The Power of Yoga

Recently I had an article of mine published on Tiny Buddha about my own personal history and how I believe that yoga helped save my sanity.  Although I do not typically write such personal pieces about my own experiences in my past, I felt that by writing this it could potentially help many others that may feel the same as I once did.  I was overwhelmed and elated by all the positive responses and feedback that it encouraged me to bring more yoga into my private practice.  

While writing my article, I also completed a Yoga Teacher Training course and will now be creating "yoga therapy" opportunities for my clients that are interested. Although I have not finalized the details of this yet, there will be news about this in the near future so please stay tuned for that! I will also be starting a new category of my blogs that will be focused solely on what I will refer to as Yoga Therapy.  These blogs will be about the lessons that yoga teaches us and how it translates into everyday life.  In addition to my own postings on this topic, I will also be looking for special guest bloggers that would like to write about their own personal experiences as well. 

That being said, this is officially the first posting for that section so thank you for taking the time to read this and hope that you look forward to more postings about the power of yoga.  

For those readers that may not have seen my article, I have posted it below. 

5 Vital Lessons For People That Feel That They're Not Good Enough 

What if I fall? Oh, my darling, what if you fly?” ~ Unknown

Like most people, my life has had its share of ups and downs.

My household growing up could be best described as a roller coaster. There were times of excitement and happiness, then there was the plummeting into darkness, shame, and self-loathing.

Throughout my childhood and adolescence, I felt that I was a mistake, unloved, and unwanted by my father. His mood swings and verbal abuse would come raging like a storm without any warning, and without any end in sight.

He often told me that I wasn’t good enough and that I was the reason for all of his problems.

I was often frightened to go home and face him. When my mother would have to go out of town, I would insist on staying with a friend because I didn’t feel safe being alone with him.

I was extraordinarily lucky to have such a warm and loving mother that provided me the love and support I needed to keep going. Despite all of her good intentions and love, though, I still found myself falling into a deep hole of depression and severe anxiety.

Some of the happier times that I remember from my childhood were the years that I was in gymnastics. It made me feel alive and free to express myself.

However, that too slowly led to destruction, as soon I began competing. My obsessive need to please others caused me such significant levels of anxiety that I decided to quit. I was only twelve, and my dreams of becoming an elite gymnast were over. 

Though it was a good decision to move on from that life, I was still left with this feelings of shame because I couldn’t mentally handle the pressure. I felt that I had let everyone down, including myself.

Also, without this release, my anxiety levels continued to increase, leaving me feeling on edge and awkward in my social interactions.

As I entered adolescence, I found it harder and harder to put myself out there, in fear that others would judge me. I worried that they would think I wasn’t good enough, cool enough, skinny enough, smart enough, or pretty enough.

I eventually created this hard exterior to prevent people from getting in and knowing the real me.

I believed for a long time that this wall was there to protect me; however, all it did was prevent me from building relationships with others, or even a relationship with myself.

For many years I self-medicated in various ways to deal with the pain and to allow myself to let my guard down just enough to find a solid, small groups of friends.

It wasn’t long before I became so depressed and anxious that my family doctor put me on medications to “fix me.” They numbed me so much, though, that I medicated myself on top of that to feel alive, which of course was a recipe for disaster.

After years of taking these medications, I couldn’t function without them. I’m became so desperate to feel alive that I took myself off of them cold turkey. This was not a pleasant experience. I went through a period where I secluded myself away from my friends and family and fell back into old habits.

I eventually managed to pull myself out of that hole after some intense therapy and self-reflection; however, I still struggled daily with my depression and anxiety.

Fast forward several years, after I graduated from my Masters program, and I found myself happily married, spending time with my close knit friends again, and working daily on myself.

I had finally cut out everything negative in my life except for chain-smoking cigarettes, and then I became pregnant with our first child.

My husband and I were ecstatic, but making that final step to quit smoking so suddenly threw me for a loop. Since it wasn’t just me now, I made the decision to try something new, yoga.

At first it was hard, boring, and frustrating. I didn’t get it. I kept going though, and about the time I was six months pregnant I was finally getting the hang of it.

I didn’t just like it; I loved it! It has been just over five years since I walked into that first yoga class, and I am so thankful for everything it has taught me.

Here are the top five ways that I believe yoga has saved my sanity. It taught me that:

1. Practice makes progress.

For someone that struggles with perfectionism, this mantra has been a lifesaver.

When I first started my practice, I felt frustrated because I couldn’t make my poses look like the advanced yogis in the room. The reality was though that those yogis didn’t accomplish those moves in their first class. It took time, patience, and self-acceptance to get there, and those poses could continue to progress from there.

There is no such thing as perfect but rather always room for growth. Striving for perfection is a no-win battle in all aspects of life, for perfection is a defining wall that we create in our own minds.

2. We have to acknowledge our own successes.

I have never been one to take compliments well. I doubted them and worried that they were insincere.

Even as I became stronger in my practice, I didn’t feel secure enough to attempt difficult poses in a class full of people. I feared that someone would find flaws in them or think I was a show-off.

It wasn’t until about a year ago that I finally decided to just go for it. Since I made that leap, I have been able to grow so much more in my confidence and praise for myself.

If you can’t be proud of yourself, how can you expect others to be?

3. We need to surround ourselves with positive, happy people.

Ever heard of the phrase “You become who you surround yourself with”?

The yoga community is filled with joy, support, and kindness everywhere you turn. Although I am still not the most outgoing or social person, I embrace the positive energy every day when I am in a yoga class.

Everyone there has come there for a purpose—to better themselves. We all have our own stuff going on in our lives, but have taken a moment to come together and to take care of ourselves.

4. We can conquer our fears.

The first time I saw someone in crow pose, I convinced myself that I could never do something that difficult. I just knew I would fall on my face and everyone would laugh at me. I resisted even attempting it because I was scared of failure.

The thing is, though, sometimes we have to fall to then pick ourselves back up and try again.

Once I started practicing and finding success, I become braver every day on my mat and found that I could, in fact, accomplish much more than I ever believed I could. We are stronger than we think we are.

5. It’s okay to let ourselves be vulnerable.

There is a moment at the end of every yoga class when you lie on your mat in savasana, with your eyes closed, and just breathe.

The idea of surrendering yourself in a room full of strangers is terrifying. This pose has taken me forever to feel comfortable in. It taught me that it is okay and actually good for the body and mind to let it all go and just be. This is when you can find peace within yourself.

It has now been over twenty years since I quit my gymnastics career, and I have finally found something that has allowed me to get that same sense of freedom that I once felt as a child.

I know that every day after I finish my yoga class, I have let go of the enormous amount of tension that I constantly carry with me, and I feel content, relaxed, empowered, and proud of myself for what I have just accomplished.

I truly believe that yoga has saved my sanity and taught me how to love and respect myself. But you don’t need to go to a yoga class to learn these lessons. You can make the choice to let go of the pressure, tackle your fears, and celebrate yourself for being bold, brave, and vulnerable.

Originally posted on Tiny Buddha


New Year Resolutions: Do They Really Work?

It’s that time of year again when everyone around you is obsessing over their new “resolutions” for the year.  The gyms are packed full of people, the produce isles at the grocery store is running low on the new trendy organic food, and for the next week there will be a little less smoke in the air. 

Now am I saying that taking care of yourself is not a good idea?  No, of course not! Making the commitment to take care of your body is always a positive decision and should be applauded.  The problem that frequently arises with New Year’s resolutions is that there is an enormous amount of pressure that comes along with them.

Starting around Thanksgiving is usually when people start to think to themselves about how “next year” is going to be the year of change.  January 1st then slowly becomes closer and closer causing many people to overindulge in all the things they are planning on “quitting” on that magical day.  Then the first day of the new year comes and the next few days are a breeze.  You are feeling proud of yourself (as you should be when you are making the effort to practice self care) and determined to make this resolution stick, However, typically after that first week or two things start to fall apart.  Not only are you falling off the wagon, but then the feelings of shame and thoughts of self deprecation begin to bring you down and then you quit the resolution altogether...until the next year. 

So, what would I suggest for those of you that still like the idea of starting the New Year off right? 

Create GOALS for the year.  Goals do not have to have a time restrictions.  Goals allow for “off days”.  Goals give us something to work towards instead of running ourselves into the ground the way that resolutions typically do. 

Lets breakdown one of the most common resolutions and how we can turn it into a GOAL instead.

“Next year I am getting a gym membership and am going work out every day.”

 Well right here you have already set yourself up for failure.  Can you guess what the problem area is here?

It is when we use phrases like “every day” in our resolutions that we create a no winning battle.  You cannot just start exercising every day without burning yourself out, especially those individuals that have not worked out in months or maybe even years.  It takes time to build up to this and in many cases will never be achievable.  Quite honestly, even those people that DO work out everyday are not doing their bodies any favors.  Both your physical body and brain need a break from all that strain.   

 Now since the idea of exercising regularly is a great goal, how can we reword this for success?

“This year I am going to make an effort to work out more often and take care of my body physically and mentally.  I will practice self care by making healthy food choices and will exercising regularly, but not to excess.  I will also allow myself days off and will even have a piece of cake from time to time because I deserve it” 

OK so that last part about the cake doesn't have to be a part of it, but why not!  

Can you think of any resolutions that you have made for the next year that you can turn into a goal instead?