How Yoga Helped Me—And Can Help You
Yoga and meditation are incredible tools that I used to help save my life
Here are some of the ways these practices have helped me, and how they can help you, too:
Yoga for stress relief
Life is complicated and always changing.
When we respond to life situations with stress, we create more stress — which in turn creates illness and disease. But when we calm the body and mind and react to life from a place of ease, we bring in still more ease and create healing.
Therapeutic yoga taught me to feel my experiences and then let them go; I found that if I held on, I created stress and blocks that stunted my growth in life. It is only when I let the past go that I was able to work for a healthy future and invite in positivity and true happiness. Getting to a place of ease relieved the dis-ease that was created by holding on.
When we feel stress, our bodies go into fight or flight mode, where cortisol and adrenalin levels are elevated. This rush of body chemicals — natural, but inappropriate in most situations — creates a host of physical symptoms. When our bodies are busy sending energy to “defense” mode instead of “relax” mode, we quickly deplete our reserves of energy. It’s in that situation that illness and injury thrive. We tend to feel exhausted and the little bumps in the road overwhelm and tire us out.
But by combating the stress of the world with times of relaxation, we strengthen our immune systems, increase productivity and focus, get restful sleep and improve organ function, keeping ourselves healthier and stronger during difficult times. We move out of a state of high alert and are able to relax, be soft and find joy in daily life — instead of always rushing to the next thing. We also find clarity.
When we are stressed, we are faced with two kinds of stressors – external and internal. Most external stressors are out of our control. Most internal stressors are in our control. Internal stressors are the mental dialogue we tell ourselves about an external stressor. Internal stressors are most of the incessant stream of thoughts running a muck.
For example, a co-worker insults you first thing in the morning when you arrive to work. You are stunned and hurt by the insult, and in that moment, you aren’t sure how to respond so you brush it off. But due to the nature of the mind, you keep replaying the event over and over. You hear the words ringing in your ears and wish you could have reacted different. You feel worse and worse about yourself as you focus on it – perhaps even thinking, “That Jackie, what a jerk. I wish I said….” The mind runs with judgement about the person that insulted you. Your day is filled with turmoil from this interaction. You can’t focus, you feel tired. The turmoil continues as you get home. You share the experience with loved ones and that night, you can’t sleep because it’s bothering you. You lay in bed, feeling worried about going to work the next day and wonder if you should take a sick day.
Therapeutic yoga can help witness and silence this incessant train of thinking that is causing you great stress. As we practice being a witness, we become more present and better prepared to speak our truth next time or not take it personally at all. We witness those internal stressors and gradually shift our experience of stress, into an experience of clarity and peace. We develop the skill to use presence as our “super power” and relax into what is, taking nothing personally.
Regular therapeutic yoga practice calms the nervous system, which eases anxiety and creates clarity in the mind. It focuses the mind and strengthens body awareness. We are then able to connect to our true self, tap into the resources of our inner guides and let our intuition guide us through life. A regular practice of self-care clues us in so we know when we’re pushing too hard — and need to back off and do less. We need time to ourselves, to tune inward and replenish our energy reserves – mentally, physically and spiritually.
Some may say that self-care is selfish, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Our external world is a reflection of our internal world — if we’re suffering on the inside, we’ll project that suffering out on the ones around us. When we’re calm, free from physical pain and at our best, we can think and act with clarity that is best for our families and friends. More presence and ease in life means better quality relationships and doing what truly makes us and those around us happy.
Eleanor Brown says it best, “Rest and self-care are so important. When you take time to replenish your spirit, it allows you to serve others from the overflow. You cannot serve from an empty vessel.”
Healing yourself with yoga is the most important thing you can do for the ones you love… and for yourself. I discovered this and you can too.
Schedule your session today to learn how to make lasting change, silence incessant thinking and be free from internal stressors. Learn how to shift from stress to ease with regular practice.
Yoga for healing from injury and/or illness
Your body wants to heal. That’s its default response. Therapeutic yoga is a natural way to help that process to take place.
By relaxing your body and mind through restorative poses, gentle stretching, and guided meditations and visualizations, we bring in a relaxation response where your body rests in a state of stillness. In this space, energy is directed to the processes of repair and rejuvenation so natural healing takes place. Balance is restored and your body regains lost energy.
Regular yoga practice creates a reserve of energy that feeds vitality, health, strength and creativity.
I have personally healed injuries to my neck and shoulders, hamstring, SI joint, knee, and have found relief from almost a decade of chronic back pain stemming from a horrible car accident. Therapeutic yoga created the space I needed for true healing — and actually eased the pain on a deeper level.
I have now been free from chronic back pain for over five years and continue to ease the injury and heal through my regular therapeutic practice. You can take the same journey with the natural and intuitive healing that comes from yoga.
Yoga and meditation for incessant thinking and anxiety
I suffered from incessant thinking my whole life, constantly brooding about the past and worrying about the future.
I also suffered from crippling panic attacks since my childhood. As I got older and my anxiety got worse, I feared even leaving the house. Just thinking about going to work or the grocery store would induce intense anxiety and bring on severe panic attacks. Prescription medications — and addiction to them and other substances —only masked the issue. As the years went on, I needed more and more and found no relief.
It wasn’t until I read “The Power of Now” by Eckhart Tolle and truly understood the concept of being in the moment that I was able to control the demons in my head.
By developing a consistent meditation practice over time, I was able to discover how my mind works, and found the power to silence my thoughts. Today, I use my breath and mind control to combat anxiety — and haven’t experienced a panic attack in over 5 years. I live grounded in the present moment, preparing for the future as best I can, choosing to not focus on the “what ifs.” I am able to feel the first signs of anxiety coming on, take a few deep breaths, ask myself ‘what is real in this moment,’ and calm my central nervous system. This eases the stress and tension an uncertain future can cause.
Yoga and meditation can do the same for you, getting you out of your head and into your body, connecting you to your physical being and the way you feel.
By staying grounded in the present moment — the “right here, right now” — you’ll be able to focus on breathing one breath at a time. The more you breathe, the more alive you’ll feel.
There’s no way of ever knowing what lies ahead, but our lives aren’t in the future, our lives are unfolding right now, here, in this moment. Intense emotions come and go. You have the ability to let them go… and be free.
Yoga for depression
Depression is complicated; it has many layers and causes. When my depression was at its worst, I was tortured and troubled by intense thoughts, emotions and unresolved issues from my traumatic past. I was utterly trapped in the painful cycle and could never feel lasting happiness. This suffering intensified and controlled my every thought, leaving me blind to the life around me and set me up for a life of suffering.
By meditating and examining the contents of my mind, I was able to identify certain negative thought patterns and ask myself if what I was thinking was real. I became the observer of my mind and was able to get to know myself on the deepest level. I learned to care about what I put in my mind as well as what I put into my body and was able to gradually free myself from the intensity of depression. I have learned that I am responsible for not only my actions, but also my thoughts.
It is in your power to feel happy or sad, to focus on positive or negative. Yoga and meditation can teach you to sit with the sadness and move through it before it snowballs out of control. These practices can give you the power to identify sad thoughts, consciously let them go and avoid being trapped in the painful cycle of depression.
When you are able to strip away layers of your past, you’ll be ready to be free of it. It is a process—and it takes time, dedication and compassion—but it works. Through my personal practice, I was able to face difficult past experiences and discover the root of my suffering. I use yoga to discover the secrets buried within, shed layers of hurt, reconnect and find lasting happiness, joy and peace both on and off my mat.
Practicing yoga allowed me to connect to my physical being and release the painful past experiences buried deep within my cells, and it can help you do the same.
Yoga for mental health and addiction recovery
In March 2013, I was asked to give a speech at the Human Rights Rally at the State Capitol in Hartford, CT. My speech was about my journey back to health, and the alternatives to medication that I used to get me there.
I used to live a life trapped in my mind, living separate from my body and spirit. I lived believing that I was the content of my mind. Prisoner to my thoughts, I indulged in addictions to ease the self-created suffering. It wasn’t until I found yoga and meditation that I was able to examine my mind and develop a relationship to my physical being.
Ungrounded, anxious and afraid—that was my old way of life. The more I practiced, the more the fear melted away, and the more I noticed a shift. I became more present and connected as I developed healthier coping skills for intense emotions. These practices soon took the place of addictions and gave me the strength to manage the ups and downs of life with compassion for others and myself, both on and off my mat.
Through the study and application of yoga and spiritual teachings to your daily life, you’ll be better able to unite mind, body and soul in order to heal from a traumatic past.
I discovered a whole wealth of knowledge and practices to journey deep inside, to heal the broken parts of me, realizing that asana was just the beginning—and so can you.
Yoga and meditation can help you tune into your own unique needs and find the answers within instead of looking for someone or something else to do it for you.
Through my intense studies, I have picked out the pieces that work for me. I take in all of the information I can, discovering and using what is true for me, and then apply it to my practice. I live what I teach and continue on my path of healing so that I may discover new ways to teach others. I no longer rely on addictions to feel better or suffer from the grips of depression, anxiety and other intense emotions.
I’ll help you do the same—unlike the cookie-cutter approach you’ll find in big studios, your yoga practice will become unique to your needs.
Through yoga, I have found lasting peace and happiness, and I hope to help you do the same.