You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘anxiety’ tag.

mountain climber

The mind fascinates me. In the book called, “The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking”, the author, Oliver Burkeman, dives into what he refers to as our our “goal crazy” society. Sighting a number of studies he has determined that people create goals in the name of planning for the future and productivity, but in reality, it is a means to remove the unsettling feeling of uncertainty.

Goals can actually hinder success. In 1996 fifteen climbers died on Mount Everest within a twenty-four period of time—the highest death toll in the mountain’s history. Climbers know that timing is crucial to success on Everest. If climbers don’t make the peak by a pre-arranged time, they must turn around to avoid running out of oxygen or attempting the dangerous climb down in the dark. Hours after the time to turn back passed, people were still climbing to the summit. Why? As more feelings of anxiety increased as the climbers climbed, the more they held onto their goal to summit to help cover the feelings of uncertainty they were feeling at the moment. To feel better in the present, they chose to put their lives in jeopardy.

What a compelling reason to come to our mats! The more we get comfortable with the feelings of uncertainty, the more likely we can make sound choices for ourselves. The more we sit in discomfort, the more we find our voice of reason.

Here is another example of why goals can be limiting. Have you ever waited for a cab in New York City in the rain? It is a challenge to find a cab when it rains and the logical conclusion is that it is because the cabs are in higher demand. In actuality, based on research by economist Colin Camerer, though the demand for cabs increases, the supply of cabs shrinks. The cab drivers set a goal to make double the amount they owe for renting the cab each day they work. When it rains, the cab drivers make that money more quickly and head home early!

In this example, the goal setting actually limited their potential.

Now it is time to apply these lessons on your mat. When you are practicing, dig deep. Get uncomfortable. Breathe. When you have the opportunity, put yourself in a place of uncertainty. Try an arm balance, try a head or handstand. Take a chance. Begin to be OK with those feelings of the unknown. That is where the opportunity for growth and living big exist and are waiting.

Come to your mat. Give up your goals. Embrace life’s uncertainty.

Advertisements

Image

I am nearly done leading an 8 week program for middle school aged girls in self-empowerment and yoga. It has been an incredible experience. The Girl Power program teaches so many important lessons in a very short time.

1. Just as hunger pains tell us to eat and thirst tells us we need a drink, feelings tells us information about our authentic self that we need to address.

2. Our thoughts alone do not give us enough information to make good choices. We must align our feelings with our thoughts to get the most accurate signals to make the choices that are best for our true self.

3. Self care has to do with how we treat our self. Do we pay enough attention to how we are treating our self on a regular basis? Not paying attention to self care hurts our ability to handle stress.

4. Yoga. It helps to bring our attention to our bodies, feelings and thoughts. First we find this connection on our mats through asana practice then we take it off our mats into our daily life to live more authentically.

5. Media is very influential in how we see ourselves. It is meant to make us feel lacking. The way media portrays women is harmful to our self.

6. The path to happiness starts with being authentic.

Yesterday I read the girl’s journal entries that were in the format of a letter to their bodies. I got goose bumps. I felt such a thrill seeing that the messages that we’ve been working on were sinking in and that they have the tools to treat their true self with more kindness and understanding.

It was an honor to lead this program and teach this material, but the real honor is being able to be a part of these girl’s life path and to have given them real tools and skills to leave them with so that their life’s journey doesn’t get cluttered with baggage from bad choices. They have the tools to live authentically.

Photo By Eric Hart

School ends. Summer begins. It seems so black and white. However, there does exist the gray in between—a period of transition. Not every child or adult does well with the murky middle of transition. In fact, many people thrive on routine and the known. The unknown can cause much anxiety. Minds turn to the what ifs of the future or linger on the comfort of the past.

My own family’s summer consists of weeks of various camps mixed with some week-long time off. We always start off that first partial summer week with few obligations. This abrupt change from scheduled school to freedom often has some hiccups. Unused to unlimited free time, my kids will often walk around disgruntled. Ten months of predetermined, every-moment-planned time at school weakens my kid’s independent play skills. They may have strengthened their minds with math, writing and facts about science and history, but the part of their brains needed to function when specific directions don’t exist needs time to fire back up.

I try not to get anxious when I see this struggle occur. It is so easy to fill in this empty time with ideas or excursions when “I’m bored” is the mantra of the hour. Instead I sit quietly sharing their discomfort in the effort to get my children to explore their own creative interests and ideas. It is during these times that my children discover things about themselves that perhaps have even more value than a teacher’s high mark. This push through the inertia of boredom often opens new doors to self-motivated action and pursuits propelled from within that may guide them into areas of true strength and passion.

There have been articles written connecting boredom with weight gain in women or substance abuse in teens. Perhaps those who never had the time to explore and push through the boredom as children try to bury those uncomfortable feelings that accompany boredom when they get older. Perhaps in finding the yoga in boredom—staying with the feelings that surface—you to come to the other side stronger and with skills that will guide you in the future.

When the cries of boredom begin this summer, take some yoga breaths and stay present. Ride out the discomfort of the moment by doing nothing. Acknowledge the feelings that arise within when the kid’s undirected energy begins to create anxiety and choose to stay put. This inaction may surprise your kids, but perhaps it is the very action required to help them discover surprises about themselves this summer.

When thinking of positive affirmations, does your mind rewind to the Saturday Night Live skit with Stuart Smalley and his famous line ” I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and, doggonit, people like me!” The idea of saying something to oneself may seem foolish and silly but the power of positive affirmations is real.

In class, I introduce the idea of saying positive things to oneself by encouraging shouts of “I’m strong!” and  “I’m focused!” in warrior poses. During savasana, I take the class on a relaxation journey using my favorite book, Ready… Set… RELAX. These texts always include positive affirmations along with guided breathing techniques. The kids repeat to themselves positive sayings for example “I feel good about who I am”,  “I can let go and relax” and “I can breathe out tension”.

Children with anxiety can use positive affirmations with breathing techniques to help when feeling stress. A little girl in my daughter’s class was having a tough time in gym. For whatever reason, gym class made her anxious and she often made excuses to go to the nurse. Equipped with the affirmations, “I am OK. This is a feeling and feelings change” she is now happily participating in gym class.

I have also seen the success first hand with my own daughter who started waking up at night and having a hard time settling herself back down. I told her to try to inhale— filling her belly with air— while thinking “I am relaxed” and then exhale while thinking “I can sleep”. It worked like a charm and she is now able to get up in the night and help herself fall back to sleep without my guidance. Affirmations are about self-empowerment.

Thich Nhat Hanh, the Vietnamese monk and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize teaches what he calls “Breath with Healing Thought”. These different variations of affirmations and breath are actually the key to meditation. Try these simple meditations and notice your happiness and peace grow.

1) As you inhale, repeat to yourself “In”. As you exhale, repeat “Out”. This may seem too easy and simple, but you may be surprised to notice how quickly your mind tries to run away to the past or future! Meditation is about being calmly and joyfully present to what is happening now.

2) As you inhale, repeat in your mind “I am calm”. As you exhale, repeat “I am relaxed”. Then continue only with the words “Calm” and “Relax”. The power of the words will instantly reduce your stress and worry.

3) Breathing in, repeat to yourself “I am joy”. Breathing out, smile, and think, “I smile.” Continue calmly breathing, while you repeat “Joy” and “Smile”. Smiles relax hundreds of muscles in the face, neck, and shoulders and the act of smiling can create feelings of well-being.

Affirmations are a great means to help children become self-empowered which ultimately increases their self-esteem. Thoughts combined with breath are a powerful tool to improving feelings of well being.

Lately I have been making mistakes.

I eagerly arrived at school for a meeting only to see everyone leaving having written the time down wrong on my calendar. I use a calendar on my computer upstairs and then we have the family calendar downstairs. It gets confusing!!

After getting the reminder call, I showed up at 8:45am for my eye appointment… a day early.

Grabbing the first appointment available after waiting for almost a month to see my son’s allergist, I remember the evening before that the appointment was scheduled smack in the middle of when I teach a class.

Do I need a Smart phone? (Well that might help… hint, hint, honey…Mother’s Day is coming up soon!)  Maybe a personal assistant would do the trick. (I would love for someone to bring me a cup of coffee once in a while… hint, hint, anyone…).

The solution might be simpler (though not nearly as fun). Maybe it is all about cutting out the clutter. It is spring. It is time for some cleaning—inside and out.

It happens so quietly. One call and you commit to coming into school to help with one thing. A flier arrives and you sign your child up for an activity. An afternoon looks free so you allow a play date after school. You squeeze in the grocery shopping (but, of course, forget the list at home and the recyclable bags in the car). This is your first clue, but you forge on.

Little things get added until one day you realize that you are going from swim, to dance with dinner rushed in the middle that looks more like one of those crazy food eating contests because you have no time to chew before running back out for drum lessons and then back home to homework and bedtime and then some quality time with your husband where you sit comatose on the couch because your brain has been fried from the heat of the rocket paced day. Huh!

How does one de-clutter from the inside out?

First, find the time (and it may be early in the morning before everyone wakes up) to settle your mind. Don’t start the day jumping out of bed into the fray. Sit and meditate. It’s easier than you think. Yoga Journal has great meditation articles. Here is a simple one.

Or, as Julia Cameron recommends in her book the Artist’s Way, wake up and empty your head by writing three pages of stream of consciousness (that means don’t think about what you are writing, don’t evaluate its content, grammar or spelling but write freely without judgment). This gets the garbage out and helps air your mind of those random thoughts that clog the brain (of appointment times and other more valuable information).

Next, clean that junk drawer or the envelope in which you store coupons (that you inevitably forget to bring with you) or that closet… you know the one. Get rid of one area of physical clutter that you ignore… you know it’s there and that knowledge just takes up space.

Now the hardest part is to start saying no. Lighten the load a little. Allow yourself and your kids some free time. That means time with no agenda or purpose. It is time to get curious. It is time to be self-directed. It is time in which you have control. Everyone needs these moments. Without them, anxiety develops and a feeling of being lost and without focus occurs. Without moments of calm, time to recharge and a break from schedules, life leads you down its own path instead of you choosing the way and creating the life you really desire.

So open some windows, breath in the fresh spring air and commit to removing the clutter that has built up during the winter. Rewind. Renew. Recharge… and remember what is truly important.

I just returned from a wonderful ski trip to Mt. Tremblant in Quebec with my family. You could tell upon arrival that this was going to be an amazing vacation. We were staying in the ski village a stones throw from the base of the mountain and lift. The village had a European charm with shops, restaurants and apres skiing activities. The weather warmed up to the mid-twenties from its usual below zero temps. We could not have been happier.

But why write about my ski trip on my yoga blog? Because although I did not end up taking out my mat that I packed with my ski gear, yoga made its presence on this trip.

We skied long days, and compared to our local mountain, we skied endlessly long runs. I found myself feeling great after each day on the slopes. My legs rarely felt the burn from the constant work that they were doing and I never fell. OK, I did. But it was after my daughter forgot to stand up to get off the lift and ended up flying through the air and landing on me.

I credit yoga for my leg strength, agility and balance. Warrior poses, chair pose and sequences that stay on one leg seemingly forever are the perfect conditioning for skiing. Hip openers, like pigeon, help loosen one’s hips enabling the body to turn from its legs instead of forcing the upper body to initiate the turn. The core power gained from poses like boat, locust and twists create a foundation of strength that keeps you aligned, steady and ready for sudden movement shifts which can help you avoid accidents. I was very present during each run down the mountain. My mind and body were focused but relaxed—the same sensation that I get in class on my mat.

On our last day of skiing, my six-year-old daughter was following us down trails. Encountering our first black diamond together two days before, she panicked and ended up taking off her skies and sliding down on her bottom. On this day, however, she was determined to keep up with us all, and surprised us by fearlessly following the family down very difficult slopes.  At the end of the day she told me that she took some deep breaths and told herself to stop thinking. Before each black slope she cleared her head of her fear and just went for it. I heard her talking herself down some of the tough spots with positive affirmations.  The pride she felt was palpable as she not only kept up with us but conquered the fear that took up space in her head.

As a parent and teacher, it sometimes feels as though no one is really listening. Yes, I was very proud of my daughter, but it was not for going down those black diamonds. Seeing my daughter take control of her thoughts and connect her breathing, her mind and her body made me feel like I just coached an athlete to a gold medal in the Olympics. Though I hope my daughter enjoys skiing forever, I know now that she has learned some powerful skills that will help her throughout the black diamonds of her life.

Here are two great articles about yoga for skiers:

Yoga For Skiers

Yoga For Skiers from the Cowgirl Yoga Blog

Photo by Piero Sierra

Oprah once said:

“If you look at what you have in life, you’ll always have more.
If you look at what you don’t have in life, you’ll never have enough.”

It’s almost Thanksgiving—a time when we as a country collectively give thanks. Thanksgiving and Valentines Day are both celebrations created to ensure that we become mindful of the people we love and the life that we live at least for one day.

I love everything about Thanksgiving from the colors, food, family time and football. Being mindful is the process of being completely present. Take time this season to be present. Look at the sky, feel the cool, crisp air, smell the aromas of the food cooking in the kitchen, listen to the leaves  crunching, children laughing, football on TV. Take in and appreciate the moment instead of being anxious about the turkey, fretting about fitting everyone around the table, worrying about the family dynamics. Stop and think about what you have and be grateful for those things.

For some, this beginning to the holiday season is not accompanied by joy and excitement but rather by anxiety and sadness.

Whether the holidays bring pleasant or unpleasant reactions, bring yoga with you to help keep you centered.

This Thanksgiving bring yoga and mindfulness to the table and see if being grateful comes more easily. Imagine what it would be like to be mindful every day we live and every moment we have with those we love.

I am so grateful for my family and friends that provide me with love and support. I am grateful for my health. I am grateful for my body that has taken me on some great adventures this year. I am thankful for my yoga practice for always changing and encouraging me to grow. I am grateful for you, my readers, and all my little and big yogis for allowing me to teach and learn and share.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

door2

Photo by H.Koppdelane

There have been a lot of changes and opportunities these last few months for which I am immensely grateful. At the same time, each door that opens creates some anxiety and anticipation. I am finding that the new opportunities usually come with some small leap of faith that I will find my way. It is like lifting your feet off the floor in crow for the first time and putting trust in yourself — having faith that you will not topple over and embarrass yourself.

I also find that in my excitement, I can get overly caught up in the “possibilities” instead of focusing on the moment at hand. I find this energy which is intense to usually lead to disappointment. I try to remind myself that when a door opens or closes to be mindful and patient. That a missed opportunity may lead to another door and that a door that is opened and that looks like the right way may close unexpectedly or lead me astray. Change is inevitable either way and its often better to stop and just be grateful for what is.  I remember the story about the farmer which I may have posted before. The story is worth repeating.

There is a Chinese story of a farmer who used an old horse to till his fields. One day, the horse escaped into the hills and when the farmer’s neighbors sympathized with the old man over his bad luck, the farmer replied, “Bad luck? Good luck? Who knows?” A week later, the horse returned with a herd of horses from the hills and this time the neighbors congratulated the farmer on his good luck. His reply was, “Good luck? Bad luck? Who knows?”

Then, when the farmer’s son was attempting to tame one of the wild horses, he fell off its back and broke his leg. Everyone thought this very bad luck. Not the farmer, whose only reaction was, “Bad luck? Good luck? Who knows?”

Some weeks later, the army marched into the village and conscripted every able-bodied youth they found there. When they saw the farmer’s son with his broken leg, they let him off. Now was that good luck or bad luck?

Who knows?

In the spirit of gratefulness…

I’m grateful for the opportunities that I have to effect people through teaching yoga. Teaching my first Mom and Baby yoga class on Monday was pure joy. Seeing these new moms with adorable chubby babies in tow and knowing how much of a challenge it must have been for these ladies to get out of the house just to make it to class made this a very special hour for me. I remember how much yoga helped me as a new mom connect to my body and my self beyond my role as wife and mother. I look forward to next week to teach these inspiring ladies and babies again.

What are you grateful for in your lives? Please share!

Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough. — Oprah Winfrey

My daughter is a worrier. She can focus on an anxiety to the point that it becomes a huge ugly monster that takes a lot of effort to make disappear. Last year, Kindergarten, that monster reared its head on the school bus and it caused us all great stress each morning for about 3 weeks.

We have come up with many worry banishing techniques.

• Write a list of all the things that make you happy.
When a worry pops into your head, quickly turn to one of those happy inducing thoughts or activities.
• Discuss the worry only at one point during the day.
The worry loses its power if you must postpone thinking about it until later.
• Focus on your breath.
Yoga breathing – Feel your stomach rise and fall. Coming back to the breath when a worry pops into your head calms the nervous system and creates mental peace.

Practice some yoga.

The following asanas help remove anxiety:

Single Leg Raise – Lie down straight on your back. Raise the right leg up straight and as far as possible while inhaling. Lower it back to original position exhaling. Then repeat the same with left leg. Next hold your feet with opposite hand while in the raised position. Take a few breaths while in this position and then switch.

Double Leg Raise – Raise both the legs together with knees straight and bottom on the floor. Repeat ten times. Inhale while raising legs and exhale while lowering legs.

Cobra Pose – Lie flat on your stomach with your palms besides your shoulders. Hold your feet together while pointing toes, push your head and chest gently off the ground while lifting your head up fully. Inhale while pushing up and exhale on the way back.

Child Pose – Sit with knees spread and feet touching. Lean forward until your chest and forehead are resting onto the floor and arms are outstretched in front of you.

Sage Twist – Sit on floor with both legs straight in front of you. Bend your left leg towards your chest. Rotate your body toward your left knee. Wrap your right arm around the left knee with the knee positioned in the crook of the right elbow. Clasp your hands if comfortable and keep your back straight.

A book that I highly recommend that my daughter used to help work through her Kindergarten fears was What to Do When You Worry Too Much: A Kid’s Guide to Overcoming Anxiety.

Change, such as a new school year, always creates some anxiety. Yoga is a great tool to help conquer those fears. Start a new experience with a spirit of adventure by using yoga to squash those butterflies (and sometimes those monsters too).

Current Classes:

MIDTOWN ATHLETIC CLUB

Mondays:
6-7:15am Power Vinyasa (H)

Thursdays:
6-7am Power Vinyasa

Story Time Yoga
1-1:45pm

Sundays:
5-7 year olds
9:45-10:30am
8-11 year olds
10:45-11:30am

STUDIO MOVE!

Wednesdays:
10:30-11:30 Power Vinyasa

Fridays:
Yoga for Athletes
9-10am

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 116 other followers