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At Ease, Shoulders!

I’m sharing a link today from my mentor, Ginger Garner, MPT, ATC, regarding how to help our shoulders work smarter instead of harder.  Shoulder issues are common among my clientele, whether due to the everyday stress of sitting at a computer or the physical aspects of emotional issues.  People who are depressed tend to hold their heads forward and down, slumping the shoulders.  And anxiety or trauma tends to create a LOT of holding in the body.  All of this translates as tightness, soreness, and pain.   This mind-body link is why I am a Professional Yoga Therapist!

Here is the link:  http://www.gingergarner.com/2013/03/16/work-smarter-not-harder-in-the-shoulder-use-yoga/   Enjoy!

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Resistance

Resistance is a common word in the psychotherapy world, particularly in the long-term therapy models.  It’s often used to describe what we do not do:  how we do not follow through with a therapist’s recommendations or how we do not bring up things that might be helpful to discuss.  But honestly, whenever I hear the word, I can’t help but think of the infamous Borg from Star Trek TNG:  “Resistance is futile.  You will be assimilated.”  Yes, that’s right, I’m a TNG Trekkie.  Many of the episodes don’t hold up now, but I watched the series religiously in my teens and when I see the show on TV now, I often have to tune in!

I’ve noticed some interesting resistance in my own thoughts, feelings, and behaviors lately.  I checked Facebook three times during my morning yoga practice today because I did NOT want to be on that mat!  I’ve taken on some bold new projects:  moving into a new office space, trying to get my research published, and exploring writing opportunities.  All of this expansion seems to have led to some resistance, or you might even call it contraction.  This is totally normal (and in tune with the rhythms of nature), though it can be annoying and keep us from growing.  Resistance can look like negative or doubting thoughts, adamant refusal to complete tasks related to something new, avoiding taking needed actions by disappearing into TV shows and other entertainment, or even withdrawing from social contact.  Our ego and lower self are tricky little tricksters and will make us think, feel, or do (and not do) almost anything to keep things status quo, even when it means we stay stuck and in emotional or physical pain.

So, you might be asking, how do I deal with this resistance?  First, you need to notice that you are experiencing internal resistance.  One way to help with this is to practice mindfulness or other activities that encourage the development of our “objective observer” or “witness.”  Yoga, tai chi,  and meditation are just a few such practices.  We don’t have to get caught up in the drama of our thoughts and feelings, but can instead step back and objectively notice what’s happening inside ourselves.  Second, I find that acknowledging and embracing my own resistance is helpful.  Many of us are so quick to reject these less pleasant aspects of ourselves, but rejecting them just keeps us fragmented and in denial, when what we need to do is integrate all these paradoxical qualities we have.  I welcome you to acknowledge your resistance next time it arises, to embrace it, to be curious about it, and to perhaps even have a conversation with it about how it thinks it’s helping you.  Enjoy the natural ebb and flow of your Self!  Here’s to your joyful life!

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Hey Good Lookin’

Whatcha got cookin’?  If you don’t get the reference, that’s a classic country song by Hank Williams.  I really enjoy classic country (and even some of the modern stuff), but that’s a story for another time.  Today, I want to talk about cooking.  Lately, when I’ve been cooking, I’ve had the sensation of being deeply connected to my ancestors.  I feel as though I am participating in an ancient ritual of measuring, mixing, stirring, tasting, and waiting that binds us all together through time and space.  Plus, my childhood memories of my family cooking and baking are among my favorites.

 So I began to think about the soulful qualities of cooking and baking.  Feeding ourselves and each other is a way to nurture the soul, because we are more than our bodies (at least if you ask me!).  The food we eat affects our mental and emotional state, just as much as it affects our physicality.  For many of us, food equals love or comfort or nurturing and, let’s be honest, we might need to be careful about how much of that comfort we enjoy.  Then, there is the capacity to explore the long term versus short term benefits of how we cook and eat.  Cheeseburgers and milkshakes might taste amazing initially, but eating that every day can create heaviness and lethargy in the mind, emotions, and body.  Whereas foods that are fresh, healthy, AND taste good can add incredible vitality to our lives (Yes, this combo of fresh, healthy, and good tasting is possible! If you’re not sure how, I’d love to see you for a complementary consult)

 What does food mean to you?  What about cooking/baking?  I invite you to continue this discussion via comments here or on my Facebook or Twitter pages.  Here’s to cookin’ up something amazing together!

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This Little Light of Mine

Clipart HeavenI was driving home the other day and this song popped into my head…  This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.  This little of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.  It made me smile after a long and challenging day.  If you follow me on Facebook, then you know that I love music.  It has been my primary source of inspiration, comfort, and joy in many difficult & wonderful life experiences.  When I was a kidlet and my environment got too chaotic or frightening, I would hide in my room and listen to music.  It took me out of the chaos, to so many fun and joyful places.  Like many others of my generation, I would make mix-tapes of music on the radio.  I’d listen for hours, waiting for my favorite songs to play.  It’s one reason now that I know the words to almost every song EVER played on the radio.  Well, except for the more current pop songs…  I can’t claim that I’m keeping up with the younger generation!

Singing “This Little Light” to myself got me to thinking about how much we stop ourselves from shining.  As Marianne Williamson has said, “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.”  It is remarkable to me how so many of us want to be deeply seen and acknowledged by another, and yet being seen on that deep level is intensely terrifying.  What a paradox!  In my own experience, it has been important for me to find that acknowledgement within myself.  And it is one of my greatest joys in life to facilitate that process of self-acknowledgement and self-love for others.  Take a careful look this week at the ways you hide your own light.  No matter how many terrible things you’ve experienced, you do not need to perpetuate the myth that you are somehow unworthy or unlovable.  Wounded, perhaps, but certainly not unlovable.  Time to take back your life AND your light!  Shine on!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
*Clip art from ClipartHeaven.com

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The Painted Brain

I recently learned of this great local organization called The Painted Brain.  They are a “peer-driven media and outreach campaign to eradicate the stigma of mental illness, promote social development, and create a community of artists.”  I have been browsing through their most recent magazine issue and it is full of creative and striking stories, poems, and artwork.  This magazine’s creators and contributors are clearly passionate about raising awareness of what it is like to live with mental illness and illuminating the shadows that surround our fears on this topic.  If you or someone you love has been touched by a mental health concern, please take the time to learn more about The Painted Brain.

Website:  http://paintedbrain.org/
The Painted Brain on Facebook
Email:  thepaintedbrain@gmail.com

And stay tuned to Soulful Reading for stories and highlights from my recent participation in the 4th Symposium on Yoga Therapy and Research in Pacific Grove, California.  Until next time, take care of yourself and be well!

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Going the Distance

So it’s been quite a while since my last post… a reflection of my ongoing efforts to find balance between all of the things I enjoy doing.  If your life is anything like mine, it can often feel like you’re being tugged in all kinds of different directions.  Responsibilities, friends, family, work obligations, and just plain fun stuff…  tug, tug, tug!  And again, here we are, dancing back and forth across that line where elusive balance can be found.  I’m glad we can share this journey together!  In that previous post, I said I was going to write soon about how yoga therapy can address the many symptoms of depression.  While I promise I’ll get to that in the near future, I’ve been inspired to write about something else in the meantime :)

For the past two weeks, I’ve been attending quite a few trainings.  I offer evidence-based interventions in my practice and they require ongoing support & training.  Two weeks ago, I learned about outcome measures for Seeking Safety, a program for those healing from trauma and substance use, and received an introduction to Supported Employment, a model that helps those with chronic mental health issues find & keep self-supporting jobs.  Last week, I spent a day and a half getting a booster training for Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT).  Then I realized that I had to go downtown again to deliver something to the Department of Mental Health offices that oversee one of the programs I coordinate.  Whew!  While being away from the office is challenging, I’ve enjoyed the trainings because they’ve given me an opportunity to reflect on what I’m doing well and what I can do better, as well as re-connect with colleagues that I don’t get to see very often.  Self-reflection, particularly when we can do it in a non-judgmental way, is an important part of both personal and professional growth.

I live and work in Los Angeles, where everything is r—e—a—l—l—y spread out.  We measure distance here not by miles, but by how long it takes to get from A to B, both with traffic and without.  Even if you’re only travelling 15 miles, it could take 20 minutes or 2 hours.  So in planning to go to several trainings in the downtown L.A. area, I decided to see if I could get there on the city’s Metro system.  Luckily, even my trainings was within a short walk of a Metro station, so I ended up taking 5 trips to the downtown L.A. area via climbing lots of stairs, sitting, reading, listening to music, and walking.  Now I can hear you saying to yourselves, “But, Amber, this has nothing to do with mental health and yoga!”  Ahhhh, but it does…  Here are 6 reasons why using public transportation can be good for you, the planet, and your yoga practice.

  1. You’ll spend less time being grumpy in traffic – OK, so maybe you’ll still be grumpy on the bus/train!  But you won’t have all those other crazy drivers driving you bonkers with their unannounced lane changes and sudden stops.  Can’t you feel your shoulders relaxing just thinking about it?!  Yes, there are still lots of people to contend with on public transit and if you are so inclined, you can slip into your own world via your favorite music or reading material.
  2. You’ll save money – My five trips to the downtown L.A. area over the last few weeks involved about 40 miles round trip each time.  That’s 200 miles total.  Driving that would’ve cost me around $16 in my little Prius ($4.10/gallon, 50mpg).  But then there’s wear & tear on my car plus parking.  I swear parking in this city is such a racket!  I think average costs for the locations I went were somewhere between $10-15 a day, depending on how close the lot was to the location.  So let’s say at the low end, I would’ve spent around $66 for mileage & parking.  My Metro passes?  $27.  That’s less than half the cost of driving!
  3. You’ll have time to read – While you might try to read the morning paper during your daily drive to the office, it’s really not a good idea.  And all those books collecting dust on your nightstand will finally get some well-deserved attention from you.  Whether it’s funny stuff or spiritual stuff or academic stuff, you can sit and read during your time on the bus/train.  This is a self-nurturing activity that refills your energy stores to get through all those daily to-do lists.
  4. You might gain some empathy for pedestrians – When driving, I’m not always very patient with people crossing the streets that I’m trying to drive on (yes, even when they do it appropriately & legally).  But as a frequent walker in the past two weeks, I gained a greater appreciation for the hazards of walking in the city.  Let’s face it, empathy is good for the soul because we’re all bozos on the same bus J  The more we can each recognize that we are all doing the best we can with what we have, the better off we’ll all be.
  5. You can break out of your couch-sitting slump –  All the climbing up and down stairs, plus walking from the Metro stations to my final destinations got me a whole lot more exercise in the past two weeks than I typically get in my daily life.  I practice yoga regularly, but walking is a whole different thing.  And walking a few times a week can really shift you into a healthier lifestyle, as you get your body moving and heart working at the level recommended to maintain cardiac health.  (Naturally, consult with your doctor before beginning any exercise routine).
  6. It’s good for the planet (and therefore, YOU!) – According to the Federal Transit Administration, all forms of transportation bundled together account for 28 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S.  Reported at that same FTA website, a report is cited that found “public transportation reduces carbon dioxide emissions by 37 million metric tons annually. That sure sounds like a lot to me!  So if you ride your bike, walk, and take public transit, you can decrease your carbon footprint.  Make no mistake, the earth was here long before us and she will be here long after us, but if we want the planet to sustain human life we probably ought to take better care of her.

If after reading this, you still live in a small city with no public transit or a big city with lots of public transit challenges (Ahem, L.A., anyone?  A few light rail lines  do not an efficient system make!), fret not.  Perhaps public transit isn’t the way for you to improve the health of you or your planet.  But there are lots of other ways to keep yourself healthy, whether physically, mentally, spiritually, or emotionally.  For more ideas, visit the Soulful Healing archives!  Thanks for reading and be well!

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The Spirit of Service

Hello all!  I’m taking a break from my regular weekly blog post, as I just returned today from a three-day trip to the El Florido area of Tijuana, Mexico.  I was there as part of a home-building project funded by St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church and coordinated by Lutheran Border Concerns Ministry.  It was an amazing and often heart-breaking experience, but this is exactly the kind of heart breaking that we sometimes need to re-establish a connection to the Soul.  It is all too easy to get caught up in our day-to-day experience and we end up forgetting to think outside ourselves.  We forget that we are Divine, Light, Love, Spirit, Soul.  All the human-made barriers we create between each other can never extinguish that Divine spark and it is where we connect with one another on the deepest levels.  In yoga, this is called seva.  Whatever you call it, I believe that giving back is an important part of a soulful life.

Whether you have time or money or positive thoughts/prayers/energy to share, here are some great places to share your gifts with those in need:

Volunteer Match
The Corporation for National & Community Service
Habitat for Humanity
Heifer International
Charity Navigator

Next week, I’ll be back with Part Four of my series on Body Meets Soul.  If you’re just now joining me here, I invite you to check out Parts One, Two, and Three.  Have a great week!

**Photo is of me helping to paint an outer wall of the home we built on 11/6/10.

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Urban Gardens Redux

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about how creating a garden can be a healing, nurturing practice.  Just a few days ago, I received my latest issue of the Green American (September/October 2010), a publication of Green America.  In it there is an article about urban gardening!  res Patti Moreno, creator of Garden Girl TV and Urban Sustainable Living.  Being green and reducing the size of my environmental footprint on this earth has been a passion of mine for several years.  I found it much easier when I lived in the oceanside community of Santa Barbara, had a co-op nearby I could shop at, rode my bike everywhere, and had access to good public transportation.  Since moving to Los Angeles 10 years ago, I have found implementing this passion increasingly challenging.  I started having to drive 12 miles to haul my recyclables to place that accepted all the stuff I wanted to recycle!  I now have city sponsored recycling in my building, but it still feels sometimes like the terms “urban” and “green” are forever at odds in my life.  Resources like the ones I just mentioned provide great ideas for greening your life, whether you are living in an urban or a rural space.  Nurturing our selves includes caring for the spaces in which we live, planet, country, state, city, community…  I hope you find these resources as interesting and informative as I have!  Have a soul-filled week and, until next time, be well!

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