HOW YOGA SAVED MY LIFE

Welcome back to the anxiety hackin’ blog! I just completed my very last weekend and module of yoga therapy training. I graduated today and feel like I am on cloud nine. It is so surreal to be finishing this journey and continuing on my true path of becoming a successful yoga therapist!

In honor of graduating from my three-year yoga therapy program, I figured I would share my journey, as I have never publicly shared it before. I have shared bits and pieces of my own life about coping and living with a mood & anxiety disorder, but I have never really done a “tell all.” I am so excited to do so, because I have been reflecting so much on how yoga has transformed my entire life.

I found yoga as a tool for healing in 2014. I was suicidally depressed the summer after graduating college. Yoga was the only thing that made me feel better after seeing seven medical specialists, three psychiatrists, and countless therapists. But let’s rewind just a decade or so. The pain started when I was eight years old. I was suicidally depressed then, too. I spent two weeks in the psych ward at the Children’s Hospital when I was in third grade. I was riddled with worry, rituals, frustration, and anxiety. I was diagnosed by a psychologist with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. I started taking medications and things were managed.

In the fourth grade, I started pulling out my hair in class and was diagnosed with trichotillomania. Again, more medications were prescribed, and time went on. For the most part I have memories of a very full and happy childhood. I played with the neighborhood kids until the sun went down and had such a loving home. Mental illness is hard on everyone in the household, and I remember the tension it created, but my memories are mostly happy!

Once I hit middle school, my diagnosis would change to bipolar disorder (which was a poor diagnosis since I did not have all of the diagnostic criteria, but they have to label it). I was in in-school suspension nearly every week, if not that, it was detention. I was moody, and rightly so, going through puberty. I was put on a cocktail of drugs that really seemed to work well until I graduated college. My memories from high school through college are very happy. I think the combination of medications worked for a certain amount of time, but at the end of the day, I was not connected to my higher self, my truest self, and so I was destined to keep suffering.

Flash forward to senior year of college. I was drinking a lot, eating crappier than usual, and writing a twenty page thesis in Spanish. I was plagued with the task of finding a job and in 2014 it was so tough. I ended up settling for a job with the federal government. A great opportunity, but something I had zero interest in (again, not listening to the higher self or connected to my intuition).

The summer after college was when everything started to go south. I would take klonopin to get through a waitressing shift, and spent loads of time having meltdowns to my mom. I frequently thought of different ways I could kill myself. I vividly remember being out shopping with my mom one day and seeing some rope and just hoping to die. I would cycle through periods of extreme anxiety and periods of extreme depression. This was my reality. Again, not connected to my inner self, totally attached to other’s opinions and social acceptance with getting a job and pleasing my family. My belief systems needed some work (which I got to later in therapy and continue to work on). Attachment leads to suffering and suffering leads to pain. Pain in inevitable, suffering is optional. I was choosing to suffer by being so disconnected from myself.

I started my new job in the fall and moved in with girlfriends. Looking back, I was so ungrounded in my living situation, which perpetuated the disconnect and the stress. I was going to a job every day that I had no purpose in and no passion for and I just started to decline.

When your mind runs perpetually and your nervous system is constantly in sympathetic fight- or -flight on and off for 20 years, the body starts to shut down. My body shut down. I became extremely fatigued. Walking down the metro escalator was painful and uncomfortable. It took effort to get up from my office chair and walk to the printer. My whole body ached. My right foot went numb for two weeks and my finger joints all started to ache like crazy. I would get home from work and nap for an hour and then drag myself through a treadmill workout. I could barely make it through the day and this made my mind crazy. My anxiety worsened and so did my physical condition.

I saw seven medical specialists. The rheumatologist said maybe it was lupus and the neurologist said maybe is was narcolepsy. They were all wrong, The neurologist actually suggested that I take the narcolepsy medication (which is essentially like the date rape drug and you have to take it at 3 am) because I fell asleep for all six naps under 3 minutes during my sleep study. He said that I didn’t have narcolepsy but I could take this strong, dangerous drug to cope (thanks, medical field). I declined. I bought a Groupon to a yoga studio instead.

After a few months at an amazing, well rounded studio in D.C, I started to feel better. I was attending an anxiety group weekly and doing the yoga. I started meditating for just five minutes every day. One morning, I was riding the metro to work and I started crying. I realized I didn’t feel fatigued. I couldn’t believe it.

I started sharing different techniques with my anxiety group. I felt SO passionate about sharing healing through yoga. I knew I needed to find a way to make a career out of it. Thank god my intuition was still working.

One day I was visiting my then boyfriend, now husband, in Philly. I went to a yoga class down the street from his house. I was chatting with the instructor and told her about my dream to do therapeutic yoga with people. She told me about the school she trained at and said they offered an extensive yoga therapy program. This was YogaLife. I called the owner that week and signed up the following week.

After 250-hours of teacher training, I had learned so much about my inner workings and my mind-body connection, the natural next step was yoga therapy training. I had moved up to Philly to live with the boyfriend and was studying for the personal training exam and nannying. Other than worries about money, it was one of the happiest times of my life. Learning all things yoga and exploring a new city. I felt great! I was finally connecting within and learning what really mattered.

I decided if I wanted to make a real career out of yoga therapy, I needed to move to where I had more of a network. My then boyfriend, now hubby, didn’t want to stay in Philly forever, so we moved back to Northern Virginia. I started personal training and teaching yoga and slowly building my business, EMpower Yoga Therapy & Wellness Services.

So, you expect me to say it is all sunshine and butterflies since then…well sort of! About a year and a half ago I started feeling horrible again. I saw a functional medicine doctor and learned that I had: a cyst in my sinuses, mold poisoning, tick coinfection, and neutropenia. My blood work indicated my body was attacking itself from the infections and my anxiety kicked up big time. I found all of this out three months before my wedding and went into surgery the week after my wedding (God forbid they screw my face up before the wedding). BUT here’s the difference: I had yoga. I realized if I attached to the health conditions, then I would suffer. I started upping my meditation and visualizing a healthy body. Over time, I healed and learned quite a bit about myself and the fear that I have around not being well.

My point in this whole story is that we can’t control everything and we certainly can’t avoid certain illnesses or ailments. But we can choose how much we suffer. Pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional. If we can breathe into the pain and find some acceptance, the pain can be reduced. This past July I had a bone marrow biopsy to rule out leukemia for the low neutrophil. As the doc drilled into my SI joint I breathed my deep, diaphragmatic breaths and when he was done, he said, “how did you do so well through that?” I told him I treated it like a really hard yoga pose.

Life throws a lot of really hard yoga poses at us constantly. It doesn’t matter what happens, it matters how you deal with it, how you process it, and how you react to it. Yoga saved my life because it put me in touch with my higher self, the part of me that is not my body and is not my thoughts, but is the eternal unchaining part of me. It is so easy in our fast-paced society to be disconnected from our truth, but when you start to slowly tune in and listen, to get still and quiet, you can befriend and learn about that inner, higher self. That part of you is always there, always waiting for you to come and be still.

For those of you who are on the fence, yoga is being studied more than ever all over the world. It is shown to be more effective than medication in treating depression, rewire and change the brain, reset the nervous system, balance the immune, endocrine, cardiovascular, and autonomic nervous systems. If those stats aren’t enough, take my personal story. Since 2014 I have weaned myself off of seven medications. I have lost over twenty pounds and learned to become more in tune with what my body needs. Most importantly, I have rewired my brain by creating new habits and turning off the mind each day. One of my biggest takeaways is that yoga is a LIFELONG practice. Practice makes practice. Someone like me will consistently have to work very hard and be very disciplined to stay medication and pain free. I embrace this. I love working on myself and studying my own behavior. I have examined my belief systems rooted in childhood in therapy. I have challenged my fears and put my worries on trial. I have written down every anxious thought and then re-written it as a neutral thought (thought records, baby!) Yoga is a lifestyle. I use the teachings throughout my day, my week, my life. I am always focusing on an intention each week so that I can easily re-route back when I get off track. I make a point to meditate every day. It is like brushing my teeth now. I sit in meditative seat in the morning and my dog lays in front of my legs. He obviously loves the energy.

I am now taking this out into the world. My mission statement is to share yoga with others to help them heal and connect with their truest selves. This is a powerful healing modality. Yoga has been shown to significantly help patients suffering from all kinds of conditions and ailments. There is tons of working being done with yoga and; cancer, depression, PTSD, addiction, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, Muscular Sclerosis, the list goes on….

It is a weird thing to say, but I am grateful for my ENTIRE journey. I truly believe that I was meant to go through all of these lessons to make me a better yoga therapist. The more I study myself, the better I am as a healer. Yoga saved my life and I am forever grateful. I am a warrior and the power has always been within me, I just had to learn how to access it.

If any of you are struggling and want to give yoga a try, there are so many things you can try! That is why I love this field/realm, it so vast and personal. I invite you to try a meditation challenge. You can download an app, like Headspace or Calm, and just start with 5-minutes a day. Joining a local studio can be a great idea, just make sure you find one that is the right fit! If you try a yoga place, and feel like you do not jive with their energy, try another! Don’t get discouraged, it’s like picking out a doctor’s office or a hairdresser, you have to find the right fit.

If you are local to the Aldie, VA area, I will be offering yoga classes at the Wellness Connection, as well as therapeutic one-on-one sessions and anxiety workshops. Please visit the following link for more info! If you are interested in private yoga therapy via video chat, that is also an option. Feel free to contact me or visit my website, also pasted below:

https://www.wellnessconnectionllc.com/professional-services/yoga/

https://empoweryogatherapy.org

“What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.” –Ralph Waldo Emerson

Love and healing light,

Maddie Tuohy

Wake up and Feel the Love

Greetings to all my readers! Welcome back to the Running Mind Blog. Today’s post has lots of good content in it and I am excited to share with you all! After all, this week we will celebrate Valentine’s Day and I am all about sharing the love via this blog.

Before I dig into it, just a little plug for my new website. I have combined my professional yoga therapy and wellness coaching site with my blog site so that both can be accessed easily by all of my readers and clients. I hope that you will take a look and feel free to give any feedback or ask questions! Click Here

For those of you who follow me on social media (@EMpower_Yoga_Therapy), you may have noticed I did a 2-week social media cleanse. I try to do this type of “cleanse” once a season. It is very beneficial for a lot of reasons and even MORE beneficial if you suffer from anxiety. Here is why it is worth it to give up the instagram scrolling, even if only temporarily:

  • Decreases in screen time have been shown to improve sleep

  • Build more awareness by not having your head in your phone so frequently

  • The nerves in the eyes get a nice break

  • Less worrying what others think and what others are doing

  • Less comparing of one self to the rest of the digital world

  • Improves posture

  • Frees up time to do other tasks

  • More focus on personal, human contact

The benefits of taking a break from screens & social media go on and on, and on. I want to start off by saying that I am not dissing social media, I think it can be a wonderful tool when used in moderation and for the right reasons. Just like with anything else, too much of one thing becomes toxic or stressful on the body/mind. I personally practice lots of yoga and mindfulness, and so I am very aware of what is happening to my brain when I overuse social media. I sometimes feel crappy while I am endlessly and dully scrolling through my feed. I notice I have neck pains and that I am cranky and I realize I am becoming so disconnected from my higher self as I examine all of these other photos and experiences of other people/companies, etc.

I once heard on a wellness podcast I was listening to that if someone’s post makes you feel crappy, that you should unfollow them. I agree, but we also need to analyze what it is about the post that make us feel those yucky feelings. Maybe it’s an old friend you don’t keep in touch with showing off her new designer shoes, or a guy with an 8 pack, and suddenly you feel crappy about your body. Whatever the case may be, understand what the core belief is beneath the unsettling emotions. For example, if I am comparing bodies with someone, the core belief may be that I do not feel that I am enough, and therefore it strikes that shame deep in my gut. This means that people who use Instagram and Facebook multiple times a day, may feel these unfavorable emotions throughout their day! And that my friends, is no way to live!

Social media can therefore be a window into some of our unhealthy patterns and beliefs that are placing shadows over our daily lives. If you can discover what the core belief is, you can begin to challenge and change it over time.

https://goo.gl/images/nFsano

I was reading an excerpt from a fabulous book called Awareness, by Anthony de Mello and I really felt chills as I read it. He talks about how until people find spirituality, they are basically asleep and a lot of our society is going through life asleep. Waking up with their alarm, pouring the coffee, going to the office all day, getting onto social media to make the hours more bearable, driving home, going back to bed…you get the idea. I don’t think that everyone lives this way, but I think sometimes, a lot of us get so wrapped up in the chaos and the demands of our own lives, that we start going into a bit of autopilot. I think that social media, to an extent, keeps us “asleep.” When you are scrolling and scrolling and looking at these edited windows into people’s lives, you aren’t in the real world, experiencing and being. You are just witnessing through a screen.


https://goo.gl/images/55HM17

If you feel like you may relate to some of this dull energy around social media, or with your routine in general, you may wonder, “how do I wake up?” It is so simple. Everyone is always selling some complicated diet or lifestyle plan, but to wake up is to just start noticing life around you. Go for a walk and leave the phone at home. Notice the scents in the air, the texture in the trees. Have a conversation with someone at work and look into their eyes, listen, really listen to what they say. Of course, to take this even further, here are some other tips on how to “awaken”:

  • Meditate, even if it’s only 2 minutes. Listen to your breath and notice where it moves in your body. When thoughts come up, notice them, and then direct the attention back to the breath.

  • Journal about your day, your goals, hopes and dreams, and thank the universe for the meaningful or joyful parts of your day. When we constantly work towards something, we feel more of a sense of purpose which is shown to create joy.

  • Make meaningful connections. Hold someone’s hand, spend time with someone doing something so simple and just listen and connect.

  • Discover your own greatness by taking time each day to quiet your thoughts in some way (see bullets above)

  • Take care of yourself. You matter.

I’ve learned all of this the hard way growing up with mental illness. It is SO easy for me to fall into an illusion and start to suffer. I actively choose to do my self care routine every day because I know it keeps me balanced and nourished. “I don’t have time,” just isn’t an excuse. You find a way because you matter.

I did not want to re-download Instagram this week. I did so with intentions on deleting my personal account and just keeping my business account, which is all about de-stressing! I plan to put more limits on it and see how it goes, and I invite you to assess your routines with social media and do the same! Let me know if any of you decide to take the 2-week challenge, I would love to hear how it goes!

Follow me! @EMpower_Yoga_Therapy

In honor of Valentine’s Day being this week, here are some lovely self-love, self care suggestions:

  • Take a bubble bath and play “Bathtub” playlist on Spotify. Add Epsom salts or essential oils to make it extra lovely.

  • Do a heart chakra yoga practice. Try this one on youtube: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=odIkn2bal2Y

  • Spend time with a loved one and make meaningful connections. Try looking into their eyes and listen to every word they say. It becomes a mindfulness exercise!

  • Get a massage or ask a loved one for one if you want to save $$. Groupon has some great spa/massage deals !

  • Take time to listen to what your body is telling you and remember that YOU ARE LOVE

“Practice love until you remember that you are love” ~Swami Sai Premanandra

Until next time! With love from my heart to yours,

Maddie Tuohy

Owner & Creator of EMpower Yoga Therapy & Wellness Services

Make 2019 a Year of Growth with Powerful Intention Setting

Happy New Year to all of my blog readers and everyone out there! I hope that all of you enjoyed some time off of work, and spent some time around people and things that gave back to you. I spent a week with my family in Rincón, Puerto Rico. We have been going there for seven years now, and it’s one of my favorite places on earth. This week, I feel especially restored and energized flying back to Virginia. I was reminded this week how beneficial vacation can really be for the mind and the body. 
We have sort of a stigma in our culture about taking vacations. Have you ever told a co-worker or friend that you were taking a vacation and gotten the, “must be nice,” response? This is part of our overall stress problem. People are too hard on themselves and lots of people see vacation time as being lazy and not working enough. This type of “work work work” mentality leads to burnout and health issues, take a vacation! Let go for a little while. Whether you book a getaway in paradise, or drive a few hours to a nearby bed & breakfast, getting out of your routine and getting some down time is healthy and quite frankly, self care !!
All week in Rincón, I woke up late (I don’t mean to brag ;)), meditated each morning, and spent time out in nature amongst loved ones. Rincón is rugged and wild and i love running through the jagged hills and taking in the scenery. It is my own personal mediation. Taking in all of the colors of the casitas and tropical flowers that line the streets, with a blue ocean painted under the skyline. I stop and pet the local horses and dogs and feel so connected to myself and connected to the island. I majored in Spanish in college and really adore the Latin American culture, so it made my soul happy to interact with locals and experience the authentic culture each day through color, food, landscape, and language. The Puerto Rican pride, passion, and laid back way of living inspires me to ease up a little. It was pure bliss.
I am flying back home today with clearer skin, and a much clearer mind. I also just feel a lighter sense in my heart. Stepping back from the busy daily routine and demands also puts things in perspective. I feel totally renewed, and I think it’s worth reminding people that vacation IS needed and it doesn’t have to be expensive & fancy. I will be a better worker/ wife/ friend, etc. now that I have taken some time to slow down and reconnect on a much deeper level. My vision is clearer, my mind is slower, and my body thanks me.
New Years is not always a time to change and fix things, it is sometimes a time to simply go within and connect with yourself. 2018 has been a year of constant reconnecting for me. Each time I am faced with a challenge (and there were many in 2018), I am reminded of the importance of taking the time to quiet my mind and connect to the part of myself that re-energizes and clears my mind. It is accessible to everyone and it is free. You just have to go within.

“What lies behind us and what lies in front of us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us–Ralph Waldo Emerson

New Years is heavily marketed and commercialized as a time to change and purchase. “Sign up for a gym and lose that weight.” “Get a new look so you can feel you again”. You get the idea. The problem with this is two-fold. First of all, creating positive change is the most difficult in the dead middle of winter. Spring and summer, even autumn, are much better times seasonally to create new patterns. Trying to jumpstart a new program and blow it out of the water during a rest & restoration season is hard, and could be part of the reason why most people really struggle to keep going to the gym or sticking to a program.

The second reason New Years resolutions can fail or be problematic is that they are not always connected to something virtuous and meaningful. As a fitness professional, I see this all the time. “I want to lose weight,” a client will say. I will tell them okay well why? The response is usually so that they feel better or so that they can fit into a size four, but we have to look even deeper and understand the root of it so that we can commit to change. This is where intention setting comes in handy. New Years intentions are much more sturdy than resolutions. Intentions are connected to virtues. For the person who wants to lose weight, maybe they are really looking for self-love, so now their intention is to be more self-loving, and weight loss will be a side effect of this. You can set an overall intention based on a virtue, and then make a few goals that will help you achieve the long term goal. For example, imagine you want to get more organized in 2019, so you decide you are overwhelmed at work which is why you are so messy at home. Maybe your intention ends up being around peace. As a result you set a few goals, carve out 5 minutes each day to be still, eat 2 serving of vegetables a day, and clean your house on Sunday’s at 4pm. If the goals are specific and achievable, they are more likely to stick. You may work up to an hour of quiet time a day as you learn to juggle your priorities, but if 5 minutes is more realistic, that’s where you can start.
New Years is also a nice time to reflect. I think it’s a good time to look at the past year and take into account how much joy you have had, and even how much suffering. By looking at both joy and suffering side by side, we can become almost like investigators in solving the case of how we could improve our overall well being. I think it’s very helpful to identify healthy and unhealthy patterns during a time of reflection. What are some patterns that are working really well for you? Maybe you’ve taken up meditation or you’ve added fiber to your breakfast. Whatever it may be, ask yourself how you continue this success and continue to reap the benefits that the new routine, or long time routine has brought you.
Conversely, what are some patterns that need some re-routing? Maybe you consistently feel crappy over a habit/ emotion/ etc. tendency that you have, how can you begin to dissect this and figure out how to replace it with a healthier/ more beneficial habit or pattern? Creating new habits is very challenging and requires dedication, humility, and lots of patience. After all, you are basically re-wiring your brain!! That being said, it is not impossible ! Here are some tips for creating healthy habit change in 2019 (and forever):
  1. Rule number one is ask yourself why this change is necessary, and as you decide why, be gentle and loving with yourself and others. We are all doing the best we can with the information that we have. Self-study and self-help are enormously brave and challenging, but so much growth happens in these spaces.
  2. Journal or jot down all of your reflections/ ideas/ goals/ intentions so that you can come back to them and track your progress.
  3. Ask a buddy to check in with you on one of your goals. You can even put a reminder in your calendar each day/ week/ month to keep yourself on track and keep motivated. 
  4. Create a short mantra related to your intention that you can say to yourself when you feel like you are backsliding. For example if your intention is more self love and you are starting to act in self sabotaging ways, you can leave a note in your mirror or at your desk with a mantra like, “I am enough.” Seeing a visual sign can be a good reminder to keep you on track.
  5. Remember your self care. Are you taking good care of yourself? What can you add or subtract from your routine to make yourself feel more balanced. When you feel out of balance, ask yourself, “what do I need in this moment?”
  6. Don’t be rigid. As dedicated as we can be, take time to also let go and keep things light. Enjoy life!
My intention with this blog post is for all of you to be able to reflect over the past year and identify and remember all of the joy you have had, without putting undue pressure on yourselves, and, if applicable, reflect on the suffering as well. By reflecting on suffering, we can identify root causes and learn how to avoid, heal, and create positive change for 2019. This will make us better able to face the challenges ahead, which is inevitable always. Challenge is not always negative and is so necessary for our growth. Dealing with mental illness my whole life, I find that the more I understand my pain, the better I can recover and prevent it from taking over. I can instead view my pain as a teacher and a growth component. I wish the same for all of you! A huge lesson for me over time, has been to realize that pain and suffering will always be there, let it be a teacher.
May 2019 bring you the growth that you are hoping for and pure and simple joy. Keep doing the things that make your inner light shine.
With all of my heart,
Maddie Tuohy

Tis’ the Season to be Grateful

Hello fellow busy brains!

Welcome back, to the Running Mind Blog. It has been about four months since my last post and I am very sorry for that. Life has been busy, hectic, and fun all at the same time! I can’t believe it is already almost Thanksgiving! The holidays are upon us, and whatever that means for all of you, I hope that you are finding gratitude in your daily life.

Gratitude has become a trendy word. It is painted on mugs, shirts, pillows, and overly hash tagged for sure (#Grateful). Can gratitude be overdone? It can definitely be mis-marketed, but I don’t think you can ever have too much gratitude! Gratitude journals have become a popular tool for managing moods and feeling better on a daily basis amidst our stressful society. Logging things that you are appreciative of in your life on a daily basis is definitely a powerful exercise, and if you are prone to more negative thinking, it can really make a difference.

Try this:
Log 3 things each day that you are grateful for. Make them really specific and unique to you, and you may notice even more of a mindset shift/mood lift. For example, instead of saying “I am grateful for my husband,” you would write, “I am grateful my husband listened to my whole work story today with all of his attention.” Or, “I am grateful my co-worker, Jeremy brought me a coffee.” Doing a gratitude journal can really help when you are feeling low, or like the universe is not cooperating with you.

We live in such a busy, plugged-in society and it is easy to get swept up in the hustle and bustle, as we reach for our goals. This is where yoga comes in. This season I am thankful for yoga (#GratefulforYoga). Yoga participation rises with the participation in technology, and this is no surprise, since our minds and bodies need the yoga to decompress from the technological over-stimulation. Yoga is the union of the breath and the body. It encompasses various tools and practices used to still the mind and ease tension in the body. A common misconception is that yoga is stretching, but the poses are only a small component of yoga. Without yoga, I would not be where I am today and my health would certainly not be where it is today. Yoga was a game changer for my mental and physical health, but the tools I have acquired from yoga philosophy and practice, extend to all areas of my life. There is: yoga for relationships, yoga for anxiety, yoga for work stress, yoga for depression, yoga for neck pain, yoga for addiction, yoga for awareness, the list goes on and on and ON. For the purposes of this post, we won’t dive into all of these different types of yoga, but always feel free to reach out if you are interested in learning more!

So how do we access gratitude if we are stressed/annoyed/depressed? The first step is becoming present. Being present is simply being in your own company and noticing what comes up. Here is an exercise to try to find some presence, pause, or peace in your day:

Find a favorite spot in the house or a favorite couch/cozy chair. Prop yourself up with pillows if you’d like, so that you are sitting up tall. Take a few deep breaths and just let the eyes close. As you take your deep breaths, notice the texture of the chair you are on or the coziness of the blanket you are under. Continue to breathe deeply and notice the quality of your thoughts. Are they coming often? Like running thoughts? Are you anxious? Just notice, don’t judge. As your thoughts pop up, acknowledge them, and then, take your attention back to your breath. Start with three minutes and increase over time.

This is a simple mindfulness exercise, that when done consistently over time, will increase your awareness by making you more present in your own life. When the awareness is increased, it is easier to see that certain situations at work have less negative charge than we think, or that co-worker isn’t as bad as we thought. The mundane parts of our life become illuminated because we are taking time to connect to our inner selves, the part of us that is not our thoughts.

Yoga teaches us that all situations are neutral, and that we place positive or negative charge on them. I think this is key to remember during the holidays. For example, when my grandpa comments on my weight, like he does every year, I remember that his observation is neutral, and I am putting negative charge on it (even though sometimes he is putting the charge on just a bit ;)). If you have any particularly difficult relatives, it can be helpful to remind yourself that they are putting negative charge on things, but you don’t have to. “Tis’ the season to be NEUTRAL” certainly won’t make it on a mug, but it is a good slogan to keep in your back pocket. When we are repulsed by or aversive to someone, it usually is because something within us is triggered, this is also good to keep in mind as you get together over the holidays. Compassion always wins!

I look back on 2018 with a very grateful heart. It was a wonderful year and it also had some very tough times. I got married and enjoyed all kinds of festivities leading up to the big day. My husband and I bought our first home together and I continued to grow a business out of passion. At the same time I was preparing for my wedding, I was facing my biggest fear. I went through a six month health scare crisis, getting two CT scans, more blood work than I could ever imagine possible, and the worst, a bone marrow biopsy. The universe is continually reminding me that I am not my body. The unknown and uncertain scare me the most, and that’s how this health scare sort of concluded, who knows? I am learning to allow that uncertainty and accept it, but I still have a ways to go! I just remember that difficult roads often lead to beautiful destinations and remain as present as possible.

I hope you have enjoyed my yoga, “Thanksgiving edition” tips, I will have to write a Christmas/Hanukkah post as well ;). What I hoped to convey in this message is that gratitude is important and we can all create it. This time of year reminds us to reflect on our lives and genuinely feel the gratitude and express to others that we are thankful for them. We get together and eat, and drink, and share the love, so I invite you to be as present as possible with the ones you love. Put your phone away and soak in the togetherness. Setting an intention for your Thanksgiving day can also keep you on track and you can remind yourself of it when you feel yourself wanting to over-indulge in the sweets or yell at your sister in law… ha ha (but, seriously)!

May your food be warm, your hugs be warm, and your heart be warm. Namaste.

Love,

Maddie (changing my sign off name to my real name now that I am married and, EvySieg, does not make sense ;))

Stop Swimming Against the Current, Ride the Wave~~~~

It has been about four months since my last post. In those four months I continued to explore what was going on with my blood work and my health. It has been a learning process. I have had dozens of appointments, sinus surgery, constant blood work, and, my least favorite, a bone marrow biopsy (OUCH). While no one likes to hear something abnormal is going on, an anxious person doesn’t like to hear this times 100. Anxiety is essentially the same as fear, both originating from the same part of the brain (the amygdala). AND, anxious people can get anxious over all sorts of things, but one fear that we all have in common is uncertainty. Uncertainty can drive us absolutely mad. Uncertain things make anxious people spiral; relationships, jobs, finances, weekend plans, if these things are uncertain, then there is a threat. Once there is a threat, the flight or fight system is activated and cortisol is released. Once this threat system starts happening more regularly, the body starts to break down because the sympathetic nervous system is dominant and there is never a chance to recover. P.S THIS IS WHY YOGA SAVES ME. Yoga activates the restful, parasympathetic nervous system and allows the body to wind down and catch up, to recover.

As much as I know all of these things: do yoga, meditate, say mantras, rest and digest, life events can still get the best of me and having an anxiety disorder means I am ALWAYS working on it. I happen to be a bit of a hypochondriac (“a bit” may be an understatement). During these past eight months I have been seeing doctors, who can’t give me a diagnosis or tell me exactly what is wrong. Instead, they just tell me things about my blood work and we continue to wait and to dig, and I continue to go down a scary, lonely rabbit hole (I should mention that rabbit holes are not good places for anxious people, either).

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Six months into this journey of “abnormal blood work,” I started to realize I was losing my mind a little. I was so overly fearful of every symptom. I was sick of getting scared when I felt a certain way or noticed something abnormal. I thought, “What is the worst case scenario.” Sometimes, it is helpful for anxious people to identify what the worst outcome would be and then reassure themselves from there. In most cases, death could be the answer. Working through “the fear of death” can be a helpful experience. Just imagining peace around dying and realizing that it will one day come, no matter what, can be oddly soothing (in yoga, the fear of death is one of the seven “seeds” of suffering).

I was swimming in the ocean one Saturday and just let myself drift with the current. Just daydreaming in the ocean, I realized I had been swimming against the current for seven months. If I keep fighting this current I will never make it to the shore. That’s when I realized I had become a little wrapped up and that I needed to start riding the wave of life. I loved this metaphor because I am an ocean baby, but here is what it means:

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In life you have two choices, accept circumstances or resist them. When you accept hardships and pain in your life, you reduce suffering. Acceptance is learning to ride the wave. Ride with its current and it will eventually deliver you to the shore. Fight against it and you will tire yourself out and eventually drown (morbid, I know). We resist the current out of fear. Riding the wave doesn’t mean you’re not scared, but it means you have courage. I love this quote from Mike Tyson’s trainer:

“The hero and the coward both feel the same thing. But the hero uses his fear, while the coward runs. It’s the same fear, but it’s what you do with it that matters.”

The hero rides the wave of life, accepting and moving along. The coward fights and resists the current, causing chaos to brew in the mind and later in the body.

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I thought of another fun metaphor while running today. For all my fellow runners’ out there, I am sure you can relate. Getting through hardships in life is like conquering a really hard hill along your run. When you are running on the incline, it is really hard to understand that it will be over soon and you can get angry and mentally blocked preparing for that hill. In reality, you will always get over the hill and finish your run, even if you have to walk a little.

For any non-runners who totally did not get that, what I mean to say is, everything comes to an end, but it is how we deal with the hard parts of life that really shape who we are. So, when you are in the brutal worst parts of the inclines in your life, I invite you to ride the wave. Accept the situation, but make your life beautiful by learning and understanding your challenges. Challenge is what shapes us ultimately. When things are going swimmingly well, we usually learn nothing.

I have learned so much in the past five years. I know how I tick and what makes my anxiety-prone brain go haywire. I have learned to witness my behavior and become more aware of the unhealthy habits that I fall in and out of and I have worked day in, and day out, on replacing them with new, healthy habits. I realize I will have hard days and that’s okay, so long as I do not burden others with my hard days. I have learned that we have to rely on ourselves more than anyone else on the planet. We are the ones who will ultimately make a difference in our anxiety and it is hard for our partners/friends/families to understand why we feel the way that we feel or why we are so anxious “over nothing.” We cannot make others responsible and it is empowering to do the work yourself. I always think of the warrior from yoga. Be the warrior, riding the wave of life!

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I have a strong feeling that this whole “health crisis” journey is a major blessing for me because it will allow me to help clients in my yoga therapy practice, and that is truly a gift and a blessing. It has only made me stronger.

If anyone else is experiencing lots of uncertainty in their lives, I also highly recommend Sarah Wilson’s new book, First, we Make the Beast Beautiful. She does a lovely job of illustrating how to live a beautiful life with anxiety. I recently started reading it and I adore each chapter.

I am just about to launch a new website for my yoga therapy business in a few days. I got married on June 2nd and we will be buying our first home together at the end of August. Life is a crazy wave and I am riding it.

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The Power of Mind/Body Exercise: dealing with a compromised immune system

Hello and Happy Spring!

Wherever you are in the world reading this post, I hope you are starting to see the snow melt, and the flowers bloom. It has been a very slow process here in Northern Virginia, but we are all very hopeful for the spring sunshine.

It has been a while since I have posted, and truthfully a tumultuous time in my life. I wanted to make sure I had a great post for you guys when it came about. This month, I want to spend some time touching on the importance of exercise, not just for the physical body, but for the mind, too.

As some of you may know, by profession I am a personal trainer and a yoga teacher/ yoga therapist. I did not choose this field, rather it chose me. I started experiencing depression and anxiety at age eight. Since about age twelve, I went out for runs and moved around in my spare time. This is normal (or was normal in the 90’s, hello technology of 2018), but it always helped my anxiety and depression. By the time I was in college, I was using exercise as treatment almost every day. When a period of really high anxiety would come about, I would stop what I was doing and do as many push-ups as I could. On the rare occasion that I experience that “angry” anxiety today, I still do push ups in the moment! It works so well because you are literally pushing the stress out through your muscles and into the floor- very powerful. It doesn’t hurt to work the body a little extra, too ;). When you are stressed and anxious, your adrenal glands release the hormone, cortisol. When people just sit there while the cortisol is being released, they feel much more anxious! Doing an isometric movement, like a plank or pressing the hands together as hard as you can (great for traffic), will go a long way.

A couple of studies have been done recently and articles have been posted to the Huffington Post, The Atlantic, and Harvard Medical Publishing, regarding the effects exercise has on anxiety and depression. These articles say that exercise alone is more effective than any anti-depressant on the market. This is HUGE news, but is it really that surprising?

When you get up and move you are doing SO many good things for your body and your mind. You are activating your lymphatic system, which is our drainage system and helps fight colds. You are increasing your circulation, producing feel good hormones, and creating more oxygen. The benefits are ENDLESS. Some people have bad experiences with exercise and think all exercise is painful and dreadful. That is where they are wrong! You may have to change the way you relate to exercise. For example, why not just call it movement instead of exercise? Once a day, you can make it a goal to just move, whether you are walking the dog or just stretching in your cubicle, start small and build up over time.

It also helps to find a form of exercise you really love. Studies show that when people aren’t enjoying the style of exercise they are doing, they don’t reap as many benefits physically. That is that mind-body connection at work. If you love punching the bag with boxing gloves, your mind and body are going to benefit more than if you are stomping away at the treadmill and feeling annoyed!

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I do movement every single day. It wakes me up, replenishes me, and reminds me that I am alive and well. Strength training reminds me of how strong I am and makes me feel like I can conquer the world. Running around the yard with my dog makes me feel playful and young. The past few months have been physically and emotionally straining for me, but I still manage to move each day and it helps so much!

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I went to a functional doctor to try to figure out some tummy troubles I was having (GI upset). All of my GI tests came back pretty normal, but we discovered that my immune system was compromised. How could this be? I am working 12-hour days, working out for an hour each day, and feeling pretty normal. As we dove deeper and deeper into fancy blood work, we learned that I have a detrimental allergy to mold and may have been exposed for years. My brain is inflamed, which inflames the stomach and creates more anxiety- yikes.

Forty supplements later and lots and lots of worrying, I am starting to remember what is really important. With a compromised immune system I am probably the strongest I have ever been, physically and mentally. Past experiences with these vague health concerns have taught me that you cannot become attached to how you feel every day, because it is always changing. If you get attached to things that are changing, you will always be suffering (thank you, yoga sutras).  What you can rely on is your breath. Each time I think about a symptom I am having, I take a few deep, slow breaths. The symptoms are a result of me living in this world, my breath is a result of the true me.

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If anyone is suffering with anything (physical, mental), I urge you to try daily movement. If you don’t know where to begin, start looking at YouTube videos for inspiration. There are so many great workouts on YouTube and a variety of intensities and lengths for all levels. For me, the movement reminds me that my body is an amazing machine, and the deep slow breathing reminds me of who I truly am: mentally and physically strong, with a passion for fully understanding how to love and care for myself.

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Remember, the body benefits from movement and the mind from stillness. When you move, you can still the mind. Kill two birds with one stone!

If you are in the Northern Virginia area and interested in personal training/yoga/ yoga therapy, feel free to contact me! I provide a discount to my readers 😉

 

Get up and move!

Lots of love,

 

Maddie Siegel

NEW YEAR, SAME ME

Happy New Year to all my RunningMindBlog readers!

Can you believe it is 2018? It feels surreal and it feels fresh, but it also feels, well, sort of the same. New Years gets a lot of attention in the media as being a time to renew, restart, change, and start new habits and routines. While some of these things can be good ideas and held in good intentions, they some times just leave us feeling more overwhelmed than we already are.

 

Lots of people see January first as a date to begin being: better, faster, stronger, skinnier, smarter, more eco-friendly, you name it. People flock to the gyms and health clubs to try and lose weight, but studies show that these numbers of people drop off dramatically after only around three months. Why is there such a high failure rate? Maybe it is because these “resolutions” are set in the dead of winter when change is the hardest to make, and also maybe there is not a strong enough foundation behind the resolutions. For example, if someone’s resolution is to lose 15 pounds, well why? Let’s just pretend their goal is to achieve overall health and wellness. Losing weight is a side effect of a goal like “overall health.” We need to focus on a virtue or set of virtues and then, from there, create smaller, achievable goals. Maybe the person who is trying desperately to lose weight is lacking a virtue, for example, lets just use self-love. By setting an intention to cultivate more self-love by dedicating more time to taking care of oneself, weight loss can be achieved as a side effect, or smaller goal in the larger picture.

 

Resolutions are usually associated with bettering oneself in the immediate future and can add more stress to daily life. By setting an intention based around a virtue or set of virtues, you are helping yourself grow without putting unnecessary pressure on yourself. This 2018, I invite you to just take some time and think about which virtue/virtues you could use a little more of in your life, then from there, you can begin to form smaller, achievable goals that lead you closer to that big virtue.

 

This year I noticed more and more people talking about how they could be better in 2018 and it really got me thinking. I kept hearing and seeing the phrase on social media, “New Year, new me.” How about NEW YEAR SAME ME? Instead of focusing on how you could be better, why not focus on a few things that you did that were totally awesome in 2017? Why not take some time and reflect on what you want to continue doing and what worked really well? Focus on what made you feel good/inspired/empowered and how you plan to continue it in 2018. The truth is that life is like a rollercoaster. We will inevitably have ups and downs, happy times and sad times. Instead of putting so much energy into how you can be happy all the time, focus more on how you handle yourself in the down slopes of the coaster. This means it is okay to feel sad sometimes, it is an emotion that will pass, just like winter will inevitably change into spring. Sometimes just taking a few deep breaths and saying to yourself, “this too shall pass,” can make a big difference.

 

Let 2018 fill you up, not bring you down. Focus on the positive from 2017 and bring it into 2018, leaving all the negativity behind. When you are feeling the most overwhelmed, take time to pause and take a few, long deep breaths to reconnect to the moment.

 

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(A little beach yoga over the holidays in Marathon, FL)

I wish everyone the very best as we emerge into a New Year and a new moon!

 

Go forth and conquer!

 

Be well,

 

EvySieg

Crushing Winter Blues: A season of death and rebirth

Hello, Busy Brains!

It has been a season or two since I have posted, and boy I am I grateful for winter after a summer and fall of chaos (good chaos) and running around. It is true that summer and fall are the energetic, busy seasons, and winter follows them for a good reason. Winter is meant to be a season of repair, rest, hope, and preparation for what’s to come and blossom in the spring. Winter is a blessing in disguise. The darkness tells us to sleep longer, stay inside with loved ones more, and dream about our spring desires.

What are your spring desires? Does the winter leave you feeling blue? You are not alone on the second question. The prolonged darkness is a little to blame here, as well as the isolation the colder temperatures seem to influence. Despite these few limiting factors, the winter is a gift and meant to be enjoyed. It is an excuse to take an earlier break, rest longer, and spend more time at home. If you are feeling particularly blue this season, here are a few helpful tips to cheer you up:

 

  1. Shine a little light: Try to get outside often (bundled up of course) and enjoy the winter beauty and sunlight. You can buy a mood lifting light to use wherever you are when days are darker. Light therapy has been shown to help reduce feelings of sadness in people with Seasonal Mood Affective Disorder. You can buy them on Amazon, like this one:

https://www.amazon.com/Verilux-HappyLight-Liberty-Personal-Portable/dp/B00K08ZDBI/ref=sr_1_3_a_it?ie=UTF8&qid=1513817618&sr=8-3&keywords=light%2Blamp%2Bfor%2Bdepression&th=1

2. Start dreaming for Spring: Make a list of goals or visions of things you want to tackle in the spring, maybe a business venture or a personal hobby. Imagining your potential will help lift your spirits and get you feeling creative.

3. Indulge the senses in some self-care: Take more hot baths, spend time meditating and doing yoga in candlelight, eat nourishing, warm foods and drink hot, herbal teas. Giving back to yourself will leave you feeling full and rested.

4. Connect with the people closest to you: On cold nights, stay in and have a game or movie night. Talk closely with loved ones over a fire and re-connect after a busy week at work. Feeling close to loved ones naturally boosts mood!

Coming from someone with a mood disorder, winter can get dark and dreary if you let it. The tips seem obvious, but they are great reminders. I think winter is also a death of a season and a rebirth of a new one. We can examine our own habits, behaviors and possessions in this way, too. It is a time to let go of something that is no longer serving us, lay it to rest, and make room for something new to grow.

Just this fall, my fiancé and I moved to a new state, got completely new jobs, and began searching for a home to buy. My sister and best friend got married and I began wedding planning for myself. In just three short months, I have transitioned into a career role I am really enjoying, as a yoga therapist and personal trainer. The busyness of the fall, although very positive, left me very tired. I am grateful to take this winter to rest and recover so I can leap into spring like a tiger!

I decided to take a very big step and slowly reduce down off my last medication. I have been on psychiatric medications since I was eight years old after an early OCD diagnosis (long story, but it is what led me to this blog and yoga ;)). By January first I will be medication free. To put it in perspective, I was on six different medications in 2015. Over the last five years, (more specifically, the last two years) I have studied my mind and habits diligently and learned to turn off the running thoughts that caused so much suffering. Through a dedicated and disciplined lifestyle of balanced living and yoga, I was able to reduce my medications more and more (I want to be clear that I am not promoting going off all medications, rather I support them and believe each individual is truly unique). To me, this winter is a huge death of a coping mechanism that sometimes worked well for me, and sometimes caused me lots of pain, but I am grateful and hopeful for the rebirth of new habits towards maintaining a balanced and medication free life! The truth is, yoga and wellness towards whole person well-being is a practice, and we must continue to work towards it to achieve it.

My hope is that all of you use this Winter as a time to rest, repair, and DREAM. Dream of what is to come and be grateful for those who are around you. When you notice yourself feeling blue, remember: our moods are constantly changing, just like the seasons. If we become attached to these emotions, we will suffer. Reduce suffering by letting go, and doing something you enjoy/need/crave.

I wish everyone the most joyous holiday season and look forward to the New Year! See you in 2018!!!

Now, go dream!

Lots of love,

 

EvySieg

 

 

 

When the Going Gets Tough, Keep on Going: The art of re-training your thoughts.

Welcome back to the Running Mind Blog! 

I hope everyone has been enjoying this beautiful summer season thus far. In my last blog post, I talked about spring intentions. I hope everyone has kept those in mind and is having success or progress this summer! This month, we will dive into some deeper stuff and learn about re-training the thoughts that are ailing us.

This month’s post is a lot more personal and honest than usual, but I think it may be relatable, and thus helpful for some of my readers. This spring, leading into summer, was a little rockier than expected. I lost quite a bit of clientele due to summer vacations, and began to really stress about my finances. This journey has been so enlightening, leaving the federal government, to pursue my passion in helping others through yoga therapy, but it comes with great challenges. Although I have the love and support of my entire family and fiancé, I still let my mind run all over the place about how I am never going to make it in this industry, and constantly fearing failure. I started using a scarcity mindset, convincing myself that I did not have enough, that I was not enough. This lead to mental stress which led to physical stress and I started having gastrointestinal issues as a result. Boy, is that brain powerful (and living in my stomach LOL)! In addition to stomach issues, I also had vertigo for a straight two weeks, every day. Instead of accepting it right away, I stressed about it and feared for my health and well-being, which kept it coming back each day.

Once I made a few doctors’ visits and learned, once again, there is nothing wrong with me, I knew the culprit. I take my stress on physically and it needed to end (this was not the first time)! Each time I felt pain in my stomach or vertigo behind my eyes and noticed myself starting to get tense, I would stop and accept it. By accepting the pain, I mean to say that I resisted the urge to question it and focus on it. It is a really hard task when you are in discomfort, but it helps if you come up with a little mantra or saying. I came up with one that is really helpful for me, and that I still use:

“I accept the things that I cannot change, and I let go of the things that are not serving me.”

So what about when those questions about the future pop up? I’m still low on work and that anxiety doesn’t just disappear. I had to re-train my thoughts around how I think about it. The usual conversation with myself would go something like this:

“I only had x amount of clients this week, I am not enough, I will never be enough. What will happen next week?”

Instead of torturing myself with this negative self-talk, I started talking back to it. These are called counter statements. You have to first become aware of how you are speaking to yourself; this alone can take a few weeks. Once you are tuned in and noticing the negative self talk, you can begin to construct counter statements to prove those statements wrong. My therapist always referred to this as, “putting your thoughts on trial.” So, to my statement above, I may say something back like, “I am doing all I can and I am enough.” Another thing that has really helped me with these types of “uncertainty” thoughts is allowing myself to have a question mark there. I am allowing myself to not know what will happen in a few weeks and to be okay with it for now. Uncertainty is a HUGE fear for most people with anxiety. So, a good exercise for these types of thoughts is trying to allow and permit uncertainty, and learning it is not going to kill you. It will probably make you stronger. You can also ask yourself, “What will happen if I do not know the answer today? Will I survive and make it to next week? What about next month?” The answer most likely YES, you will make it to next year even if you don’t have these answers right now.

Another area that these counter statements are super helpful, is with body image. I have had some form of body dysmorphia my whole young adult life. When I am stressed, I will start to pick on myself a little and be much more critical. Self-love has always been my biggest lesson, and I know to be a great yoga therapist, I must really love myself first. When I tuned in to how I was talking to my body during this stressful time, I realized it was so ugly. I began catching myself saying something unpleasant about my stomach and would write it down and then write a counter statement. These counter statements do not have to be overly positive, in fact they can simply be neutral. But, each time you shift the thought, you are re-training your brain. I will continue to work with these for a while, but over the past few months, I have noticed that my relationship to my body has really improved. I no longer let myself get away with saying anything nasty about my body. Even if I say it, I will quickly respond with, “that is not true.” This simple switch to acknowledging something as untrue goes a long way. The body really does hear everything the brain says, and being ugly to yourself will not help your body change, but will probably keep it from getting healthier. The mind-body connect is so strong! This is the first time in my life where I have actually felt confident, all around, about my body. I always knew I was strong, could run far, and lift heavy things, but for the first time in probably 15 years, I love my body.

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I want to make an important distinction between loving my body and being attached to it. My shape is going to shift over the years, and if I am attached, I will suffer (like I did for so long). I am instead, attached to the unchanging parts of myself, that help me stay healthy and free. These past few months have helped me realize that self-love and patience are virtues I need to continuously be working towards. Life has some powerful lessons, if you are listening, you can hear them!

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In the photo to the left, I was pretty anxious, suffering with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and totally at war with my body. The photo on the right was taken yesterday. In my own personal experience, when my mental state is good, my body feels good, too. We are not our bodies, but we should be nice to them, no matter what shape they are.

I encourage anyone experiencing negative self-talk to start using counter statements! Write them down at first, it keeps you accountable. After you write the statement down, decide how true it feels (scale of 1-10). Next, create a counter statement that dismisses the original thought. Lastly, how much do you believe the original negative thought now (scale of 1-10)? Over time, you will automatically be able to counter the negative thoughts without writing them down, and that my friends, is re-training your brain. Powerful stuff!

Feel free to connect with me if you have any questions/ comments! I also recently launched a professional website for my services, check it out!

 

Click here 🙂

IG: _Namastay_Fit

FB: Namastay Fit

Be well,

EvySieg

Spring Intentions: time to bloom

Welcome back to all my readers! I hope everyone enjoyed the Warrior Project 2017… more to come on that in a few months! This month I want to focus on setting new intentions for the new season. Coming out of a cold winter and into a bright Spring (at least thats the case in Philadelphia ;))

Spring has Sprung! The flowers have bloomed, the sun is shining, and every thing immediately feels a little better. The temperatures haven’t dropped below sixty degrees in Philadelphia for a few days. I wonder to myself, how come the weather has such an effect on my mood and activity level? I know it isn’t very yogi of me to be attached to changing weather, yet I find myself feeling all of this relief and nourishment with the recent few days of great weather. It has been a rough month, so it feels like light at the end of a dark tunnel.

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(Pictured above: walking with Lace and Timber on the river walk this week)

Over a month ago I got into a car accident and suffered a concussion. Four days after my accident, my fiancé tore his ACL & MCL playing basketball. We have been taking care of each other and it has not been easy. I think it has been great practice for marriage! My concussion lasted around 40 days and as tedious and frustrating as it was, it was such a learning experience. I am such a “go go go” type of gal, always on foot, doing too many things at once. Yoga has helped me with this, but I realized I still have a ways to go. It was almost impossible for me to surrender to resting in a dark room for weeks (or at least felt that way). All I could think about was my body decaying and softening as I lay for hours. Through my injury and taking care of my wounded lover, I learned I had some work to do. The experience helped me realize I need to work on patience, self-love, and letting things go.

The shift in seasons is a wonderful opportunity to edit intentions and goals and create new ones. It makes it more fun and meaningful to start with a fresh slate. I spent a lot of time on my yoga mat during the last half of my concussion. I mainly laid on it and practiced deep breathing, meditating, and gentle stretches. I figured my brain would at least benefit from the quiet. Here is where I began formulating my new intentions. For spring, I want to be much more compassionate with myself, so that I can properly care for Mike after his surgery. I want to be more patient and take more time to do simple things like eat my lunch. Lastly, I want to let go of things that happen and be more present. This is a lot for one intention, but it can be simplified so that it fits into daily life.

The formula for good intentions: Pinpoint what it is you want to work on and then make it more specific.

Example: of a pinpoint: “I want to work on being more patient with Mike and others and I want to stop doing negative self-talk.

Narrowing it down: I want to be more patient and compassionate with my self and others. Try and keep the intention in the present tense, like “I am enough” versus “I will love myself.”

Once you have formulated an intention, or at least narrowed it down to a sentence, you can begin taking it a step further by thinking of things you could do/not do, to strengthen the intention. For example, for my intention of self love and patience, I decided to meditate a little longer each day and make sure to do a down regulating activity before bed (deep breathing, meditation, reading, journaling, etc.). By adding in these smaller goals, I am slowing myself down more and bringing awareness into my daily life, which helps me, focus on my intention. These smaller goals could be as small as eating one less cookie a week, or as big as mediating for 20 minutes every day. Each person is different, and you want to make sure your goals are reasonable for your lifestyle. It may not be smart to opt to meditate 30 minutes per day or take sugar completely out of your diet if you’ve never tried it. For more guidance on how to formulate SMART goals, check out the following link.

 

Make yourself accountable for the new intention and goal(s) you have created by recording them in a journal and tell a loved one about them if you’d like. Sometimes, talking about them with others inspires us more and holds us more accountable. Spring is such a symbolic time to set new goals. Imagine you are planting the seed of intention and now you can watch it bloom all spring! Just thinking about what you want to work on is a great first step. Being able to identify what it is that is causing your stress and anxiety in your life can be the hardest part of the process. Take time to do this and be open.

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During my concussion time, I got so caught up in my own head. I was so worried about silly things. I whined every single day to my poor cripple fiancé about how I couldn’t run or do cardio. I feared looking out of shape as fitness professional after a month of low activity. Meanwhile, my fiancé will not be able to run for months. I was able to intervene during this self-loathing process because I have built up that awareness in my yoga practice. I was given the tools over years of therapy and yoga courses, to understand what needed to be done here. I sat down on my yoga mat and I closed my eyes. I breathed and I found that unchanging part of myself that reminds me each time, “this too shall pass.”

I am sitting in the waiting room of the Jefferson Surgical Center now writing this blog as my fiancé lies under heavy anesthesia in an operating room where he is having a full reconstruction of his ACL. Last night was a full moon and the new moon will bring new hope, love joy and laughter. We are stronger together each day.

 

I invite everyone to take time this month to formulate a spring intention and then watch it bloom like wildflowers. Know that everything you hope to be is already within you.

 

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Happy blooming, friends! Please feel free to comment below what your Spring intentions are. All additional comments/questions/inquiries can be sent to flowwithmaddie@gmail.com.

 

Sending love,

EvySieg