And I can guarantee if you truly change your perspective about that thing you are dreading or hate, the entire scenery of this season will change. The lights will twinkle brighter, the songs will sound sweeter, and YOU will be filled with joy, because you chose to be.
So, tell me – how will you choose to enjoy the holidays this year? Let me know in the comments below!
I’ve been hearing this a lot lately, “I was so lazy this weekend, I just laid around in my pjs and didn’t do anything!”
For reasons I don’t completely understand, resting has become taboo. To “not do anything” is something to be ashamed of, to be confessed in a whisper to your best friend.
Have we forgotten that we actually NEED rest? I mean, we really do. Our bodies were never meant to run 24/7. Our minds and bodies need rest everyday, and every week. Am I talking about sleep? Sure. We definitely need sleep, but I’m talking about more than that. I mean REST. Not “doing” anything at all. Or engaging an activity that rejuvenates your mind, body and soul. This is no luxury – this is a necessity!
I get it, it seems there is never enough time to get everything done. And you’re right. There’s not. We will never get it ALL done.
And guess what?
Let that sink in for a minute.
It’s OK if all your to-dos don’t get done today. The world will NOT fall off its axis. Promise!
I was listening to one of my favorite podcasts this morning, The Robcast, and Rob was talking about this same thing. About the need for rest. You can check it out here.
This is a concept I really grasped when I first started studying ayurveda a few years ago. In fact, I was so inspired a wrote a little poem about it! (Yes, I know that’s insanely cheesy, but what can I say?) I began to truly understand that the earth has a rhythm to it’s life and cycles, and so do we.
Even the most simple thing – breath – has a distinct rhythm to it. We know we NEED oxygen. We can’t live very many minutes without it. No one would argue with me on this one!
We can’t inhale ALL the time. Nope. If we did, we’d just explode. We also have to exhale. We have to release the old air to make room for the new air. It’s a beautiful relationship, this thing we call breathing. We need the oxygen, we must inhale. But we must also be expert exhalers to make room for the air we need. Equal time: inhale and exhale.
See the correlation? If we are busy all the time and never rest, we become like a bomb – eventually one of two things happens: either we explode, or we implode. Either we unleash a fire-breathing dragon of anger on everyone around us, or we fall into a heap of exhaustion. And frankly, neither are good options. I’ve tried both personally, so I can tell you firsthand!
A choice to rest. On purpose. In whatever way you like. It could be sitting around in your pjs all day, or turning off your phone for a day, or scheduling a massage, or taking time to enjoy lunch with a friend, or planning a family movie night.
Whatever activity you choose, I would love to ask you to do one thing – please re-frame your perspective on rest. See it as the good, necessary, and beautiful thing that it is! Rest can be celebrated and enjoyed and loved! And just imagine how much more restful our rest will be when we stop looking at it as something to be ashamed of and start seeing it as the amazing gift that it is!
So tell me, what will you do to rest this week? I’d love for you to share in the comments so we can all get good ideas from each other!