Squash the Stigma, Raise the Vibration

Hi everyone! It has been a while since I posted. In November, I gave birth to my first baby. A beautiful baby girl named Riley. I have been quite busy, and as the cliché goes, my life has changed so much and my priorities are completely re-aligned to caring for my now 6-month old.

I really wanted to get a blog post out for Mental Health Awareness month, and though we are at the end of the month of May, I am grateful I decided to do this. It is great to dedicate a month to awareness, but I think we should talk about mental health 365 days a year, hence this blog!

If there’s one thing I am passionate about, its mental health awareness. I restructured my whole life around being able to help people gain tools and reduce suffering from the mind and it’s changing states. This is one of my most favorite topics. I really thought about what to write about, knowing I would only have about 20-minutes to shoot this blog post out as Riley naps. Here it goes, I hope you find it to be empowering and helpful.

Since having Riley, I have learned a lot. Not just about how to take care of a baby, or balance my tasks.  I have learned that there is still very much a stigma around mental health struggles. I have learned that the western medical system will be pretty quick to let you slip through the cracks and that getting help can be much harder than you would think.

I went off all of my psychiatric medications almost two years ago in preparation for little Riley. I wanted to see if I could be medication free, for the first time in my life.  I wanted to see if I could grow a fetus medication free and then breastfeed a baby medication free. I was lucky that during my pregnancy my mental health was very stable. I had spare time for self care rituals and got plenty of exercise, sunshine, and love. My husband and I were so overjoyed to meet our bundle and I would describe my pregnancy as a very healing time in my life.



I was terrified of losing my mind once I gave birth. People would mention Postpartum Depression to me often, and even my OBGYN urged me to get on medication before I delivered to avoid slipping into a dark depression. If I felt so good, why would I start taking drugs? That seemed like a band-aid without a wound to me.  I tried to prepare as best I could for the postpartum period, I even wrote letters to myself to read on days where I felt lost or totally overwhelmed. But, just like you will hear more times than you care to when you are pregnant, “you can never really be prepared to be a parent.” The chronic sleep deprivation, the physical pains, the loneliness, and the temporary loss of self are hard to really prepare for. Don’t get me wrong, I love being a mom, but I am being fully transparent so as to paint a very clear picture for my readers.

You show up for your 6-week postpartum appointment, excited to see your doctor since the birth and possibly be cleared for exercise. Your arms ache from carrying the car seat across the parking lot, your dark circles are an accent that matches nicely with a required face mask that’s making it hard to breathe. The receptionist has you fill out a brief questionnaire to screen for postpartum depression. You see the doctor, he clears you for sex and “running a marathon” (mine literally said that jokingly…no thanks my pelvic floor cannot handle that yet), he touches on your mood and asks if you feel like harming the baby or yourself, and then just like that, you’re dismissed. Time to take patient #15 of the day. Cheerio, good luck at home. Bye-bye.

I am telling this story with a certain tone because it isn’t the first experience like this that I have had. And countless other women have shared similar experiences with me. The medical system has a bad habit of treating us like statistics and research criteria. But we are not that. We are individuals coming to the table with a host of different lifestyle factors. We need more depth. We need to be listened to as people and not as statistics. This is why I was drawn so intensely to the field of Yoga Therapy where we take a whole-person approach and take all lifestyle factors into account so that we can really guide the patient towards healing and wholeness (yoga therapy plug, YOU BETCHA!)

My entire life (well from age eight and on) I was in therapy and psychiatry. I am now very picky when it comes to choosing a therapist. I have had two fabulous therapists in my life (probably out of 10). The first fabulous therapist I had was when I was just graduating college, and the second was when I moved to Philly to pursue yoga therapy school (shout out to Dr. Susan Matour you literally changed my life). I think therapy is WONDERFUL! But as I just outlined, I have had 2/10 that have truly helped me. The first one that seemed to be very helpful was when I was 22 years old. I had been in and out of therapy 14 years prior. It’s hard to find the right match, but it’s even harder for most people to afford. The best therapists I have seen have been out of network and cost me about $150 per visit. That is far too pricey for the general public and honestly, at this stage in my life, unaffordable. I think this is a major reason people slip through the cracks and it is two-pronged:

1. Good help is hard to find 2. Good help is expensive.

But it shouldn’t be inaccessible. In my personal experience, most therapists that I saw sounded like mono-toned robots and asked me too many questions instead of teaching or educating valuable tools to use in the moment to change my brain. This is also why I love yoga so much, it promotes neuroplasticity to change the brain and eventually heal the trauma, bad habits, negative thinking patterns, etc. (more yoga plugs because why not).

The Stigma:

I was always fortunate to have a childhood full of friends, laughter, and creativity, but it was not easy being a child with mental health issues. It was very taboo and some parents prohibited their children from having sleepovers with me. Maybe they thought their child could catch Obsessive Compulsive Disorder like the common cold?

I’ll never forget how my next door neighbor growing up told my mom I needed an exorcism when my mom told her about my recent diagnosis. Don’t we all wish a simple exorcism would take away all our pain (LOL)? My parents were so involved and so eager to help me. In the early 2000’s there wasn’t much to try other than psychotherapy and hospitalizations, but they did it all. My mom made it clear that they would do whatever it took to help me feel better. I think that’s one of the main reasons I survived. I had parents who held space for my meltdowns and listened hard to me and never gave up. Thank you Mom & Dad, if it weren’t for you I’m not sure I’d be here today. Knowing you have unwavering and non-judgemental support is HUGE!

I was teased in school and called “psycho” more times than I can count. The administration often saw me as a behavioral issue and I was often misunderstood. Many teachers struggled to understand me. Because of a few behavioral issues in school, I was slapped with a Bipolar Disorder diagnosis, which years later, I would learn was not the case. I spent years of my life thinking I was bipolar when I was in fact not. This is another issue with the mental health world. So often, professionals see the need to label a patient as a diagnosis, versus taking other factors into account like: situational factors, gut issues, autoimmune disorders, nutrient deficiencies, MTHFR mutation, the list goes on and on…

I was hospitalized when I was eight for suicidal thoughts and attempts to harm myself. I stayed on the top floor of the Children’s Hospital with no visitors. My roommate was violent so I had to sleep in a hallway on a mattress. I wet the bed every night out of fear. There was a white padded room where they would put patients who were “having an episode.” I would eat my Dole peaches in the morning under fluorescent lights by myself and watch Batman on the TV, take my prescribed mystery medication, and attend the therapy sessions trying my best to keep to myself. I had to pee and poop with the door open and I still can’t stand the smell of hotel towels because it reminds me of that experience. Again, I was eight years old. That protocol really did wonders for my mental health….(NOT). I am not sure what my parents paid for that 2-week stay, but it was sold to them by my psychiatrist as their “only hope” for a child exhibiting symptoms of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and possibly Schizophrenia (I heard the F word in Peter Pan). Fast forward to many years of psychiatric drugs with awful symptoms, more suicidal ideation, and anxiety so bad my brain felt like it was on fire (Brain on Fire is a great read, by the way). These are examples of how the system failed me.

My healing has been a lifelong journey, but it took incredible support from family, dedication to finding a good therapist, and constant work and self-study to get to where I am today. Yoga entered my life in 2014 and accelerated the healing process. Finding a connection to my higher self and gaining tools to stay balanced and grounded have made a night and day difference for me. Also, learning that I am not a diagnosis, but so much more than that. I spent extensive time working through faulty belief systems that kept me stuck in negative thinking patterns and suffering. I still have to work on them from time to time. A huge factor in my healing was also putting meaning behind my pain and finding a lesson in it all. Not everyone is fortunate enough to have these circumstances, but every one should have access to them.



So, as a postpartum mom when I began to feel a little low, a little lost some days, I realized it was not postpartum depression but grief. We aren’t taught to grieve and its not talked about AT ALL. It’s ok to grieve your old self, a life you once had, its ok to feel all of your emotions instead of feeling shame for feeling those emotions. The medical system has a way of stigmatizing PPD which can make a mother feel shame for feeling low in the first place. Am I a lesser mom because I crave my old life sometimes? Absolutely not. I am human. We are all just trying to handle change in our own ways. But as I say in almost every post, when we attach to change, we suffer. I learn this lesson again and again, and again. I want to be very clear that I am NOT against medication. Medication can be life altering and so helpful for some people. I may end up going back on medication some day, especially during major life changes and I would not feel ashamed or defeated if I did. For anxiety and depression, I see medication as a temporary boost until things level out. Obviously medication is lifesaving in many circumstances and I am grateful for all of the research and information available. I have had negative experiences with psychiatrists as my last one told me I had a disease and would never be able to be off of medication. When I tried to look for a new psychiatrist, I was turned down by two different practices because I was not on medication but had a history of diagnosis’s like depression and OCD. I was so confused. Isn’t that the ultimate goal of psychiatry? I had worked extensively in therapy, yoga, nutrition, all so that I would be comfortable being medication free, yet I could not even get an appointment. These types of experiences have led me to advocate for myself and seek out the right types of help for me. Since I lean towards a more holistic approach, I found it very helpful to see a psychiatric nurse practitioner who does not push medication, but is still there as a support should I need one.

The Solution:
If I had the answer to solving the mental health crisis then I would be a millionaire! No, but in all seriousness, the solution I am speaking of is the solution to the stigma. More than ever in our society we need more community, we need to share more, we need to connect more. And I am not talking about connecting on social media. Social media has been shown to make people feel more alone. I am talking about in person, out loud, sharing and understanding and listening. A sense of community has really made a difference in my life. I joined an anxiety group in 2014. I was the youngest person in the group but hearing everyone else’s daily struggles made mine seem less scary. I felt understood, heard, and normal. 

I read Sarah Wilson’s “First, we Make the Beast Beautiful” a few years ago and I loved how she portrayed her life with mental illness. She has wonderful statistics about how anxious and depressed people are typically more creative, sensitive, add intelligent. If you think about it from an energetic perspective, people who are anxious typically feel way more deeply than others. They are usually incredible empaths which makes them wonderful healers and creators.

I love this quote from An Unquiet Mind:

“It is, at the end of the day, the individual moments of restlessness, of bleakness, of strong persuasions and maddened enthusiasms, that inform one’s life, change the nature and direction of one’s work, and give full meaning and color to one’s love and friendships.”



I love how Sarah Wilson talks about accepting her anxiety and changing states of emotions rather than constantly trying to fix it. It is healthy and normal to cycle through a variety of emotions, negative and positive, but our culture puts so much emphasis on happiness, which is manmade if you ask me. Joy is achieved when you are at peace with who you are underneath all of the material things. But happiness is sold to us by advertisements and Netflix shows. People feel stressed to feel sad rather than just sitting with the sadness and allowing it to pass. 
I could type all day, but the baby has woken up twice since I started this blog. So I will get to my point. May was mental health awareness month. I thought about this post all month long. The suicide rates are high, there is a need for mental health awareness now more than ever. It’s starts with you. How do you approach your own mental health? Do you allow yourself to feel your emotions and understand your belief systems? Do you examine your shadow self and try to work on changing your mindset so that you feel more joy in your life? Yoga is a great place to start! Yoga gives you the opportunity to quiet the mind so that that you can let the body heal and connect with the real you. The you behind all of the chatter and thoughts.

I hope that we can make progress towards how we approach mental health as a society. I think there is a lot of hope with the newer generations who seem to be much more comfortable talking about their emotions and much more accepting overall. I hope inpatient psychiatry can start to evolve and come out of this 1950’s idea of patients needing to be locked up and contained, but instead listened to and truly helped. If you know someone who is struggling, listen to them with your whole body and let them know they are not alone. A wonderful resource that I will offer is a podcast I recently listened to on Mind Body Green. It is an interview with Dr. Caroline Leaf who talks about “mind management” and how we need to work our brains just like our bodies in a gym. She also talks about depression as being too many toxic thoughts. Check it out: https://feeds.megaphone.fm/the-mindbodygreen-podcast. I think just listening to content like this is a major step in understanding more about mental health.

I will be hosting my first workshop back since maternity leave with my mother on June 21st. If you live in Northern Virginia feel free to sign up for some lovely yoga and sound healing! https://www.eventbrite.com/e/summer-solstice-yoga-tickets-156362178485

I wish you all love, light, peace, and strength to keep moving forward. Keep doing the work and showing up for yourself and others. Keep being a light.

With love and respect,

Maddie Tuohy

Mind Your Mindset in 2021

Hello Everyone! 

Welcome back to The Running Mind Blog! I haven’t been great about posting, but I also had a baby about two months ago, and, let me tell you, my mind has been running! Nothing bad, just busy with all the first-time mom stuff! I have definitely been using my tools to stave off postpartum anxiety and depression, and it has been a pretty smooth and successful journey so far, with some much anticipated bumps along the way and some not so expected surprises! If it was too easy, I would not be learning anything at all, so I am grateful for the challenges and work that have come my way since bebe girl Riley arrived. She was born on November 23 even though she was due Christmas Eve! We got to spend Christmas with our little bundle of joy, and as sleep deprived as I was, it was the best Christmas and gift EVER! Her name is Riley Katherine and she was born a whopping 6 pounds, 15 ounces, big for a premie! I can’t wait to teach her how to meditate, do yoga, and love life!

Since I haven’t posted since the New Year, Happy New Year! Feel free to jump to my old post about intention setting if you are interested, you can access it here.

2020 came and went and here we are. I know most people expect to hear about “what a year” 2020 was, but you all already know what happened in 2020 and I don’t need to recap. One thing I’ve really noticed on social media is that people are really soaking in the negative events of 2020. My feeds have been flooded with memes and posts about how horrible 2020 was. Some of them were funny, and I get it, but I think we begin to do ourselves a disservice when we so closely focus on the negative in our lives. You see, thoughts are energy, and when you think about something, you are expending energy and allowing it to manifest in your body and in your mind. You are inviting negative energy in to stay. When you ruminate on everything that’s wrong in the world and in your life, you are putting that negativity back out into the universe and flooding yourself with that energy. 

I don’t mean to say that it’s totally ludicrous not to vent and complain, HEY, we are all human. I am just saying that it can be a worthwhile experiment to begin noticing where you expend most of your energy, in your words, thoughts, and actions. What is your daily internal monologue like?

There was a woman being interviewed on the news a few months ago (I wish I remembered her name!), and what she said really hit home for me. She was talking about reframing out mindsets and that so many people have been talking about how horrible 2020 was, but some people had an awful 2018 and 2019. She said some people have bad years every year, and when we focus on all the ugliness and let downs of 2020, we really aren’t evolving and growing. We don’t need to be overly positive, but she suggested reframing and asking ourselves instead, “what have I learned?” This is so much more powerful than “what have I lost?” 

Mindset is everything. From a yoga perspective, maintaining a “pure” or sattvic mindset is one of the keys to healthy and wholehearted living. This pure mindset does not mean positive, but rather, neutral. It’s the difference between, “oh crap it’s such a rainy day,” and, “it’s raining.” If you can begin to redirect your negative thoughts and make them neutral statements, you’re well on your way to living a better life. 

As we proceed into 2021, lots of us are more anxious than ever to nail the perfect resolution and manifest the highest good in our lives. How about this: who are you right now without all of the chaos and events of 2020? What kind of person are you DESPITE what the year has brought your way? How do you treat those around you? What brings you joy? Who do you love? These are the questions we should be asking ourselves. 

The best way to avoid carrying negativity into 2021 is not to carry it! Let that shit go! Take some of this quarantined time to dig deep and learn more about yourself and what brings you ultimate joy and carry THAT into 2021. 

As cliché as it sounds, having a baby in 2020 was a huge blessing for me. It took my focus to something so profound and pure. Although I’ve had some sleep deprived, dark days, I have not allowed all of the heartache to completely take over me. Sure, it is lonely living this new normal. I miss my grandparents and my friends, but I try to connect with them as often as possible via phone and FaceTime and just count the blessings. I can’t imagine what it is like for those who have lost loved ones and been so isolated this year, my heart goes out to all of you. And for those that suffer ANY year, my heart goes out to you. There will always be suffering in our world, but we can limit our own suffering by choosing to take a new route, a new mindset, detaching from that which is changing and accepting pain as a teacher. These are the yoga lessons that are the most dear to my heart. 

If you have felt less than ideal over the past few months or are experiencing what we now call “pandemic anxiety,” here are some simple hacks and tips to reconnect with your higher self and find joy, or maybe just, peace:

  1. Find a new community to join/tune into: We need community now more than ever. Consider doing a group Facetime or Zoom with family/friends and playing an online game or just having conversation. Many churches, clubs, organizations have taken to meeting online. Search for some that interest you and tune in.
  2. Take an online in-person class: There are tons of FREE and not free online classes going on. Consider one where you meet on Zoom and see the same people every week. I started a postpartum yoga class that meets and socializes at the end of each session and it is so beneficial to talk to other women who are in my same phase of life. Since we can’t meet in person, online has been the next best option.
  3. Get outside and notice: Just getting outside to walk and look at the sky is proven to lower cortisol levels and reduce stress. If you find it terribly boring, consider walking with a loved one or bringing headphones and tuning into your favorite podcast.
  4. Nurture your relationships: Whether digitally or in your household. Tell your friends and family you love them and take time for good old fashioned connection. Give someone in your household a long hug. If you live alone, facetime a friend for a while and look into their eyes. We really need these connections to thrive.
  5. Discover something new about yourself: there’s more downtime and more time for you to explore a new avenue, take a course, or start a new hobby. Do something fun and different. Novelty is shown to boost happiness.

I could add about ten more things to that list, but I think those listed above are the most helpful during these times. Of course, meditating, exercising, and nourishing your body with healthy foods always helps the mind and body! 

Keep your heads up and your hearts open. We are all on this earth for a purpose and just as hard times will come, I believe that good times will follow. Mind your mindset! I will be starting work again in the Spring and will be offering virtual Yoga Therapy. Feel free to reach out for a free, 15-minute consultation. At present I am busy with my tiny human, but I’ll be back soon enough! 

I am doing some of my own self-exploration to figure out what is next for my Yoga Therapy & wellness business post maternity leave. I know that there is another avenue/adventure I am meant to take my business on, but I am not quite sure what it is yet. For now, I focus on my bundle of joy and just ask the universe to present it to me when I am ready. I have been pretty diligent about a self-care routine to keep my mind and body healthy as can be. I was a bit worried about developing anxiety & depression postpartum, having a history and being off of medication. I have made a point to find time every day to connect with myself. On the hardest days this happens while breastfeeding. I simply tune into my breath and my feet on the floor and sometimes pray out loud. On days where baby is napping and not as fussy, I practice yoga by the kitchen window and meditate, workout on my patio, or walk in the sun. These simple acts have kept me connected and balanced, while also bringing me joy & bliss. Self-care routines do not need to be over complicated or fancy!

I am hoping to launch some workshops this year and hopefully a retreat! Stay tuned! In the meantime, here is my most recent and greatest blessing, Riley!

Riley Girl!

Stay true, stay connected.

With an abundance of love,

Maddie

Replacing Fear with Love

Hello again everyone! Happy October! I think October can be one of the most GLORIOUS months and I love to watch the leaves change into vibrant hues of orange, red, and yellow. It’s such a nice change for the eyes on our daily dog walks.

This Fall everything seems a little different, maybe strange is a better word. We are still wearing masks to the grocery store and washing, washing, washing those hands. When we aren’t washing, we are sanitizing! Little by little, all of this has become the “new normal.” We can adjust to the changes in our lives in a variety of ways, but are we still thriving? Are we really living anymore? Or has the fear crept back in? It is so important not to let the fear from what could happen, stop you from living your life with joy and vigor.

I know for me, that fear has found its way back into the cracks in my foundation. Sometimes we don’t even know that the anxiety and fear is back until we hit a certain point, and that’s OK! That is why I have tools that I love to share for when you feel like you may be starting to get a bit off balance, or lets be honest, totally out of whack!

It is becoming increasingly more difficult to stay mindful in a society that is always refreshing the feeds, updating information, and broadcasting breaking news from multiple mediums, some totally unreliable. For people who are more prone to anxiety, this is totally overwhelming. Since we are stuck inside the home more these days, it may feel tempting to be on social media more or have the news on in the background. The problem is that we are feeding ourselves these messages the same way we feed ourselves lunch. Our nutrition for the whole person in yoga (also known as the koshas) includes everything that we take in on a physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual level. The things that we feed ourselves, determine our state of mind and our overall health of the mind, body, and spirit. For example, if I listen to the news for awhile, lament with friends over the phone, and scroll through Instagram in a day, I am bound to feel pretty anxious. This is NO surprise. Look at what I am taking in. Here’s a hint: FEAR, FEAR, FEAR!  We do not need that. Just the other day I received an article from one of the maternity apps I use that was completely “fear porn.” It was written to work moms up, not prepare them for their upcoming births at the hospital. When I shared some of the points from the article with my doctor, he assured me that it was not true and that the hospital has really great protocols and they have been totally safe. He told me he has, in fact, delivered 20 babies whose moms’ were positive for COVID and they are all currently healthy and recovered.

Since the outbreak of the pandemic, our society has been feeding off of fear, so it’s easy to feel anxious and scared during this time! Here is a wonderful reminder for you today: YOU ARE NOT YOUR FEARS. You are light and you are love and fear is a temporary state that passes as we learn to trust and love ourselves more and more. Take some of Louise Hay’s advice. She is my absolute favorite reference to call upon regarding fear. She says:

“Fear is becoming rampant on the planet. We can see it every day in the news. Fear is a lack of trust in ourselves, and because of this, we don’t trust Life. We don’t trust that we’re being taken care of on a higher level, so we feel we must control everything from the physical level. Obviously, we’re going to feel fear because we can’t control everything in our lives.

Trust is what we learn when we want to overcome our fears. It’s called “taking a leap of faith” and trusting in the Power within that’s connected to Universal Intelligence. Remember, the Power that supplies our breath is the same Power that created the Universe.

You’re one with all of Life. The more you know how to love yourself and trust Life, the more that Life will love you, support you, and guide you. You can trust in that which is invisible, instead of trusting only in the physical, material world. I’m not saying that we do nothing, yet if we have trust, we can go through life much easier. We need to trust that we’re being taken care of, even though we’re not physically in control of everything that’s happening around us.”

If you want to read the rest of the article, click here for the full link.  I highly recommend bookmarking it and re-reading it when you feel fearful or lost. By the way, Louise died years ago, so I get chills reading this now as it is so relevant to our current climate. It just goes to show you that history is always repeating itself. There will be other catastrophes and struggles, the only part that we can control is our own mindset and how we react to the fear.

My most pertinent take away today is that it is perfectly normal to feel fearful and anxious right now. In fact, it is valid to feel anything or nothing at all. The important part is to acknowledge what is coming up for you. Take a moment to sit with it just like you would sit with a loved one on a park bench. Get close to it and breathe deep. Accept what is coming up and then attempt to understand it. Maybe you need more downtime? Maybe you need to see a friend or take a walk under the trees. Emotions are always changing and that is healthy and normal. It is how we relate to those emotions and how we react versus respond that determine our overall well-being. The most critical thing we can do is examine our belief systems around what is coming up and then after some reflection and thought, figure out if those belief systems are not serving us anymore.

Once you have examined the emotion or thought more carefully, try and replace it with an alternate thought or feeling. Instead of fear, I am going to breathe in faith and love and let it override that fear. You could also use an affirmation each time the unsettling feeling or emotion comes up. Personalize your affirmation so that it feels powerful and true. In the case of fear, I love to use the following affirmations:

“I trust in the universe”

“I am safe, healthy, and strong”

“I release my fears ad fill up with love”

Here are some other useful tools to keep you grounded during this time:

  • Try journaling and writing out how you are feeling, but then coming up with alternate responses and affirmations to release negativity 
  • Take a social media break 
  • Try noticing something new every time you go for a walk. Make an attempt to mindfully walk and notice the smallest details, like the way the leaves grow up a vine or the color of someone’s front door.
  • Call a friend and have a laugh. Even better laugh with someone in person 
  • Get out a piece of paper at the start of each month and write down two things that are weighing you down, and two things that you can replace them with. Focus on these two themes for the whole month. For example, this month my fear of not having enough and my fear of not doing enough are weighing me down. I will replace them with abundance and acceptance.

Remember, we are not our fears. We are beacons of white light and love. The things that are changing in this world will always be changing, so if we attach to them we will suffer. If we choose to focus on our internal being, our inner climate, we can stay calm amidst the chaos. 

Trust that the universe has your back. Trust that when you are struggling, there is some lesson, some teacher, and that the pain and suffering is only temporary. 

Please feel free to reach out and tell me what you are doing to support yourself. I am still offering virtual sessions via Zoom, first session free for new customers. In just a few weeks I will take a break from working to nurture the newest chapter of my life, a baby girl.

Selfie after we took our maternity photos this weekend. My husband is my rock and a wonderful source of support.

A little life update: I am about 7 months pregnant and really feeling the emotions of becoming a mother. It has been a blessing to carry this baby during this time. She is my beacon of hope. When I become a little more stressed, I remember that I want to serve my highest good so that I can serve her highest good. It is so cool to meditate with another life form inside of you. I am sending her as much good energy as I can, and I extend it out to all of you as well!!

If you are expecting or know someone who is, please consider joining my prenatal yoga group via Zoom! You can sign up using Schedulicity by clicking here:

https://www.schedulicity.com/scheduling/EYTSQE

Stay safe, keep trusting, and let your love be so much bigger than your fear.

With love and kindness,

Maddie Tuohy 

Finding Freedom in the Mind

Independence Day

Happy July! I can’t believe the 4th of July holiday weekend has come and gone already. Summer always seems to go the fastest for me and I think it’s because I’m always traveling to the beach and spending quality time with loved ones. My business has also been steadily very busy, which I am so grateful for. In these heavier, more anxiety provoking times, I find that my clients need more support, and due to an increase in energetic work, I too need more support. Thank goodness for my lovely reiki and bodywork practitioners who help keep me balanced! OH, and for YOGA!!!

What a heavy few months it has been, huh? As a nation we have seen heartache, deaths, protests, and quarantine being placed and lifted. It has certainly been a year for the history books, and we are only half way through 2020. Here’s to hoping that we all begin to step up and see better days ahead for the whole nation, world, and universe! Put that good energy out there!

I would like to take a moment to acknowledge the importance of equality in a country that prides itself on being just that, equal and free. I think as humans on earth, we could do a lot better, and sometimes I am very interested in the Chaos Theory to begin to understand the amount of stress and tragedy we have seen in the past few months. We can do better. I have taken time to reflect on the energy that I am putting out into the world and I have decided that I can also do better, try harder, complain less, and just be a kinder human. This pandemic has given me a lot to think about and a lot to reflect on in my own life. These reflections always lead me back to trying to become closer to my highest self, as we say in yoga, and further away from the monkey mind and the materialistic wants and needs of the modern world. Simply put, I want to spend more time present for myself, my loved ones, and my clients, and release attachments and fears that have bubbled up over the past few months.

“The only real prison is fear, and the only real freedom is freedom from fear.” – Aung San Suu Kyi

Even if the recent turn of events has not seemed to affect you personally, this collective energy can certainly be felt by all. It is heavy, and sometimes harsh, and makes you want to stay in your house, and at the same time, tear out of it running and screaming. It is a new reality but it is not the reality we all hoped for. No one expected to be wearing masks on the beach or visiting their loved ones outside of glass windows. It feels like we are in a Hunger Games movie or the Twilight Zone. It feels more than ever, uncertain

This could be one of the most triggering times for people with anxiety. How do we cope with this amount of uncertainty? Will I lose my job? Will I be able to pay my mortgage next month? How will food come to the table next week? Will I ever see my grandfather again? These are all questions going through many people’s minds. So many unknown outcomes and little hope for those suffering. 

“May we think of freedom not as the right to do as we please, but as the opportunity to do what is right.” – Peter Marshall

Coping looks different for everyone. For someone with an anxiety disorder, we need all reinforcements on deck. For example, since the pandemic started I have revised my self-care routine many times to support myself. I meditate, journal, exercise, keep a daily gratitude list, and try to ground as much as possible (really I am grounding all the time). I try to pretend it’s normal to work in a tiny room all day, speaking remotely to my clients, leading them through their practices in the sweaty clothes I’ve been in for hours. We navigate sharing a space with loved ones for far more time than we have ever been used to (shout out to all the parents, seriously you guys are the real MVPs). This new normal has taken some getting used to and if we don’t check in to make sure our routines are supporting us, we can easily fall apart! If you are struggling with self care, maybe consider implementing something into your morning and evening routine that will help you feel more balanced and grounded. Some suggestions are:

  • Meditation (there are loads of guided meditations on YouTube and apps to support you if you are a beginner).
  • Movement (walking, biking, running, weight lifting, anything that makes you feel more alive!)
  • Journaling 
  • Reading a spiritual excerpt, uplifting poem, or philosophical book
  • Deep breathing 
  • A nice soak in the bath (bonus if you add essential oils)
My morning meditation with crystals

Everyone is different, so I always encourage my clients to really consider which practices will uplift them and help them feel balanced so that they can take on the day with a clearer mind and a more open heart. 

Independence Day has many meanings for many different people. This year, it carries another special meaning for me. July 4th, 2020 marks one year medication free. Something I was unsure was possible for a brain that had been diagnosed as chemically impaired. I have tried to go off all of my medications before, and was unable to do it due to very stressful circumstances. In fact, the last time I tried to go off of my medications was in the Summer of 2018. I ended up moving, getting a new job, and planning a wedding during that time, not to mention I was also diagnosed with Bartonella infection, toxic mold poisoning, and would need surgery to remove a cyst in my sinuses. Due to all of these stress- triggering life events, I went back to medication. I felt defeated at the time,  but also so overwhelmed and was yearning for more chemical brain support!

I want to be very clear about something before I continue on this topic. I am in NO WAY against being on medications. In fact, I was on medications from age eight to age twenty-seven. Medication is a tool that can save people’s lives and help them live a better quality of life. I just knew my medication was no longer serving its purpose AND I wanted to grow a human baby and knew for a fact that the medication that I was on would be a danger to that baby. So, in the Spring of 2019 I decided that my mental state was very balanced. I was meditating, eating well, doing Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, and tracking my moods in a journal daily. I was seeing a new psychiatrist who was supportive and gave helpful resources and getting regular reiki treatments. I was ready. 

Fast forward, one year. Here I am, medication free and four months pregnant. I have never felt more empowered in my life. A tiny part of me never thought I would make it to this day and be able to write this message to you all considering I had been on medication for nearly 20 years. I am not just talking your low dose anti-anxiety meds, I am talking anything from antipsychotics and mood stabilizers to antidepressants, and I have been on more brands/types than I can count on two hands. I was able to do this because of dedication, passion, but also largely, because of yoga. You see, yoga is a lifelong practice of observing the self, of noticing when we are letting our monkey minds or ego take over and when we need to ground, center, and come back to balance. This constant observing and awareness of the self has led me to the freedom from psychiatric medications. Let me tell you that I am not a stranger to anxiety and depression. It will always be a part of my biology, BUT the tools that I possess keep the anxiety and depression manageable and stable, and more than anything else, they are my teachers. When I am anxious or depressed, I must look within and analyze why, but also allow them as a passing state of being. We will never feel joy all the time. It is healthy to experience a variety of emotions and feelings. It just matters that we understand and allow them.

I quit my government job in 2016 to pursue my line of work in the wellness world. My constant dedication to working on myself and self-studying makes me a better Yoga Therapist and Wellness Coach. It also makes me a better wife, friend, daughter, and sister. My commitment to my healing is lifelong. I will always have to work at it, with or without medications. My greatest teacher always said, “in yoga, practice makes practice.” I am never striving for perfection, I am just striving for balance and connection to my highest self. When you are aiming to connect with the highest version of yourself, you are growing every day.

I now have an even bigger reason to work hard on staying balanced. I am going to be a mother. I am going to raise a little girl. My greatest hope for her is that she will feel connected to her highest self and that she will accept and love herself. 

This independence day, I celebrate freedom in the traditional sense, but I also celebrate the freedom I have created in my mind and in my body. I am no longer at war with my body and I can say with pure joy and gratitude that there is so much more space and freedom in my mind. Free your mind, open your heart, and just be yourself. 

Wishing you all a summer of joy & abundance. May you feel free, may we all be free together. 

Sending so much love,

Maddie Tuohy

A Time for Restoration

Hello Everyone & Happy Easter!

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Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

 

I hope everyone is enjoying their weekend and taking time to rest & connect within and with your loved ones.  It is an odd Easter day, but rather peaceful and serene. My husband and I walked the dogs this morning and I could hear every bird and smell Spring and I definitely enjoyed the peacefulness in the air. It is so interesting to be able to feel so peaceful in a moment when such tragedy is upon our globe. I contemplate this often and the idea that we can retreat to the sanctuary within ourselves to find peace in the chaos.

This morning I focused on the word “restoration” during my meditation. I was inspired by what Deepak Chopra was talking about in his 21-day meditation challenge. He has been focusing on hope in the present moment and the power of hope. Today, he talked about the restoration of hope, and then, I really liked the sound of that as I inhaled, “restoration,” and as I exhaled, I imagined all the fear and negativity just coming out of me, like black smoke. If you are interested in this 21-day meditation challenge, it is free, and you can access it here.

 

So, we are a month into this social distancing & quarantining. I think I have officially accepted the change and stopped wrestling with, and resisting it. Sure, I still have moments of anxiety and overwhelm, but all-in-all, we are adaptable beings and the new routine has set in and become sort of familiar. I still am fortunate enough to see about 3-5 clients a day virtually, and when I am not doing Yoga Therapy or personal training sessions with them, I am exercising, cooking, vacuuming dog hair, and taking time in nature. I would be lying if I said this downtime was not enjoyable. While I am deeply saddened by what is going on in the world, I am making the best of the situation by keeping calm, healthy, and deeply connecting with myself and my immediate family.

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This pause has opened my eyes and sharpened my awareness to some negative and self-destructive habits & belief systems that have resurfaced over the past few years. While I work on self growth diligently, and help people with it for a living, I am human and still have flaws and get off track. I am so grateful to be able to observe some of the patterns I have been practicing that are not serving me. This “pause” has given me the opportunity to reflect deeply and to examine patterns that are in need of some shifting.  I wonder if any of you can relate?

 

This pause has shown me that I have unrealistic expectations for myself. It has shown me that my deep belief systems could still use some examining and re-wiring. I struggled the first few weeks to have less clients and less to do. I realized that my self worth may still be a little tied up in how much I do for my business on a day-to-day basis. My wellness business, and more specifically, helping others, which is my purpose & passion that  fuels me. But somewhere along the way, I started to believe that it WAS me. If I am not seeing ‘X’ amount of clients a day, and filling my free-time with trainings, client prep, and lesson plans, than I am not enough. This started to come up as things started to slow down. Rather than judge it, I noticed it, this is the principle of mindfulness. We hustle and we grind to meet these inner expectations, but we completely miss out on life along the way. Who set these expectations in the first place? And why are they there? Are they realistic? Are they reasonable?

 

I love this exercise that I learned in Yoga Therapy school regarding expectations:

 

  1. Take out a piece of paper and list your expectations of yourself.

  2.  Next, examine each one. What belief is behind that expectation? Can you jot it down next to the point?

  3. How does this expectation of yourself bring you closer to your highest self?

  4. Next, rip up this piece of paper. Expectations lead to misery.

You can have goals, sure. You can set mile markers to keep you on track, but know deeply and fully understand why that goal is there and what higher purpose or virtue it serves instead of living your life under unrealistic or unnecessary expectations. These are put there by us as a survival technique, but they don’t have to stay. All it take is a little awareness and re-writing, and you can feel like a weight was lifted off of your shoulders. What would it be like if you just showed up, exactly as you are? I ask myself this, too, and even meditate on it. 

 

Even in this quarantine, we are still doing, doing, doing. We did some house projects, (which is amazingly fun and a great bonding exercise as a couple) and Home Depot was SOLD OUT of Shiplap. Everyone in Loudoun County had the same idea. There is nothing wrong with this, I just observe as a culture how important it is that we all keep so busy, with Zoom happy hours, house projects, homeschooling, working out, etc. Rest is for the wicked. Keep doing, keep proving. 

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Photo by Breakingpic on Pexels.com

This week I focus on restoration. What does it mean to you to restore? Can you take a step back and analyze your routines, your expectations? How can you create more peace in the pause? Just take a moment. What would make your day-to-day operations more joyful, peaceful, or fulfilling? Maybe it’s a walk outside alone. Maybe it’s calling a friend. Maybe it’s sitting on your couch and staring at the wall because that makes you feel peaceful, whatever it is…I invite you to try it. What’s the worst that could happen?

 

I’ll end on a very positive note. This past week, I finished a journal that I have been keeping for a year. It has been a completely positive journal, no negativity or venting, just gratitude and goal setting. As I finished the last page in the journal the other night, I went back and read through it, April 8th 2019, to now. Over this past year, I have grown so much. I have worked so hard to continue changing my narrative from “mentally ill defective child,” to, “whole, radiant and empowering soul.” I realized as I read on, that each day I am showing up to be a better version of myself, to be closest to my highest self. I am learning where my true gifts lie and how to use them, I am connecting more deeply with myself and others, and I am living in the present moment more than I ever have.  I weaned off all psychiatric drugs and was totally medication free by July 4th, 2019. It has been NINE months of no medication (mind you, I had been medicated for 20 years, age 8 to 27). I know I have mentioned this before, but I was told I would NEVER be able to do this successfully. I was told that I was ill and had a condition just like someone has a heart condition. I was told I would most likely not be able to go to college or hold down a job. I was told I was defective. Yes, that is the story I created and I take responsibility for that, but I was told over and over again that I had something chemically wrong with me and that it was unrealistic and impossible to be off medication. Over and over again. 2o years and fifteen to twenty different psychiatric drugs later, depleted white blood cells as a result.  But. here. I. am. Nine months. Not even a Xanax on a hard day. 

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I am not against medicine and fully understand some people need to be on it and it makes people’s qualities of life better. For a period of time, it really helped me, particularly in my adolescence and when I was suicidal. And if I ever need to go back on medicine, it’s nice to know it is there for me as an option. I just didn’t need to continue to be on it and it took an incredible amount of inner work, therapy, and yoga, yoga, yoga, yoga, yoga, yoga, AND MORE YOGA, did I mention I do a lot of yoga for healing? It still takes work. Every day. But I feel whole and I feel radiant and I feel empowered.

 

The Fourth of July, or Independence Day, has a whole new meaning to me. I believed all the psychiatrists from a very young age. It was my story. I am not “healed” and I am not “recovered.” Like an addict, I consistently do cognitive behavioral therapy (yoga) on myself and live a lifestyle that supports the mind, body, and spirit. I continue to re-write my narrative and this pause is a time for me to reflect on it from a different angle and continue growing. 

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What does restoration mean to you? How can you use this time to reflect and restore? I would love to hear from you!

 

Please visit and like my Facebook page to stay up to date with all things empowering through yoga! https://www.facebook.com/EMpowerYogaTherapyVA/

 

Sending you restorative vibes,

 

Maddie Tuohy

Keeping Calm During COVID

Hello Friends~!

 

I hope you are all hanging in there during this strange time in the universe. It has been such an ongoing process for everyone to learn to cope as our reality continues to change and shift each day. It just makes me think of yoga philosophy so much, particularly the kleshas. The kleshas are the eight types of suffering, and one is being resistant to change and attached to what is familiar and routine. The Yoga Sutras teach us that if we are attached to the things that are changing, we will suffer. This is an important thought to ponder. How can we practice non-attachment to change during a time like this? The answer truly lies within each one of you, but today, I want to shed some light on how yoga can help keep you calm & healthy during this turbulent time.

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It is 2020 and the astrologists are saying that the last time the planets were in this alignment, other chaos was upon the earth. I read somewhere that the last time Pluto was in Capricorn, for example, there was the AIDS epidemic. I also read that the last time the planet Eris was where it is now (I believe in Capricorn, but I am no astrology expert!) we had the Trojan War. Whether you follow astrology, or not, it is super interesting to think about. About 100-years ago we had the Spanish Flu, and people walked the streets in masks much like we do now. My point is, history repeats itself, pain and suffering falls upon our nation in a similar fashion. It is how we individually cope with it that makes a difference. How are you reacting? Are you overwhelmed? Buried in fear? Or, just working from home and taking it day by day? 

 

The truth is that everyone is affected. Even if you are still getting paid and have no direct fears, people around you are suffering and we are all one collective in the end. What you do during this time matters. The mindset that you have matters. The way you show up for others to connect and share also matters. 

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Photo by Christina Morillo on Pexels.com

I am sure you have read tons of articles, blogs, and news reports telling you to “focus on the positive” and “love on your family.” This is all true,  but I don’t want to be repetitive and demanding, I really just want to share how YOGA (my favorite thing ever) can help you through this time.

 

Yoga is thousands of years old and people have been using it as a spiritual practice and way of living for all of this time to prepare for moments like these. In yoga, the ultimate goal is to become aligned with your higher or divine self (or the divine itself). To completely calm the waves of the mind so that your true self can be present and aware. In yoga, the mind & body are one, but many of us become so disconnected with our monkey minds babbling on due to fear, anxiety, or pain. The monkey mind is the ego part of us, that voice in your head all day long that says things like, “I am not working hard enough,” “I should have called my sister back today,” “I am getting fat working from home.” Basically, the monkey mind tries to distract you from your higher self and the more time you spend on social media and Netflix, the more disconnected you become. This time at home is a great time to reconnect with the part of yourself that is unchanging, the higher you. 

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It’s time to connect! First, connect in with yourself and still the waves of the mind. The easiest way to do this? BREATHING! Pranayama or breathwork is one of the eight limbs of yoga. Breathing is vital to life itself and the breath is our life force. By taking just 5 deep, belly breaths, you can activate your parasympathetic, “rest & digest,” nervous system. This is wonderful news, since as a society, we mostly live in a sympathetic dominant culture, “rush to work, rush home, work more, sleep less, workout more, eat less…,” you get the picture. When you relax your nervous system and switch from sympathetic to parasympathetic dominance, you also enable processes like digestion, deep sleep, and cell restoration. These processes are vital for the body to function well, not to mention immune system strengthening!

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When you take a deep breath & begin to train the lungs to expand and contract for longer periods of time, you increase the amount of oxygen into the lowest parts of the lungs,  strengthening the respiratory system and accessing red blood cells. This can be a great time to begin a daily pranayama practice if you don’t have one already. Try the following exercise every morning when you wake up:

 

Prolonged Exhale:

Find a comfortable seat or lie down on the floor. Place one hand on the belly & one hand on the heart. Start to take really deep breaths, inhaling through the nose, and exhaling through the nose. Notice if the breath is coming from the belly or the chest, and then try to move it down to the diaphragm. This is called diaphragmatic breathing because you are breathing using your diaphragm, instead of taking shallow breaths into your chest.

 

  • Count your inhale and then exhale 3-5 seconds longer than you inhaled for. For example, if you inhale for 5 seconds, exhale for 8 or 10 seconds.
  • Complete 10 rounds of prolonged exhale, maybe adding a visual or a mantra, like, ‘inhale peace, exhale stress.’
  • Bring your breathing back to its natural, automatic rhythm, and just notice your mind & body. Has the tension decreased?

 

This exercise stimulates your vagus nerve, which helps relax your nervous system and your gut! I love this exercise and it is also great to do before bed. You can use it when you are stressed, or just add it in to your routine to change your stress response over time. Consistency is key!

 

This is also a good time to nourish the relationships that you do have and reach out to your friends and family on FaceTime, email, or by calling them on the phone. Reconnect with those people that you always felt like you never had time for in your pre-COVID schedule. Now is the time to re-establish those bonds and open up your heart. I have been doing virtual happy hours with friends that I just never seemed to line up schedules with. It has been so fun to reconnect and it brings me joy to interact with people I love!

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Tonight is also a great time to sit down and make a list of things you want to let go of. Today, April 7th, is a pink super moon in Libra. This full moon is a good opportunity to cleanse yourself of anything that is no longer serving you. Maybe make a list of three things to let go of, and tonight before bed, try a little meditation with a centering intention or mantra. Here are some examples of ideas for mantras to use:

 

  1. I love, honor, and accept myself 
  2. I release what is no longer serving me
  3. Let go and grow 
  4. I am present 
  5. I am love
  6. I am safe 
  7. **Create your own**

 

Take time during this slow down to really observe how you show up in your life for you and in your relationships. How can you find more peace in your daily routine? What do you yearn for? As the time slows down, you can really find time to listen. You just have to get quiet enough to hear the answers. 

 

I hope you have found these tips helpful. Please follow along with me on my business Facebook page, by clicking here.

 

I am offering virtual Yoga Therapy & personal training via Zoom at half price. If you are interested, please email me at empowerthroughyoga@gmail.com.

 

Wishing you a month of joy & connectedness. Until next time…

 

With love & light,

 

Maddie Tuohy 

(pictured below, my two rescue babies and I. Hudson is adjusting after only being with us for 3 weeks!)

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Running for a Soulful Purpose

Hello and Happy almost Spring!

I hope everyone is safe & healthy and still enjoying their day-to-day lives amidst this stressful & uncertain time. It is times like these when I lean on the ancient teachings of yoga more than ever. Some of the things that have really been helping me, have been to keep faith that I am doing all I can, and to use mantra in my daily meditations, like, “I am safe,” “I am healthy.” You can also try mantra in the collective “we” sense. “We are safe.” “We are healthy.” This can really help soothe the nervous system when paired with deep belly breaths.

Like many people, this week was stressful for me. I got my taxes back and realized that I was not as diligent as I should have been about paying them quarterly, and as a sole proprietor, this means paying a lot more at the end of the year…BOOOO. The heart rate went up a bit, old chatter crept back in. “I am not doing enough, I am failing…” This is old, familiar territory for me, taking a neutral situation and going right to the negative. As the week went on, new stress arose as older clients cancelled our sessions until further notice, of course they need to protect themselves from the virus at all costs. 

 

We adopted a new rescue pup from Shenandoah Shepherd Rescue last Sunday. He is the perfect addition to our family because him and our first baby, Timber, have bonded so well and he seems to fit right in. His name is Hudson and he is a 2-year old German Shepard that was left at a high kill shelter. I am so happy we found each other, thanks to a phenomenal rescue group (definitely check them out  timberandhuddy

click here )! Of course, a new dog means a bit more stress, at least in the beginning as they settle and we both adjust. By Friday, I felt a little scattered. The Coronavirus updates were blasting from the news, Facebook, my clients, friends, and family. I started to consider the reality of being unemployed, and as someone with an anxiety disorder, I worried a bit too much.

 

For the past few months I have been focusing particularly on grounding and protecting my energy. I have been told by mediums, Shamans,and reiki masters that I have to be extra diligent about grounding and releasing energy from others because my energetic field is wide open. If this sounds like a bunch of nonsense to you, it basically means I take on energy from others. This is NOT good if you are in a healing profession or just work with lots of people in general. I work hard on it, but it is a very old pattern of mine, from being a small child and feeling like I had to help others’ by taking their pain. Apparently, I did this until I became aware of it about two years ago. If I am a little off my game, or over-stressed, this happens more easily and I end up feeling very fatigued. By Friday, I was just about there. My clients’ panic over the virus (after seeing about 23 people all week) slowly seeped into my energetic field. The good thing is that I am aware of it. As hectic as Friday the 13th was, I took some time to ground & center AND THEN my new dog escaped and my other dog ate a pound of mulch…you get the idea… Friday the 13th stuff LOL!!

 

Today was different. Today I knew what I needed. My husband and I took our dogs over to my parents’ home, which is out in the country. I decided to go for a run in the hills. Only about a quarter mile in, I felt my heart opening as I smelled the Spring arrival, looked over miles of fields and blooming trees, and felt the sun on my face. The earth is my medicine. I remembered today that I named this blog “The Running Mind Blog” because running has always been a release for me. Since I was a young kid, running gave me the ability to reconnect with myself, to “re-discover Maddie” under the layers of the mind and the ego. My dad took me for my very first run when I was around 11. I had such bad chronic obsessive thoughts and anxiety. I think he didn’t know what else to do, but it worked. Being surrounded by trees, water, and mother nature, my nervous system just comes down. I come home to me. Running was taught to me as a mechanism to release stress and I am so grateful to my mom and dad who have always been active and athletic.

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Don’t get me wrong… I have some crappy running days, but they usually remind me that reality is neutral and that everything is OK. As I run and just observe and take everything in through my senses, my vibration grows and my mind relaxes. This type of running is really a form of yoga, because it quiets the mind and I am able to connect to my higher self. I am able to understand that I will be able to live past paying my taxes, that I am doing OK, that I am whole and worthy and living my life with powerful intention. I have a purpose, to help others, and sometimes I get a little side tracked, but I can come back to my breath, back to my soul, if I just take the time. I always get my best ideas on runs and always feel the most inspired by life when running. We rarely take the time in our culture to just observe and “be” anymore, but running does that for me.

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As I continued to run over a few hills passing a cherry blossom lined pasture with horses grazing, I started to cry a little and a huge smile spread across my face (people driving past were probably confused LOL).  I whispered to myself, “this is all I needed.” For 20 years, I had been suffering. I had been on multiple psychiatric drugs. I had TRULY believed that I was a defective human who would suffer forever. For years, I took over 3 or 5 medications and fretted and worried about every step on my path. I obsessed over outcomes, and I suffered many physical effects due to this worrying. Today, though, as I ran, I celebrated. I am almost NINE months medication free, and living my life with powerful, passionate intention. Helping other people remove their suffering gives me life. Nine months medication free. It still sounds crazy. When I was eight, the psychoanalyst at the Children’s Psychiatric Ward put in her report that I would likely never be able to go to college, due to my diagnosis and mental health. I believed these types of negative statements until I did my healing. I identified with being a “defective” child, teenager, young adult.  Now, I know that I have always been whole, I was just out of touch with my higher self. I am passionate, I am loving, I am curious about the world and eager to connect. I am whole.

 

This is yoga off the mat. This is yoga for anxiety. This is what I teach EVERY SINGLE DAY! We have to keep doing the work, we need to keep coming back to the self and listening, and breathing, and observing, and accepting. This is the only way I can stay medication free. I have to constantly work at it, change my thoughts, meditate, GET IN NATURE. Everyone has their own medicine, and psychiatric or not, we all must honor what brings us in alignment with our highest selves. That is the only way to remove suffering.

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So, there you have it. Not only is this blog for people who experience running thoughts, but I literally RUN to reconnect and release these thoughts. What do you do that brings you in touch with the highest version of yourself? How can you find more time for it and make it a priority?

 

I hope you all are enjoying the fresh air and connecting within and with each other! I would love to hear what your “yoga” looks like!

 

Hope to connect soon!

 

With love and light,

 

Maddie Tuohy 

Keep Growing in 2020: New Year, new level of acceptance

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!!!!! WOW, 2020, can you believe it? Just typing it out is weird to me. 2010 does not seem like it was 10 years ago, but then I truly reflected on the last 10 years, and I have to say, I was impressed! I have come a hell of a way. I know you all have to! 

 

As a Wellness Coach & Yoga Therapist (which is truly lifestyle coaching), New Year’s resolutions always make my skin crawl a bit. I see the gyms get packed for two months, then 80% of the people stop showing up. I see posts on social media about “wanting to be this, or that” and it makes me feel sad that resolutions are based on such shallow, vapid goals. Look, I am ALL for getting healthy, whether that means: losing weight, gaining muscle, giving up sugar, hiking Mt. Everest, you get the picture….BUT, if goals are not grounded in virtue, then they are more likely to bottom out. In the first session with every client that I work with, we talk about intention setting. Intentions are a journey that you take yourself on to achieve something your heart & soul desire. It is a message to guide your daily actions and efforts towards. Intentions are rooted in virtue and positive growth and if you would like a full run down on intention setting, see my post from last year! Today, I want to talk about self-acceptance & self-admiration. I encourage everyone to set powerful intentions, and review them weekly, monthly, or daily. Today, however, I want to focus more on acceptance, and less on improvement. 

 

For the first time IN MY ENTIRE LIFE, I understand what living in peace means. I never really understood peace. My brain was a mile a minute. I was anxious, then depressed, then tired, then energetic, then depressed again, then resentful (“woe is me, why me, waaaa waaa waaa.”). I was always worried, always waiting, always wondering how I was going to make it to the next week. In 2014, for example, I was thinking about death a lot. I fantasized about getting hit head on while driving my car. I was numb and I didn’t want to live. My body was perpetually inflamed and heavy and my brain screamed at me all day. I was so out of touch with my higher self.

 

ENTER YOGA INTO MY LIFE. In 2015 I started attending regular yoga classes on a Groupon. I could barely workout anymore due to Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and distal extremity pain. Something about the messages in the yoga classes woke something up inside of me. “Just breathe and let everything else go.” “You matter, even if you just lay here in child’s pose.” “Accept where you are right now.” 

 

These are phrases I never heard. I was used to a psychiatrist telling me to try to continue exercising and maybe increase to two workouts a day, take more and more pharmaceutical drugs and accept my fate that I have a mental illness. In fact, he suggested I take Ritalin (an amphetamine) to help with the tiredness (great idea to give an anxious person a stimulant). Yoga was the opposite message in every way. What yoga taught me was that suffering begins when we attach to things, become aversive to things, when we become out of touch with our highest self, and when our minds, bodies, and spirits are disconnected. In October of 2015 I rode the metro home from work for the first time with no fatigue. I cried the whole metro ride home upon realizing that my legs were not aching and my body did not feel like it had 300 pounds of lead inside of it. It was that sudden. Thanks, yoga.

 

“Yoga teaches us to cure what need not be endured and endure what cannot be cured.” – B.K.S. Iyengar

 

The changes in my mind-body were so evident, that I quit my job and moved to Pennsylvania to train to become a yoga therapist. It was a huge risk. I didn’t know what would come of it. But I became SOOO passionate helping others in my anxiety group at the time. I knew it was my fate.

The past ten years have been challenging, extremely challenging. I was served the same lesson over and over again, from 2014 to 2018, and had to work really REALLY hard to overcome it. Therapists, reiki masters, cranial sacral therapists, cognitive behavioral therapists, studying, mediating and mediating and nourishing my whole self. When I give credit to yoga being my ultimate healing mechanism, I don’t want you to think that I mean just going to yoga classes. You see, yoga is an entire lifestyle approach. There are eight limbs to yoga and you have to work them all to really see these benefits. This means doing constant work on myself. Trying to understand my belief systems, banish negative self talk, and re-write my entire narrative. That is yoga, not just forward folding and downwarddogging

The past 10 years have also been very wonderful. In 2016, I moved to Philadelphia to begin yoga therapy school and moved in with my then boyfriend, now husband. We rescued my bestest pal and yoga dog, Timber. In 2017, I got engaged on a pristine beach in Puerto Rico. In 2018, I got married to the man of my dreams and we bought our first home together. In 2019, I graduated from three years of Yoga Therapy school and became an International Association of Yoga Therapists (IAYT) certified Yoga Therapist! I also began working at Exhale Studios and found a new home for my Yoga Therapy practice. I said goodbye to my grandmother, beloved client, and my nephew was born. It has been a phenomenal decade, mixed with challenge and heartbreak, as well as miracles and accomplishments. I am so grateful.

 

Here I am, 2020. I am living in PEACE! I am working steadily towards my goal of growing my Yoga Therapy business and helping others, and am empowering teens to find their higher selves (which is a DREAM). I am off all psychiatric medications for the first time since I was eight years old and I am in love with my life. I still live with some of the fear that I have worked on removing, that one day my biology will change and I will feel deeply depressed or terribly anxious again. Until and unless that day comes, I use the tools that I have found and built and I take really good care of myself. I am so proud of myself and I am so overwhelmed with the amount of love, joy, and peace in my life. 

 

This year, instead of focusing on what you can do more of, and be more of, look back over those last 10 years, and admire yourself a little (or a lot). Reflect year- by-year and notice how far you have come. This is a gift you can give yourself. Admiration for the human you have always been and the human you have become over the last decade. After you’ve done this, make a list of one thing you loved about each year or one thing you were/are truly grateful for. Can you find peace with where you are today? If not, ask yourself, “what is my soul yearning for?” Try asking yourself this while in a bath or walking in the woods. Ask the question when you are having some alone time and it is quiet, so that you can really hear the answer. 

 

I mentioned that yoga connects you to your highest self. It does this by stilling the waves of the mind, so that your soul can shine through. When people are overworked and undernourished, they cannot possibly connect to their higher self, it is being silenced by their ego and their fears and their desire to own up to something. This is why creating space in your life FOR YOURSELF is absolutely necessary. It is not unrealistic or impossible. It could be a walk outside each day, just focusing on the trees and the noises of the birds, or a long restorative bath, or maybe curling up with a journal by the fire. Taking time to slow down, connect to your breath, and just notice the present moment is so simple, but so so powerful. 

 “You cannot do yoga. Yoga is your natural state. What you can do are yoga exercises, which may reveal to you where you are resisting your natural state.” – Sharon Gannon

So my question for you is this: When you look back over the last 10 years, can you find acceptance and peace for where you are now (even if it is not rainbows and butterflies)?

If the answer is yes, keep doing you! Keep appreciating yourself and finding ways to fill your soul. 

 

If you answered no, keep appreciating yourself and start to become curious about what could fill your soul. You can do this by journaling, meditating, or simply reflecting on what you could use more/less of in your life. 

 

“Yoga is a dance between control and surrender – between pushing and letting go – and when to push and when to let go becomes part of the creative process, part of the open-ended exploration of your being.” – Joel Kramer

 

Life is a journey. I believe that all of us who are working at becoming closest to our highest selves are doing warrior training every day. Anyone who is recovering from anything is constantly working on themselves, and this is what I call warrior training. We are training ourselves to be spiritual warriors, unaffected by change, unattached to outcomes, and accepting of ourselves exactly as we are. 

Will you begin your warrior training in 2020? Maybe you have been on the path all along!

 

My teens “Yoga for Anxiety” workshop begins January 9th at Exhale Studios in Stone Ridge, VA. Visit the app to sign up or book a private yoga therapy session with yours truly! 

 

 

Here is my nephew at Christmas 🙂

Thank you for reading & I wish you all the most joyous & accepting year yet. May you find peace in your mind, body & soul.

 

With love & light,

 

Maddie Tuohy

Gratitude is Trendy, but are you Grateful?

‘Tis’ the season to be grateful. With Thanksgiving tomorrow and popular self help & yoga influencers throwing gratitude around like confetti, it sure is a time to at least notice the word gratitude popping up all over your social media feeds. 

But are we actually practicing gratitude just by posting pretty content? The answer is most likely not. Trust me, I am over the moon that something like “gratitude” is #trending, but sometimes it can feel phony and I think you know what I mean… this whole social media culture can feel that way with airbrushed people telling us to buy products to make our lives better and to make us better in general. 

Social media culture is at an all time high, but is it making people feel like they’re at an all time low? It’s hard to tell, but studies show that more people are reserved, depressed, and distracted since the social media developments. How can you protect yourself and your brain (that’s right, social media changes your brain!), from feeling the effects of social media? The best thing to do is try a social media cleanse, for short term benefits! But also, it can be a wonderful experience to really reflect during this time of seasonal change, on what is working in your life, and what is not. 

Social Media Cleanse:

Can you give yourself the gift of completely taking a break from social media over the holidays? Will it make you anxious to not be posting pictures of your holiday decor and festivities? What would It be like if you lived in the moment and didn’t post a thing? If this is too drastic for you, try a day of no social media, but if you are itching for an escape, try a week or two weeks with no social media. Your brain will thank you!!!

If you aren’t planning on taking any breaks from social media, maybe just notice how often you are using it. Everywhere I go, I see people on their phones. I am guilty too, I also check my phone every time I come out of a client and in between destinations. I have noticed this week in particular how disconnected we can be as a culture. Think about a gym, for instance. It’s a bunch of people in a big huge space, all together, but completely apart. You look up from your workout and you just see people scrolling and staring at a screen, completely disconnected from the space around them. Never would I have thought that there could be 60 plus people sharing a space, but everyone is alone and shut off from each other. How can we prevent this epidemic from going too far? Will we all end up in chairs with screens attached to them,  like the movie Walle? These are the things I think about while doing lat pull downs at the gym. The worst is on the road. I watched a middle schooler almost get run over by a car in a pedestrian crosswalk because the woman who was driving was on her phone. Everyone is in a rush, no one can come to a full stop at a stop sign and driving on the roads in Northern Virginia has become quite terrifying. I see people face timing and snap chatting while driving. It’s no wonder 1.6 million car crashes a year result from cell phone use while driving (Edgar & Snyder Associates). Let’s stop the zombie-d out phone culture and start connecting again. 

I love to talk to strangers. Connecting with people fills me up and makes me happy. But I will admit that I do consider myself weird (awesome weird,  of course) and I will strike up a conversation with almost anyone. I’ve dedicated my life and my career to helping people who suffer, my niche market tends to be anxiety (that’s why I have an anxiety blog!). I work with teens a lot, and one thing I have noticed across the board, is that they are plagued by social media. It is a constant source of stress and unnecessary pressure and It scares the shit out of me for my future kids (sorry, I said shit). 

I guess I sound like a huge hypocrite. Here I am, writing this blog to post to my personal Instagram account & my business Instagram account (follow EMpower_Yoga_Therapy- great plug huh?). There are positives to social media, especially since people pay so much attention to it, it’s helpful to get messages out there. I am just encouraging everyone in this time of seasonal change to reflect deeply. Everybody always wants to make big changes on New Years, but the Fall is one of the best times to reflect before you enter a deep, and purposefully restorative, winter. 

Reflection Exercise:

Take an inventory of what is working in your life and what is not. What things are you doing that are really giving back to you, leading you towards success, or making you feel balanced? List them out and then notice them. Once you have your list of positives, first, decide on one to three habits/ routines/ emotions that are bringing you down, taking you out of balance, and making you feel stuck.  Consider each one of these points deeply. Why are you feeling this way/ repeating this habit, or having this conflict? Is there a small shift that you could make that would positively impact your lifestyle? 

Once you’ve considered these points, set an intention for these goals and changes. What virtue will help you as you try to change habits or keep healthy ones? Can you create a powerful mantra around these goals to use when you feel stuck or lost? Your intention will help you lead the way towards powerful shifts and healthy change and your mantra will help you stay focused and present within that intention. 

It is an imperfect journey, but you choose to make it beautiful. It all comes down to your mindset and the lens that you are viewing the world through. Accept that there are bad days. I have bad days. Now granted, my mindset is probably what is determining them as “bad,” versus neutral, but if we can just accept and move on, we suffer so much less (Type A personalities will suffer more with this, especially if being perfect is the usual goal). If we can accept that there are days of discomfort, breathe through them and stay connected to our intention & purpose, then we can live much more peacefully. 

I look outside my door and see all of the change happening on our walking paths. There are leaves covering the path in an array of gorgeous hues. I look inside myself  and notice the changes happening as well. The growth of my business from a deep passion I had two years ago (and still have). The growth from my eight-year old self in a psychiatric ward, to my college self on the verge of suicide, to a 27-year old who has a long way to go, but who has come so far and gained so much wisdom. It is sometimes hard to notice how much we are changing from the day- to-day, but look back over the last year, 5-years, 10-years, you are changing just like the leaves, darling. 

From this growth and this purpose, you can find real and authentic gratitude. Not #grateful Instagram bullshit, but real gratitude. I am grateful for all of the beautiful things in my life, and all of the ugly things that made me who I am today. Without an anxiety disorder and crippling depression, I would have never found yoga and probably would have never connected so deeply within to discover my truth beneath my darkest layers. Life is really beautiful if you take the time to notice it. 

Take time to notice this Thanksgiving. I wish all of you a season of positive and beautiful change. If you are up for a social media cleanse, feel free to join me! I will be taking the next 2-weeks to cleanse my brain and my eyeballs from screens and influencers. May you find peace in your mind, body, and spirit.

Follow me on Facebook @Empower Yoga Therapy & Instagram

If you are local, my teens yoga for anxiety group will start back up on December 12th. Email empowerthroughyoga@gmail.com for info & bookings! Private yoga therapy is always an option!

Namaste,

Maddie Tuohy 

Activate Your Life Force

Welcome back to the anxiety blog! I am back this week, trying to provide tools to manage stress & anxiety in this over-stimulating world. I hope everyone is having a great Fall! I am LOVING the change in temperature, but trying not to get too attached…because attachment to things that are changing causes suffering. I know, I know, I say that almost every post, but it happens to be my FAVORITE lesson from the Yoga Sutras. I admit it, I am a yoga philosophy NERD! And I accept this so that I do not suffer…ok, ok, I am done with philosophy references.

I have been studying yoga for years, but it is so easy to forget simple practices and philosophies when we are busy, stressed, or overstimulated. Just recently, I realized that my deep breathing practice has diminished a bit. I have been spending more time driving to clients, letting my brain run, and run, through checklists and plans to make sure that I am on top of it all. Inevitably, what happens to me after about two weeks of this routine, is burnout. It doesn’t matter if I am seeing four clients a day or eight. I get too many ideas and I get over stimulated with coffee, emailing, social media, you name it, and, BOOM, I am an inflamed, tired mess. You would think a Yoga Therapist would have this all figured out, well NEWS FLASH, I do not. Practice makes practice and I am 100% human being (but maybe I’m 10% mermaid?)

I realized over the last week that I am holding my breath and breathing shallow pretty frequently. This is one of the biggest recipes for anxiety. When we breathe shallow, or into the chest area, we are not getting much oxygen in, and we are maintaining sympathetic nervous system dominance, that “fight or flight” system. This perpetuates stress by releasing hormones like cortisol and the body gets so tired after so many hours of this pattern! So, the solution sounds super basic and easy, but this is not a scam, I promise! JUST . BREATHE . DEEP. Inhale through the belly, expanding it like a balloon, and out through the belly, exhaling every last bit of breath while contracting the stomach muscles. 

Pranayama-image

In yoga, breath is our “life force.” The Sanskrit word for breath-work is “pranayama,” and is translated to mean “life force.” It makes total sense, because without our breath, we would be dead. Breathing deeply each day benefits your mood, digestive, endocrine, cardiovascular, respiratory, and immune systems. It oxygenates every cell and creates more space in your body and your mind. This is why you are constantly being told to breathe in a yoga class. It isn’t just some weird ritual, but it is one of the most powerful tools that you can have in your toolbox.

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Once I started breathing deeply again, my whole situation shifted from lethargic, inflamed, and negative, to: energetic, inspired, and joyful. Deep breathing can be done ABSOLUTELY ANYWHERE! You can take deep breaths as you commute to work, or drive your kids to their activities. You can deep breathe when your boss is yelling at you, or when you’re reading a difficult email. You can deep breathe when you are out walking the dog, looking at the trees, a wonderful way to get into meditation! The options are ENDLESS but the point is to breathe when times are tough, so that you can change your stress response over time. This is the first tool I used to overcome my chronic fatigue syndrome and suicidal depression/anxiety. Deep breathing is sensational. Here are a few different styles that you can try:

  • Diaphragmatic Breathing: The most basic form of deep breathing. Just sit in a comfortable position or lie down on your back. Inhale and expand the belly out like a balloon, exhale and contract the stomach muscles back in. Try for 5 rounds and try to increasingly inhale longer, and exhale longer.
  • Prolonged Exhale: This method is shown to decrease stress fast by activating the vagus nerve. Just like in diaphragmatic breathing, inhale and fill the abdomen with breath, exhale and release more breath than you inhaled. So, if you inhale for 7 seconds, exhale for 8,9, or 20 seconds. Squeeze every last drop of breath out.
  • 3-part Breathing: Place one hand on the belly and one on the chest. Inhale, fill the belly with breath, continue inhaling and see if you can bring the breath up to the side ribs, now to the chest. Exhale out from your chest first, then your side ribs, then your abdomen. Repeat up to 10 rounds. 

There are so many more ways to breathe, but why not get started with one of these? Next time you are feeling stressed, activate that deep breath and imagine your nervous system totally relaxing. When you deep breathe, you are essentially sending signals to your nervous system that it is safe, and you can relax! 

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Try deep breathing while eating your meals, doing labor around the house, and listening to a loved one speak. The breath keeps us in the present moment, and out of “fight or flight,” anxiety. Activate your life force and start living again!

I would love to hear how you all are doing with these breathing exercises! Can you set a goal for this week? Maybe start breathing right when you wake up, just 3-deep breaths to start the day? I am here for you!

If you are local to Aldie, VA, I will be adding 4 yoga offerings to my weekly schedule at Exhale Studios in Stone Ridge, VA. Come and check out this beautiful space. Taking yoga classes are a great way to start deep breathing more often! Exhale Studios

Feel free to connect with me on Instagram & Facebook, by clicking below!
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My mother, Dana Siegel, & I will be participating in the Holistic Energy Expo in November in Ashburn, VA! Come and see us and check out all of the other amazing vendors and health & healing practitioners! Save the date for November, 3, 2019 and click below for more info!

healing expo info

Sending you love & healing vibes,

Maddie Tuohy