Overcoming Perspective Dis-ease

I am daily talking to other women who are on a similar journey as I am in some capacity. I am a yoga instructor, but I am also an advocate and mentor in my the communities of sobriety and eating disorder recovery.

Yoga is a vehicle for integrating and communicating some of the values and “ways of living” that are not just meaningful to me… I live the way I do because it brought me back to life. Walking hand in hand with others who are on their own journey of sobriety or disordered eating, it never ceases to amaze me how yoga has application to literally anything that life could throw at us. Lately the conversations I’ve been having are coming back to this theme of hypercritical self reflection. Perfectionism was formerly a deadly roadmap I used to navigate my day to day. I could not win, no matter what I did, and I tried everything to please the inner critic that ruled my mind.

It breaks my heart to hear others deal with similar internal harassment. And, at least for me, it was harassment. I was berated day in and day out by a chronically discontent, self parenting voice. When I got into recovery, it was very clear to me that if I was going to be sober and aim to take care of myself, I was going to have to make friends with my head. Picture trying to befriend a sadistic tyrant, my task of self reconciliation was going to be the undertaking of epic proportions.

Initially, I tried anything that was suggested to me. I stuck post it notes with affirmations and quotes all over my mirrors and in my cars. I said mantras, prayed, tapped, and meditated. I didn’t find anything that helped me to instantly or permanently eradicate the angry voice inside my head.

What does yoga say about the inner critic?

“Yoga is the process of cleaning the mind and whatever is blocking the inner light – the part of you that doesn’t need to be fixed, controlled or perfected.” (Yoga Journal, 2011). Yoga believes that within each of us is an eternal divine (capital “S”) “Self” and a temporary human (lowercase “s”) “self”. Our “Self” is not subject to criticism, it sits above and transcends that which can be judged, but our impermanent “self” is the part of us where judgment, fear, shame and resistance would come from.

When I am able to recognize which part of me, my thoughts are coming from, I am able to differentiate whether my thoughts are better saved for further contemplation or better left to drift along out of my consciousness. Yoga shares that we have something like clouds in our minds that can make our true understanding of ourself difficult. Two of these clouds (or “kleshas” in Sanskrit) are “avidya” (false understanding) and “asmita” (false identification). In order to connect to our divinity, our God-conscious “Self”, we must continue to practice filtering and sifting through the mental clouds that can keep us stuck in “self.”

This awareness has made a huge difference for me and how I pay attention and validate my own thinking. Knowing that thousands of years ago a philosophical outline was created to assist me in navigating the way towards awareness of my connectivity to the eternal brings me comfort and resolve that I am not alone in this sacred journey.

How have you handled your inner critic? Any tips, readings, or exercises that have helped you on your way?

Take good care,

Kylan

Stretch Routine for Back Pain Relief!

Hands down BIGGEST request I get in my classes ( I ask at the beginning what my students would like help with during our hour (or two)) is help with low back pain. At least one student will mention tension in that area, but there is usually more than one sufferer in each class I guide.   Tight hips is the next area of mention, followed by core strengthening.  I personally carry a great deal of tension in my neck and shoulders, and that is a fairly common request as well.

Luckily, we are physically one interconnected body – so a few consistently used stretches and strengthening poses can bring relief fairly quickly.  Chronic pain tends to come from engaging in physical activities repeatedly, sometimes for extended periods of time where we ask certain muscle groups to engage to the point of overuse or inflammation. Our body starts to call upon our weaker muscle groups, joints, tendons and ligaments – which is where our nerves start to fire off, saying “STOP! I need a gosh darn break, already!”

When we are having low back pain, I can almost guarantee that we’ve spent too much time sitting.  Not sitting in a park and enjoying nature, I’m talking about sitting while engaged in mental stress, so the body clenches – like when we are in traffic and we’d rather be home with our pets or a bubble bath. Or sitting while we are firing off emails all day with “unread” still at 479 and getting responses like “per my last email”, “any updates on this?” and “please advise”.

I’m just going to pause to say, thank God, Mother Nature and all of creation that I’m no longer in corporate America. Everyone earning their living in that capacity has a special place in my heart and I have great respect for you. And if you write emails with those phrases, I’m sure the recipient has good reason to have received it 😉

Back to our backs…..

To sit we use a contraction of the hip flexors, creating a prolonged anterior tilt of the pelvis that pulls on our low back erector muscles, and weakens major stabilizing muscle groups like the abdominals and the gluteals.

For these stretches, the image mentions to hold for 30 seconds, but you are more than welcome to hold for 5 minutes at a time if you are breathing mindfully and the sensation is manageable.

  1. Childs Pose – also called Balasana in Sanskrit, is a fantastic counter stretch to the posture we hold of flaring out our tail bone and rounding/slouching into the upper body. This stretches the chest and triceps out, while providing soft support for the abdominals and low back.
  2. Supine/Figure 4 – great for outer hips, glutes, knees and hamstrings. Keep a firm flex in both feet to protect knees and I love a gentle side to side sway in this stretch.
  3. Supine twists can be done a number of ways, try the one that feels good to you! Options: thighs crossed (pictured), knees stacked/touchings, knees staggered, one leg bent & one straight, or twisting with both legs straight.  KEY: keep shoulder blades flush against the ground while twisting
  4. Runners Lunge or Lizard lunge – very important here to keep the front knee above the front ankle, and feel free to move side to side and notice sensations across different areas of the hips
  5. Adductor opener – I like to use this stretch for my waist by dropping one shoulder forward and twisting toward the opposite shoulder while pressing my knees in opposition from each other
  6. Wide legged forward fold – I can’t promote the benefits of this stretch enough. Try to make sure the hips and ankles line up vertically to reduce weight-bearing on the lower back
  7. Cow-faced legs – this stretch requires hip mobility, so if the range of motion isn’t there yet, use a standard cross-legged seat and move toward cow-faced
  8. Seated twist – be sure that you are sitting tall in the spine, and watch for weight-bearing into the hands. This stretch is more effective when the core muscles are engaged in the twisting
  9. Happy Baby pose – ensure that your shoulders and tailbone stay connected to the ground. Let the hands remain at the back of the thighs and inch toward the calves and feet as mobility increases.

Of course, there are many other options for stretching low back and hips. What are some of your favorites?? Leave some comments!!

Take good care,

xoxo

Kylan

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How COVID-19 can actually be a good thing for us…

The past several weeks have been some really unusual ones, I’ve experienced a lot of emotion, and at times I’ve felt baffled by human behavior. We’ve been in isolation, instructed to leave only for essentials, and weeks in the grocery stores still have empty shelves by 10am. People are sleeping more, watching the news and stock market closely, and doing their best to keep up their jobs through telecommunication. 3.3 million people have applied for unemployment, and wait to see if they can receive compensation while the world fights to stay healthy and protected from this infamous virus.

Some of you know that I run yoga and meditation groups at local drug and alcohol rehabs in the area. It is one of the most rewarding and heartbreaking areas of my work. I was guided to allow clients to complain, I allotted the first five minutes of our group to let them vent freely. I was surprised to hear them chime in for thirty to sixty seconds, and then naturally start to shift to the positive. They wanted to focus on the good, and it’s the same for all of us. As important as it is for us to feel heard, there is a drive within us that magnetically pulls us toward what lightens our heart and spirit. Our group began to think of what we feel grateful for, what we are glad to have in our life, relieving our minds of feeling burdened down.

I actually got married the very last day that the courts were open here in Orange County. It was planned that we would elope, but we definitely pushed the process forward when we heard the news that the county recording offices would be closed until further notice. I was ready for anything when it came to posting about my sudden nuptials on social media, especially because I still legally had someone else’s last name as mine less than two years ago.

I was shocked that my photos gathered more interest than anything I have ever posted. Not just a little bit more but three times more than the typical commotion my notable posts make. Amidst the unprecedented scare of the coronavirus, which, as I write this has had my county inside for the last two weeks and expectedly should remain so for the next at least four more, people WANTED to see something pure and good and loving. People wanted good news, they wanted to see love, they wanted something to celebrate. It struck me by surprise. It was the most inexpensive wedding announcement one could ever use.

I’m not going to deny that COVID-19 has been the scariest thing that our world has faced in decades. I have found myself wondering in moments, “God, is this going to be the end of my time here? Am I going to be meeting you soon?”, and it alarmed me at how much that scared me. I’m sure there is something biological and chemical that makes death a formidable event, even in the most fit spiritual condition – but it begged the question for me, how well do I understand this God of my own understanding? If I am certain of his benevolent love, would my faith and trust in His plan for my life abolish all hesitation about my earthly passing.

I’m proud of the way most of us have made the best of this situation. There seems to be less whining, and while I anticipate that the world will need time to rebound from this tremendous attack we have all been faced with, I see more gratitude, a deeper appreciation for the simple pleasure we had been taking for granted and a consideration for each other as a community and society like I have never seen in this lifetime. My own mental health has its own predictable ups and downs, but I, like many of us, have adjusted to this circumstance with a recognizable amount of strength and grace.

Fear – more than just being afraid

No one can escape this year’s health crazy making, and I don’t mean to undermine the legitimate threats that are present right now, but I can’t help shaking my head figuratively at what great lengths people are going to in order to give themselves the illusion of safety against this notorious Coronavirus.

The news is making people believe they need to stay inside their home, cancel travel plans, wear masks in public and according to yesterday’s WHO (World Health Organization) report only 1.5-3.47% percent of people who actually contract the virus have died. The CDC estimates that of those who were hospitalized last year due to influenza (common flu), as many as 10% of the cases resulted in fatality.

Most people are just like me, the flu season comes and goes every year and I haven’t taken a flu shot even a single time. Some years I get it, chew some vitamin C, drink plenty of water and sleep it off.

In case you have forgotten, you will die. So will every single person that you know. And there is no guarantee of exactly when and how it will happen. Even when some of us try to take death into our own hands, forces outside of our control sometimes have different plans for us than we intended.

Over dinner last night, my boyfriend’s father who is in the middle of his second bought with prostate cancer was sharing with us about his experience with a disease that has already cost him his prostate and has a track record of taking its victims to the grave in 10% of cases after 5 years of diagnosis.  He said people are more nervous to ask him about his cancer and how he is doing than he is to talk about it. He shared that the idea of having cancer is much more terrifying than it is to actually live with it. He walks around every day with an illness that may take his life and his attitude is that “you just learn to deal.”

This kind of acceptance, learning to live life on life’s terms and not allowing any circumstance or situation disempower one’s ability to take life by the balls and paint the town red – is without a doubt one of the most courageous outlooks I can ever imagine. I am just so in awe of this man who is not just battling cancer (AGAIN) but he is FUCKING LIVING! And then again, something in me really does believe that if it were me, I would do the exact same thing. Much of the time, I’m unable to appreciate what I have until it is gone. My life is no less or no more threatened – I’m going to go when I’m going to go. And it’s up to me to break the denial that eventually my time will be up. I gotta take the bull by the horns while I have the time. Coronavirus threat or not. Perhaps I’m “stupid”, but really think it’s that I refuse to let fear control my life.

The things I believed about myself that were trying to kill me… and nearly did

For a long time I remember I would wonder to myself how it was possible that people could wake up every day and feel good, naturally.  It seemed to me that people walked around with a pretty solid sense of what they were doing, a plan to go about achieving that and enough contentment about their purpose to have room for laughter, creative thinking and pursuing hobbies. Of course, all of this I gathered from what was displayed on social media and how I imagined people to feel based on how they looked, to me, as they carried about their day. None of my sentiment about society was coming from any real sense of knowing how people actually generally felt inside, because that would have meant I had conversations with others that were vulnerable, honest and deep. I was not capable of much honesty until I was into my 30’s, so many of things I held to be true were only true for me because I imagined them, because they were carried on the back of what I was told as a child and because of my perception of my experiences.

What I did not know, because I was too holed up hiding all of my insecurities, is that most, some might say all, people experience doubt and question their value during points in their life. It seems to be a part of the human condition. Once I was, however, turned on to this fact, and could move away from a place where I felt alone in my feelings, the real work started of going about unlearning what I had accepted about myself to be “true” and rewiring my belief system to align with the universal truth. Problem was, I had spent so much time trying to shut my thoughts off, distracting myself, numbing myself, and filling my schedule so the quiet could never reach me, that I didn’t even know what exactly is was that I was believing about myself in the first place. That would be a painful introspection. And those answers didn’t come all once.

I realized, as I finally became willing to slow down and listen, that I had been told certain things, as a child and a teen, sometimes by parents, friends, other family, teachers and school peers that I had trained myself to run from or prove wrong for decades. From a logic standpoint, it’s impossible for everything that is said by anyone to be true, because truth can vary from person to person based on experience, preference, values, etc. As a young child, though, an innocent and blank slate, born into a traumatic environment of alcoholism and abuse – I sought refuge in anyone or anything that could steer me out of the climate that I had to consider “home”. In my mind, anyone else had a better answer or direction than I did, and since being a compliant and good little girl kept some chaos at bay in my homelife, whatever you told me I would accept as the Bible truth.

I was told I was smarter than most kids, sent to GATE programming and the word “potential” still stings in my ears – these burned in me that I had to excel and always be the best. Raped before I could give consent to my first sexual experience, and teased often for my “underdeveloped” body conveyed that I was unworthy of respect, and physical value just as I was. Punished for expressing my feelings and showing emotion trained me to feel safer when I suppressed those sensations. You might guess it, I was a fertile breeding site for eating disorders and addiction. Which is just where I found most of my life’s purpose through my 20’s, until, as the title suggested, I nearly lost my life.

I remember getting fired by my therapist and wondering if she would mention that my breath always smelled like wine. I remember the day I first went to treatment being so physically weak that I couldn’t walk. I remember telling the intake coordinator that my diet solely consisted of chardonnay and not considering that I was an alcoholic. I remember drinking, binging and purging over and over and over all day long, every single day for years and never having the thought cross my mind that I should ask for help. I also don’t remember a lot of things, malnourishment and intoxication tends to have that effect.

And most of this was because I was and will always be an alcoholic with an eating disorder in recovery. Recovery looks different every single day – but I can find solace in that since I work a program only one day at a time. I hear the thoughts that I “should be” further along in my recovery with food and alcohol, but the truth is that eating enough and refraining from emotional eating is difficult to abstain from and there are (very infrequent) times when I do wish that I could enjoy a glass of wine without knowing I would end up in custody within a day or two. Lack of acceptance is my dilemma, solidifying evidence that I have the “disease”.

Even in recovery though, I am know in awareness of these limiting beliefs about who I “should be”, my value as a human and what it means to have a normal human experience. Currently, I have my dream career, an unbelievable partnership, and plenty of money for travel and fun. My body is in the best shape it’s ever been – and I’m even trying to gain a few pounds to prevent injury and wear and tear with all the activities I do. And – my head tells me I’m not enough for all of it. That either these blessings aren’t real, aren’t going to last, or my unworthiness will let them fade away sort of like Darwin’s  finches on Galapagos Island by way of natural selection. My head says I have to be harder on myself than I’ve ever been because eventually – all of this that wasn’t meant for me because I don’t deserve respect and am always living below my potential – it’s going to catch up to me. It’s a miserable prison of self inflicted terror and the fucking agonizing part is – that I KNOW, none of it, none of the bullshit I am a slave to believing, is real. None of it.

So I do what I do? Fuck. Well, yes, I do that, but I wrote that because it’s the question I wish I knew the answer to. I don’t completely know – if I had all the answers I would be “fixed” and “perfect” and there would be no searching, no journey. No point of any of this. I am trying it all, things I have done before and gave up on, things I have been doing, new things I have been unwilling to try before, whatever is in front me. The only thing I refuse to try is to give up altogether. I almost gave up. But it seems that my God had different plans for me. And this time, I’m gripping just the slightest bit less to the fears that are keeping me from the peace and freedom in store for me at the other side of this surrender.

Tools I use – get a dog, get a tattoo, buy myself gifts, budget my spending, pick up work, let go of overworking, singing, dancing, cooking, letting someone cook for me, going to meetings, not going to meetings, trying new meetings, reaching out to people I haven’t talked to in a while, actually answering the phone when someone calls, texting someone to ask about their day, being honest when someone asks about mine, napping, yoga, taking a lot of baths, drinking delicious coffee in the morning, not drinking too much caffeine late in the day, writing, reading, meditation, vitamins, doing something I am good at, trying something I’ve never done before, traveling, enjoying quiet time at home and as I mentioned earlier, sex 🙂

Happy recovering. Or living. We’re all in the same boat, I just think our boats have different looking course paths toward the same destination.

In love and light,

Kylan