Going deeper can be terrifying, but not as much with a kind guide

I can’t believe it’s been two months to the day since my session with Evelyn Talmadge at Goalsmiths. I met Evelyn when I first moved to Austin at the end of 2013, at a Meetup. We clicked instantly and became friends. As we talked more over the next year, it was clear to me that she had skills that might help me overcome some troublesome issues from my past, but as always, I didn’t want to go there.

But in February, I kept feeling a tightness in my chest that I knew was fear / anxiety, and so we arranged a session for me. I had no idea what to expect. I had been hypnotized before some years back (specifically to help me overcome performance anxiety when dancing competitively), but I didn’t feel like it did very much. Evelyn was very kind as she led me into her office. She made sure I was physically comfortable (I was having a lot of back trouble at the time) and we began to talk naturally about what was going on for me.

It was clear Evelyn had a lot of experience and tools to draw from, because she didn’t hesitate one bit after hearing what I said. In a soothing, calm, confident, and loving manner, she explained what we were going to do at each part, which is important to me because when I don’t know what’s expected I can feel uneasy. I felt as though she understood exactly what I was going through, and I sensed her encouragement and support. It felt as though she was my very own cheerleader.

After the hypnosis part of the session was over, my reaction was: “that sucked, and it was awesome!”. I gained a totally new understanding of a long-standing situation that has kept me feeling angry and unloved. As I was “under” I physically felt a lot of different sensations: headache, jaw release, tears, light-headed, neck strain. It’s where I hold my anger I guess, or did that day–in and around my head. I felt completely control of my body, and very relaxed even though sometimes the topic of conversation was challenging.

I’m not generally very good at letting go and surrendering anger (or much else for that matter!), and I won’t say that I did great on this point but I think I did better than I ever have. I believe that was possible only because Evelyn made me feel safe. After the hypnosis part we moved on to Psych-K, where Evelyn helped me find an affirmation I didn’t feel like rolling my eyes over. She also showed me how to position my body to instill it deep inside me, and encouraged me to do it in the morning and evening every day.

I wish I could say I’d been a better client, but I wasn’t. I was physically WRECKED after the session. I’d planned to go do a workout, and I ended up driving home, crawling into bed, and sleeping so soundly that when my partner came home he almost couldn’t wake me up. The session had exhausted me, and after a few days of practicing the affirmation, familiar resistant parts of me took hold again and I stopped doing it.

Two months later, after talking with another wonderful and talented lady named Tina Michelle and receiving a diagnosis on the chronic back pain that’s plagued me for over 4 months, I know I’m ready to continue my sessions with Evelyn. I need to go deeper, and Evelyn is the one to help me.

Don’t waste your time doing yoga

I started doing yoga using a DVD, because I was curious and I wanted to add variety to my exercise routine. I followed along as best I could, and noticed that over time I could do more.  Then I started trying group yoga classes. Some I liked, some I didn’t. But I always learned something new from each instructor–a tip or trick that helped me “be” in a posture more comfortably or feel a deeper release. Sometimes that tip meant that oh, I wasn’t doing the posture fully, and now it was damn hard!

Many years later, after my rotator cuff had been beat up from too many Chaturangas, I finally learned how to safely come down without strain on my shoulder, all because a teacher stopped class and demonstrated it. Then I did a private yoga session, and learned how my alignment in many postures was NOT at all what I thought it was. I also learned that there were more options for the poses than I could have ever discovered in class–options that were best for me during that specific time in my life.

Why am I telling you this? Because I don’t want you to waste your time doing yoga.

How I wish I knew some of those tips and tricks earlier, especially before hurting my shoulder! How I wish I knew I hadn’t been doing Triangle pose correctly, cheating myself out of strengthening a side of my body that was weak! If I learned more specifically about proper breathing technique and/or yogic sleep, I could have used it to manage issues like stress and insomnia years ago. If someone had helped me shape a short home practice that I could do every day without feeling like it was a chore, I could have been healthier, stronger, and more flexible, both on my mat and in my life.

First, I’m not trying to discourage anyone from taking a group yoga class. You will certainly learn something new about yoga in any group class you take. I always offer tips and tricks about alignment and breathing when I teach. But I ask you:

  • Are you truly aware of where your weak spots are, where you’re starting from? What about your strengths? (We often dismiss those and/or don’t use them to our advantage.)
  • Do you really know whether what the instructor said is appropriate for YOUR body? (A general rule doesn’t mean it absolutely applies to you.)
  • Can you translate the words the instructor said into that particular physical alignment? Can you be sure you’re in the alignment you think you are, when you can’t see your entire body? And if so, can you feel that alignment when you’re not looking in one of the gym mirrors?
  • Are you still able to breathe and keep a softness in your jaw and face? If not, do you know what to change?
  • Do you know whether the sensations you feel are appropriate and not actually injurious?
  • Have you ever been surprised to learn that you didn’t know what you thought you did?

How many group classes will you have to attend to figure out YOUR unique yoga practice on your own, gathering little tips along the way like I did? Probably a lot. That’s a lot of time, often a lot of money, and a lot of trial and error. Either way, can you really afford that?

Week after week I teach classes attended by new yoga students, and returning students who deal with the same challenges class after class.  Yes, I walk around the room and do my best to help, but with a full class I can’t address you specifically in each and every pose. I also don’t know all the ins and outs of your body without having a more lengthy conversation with you.

senior_yoga_assistIdeally I want you to learn good form right from the beginning–and I don’t mean the form that makes the pose look like any yoga photo you’ve ever seen (unless it’s a photo I take of you!). If you’ve been doing yoga for awhile and aren’t seeing improvement in your flexibility, strength, balance, sleep, stress levels, etc., I want to work with you to help you make real progress.

How much is it worth to learn:

  • Poses that work for YOU on day one because they honor your body’s unique anatomy?
  • poses you’d feel confident choosing to do in a group class because you know your body better and are taking control of your health?
  • A yoga practice that targets your specific physical and mental/emotional health conditions, yet is reasonable enough to do daily to see real improvements in your overall well-being?
  • Ways of being that make you feel even better than you do after a general yoga class?

Taking a private with a yoga instructor might cost a little more each time, but what you get are maximum benefits from a personalized yoga practice that over time, costs you LESS in time and effort. You will learn body awareness. You will have the space to feel into the postures and nurture stretches longer, increasing their ability to heal your body. If you’re in pain, you’ll work with your instructor to find a position of comfort and release. If you aren’t able to do particular postures right at that moment, you’ll learn what to do instead (until maybe someday you can), and feel empowered about your choice to use appropriate modifications in group classes. Your practice will evolve from one week or month to the next, as you work one-on-one with your teacher.

Your teacher might also help you examine the choices you make in your daily life–the negative stressors that might be contributing to aches and pains you’re currently experiencing. For example:

  • I encouraged one of my students who complained of back pain to aware of how she interacted with her child. She noticed she was frequently bending over improperly, and when she became more mindful about her movements outside of yoga, her back pain ceased.
  • Another student presented with neck/shoulder tension. I noticed that every time she inhaled, she pulled her shoulders up to her ears. Working with proper breathing helped her find relief.

I’ve always been a busy person, so I know that time is valuable. I also know that progress is encouraging and pain relief is heavenly.

Don’t waste your time doing yoga. Schedule your private yoga session with me today.

Medicine Cabinet Clean-Out Challenge

I was recently contacted to take on a spring cleaning challenge by the American Recall Center. I love getting rid of clutter, and given that we’re moving at the end of this month, I figured it would be a good challenge to accept. Here are some discoveries I made along the way.


Have meds, will sprawl


Piles starting to form

While we do have one tub of “medical supplies”, I realized how spread out all our meds really were. The tub had stuff for colds/flus and wounds (i.e. things not used often), but there were many other places our meds and such were hiding: in the nightstand, in a bathroom drawer, in a kitchen cabinet (vitamins/supplements mostly). To make this process easier, I first went around the apartment and tried to bring everything in one place, on the kitchen table.

Always the categorizer

I can’t help it; I love organizing. So I put things in “like” categories, ending up with: clearly expired and needs to be disposed of; questionable (for interactions with other medications, and things like, “do we really need 4 rolls of tape for wounds?”).

Project scope creep

I couldn’t help it. The clean out went into some other areas, like sunscreen, and other things I discovered like not-used-in-years leather protector and styling gels and lotions.  Moving, remember? Why not.

Everything in its proper place

All nice and neat

All nice and neat

Yes, so the melatonin and inhaler went back into the medicine cabinet; the jet lag remedy ended up properly put back with the travel stuff (it just got tossed into the primary tub after our last international trip); vitamins/supplements ended up back in the kitchen for morning reminders. Old band-aids that probably had no stick and old cough drops with wrappers glued on easily went in the trash. Even that hand sanitizer I’d meant to put into the car AGES ago finally made it’s way to the top of the stairs for my next trip down to the garage!

What to do with the rest?

Sadly, the other potential discards made me feel like now I had two more projects.

  1. Researching how to dispose of expired OTC and prescription medications
  2. Supplements / vitamins to check for potential drug interactions, which I’d stopped taking under “suspicion”

What else did I learn?

  • Well, first that drugs could be recalled! It makes perfect sense, but I hadn’t ever thought about it.
  • Even though it was a bit of a research project, I feel more informed about the various ways to dispose of medications. Sadly I’m not sure I like any of them, because the medications either end up in a landfill or in our water supply. Guess we need to all start using food as medicine so we have less of these to dispose of in general! ;-) But I digress…I also learned that there’s a “take back day” in some locations (sadly not mine).
  • I FINALLY understand interactions between various supplements and the (few) prescribed medications I take. I started with the easy ones: i.e. simple ingredients, then to the herbal / homeopathic combos because I had to look up each ingredient for a potential interaction! However, this was made easier by the fact that WebMD allows you to search for supplements as well as medications. I also really liked how they listed all interactions in one tab and specified the severity.
  • Several homeopathic and herbal supplements had ingredients that interacted with birth control pills (which I went back on after my brief stint with an IUD). I know that homeopathic is generally safer than herbal because there are trace amounts, but the more ingredients I found that had a potential interaction, the less I wanted to risk it!  LiveStrong had two short articles on common ingredients I found in my supplements like red clover and licorice. I wish more sites would list foods that could impact medications–until a friend’s visit last week I didn’t know that grapefruit was not good for birth control pills either!

So that’s the scoop on my “medicine cabinet” clean out challenge. I hope I inspire you to do some spring cleaning in this area. It might be a project, but it’s do-able, and you’ll have greater peace of mind after.

How Playing with Triphala Is Helping My Sleep

As part of my advanced yoga teacher training, I just completed my read of “The Book of Ayurveda: A Holistic Approach to Health and Longevity” by Judith H. Morrison. It was a really nice book. Easy to read in small doses and informative. Lots of photos, graphics, and lists to make everything more interesting.

Between my 200 hour training at Kripalu and my “Introduction to Ayurveda” workshop, I felt I had a lot of knowledge before reading the book, but I undeniably learned even more. As part of deeper experimentation, I ordered some Triphala powder from Banyan Botanicals, deciding I wasn’t going to mess around with the pills anymore. I was going HARD CORE (trying to get some of my pitta back, you see ;-) !

Anyway, on page 129 Judith lists out several different ways to prepare the Triphala powder. To start, I boiled some water and brewed 1/2 tsp of the powder for 5 minutes, like tea. (The instructions on the bag said I could use 1/4 or 1/2 tsp.)  With or without drinking “the dregs”, I thought it was gross. The boyfriend wholeheartedly agreed. The L.A. Story Steve Martin quote, “It’s exactly like licking a shag carpet” randomly came to mind. Truly.

The next day I decided to try 1/4 tsp and the method of soaking it in room temperature water ALL DAY. I thought that this just HAD to be more disgusting; even though it was a bit smaller dose, it would have a longer time to steep. Oddly, we both agreed it was actually quite drinkable.

Day 3, I decided that I’d just mix that 1/4 tsp into “tepid” water and drink. Who needs all that soaking anyway? Hmmmph. MUCH better when soaked. This was back to the shag carpet.

When I went back to the book, I noticed that Judith DOES say that the strongest preparation is via simmering (which I haven’t yet tried, and am not sure I dare) and the weakest by soaking. Guess I like my Triphala weak!

Regardless, drinking even the weak version before bed HAS seemed to help me sleep a little bit better. In fact, some nights I notice that drinking just half the cup makes me feel tired. And that’s totally worth putting some powder in a mug and letting it sit on the counter for 8 hours!

So, playing quickly with Triphala is helping my sleep, and reminding me that I need to watch some silly movies again. :-)

Can a calling be selfish and selfless at the same time?

As a yoga instructor, I teach numerous classes in studios and gyms and work privately with folks like you who are looking to create unique, individualized practices. As an eating psychology coach I can also teach you how to uncover and process deeper issues with relationships, body image, depression, anxiety, and trauma that often underlie your emotional eating behaviors. I teach people like you how to breathe, how to relax, how to meditate, how to make time to be healthier and happier in the context of their crazy lives. I teach you because I truly want to help you, and would like to make a difference in the world. But I also teach for completely selfish reasons: I teach YOU to keep myself sane.

There, I said it.

After teaching a yoga class at one of my gyms the other day, I had a lovely exchange with a new student. She told me how much she liked her second ever class; in particular, how soothing and calming my voice was.

I thanked her and smiled at her comment, although maybe not for the reasons you’d think.

My “non-yoga” voice is typically high pitched and squeaky. I talk fast, and sometimes two words mush together in bizarre ways as they make their way out of my mouth at the same time; other times I can’t think of the word at all and sound like a babbling idiot. If I’m honest with myself, I’m often overly critical and sound like one or both of my parents (not a good thing). And all too often I give voice to the abundance of automatic negative thoughts that run rampant in my mind.

I don’t teach yoga because I don’t have issues. I teach yoga because when I do, I become more of the person I’d prefer to be all the time: calm, grounded, peaceful, content, grateful. And I sound like her too! No matter what’s happening in my life or no matter how I feel personally before teaching, I have to put these things aside, and give you the safe, soothing experience YOU need. And as a result, I change for the better.

Similarly, a few weeks ago, a feisty coaching client (who had made great progress over several weeks and whose energy showed it!) used part of her session to turn the tables. She asked some pointed questions about me which I answered honestly. She seemed surprised that I still shared many of her struggles. It’s true that I know how to get deep into the muck, and various techniques to make things a little better. I know that it’s not always about what it seems to be about (i.e. the food). I know that it’s hard to do things differently. I know what it’s like to feel like you’ve failed.

Believe it or not, I’m not at home eating healthy, practicing yoga, and meditating all the time.

I’ve been through (and continue to go through) a lot. There are still (many) days when I feel lost and alone, like I’m an alien creature who doesn’t quite belong in any human circle. I still fumble my relationships. I eat entire bags of chips or cookies or popcorn sometimes too. I still struggle with anxiety and depression and some days when it’s really bad, I want to crawl into a hole and not do anything.

And, when you come to me with a health concern or challenge, know that it’s most often because we are more similar than you might imagine! We likely resonate with each other because I’m like you. And I can help you because I’m like you–because I understand. I’ve just been working on this stuff for a LONG LONG time. And like anything else, the more time, energy, and effort you put into something, the more you learn, the more you know, and the more you can share with others.

I am a teacher, a coach, and a real person. Sometimes what keeps me going is knowing that I can help you experience your body differently, or that I can help you make new connections and see things a little differently.

So, maybe it’s selfless or selfish, or a bit of both. Shall we keep helping each other through this journey called life? I hope so.

“Rest of February” Elimination Diet

What I’m Doing

Starting Tuesday, February 10th I’ll be following an elimination diet, as described in Digestive Wellness  by Dr. Lipski. The funny thing is, if I look at the list of allowed foods it’s pretty much exactly how I eat. Except for coffee, chocolate, and alcohol, which I pretty much always end up using to survive this thing called life. There are a few other things I eat regularly but will not mind eliminating for a short time: Greek yogurt, citrus fruits and eggs, for example. I’m pretty sure these have no effect on me but I want to do it by the book. I am not sure about nightshades so for optimal effect I will eliminate those too. The book says 2 weeks, but February is a short month and we’re already partway through, so what the heck.

Why I’m Doing This

In the past few months I’ve had multiple issues, one of which is almost constant pressure and/or pain in my low back (although it is happy to move around). I’ve already had x-rays, I am already doing Yoga Therapy (which is much like PT), and been told by multiple doctors and specialists that I have inflammation. (It’s also been a “hunch” of mine for a while, but I didn’t want to accept it because I knew it would mean giving up the things I’m using to cope.) Of course any doctor’s “answer” is to take Advil / Aleve, which I hate and to some extent cannot do because it upsets my stomach. I’ve also gone through frequent phrases of just feeling “puffy” for no apparent reason. I’ll be blogging about my experience here mostly so that I’m held accountable–my last few juice cleanses had been filled with rationalizing exceptions (i.e. cheating)!

What’s Been Really Crappy That I’ll Pay Attention To

  • my sleep and energy level
  • my back (and a lesser extent tooth) pain
  • my mood (depression and anxiety have risen highly as of late, given my inability to exercise)

Wish me well!

A short yet complete practice: the sun

sunIn the post “A short yet complete practice: the tree“, I talked about the 3 major components of a simple  yet complete yoga practice and offered up a 15 minute video for you to try.

I also promised more to come! So here it is, the second complete practice. This one is a little longer, about 22 minutes. Please try it out, let me know what you think, and stay tuned for more!

Practice 2: the Sun

You’ll need… Do when… Audio/video Summary sheet
Room to lie on your back and stand comfortably. Perhaps a blanket or cushion to pad your knees. You wake up in the morning, or when you need some extra energy. Available via my YouTube channel here Download the Sun summary sheet



“Help, I can’t relax!”

pedi_imgDoes this sound like you?

If so, sign up for my new “5 days, 5 ways to Unwind” program by requesting to be added to the Facebook group.

Then each day from Monday February 9 until Friday February 13, 2015, you’ll see information about a different relaxation activity you can experiment with to bring more balance and self-care into your life. These activities are specifically designed for overwhelmed, stressed, overworked, super busy folks like you who want to incorporate a little more restoration and rejuvenation into your days without having to spend a lot of time at it.

This is a FREE offering from A Journey Into Health. (And it’s no coincidence that this self-care program is being offered the week before Valentine’s Day because after all, we need to love ourselves too!)

Note: One lucky local (Austin/Round Rock) participant will win a free 30-minute sample Reiki session. One lucky remote participant will win a different prize (of course in keeping with the theme)! The only requirement to be eligible for a prize is to be ACTIVE on the Facebook page and post about your experience over the 5 days.

A short yet complete practice: the tree

A Tree

  • “I don’t have time to do yoga, breathing exercises, or meditation.”
  • “I can’t just sit and meditate. My body becomes restless and my mind goes everywhere.”
  • “I know these things would be good for me if I could just fit them in / do them consistently.”

Do these sound like you? Yeah, I’ve been there. Recently, in fact.

The components

A complete yoga practice actually consists of 3 components:

  1. Simple physical movements that help still your body (called asana)
  2. Breathing techniques that help change the state of your mind (called pranayama)
  3. Meditation (called dharana, dhyanam, and samadhih, depending on the phase)

And, contrary to popular opinion, meditation is NOT about stopping your thoughts. It’s about directing all of the mind’s activities to one focus, until you perceive that focus with complete clarity and become one with it. In samadhih, for example, you might feel as though you’ve “disappeared” though you’re not asleep. Few of us get past the focusing part though.

So what can you do?

Based on this information, two main questions arise for me:

  • Who has time for all that? And,
  • Why on earth do we get frustrated with ourselves when we try to meditate without adequate preparation?!

Over the course of the next few weeks, I’m going to be releasing several short (15-20 minute) practices that anyone can do.  Each will contain audio/video, as well as a summary sheet.

Practice 1: the Tree

Here it is, the first complete practice.

You’ll need… Do when… Audio/video Summary sheet
A place to lie on your back comfortably You’ve had a hectic day’s work, or anytime you feel as though you’re being pulled into 50 different directions Available via my YouTube channel here Download the Tree summary sheet

Please try it out, let me know what you think, and stay tuned for more!