Demystifying Yoga and Why You Need to Try it.

I remember the first moment I walked into a class known as “hot yoga”.  Yes, it was hotter than hell or so I imagined.  The class was heated to around 102 degrees with about 40% humidity.  I managed to last, but honestly wondered how many people passed out, threw up or went to the bathroom and never came back.

I pondered all of those things in the space of 5 minutes.  The people were all slim, seriously.  There was a mirror on the wall in front of me and I wondered why, whyyyy, would they do that to people wearing next to nothing.  And to top it off, a man walked in wearing what seriously was the smallest erm covering ever and put his mat in front of me (More on that later if you want to click the link).

Here’s the thing.  I was brand new and it wasn’t about any of these things, but if this was my first experience, I had nothing else to compare it to.  So, for those of you who are either nodding your heads, or wondering what happened next, I will help clear some things up.

This particular studio caters to the college students.  I didn’t realize that when I signed up as it was close to me and I wanted to see what all the “fuss” was about.  The people were very serious in this class and very much unforgiving that particular day.  It is not like this everywhere and just to be clear, it is not like this in every class there.  The phrase that I later discovered “your vibe attracts your tribe” is also true for yoga studios. 

Since I was a beginner, I didn’t know what I didn’t know.  I tried it again years later at this studio and found that it still seemed not quite the right fit for me personally.  I wanted to connect with my body and my breath and I personally couldn’t do that while staring at a mirror.  It was way too distracting in this class.

I didn’t want the mirror to be my focus and I found the students body language as well as the instructors seemed to imply that if I didn’t do the pose a certain way, that I was less than somehow and the mirror was just confirmation.

The next place I tried offered Restorative Yoga Well, the few times I went I really enjoyed it…until I took a friend who couldn’t sit still at all, but that’s another story that I linked here.  You have to understand that I was mentally and physically in pain at the time, but I had come to the conclusion that it absolutely couldn’t get any worse (which was actually half right) and that to do nothing was insane (which was 100% correct).  So, the art of restoring my body back to the original factory settings appealed to me highly. 

We got to use bolsters, which are like pillows, blankets, blocks, straps and pretty much anything we had available to us at the time.  I felt very good about the process.  After a while of finding my place in this class, I finally decided to take what would become my greatest passion.

The Vinyasa “flow” Class.  What fresh hell was this my body whispered?  Why are we doing this?  My wrists said to me.  My brain said “Aww F-this.  No.  Noooo.”  But I sat on the mat with no mirror in front of me and listened as the teacher centered us.  I began to move and thought that if I needed a rest surely yoga was the place to find it, right?  Well, again.  Not all classes are created the same and they shouldn’t be.  So, in this flow, it was exactly that.  We literally flowed from pose to pose to pose, and I felt like we never stopped.

Again, my body was in the greatest pain it had ever been in at this time anyway, so I felt as if I had nothing to lose and everything to gain…if I could last.  It was literally like being on Survivor I thought.  I had to pace my thoughts so that I could make it 60 minutes.  Could I do this?

The first few weeks, were hard.  Down Dog was not my favorite.  I actually secretly despised it.  Planking.  WHY was that ever created in the first place when you could plop down on the damn mat.  Why did I want to actually hold myself up?  Why?  Anyway, all this moaning was only in my head.  At least for the most part.  I might have told my husband I wasn’t cut out for it.

Then the day happened when my wrists didn’t hurt quite as much, and in a moment of weakness I said yes to signing up for Yoga Teacher Training.  So, the truth is, I get it.  I really do.

I am not slim…I am curvy, but prefer not to put that label on my style of teaching as that’s just ridiculous.  I want to teach yoga that is truly available to every body.  Every size, shape, color or anything else you think is holding you back.  Are you in pain?  I understand.  Do you think you are too big busted?  I got you covered with modifications and ways to move those girls out-of-the-way.  Don’t want to wear yoga pants?  Fine, then wear what makes you happy…and ermm covered.

After 200 hours, and days I almost cried from the pain, I graduated from my yoga teacher training.  I couldn’t hold myself up at first.  Seriously, and had to modify by coming to my knees in down dog, one of the most used poses there seemed to be ever.  I had such poor wrists that I couldn’t side plank.  And I tried for a year to hold myself up in a pose called crow.  I want you to believe me when I say “trust the process”.  I additionally became certified in teaching yoga for arthritis and pain.  I am now a mindful coach who specializes in getting through this minute to the next, and the next and the next and learning to let go of the things that are holding you back.

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Body Image and Yoga…3 Reasons to Ignore the Mirror!

Happy International Day of Yoga my friends.  After one full year of teaching yoga, wow, I can honestly say that my body image has changed, but I still work on it daily!  In 2010, you are welcome to use the side search on the blog and read all about that year, but that was the year that everything started to attack me.  Autoimmune changed my life…and I don’t know if I will ever really accept it, but I have learned how to control it and that was a huge relief.

That being said, several changes happened to my body during the last 5 years that were not there before.  I found out I had fibrocystic breasts, and while it’s never a fun topic, I am linking it to my blog post on what happened that year and how I found out.  So I am going to be honest, my body image was not good around the time I came back to yoga due to pain, years of invisible diseases playing a game with me, plus more.  In some of my previous posts, I honestly thought I was writing in a positive way as I always laughed at myself; however, going back and reading now, I see that I was not fooling anyone.

I was in severe pain for so long that it was a deep path I had carved into my brain.  It was well-worn, so naturally I didn’t notice when my self-esteem went down the same path.  Why is it that your friends don’t say the things you need to hear?  Don’t be that friend who just lets your friend continue down this path.  Set the path on fire so they have to find a new way.

My new path was yoga.  Yoga became my saving grace.  When my anxiety from the countless doctor’s appointments was high as I waited on new tests, I would go to yoga.  At first, I cared what people thought of me in my yoga clothes.  I was not able to do all the things other people could…but I went to restorative yoga anyway.

What did I learn from this class?  I will tell you lessons that I learned which can’t be taught from a mirror.

3 Reasons to Ignore the Mirror:

  1. The mirror doesn’t tell you how beautiful you are to other people.  This is serious.  It reflects back your insecurities.  When you look in the mirror, you might see tired eyes, lines, and saggy skin.  When your friend sees you do a pose in yoga class for the first time that you have working on for a few months, they see your natural inner beauty.  I am telling you I know this to be true.  I have witnessed it in my friends who were afraid to come to yoga.  You might not even see how you glow, but I do.  As your teacher, I send you so much love and light during class.  Never once thinking of what you can’t do at all.  I have been there my friend.
  2. The mirror is actually supposed to be a tool.  Yup.  Just a thing to use for alignment in postures.  It is not there to judge us as that’s our job.  Do you ever stop in mid-thought and think to yourself “What if my daughter, sister, friend does this to herself?”  Would you allow others to speak so badly about themselves as you do in your head?  No matter the woman, no matter how you talk to yourself in your head, the answer is always I would never want anyone else to talk to themselves like this.  Seriously.  Ask a friend.  My group of sisters, not related, but from all cultures, meet regularly and we have said this many times.
  3. The mirror reflects the light around us, but not inside us.  Remember that the next time you are not going to yoga class because of how you “look” in the mirror or in yoga clothes or in blah, blah or until you lose x number of pounds.  Seriously remember this.  Because through yoga, I have learned to steady my mind, open my heart and come back to the breath.  If I miss yoga for too long, or don’t go for myself as I am the teacher, ha, if I don’t have that time to do the inner reflection, yes, hell yes, the outer reflection can look ugly to me.  I absorb others energy at times and if I don’t get it out through the experience of yoking myself back to the present moment, this breath, this body as Rolf Gates would say, “The real payoff of a yoga practice, I came to see, is not a perfect handstand or a deeper forward bend—it is the newly born self that each day steps off the yoga mat and back into life.”   

Each time I leave practice I am whole again my friends.  I have then collected all the pieces of my soul that seemed scattered and I feel new again.  Come to yoga my friends.  The mirror can’t possibly tell you how it feels.

Rolf GatesWant to learn new yoga poses in 3 different ways?  A break-down of poses for your body?  Check out the Head|Heart|Health Club

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5 Ways to Increase Gratitude

Increasing gratitude doesn’t seem like such a hard task, does it?  Well for many people who live in pain daily, it is.  But what if, just for the next 4 weeks, you focused on other tasks instead of your pain.  Maybe you thought about ways to increase your fitness for a week, or to eat beautiful and nutritious food the next week, or ways to help create balance in your life and help deal with your stress, and lastly you increased your self-care.  These are actually the steps I started taking when I took back my life from pain.

I began looking deeply inside my soul for true and honest answers to questions that needed to be asked.  I developed a series of workbooks on these tasks and questions to help others, but you can read more about that under my Head|Heart|Health tab.  I am here to offer you some free resources on ways you can increase gratitude in your life right now, no matter what is going on.  Remember who you are talking to here??  trust me when I say I really and truly understand that the first step is often the hardest one to take.

Let’s deconstruct this for a moment.  Gratitude is feeling thankful and appreciative for people, things, and sometimes everything in between.  That warm feeling you get when you drive up to the coffee window and someone has just paid for yours, or the random man in the grocery store, for whatever reason, hands your family a $50 bill, and says it’s on him.  <<< this happened.  So if other people are creating experiences for other people like this, no matter what is going on in the NEWS my friends, let’s not promote what we hate.  Let’s work to increase feelings of gratitude in ourselves and therefore in others we encounter through our positive actions.

5 Ways to Increase Gratitude:

  1. Say thank you as your feet hit the floor.  Are you in pain?  No offense, I totally feel you, but for just a second, shift your thoughts right now as you get out of bed.  Whatever your dominant foot is, as you swing it over the bed, the second it touches the floor, say thank you.  Say thank you all the way to the bathroom, because that’s where you probably go first.  Focus inward as you really let the words thank you settle into your entire being.  This gets you ready for the next tip.
  2. Using a dry-erase marker, write your positive affirmations on the mirra, that’s southern for mirror, and immediately look at them as you are waking up.  I don’t know what others need to hear, but coming from 3 years of re-setting my mind to focus on others things instead of pain, I can tell you what I used.  I am healthy (I wasn’t), I am whole, (I didn’t think so), and I am healing (I was, but couldn’t see it yet).  So I would think to myself I am healthy and envision a healthy me for just a moment and be grateful for that health.  I would picture myself whole, which to me at the time was without pain, anger, and depression.  Lastly, I would see myself as healed.  Someone my girls could look up to again.  Not the pajama-clad fibromyalgia, Hashimoto’s, well you get the picture, mom I had become.  Again, it was all about changing my perspective.
  3. Journal it down.  My writings at first were not really full of gratitude.  They actually seemed full of other feelings that I was trying to get away from.  So instead of that, I cut myself loose from anyone and anything that created the opposite of what I was really and truly trying to create for myself in my life.  I started un-becoming everything I was not.  I created a pattern of healing for myself by first going to the worst parts.  I deconstructed my fear.  Then I didn’t look back.  I wrote what I was happy about each day until gradually, I didn’t think about what went wrong as much.
  4. Yoga or meditation.  Yes, eventually, after all the pain, I became a yoga teacher.  But I started out slowly.  We all have to start somewhere, remember?  Here is a post about what I did to start my journey, so you can read a bit more on restorative yoga.  This allowed me to still the patterns of my mind and practice an age-old flowing meditation.  Please don’t mistake yoga for something it is not.  It is not a religion.  It is quite simply a method for dealing with the suffering of life.  As I started meditation, one yogi told me it can be your time to get closer to God or whatever you believe by listening to your inner wisdom that actually can be God trying to talk to you.  It is simply a way to practice mindfulness and inner stillness in this very face paced world.
  5. Practice pausing in your day.  This one is very important because so often, we react first.  What if what the other person said to you actually wasn’t about you at all?  Yes, it feels that way all the time.  I am a Scorpio who is quick to anger…need I say more?  What if, for just a moment, the hurtful feelings we got from the e-mail, message or phone call, was paused.  Like on TV.  Okay, now we have a moment to look at it.  You know what, Bob looked stressed out today didn’t he?  I wonder if he has too much on his plate and someone already chewed him out, so when he sent this, he in turn, did the same to me because that was the energy he was feeling?  I don’t have to continue the pattern.  This isn’t even about me at all.  Maybe I will go around the corner and say hey, Bob, what can I do to help you?  Bob will certainly be surprised.  He may even start to feel grateful, as well as sorry, but that’s his stuff, so I am going to promote what I love instead of bashing him right back.

Research has shown through decades of studies, that practicing gratitude can, in fact, have powerful and lasting effects on physical well-being, social relationships, and most importantly self-worth.  So often we get caught in a cycle that needs to be broken, and guess what happens when we take back control?  Research again reports that we develop stronger immune systems, better sleep, and less pain and aches.  Well I’ll be…an example of this.  From not moving to yoga teacher…I hope you start some of these practices today!   Need even more help?  Try this E-book here.

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Share the Wealth…blog talk radio show

Share the Wealth with Kellie Fitzgerald and her guest…well me!

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/themagichappens/2015/07/29/share-the-wealth-with-kellie-fitzgerald-and-aimee-barnes-halpin

Hopefully you got a chance to listen to that ^^ as it was actually a really quick show!!  Well, for me anyway.  I glossed over most of the details, but I do want you to know that there is a search button here on the page and if my story resonates with you or you know anyone at all who suffers from any of the diseases I talk about, please feel free to share this post with them.  Lastly, I am doing some more research on one more new gene mutation so look for that soon if you happen to like reading about invisible diseases and possible links as to why you might have what you have!  ~Aimee

Breaking chains

Restorative Yoga…finding my place

Coming to yoga from a place of pain…Aimee’s perspective:

I was afraid my body was not ready for this class.  In fact, after taking the beginner yoga class, I waited weeks before coming back in to give it another go.  You see, the ego whispers to me “That was too hard, you must give up now.”  It is coming from a place of pain.  Pain I have lived with for the last 5 years since developing the symptoms and ultimately the diagnosis of fibromyalgia.  But last night on my mat, as I held the pose for a little bit longer, my mind tried to scream at me again to register and focus on my pain.  I then shushed it, and focused on my breathing instead.  And guess what happened?  It worked.

What is restorative yoga anyway?  Basically it’s the best thing ever for your body if you are new to yoga and trying to come at it from a place of pain and/or needing healing postures.  Click the above link to find out more.

Three weeks ago as I was getting ready to take the first class, an acquaintance called me, but I said I had to go get ready for yoga.  She asked if she could go; however, she is not known for her patience, so I explained this was not like traditional yoga.  She said she was fine with it…haha.  We arrived and were told to get bolsters, a blanket, a block and a belt.  She kept asking me questions about what we were going to do.  I did mention I had not taken this class before.  Throughout class, she fidgeted.  She whispered.  She twitched.  She complained under her breath.  I was NOT happy.  Yoga is MY place for peace.  If you invite yourself to come with me, you need to respect that this is already hard for me, and I like to relax.

At the end, oh the end, I was mortified.  Tea was served, and I dearly love hot tea.  As it was being passed out, fidgety gal loudly says WHAT IS IT?  I stared at her.  It’s tea.  Well, what kind??  I need to know.  No you don’t.  Be quiet and drink the tea before I lose my calm on you and go off all Scorpio style in this nice place.  She then got out her PHONE.  Yes, her phone, and proceeds to play on it.  NUMBER one rule of yoga is there are NO cell phones in yoga.  Everyone knows this.  Everyone.  Except her.

Unfortunately, I left restorative yoga more tense than I should have.  I allowed another person’s behavior and energy to seep into my space.  I don’t have time for that in my life.  I just don’t.  So I went blessedly alone the next week.  And again last night.  What I learned was that each week, Lauren works on a different part of the body in the poses.  If I had given up because of my mind, body, or embarrassment of the above, I would not have known that.  I am working hard on shifting my focus.  There are things we can’t control, but when you get to your mat, control what you can.  Slow down you mind, focus on the breath, drop the chatter in your head, and let the others melt away.  It is your journey and yours alone.  No one can do this for you.

I truly appreciate this class as it feels like it goes at your own pace.  Some of us use more bolsters, blankets, or props to get in the pose and get the best benefits.  It does not matter.  This is truly a class to teach you to slow down.  Namaste.

 

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