Summer Sacred Sound Baths

Benefits of Integrating Yoga Into Postgraduate Mental Health Curriculums

As we find ourselves in a bit of a lull in the Covid-19 outbreak here in southern California, I have found my way back to teaching yoga in-person in a local yoga studio. My heart is full as I have greatly missed the opportunity to bring this healing modality back in-person to a larger audience. Yoga, including all of its contemplative practices, has been the largest tool in my self-care tool kit, even becoming my way of life over the years, and it is truly what kept me grounded in gratitude through the pain and chaos of the past two years. Although I may not have found myself on my yoga mat regularly, especially for those yummy 90-minute classes that include an extra long savasana shape at the end, I know how important these practices are for supporting our mind-body-spirit health. And, as a mental health provider, I know it is mission critical to prioritize our self-care practices in order to be fully present and prevent burnout. With increasing rates of burnout in mental health providers during the pandemic, the question becomes is it possible to integrate yoga into postgraduate curriculums for mental health providers to ensure the long-term wellbeing of such providers?

A recent research study took a look at including yoga into the curriculum for first-year mental health students to test the feasibility of such a proposal. Introducing such tools to all students in this setting ensures all mental health providers would have the first-hand knowledge and experience of the impact on their well-being before actually moving into the space of providing services to clients, where the stress level of the role only increases. Although the results of this research advocates for such a change to the curriculum, it only provided a brief, 15-day offering. It is my belief that offering longer curriculum based yogic interventions would not only provide more sustained self-care tools to the mental health provider but it would also equip the mental health provider with the skills to bring such self-care tools to their clients.

Hybrid (On-site/In-person and Online/Virtual) Reiki-infused Sound Healing and Meditation Class!

On-site/In-person Community Gathering Practice Tips

We understand that, during this transitional time, some of us are more ready than others to slowly re-enter into the experience of small social gatherings.  For this reason, we have created a hybrid service model, where a small number of (no more than 4) participants will be able to join us in-person.   If you are interested in this option, let us know and we will provide further guidance, including:

  • Signed Releases/Waivers of Liability forms (one time, for new students only)
  • PayPal information to facilitate payment (to ensure your spot is saved)
  • Masks will be required before and after the class
  • Bring your own props (e.g., mats, blankets, pillows, bolsters, eye pillows, intention cards, etc.)
  • Come at least 15 minutes early to settle in and allow physical distancing while doing so (doors will open at 6:30 pm)

Virtual Community Gathering Practice Tips

For those that would prefer to stay in the comfort of home – whether due to physical distance, family participation and/or even the enhanced sense of privacy – we will continue to provide the option to connect with us through Zoom.

Once you let us know that you are interested in attending, we will send you an email that will include details around what is needed from you, including:

  • Signed Releases/Waivers of Liability forms (one time, for new students only)
  • PayPal information to facilitate payment
  • Checking your email for the Zoom link to join the class
  • A few minutes before the class, simply clicking the link within the email to be sent straight to our meeting room

To facilitate the benefits of such a virtual community practice at home, below we have provided some helpful hints:

  • Set up your mats at least 3 giant steps from your device.
  • Elevate your device 21-24″ from the floor and have it tilted forward slightly.
  • Have your props nearby.
  • Although not required, having a headset or ear buds to listen when the singing bowls are playing may enhance your listening pleasure.
  • Please know you will not need to have your audio/video camera on during the practice.  If you would prefer to reduce the number of distractions or increase the sense of privacy, we invite you to turn off your audio and video once the class starts.

Restorative Yoga Tips and Props

On the day of the class, here are some additional recommendations to create a more sacred space in advance for your practice:

  • Make sure you’ll be in a space where there won’t be any background noises, distractions or interruptions.
  • Adjusting the lighting in the room to your liking, perhaps turning off any overhead lighting and minimizing outdoor light and instead turning on a room lamp or lighting your favorite candle(s).
  • Wear warm, comfortable clothing including socks.
  • If available, bringing your favorite deck of intention cards and essential oil to your mat.
  • Placing your props (see below) to the side of your mat so they are within an easy reach during the class.

 In home prop ideas:

  • Bolster:  couch cushions or a tightly rolled comforter, towel, or blanket (can be secured with 2 ties, scarfs or belts)
  • Pillows:  couch, chair or bed pillows will do
  • Blankets:  your favorite blanket to cover yourself and either 2 additional blankets or bath or beach towels (no sheets)
  • Yoga blocks: books, either paper back or hard cover, stacked
  • Eye pillow:  hand towel, tie or scarf

Hybrid (On-site/In-person and Online/Virtual) Reiki-infused Sound Healing and Meditation Class!

On-site/In-person Community Gathering Practice Tips

We understand that, during this transitional time, some of us are more ready than others to slowly re-enter into the experience of small social gatherings.  For this reason, we have created a hybrid service model, where a small number of (no more than 4) participants will be able to join us in-person.   If you are interested in this option, let us know and we will provide further guidance, including:

  • Signed Releases/Waivers of Liability forms (one time, for new students only)
  • PayPal information to facilitate payment (to ensure your spot is saved)
  • Masks will be required before and after the class
  • Bring your own props (e.g., mats, blankets, pillows, bolsters, eye pillows, intention cards, etc.)
  • Come at least 15 minutes early to settle in and allow physical distancing while doing so (doors will open at 6:30 pm)

Virtual Community Gathering Practice Tips

For those that would prefer to stay in the comfort of home – whether due to physical distance, family participation and/or even the enhanced sense of privacy – we will continue to provide the option to connect with us through Zoom.

Once you let us know that you are interested in attending, we will send you an email that will include details around what is needed from you, including:

  • Signed Releases/Waivers of Liability forms (one time, for new students only)
  • PayPal information to facilitate payment
  • Checking your email for the Zoom link to join the class
  • A few minutes before the class, simply clicking the link within the email to be sent straight to our meeting room

To facilitate the benefits of such a virtual community practice at home, below we have provided some helpful hints:

  • Set up your mats at least 3 giant steps from your device.
  • Elevate your device 21-24″ from the floor and have it tilted forward slightly.
  • Have your props nearby.
  • Although not required, having a headset or ear buds to listen when the singing bowls are playing may enhance your listening pleasure.
  • Please know you will not need to have your audio/video camera on during the practice.  If you would prefer to reduce the number of distractions or increase the sense of privacy, we invite you to turn off your audio and video once the class starts.

Restorative Yoga Tips and Props

On the day of the class, here are some additional recommendations to create a more sacred space in advance for your practice:

  • Make sure you’ll be in a space where there won’t be any background noises, distractions or interruptions.
  • Adjusting the lighting in the room to your liking, perhaps turning off any overhead lighting and minimizing outdoor light and instead turning on a room lamp or lighting your favorite candle(s).
  • Wear warm, comfortable clothing including socks.
  • If available, bringing your favorite deck of intention cards and essential oil to your mat.
  • Placing your props (see below) to the side of your mat so they are within an easy reach during the class.

 In home prop ideas:

  • Bolster:  couch cushions or a tightly rolled comforter, towel, or blanket (can be secured with 2 ties, scarfs or belts)
  • Pillows:  couch, chair or bed pillows will do
  • Blankets:  your favorite blanket to cover yourself and either 2 additional blankets or bath or beach towels (no sheets)
  • Yoga blocks: books, either paper back or hard cover, stacked
  • Eye pillow:  hand towel, tie or scarf

Recovery from alcohol use disorder is a crooked road – can direct neurofeedback help ease the journey?

The high levels of stress, loss and isolation due to the pandemic have been challenging to everyone’s mental health, but perhaps much more so for those of us that suffer from symptoms that accompany alcohol use disorder, specifically craving and consumption. With no end in sight for the continued spread of the virus, what options might be available to calm the fear centers of the brain beyond virtual meetings? What if there was a painless, non-invasive treatment that could reduce these symptoms and create more ease on the road to recovery?

Recent research did a systematic review and meta-analysis of 25 direct neurofeedback studies and the findings suggest that bilateral direct neurofeedback and multiple treatments have positive effects on reducing the symptoms of cravings. It might not be a magic pill, yet direct neurofeedback just might reduce the bumps in the road and the detours on the path of recovery.

If you might be interested in learning more, click on the link below:

5 Intention-setting Ideas to Support Leaning In

‘Tis the Season!

Although the great marketers of the world want us to believe this is the season of peace, December brings mixed emotions and feelings for most of us and this year continues in that same tradition.  Due to the pandemic, we yearn for a deeper connection with our loved ones more than ever, yet reality often brings unexpected results.  So my offering this month includes a focus on self, through small steps you might take to bring yourself some INNER peace (which, in a round about way, invites OUTER peace).

The steps listed below are ones I have actually taken myself over the years to invite more inner peace into my human beingness, so I hope you will l consider trying one yourself.  I am wishing much inner peace to all this holiday season!

  1. Set Limits.  I would find myself over committed and over extended each year, as my people pleasing part went into overdrive!  So, I began to slowly say “No” to things that did not bring me absolute joy or that had the taste of obligation associated with it.  I also began to set time limits on social gatherings so I could build more down time into my schedule.  Those time limits applied both to myself and to others.  I’ll admit the first couple of times I set such limits was awkward and uncomfortable, yet I was surprised at how quickly I felt relief, more freedom and a greater sense of peace.  Consider setting one limit this season, sit back and observe what happens!
  2. Slow down. This concept was a really hard one for me to embrace.  I rushed around everywhere, even finding myself running down the halls at work, just so I might fit in just one more thing in my day.  It was exhausting!  I believed I was great at multi-tasking.  I have to thank my yoga practice on the mat for helping me to down-shift and it didn’t happen right away.  But with practice, I did finally shift my perspective to ‘One thing at a time’ and brought myself much inner peace.  Now, although I always recommend trying it, yoga is not the only path to slowing down.  It might be making a commitment to spending more time in nature or reducing your “To Do” list by one each week, until you only have 3 items on it per day (with one of them being some form of self-care!).  Perhaps you consider the idea of “being” as productive as “doing”, because being present, being intentional, and being attentive are some of the best gifts you can give yourself and others!  Perhaps sitting with some aspect of yourself that invites the perfectionist and inner critic out and, instead, get curious about that part of you that you have been judging and write down how it has served you.  See if you can identify at least 3 ways it has served you and then check in with how you might now feel about it.
  3. Judge Yourself Less.  The perfectionist inside partners with the inner critic believing that judgment will motivate us to do better, be better.  Unfortunately, overtime, when we strive for perfection, which is an unattainable goal, we are setting ourselves up for failure.  The inevitable failure to attain perfection perpetuates the vicious cycle, adding fuel to the inner conflict.  To truly lean into inner peace, we need to accept ourselves as limited and flawed human beings, with gifts, strengths and weaknesses.  It is the combination of our gifts, strengths and weaknesses that make us unique in this world.  The journey of accepting that we are perfectly imperfect beings is the path to true inner peace. Perhaps identify an aspect of yourself that invites the perfectionist and inner critic to come out and sit with it in a space of curiosity.  See if you can write down 3 ways it has served you.  Afterwards, check in and notice if judgment has shifted in some way.
  4. Judge Others Less.  It is human to compare ourselves to others, yet making a judgment about those differences is something that is learned.  That’s the good news – because it can then be unlearned with awareness and understanding.  When I would catch myself judging others, I would try to stop and imagine that I had gotten it totally wrong in the moment, that what I was experiencing was a complete misunderstanding.  The hardest part was catching myself in that judgment of others.  When I could slow my mind down and create some space for understanding, I was then able to lean into the space of accepting that everyone is doing their best with what they know.  Culturally, we are groomed to be judgmental, yet I ask ‘When has judgment brought you inner peace?’  Perhaps consider writing down one judgment you tend to make of others and explore the roots of this judgment.  Who passed this judgment to you, when do you find yourself most judging of this aspect of others, where does this judgment come up most frequently, and why do you believe you make this judgment.  Again, sense into any shift in those judgments after spending some time with it.
  5. Shift Perspective.  As I mentioned above, our perfectionist sets us up for failure, encouraging us to reach for the impossible.  When we fail, we might begin to think to ourselves “Why is this happening to me?”  It wasn’t until I began to create space for myself (see above) that I was able to shift the perspective to “Why is it happening for me?’ instead.  Every failure brings with it a lesson and an opportunity.  It is sitting in those uncomfortable spaces, looking for the lesson and opportunity, that opens the door to acceptance of ourselves in those moments, encouraging us to realign with our authentic selves, and to take our next steps forward from that place of acceptance.  When we can begin to make this shift in perspective, we begin to see our failures simply as the universe guiding us towards our true purpose, instead of believing there must be something wrong with us.  Consider identifying a past failure and exploring what might have grown from that space.  Perhaps you gained new clarity on what brings you joy or you decided to take a class to learn a new skill or it brought a deeper understanding of why it wasn’t sustainable in the long run.  When you reflect on the new areas of growth that emerged, sense into any felt shifts from the change in perspective time provides.

As always, if you try any of these intention-setting ideas for holistic health, I would love to hear about the impact they might have had for you.  Please send me an email at linda@sanctuary4compassion.com to share!

Can cultivating compassion improve the process of psychotherapy?

Prior to becoming a therapist myself, I spent a significant amount of time on the couch as a client.  I am forever grateful for the encouragement and compassion I received on those couches as the therapists supported my journey of growth.  However, for all of the compassion they may have offered me, none of them taught me about compassion.  I learned about compassion through the Eastern philosophies I studied as part of my yoga training.  As I began to practice compassion consciously, I came to personally discover its deep healing power.  So, when I began to practice as a licensed psychotherapist, I integrated Eastern and Western approaches, and teaching compassion to my clients is a tool I rely upon to facilitate healing and transformation.

Compassion guides us into spaces of acceptance of our limitations as human beings, to embrace our imperfections, and to comfort ourselves when experiencing suffering.  It soothes the inner critic and perfectionist, it reduces the amount of pressure on our overly developed responsible part, and creates space in our lives for more connection, peace and joy.  Until perhaps more recently, compassion – and specifically self-compassion – was not something that was taught to us as children, or even as adults.  So, by the time we are adults, we have been led to believe that the inner critic is our internal motivator to do more and better.  Instead the inner critic partners with the perfectionist to wear us down, telling us we will be enough and worthy once we, and everything around us, is perfect.  That is simply an impossible dream that we are chasing, inviting in exhaustion, anxiety, depression, shame, and isolation.

Through the years of not only offering compassion to my clients, but teaching them to offer compassion to themselves, I have noticed how it has enhanced the process of psychotherapy and made the effects more enduring.  A mantra I offer my clients is that self-compassion is the antidote to what ails them.  Easily said, but perhaps not so easily implemented.  Yet, when clients begin to loosen the grip of the inner critic and perfectionist and begin to challenge the myth that self-care is selfish, they begin to experience relief from their symptoms.  I don’t need any more evidence than that to know that compassion works!

However, for those that might want to read more about the effects of compassion, including how it creates structural changes in the brain, click on the link below for the most recent research in this area.

5 Intention-setting Ideas to Open Your Heart

The Attitude of Gratitude:  November is National Gratitude Month!

I love the fact that November has been designated as National Gratitude Month, giving the practice of gratitude the attention it deserves!

I have amped up my practice of gratitude this year as a way to keep my heart open.  I could feel myself pulling back and away, closing off my heart, because of the fear and restrictions that come with the pandemic.

To keep the fires burning to warm your heart, below I have offered some simple practices you might explore to celebrate this month and kick start your own gratitude practices.

  1. Say Thank You!  As we grew up, somewhere along the line, we were told to say “Please” and “Thank You” to others that do something kind for us to be polite.  Maybe our ancestors instinctively sensed that the act of saying “Thank You” had a more profound purpose.  My suggestion for consideration is to delve a bit deeper into the act of expressing this form of appreciation to another by bringing more awareness to this expression, being more conscious in our choice of when, how and to whom we express it.  For example, instead of simply saying “Thank You’ to someone that holds the door open for you as you enter a store, you might slow down and say “Thank you for being so kind and considerate to take the time to hold the door for me today.  I truly appreciate it”.  And then watch, listen and sense into the response!  And, if you are feeling even more adventurous, you might try it with a dear friend or family member.  Set an intention in the morning to catch a loved one “doing something good” and when you do observe them in the act, stop and thank them for what they did.
  2. Focus on the Positive.  Even when things in our life don’t go as planned, if you take some time to sit with the experience, you will be able to discover a unexpected benefit of the change in plans.  By doing so does not necessarily diminish the immediate impact of the sadness or disappointment; however, searching and finding the silver lining and appreciating the benefit has the amazing power of shifting us into an experience of more positive energy, creating space for a more balanced, equilibrated perspective and sense of being.  Consider trying it out today!
  3. Create kindness.  Here’s a fun idea you can do as a craft with friends and family and then share with anyone and everyone.  Collect a bunch of rocks and write something kind on each one.  Then go around your neighborhood or office park and place them where they can be easily found. To read more about this movement started by Megan Murphy, check out this website:  https://www.thekindnessrocksproject.com.  Trust that your message will find the right person at just the right time to change their life!  After you have placed your rock messages around, take some time to sit with yourself and reflect on how the experience in your heart has expressed itself.
  4. Honor our Service Members.  Feeling like you might want to stretch yourself a bit this month and go beyond our borders?  Perhaps consider writing a ‘thank you’ note or letter to a Service member.  Our Active Duty Service members are dedicated to making a difference in our lives without even knowing us.  And, although they may not admit it to many, combat is a scary place, even more so without the comforts of home for some solace.  Receiving an unexpected thank you from a stranger, acknowledging their contributions and sacrifice, might just fan their internal flame of dedication and validate their motivation to serve and protect our freedoms.  Check out Operation Gratitude to learn more about sharing your appreciation with the troops and cracking your own heart wide open!
  5. Write a letter to yourself!  Or maybe this month you are feeling a bit more reflective and sensing your heart needs a more intimate approach to cultivating gratitude.  Then may I recommend writing a ‘thank you’ letter to yourself.  The ultimate practice of kindness might be to express kindness to yourself.  See if you can identify at least 10 aspects that you love about yourself.  Maybe ask someone you care about deeply to do this practice with you and consider sharing what you come up with by saying them out loud to each other.  Again, sit a few moments afterwards to sense into the experience, especially noting the sensations around the heart.  I would love to hear about your observations!

As always, if you try any of these intention-setting ideas for holistic health, I would love to hear about the impact they might have had for you.  Please send me an email at linda@sanctuary4compassion.com to share!

Yoga for helping health professionals during a pandemic

As a helping health professional (HHP), I rely on my yoga practices to maintain mind-body health, work-life balance, and healthy boundaries with my clients.  When colleagues share that they are challenged to maintain these things and ask me what I might do, my first response is all things YOGA.  The responses I get range from a smile to a rolling of the eyes.  Which got me thinking . . . since HHPs are among the highest risk occupational groups for mental and physical health challenges, is my self-care go-to  (yoga) experience unique to me or might these tools really have a more across-the-board impact on such a group of professionals?

When I first started to practice yoga movement, I noticed how it relieved my low back pain that came from a herniated disc.  It was due to practicing yoga movement on a regular basis that I did not require any physical therapy or back surgery then or now (although I did integrate regular chiropractor adjustments into my self-care practices since).  As my back pain went away and I continued to add additional yoga practices to my activities of daily living, I discovered how much calmer and centered I felt mentally and emotionally.  It was these cumulative positive experiences that motivated me to pursue becoming a yoga teacher and then a yoga teacher trainer!

One of the most powerful yoga practices that has served me well is Svadhyaya.  It is one of the five Niyamas, or sacred habits for healthy living, of yoga.  It is often translated simply as self-study within a larger connotation of introspection.  Most of my yoga practices now occur off the mat, but finding the mat for the movement practice certainly reduced the symptoms of anxiety enough to open the door to the practices that actually become a way of life.  That is why I am so passionate about recommending all things yoga to everyone!

So what does the research say about yoga as a tool to support those in the helping health profession overall, beyond me?  Well, recent research took a look at that exact question.  A systematic review that included 25 research articles around the effectiveness of yoga interventions among HHPs and students found that implementing yoga interventions in this population brings mental and physical benefits across a variety of settings and backgrounds, including a reduction in stress, anxiety, depression and musculoskeletal pain.

If you are interested in reading more, click the link below.  If you are a helping health professional or student, consider sharing this link with those that might be in a position to support the implementation of such practices in the workplace or school.

5 Intention-setting Ideas to Support Mental Health

October is Depression and Mental Health Screening Month!

One of the many silver linings of this pandemic has been an increased awareness around mental health.  It has been a long-held belief of mine that if we spent more time, energy and money on supporting mental health, we would radically improve our health care system by significantly reducing what ails us physically.  It does not surprise me that the number one cause of morbidity and mortality is heart disease, which stems from a traumatizing world guiding us to disconnect from the pain and harden our hearts.

So to build upon this growing awareness and to continue to reduce the stigma around mental health challenges, below I provide intention-setting ideas to support compassion and connection, two of the most powerful tools for resiliency.  It is my hope you will consider exploring and then sharing one as we honor Mental Illness Awareness Week the first full week of October!

  1. Take a Stigma Quiz.  Visit the National Association of Mental Illness’s website here to get a better sense of your own personal understanding and beliefs around mental health challenges.  Consider taking this quiz as a simple first step.
  2. Pledge to be Stigma Free. To keep current on mental health, perhaps visit NAMI’s website here to add your name to their StigmaFree campaign to support turning StigmaFree Me into StigmaFree We!
  3. Ok2Talk.org.  Research has shown that sharing what is going on in our minds that we find challenging to us helps reduce its power over us.  Sharing does not necessarily mean talking to another person directly, although that is one option.  NAMI has created this website for people to post their personal stories anonymously.  Perhaps consider checking it out and either posting your own Blog or sharing the site with someone you know that might benefit from such an outlet.
  4. Stretch your Altruistic Muscle.  Research has shown that doing good can do us good.  The benefits include inviting in a sense of belonging, reducing isolation and learning about different perspectives.  Consider visiting the Mental Health Foundation website here for more information and some thoughts about getting started.
  5. Compassionate Conversations Matter.  Connecting with others through conversation is a strategic tool for coping, especially when challenged with powerful feelings that bring about self-defeating thoughts and self-sabotaging behaviors.  If you don’t know where to start, perhaps visit the CDC’s website here to find resources on how to get the conversation started.

As always, if you try any of these intention-setting ideas for holistic health, I would love to hear about the impact they might have had for you.  Please send me an email at linda@sanctuary4compassion.com to share!