As an intervention, what impact might yoga have in the lives of female survivors of intimate partner violence?

I know intimate partner violence (IPV) is not a pleasant or easy topic to think and talk about, yet it is the only way forward. When you think about IPV, I suspect most people first think about physical violence. Yet, did you know that psychological violence is the most common form? IPV, in all of its forms, is a serious public health issue, with an estimated more than 30% of women in the US experiencing it. So, as a yoga teacher, I think it is vital to learn how the practice of yoga might support (or harm) female survivors, as a simple yoga class of 10 might have up to 3 or 4 survivors attending.

It is important to acknowledge that not all yoga styles and/or teachers might be appropriate for such survivors. More and more, in the healing arts, a concept of ‘trauma-informed’ is emerging. However, simply taking one course on trauma-informed medicine does not make a trauma-informed provider. In fact, I have learned of many stories (both as a yoga teacher and a psychotherapist) where a teacher or provider claimed to be trauma-informed and actually activated the survival response in the encounter! Therefore, it is critcal to ensure IPV survivors experience the practice of yoga in a way that ensures physical, emotional, mental and psychological safety.

The consequences of psychological IPV include, but are not limited to, depression/suicidal ideation, anxiety, PTSD, low self-esteem, somatic complaints and substance abuse. So, as a holistic healer, I have come to view these conditions as symptoms of trauma and not diagnoses. As such, I am able to offer a different perspective that validates a person’s lived experience and honor their needs on their healing journey. There is much research on how yoga can reduce particular symptoms of trauma, yet more research is needed to clarify the distinct aspects of the yoga being offered and how, specifically the practice is trauma-informed.

 I was very excited to come across a very recent research study from Exhale to Inhale in NYC that did just that! This study included 526 female survivors and data was collected over 3 years and across 66 domestic violence agencies. It clearly describes what makes the yoga trauma-informed and the target symptoms of stress, somatic complaints and self-efficacy. This study showed that trauma-informed yoga is a capacity-building intervention with female IPV survivors.

To read more, click the link below:

5 Intention-setting Ideas to Celebrate Diversity

Celebrate Diversity Month!

Celebrate Diversity Month takes place each April. It was initiated in 2004 to recognize and honor the diversity of the world around us. It is a time to recognize and understand our differences, be it gender, race, ethnicity, faith, sexual orientation and other factors while honoring the common essence of humanity. By appreciating our similarities and differences, the month aims to encourage a deeper understanding of others, regardless of who they are or how they live. It’s also an opportunity to increase diversity in the workplace and various academic fields. Diversity Month pushes us to seek this knowledge so that we can build a tolerant world that welcomes everyone, regardless of who they are or where they come from. — Source: National Today.

Below are some intention-setting ideas for celebrating human diversity:

  1. Movie night.   Consider hosting a cultural movie night with friends and plan to spend some time afterwards discussing the impact it might have had on each of you.  Perhaps consider one of the following documentaries from last year:
    • Four Daughters
    • Beyond Utopia
    • 20 Days in Mariupol
    • Bobi Wine: The People’s President
  2. Cultural art.  Perhaps you explore a cultural art exhibit, either in-person or online, such as the Heritage Museum of Orange County or museums around the world.
  3. Food.  If you are foodie (and who isn’t these days!), consider exploring a local ethnic restaurant or market to sample food from a different culture.
  4. Music.  Music is a cultural universal form of art.  Although highly diverse in the structure and role, music is a common human experience.  Perhaps listen to music from around the world as it can provide an insight into another way of life.
  5. Shop.  Consider shopping with the intention to support a diverse business, especially one that might have been impacted by the pandemic.  Below are some options to explore in Southern California:

5 Intention-setting Ideas to Support Building Trust

If you have difficulty trusting others, you are not alone.  And, it might have more to do with a struggle to trust yourself.

Take a moment and think about why you trust someone else.  Did it happen over night?  Did it happen in response to one interaction?  Do you have faith in their abilities?  Do you feel that they care about you?  Do you feel they were being authentic with you?

Trust can be risky!  Trust is required for a healthy relationship and before we can have a healthy relationship with another, we must work on having a healthy relationship with ourselves.  If I were to ask you to remember a time when someone broke your trust, I imagine that most of us can quickly remember a time.  But if I were to ask you to remember a time when you broke your own trust, would it be so easy to recall?

According to an article in the Harvard Business Review, trust has three core drivers:  authenticity, logic and empathy.  Therefore, trusting ourselves requires us to connect to our authentic selves, have compassion for ourselves, and align our choices with what we know to be true for ourselves.  Unfortunately, many of us struggle in this space due to the fear of being judged by others (AKA the need for approval by others) and/or the fear of disappointing others.

If you find yourself caught in this common human struggle, below are some intention-setting ideas for building trust in yourself:

  1. Accept yourself.   It is mission critical to accept all parts of ourselves, fully and unapologetically!  If you find yourself saying to yourself that there is a part, or parts of you that you hate, consider sitting with these parts and having an open dialogue.  Give those parts a voice, without judgment.  Remember, all parts of us come in service.  They adapted and adjusted to keep you safe.  Perhaps try writing down the messages that these parts continue to repeat so they know you have heard them.  Doing so creates space for you to thank them and to consider releasing them from service as they may be ready to retire!
  2. Lean on your values.  Breaking trust with ourselves is tied to our core values.  For example, if one of our core values is honesty and then we lie, we just dishonored ourselves and broke our trust with ourselves.  Therefore, if you find yourself in a dilemma or need to make a difficult choice, consider turning to your top core values and let them guide you.  Making the decision might be difficult in the moment; however, if it aligns with your core values, you will sense that alignment for much longer.  Perhaps display your top core values prominently in your home as a reminder to you as to what is most important, so they are in your awareness in those more challenging moments.
  3. Identify your strengths.  To build trust in yourself, start with what you know to be your strengths.  Consider making a list of your strengths and then build on them by doing more with them.  The key will be to honor the work, by perhaps journaling at the end of each day to recognize how you demonstrated your strengths that day.  For example, if you identified creativity as one of your strengths, write down all of the ways creativity showed up including any out-of-the-box solutions to mundane daily problems.
  4. Keep promises.  This applies to keeping promising to BOTH yourself and to others!  This requires setting strong and clear boundaries, including saying no, so others grow.  If you can’t (or don’t want to) do something, it is better to say no (even if it makes you very uncomfortable to do so) than to say yes and later break your promise.  Consistency in the outcomes (both when saying yes and saying no) is what builds (over time) a trustworthy relationship.
  5. Practice compassion.  As humans, we will make mistakes or take missteps.  However, one bad decision or broken promise does not make you a bad person.  Failures are vital to our growth and to discovering our core values and strengths.  Therefore, befriending our failures, missteps, and mistakes allows us to learn and expand instead of shrink.  Consider exercising your self compassion muscle (AKA the heart) by listening to a meditation and/or writing down what you would say to a dear friend in this space.  Then, the next time you experience a space of constriction, perhaps offering yourself those same kind words!

5 Intention-setting Ideas for Individual Growth

Celebrating the Month of Love

When we think about the month of February, it often brings up thoughts of Valentine’s Day.  It is also a month to honor American Heart Month and Black History Month.  And this year happens to be a leap year as well!

I believe what ties all of these occasions together is an opportunity for individual (mental, physical, emotional) growth.  When world challenges loom so large, we might feel helpless or even hopeless, which hurts our hearts.  Yet, if we create space to turn inward, to look at what needs tending in our own gardens, whether our physical health or weeding out old beliefs that are choking our ability to flourish, then we can find some peace in knowing that our individual growth will contribute to the evolution of the collective consciousness of the world.

Below are some intention-setting ideas for consideration to support your journey inward this month:

  1. Be kind.   A good starting point for individual growth is to be more kind towards yourself.  Consider ways (i.e., thoughts, actions) that you might offer yourself kindness this month.  Perhaps write them down and put them in a place that you can see your list each day, maybe by your bathroom mirror or stuck to your computer screen.  Remember, the universe gets confused by the word “No” and all other forms of it (i.e., not, can’t, won’t, isn’t).  So when constructing your Be Kind list, make sure the statements are framed in a positive format.  For example, saying “I won’t criticize myself.” is interpreted by the universe as “I criticize myself.”  A possible reframe might be “I offer myself compassion more when I make mistakes.”
  2. What matters most.  If we know what matters most to us, it becomes the rudder in the storms of life.  Consider taking some time this month (maybe under the new moon on 2/9 or to celebrate the Year of the Dragon on 2/10) to sit and write down what matters most to you.  Perhaps expand on the items you might identify with the “Why” it is important to you.  If you might want a starting point to support this effort, a list of values (from Brené Brown’s Dare to Lead) can be found here.
  3. Make a difference.  Once you have a better sense of what is important to you, let it guide you towards spaces that support focusing your energy in making a difference, whether to others or the planet.  Those spaces can be any size, not just large spaces.  Remember, if we all focus on our individual growth, trust that the collective growth will be HUGE.  So consider taking small steps and know it is enough, you are enough!
  4. Express gratitude.  Taking time to identify those people, places, actions and things that you appreciate creates space for joy to present and grow.  Reflecting on those moments of gratitude allows you to savor the experiences.  Exercising your gratitude muscles on a regular basis begins to tilt the natural tendency of the brain away from the negative and towards the positive, so we are better equipped to deal with adversity when it arises.  Consider options of starting a gratitude journal or identifying 3 things each evening before going to bed that you are grateful for.  If you wake up in the middle of the night and have trouble going back to sleep because the mind gets active, perhaps try and give it a bone by focusing on the three things you were grateful for from your day.
  5. Celebrate.  If you do try any of the above, it is important to take time to notice your progress and change and celebrate it!  Consider visualizing how you felt in the past when you took a positive step forward on your individual growth journey, no matter how small it might have seemed at the time.  Maybe it was finishing that book you had been reading for awhile or it was after you spent the day volunteering at an organization you align with.  Can you now visualize how you might congratulate yourself for taking that step forward?  Celebrate you everyday, not just on your birthday!

5 Intention-setting Ideas to Sharpen the Skills of Connection

Happy New Year!

Almost a decade ago, when I was contemplating what to name my business, I knew that I wanted the word “connection” in it because of my personal transformation from connecting with my authentic self and then connecting with others.  Making connections, and maintaining the health of those connections, continues to be at the top of my new year intention list.

Neuroscience has shown that humans are wired for connection.  It is a basic human need that is necessary to thrive.  However, that doesn’t mean all of us experienced healthy role models on how to stay connected to our authentic self and/or initiate, foster and deepen connections with others.  For those of us that might think we are not good at connecting, not all is lost.  Connecting includes skills that can be learned, practiced, and refined over time.  It is definitely worth your time and effort!

Below are some intention-setting ideas for exploring and enhancing the skills that support connection:

  1. Be present.   Setting aside time to be with others is important.  Research has shown connecting with others promotes health and happiness.  Yet it is not just the time we spend together.  It is the gift of your presence that makes the difference.  To be present requires us to pay attention.  This means we need to eliminate as many distractions (AKA smart phones) as possible, let go of the myth that humans can multitask, and dial down our own internal dialogue maker that is trying to identify a follow up response before the person has finishing speaking.  Yes, conversations are a two-way exchange and yet, perhaps try to notice beyond the person’s words for an underlying purpose or meaning for sharing.  From there, consider simply expressing appreciation to the person for sharing with you.  Then, watch their response!
  2. Listen deeply.  This skill is tied very closely with being present, so bundling them together will make practice that much easier.  To listen deeply to another, consider making eye contact with them, checking in with your body language to ensure it is open (i.e. avoid crossing your arms and legs as this is a more defensive posture), focusing on what the other person is saying with the intent to ask questions that are relevant or appropriate to what has been shared.  By doing so, the other person will feel seen and heard and will prevent the “Oh, I had a similar experience” reaction from taking over the conversation.  Contrary to popular belief, sharing your similar story does not necessarily make others feel seen and heard and, instead, can leave people feeling like you are in a competition for the best story (leading to less connection).
  3. Modulate your tone of voice.  This skill is a bit more nuanced.  It requires us to utilize variations in our pitch, pace, volume and inflection of our voice when speaking.  Sometimes the conversation will call us to match the tone of voice of the person we are speaking with, such as when they are expressing excitement about something, and other times it will require us to soften our tone, especially if the emotion being conveyed might be fear, anger, or sadness.  I have found that the more present I am in the conversation and the more deeply I am listening, my voice tends to modulate more naturally, as if it knows what tone is most needed in the moment for connection.  Consider trying to match the tone of someone that is sharing something they found exciting to them to start practicing this skill.  The more skilled you get with these subtle shifts in tone, the more you will notice your enhanced ability to connect with others in diverse situations.
  4. Apologize for mistakes.  Being human means you will make mistakes.  Making mistakes is how we learn as humans.  And sometimes our mistakes impact other people.  Unfortunately, when they do, most of us have not been taught how to own up to the impact and apologize for any harm it may have caused to the other person.  Offering a meaningful apology is part of the formula for healthy and connected relationships.  Apologies start with “I’m sorry.”  Apologies that contain words such as “but” or “if” or “may” imply that the apology is conditional and does not reflect ownership to the mistake, increasing the likelihood of further disconnection.  Healthy apologies that deepen connections are ones that are specific and sincere, reflecting ownership to the mistake and the impact it had on the other person, while sitting with the discomfort that the other person may not accept your apology.  I know this intention might be a difficult one for many of us to implement.  Perhaps the next time you sense the need to apologize to someone, consider writing it down first to ensure it conveys unconditional ownership to the mistake and it specifically addresses the impact the mistake had on the other person.
  5. Share.  Deep connections with others require a willingness to reveal ourselves through sharing both our struggles and our joys.  Yes, I mean we must embrace our vulnerability and begin to see it as our superpower.  Sharing our vulnerabilities, including our fears and insecurities, allows others to experience us as fully alive humans moving through a complex world.  This type of sharing opens the door to genuine and meaningful conversations by creating space for others to feel safe to do the same.  Sharing vulnerable parts of ourselves builds trust, which, over time, deepens our relationships.  If you choose to dip your toe into the pool of vulnerability, consider first to whom you might want to practice this skill with and second, what it is you might want to reveal about yourself.  Take it slow and my suggestion would be to not dive into the deep end too quickly!


Can neurofeedback reduce the effects of another symptom of trauma – gambling?

As I like to quote renowned addiction expert, Dr. Gabor Maté, “Not all traumatized people become addicted, but all addicted people, including those addicted to opioids, were traumatized in some way.” He has also stated “Addiction is only a symptom, it’s not the fundamental problem. The fundamental problem is trauma.This message is very powerful and supports efforts to destigmatize people who struggle with addictive behaviors of all kinds, whether the impulse to soothe is temporarily satisfied by alcohol/drugs, exercise, shopping, eating, caffeine, tobacco/nicotine, internet gaming, sex, TV, social media or gambling. My adaptive behavioral addiction to chronic toxic stress as a child was eating and it did soothe me in the moment, although not for very long. Since the diagnosis of gambling addiction was added in the 5th addition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), research has been able to focus on treatments that might be helpful to healing.

My own healing journey included both talk therapy along with yoga, to reduce the internal conflict and stress I felt and to understand why I felt it in the first place. The contemplative practices in yoga created space in my mind and body to process through talk therapy with more ease. I wasn’t aware of neurofeedback or non-invasive brain stimulation at the time, although it has been around for over 50 years. I think it was due largely to the pharmaceutical marketing push to treat mental health challenges that created our current infatuation with psychopharmacology and moved any non-pharmaceutical options into the shadows for a long time. I’m grateful neurofeedback is making a strong comeback as it does not have the many complex side effects prescription medications cause in both the body and mind!

As we begin to embrace addictions, both chemical and behavioral, as natural adaptive behaviors to chronic toxic stress from adverse childhood experiences, we can begin to expand our treatment options beyond Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and prescription medications. Neurofeedback can expand our window of tolerance (like yoga did for me) to create space to process and release the pain and shame emanating from our past with more ease and without drugs. Although preliminary, research is beginning to show that neurofeedback can significantly reduce the cravings experienced by people struggling with a gambling addiction. If you, or someone you love may be in this space, it is my hope that you might consider neurofeedback as a tool to support the journey of healing.

If you would like to read more about the research related to gambling disorder, click on the button below:

5 Intention-setting Ideas to Awaken Your Soul

Spiritual Literacy Month

Spirituality is not religion yet it does means something different for everyone.  For some it might refer to the journey of self-discovery and for others it might be a sense of connectedness to themselves, others and the world around them.  It might mean the process of identifying our purpose in this world or finding meaning in our lives.  It might be in relationship to a higher vibrational energy, whether embodied in a formalized religion or in nature.

Research is starting to show that whatever spirituality might mean to you, it can improve your overall health and wellbeing.  So becoming more spiritually literate can be at the least an educative experience (i.e., expanding the mind and heart) and perhaps even transformative, by deepening your faith (i.e., good for the soul).  By learning about different spiritual perspectives, it supports a deeper understanding of others, creating space to invite in more acceptance and peace.

Therefore, to support your health and wellbeing and the expansion of the collective consciousness of the world during this holiday season, below are some ideas to celebrate Spiritual Literacy Month:

  1. Read.   Consider picking up a spiritual book in order to expand your mind.  Invite your curiosity forward to be fully present when reading it.  I recently read Home at the Tree of Life by Dr. Elena Gabor and found it quite interesting, if not somewhat comforting.
  2. Visit.  Perhaps plan a visit to participate in a spiritual gathering.  Maybe you have a friend that has a particular spiritual orientation which has peaked your interest in the past.  Consider reaching out and asking if there are any particular spiritual gatherings coming up this month that you might join them at to explore.
  3. Watch.  Sometimes movies can touch our hearts and expand our minds.  If this resonates with you, consider scheduling some time to watch an inspirational (AKA spiritual?) movie.  I’ve listed some recent ones below from different genres to start your list:
    • Dog
    • Elvis
    • Hallelujah:  Leonard Cohen, A Journey, A Song
    • Women Talking
    • After Death
  4. Contemplate.  To quite your mind a little during this very busy time of year, perhaps try a contemplative practice to bring your mind more present in the moment.  It might simply be to sit for a minute and watch your breath moving in an out of your body.  Or it might be to stop what you are doing for a few moments to fully feel your feet on the ground.  Or perhaps it is a silent hike on your favorite hiking trail to connect more fully with Mother nature.  To maximize the benefit of your contemplative practice, consider having a journal nearby to write any intentions for the new year that might arise from your heart after the practice!
  5. Retreat.  If resources allow, consider a more immersive experience by going on a spiritual retreat.  Such retreats are offered locally as well as in far-away lands.  Some can be a couple of hours and others can be for a week or more.  The opportunity to more deeply connect with others while remaining in a space of acceptance and curiosity can be truly life changing!

2024 Vision Board Playshop

Copy of July 14, 2019 – 1

5 Intention-setting Ideas to Move Through Grief

Holidays are not always the happy events portrayed in movies.  Often times they activate a mixed bag of emotions and can leave us feeling sad, angry, depressed, confused, lonely, fearful, helpless, and hopeful.  Yes, hopeful.

Hope is a human tendency of our authentic self and a universal invitation.  It is the same emotion that allows us to think this holiday season will be different, that everyone will embrace the holiday spirit and bring forward their best selves.

Yet holidays are often a reminder of the things we have lost, whether loved ones, the possibilities of a life not lived or world peace.  With the current world events creating a ripple effect that spreads shock, fear and grief, it’s important to recognize that holidays can be a challenging time for most of us for different reasons.

Therefore, below are some ideas for moving through grief that might arise during the holiday season:

  1. Acknowledge the loss.   Sometimes we recognize the feelings, yet try to ignore them, especially if it is not clear why we are feeling them.  Consider taking some time out to identify any losses you may have experienced.  This can include the loss of a job, a relationship, a pet, a cherished dream, your health, safety, or selling your home.  It could also be something that culturally has been celebrated in the past, such as graduating from high school or college, changing jobs, moving away from home to a dream location, and retirement.
  2. Acknowledge the pain.  If you sense the emotions coming up and you are able to identify the loss or losses, acknowledge and allow the pain to be present.  Ignoring it will only create more challenges down the road.  Experiencing pain is the normal, natural human response to the loss of something meaningful to us.  And the only way to heal the pain is through it.  There is not a way around it.  So consider creating a space, place and/or time to sit with the pain and honor the loss.
  3. Accept all emotions.  There is no right or wrong way to grieve and it is important to know that the experience can bring up different, and sometimes surprising emotions, such as relief.  Consider releasing any expectation (aka myths) around grieving and don’t listen to someone trying to tell you how you feel or should feel at any point through the journey.  Each path through loss is unique and cannot be compared to another’s.
  4. Slow down.  The stress that comes with a loss will deplete your energy and it is important to recognize this experience.  Accepting that the desire “to do” will not be burning so brightly as you travel through your grief creates space for simply being.  Consider giving yourself permission to put off what does not need to be done at this time.  Or perhaps asking someone else to take something off your “to do” list.
  5. Ramp up self care.  It will be important for you to prioritize your physical care, including sleeping, eating, and exercising.   Maintaining your routines as much as possible brings emotional and mental comfort and temporary relief, creating space for healing.  Consider spending additional time in those spaces that bring you happiness and joy.  Doing so does not invalidate or ignore your grief and, instead, increases your resiliency by allowing all emotions to co-exist.

New Stretch Yoga Class