Two years ago depression nearly ended my life. Here is what helped me survive.

On a recent warm and sunny April afternoon, I was at the rehabilitation center where I work as a per diem physical therapist. As I passed a young woman, I overheard her say to a patient “it’s too beautiful outside to feel depressed!”


“Wow,” I thought to myself. “She really doesn’t understand depression.”


As the April weather was warming up just two years ago, I found myself in a hole so black and deep it felt impossible to escape from. Mental health challenges after the birth of my children resulted in several incorrect diagnoses including bipolar disorder, and the medications I was prescribed to help me did a whole lot more harm than good. By the spring of 2017, I was so depressed that I was unable to work or care for myself much less my children without the help of family. Yes, I occasionally sobbed, but it was far more involved than ‘sadness’: anxiety caused me to vomit nearly everything I ate. I slept as much as possible just to survive.


I’m going to be frank here: it was so bad that I wanted to die. Dying felt preferable to living through the amount of pain I was in on every conceivable level: physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. I will tell you the exact reason I did not harm myself two summers ago: the root of my suffering was childhood trauma, and therefore traumatizing my own children was a complete nonstarter.  


And so over the next several months, I clawed my way out of that hole, inch by inch and day by day by figuring out what worked for me. I emphasize that last part because we all have unique physiologies, backgrounds and beliefs and I wouldn’t pretend to know definitively what will work for anyone else. If even one thing I share gives a person currently suffering through this nightmare new reason to hope, however, I’m happy to pass this list along. It is not complete.


  1. I admitted to my family and then my doctors how dark my thoughts had become. This was the hardest thing I have ever done, by the way.

  2. I listened to my body, and with the help of my doctors weaned off all prescription medication except for medical cannabis.

  3. I sought professional help and followed through on all recommendations including a two week partial hospitalization program, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) for trauma, Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) for emotional dysregulation, family, group, and individual talk therapy

  4. I practiced yoga with a tribe of people who were happy to see me no matter what mood I was in, and quick to give me a hug I didn’t know I needed.

  5. I identified toxic friendships and ended them one by one.

  6. I stopped drinking alcohol as my primary form of stress relief. I still imbibe occasionally; restriction always backfires for me because I’m human.

  7. I got really clear on my NEEDS (not wants) and was uncompromising no matter how inconvenienced others felt or the consequences that I incurred.

  8. I stopped pretending to the outside world that I was perfect and accepted help in many forms.


When you look at this list you’ll notice that walking outdoors on a warm and sunny day simply didn’t make the cut. And while I fully acknowledge that this young woman meant no harm in what she said, hers and similar comments have the potential to make depressed people feel even more alone than they already do.


So to them I say this: you are not alone, not even close. And you are worthy of the work it will require to find what works for you.  


Kathleen Schwarz
I wont let this happen again...

I haven’t written a blog post in a long time. I could easily blame the holiday season, or prepping for and promoting my workshops, or celebrating my fortieth birthday in January (I’m currently on a yoga retreat in Mexico doing just that). But the truth is this:

Self-doubt got in the way.

True, it didn’t come out of nowhere. Shortly after a family member chastised me for putting too much information online, someone unsubscribed from my mailing list citing “content not what I expected.” I was already in a vulnerable emotional place, and it derailed my confidence and conviction.

After some time and reflection—and perhaps the wisdom that comes with embracing a new decade—I’m happy to report:

THEY'RE BACK.

To get here, I drew on some wisdom from an unknown source, “what other people think of you is none of your business.”

In yoga, we talk a lot about non-attachment. If I am authentic and truthful and put forth my best effort, how my writing, spoken words, and actions are received is out of my control. I know what is in my heart, and that my words and teachings will find the people they are meant to help.

Don’t let others tell you who you are or who to be. I promise, I won’t let it happen to me again.


Kathleen Schwarz
Instagram For Dummies (I’m The Dummy)

This summer I began using Instagram for business purposes. I know 39 isn’t technically old, but it’s old enough to have graduated both college and physical therapy school using the library’s Dewey Decimal System instead of internet search engines. My husband Matt is a software developer, so for the last 14 years I’ve been able to pass off any computer issues to him to deal with. And, Stevie takes care of the technological stuff for Compassionate Healing Services. In short: I’m spoiled. At this point, my mom is better with internet research than I am (though she still hunts and pecks on her keyboard lol).


Twitter gives me a headache, and I don’t understand the point of Snapchat at all. Facebook has turned me off with the spread of misinformation and not protecting our user data. So, to Instagram I tentatively turned. The thing is: I don’t take a lot of pictures of myself, and I especially don’t take pics of myself doing yoga. I do and teach yoga primarily for the mental health benefits, and I can’t touch the strength or flexibility of most yoga teachers. What the hell was I going to post?


Having no idea where to start I bought “Instagram for Business for Dummies” but higher priorities have prevented me from delving in. So, I’ve tackled this as I have every challenge with this business: thoughtfully and intuitively. And like everything else with this business, my efforts are slowly but surely paying off.

The result is a page I’m proud of filled with inspirational people, quotes, students, stories, class/workshop announcements and yes, the occasional unimpressive yoga pose. My posts are inconsistent, practical, truthful and run the gamut from serious to funny. In short: they represent me perfectly.


If you’re on Instagram, please follow @chsyoga and let me know what you think!




Kathleen Schwarz
This Little Light of Mine

Five years ago today, my younger son Charlie entered this world —and life as I knew it shattered. The trauma of his birth made previously manageable levels of anxiety unbearable and uncovered previously repressed traumas. I had been seeing a therapist for “postpartum depression” (aka undiagnosed bipolar 2 disorder) since Ben was born, but after Charlie’s birth I entered the frighteningly imprecise world of prescription mental health care. There were many missteps, and in 2017 I came close to losing my battle with suicidal ideation. Every time a terrifying thought of self harm entered my head though, I pictured my boys. Tonight, on this snowy day that ruined everything except this little boy’s smile, the irony that he ruined AND saved my life is not lost on me. I wouldn’t hesitate for even a second to go through it all again because this smart, funny, gregarious, silly, sweet and empathetic soul is *that* delightful. I’ll end this sap fest with a touch of his humor. As I wrote this, tears streaming down my cheeks he said “mommy, are you ok?” “Yes baby, I’m ok. Believe it or not, I’m happy.” “Oh ok. So you’re *too* happy??” 🤣❤️ Not too happy, my love. Exactly the right amount.

Kathleen SchwarzComment
My Empathic Life

Recently, Stevie looked down at her phone and suddenly started laughing hysterically. Despite having no idea what she was laughing at, within moments I had tears rolling down my cheeks too. Laughter is pretty universally contagious, but if like me you walk around “catching” the emotions of those around you--even the unpleasant ones--you might just be an empath, or highly sensitive person.


Despite being one, I probably would have rolled my eyes at the term “empath” before my older son Ben was born, but he undoubtedly fits that description (as does Stevie). He recently put it this way: “Mommy, I feel what other people feel. When they’re sad I’m sad, and when they’re happy I’m happy.” He means this literally. I’m equal parts proud of his compassion for others and concerned that this cruel world will break his heart as it has mine so many times.


I have no idea if Marilyn Monroe was an empath, but her famous quote, “if you can’t handle me at my worst, then you sure as hell don’t deserve me at my best” makes it a distinct possibility in my mind.


Sensitivity and empathy are signs of strength, not weakness, but they are traits that make life more difficult for both the empath and those in relationships with us. We can’t simply “move on” from hurtful comments or actions from those we love, and if we do so for peacekeeping reasons the hurt doesn’t dissipate, it gets stored in our bodies which can easily breed resentment or even make the empath turn to substances to numb emotional pain or become physically ill. (For instance, I broke up with a toxic friend, and I ceased vomiting on a near daily basis.)


On the other hand, empathic people are extraordinarily giving, supportive of and invested in the well being of those we love. We rarely (if ever) hurt other people purposely and will go to the ends of the earth to apologize to someone we accidentally offend, often multiple times.

Just as our capacity to feel sorrow is bigger, so is the intensity with which we experience joy and excitement, and those around us benefit from that. As a mother to a highly sensitive child, I can say unequivocally that the challenges he presents parenting wise are easily outmatched by the gifts his loving and caring heart brings to our family and this world.


While compassion and empathy are expected of women (but rarely rewarded), these traits have been “feminized” by our culture, so my heart goes out to men and boys too afraid to be who they authentically are. Please know you’re in good company. Famous male empaths in history include Jesus, Mahatma Gandhi, George Orwell, the Dalai Lama and Claiborne Paul Ellis (KKK wizard turned civil rights activist).


If this describes you or someone you love, do not be ashamed. The world so desperately needs your unique gifts.


Kathleen SchwarzComment
I Am Not Mentally Ill. I Live With Mental Illness.

October 10th was World Mental Health Day. One of the many goals I hope to accomplish through this business is to raise awareness and reduce the stigma surrounding mental health disorders. Official statistics say that 1 in 5 people live with mental illness, and while that 20% figure may cover chronic and severe sufferers, I believe *most* people deal with mental health challenges at some point in their lives and have no idea help is available OR are too ashamed to seek it out.


I was diagnosed with complex PTSD and bipolar II disorder in 2017 but developed the conditions as a young teenager. Let me be clear: I didn’t just live with my conditions. I thrived with them. I’ve had a job since I was eleven years old. I dedicated myself to my studies and then my physical therapy career. I met and married my husband and had two beautiful boys. It was only once I had children that my illnesses--misdiagnosed for years as postpartum depression and anxiety--started affecting my ability to cope with life.


How could someone have TWO severe, chronic mental illnesses for nearly thirty years and not even know it?


The answer is that mental illness doesn’t look anything like I thought it did. Mental health is a spectrum, and the severe cases that come to mind are the exceptions, not the rule. Mental illness isn’t represented only by those who cannot perceive reality or those who take innocent lives. In fact, those who live with mental illness are far more likely to be VICTIMS of violent crime then perpetrators of it. Mental illness may simply look like stress, irritability, emotional sensitivity, fatigue, high energy levels, distractibility, worry, rumination, disordered eating, excessive drinking and even perfectionism. It may look like above average levels of intelligence and empathy. It may look like racism and misogyny.


When I was struggling last year, my wise teacher Alex gave me this advice: “don’t take ownership of it. *You* aren’t depressed, you’re dealing with depression. It’s not who you are, it’s just something you’re living with.”  Separating myself from what I was experiencing was a first step toward empowering me to fight this battle I neither asked for nor deserve. We all have our battles to face, though, and this just happens to be mine.


I’m finally finding my place in the world. Not in spite of my mental illnesses but because of them.


Kathleen Schwarz
Everything In Moderation

In an effort be more present and less distracted both in my professional and personal lives, I have been cutting back on my social media usage. I’m a rebellious person even when I make the rules, so anytime I’m dealing with addictions I know in order to be successful I have to strike the balance between self indulgence and self denial. For Facebook, that means taking the app off my phone and forcing myself to use my laptop or the web browser on my phone which isn’t as polished or easy to navigate.


Social media is the latest in a series of comforts I’ve sought throughout my life to escape reality and medicate my depression and anxiety. Like many people who deal with mental health issues, I have an addictive personality. In the past I’ve used food, alcohol, cigarettes, recreational drugs, video games, exercise, sex, relationships, my career, my phone and even religion to self medicate. I am confident I will continue to find new ways in the future. I suppose what distinguishes me from “an addict” is that I do not have to stop using completely to gain control.


As a former dieter I grew up hearing “everything in moderation” in regards to food, but the older I get the more I see how this motto applies to life in general. Too much of anything is, well, too much! We all know balance is what we should seek. So why do so many people have such a problem with moderation?


My take? We’re anxious as hell, and technology has only made that worse. Through our phones we are CONSTANTLY inundated with notifications and headlines about terrifying and tragic events in our country, world, and climate. I care deeply about feminism and issues of social justice, but for my mental health I’ve had to limit my news consumption. The only thing that works to get me back to my present reality is mindfulness. I use my senses to notice what I see, hear, feel, smell and taste. I calm the tornado of thoughts by putting my full attention on my breath and body. And then I ask myself what I *really* need in that moment: sleep, food, water, or maybe to be alone or connect with a friend and then do my best to give myself what I need. It gives me something to do when I feel helpless or hopeless and never fails to make me feel better. Try it!

A couple of days after I deleted the FB app, I put it back on my phone. Two hours later I deleted it again. I told you I’m a rule breaker.  Maybe “work in progress” is a more compassionate term.


Kathleen Schwarz
Karma For Kids

One of the biggest challenges a parent faces is guiding a child who is being bullied. Unfortunately, I know this struggle well, and my oldest is only in second grade. Kids can be brutally mean. The heartbreaking reality that children who bully are likely victims of abuse themselves does little to ease the pain that their words and actions have on sensitive, anxiety prone children like my eight year old, Ben.


As much as I want to assure my kids that “bullies never win,” all they have to do is look at our current political leaders to realize that simply isn’t true. Which makes the following story that much sweeter.


Ben is a soccer fanatic. A few weeks ago, his team lost 3-2 to an opponent. When the boys were high fiving afterwards, instead of the traditional “good game,” the winning team laughed at them and told them they were “trash.” (I was not at this game or I would have addressed the bullying directly with their coaches.)


Last week, the boys played the same team. They won 7-1, and Ben scored one of the goals!!! Even better, when they high fived, every child on my son’s team said only “good game!” Needless to say, the other team was embarrassed, our family was tremendously proud, and most importantly my son learned a lesson about karma that he’ll never forget.


I genuinely believe that good or bad karma isn’t some passive fate that befalls us; it’s something we create with our actions. This is NOT to say that horrible things don’t happen to good people because of course they do, and the victim is in no way responsible. Just as amazing things happen to terrible people who are in no way deserving. The challenge we face as parents is to teach our kids to do the right thing no matter who is watching or whether there is a reward at the end. To treat others kindly and with respect regardless of whether they’ve earned it or will give it back in return.


Those of us who consistently choose the right path and derive satisfaction from helping rather than hurting others are karmically rewarded. Maybe not with wealth or power, but with intangibles like pride, self esteem, opportunities, finding meaning and purpose in our lives, and earning the trust, respect, love and friendship of others. Oh, and the occasional blow out soccer win.   

Kathleen Schwarz
What Can't I See?

This August, Stevie and I took my sons to one of those paint your own pottery places. I’ve never considered myself to have any artistic talent whatsoever, so I was surprised to discover a few years ago that my eight year old has a talent for drawing. This outing was his suggestion, and so I put motherly love for him ahead of my distaste for spending money on things that look like crap, and off we went. (I said he had a talent for drawing, not painting.)


Long after everyone else had started working on their pieces, I was still deciding what to paint. I wanted something purposeful and easy to complete since I bore easily. In the end, I chose a simple medium-sized bowl with handles, and two shades each of pink and blue glaze.


Inspired by a canvas in the store, I glazed the inside of the bowl with the lighter shades, blue on one side and pink on the other.  On the outside of the bowl, where the inside was pink I applied the darker shade of blue on the outside. I painted the darker shade of pink on the same side where the inside was blue. I added a few stamps for decoration and then handed my bowl to the employee who would finish our pieces in the kiln.


When I picked up our finished pieces, I was pleasantly surprised with how well it turned out. The imperfections that I worried would detract from its beauty only contributed to its uniqueness. My husband and I admired it from every angle--or so we thought.


The following day, our eight year old pointed out a detail that we had completely overlooked. When viewed through one of the handles, the bowl appears to be either completely pink or completely blue depending upon which handle you look through. The other colors are completely hidden from view.


Our minds are like that bowl. We don’t actually see the world as it is; we see the world as we are. If you’re looking at a problem from only one or two angles, then you are missing the big picture. Conversely, if you only choose to see the situation from a wide angle--or to look through only one of the two handles--you’re missing important perspectives.  


Turns out I am artistic, after all.  


Kathleen Schwarz
The Sun Will Come Out Eventually

Fall is upon us, and frankly, I ain’t mad about it. I had a summer filled with seemingly endless personal and professional highs and lows.  Stevie and I found our sea legs in regards to running Compassionate Healing Services, and I spent approximately the same number of days appreciating having my boys home with me and counting the weeks until their return to school. (That’s called balance.)


Now that school has been back in session and we’ve settled into our routine, I have more time again to devote to self care and reflection. As my fortieth birthday nears, it’s become apparent to me that humans move through different seasons in life, not unlike our planet does. These seasons are far less predictable, though, and we often have no idea when they will come to an end. Some are relatively joyful and calm; others violently shake the foundation beneath our feet and force us to start completely anew.


I recently had a Chinese fortune cookie that informed me “the only thing contained in absolutely everything is wisdom.” Now that’s a smart cookie!


No matter the challenge you’re facing, there is a valuable lesson contained within. Maybe you’re learning what you're capable of, or whom to trust, or where your boundaries lie. Maybe you're gaining experience for a career that you haven’t yet dreamed for yourself. Shifting my perspective in this way helps me find clarity in the chaos when I’m in the middle of one of life’s many storms. It helps me to accept the reality of situation I am in, not the one I wish I was in or the one that seems fair. It focuses my attention on what I actually have control over instead of obsessing over details that I have no power to change.


If you're in a rough season of life, change what you can, accept what you can’t, and don’t give up on finding your way back to peace and calm. The sun will come out, eventually.


Kathleen Schwarz
The Kids Will Be Okay. Will I?

My son Ben will be eight in a few days, and he’s already up to my chin in height. I’m not a short person; he’s just tall for his age and grew several inches this summer alone. He’s great at soccer and was recruited to play with kids a year older than him and no one is the wiser because he’s their size and then some. He’s happy. I’m proud, yet sad.  


My oldest baby is not a baby anymore. He’s only starting second grade, and yes, in many ways he is still delightfully childlike and naive.  But his gangly limbs are a daily reminder that puberty and college and empty nesting are on the way, regardless of my desire to freeze time and complicated feelings about it all.


When I was in the shit (as early parenthood should be universally known), it used to drive me bonkers when well meaning older mothers would stop me to tell me “enjoy every moment, it goes so fast.” Sorry Betty, one kid is shoplifting and the other is having a tantrum in the nipple cream aisle. I’m not enjoying this moment, but thanks.  


Betty was right about one thing, though: it does go fast. And while I haven’t turned into *that* mom, even on hard days now I challenge myself to find one or two (or ten!) moments a day when I stop to appreciate my life and my babies. Not because everything is perfect in that moment. Because for better or worse, it’s a day in my life with my kids who won’t be *this* age ever again.  Sometimes my mindful pause helps me to appreciate what I WON’T miss and that helps me find acceptance and even excitement for the future when my kids will be grown. It reminds me not to lose myself to motherhood because it won’t always be a full-time job.


I don’t miss that nipple cream aisle one bit.


P.S. If you’re in the shit AND can’t get yourself to enjoy a damn thing, no matter how hard you try? That’s ok. I relate to that. Tell someone you trust. You are deserving of help and support.   


Kathleen Schwarz
I Am Who I Am, But...

A little insight into my personality: I love to make daily commitments. It’s a game I like to play with myself, called “Pretending I’m a Different Person” because I SUCK at daily commitments, and always have. Whether it’s keeping a journal, yoga, meditating, posting on my social media business pages, meal planning, checking the kids’ school bags for homework and important papers, keeping a daily schedule, eating before noon...it’s all hard for me. I have a lot on my plate and a brain that likes to alter the speed with which it processes information to astonishing degrees depending on my sleep, stress level and self care practice.

 

And yet: this has never stopped me from making daily commitments aka setting myself up for failure. I became a perfectionist at a very young age, and that seemingly enviable quality was covering for a tremendous amount of shame. Perfectionism is rooted in the belief that you have to be perfect in order to be worthy of love or respect. And so I tried, for nearly thirty years. REALLY, REALLY HARD. Hard enough for most people to believe I was pulling it off, even. I got the Master’s Degree and achieved career goals; had the wedding, and the house, and the dog, and the kids, and the beautiful professional photos on my social media pages. But few knew about all the days I couldn’t get out of bed, or how much I was really yelling at my kids or fighting with my spouse, or how anxious I felt that one or all of the precarious plates balancing on sticks above my head would come crashing down.  

 

My yoga teacher taught me that no amount of self improvement can make up for a lack of self acceptance. We all need goals to strive for in order to get where we want to be in life. When you change nothing, nothing changes. Yet it is completely pointless to fight against the reality of your own limitations. No human is perfect, least of all me. When I stopped pretending and started accepting my flaws and allowed my loved ones to support me physically and emotionally, I discovered that done is better than perfect. Let go of the need to control everything or attachment to a specific outcome. Finding the balance between accepting who we are and working toward positive change brings a peace within that everyone deserves.

 

Kathleen SchwarzComment
No Regrets

Two barriers to mindfulness every yoga and meditation practitioner runs up against are worry and rumination. Worry is what our minds do for events that are in the future; rumination is the film reel of regret that plays for past mistakes and seasons of our lives. While it’s true that these experiences are part of being human, for those of us who have lived through repeated trauma or are highly sensitive/empathetic, worry and rumination can become the foundation for much more serious conditions, like anxiety and depression.

It’s so easy to view past events with rose-colored glasses and ask pointless “what if” questions. Rather than effectively working through conflict with current partners, we scroll through pictures taken with exes and remember the emotion of a special event rather than the heartbreak or unacceptable behavior that led up to becoming exes in the first place. Or we look at dating apps or attractive coworkers and fantasize about “perfect” coupledom--as if that exists. There are many other variations of this (“why did I quit that job” “I never should have left the city”), and they all serve only one purpose: to keep us stuck and miserable.

Through yoga we learn to let go of thoughts and behaviors that aren’t serving us. By accepting and learning to love our own imperfect selves, we open our hearts to do the same for the imperfect humans we have chosen to love.  Or, we become empowered to make necessary changes in order to live up to our own highest potential.

Accept the choices and events of the past non-judgmentally: you likely did the best you could with the skills you possessed at the time (as did the other parties). If you aren’t happy where you find yourself in your life, shift your focus away from past regrets and to the present moment where you are in complete control of your next move.

“Don’t cling to a mistake just because you spent a long time making it”~Daniel Senyard

Kathleen SchwarzComment
My Path Out Of Hell

The beginning of August marked one year since I found myself in the ER having admitted to my doctors and loved ones that I was considering the unthinkable: ending my own life. It had been six months since I’d fallen into a severe depression that rendered me unable to work, and despite being compliant with all of my prescribed medications and psychotherapy treatments (including partial hospitalization), I felt no better or more hopeful about my future. I made a bold--but ultimately life saving--decision the day I visited the ER: to go off most of my prescription medications. Within a week of that ER visit I knew I had made the right decision when I opened my eyes after a long sleep and for the first time in months the heavy, terrifying darkness had lifted. In that moment, despite all the challenges still ahead, I felt SO grateful.

 

Anyone who has survived a life-threatening illness or personal tragedy can tell you that it’s a perspective shifter. I did not grow up with many privileges, so I think that even before 2017 I was grateful for my home, career, physical health, husband, kids, family, friends--the “big” stuff. Somehow I still found plenty to complain about, though, and I can see in hindsight how that kept me stuck. Shortly after finding my yoga practice and teacher he said something that stuck:


“Happiness does not make you grateful, gratitude makes you happy”

 

Let me be clear: when I was in hell no amount of gratitude would have gotten me out of it. It’s not that simple. It took a coordinated and carefully monitored approach with doctors and therapy professionals and the support of my family to find what worked for *me* (it will be different for every individual). And frankly, the path out of hell is through misery. It isn’t a smooth or straight road. But it is possible. And if you are where I found myself in 2017, know that you are worth the effort and if you reach out to me I will support you in any way I can.

 

Now that I have found my way out of the darkness, though, gratitude is where I start each day when I wake up and my world has color.  I still have an anxiety and mood disorder; that hasn’t changed. I have up days and down and some days the weight of the world’s problems seem to rest squarely on my shoulders, despite my best efforts to remain mindful and present. But I always resolve to start again. And it always starts with gratitude.

Kathleen SchwarzComment
How Could a Yoga Practice Possibly Change My Life?!

I would have had the same question if someone said something so dramatic to me before I started practicing yoga and meditation regularly. Yoga is a practice of self exploration. Most people are surprised to learn that traditional yoga poses are simply meant to warm and stretch the body to sit comfortably in meditation for long periods. Meditation involves concentrating on your breath and the sensations in your body rather than allowing your mind to race from one thought to the next. Did you know the average person has between 50 and 70 THOUSAND thoughts each day? No wonder we’re stressed out!!!

 

Meditation is the discipline of concentrating on your breath and allowing those thoughts to pass by without labeling them as good or bad. The more you practice, the easier it becomes to do this even off your yoga mat and live in the space of peaceful awareness of the present moment, or mindfulness.  

It’s this power over our thoughts that is life changing. How? Well, our thoughts shape our beliefs about ourselves. Our beliefs affect our behaviors. Our behaviors shape our habits. Our habits shape the way we live our lives.


If is our fundamentally limiting beliefs about ourselves that keep us from living our most fulfilled lives. Examples of these include: “I’m too fat to date” “I’m too stupid to go back to school”, “I’m too shy to go to parties”, “I’m a failure”.

Change your thoughts, and everything changes. Make sense?

If It Worked For Them...

I’m sure I wasn’t alone in my joy over news of the safe rescue of all 12 members and the coach of the Thai soccer team that was trapped in a flooded cave. It took rescuers ten days to locate the team and several more days to safely extract them. The coach is a former monk and taught the boys to meditate in order to keep them calm in the cave while awaiting rescue. This seemingly simple act literally kept the boys alive: rescuers say that when they found the team, oxygen levels in the cave were depleted to the point where they would likely have run out if they weren’t conserving energy by meditating most of the day.

 

During yoga teacher training we started each session with 20 minutes of meditation. With consistent practice I noticed that my mind was clearer and more focused; my thoughts didn’t race with worry to the worst case scenario in every situation; I no longer felt constant anxiety in my chest; I was more accepting and less reactive when life didn’t go as planned. SimpIy, I was able to be present in each moment, and it felt like MAGIC.

 

Try it! Sitting with your back straight and your shoulders relaxed, close your eyes or lower your gaze and find somewhere where you feel your breath moving in your body: your belly, your chest, your throat, or your nostrils. Concentrate on that single point, gently bringing your attention back whenever your focus wanders. Remember, it’s a practice! There is no such thing as a perfect meditation. Even 5 minutes a day can make a huge difference.

Good Enough is the New Perfect

I have yet to teach a yoga class where *something* hasn’t gone wrong. Like the time I forgot to bring a yoga mat to my first private session; when my phone overheated in the sun rendering me unable to play music; when I turned the lights too dim to see my own class plan and had to wing it; when I forgot--twice--to bring the business cards I’d paid for to be rush delivered.

 

This is not even close to an exhaustive list. With all I have going on in my life besides starting my own business, I often feel like a disorganized mess. And yet, thanks to some incredibly kind testimonials, I know I’m having the impact I hoped to have. Maybe it’s because of my imperfections rather than despite them that people are connecting with me as a teacher.

 

Dr. Maya Angelou once said “I’ve learned people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel”.  

 

The First Yoga Class I Didn't Hate

Physical fitness has always been important to me. I started swimming competitively at a young age and then as a teen concerned with my weight, I started exercising obsessively, mostly in the form of running (which I hated) and aerobics classes (which I didn’t). While I enjoyed the camaraderie of group exercise, I detested stretching with the group at the end because I was SO inflexible it embarrassed me. Even worse, as a physical therapist I knew that my tight muscles would be make me injury-prone, and so in my mid twenties I decided to try yoga for the first time, “to improve my flexibility”.

 

I have to be honest. I HATED YOGA.

The tight, body-conscious clothes. The heated room. The unfamiliar music. Words spoken in a foreign language. Confident yogis in the front of the room doing poses I would never in my life attempt much less perfect.

 

I’ve never been one to give up easily. I tried different studios and different teachers. I always left with the same feeling: this shit wasn’t for me.

EXCEPT.  Every time I suffered through a yoga class, I had to admit that I felt physically--and mentally--better. The anxiety that resided in my chest as faithfully as my beating heart wasn’t so pronounced. I felt calmer, more focused and able to tackle the tasks of the day ahead. It’s why I kept going back even though nothing else about the practice connected with me.

In 2015 I finally broke up with chronic dieting and over exercising and for the sake of my mental health I took an entire year off from the gym. In 2016 I joined a new health club, mostly because it offered child care and had a great pool. Just looking at the gym equipment I’d wasted untold hours of my life on made me feel despair and so I decided to try yoga yet again in March of 2016.
 

And this time? It didn’t suck.

The teacher was welcoming and cool. His themes were relatable and gave me fresh perspective on challenges I was facing in my real life. He taught to every student regardless of level and helped me feel successful the very first class. He played music I’d heard before. It was actually fun. I started attending his classes regularly.
 

To my delight, with consistent practice I was able to enjoy that calm and peaceful feeling long after I left my mat. And as a secondary benefit, my physical strength and flexibility also improved.

Haven’t found *your* teacher or class? Let me introduce you to the powers of this practice.

I promise you won’t hate it.