Relationships

Relationships are essential. It is through our connections with others, both past and present, that we are able to find ourselves. If you look back over your own personal relationship history, you can assess your values, determine your goals, reveal your wants, and extrapolate your needs. You can also use your past relationships to establish healthier connections in the present. I think that the types of relationships we crave say a lot about us. For instance, I’m a big proponent of close, deep, intimate friendships. I share my deepest thoughts and feelings with my friends and invite them to divulge a lot about their innermost selves as well.

Yet, I don’t delude myself into believing that everyone wants to connect on such deep levels. My mother is a wonderful example of this. The woman would rather go to the dentist than to therapy and, by her own admission, doesn’t want to share intimately. Now, I love my mother with all my heart and she loves me with all of hers. But, we’re different. And that’s okay. I share this with you because I think it’s important for each of us to figure out who we are and to live lives that reflect our own deepest wishes and desires.

In terms of the level of connectedness that we seek, there is no right way and no wrong way to be. I invite you to ask yourself what types of relationships are best for you and then cultivate those types of connections.

Phonetically, the word intimacy sounds like in-to-me-see. Do you need more in-to-me-see in your relationships? If so, create it by letting people see inside your heart and know you at the level of your soul.

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Recommended Reading

I love the following article! While it isn’t exactly related to Emotional Yoga, it does over invaluable insight regarding how to heal emotional and self-destructive eating patterns.

See Karly Randolph Pitman’s 2012 article “How Attachment Can Heal Overeating. For Good” and let me know what you think…

http://www.firstourselves.org/missing-link-overeating/?utm_source=A+Joyful+Sugar-free+Life+%28Sugar-Addiction-Book.com%29&utm_campaign=b7579fd6cd-RSS_EMAIL_CAMPAIGN&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_b27c81ebdf-b7579fd6cd-75363213

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The Pose Poll

This morning, on a whim, I decided to take a poll of my yoga-loving friends to see what their favorite yoga postures and least favorite yoga postures are. Knowing that yoga is an intensely personal, intensely subjective experience, the purpose of my asana inquisition was simply to gather information. Even before asking my questions, I understood that there were no right or wrong answers, that my friends’ opinions were entirely subjective. As a yoga teacher, experience has taught me a lot about how different our bodies are. While teaching a class, when I cue some poses (such as Double Pigeon), half of the class groans disgruntledly and the other half grins broadly. I don’t pretend to know why this is. I do know, however, that the more exposure I get to other people’s yogic experiences, the better I become at what I do and the more expansive my repertoire becomes both as a practicer and a practitioner of Emotional Yoga.

I digress.

Back to my friends whom I am currently exploiting for my blogging practices. And, since I am already exploiting them, I will not add insult to injury by referring to them by name, but will make up imaginary names to protect their privacy.

My friend Mel, an Amazonian pregnant yoga teacher with arms and legs for days and a larger-than-life spirit responded immediately that her favorite has always been Goddess Pose.

“It’s strong and feminine,” she pointed out. “I feel both grounded and empowered when I’m in Goddess.”

I smiled. My own experience of Goddess Pose is of feeling worn out pretty quickly. My legs, while strong, tire easily when I access my own inner goddess. Perhaps this is a vestige of leftover self-esteem issues… Perhaps, my body simply isn’t built the same way as Mel’s. Whatever the case, she feels fully feminine, powerful and at home in the posture.

“My least favorite is Child’s Pose. It’s just not comfortable for me at all.”

Mel is a tall, statuesque, slim woman (her current baby-bulge notwithstanding). Her limbs are long and her body seeks to be open at all times. Even the way she carries herself, shoulder’s back, head erect, denotes a certain level of expansive energy. She doesn’t want to be small. She doesn’t yearn for the protection and insulation that many people experience in Child’s Pose. Also, while I didn’t ask Mel about this, I know from our years of friendship that her childhood was fraught with pain. Perhaps (and this is just a guess), she equates this small, infantile posture with the sense of helpless discomfort that she felt until she grew up and was old enough to take care of herself. It’s no surprise that she wouldn’t want to revert to the posture of a child but instead craves to tap into the power of her adult female self. Today, Mel is a Goddess and she wants everyone to know it!

My next query I made of another friend of mine who I shall call Lisette. Lisette is a knockout blonde who I met many years ago in an inpatient eating disorder treatment facility. While her path to recovery has looked a lot different than my own, she is nonetheless a recovered bulimic and a sacred friend. She also has a yoga teacher training certification although she doesn’t currently teach yoga. Lisette’s response to my question “What’s your favorite yoga pose?” was emphatic.

“Wheel!” She got down on the floor and demonstrated her backbend. “I do it three times a day. My body craves it. I sit all day long at a desk and Wheel counterbalances all my hunching.”

Funnily, Lisette’s love of heart opening backbends belies her quietly unobtrusive mannerisms. She’s not one to open up a great deal about her feelings or her experiences. Yet, whenever she does so, I have always been struck by the look of relief that comes across her face. Every time Lisette has opened up to me, divulging some thought or feeling, she says she feels better. And, yet, her natural inclination is to resist talking about herself. It may seem dichotomous for her body to crave this intensely opening, exposed pose when Lisette is often closed off emotionally. It isn’t. Her body is trying to tell her something. She isn’t a closed person. She doesn’t want to be. The more Lisette releases her feelings, the better she feels. Much like the backbend which relieves all of the pressure that she feels from the postures she holds in her everyday life, stretching herself beyond her conversational comfort zones opens Lisette up and comes as a welcome relief for her.

Lisette’s least favorite yoga pose is a tossup between Pigeon Pose and Cow Face Pose. Her hips feel tense and she hates holding these postures long enough to let this tension dissipate. Not surprisingly, our hips are said to be our doorway into the past. They’re where we hold our memories. Lisette doesn’t like accessing her past. Believe me! Anytime we talk, it’s clear that Lisette has no interest in discussing her childhood or teenaged years. Even if the conversation drifts there, she will not linger long in the past. It’s no surprise that this reluctance to face stored tension translates into her yoga practice. In order to release stored pain (whether physical or emotional) we must sit with it long enough to feel it and release it and we must breathe through the process. Lisette isn’t quite ready to delve deep and stay deep. Not yet. I wonder if, in time, as she progresses further in her healing, her relationships with hip openers will change… Only time will tell.

A word about Cali. Okay, her name’s not really Cali; but, this friend is from California. Cali is laid back and exceedingly cool. She has been doing yoga for a decade and used it to help herself through a painful and messy divorce. I lovingly refer to her as the “Queen of the Props” because she owns bolsters, blocks, straps, and every yoga assistance device imaginable. She’ll spend five to ten minutes in a single yoga pose and jokingly refers to restorative yoga as her muse.

Cali and I met side-by-side in a yoga class years ago and connected over a mutual love of tea and writing. When I asked her for her favorite yoga pose, I expected her to reply with a restorative pose (such as Child’s Pose or Reclined Cobbler’s Pose). She didn’t.

Cali informed me that, “I really dig Half Moon Pose because it’s so expansive and I hate Standing Splits because they’re so tiring and restricting.”

The transition from Standing Split to Half Moon Pose or from Half Moon Pose to Standing Split is subtle. It involves the raising or the lowering of an arm and the closing or the opening of a hip. That’s it. Subtle shifts often produce monumental physical and emotional changes. Cali is someone who is especially sensitive to minute alterations. True, she’s laid back; but, in Cali’s life, the impact made by small shifts matters. I know this from our friendship. I know that she has a threshold for change and that the moment that something pushes her too far beyond her limits life becomes an emotional toboggan ride for her as she careens quickly downward. My laid back friend notices when things aren’t right and is deeply affected when she can’t be open. For her, closing her body or closing herself, even for a time, feels devastating.

My best friend, confidant, and the most fabulous woman I’ve ever met who I’ll call Lee is not a yogi by any means; but, she reports that her favorite pose is Shavasana (but only after a full yoga practice) and that her least favorite is Flying Lizard Pose. She’s a real athlete and she abhors Flying Lizard Pose because she can’t do it. Interestingly, because Lee is a body perpetually in motion who can’t meditate for more than three minutes at a time, Shavasana felt like an odd choice for her. And, yet, I think it speaks to her need to stop – something that she can only allow herself to do after she’s done all that needs to be done, finished all her work, crossed all of the items off her to-do list, etc., etc., etc. (you get the idea). And it’s no surprise that, for this perfectionist, Flying Lizard Pose would be the bane of her yoga existence. She doesn’t like the idea of not being able to do something, anything. We laughed together over how frustrated she gets when I do this pose because her inner competitor relentlessly berates her about not being “good enough” and in Flying Lizard Pose, she is forced to face a fundamental reality of human existence: we all fail sometimes, and that’s okay.

 

I’d like to continue my yoga inquiry and to ask you, my friendly readers, to contribute to the conversation. So tell me…

What’s your favorite yoga pose and why? How does it make you feel physically, mentally, and emotionally?

What’s your least favorite yoga pose and why? How does it make you feel physically, mentally, and emotionally?

I invite readers to comment here as part of the Emotional Yoga Experience Contest. The deadline to comment is May 30th, 2014. The person who provides the answer that strikes me as being the most evocative will get either 20% off of the EYE book or 20% off of an EYE or EFT session (either in person or via Skype depending on your location). It’s entirely up to you. You pick your prize!

Stay tuned for the contest winner announcement on June 5th and thank you in advance for your contributions!!!!

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Blind Spots

I’m not too proud to ask for help. In fact, I firmly believe that those adept at caring for others often neglect their own need to receive healing. As I have recovered from a once-unrelenting eating disorder, I’ve learned that pride has no place in self-help. When it comes to building the lives we want and deserve, we need to be willing to go to any lengths. I needed help recovering from bulimia (and I still need help with my ED recovery although not in the same way I once did) and I need help with life in general. We all do.

All of us have blind spots. When driving my car, the side-view mirrors warn me that “objects in mirror may be closer than they appear.” They don’t warn me that some things may be too close altogether for me to see them reflected out of the corner of my eye. I have to turn my head in order to notice what’s right there beside me. Just like in driving, if I am moving forward too quickly in life, I may not be able to see what’s next to me accurately. I may not be able to see it at all. It’s easy for each of us to get so focused on the road ahead that we fail to see what someone on the outside can easily perceive.

What, you might wonder, do blind spots have to do with needing to ask for help?

Even though I am a healer, sometimes I can’t recognize my own “tappable” issues because I am too immersed in a situation to see it with the same level of comprehensive awareness that I might bring to a session with a client. I need to invite an outsider in to help me either by adding another perspective (which I can then use to help me direct my own EFT or yoga or Emotional Yoga transformation); or, alternatively, by relying on another practitioner for help.

A few years into my recovery from bulimia, I suffered an unexplained bout of weight loss followed by a significant, unexplained weight gain. Then, I began to experience severe, debilitating gastroenterological problems. I spent well over a year in excruciating G.I. pain which seemed to have no identifiable physical or emotional cause. Then, I was diagnosed with celiacs disease. I gave up gluten and, still, my symptoms persisted. Towards the end of 2012, my colon shut down entirely. I couldn’t poop for a period of four (yes, count them, four) weeks. I was admitted to the hospital where they dealt with the issue with a number of painful and humiliating medical interventions. At that point, the doctors informed me that I’d likely have to have part or all of my colon surgically removed. There I was, a healer of others and a healer of many of my own psychological and emotional issues. Yet, my body was breaking down and I felt powerless over it.

Yoga didn’t help. EFT didn’t help. I saw body talk practitioners, naturopaths, medical doctors, massage therapists, Reiki practitioners, alternative healthcare providers, and specialists of all sorts. It just wasn’t enough to staunch the flow of my pain.

And, yet, I knew (and still know) that Emotional Yoga can heal me. It will heal me. It has healed me. I’m just in the middle of a blind spot right now. Hopeless, right? Wrong! I called Gary Craig and enlisted his help.

Well, actually, I emailed Gary Craig (the founder of EFT). He called me back. I was incredibly touched to hear from him only a day after sending my original email. When we spoke, he helped me to see that, while I was identifying some of the issues underneath the illness and while I’d teased out the threads of my dysfunctional emotional past, I was having trouble identifying the specific memories that were contributing to my sick identity. As a child, I had asthma, allergies, and epilepsy. Then, I started getting healthy. My favorite aunt died of leukemia just as my own illnesses were abating. Then, I lost a series of family members in rapid succession and my mother met and married a man who treated me like a nonentity. Around that time, I suffered sexual abuse and felt so very alone and unloved. I perceived the birth of my sister as eclipsing me. My once-close relationship with my mother evaporated into nothingness. Despite my years of self-inquiry and my diligent practice of Emotional Yoga I was struck by the old adage that “the doctor who treats himself has a fool for a patient.”

I’m not a doctor. And I wholeheartedly believe in primarily using EY as a self-help technique. However, I was blind even to my own blind spots. By enlisting the help of Gary Craig, I was able to hone in on some specific areas of stored pain and then to use EFT to break down some of my physical problems. Then, I took it a step deeper and started to use Emotional Yoga to delve into the issues which my EFT session illuminated.

The results have been incredible! Today, my doctors are baffled by the fact that my colon is functioning. Last year, after performing a series of tests, they told me that I had an inert colon and showed me my test results which offered conclusive proof that segments of my colon were dead.

“Your system will never function properly,” my physician said, shaking his head sadly.

Within a few months, I was going to the bathroom by myself without any medical help – utilizing only yoga, EFT, EY, meditation, relaxation, homeopathy, and body talk. Today, my body is still in the process of recovering and I feel better each day. I am no longer blind to my blind spots.

Many thanks to Gary Craig and to all the practitioners who illuminate my healing path so that I may illuminate the path of others.

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Hormones

I apologize in advance to my male readers for discussing a topic that is so decidedly female, so entirely estrogen-focused. Yes, I’m referring to periods. Stop. End of sentence. If you’re male or post-menopausal this blog post won’t apply to you. But, if you have a uterus that is letting go once a month, you may want to read on. PMS and all its associated problems comes up with a lot of my female clients. In honoring the body’s wisdom, there is no escaping the issue of cycles. 

What, you may be wondering, do menses have to do with Emotional Yoga? Everything. For those of us who suffer symptoms before, during, or after, our periods, the question becomes can Emotional Yoga help? And the answer is yes.

Yoga and EY offer therapeutic physical benefits for hormonal issues which I won’t delve too deeply into because I want to primarily address the emotional implications of menstruation and how Emotional Yoga and yoga can help.

In her 2012 article “Women’s Emotions, Part 3: The Menstrual Cycle & Mood,” Dr. Christina Hibbert writes: “The menstrual cycle is direct communication between your brain and your body, and that communication happens through hormones… We feel, think, and even behave differently in accordance with the dialogue of our menstrual cycles… Sure, our menstrual cycles can make our moods feel a little complicated. But if we learn about our body and listen to its wisdom, we will not only have the power to take charge of our emotional well-being, but we will appreciate the incredible power our beautiful female bodies possess.” http://www.drchristinahibbert.com/womens-emotions-part-3-the-menstrual-cycle-mood/

I want to point out that I am not a doctor or a nutritionist. I have no medical qualifications that enable me to scientifically discuss hormones and their impact on the female body. Still, I’m a woman and have experienced my own hormone-induced emotional shifts, I was raised by a woman, I have a sister, I have numerous female friends and have listened to their monthly woes, and I have a primarily female clientele who report their physical and emotional ups and downs to me. Many of my female clients have suffered from emotional imbalances that coincide with a drop in estrogen and increase in progesterone.

As a practitioner, I can’t ignore this fact and can’t pretend that unregulated hormone levels will self-regulate without intervention (or, at least, information). Please don’t misunderstand me. I am not suggesting that you supplement your estrogen levels or engage in any self-inspired clinical trials. I am however advocating that you enlist the help of your qualified medical providers in diagnosing and monitoring hormone levels (this can be done through blood or saliva tests) and that you may want to consider taking measures to regulate your hormones through nutritional and/or supplemental interventions. My own negative experiences with taking both synthetic and bio identical hormones make me personally weary of such drastic measures. But, again, I’m no doctor and you know best what (if anything) your body needs. Trust your female intuition. Before choosing to take hormones, I do encourage you to read about them and their impact on the body and to seek a second (and maybe even a third) opinion. Here are some links you might find useful as you research hormonal health:

http://www.drchristinahibbert.com/womens-emotions-part-3-the-menstrual-cycle-mood/

http://www.womentowomen.com/bioidentical-hrt/bioidenticalhormones.aspx

http://www.drweil.com/drw/u/QAA400367/Are-Bioidentical-Hormones-Better.html

http://www.doctoroz.com/blog/lauren-streicher-md/buyer-beware-bioidentical-hormones-myths

As for how Emotional Yoga can help you to balance your hormones, I have two extremely powerful (and time-tested) suggestions. The first is to use EFT to tap out your first traumatic memory of your period (Note: this may be the first time you got your period or it might be a time you leaked through a pair of pants in public or a day you had bad cramps and had to miss a social event). If you remember multiple traumatic menstrual memories, make a list of each experience that you remember and perform the entire EFT tapping sequence on each specific instance. If you forget how to do EFT, click here for instructions on how to tap.

http://www.emofree.com/eft/recipe.html

The second suggestion is to use yoga to help the body regulate its hormones. The following yoga poses, while not a comprehensive list by any means, can be extremely helpful with hormone regulation: Reclined Cobbler’s Pose, Shoulder Stand, Corpse Pose, Headstand, Legs-Up-the-Wall pose, and Child’s Pose.

For yoga-specific recommendations regarding improving your hormonal health and, specifically, combating PMS, see Linda Sparrowe’s wonderfully informative article “Menstrual Essentials” on the Yoga Journal Website www.yogajournal.com/health/130.

Beyond the physical, measurable hormone levels, I want to go a layer deeper and look to our bodies as the wise and wonderful beings that they are. This brings me to the issue that I keep coming back to: Do our periods create emotional problems or do they make us more receptive to already-existing, underlying emotional issues? The answer may lie somewhere in the middle. Don’t ignore the feelings that arise for you during “that time of the month.” Your periods may simply be alerting you to feelings that you may be suppressing that need to be dealt with and moved through. I highly suggest writing down your feelings during your menses. Keeping a journal of reactions, feelings, and behaviors may illuminate some possibilities for further exploration with Emotional Yoga.

For example, my kindhearted, incredibly giving client Marie never seemed to get angry except during “that time of the month” when she would yell at her kids and her husband. She reported feeling completely out of control immediately before and during menstruation.

“I don’t know where all the rage is coming from,” she told me. “I never get mad except when I’m on the rag.”

At first reluctant to explore her angry outbursts, Child’s Pose revealed that Marie resented her family for not meeting her needs. She felt like a nonentity much of the time. Together, we did EY to help her release her fury. Marie began to tell her family what she needed from them – help around the house, respect for her belongings, and adherence to a reasonable chore schedule. The more she spoke up and asserted her needs, the more infrequent her hormonally-induced outbursts became.

Invite your periods to tell you more about how you’re feeling even as you ask medical and holistic healthcare providers to monitor and diagnose your body’s hormonal patterns. Regulate anything that is biochemically “off” as you simultaneously tune in to any underlying emotional issues. Sometimes, hormones offer an emotional magnifying glass, allowing us to clearly see that which we need to examine more closely.

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Standing Salute

Begin by standing on your yoga mat with your feet about hips’ width apart. Root down through the inner edges of your feet as you raise both arms towards the sky, pressing the palms together.  Look upwards as you reach upwards. Keep your abdominal muscles contracted as you extend your legs downward towards the earth and your arms upwards towards the heavens.

As you reach upwards and outwards, ask yourself “What do I want to manifest in my life?”  As we greet the New Year, salute it.  Salute what is yet to come; bask in the possibilities.  Invite new, more expansive, opportunities.

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Reclined Cobbler’s Pose

Shay didn’t trust anyone. She didn’t trust her parents, her boyfriend, or her boss. She especially didn’t trust herself.

“I’m a pathological liar,” she confessed. “I tell people what I think they want to hear so that they’ll like me.”

“And do they like you?”

“Yes. But, they don’t know me.”

“Do you like yourself?”

She nodded yes as she admitted “no.”

I observed that Shay’s body language belied her truth.

“I don’t like myself,” she said candidly. “Actually, I kind of hate myself.”

Shay had just spent a minute or two in Reclined Cobbler’s Pose. Experiencing the open, vulnerable nature of the posture felt directly antithetical to how shut down and closed off she was in her everyday interactions.

In Reclined Cobbler’s Pose, I asked her who she would be if she allowed herself to be completely open and vulnerable.

She said “honest.”

“What is it that keeps you from being honest?”

“I’m afraid people will use what I tell them against me. I’m afraid that they’ll hurt me.”

After teasing out the threads of Shay’s fear, we discovered that its source was rooted in a memory of her older brother finding and reading her journal in middle school, and then using the information contained in it to terrorize and blackmail Shay. She confided in me that, ever since then, she had never kept a journal. Even as an adult, living alone in her own apartment, she didn’t want to record her innermost thoughts and feelings.

“I don’t even let myself look at how I’m feeling or examine my thoughts. I even lie to myself.”

I had Shay do the following exercise and I invite you to do the same:

Think back to a time when someone betrayed your trust. Delve deeply you’re your memory and try to access the feeling of betrayal. Remember the experience of violation. Re-live the hurt, the vulnerability, the wound, the surprise, and any other feelings that surface. Then, tap out the experience using the EFT setup phrase “Even though (insert name) hurt me when he/she violated my trust by (state what they did), I can trust myself today.”

In Shay’s example, she said, “Even though my brother hurt me when he violated my trust by reading my journal, I can trust myself today.”

While tapping on the various points of your body, say things such as “(insert name) hurt me,” “(insert name) violated my trust,” and “insert name state what they did.” Then, do one round of EFT tapping in which you repeat “I can trust myself today.”

If you’re unfamiliar with the EFT tapping sequence, click this link http://eft.mercola.com/ for instructions on how to perform EFT.

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