Word of the Day: Frustrated!

4 Oct

A fun and new feature to my blog called, “Word of the Week” is in presently in the works, but as I sat down to finish up the post I started, I lost it.  I threw up my hands, slammed my computer shut and stomped out of the room.

Screw the Word of the Week (which was intended to inspire and provoke warm-fuzzy feelings), I have a word of the day: FRUSTRATED. Over the last week, my back injury has taken a turn from the worse. My pain, which had become very manageable – to the point where I was beginning to run and practice yoga again – came back with a vengeance. Sleeping, sitting, riding in the car, bending over…forget about it, these things have become my worst nightmares. I have spent every night this past week sobbing in bed, chewing pain killers like candy and praying to God to make the pain go away.

I have an extruded disc (the soft, gel-like pads that cushion the vertebrae) at my L4/L5 vertebrae that is pressing down on multiple nerve roots along my spinal column. Sounds gross because it is. I told my boyfriend the other night I wouldn’t wish this pain on my worst enemy, it’s that bad. I have been in so much pain and so irate about it that Asking the Universe to feel better sounded like a cruel joke. Who the hell was that naive, clueless person who wrote that post last week? Not me, that’s for sure!

As a yogi, I have often believed that being pissed off, irate and generally unhappy about something is spiritually immature, like a two-year old having a tantrum. I figured that if I maintained a positive attitude, took perspective and was grateful for all of my blessings, then riding the wave of this injury would be a piece of cake. I mean, would the Buddha piss and moan about a herniated disc when there are millions of others suffering and in need of compassion? Would Jesus sit around and feel sorry for himself, sob and cry all night and lament that His life was over? I mean, I’m a yoga teacher for godssakes, I’ve been through WAY WORSE, why is this so devastating?

The more I’ve sat with this, I’ve realized that the one who needs compassion is me. I fought hard to never feel or act like a victim this summer when I had a debilitating back injury…then got in a car accident that miraculously didn’t kill me or my boyfriend…then watched my father get very sick and spend weeks recovering in the hospital. It was a SHITTY SUMMER. There, I said it. I refused to say it because I didn’t want to acknowledge that I was going through another hard time in my life because (tantrum time) it’s not fair, damn it! But the big breakdowns, the hours of tears over the last several nights have more to do with just the physical pain that I am in. They happened because I am tired of being tough, tired of pretending that everything is okay, and tired of completely minimizing my own suffering.

Once I acknowledged this, once I gave myself the freedom to actually feel like shit, cry in front of my friends and family and even hash this out on my blog, I’ve noticed that my physical pain has lessened. Maybe it’s the Percocet, or maybe it’s the forgiveness I am offering myself. It’s actually okay to feel sorry for yourself. It’s okay to stay in bed, need your mom and take pain medication when you hurt. It’s okay to not have a vigorous yoga practice or be training for a marathon. Once your health is being jeopardized, it’s hard to think of anything else, and what I have realized is that the way I treat my body is related to the way I see myself in this world. Being kind and gentle with one’s body, holding it safely and honoring it for the sacred package that it is, is one of the biggest responaibilities we have on this earth. This injury plus, my terrifying car accident and my father’s illness put a big, fat blinking MORTALITY sign in my face, and I did not like what I saw. But by being with the pain, both emotionally and physically, I am starting to see that the healing process has a light at the end of the tunnel.

I am most likely getting surgery, all of this acceptance of my pain has not changed that fact (shoot!), but I am approaching it differently now. Rather than feeling like a failure for not getting better with alternative treatments, visualization, positive affirmations, massage/acupuncture and the rest of the gamut, I realized that suffering daily with back pain for months on end is what’s spiritually immature. Loving myself, accepting that I am human and that I am hurting and need help are what I need in my life, and listening to what I truly need might be one of the most spiritually evolved practices I can do.

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How To Ask the Universe for What You Want

24 Sep

Last night I was talking with my boyfriend about ideas for today’s blog, and when I told him my idea he asked me what the hell I think I am–a yoga teacher or a guru? Now, I’m not a claiming to be a self-help guru, but I am most certainly a yoga teacher and throughout my years of practice I have discovered that yoga goes much deeper than physical poses. Yoga touches us physically, emotionally and spiritually. At the core of yoga it’s about uniting with the Divine, which results in living our most fulfilled, authentic and purposeful lives. So no, I ain’t no guru but I think it’s best to teach what we know, and I know that asking the Universe for what we really, truly want works. It’s not hocus pocus, it’s not magic, it is real and it works, and I’m going to tell you how. Read on, skeptics, read on.

Like many of us, there was a time in my life when I was just chugging along, struggling to even get through the day, oftentimes asking myself,”Will I ever be happy? Is this all there is?” I was bored, directionless and sad. But under that malcontent was a budding seed of awareness that was guiding me to my new life. I was practicing yoga daily, meditating and delving deeply into my spiritual practice. At the beginning of most yoga classes I took, the teacher had us sit down, get quiet and set our intention for our practice. Because I was so unhappy, the only thing that ever came to mind was “I want to be happy so bad“. When you set that seed of intention over and over again, even if it’s somewhat vague, the Universe listens. “Okay, so you want to be happy?”, the Universe asks. “Are you ready to make some serious changes? Ask and you will receive.” Fast forward a year and a half, and I can honestly say that I am happier than I have ever been. No, it didn’t happen overnight and it wasn’t smooth sailing to get here, but I never gave up hope that I would and could be happy again, and slowly but surely I realized that that something bigger, something more powerful than myself was supporting me in my intention for happiness.

Maybe there is something very specific you have in mind that you want to ask for. It could be something as major as healing from a major illness, or something less serious, like better abs. The Universe listens when your intentions are clear, earnest and humble. I’m not sure the Universe will conspire to get you a Ferrari, but if somehow that Ferrari will serve the greater good then ya never know.

So how do you ask the Universe for what you want? First of all, you need to believe that you deserve what you want. Sounds simple, but when you take a deep, hard look at yourself you may find that you don’t believe you are worthy or deserving of what you desire. Many of us think it is selfish to want, that it is somehow narcissistic to crave happiness and fulfillment or even having our basic needs met. But I say that is B.S. What’s selfish is being miserable. Your misery and feelings of worthlessness leak into your work, relationships and the rest of your life, making other people around feel like crap.

Here are some steps in asking the Universe for what you want:

1. Get quiet. Find a place in your home or in nature where you will be undisturbed for at least 20 minutes, sit comfortably and close your eyes. Envision yourself happy, joyful and filled with purpose. What are you doing? Who is around you? Spenda good five minutes envisioning this scenario.

2. Write down in a journal what you saw, what you were doing and who you were with. Maybe you saw yourself writing that novel you’ve been dreaming about but telling yourself you’ll never have the time/resources/talent to do. Maybe you saw yourself blissfully in love with an “imaginary” partner. Write it down, describe that person. Describe their looks, their personality, their voice, etc. Be very specific, the Universe likes specificity. Remember though, even if what you want is vague the Universe can definitely work with that, it just might take a little more time.

3. Sit or kneel with your hands in the universal gesture of asking, with palms upturned. Your hands can be on your lap or even up in the air. I like this gesture, it symbolizes humility and reverence. When asking the Universe remember this is not a demand, it is a request. The more humble, the better. So go ahead, ask. Say it out loud. Don’t be shy, the more you speak it, the more real it becomes.

4. Once you are done asking it is time to listen. So again, get quiet and still and just listen. You may feel completely ridiculous and you may not hear a thing, but listen all the same. Chances are the booming voice of God isn’t going to come through your stereo speakers (I think that would scare the shit out of me anyway). It will probably be much more subtle, like a flash of insight, a feeling of deep knowing, or profound inspiration. Or you might not feel a damn thing but hey, you tried. And keep trying, perservere and you might be very surprised.

5. Repeat as necessary.

This is a starting place, and just like any new skill it gets easier with practice. Before you know it you’ll be asking the Universe for things left and right, and that’s when beautiful things begin to happen. By this I mean you begin to let go of control and trust that the Universe has your best interest in mind. Ralph Waldo Emerson said it best: “When you make a decision, the Universe conspires to make it happen.” You are a co-creator with the Universe, and it is up to you to make the decision of what is is you want, and the Universe is gonna do whatever it can to help you out. Believe you deserve it (you do), be clear in your intentions, and then trust and let go. And when you do, what you thought was impossible becomes possible and real miracles occur.

Marine Corps Healing with Yoga

15 Sep

Take a look at this awesome article in Marine Corps blog The Globe on yoga for our troops. Such a beautiful way for our troops to heal from the trauma they face in combat.

Yoga

Cheryl LeClair watches Petty Officer 3rd Class Patrick Haslett conduct yoga exercises at the Second Wind Eco Tours building in Swansboro, N.C., recently. LeClair provides free yoga and Integrative Restoration, or iRest, therapy to active-duty service members and combat veterans every Thursday evening.

 Posted: Thursday, September 15, 2011 12:00 am

When Cheryl LeClair’s husband returned home from a deployment to Afghanistan a few years back, he came back with traumatic brain injury, commonly referred to as TBI.

He didn’t get it, however, from combat. He and other Marines were conducting Marine Corps Martial Arts Program moves when his head was slammed onto the deck.

Regardless, LeClair saw the pain her husband was going through. She wanted to do something that would help her husband reduce his pharmaceutical drug intake and also help those returning from war with post-traumatic stress disorder, as well.

Already a certified yoga instructor, she heard about a yoga-related program designed to help those with PTSD, TBI and even insomnia.

The program, Integrative Restoration or iRest for short, is renamed after Yoga Nidra, which is an ancient meditative practice dating back to thousands of years ago. iRest heals the various unresolved issues, traumas, and wounds that are present in the body and mind, and is restorative in that it aids the body and mind in returning to a natural state of functioning, according to the Integrative Restoration Institute, which was created by Dr. Richard Miller.

Practiced at more than 10 military installations and Veterans Affairs hospitals in the United States, LeClair brought these services to combat veterans and all active-duty service members aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune and the surrounding communities.

She began helping veterans through the Back on Track program, which is an accelerated two-week treatment program for Marines and sailors diagnosed with PTSD administered by Naval Hospital Camp Lejeune’s Mental Health Department.

For the past 15 months, she has volunteered an hour a day, five days a week. Noticing the treatment’s positive response, Marine Corps Community Service’s Semper Fit department hired her.

Only through referrals can a person receive this treatment at the hospital through the Back on Track program. Realizing this, she also wanted to help those who do not necessarily have PTSD-related issues, so she spends an hour every Thursday evening at Second Wind Eco Tours in Swansboro, N.C., to administer the therapeutic treatment to active-duty service members and other combat veterans for free.

“A few years ago, when I was instructing yoga students, a lady by the name of April Clark graduated my course,” said LeClair. “At the time, she worked for a corporation full time. I told her if she ever decided to open up a yoga studio, to let me know. A few months later, she decided to take a different career path and opened up a yoga studio and here I am. Her father is a retired Marine sergeant major, so she fully supports what I do.”

During an iRest session, LeClair will have the participants lie down on the floor and get comfortable with the use of pillows, mats and towels. From there, she guides her participants to reconnect their minds to their bodies through breathing techniques. Shortly after beginning, they are deep asleep.

“Studies have shown that one hour of this treatment is worth three to four hours of regular sleep,” said LeClair. “Here, they are able to clear their minds.”

Petty Officer 3rd Class Patrick Haslett, a corpsman with Combat Logistics Regiment 27, 2nd Marine Logistics Group, has attended LeClair’s Thursday evening’s class for the past six months and though he does not suffer from PTSD, he said that one hour a week has made a huge impact on his life.

“This class helps me manage stress levels with my job,” said Haslett, who deployed with Combat Logistics Battalion 8 last year. “Being a corpsman, you have to deal with hundreds of Marines and this class has been a tremendous help. I am able to work with a lower stress level and I even sleep better at night.”

Cpls. Kevin Marburger and Cody Sellers are patients in the Back on Track program. Wounded from combat operations in Afghanistan last year, they have developed PTSD and insomnia and credit LeClair helping them with their sleep-related issues.

“Every time she did the iRest treatment, I would wake up so rejuvenated,” said Marburger. “I still sleep four to five hours a night, but the treatment made me a lot calmer.”

Sellers agreed.

“We all have different disabilities and she is able to adapt to that,” said Sellers. “If one guy has an arm issue and the other a knee, she keeps that in mind when she is here helping us.”

Willa Feldhaus, the Back on Track coordinator, said LeClair has been a blessing to the program and the patients love her.

“I have heard many Marines and sailors propose to her,” joked Feldhaus. “They want her around all the time so they can continue to receive the treatment continuously. All joking aside, she’s a saint and will work whenever she is needed, any time of the day.”

LeClair found a way to help others and is sticking to it as she said, “If you have a gift that is of benefit to others, use it.”

“I do this because I have so much to be thankful for,” LeClair said. “Once I saw the difficulties my husband was going through, I wanted to help out. I knew yoga was good for the mind and body and once I researched iRest, I got involved and brought it to this area. I love those who protect us and will continue to help out in any way I can.”

Yoga Conference Comes to the Northwest

7 Sep

I am so excited for the upcoming Northwest Yoga Conference coming in February! They are just beginning to anounce the teacher line-up, and so far it’s looking pretty good! Right now I think I’m most excited for Tiffany Cruikshank’s and Liz Doyle’s workshops. Yay!

check out the conference here: www.nwyogaconference.com

Seee ya in Feb, yogis!

Turning Jealousy into Abundance

7 Sep

I remember sitting on the dock one morning at my parent’s house in the midst of my painful and messy divorce. It was early morning and I couldn’t sleep so I thought I’d catch the sun rise and try to calm my restless mind. During that time my self worth was shot, everything I had ever identified with was crumbling along with life as I knew it. I remember thinking to myself, “How will I ever be happy again? How will I ever even like myself again?” Up until that point, my self worth was largely derived from what others thought of me or how much better I thought I was than many people. But sitting on the dock that summer morning, I didn’t think I was better than anyone. In fact, almost everything I thought that made me ME, was gone. I felt, as my friend Alison perfectly phrased it, “like a turd in a ditch.” Can’t feel much worse than that.

Then the thought popped into my head, “How will I ever feel good about myself again if I’m not better than anyone else?” Yes, I felt like said turd, but I was also humbled through my yoga and spiritual practice into the realization that we are all One. We are all living, breathing manifestations of the Divine. All of us are sacred beings, no one better than the other. So if that is true, then my ego had been tricking me all those years into believing that in order to be happy, I had to be better than others. And better to me meant smarter, prettier, more successful, more popular, a better yogi, a better runner, and an all-around better and more fabulous person. The realization that I am no better than anyone else on this planet left me kind of stunned. So that sent me on a personal quest for self-esteem that wasn’t derived from my ego’s sense of self but from some place real and authentic.

So that might have seemed like a pointless ramble, but let me tell you that jealousy is one of the predominant characteristics I have let rule my life on and off for the last 30 years. In yoga, jealousy is something that will fall away as we practice aparigraha,  translated as “non-possessiveness” or “non-attachment”. It is on of the moral codes (Yamas) described by the sage Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras written some 2,000 years ago. This jealousy, this wanting for what is not mine and damning those who have it has made me crazy over and over again throughout my life. Because you see, what I have coveted in others is to be like them. And if I was like them (successful, beautiful, skinny, happy, radiant, flexible, blah, blah, blah) then everyone would want to be like me. And then I would feel good about myself because I was better than others.

Most of us have heard the siren song of jealousy and tried to achieve our goals and desires based on it. I know that being jealous of others has motivated me to work harder to be like them at times, but most often it just backfires. I end up trying to achieve my goals based on what other people are doing, and I only become more fearful and afraid of failing that I end up ruminating rather than acting. And just because someone has what appears to be success and happiness doesn’t necessarily mean that they really have it – you never know what’s going on in their personal life.

Ever hear good news about a friend or loved one and rather than feel excitement and joy, you feel a pang (or a punch) or jealousy? Why did they get to be so lucky and not me? This is possesivness and striving at their most potent, and this is where our practice of aparigraha comes in. Listen, just because it happened to them doesn’t mean it won’t happen to you, and the sooner you figure this out the easier life is gonna be. When we see other people getting things we want, we suddenly feel as though those things aren’t available to us anymore. So in their experience of abundance, we feel lack. The truth is, the Universe is conspiring to give you everything you need and more if you just trust that it can happen and believe that you are worthy. Abundance is all around us. Look at the sun, the sky, the ocean, the mountains. They are overflowing with abundance. As Wayne Dyer says, “Abundance is not something we acquire, it is something we tune in to.” What is it you desire? Just because someone else is doing and doing it well does not mean you are irrevocably axed from ever living your dreams. Just make sure they are your dreams.

You have what you need to accomplish everything you ever wanted. Trust that. Also know that jealousy is like a toxic acid that will erode your sense of self worth into Turd in a Ditch status. Being happy, fulfilling your dreams and desires is your birthright, but you don’t have to be better, more successful or more abundant than anyone else to feel good and love yourself. Next time you feel a tinge of jealousy when you hear about the wonderful thing that happened to someone else, as Pema Chodrom says, “Rejoice. Until I began to practice rejoicing in other’s good fortune, I had no idea how much envy I had.” If that’s not a spiritual practice, I don’t know what is. Rejoicing in other’s abundance will actually attract abundance, because it will make you aware of your jealous tendencies and inspire you to change and grow. Through this change and growth, you will find that things come your way with less striving because you are now moving from a place of love rather than fear, abundance rather than lack, and this my friends, is how you will truly begin to love yourself.

12 Steps to Beating Your Sugar Addiction

23 Aug

As anyone who is familiar with the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous knows the first step is admitting you are powerless over _______(substance of choice) and your life has become unmanageable. So I admit it, sugar is my drug and I am an addict! There, I said it! Funny thing is, I had no idea I was an addict until I tried to stop. Even funnier, you probably are too. Okay, okay, I’m not accusing you of being an addict, but if you were, it wouldn’t really be your fault. There is sneaky, hidden sugar in almost all of the foods we eat, especially pre-packaged foods we had no part in preparing ourselves. The average American consumes about four times as much sugar as the FDA deems healthy, and we sure know the FDA ain’t all that conservative when it comes to what we put in our bodies.

So why on Earth, do you ask, would I want to do something as insane and tortuous as giving up sugar? It started as a test, just to see how I would feel for a couple days without it. So two days before I went out of town I stuck to a fruits and veggies only mini-cleanse, a summer detox if you will. Then I went on vacation and ate peanut M&M’s and drank wine like the apocalypse was near. Every time my hand went into the party bag of M&M’s it felt like an out of body experience, and I just wanted more, more, MORE, damnit! I couldn’t stop until the whole bag was finished. So upon returning home, feeling slightly guilty for over indulging but ready and determined to get back to healthy eating, I figured I’d return to my diet detox and life would go on as normal.

Welcome to the 8pm sugar cravings. When the sun went down, the sugar demon came out and all hell would broke loose. Let me tell you that fresh fruit, tea, a huge glass of water…NOTHIN’ made that damn sugar demon go away.  So I got curious. Why on earth did I have such a visceral response to the removal of sugar from my diet? So I did some research and found out sugar truly IS addicting, it acts on the opioid receptors in our brain, the feel good chemicals, the same way heroin, cocaine and other drugs do. I remember a documentary I watched about Meth addiction and it said Meth boosts dopamine levels in the brain, making the user feel euphoric but then needing more and more to get the same effect. Same with sugar, my friends, and that is a huge part of the reason I want off this sugar train, damnit! I don’t want some sweet, edible substance being the cause of my temporary happiness when I know I have what it takes to be blissfully happy without it.

Plus, sugar makes us fat, cranky, diabetic, and just plain sick, sick, sick.

So here are 12 ways to get off the sugar while staying sane. And remember, relapse is a healthy part of any recovery, so if you fall off the wagon get right back on! See ya on the other side!

1. Eat protein that has a little fat. Have a healthy snack of nuts or nut butter (almond is my fav), avocado, or some seeds.

2. Do something that nourishes you in other ways: take a bath, read a book, make out with your partner, snuggle your pet, etc.

3. Don’t skip meals! If you’re hungry and you realized lunch was two hours ago, sit down and eat your lunch rather than reaching for a candy bar.

4. EXERCISE. I cannot emphasize this enough. Feeling stressed, sad, angry, etc won’t go away with ice cream but breaking a sweat at the gym or taking a yoga class will releive stress and boost feel good endorphins without the crash.

5. Eat more fatty acids. Your brain loves them. You can find these in fish, walnuts, flaxseeds, olive oil and winter squash.

6. Positive affirmations! You might be telling yourself, “I’ll never be able to give up sugar, I’ll fail, I suck the big one,” and I guarantee you’ll never succeed if you keep that crap up. So instead, try “I will do this, I am stronger than my addiction, I am perfect and whole without sugar, I am vibrant, healthy and beautiful and being so is my birthright!” Try it and watch the magic happen!

7. Smoothie time! See the recipe above for a kick-ass and delicious sugarless smoothie.

8. Go ahead, indulge. If you must eat some sugar, pick dark chocolate that’s at least 70% cacao and don’t eat the whole bar! Share it with a friend or two, or go for a mini-size option.

9. Nix the artificial sweeteners. They don’t lessen your cravings for sugar, and they are linked to cancer, obesity, and diabetes. (Right here you will see me crying because I love me some diet soda)

10. Ask for help. Many of us turn to sugar when we need comfort rather than reaching out to friends and loved ones. So instead of Ben and Jerry, call your bestie.

11. Take 1000 milligrams of Chromium Picolinate. It helps insulin work more efficiently in your body.

12. Brush, floss and gargle! This signals to your brain that eating time is over.

Remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither is your sugar withdrawl. It may be a long and arduous journey, but I am here with you every step of the way. Please give feedback or comments if you have successfully or not so successfully been able to make sugar eat your dust, I’d love to hear how it went!

Yummy Detox Smoothie Recipe!

21 Aug

Kris Carr literally erased her terminal liver cancer with diet and lifestyle changes. I just bought her book, Crazy, Sexy Diet and I am IN LOVE!

This is what I’m making myself tonight. Yummmmm!!!

By Kris Carr on April 27, 2009

Kris’ Go-to Green Smoothie

green_smoothie

-1 avocado
-fresh mint
-1 cucumber
-a bit of kale
-coconut water (or purified)
-stevia to taste

Blend ingredients in a high-powered blender. If you can’t get mint, try adding lime – awesome!