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!

My psoastic journey: 5 lessons I learned from my hips

Lesson #0: My “Freak” Hips are Really My Teachers

For a long time, I’ve had an extreme imbalance in my pelvis and hips, and have encountered many life situations where it became apparent.

  • “One of your legs is longer than the other,” said my college boyfriend’s sister in their parents living room, checking me out as she was studying to become a PT (1998).
  • “Wow, come feel this!!” yelled one overly excited Pilates instructor to another with her hands on my hip bones (2000).
  • “Do two stretches (of half wind-relieving pose) on one side and one on the other, every 10 minutes throughout your day,” said a neuromuscular massage therapist, with whom I obviously could not comply (2009-ish).
  • Whenever I practiced yoga, eye of the needle pose on my left would be cake; on the right it was an eternal struggle to get any external rotation in my hip (and therefore always a challenge in protecting my knee). This became more apparent when I started teaching yoga and had to demonstrate postures (2012).

In 2014 I started seeing a chiropractor to adjust me on a regular basis so that when I sat on the edge of something and my legs dangled (which they often do because I’m short), I wouldn’t feel as though my right hip was hiked up and one foot almost 2 inches shorter than the other (2014).

Following a trip to New Zealand that had me doing more walking than yoga and over 25 hours of sitting in my 500-hour Yoga Therapy Teacher training one weekend, I developed sciatica and low back pain for the New Year. The numbness down one leg (it alternated sides) and the almost constant pressure in my low back kept me awake at night, to the point where the only rest I could get was a few hours on my Reiki (massage) table. This sent me on a quest to heal. And ASAP!

Lesson #1: How to Manage My Mind & Care for Myself with Less Movement

Over the next few weeks I had to come to terms with the fact that I could barely teach yoga, much less be as active as I’m used to. No ballet Barre class, no running, no weight-lifting. Sometimes I thought I might go crazy if I couldn’t get up and do something, so I started ChiWalking. It was a real mental and emotional challenge seeing that I could barely walk 30 minutes at a snail’s pace. How could I manage my crazy mind if I couldn’t exercise? If I couldn’t do the physical things I enjoyed the most? Depression knocked on my door.

And of course this is the real practice of yoga. So I explored. I Reiki’d myself. I tried being more gentle and compassionate to my body. (I even wrote it a letter.) I experimented more with cooking. I sat down and relaxed and rested more, even when only doing simple chores. I made tea and ate biscuits. I allowed myself to watch TV and read books. And, it was still hard.

Lesson #2: Don’t Throw Out the Baby with the Bath Water

During this time I was also pretty busy visiting different holistic professionals, including my chiropractor, and now a yoga / physical / massage therapist. The chiropractor helped the acute pain (as did more ice packs than I could count). The 3-in-1 therapist gave me yoga postures I could do therapeutically, which made me feel as though I could take a more active part in my own recovery (and helped me see what Yoga Therapy was like from a patient’s perspective).

My condition improved, but given all I was learning about the spine, I was still curious about whether an x-ray would show anything more serious. I visited with my PCP (who happens to also be an acupuncturist). He referred me for the x-ray and encouraged me to take Aleve for 5 days to relieve the inflammation in my sacroiliac joint.

I was happy about the x-ray, which showed nothing horrible, but allowed me to see that I’ve been walking around with mild scoliosis.  Since I’d been following the side-plank scoliosis study, I knew there was something I could try there too. I wasn’t sold on the Aleve. I’m generally against taking OTCs because I believe they do more harm than good and cover up the root causes. Plus I have unpleasant reactions to some (like acetaminophen). But, I needed to get this issue under control, so despite the nausea for 5 days, I took half the dose my doctor prescribed and noticed a difference in my low back pressure.

Lesson #3: Physical Traumas Must be Processed on an Emotional Level

This is a big one.

In my attempts to understand and explain my issues–in other words, to answer the question “WHY!???”, I came up with many theories.

One memory that came to me during this time was of an accident I had when I was about 12 years old. My family had just moved from the middle of nowhere to a little suburb with other children, and although I was the oldest kid on the block, I didn’t act it. After being taunted over the fact that I still rode a little pink Strawberry Shortcake bike (sans training wheels) my dad bought me a blue 3-speed, which would still be too large for me.

I didn’t understand how to use the breaks very well (I was used to just back-pedaling) and one day I was cruising down a steep blacktopped hill that was my friend’s driveway. I couldn’t stop, and I panicked and tried to leap off the bike on one side. Well, I missed, and the metal bar that ran down the center ended up squarely in my crotch. The pain was excruciating. I still don’t remember how I got home, and it wasn’t until I was in my 20s that my mother reminded me of the incident, which clarified why I didn’t bleed during my first sexual encounter. I hope the bike enjoyed the experience more than I did.

Given my current situation and what I’ve learned about trauma over the years, I started putting two and two together. Yes, this was physical trauma to my pelvis at an early age. How couldn’t it have affected me? What’s more, who ever took me to a doctor? Who ever reassured me when I was urinating blood? No one. Hmmm. I started opening up to my family about this, only to be dismissed. I was outraged. I was scared. I was sad. I was lonely. For the first time in my life, I really *felt* my emotions over this experience. And when three friends and healers agreed this had to play a role in what was happening to me now, I finally took care of and was able to release it.

Later when I was doing an assigned yoga therapy exercise on my right hip, I felt this completely irrational fear envelop my body. My mind was gently yelling in the background, “no, no, you can’t open up that way. You CAN’T!!” I was pretty surprised at this–after all it was me stretching myself. I replied, “that’s not true, of course I can,” and continued gently.

In my second 3-in-1 therapy session, I was told to completely let go of my leg, and I relayed my success in finally being able to float in a pool this past summer. (Never in my life have I been able to relax enough to do that.) The therapist told me about Watsu (Water-Shiatsu) and I thought: “this is exactly what I need to do.” Forced swim lessons twice, at least three people dropping or throwing me in water when I was young, scared, and trusted them…yeah, this would be healing. (Stay tuned!)

Lesson #4: Embrace Square One & Beginner’s Mind, Even in Your 40th Year

ChiWalking is interesting because it teaches you to walk properly, which is something one might assume we all do perfectly fine without training (kinda of like breathing, heh). You’re super conscious of your posture, your core, and how you move your limbs. Between this and the yoga therapy exercises (and my trainings in this field), I’m realizing more and more that some important muscles in my body really need attention.

Rectus and transversus abdominis, for example, aren’t used nearly enough to stabilize my pelvis when my hips move. Working hunched over a computer under stress for 15+ years created my head-forward posture, which means I need to strengthen the neck muscles that pull my head back and stretch the ones that push it forward. To address issues with my hips I need to stretch my hip flexors (specifically pectineus) more, and do some hip mobilization on my right. For the scoliosis, the side plank.

Whenever I sit, stand, or move now, I’m paying close attention to how I carry, hold, and transition parts of my body. I’m learning how to use it better throughout my daily life. Sometimes I feel like a baby. I’m asking questions and continuously adjusting. Better late than never!

Lesson #5: Gently Seek Out & Massage the Root Cause

Oh, and then…there’s the psoas.

The psoas is an important muscle physically, but also stores emotional trauma and has to be dealt with delicately. Mine is chronically, incredibly tight. Yesterday my 3-in-1 therapist gently massaged it for a little while, and I couldn’t believe how I felt. During, it was clearly very sensitive, all the way down into my groin. On the drive home I felt that my right and left sides were completely balanced. Later, all the muscles in my legs ached as if I’d run a marathon. When I slept (especially on my belly), I could just feel the presence of the muscle, letting me know it was there.

I have a hunch that the psoas is the key to unlocking many doors for me, both physically and mentally / emotionally. For the first time in my life i feel like healing my body and my heart might truly be possible.

Stop beating yourself up…

heart…over what you weigh

…over what you eat

…over your lack of willpower

…over a stupid scale

…over how you seem to sabotage yourself every time you think you’re close to meeting your goals.

There’s a better, simpler, and kinder way.

Learn how to love yourself and your body through Eating Psychology Coaching.

Mention “2014HOLIDAYSPECIAL” when you contact me and receive TWO Eating Psychology Coaching sessions for the price of ONE!

Offer good for sessions booked by January 31, 2015.

Won’t you join me for a nice cup of tea?

Relaxing Can be Challenging

My friends all know me as the one who never stops going. Like the infamous Energizer Bunny, some used to tell me that when they heard what I did before lunch, they were exhausted just at the thought. “Doing” has always been something I’m good at. “Being” and relaxing, or as my friend Amy says, “being a bump on a log” has always been challenging for me. I know that I’m not alone in that either.

Truth is I’ve slowed down a lot of the the years–especially in 2014, mostly with the help of several big life changes. But my body is starting to say no, and so I feel as though I need to do even more relaxing in 2015. If relaxing more, reducing stress more is your plan too, let’s connect and share ideas. It’s so important!

Afternoon Tea (with a Twist)

IMG_8609Anyway, inspired by my recent trip to New Zealand, I purchased a coffee/tea press, “Nice Cup of Tea and a Sit Down“, and an entire tin of assorted tea biscuits (i.e. tiny cookies). At precisely 4 pm (a total coincidence, honestly!) I pressed some tea out of fresh ginger, lemongrass, turmeric, and a sprig of rosemary. I then selected 3 biscuits from the tin and placed them gently on a small pretty plate. A mug, napkin, two lit candles at the table, and relaxation patiently waited for me to sit.

Though it may seem amusing, I actually set a the kitchen timer. 30 minutes to savor my tea, allow the biscuits to melt in my mouth, and enjoy a light funny book. I didn’t need the 30 minutes to remind me to stop. I needed it to remind me to continue.

I’m pleased to say that the one time the “get the ice for your back so you could do that while you sit here” thought popped into my head, I told it “later” and returned to focus on relaxing. It was like a meditation: “yes mind, I hear you wanting to multitask, but I’m choosing not to.” The second time my brain said something more like, “Is it time yet? It must be close. I don’t think I can sit much longer”. And then the timer went off.

Truly feeling warm, grounded, and relaxed, I went about the rest of my afternoon.

The Relaxation Ripple Effect

Only I didn’t do anything after that either!

Given my recent back issues I’ve not been sleeping well, and even after the sugar of the biscuits I felt just how tired I really was. So I crawled up onto my Reiki (massage) table–which is the one place my back always feels better–covered up with a blanket, and closed my eyes.

Another 30 minutes later and my entire body felt better. I hadn’t fallen asleep, but was in a state of absolute stillness. It took a little while to get there. While lying, thoughts would arise about stuff to do, but when they did, I’d reassure myself that rest is what I needed in this moment. I kept refocusing on resting, just like I’d refocused on my tea and biscuits at the table.

Tea and biscuits, a faux nap on a Reiki table–both were just the restoration I needed, timer or not! So much so that I ended up calming, mindfully cooking a lovely dinner for my partner, that was completely ready just as he walked in the door! I was in a good mood, and we had a lovely evening together.

What about you?

Have your own tips and tricks for getting your body and mind to relax, or is it easy for you? Share your stories here. Or try one of mine, and let me know how you feel after!