Tuesday, 26 May 2020

The reality of the change timeline

After two months of wearing masks, social distancing and hand washing, my partner shared with me, "even after two months, someone stuck their hand out to shake and it was like second nature to shake back." (Luckily there is soap and water to wash away to mistake). This is such a great example of how ingrained our habits are and how it takes a long time to unlearn one habit and learn a
new one.

Patience with the change process is important on the path to healing and self-growth.  Change doesn't happen over night.  It starts with awareness of the pattern and then takes conscious effort and self-discipline to do it differently.  Especially if this pattern has been happening for decades!

Just imagine, if you decided to start taking your shirt off by crossing your arms the other way than what is normal for you. What that would be like?  Go ahead, take a moment to try it. Most likely it will feel weird, awkward, and your muscles don't even know how to really work this way.  If you wanted to make this your new habit, think about how many hundreds, if not thousands of times, you would have to take your shirt off in this new way before it started to feel comfortable, let alone for it to become the habit of taking your shirt off - without even thinking about it.  Whew!

Translate this into changing the way you think about yourself and the world.  If you believe, "I'm not ____ enough," (and most of us have some version of this as an underlying belief deep down), and you decided you're tired of believing this and feeling this way, so you want to start believing, "I am enough." 

It will take time, effort, practice and practice and practice...to change your thinking.

It's amazing how many places our negative beliefs show up, running in the background without us even being aware. It's like peeling back the payers of an onion. First you become aware of the surface
layers of that negative belief, so you practice unlearning that negative belief and start believing, "I am enough." Then that negative belief rears it's head somewhere else. The process continues with each new layer. Kind of like a Whack-O-Mole game.

The amazing part is those more surface layers of a negative belief allow you to practice the new belief so as you find the deeper layers of the negative belief, you are only strengthening that new, positive belief.  It gets to the point that the negative belief is truly helping you and guiding you to where you need more practice with the new belief, "I am enough."

So, the next time you find yourself thinking, "I shouldn't feel this way anymore," give yourself a break!  That old belief is hanging on for dear life and will get sneaky.  Instead, meet that "shouldn't" with a "Hell, yeah!  There you are again, I'm aware of you and I don't have to keep going with you.  I'm going with 'I am enough' instead."

Patience and Practice.

Monday, 18 May 2020

Take it From a Recovering Worrier

I think I was born into this world with a mind ready to worry.  It's an emotion
I've felt ever since I can
remember and an action I've practiced forever.  Despite this, pretty early on, I grew tired of this way of being.  Around the third grade, I consciously decided, "I'm not doing this anymore!"  The first step to changing it was around the worry of what other's thought of me.

I was so consumed with this at times that it would keep me from reaching out to people, asking for what I needed, or keeping me from doing things I really wanted to do.  I was labelled as "shy," but looking back at it, I was just so worried that I would be judged, shot down and told I wasn't good enough, so I didn't take that risk of putting myself out there.

When I came to the decision that I was going to put myself out there in third grade, I started to slowly do things despite the worry and fear screaming at me to stop. I would force myself to start talking more and putting myself out there.

This is still a practice for me today.  Owning my own business provides opportunities to practice putting myself out there, reaching out to others, and talking to people I don't know well.  Some days that worry part of me isn't even around because I've been practicing with it for so long.  But some days, when I'm more tired or stressed, there she is, right beside me, making excuses and inviting self-doubt to the party.

Here are some concrete things I do to take action despite what worry says or how she makes me feel.

1. The first step is just to be aware she's even there.  When worry is present, my mind is racing, I'm shallow breathing, I sweat more and my heart races.

2. The second step is to take some conscious breaths - down into my belly, slowly exhaling through
my nose.

3. And then I listen. What is worry trying to tell me now?  I let myself feel all the sensations of worry. Basically letting the energy of worry move through me instead of blocking that energy. I find just by doing this, worry starts to settle down because she's got my attention.

4. Then I get curious and question the message worry is trying to tell me is true.  Questions like, "Is that really 100% true?  Why am I even trying to take this action?  What is the real issue here?  Does
this situation remind me of some other time?"  By getting curious and questioning, usually I am able to find clarity in what action I really want to take, rather than avoid and withdraw. 

5. Then I thank worry as she's helped me to get more clear and focused.

There are some days when I need to use other tools as well, like talking to someone I trust, writing things out, taking a break to get outside or just do something else before coming back to the issue.  These four steps, though, happen at some point in the process and it may take more than one visit with worry to move through it.

The practice of being aware of reactions in our mind/body system and using the breath to be present are core practices of yoga and yoga for self-transformation.  Even in an asana (pose) class, these two practices are an essential part and a big part of what contributes to all the positive benefits you may feel at the end of a class.

So, use worry as a part of practicing yoga in daily life. Begin to own worry sensations and start to lean into worry with curiosity. 

Worry is and, most likely, will always be a part of my life.  She no longer runs the show and I consider her a friend to embrace. She is not who I am, just a part of the gift of the human experience to learn and grow from.

Tuesday, 5 May 2020

Are You Doing These Three Basics for Mental Well Being Right Now?

Change is always happening, right? Fear is such a normal part of change because change shakes the foundation of our comfort zones. If we go with the fear reaction, we might find ourselves feeling overwhelmed and scared, trying to find things outside of ourselves to self-soothe. Some things we are doing might be more healthy, like exercise, cooking wholesome meals, talking with friends, and doing projects we have put off for years. Some things might not be healthy and even making things worse, like overeating, too much screen/ TV time, sleeping way too much, staying up really late, drinking more alcohol and using more substances...all to numb out.
If the latter is happening to you, please, it’s time to do something different. Here are top three things to make sure you are doing for your own mental care right now:
- Routine! Keeping a routine is very important in times of change. When change happens, think of the comfort zone again. It’s been uprooted so it’s a time when we can feel ungrounded, lost, without purpose. Routine helps to keep grounded.
  1. First and foremost, keep the time you wake up and go to bed the same. I’ve been hearing about people, especially teens, that have completely had their sleep times turned upside down. Awake and night and sleeping during the day. This alone will spiral into a depressive state. Get the sleep schedule back on track!
  2. Keep a regular morning and evening routine that includes hygiene, exercise and time without a screen on.  Have some evenings where TV is not allowed and read, play games with others, learn an instrument...do something different.
  3. Eat at the same time each day. This helps to keep the body and mind more clear and focused.

- Get outside! I know this will be more of a challenge depending where you live but it’s very important.
Staying inside all the time is like putting blinders on a horse, the mind forgets there’s an amazing world out there and starts to get more afraid. Get fresh air, Vitamin D, and connect with nature if possible. Even in cities, the changes in nature right now are stunning. Go experience it. Even if you need to put on a mask, it’s so worth it.

      - Be kind to yourself. This is an aspect of self-compassion. When you are aware you’re feeling sad or overwhelmed, reach out to someone, let yourself cry, give yourself a self-massage, listen to uplifting music… Have no tolerance to thoughts that are negative and self-judging. Read things that are inspiring and lift you up, which means
      limiting yourself to how much news you are watching or reading. If your FB feed is bringing you down, take a break from it, seek out groups that are more inspiring and block those who are only negative. It’s time to start treating yourself like you would a dear friend.

      These are three things I recommend at any time for mental well being. They are also the some of the first things to be let go of when we are stressed and overwhelmed. If you have any questions about how to implement these coping tools or feel you need more support, feel free to contact me through www.samyayogahealing.com/contact/ .


      Wednesday, 29 April 2020

      3 practices of Brahmacharya

      The sudden fear that spread globally like a giant wave, ending up with buying excessive amounts of toilet paper due to rumors of a shortage that started in Australia (from what I've read), is the perfect example why the principle of  Brahmacharya is so important.

      Brahmacharya is the fourth Yama, one of the ethical principles of yoga.  The literal translation of Brahamacharya is: Brahma - God, Divine, Creation, Pure Consciousness +  Charya - to follow, to walk, to flow with.  It is about practicing to live in accordance of a godly nature or a lifestyle that is spiritually based rather than materially based.  Many times it is translated as celibacy (as this is a common practice for yogic ascetics), non-excess, non-indulgence of sensory pleasures, or right use of energy. 

      With the sudden and lasting change of routines and interactions due to stay at home orders around the world, the ways we have of coping with stress and uncomfortable emotions, particularly coping that is more avoidant and escaping - actually don't work and make things worse. For some, fear is creating
      havoc, leading to unhelpful and unhealthy behaviors. 

      Fear of lack led to hoarding toilet paper for some people, despite it actually not being a necessary item.  Fear leads us away from a practice of non-excess or non-indulgence. It moves us from inward to outward focus, grasping at all the things we feel we need to hold onto in order to create a false sense of security. (This makes me think of Steve Martin in the movie, "The Jerk," where, left homeless, he clings to a lamp). Fear leads to desire and then anger when we don't get what we feel we 'should.'  It's a vicious, common cycle of the human mind.  It's so common that it is mentioned in a number of yogic scriptures, like Patanjali's Yoga Sutras and the Bhagavad Gita.  This affliction of the mind has existed when these scriptures were written thousands of years ago and remains relevant today. Brahmacharya is a practice that can help to meet behaviors of excess and overindulgence.

      I truly feel that, though this is a challenging time, it is a time of opportunity to practice self-awareness, gain self-understanding, and make conscious changes in how one interacts with the world.  My hope would be that all of us are able to learn and grow from this time period in ways that would not have otherwise happened.

      So, here's the fun!  Three practices of Brahmacharya during this stay at home time:

      1. First reflection: Where have some indulgences now turned excessive in your life over the past couple of months?  Is it in sleep patterns, eating habits, TV and screen time...?

      Once you've identified this, take a step in owning it, commit to doing a week long 'detox' from this behavior and notice what it feels like after the week.  (If there's resistance, you need to do this even more).  For example, no TV for the week or a digital detox (outside of work) or no alcohol (sugar, caffeine, processed food).

      Keep an attitude of exploration and curiosity with it. I promise you will learn a lot about yourself!

      2. If you haven't done this already, clean out the closets!  Examine what you've been holding onto that you don't use, isn't necessary, and you totally forgot about.  Let it go!   Shed that stagnant energy of clinging and holding.  Notice what emotions come up, what is hard to let go of emotionally and be with it.  Marie Condo's book "The Magic of Tidying Up" has great questions to ask yourself to let go
      of things. 

      Those material things we cling to "just in case" create a false sense of security, weight us down, and keep us connecting with what we truly value. If you haven't used it or even thought of the item in a year, it's time to think about releasing it.

      3. A common practice of Brahmacharya is being willing to see the divine in everyone. It's so easy to blame and react to other people's behaviors...most likely what we react to is the very thing that we avoid or are ashamed of in ourselves.  Challenge yourself to see the divine instead. 

      I find starting with compassion can be helpful.  How is this human's behaviors a reflection of their own self-doubt and insecurity?  We ALL feel this at some point.  Try sending compassion as you know what it's like and you two have done self-destructive behaviors too.

      A bonus practice is self-compassion and seeing the divine in yourself.

      Who's in for the challenge?

      Saturday, 4 April 2020

      What the heck really is meditation anyways?

      Meditation, Mindfulness, Mindful Awareness are terms we see a lot in mainstream media.  There's lots of research out there showing these things are good for our minds as well as for our overall health and well being. There are many apps out there now for guided meditations for everything under the sun.  You've most likely experienced guided meditation somewhere at this point.

      But, when trying meditation without a guide, things can feel a lot different.  The mind gets active, going all over the place, maybe thoughts of, "Am I even doing this right?"  Then finally throwing the hands up and stating, "I can't meditate because my mind just won't stop thinking!"  You may even feel like something is wrong with you because you've seen others just sitting there all 'zenned out' or people proclaiming how 'wonderful' their meditation practice was and you feel anything but wonderful.

      I have found that the first step to your own personal, stillness meditation practice is learning what meditation actually is to let go of expectations that are common and keep fueling the belief that "I'm not good at meditation."

      My background is in yogic meditation, so this is the lens I will speaking from.

      1. The first step in meditation is Dharana or single-minded focus, which actually means the practice
      of concentration.  No one's mind is still when they first start meditating!  The practice starts with deciding on one thing you will practice concentrating on.  It can be the breath, it can be a mantra, it can be body sensations, it can be an image...there are many things to choose from.  It's deciding on one thing and then just keep practicing it.

      2. So, once you've choose your point of concentration, you will sit quietly focusing on it.  And GUESS WHAT?! Your mind WILL wander.  The mind's job is to think and expecting to just sit down, have the mind blissful clear in moments is just plain silly.  It's like looking at a fish and getting upset that it can't swim.  Really?! 
      So, please, just let that expectation go.  When you are AWARE the mind has wandered, then you can gently guide the mind back to the object of focus.  It's a CELEBRATION that you realized the mind wandered because you can now redirect the focus back.  Getting upset the mind has wandered does no good at all, so no need to judge yourself over it any longer.

      3.  OVER TIME...let me say this again...over time..and with practice, practice, practice, the mind will be able to concentrate for longer and longer periods of time until...WOW, you suddenly are aware that the mind was gone or rather melted with the point of concentration with no difference between you and that focus point.  Of course, with that awareness you are back to practicing concentration again.😊

      4. Dhyana is the happening of meditation.  The moments when you move from concentration to being just happen. Sleep is a good analogy because we don't do sleep, it just happens. The doing of sleep is preparing for bed, getting comfortable, closing the eyes and then...you wake up. Sleep just happened. Same with meditation. We DO concentration and BEING happens (again, over time and with practice).
      The more you practice, the more these moments happen and for longer periods.

      Now that you know the expectation to do meditation 'right' is to sit down and the mind to magically clear right away is completely false, my hope is that if you have tried meditation before, you'll try again with a different mindset.  If you haven't tried stillness meditation before, you'll start by being more realistic and kind to yourself.

      The very AWESOME thing about the practice of concentration (also known as mindfulness or mindful awareness) is that, when practiced regularly and consistently, it quickly helps the mind slow down and calm down much more easily in daily life. You don't have to be in that being state to see positive changes in your daily life.  Just start and keep doing it...I promise (and I don't make many promises) that you will be amazed at the changes you experience how you meet the world and challenges in life.  I can vouch as it's profoundly changed my life.

      I have MANY more tips and tools to help with a personal, stillness meditation practice at home, so if you are ready to experience more calm and peace in meeting life's challenges so you can feel more content, compassionate and clarity every day...

      Friday, 3 April 2020

      Lessons from a Pandemic

      Almost a month into COVID-19 escalating in my community, I am thankful to my daily yoga practice and the yogic path for self-transformation.  This path has allowed my mind to be in a mindset to view this virus and its global reach as a time for self-reflection, gratitude and staying focus on lessons this time may hold for me.  I wanted to share the lessons and reminders it has helped me connect with so far.


      Coming back to basics in daily life is essential in managing mood and well being.

      Routine. When the external motivators for routine have been taken away, it is up to us to keep our routine going so that we are taking care of ourselves and stay grounded rather than feeling lost in the space of time and uncertainty.
      • At least Monday through Friday, get up the same time you would for work. 
      • Do your morning routine of showering and getting dressed (for me this includes doing my sadhana - spirital practice - every morning). 
      • Eat meals at the same time.
      • If you aren't working right now, find other activities to engage in that don't include plopping down in front of a screen -see the next point. How many times have you wished to have more time for a hobby, with family, reading, etc?  Your wish is ranted, so take advantage of it.  
      • Limit time with screens!! The research is conclusive that excessive screen time causes depression. If you are working, most likely it's online, so think about how much screen time you are getting right now.  Do other activities with family like puzzles, games, art projects, cooking instead of just watching TV.
      • Get regular exercise.
      • Get to bed at your regular time.
      For me, staying in routine is actually a practice of meditation (keeping the mind focused), being responsible for myself, and self-discipline. The mind loves to make excuses to fall into excess inaction, which can lead to a low mood.


      As humans, we are social creatures and being able to connect with others is important. With social distancing, we have to get creative in interacting with others.

      Online platforms.  We are lucky to live in a time where interacting online is readily available.  Take advantage of the options to interact live and the multitude of free ways available. What's App, Skype and Facetime are just a few. 

      Get groups together! I have been doing some mini jam sessions with a few friends on Zoom.  I've heard of people doing dinner parties and game nights with friends online.  Get creative and get connected!

      Give! Again, get creative here. I've seen people dropping baked goods off to neighbors and friends. In my area, a woman dressed up as Olaf and walked her neighborhood waving and showing positive signs to neighbors in their homes.  When we give and uplift, it's contagious! Give online through Facebook and Instagram Live posts...share your talents!

      Be conscious of the energy you are connect to. This is where we have control. We get to choose if we are connecting with positive people or negative, fearful people.  We also get to choose what message we are sending out to the world!  Remember, what we put out is what we get back.

      GO INWARD - The importance of a daily practice

      Taking time for yourself, to give back to yourself, to be with yourself, and to cultivate a friendship with yourself is important. When we come back to what is happening right now, in this moment, as well as being okay with whatever emotions and reactions come up, it helps to remain more calm, cultivate more compassion and gratitude, and respond rather than react.  We all need more of this right now and our stay at home orders and social isolation means there's more time to practice.

      Here are some resources to start practicing!

      Coming into the present, a guided meditation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cdSO-RXEfyM&t=2s.  I start all my sessions and workshops with this meditation and people love it!

      Compassion meditation, a guided meditation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-fn89wr_L3g&t=16s. Compassion is a main practice of most religions and spiritual paths. In the modern world, we are more conditioned to the opposite of compassion - separateness, self-doubt, and mindless actions.  Start changing that!

      Noticing and being with emotions, guided: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mbis9TReMgI&t=4s.  I have been practicing this with ALL my individual clients the past couple of weeks.  If you can learn to be with what is arising within, what is reacting, you can be empowered to choose to consciously respond to life challenges in a way you feel good about.

      Insight Timer, an awesome meditation app that's free. It's the one I use daily. It has tens of thousands of meditations, calming music, chanting and a timer for guided or stillness meditation. (I have no business ties to this app...I just really like it and recommend it).


      The Breath Workshop: Join me in learning how to use the most readily available and effective tool for calming the mind...the breath!  April 4th, 9-10am MST, Free.  Sign Up Here!

      Learn to Meditate! A 4 week, online course with Twyla Gingrich. Starts April 7th!  Click Here for more information!

      I encourage everyone to reflect on with current changes, what is going well?  What are you grateful for right now because of the pandemic?  What are your personal lessons?  Let's learn from this and let this time lift us up!

      Namaste, Twyla

      Wednesday, 18 March 2020

      Yoga and COVID-19

      What does yoga have to do with COVID-19?  Everything!

      That's the amazing thing about this 2000 year old path of self-transformation...it continues to be valid and helpful today.  Yoga is much more than just a physical practice, though the asanas (yoga postures) are a fitting way for our modern society to start connecting with tools of yoga.  For those of you have done a yoga asana class, or a few, or keep coming back to it, or its a part of your weekly routine, what did you get out of it?

      Most of my students remark not only on the changes they see in flexibility and strength in their bodies, but also feeling more calm, centered, and present.  And the poses are just the tip of the iceberg!

      Diving deeper into the other parts of yoga with pranayama (breath practices), Yamas and Niyamas (ethical practices) and Dharana/ Dhyana (meditation), has helped me to have more lasting periods of feeling content, able to be in the present where anxiety and depression disappear, and less judging of myself and others.

      With the current, global pandemic of COVID-19, these practices help to connect back to facts, identify what we can control, and focus on keeping a calm, clear mind to help ourselves and others.

      Fear is playing a big role right now and relishes in it's power.  Fear has allowed some minds to dive into paranoia due to feeling powerless and uncertain of the future with reactionary behaviors that may actually be more detrimental to overall health.  Don't get me wrong, there are millions of people who do have a much higher risk and need to take more strict precautions. Even those who need to do this, the mind clinging to a fearful mind state will not change anything, except overload the body system even more.

      Yoga teaches us to take time observe what is going on with our reactions to the external environment and discern what conscious actions to take, responding versus reacting.  Think 'Matrix.'  In the scene where Neo is face to face with Mr. Smith, he incorporates all his training and 'sees' things as they are. His movements are slow and deliberate. He remains calm.  Mr. Smith is COVID-19 (or any other life challenge) and yoga practices allow us to meet it just as Neo did with Mr. Smith.

      The challenge really is to put down all the excuses to why you can't start to move your body with more awareness and focus on the breath, or start a breathing practice or meditation practice.  I also feel that a purpose of COVID-19 is to help us see more than ever that we do need to take time to go inward and that the external world is not "Truth," but an opportunity for us to grow and learn to become more fully who we are meant to be.

      So, where to start?

      Here are some easy things to start doing today:

      1. Breathe!!  Simply take time to breath.  What I mean by this is stopping for a moment, start consciously breathing in an out through the nose as this slows down the breath and can be more calming for the mind.  Put your hand on your belly above your navel and start directing the breath to the belly. Inhale and feel the belly push into the hand.  Exhale and the belly relaxes. Set a timer for 3-5 minutes and do this as a daily practice or take time during the day to come back to the breath, breathing this way for 5-10 breaths.  Here's a video on belly breathing.

      2. Whatever you are doing - going for a walk, brushing your teeth, doing the dishes - doing it with awareness. Use all of your sense to notice what is going on during these actions. What do you see, what do you feel on your skin, what do you smell, what do you hear, what do you taste?  What feelings are coming up?  What thoughts?  Just observe. There's no judgment or right or wrong, just notice.

      3. One of the easiest ways to to start meditation is being guided.  It helps to meet a more active mind.  I recommend Insight Timer, a free app, that has tens of thousands of guided meditations, relaxing music, and so much more.  One I specifically recommend is Coherent Breath Symphony by Joseph Robertson. There is great research out there on Coherent Breath, including a wonderful book, "The Healing Power of the Breath," and Robertson's three recordings (a 2 minute explanation, a 9 minute guided meditation, and a 20 minute recording) are helpful in practicing this breath.

      4. Join Samya Yoga Healing's private Facebook Group, Yoga and the Mind, to receive even more resources and guidance on this path to mastering the mind for a more calm, peaceful mind state.

      Please, let go of excuses and start exploring some of the simple, yet profound practices of yoga.  May you find peace and calm mind. Namaste.