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yoga

Yoga for Anxiety- Breath Work

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Yoga for Anxiety- Breath Work

Hi All!

It has been awhile since we posted- we have been working hard behind the scenes to make our website a little more functional.

Also- Big news- we are now on YOUTUBE! All of our videos will focus on how to move your body to help your mind (we would LOVE if you could view and hit SUBSCRIBE!)

Todays video is a simple video that focuses on a little grounding + breathwork. It also prompts the question- how are you breathing day to day? Are your breaths fast and shallow or long and deep?

Sometimes just shifting how we breathe can have a huge effect on how we feel anxiety in the body.

Do you have any tips or tricks for navigating your anxiety? We’d love to hear from you!

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Meet Theresa. This is her Story.

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Meet Theresa. This is her Story.

“She’s had enough!”

“Oh my God don’t give her anymore.”

“You look huge in that, go change your clothes.”

“Doesn’t THAT girl have a beautiful figure.”

I can remember from as young as 3 years old, people trying to curb my food intake. I was never small but never fat, larger than the other girls but not enough to be obese. Went through puberty the earliest in my class, had an exaggerated womanly shape by nature at age 10. You might think, wow you’re lucky! But no, just no.

Not when you are told every single day of your life that you are too big. Too wide. Too busty. You eat too much. You don’t dress right. When you are made to feel completely ashamed of your innate, natural appearance by those closest to you, it takes a toll on how you view yourself.

Oh and to top it off I had a horrible case of acne from about 8 years old till present day, and endured intense bullying in middle school. After years of the same daily looks, comments, and attempts to put me on one diet or another, I was deeply, immensely hurt. Sad. Beaten to the core. Wounded. Exhausted.

“They must be right.”

“You are disgusting.”

“If I lose weight then they’ll like me better.”

“If I looked like her I’d be pretty.”

“I am worthless.”

Or so my mind would tell me all day, everyday.

And so I began to sneak food. Eating alone, with no one to tell me no was completely freeing, but also a trap. I would have to hide what I was doing for fear of punishment, sometimes that meant to eat normally in front of others again, despite being completely stuffed, so they wouldn’t know what I had previously done. When I was stressed, I ate. When I was alone, I ate. I see now that food addiction and binge eating is completely wrapped up in a feeling of not being able to be fully myself. Being made to feel shame about who you feel you truly are, the things you want to be and do, you cover it up.

You dull yourself down to match how others view you.

I hid in plain sight with food and weight gain. This goes hand in hand with the depression and anxiety I coped with since my early teen years. I discovered yoga in 2004, and felt immense relief every class. I began to go often, and even volunteered at a studio just to be there more and receive unlimited classes in return. I was able to curb my anxieties, my thoughts and mood felt more balanced, and I was able to cope with stress more effectively. I felt good for the first time maybe ever. I wanted to keep that feeling so badly and share it with others that I went for my Moksha Yoga Teacher Training in October 2010. I taught for just over a year before not even yoga could help me keep a handle on things.

After being active in childhood through sports and later with yoga and fitness, right before marriage, my bingeing started to spiral out of control. After our wedding, I became more depressed and anxious than ever. I changed my work schedule to be able to see my husband more, and ended up with a lot of alone time.

Depressed, on my own, and anxious, I ate and ate and ate.

I was trying to hide something, trying to mask emotions that I didn’t want to deal with. Trying to hide myself. My yoga practice became infrequent as I was soon pregnant and life just bounced all over the place. I became angry, hurt, and resentful that my life was changing so rapidly while it felt like much of my husband’s life, and my friends’ lives remained the same. I gained around 40 pounds in as little as a few months even before my pregnancy. I began to feel desperate to lose weight but once I found out we were expecting our first son, any extreme dieting behaviour I would have engaged in in the past was out of the question.

I am 5’4” tall, and for most of my adult life, my weight hovered around 145 pounds, wearing a dress size 8. Fast forward this dark time with depression and anxiety, plus two kids later, my highest known weight was 235 pounds, dress size 18. I haven’t recognized myself in the mirror for 7 years, and with limited time for self care as a work at home mom, my yoga practice has been almost entirely non existent. I did no formal movement or exercise during this period of time, while my children are so small and so demanding on me.

When my first son was born in 2012, I most certainly had Post Partum Depression and Anxiety.

Breastfeeding was off to a horrific start with him, which marred the beginning of our time together from the start, and only reinforced my negative emotional state. I felt that I couldn’t get my footing as a mother, I had a baby who constantly wanted to be held, and I couldn’t do anything except play with him or suffer through his crying till I gave in. I felt guilty for taking the hour for yoga, let alone a shower on top of that. So I just didn’t do it. I was in such a dark haze that even doing the dishes was an immense task to me. I was stuck between being consumed by motherhood while also my baby was the only thing keeping me going. I wanted to take care of my child and do the best for him, and that meant putting one foot in front of the other. Getting up and pushing through the anxieties instead of giving in.

My second son arrived with much less fear and anxiety. I had grown used to a low mood and anxious thoughts being part of my everyday.

But I was so uncomfortable in my body. I think mostly, I was just tired. Tired of putting myself last. Tired of a lifetime of self loathing. Tired of the comments and tired of listening to others’ opinions of me. I was so done with the shame.

After being knocked down and counted out so many times because of my appearance, I decided to do something radical — I decided to accept myself, and just go from there.

The first step was getting to an exercise class. Pushing through the nearly debilitating anxiety that had tripped me up for almost 7 years. Everyone would judge me as soon as I walked in the room. They would think I was too fat for this class and should just go home. Or they’d somehow know that I have avoided looking myself in the eye for so long because I couldn’t bear to face the truth.

When you step on a scale and know you should weigh 100 pounds less than you do, it’s a tough pill to swallow. If people said I was “too big” when I was a size 8 for most of my adult life, what does that make me now? The weight of it (literally) would send sheer panic throughout my entire body and freeze me in my tracks, preventing any significant change from taking place. I was literally stuck.

I got to that first Zumba class back in the fall because even if I couldn’t really do yoga or many other exercises (it was simply too physically uncomfortable and frustrating with the extra weight) I knew I at least loved to dance. The first few classes I was so awkward but slowly got my groove back, and actually started to feel kinda good. I’d lose myself in music and just be present. The anxiety slowly began to lift, which is nothing short of miraculous. I recently took the plunge at becoming certified to teach Zumba. Even though I’m still very very overweight and not completely ready, I pushed myself to go. I’m thinking I might find something on the other side of that fear, maybe even me again.

I’ve avoided speaking about it directly, worried that those who know me but don’t know the full truth would be hurtful and judgemental. But the truth is, they’re probably already thinking that anyway. I can’t stay silent.

As part of my experiment in radical self acceptance, I began documenting my fitness progress and journey into overcoming food addiction and anxiety on Instagram over on my account @agirlhasnoblog. My hope is that there might be someone out there that my experience and words can comfort or help. Like Cayla, the founder of Move 2 Heal-

I believe we are stronger for sharing our experiences, stories and showing our hurts. I feel the time is here to shed all that no longer serves us.

By speaking openly about it, it kills the secret and likewise strangles that monster that once had supreme control over me. I’m learning to ignore that constant feeling of lesser-than; but instead stand in myself, exactly as I am.

I’m grateful for my experience because I’ve begun to get more comfortable with the uncomfortable.

I have learned that I need to trust my own inner voice more than the voice of any other, no matter what place they have in my life.

I know what’s best for me, I know what moves me, what feeds me, what nourishes me. I’m no longer interested in dulling myself to let others feel brighter.

We are all amazing, unique and beautiful, and to tear someone else down is a sign of your own internal doubts.

I’m not out to compete with other women, I’m only out to compete with myself; To keep the big monsters of my anxiety and depression away by channeling and releasing them through movement.

Daily exercise through Zumba or now also the Tracy Anderson Method has become irreplaceable and a non negotiable. I used to feel so guilty about taking time for myself, but my kids have gotten used to seeing me do the exercises and engaging in more self care. I am most motivated by a desire to model for them what was never shown clearly to me: the power of standing firmly within yourself, and allowing yourself to transform as many times as you need to get there.

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Meet Becca. This is her Story

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Meet Becca. This is her Story

I move, I breathe, I feel, I heal.

I repeat.

By Bec Isaacs

When I think about my life, I see so many chapters. Chapters of love, of loss, of pain, of joy, of trauma, of heartache and heartbreak. Chapters of insecurity and doubt, pride and passion, strength and weakness. Chapters of being somewhere in between all of these things. But all of these chapters have made me who I am today, and all of these chapters have helped me appreciate that person. The thing is, there has always been one common thread in each of these chapters. A thread that has helped me deal with life. A thread that has helped me heal. A thread that at certain times, was the only thing keeping me alive.

This thread transformed my life, and continues to support me today. It has taught me about strength, patience, failure, discipline, acceptance, vulnerability, and joy. It has been the key player in minimizing chronic pain in my body, which has contributed to the happy and healthy life I live today.

This thread, is movement.

This is my story.

I was a mover my whole life. When I was younger I was a dancer, a gymnast, a skier, snowboarder, soccer player and some would have said, a free spirit. I was the kid who was running around and climbing trees in the forest every time I had the chance. I even had reoccurring dreams that I could fly (I still have these dreams today). Basically, I was always moving.

In 2007 I got pretty sick. I spent two years in and out of pain and depression. I was low in energy. I spent more time with my toilet than with my friends. My weeks consisted of headaches, migraines and emotional episodes. I was bloated, malnourished, and my energy had flatlined. I was on a soccer scholarship at university and was struggling to perform. I was struggling to even get out of bed. Soccer wasn’t the only thing that suffered, I was having trouble in school and couldn’t engage properly in personal relationships. I wasn’t myself. I was so under-nourished I felt paralysed.  It got to a point where I could hardly walk or see...speech was difficult, and every muscle and bone in my body was aching as if it was about to explode. After some tests, observation and re-hydration, the doctors told me I had celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder that is much more commonly known today, and relatively easy to mange with dietary techniques.

While all of this was happening I was also dealing with daily headaches. In fact, I didn’t know what it felt like spend a whole day headache free. The headaches became migraines 2-3 times per week, and I had excessive pain in my jaw. This pain was part of my life consistently for seven years and onward. A some point throughout those seven years I was diagnosed with TMJD, an umbrella term for pain and discomfort in the muscles responsible for moving the jaw, and the muscles that connect the jaw to the skull. It was torture.

Needless to say, I was in pain. I was laughing less, my eyes were dull and lifeless, and although I was doing my best to enjoy life despite the physical distress I was experiencing in my body, the headaches made it impossible to participate in the world.

During this time I went through an ass-kicking of a break up. It kicked my ass so hard that I felt like I never learned how to breathe, and that I would never breathe again. But deep down I knew I would breathe again. In fact, I knew I was still breathing... even though it felt really really hard. Whatever this feeling was, I wanted to beat it. I wanted to heal.

And then the yoga happened.

I had been to some yoga classes before, but it was mostly for exercise. So when I decided to get back on the mat, I wasn’t really sure what I was doing or why. But I got on the mat, and moved my body based on what I interpreted from the teachers instructions, and something felt different. I was starting to understand the practice a little more and my body felt so at ease after every class that I kept going back for more. The movement also reminded me of my days as a dancer, which made me feel joyful.

After the break up I made a commitment to myself that every time I felt anger or pain, or resentment.. I would go to yoga. I also promised myself every time I wanted to text my ex, I would go to yoga instead. Let’s just say I went to yoga... a lot.

After some serious time on the mat, life decided to kick my ass again. My aunt who I was very close with was losing her battle to cancer. My father’s memory was starting to fail him, and my headaches and migraines were becoming increasingly debilitating. With everything that was going on, I knew I needed to move home. When my father’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis became official, there was no question that it was the right thing to do.

I packed up, moved home. And my days looked a little something like this.

Wake up. Go to yoga. Go to the hospital for the afternoon to be by my aunts side. Go to work. Go to party and make questionable decisions. Go to sleep. Repeat.

The questionable decisions started to overtake the yoga. I was losing my practice and myself. I was sad, angry and heartbroken. I was in physical and emotional pain and I was losing the two most important people in my life. I just couldn’t seem to find my own two feet.

I remember this chapter so clearly. My aunt passed away, I was trying to hold onto my dad while trying to hold my mother together in her state of denial and emotional collapse, and my life that was spinning out of control. I made some horrible decisions. I wasn’t taking care of my body or my heart. I lost my passion, my pride and I wasn’t getting on my mat. It was clear I had lost my way.

I remember driving around the city one day, my eyes full of tears, thinking “how could all of this possibly be happening? ... and then saying to myself “you don’t even have it that bad!” This was the conversation in my head for a while...it went back and forth, back and forth. I stopped paying attention to what I was doing so I pulled over and parked the car. Wiped my tears and looked out the window. I had parked right in front of the yoga studio. It was clear what I needed to do.

It was that very moment that I decided to shift my victim mentality from “why is this happening to me” to “this is happening, so get your shit together and figure out how are you going to deal with it”. I had lost my aunt, I was losing my dad, my mom was falling apart... I didn’t want to lose myself too. I knew I needed to move my body.

I gave away the only pack of cigarettes I ever owned... I had it stashed in my drawer from one of the nights I had one too many drinks. I decided to stop having one too many drinks. I decided to stop feeling sorry for myself, renewed my yoga membership despite the cost, and committed to loving myself so I could start helping my family (which was the whole reason I moved home in the first place). I knew in order to help them, I needed to stop hurting myself first.

Things started to shift. I started taking my yoga more seriously. There were days where nothing made sense... except for yoga. So I went back to the mat and moved, every single day, over and over again. Before every practice I would say mentally to myself “ I move, I breathe, I feel, I heal”.

I was getting stronger. I was becoming more patient. I was clearer and more motivated. My headaches and jaw pain were still prevalent but I was more able to manage the pain because of the benefits of my consistent yoga practice. I would move, and things would just feel better.

Now lets fast forward to 2015. I had been through the ringer with specialists and doctors back in Canada to try and figure out how to manage my headaches and jaw pain, nothing was working. What I really wanted to do was see the world. So I left home, traveled through Asia for a while and then spent a year in Australia. I was still practicing yoga, but not in a consistent way. But in June of 2015 a friend of mine set me up with the Byron Yoga Centre, where I lived for 3 months. I woke up every day, and moved my body. I was spending anywhere from 4-6 hours a day on my mat. I was under the guidance of some incredibly experienced teachers, and I was starting to understand that the physical part of the practice was simply the gateway into something much bigger. Something shifted, and I began practicing CONSCIOUSLY. For the first time in my practice I was fully aware of my movements and my breath. I was slowing down and tuning into my body. I was listening. I was moving enough that I could be still. It was like I was dancing the pain out of my body, one posture, transition, and breath at a time.

I ventured back to Canada and realized that I had been headache free for a period of time without realizing it. The pain in my jaw had subsided, and my eyes started to shine. I felt lighter, and stronger at the same time. Since then I have been back and forth between Canada and Australia, and have had a consistent daily practice of asana (postures), pranayama (breathing techniques), and meditation. I move my body every single day, in a conscious, loving and nourishing way. Some days I push, some days I pull back, but I move, every day.

Here’s the thing... my yoga practice hasn’t healed my pain completely and it doesn’t promise me a pain free life. It hasn’t brought my aunt back, or reversed my father’s Alzheimer’s disease. It also hasn’t erased all of the poor decisions I’ve made in my life or the heartbreaks I have experienced. What my yoga practice has done is taught me how to breathe. It’s taught me that although I will never be able to control what happens around me, I can control what happens within me, which means I can control how I respond to life when it is challenging AF. The physical benefits of the practice have given me enough space from my pain to get to know myself as a human being, instead of as the shell of the human being that I was. It also helps me appreciate the days I am pain free even more, while doing my best to honour the days I am not.

Although there have been many factors to my healing, the consistent thread that I keep coming back to is movement, and for me that is yoga. Conscious movement has literally saved me from a life pain. It is my therapy, my best friend, and my lifeline. It is the biggest and brightest tool I have which has lead me to a life of inspiration, pleasure, joy, and purpose.

Today, I am a certified yoga teacher, spending a lot of my time studying and exploring functional movement patterns so I can teach others how to move functionally and consciously in their own unique bodies. I directly recognize the power of this process through my own experiences, and I hope that my story will inspire others to do the same.

 

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Meet Lauren. This is her story

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Meet Lauren. This is her story

I am a woman. And one thing I know for sure, we women have a special war we wage against ourselves. Body image, self love, acceptance. The struggle is real and society wants a lot from us. For as long as I can remember, I have been my worst critic and downright enemy. 

Going through your 20s is turbulent, beautiful, and fucking crazy. I discovered yoga in University. It was an emotional time when I first stepped on my mat, and I was ignoring my pain. I think that was the first time I really noticed my breath, or how I moved. I started listening to my body... slowly... and then, suddenly.... sending her little love notes. I couldn't believe how much of a difference a one hour practice had on my mood and mindset. I was kinder, happier, more grounded.

I never want to give the impression that taking a yoga class will solve your life problems and make you like Gandhi ..I still struggle with giving myself the same loving I give to others. But, it helps...oh how it helps! When I am feeling off, I strap on my running shoes or unroll my mat, and suddenly things feel a little better.

Movement is the medicine I know my body and soul need, and ultimately it connects me to myself.

When I move now, I love to recognize the way my body shows up for me DAILY...even when I chastise her for not fitting into a certain pair of jeans.

I am running...thank you legs for taking me places

I am downward dogging....thank you arms for holding space

I am stretching...thank you breath for always being there

 

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Meet Gillian. This is her Story

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Meet Gillian. This is her Story

As the Move to Heal Project begins to unfold, I've found myself reaching out to a lot of people that I have met at different points in my life.

Someone once told me that the energy you put out will attract similar energy, and as time goes on I am beginning to believe in that whole-heartedly.

I met Gillian and her friend Marisa filming the Food Network a few years ago, and both of them still continue to inspire me to be the best version of myself.

Below, Gillian shares how she began 2018- committing to do yoga every day for 365 days- and how it is helping her find clarity + surrender amidst the heaviness.

 

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I recently surrendered to the mat.

 

December got heavy for me. Life forced me to re-evaluate myself, my decisions, my past and my goals.

 

As one does, I kept myself busy and dismissed self questioning in exchange for Christmas parties and heavy pours of wine.

 

By the end of it all, I was ready to get clear. Yoga had been sneaking into my life subtly but the voice inside of me was getting louder:

“Make it a practice.”

 

And when a bourbon infused version of myself declared boldly on New Year’s Eve “I’m going to do 365 days of yoga!” I took my hungover limbs to yoga the next day, and decided that since I am a woman of my word, I would do exactly that.

 

When you get clear about what you want, you get it. So when I reached out to my favorite yoga studio and owner, and asked if I could work in exchange for classes, she welcomed the idea.

 

I realized that first day that yoga with a hangover really sucks.

 

I also remembered from previous times practicing that it always took away from the depth of my practice. When I was treating my body right on all accounts, I was able to get into the postures and my meditation on a whole new level.

 

So like any all or nothing gal (I live to self-experiment), I decided I would also cut out alcohol and coffee. At least for the first 30 days of my #365daysofyoga.

 

I can only describe the first two weeks as ugly but beautiful.

 

Whenever I do any kind of “detox” I always feel like crap at first. Normally, during this time, I hide from the world. But I was committed. So there I was on days when I was severely depressed, bloated, gassy, stinky from sweating it all out...you name it. I was there. Awkwardly unwinding my body and surrendering to the mat. I held back tears in child’s pose. I laughed. I felt embarrassed and I felt proud.

 

But no matter what I was going through physically or emotionally, I always left feeling calm and centered. I also found warmth in the community of the studio, appropriately called “Union”, and a sense of belonging I hadn’t felt since I moved to California.

 

One night after class my favorite yoga teacher looked at me before leaving and said, “You inspire me. You show up every day.” And I felt so humbled that even this wounded version of myself could somehow inspire.

 

I’m on day 17 now. They say it takes 21 days to make a habit, so I’m almost there.

 

Every day is different. Every class is different. I’m always humbled and fascinated by where my body and mind will take me. Some days it is (almost) effortless. Most days I struggle with my ego and remind myself not to compare my practice to others. But every day I leave feeling better. I am more and more mentally free. I am more and more me.

 

One of my teachers describes yoga as returning to your most natural state of being, and I couldn’t describe it any better way.

 

I am so grateful for this surrender. To the mat. To myself. To finding some inner peace during challenging times in such a sweet way. 

 

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Gillian Young Barkalow is my beautiful, wonderful friend and also a Health & Fitness Coach that is doing some pretty amazing stuff.

Find her on Instagram: @gybstrength

AND check out her 4 week online workshop that she'll be doing this February (details in the poster below!)

 

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