Retrain your brain; Breathwork for PTSD relief

It’s Loving Kindness Wednesday!

Last week, the DC metro area was hit by Snowzilla, which brought three feet of snow to some areas in Maryland and Virginia. Schools were cancelled; office buildings were closed. I worked from home while my son played from home. After six days of being cooped up inside juggling the challenges of working on a laptop with no extra monitor, dialing into teleconference calls and entertaining my son’s “boredom”, I was ready to go back to work.

Unfortunately, the roads and parking lots weren’t ready.

Thursday morning (which was six days after the snowfall), I spent 30 minutes circling the lot at work to find a spot. I couldn’t give up and go home, because I was scheduled to teach yoga onsite from noon to 1:00 p.m., and it was too late to track down a substitute. I finally found an “illegal” spot, parked, and hoped for the best. As I was walking from my car to the associate entrance, security called out to me and warned me that the spot in which I parked could result in someone accidentally ramming into the back of my car. By this point, I was already overly stressed and worried. I couldn’t allow the “possibility” that my car was going to get hit worry me more. So I explained to security that I didn’t have a choice and would return in about an hour to find a new spot. An hour later, I came back outside and discovered another much larger car, a van, parked behind mine. I thought, “OK. No one is going to have a problem seeing that car!” So I went back inside and finished out my work day.

Later, I made it home in time to make dinner for my son but had to go back out to teach my Thursday evening meditation class. I left my house 90 minutes before the session was to start thinking that would be plenty of time to travel the 15 miles to Bethesda. Well, at the 70-minute mark, I was in my car at a dead stop on Wisconsin Avenue surrounded by bumper-to-bumper traffic and snow piles higher than a city bus. I felt trapped. I looked at the time, and fear set in. “I’m not going to make it to class before my clients.” More anxiety washed over me, and I sensed panic bubbling beneath the surface. My body started getting warmer and warmer. I took off my coat, turned down the heat and paused. I shifted my mind away from the elements making me feel trapped — the snow, the cars, the time ticking by — and consciously began practicing my grounding techniques. After a few more minutes, I looked to the left of me. Miraculously, among the cars and snow, I saw an empty parking space on the corner of a cross street. I knew if I could maneuver to that spot, I’d be able to walk to my destination and get to class before my students. So I turned my wheel in the direction of the empty spot, switched on my turn signal and traffic parted to let me through. I was so grateful! I parked easily in the space and walked the rest of the way, making it to class 15 minutes before anyone else arrived.

In the not-so-distant past, I wouldn’t have made it to class. I would have remained stuck and trapped in my car, sweating, crying and feeling completely helpless. But through the power of mindful grounding exercises, I’ve been able to re-train my brain to handle stress and triggers healthier and with more positive results.

Trauma brain and the miracles of breathwork*

When in stressful situations, which includes being triggered and reliving past trauma, your sympathetic nervous system is instantly activated — your body constricts and becomes tense, your heart begins to race, your breath becomes labored and you find yourself fighting, taking flight, or freezing. In addition to these outward signs of stress, stress also induces your body to produce cortisol, a naturally occurring hormone that can become toxic at high levels resulting in damage and destruction of cells in your brain’s hippocampus. The hippocampus is responsible for coordination of all brain activity, specifically memory and learning. If your hippocampus is weakened by stress, you run the risk of losing your memory, your skills and your ability to learn new skills. Therefore, reducing and neutralizing stress in your life, especially in the midst of healing from past traumas, helps to normalize cortisol production in your body and bring balance and health to your central nervous system.

Luckily, there is a tool accessible to each of us that naturally has the power to heal us from the inside out…our breath!

Breathwork turns the mindless act of breathing into a mindful one and profoundly reduces and neutralize stress and trauma. Through breathwork, we consciously stimulate our voluntary nervous system by imposing specific rhythms and patterns on our breath while simultaneously reconditioning our involuntary nervous system patterns and neural pathways. In essence, we reset our conditioned responses and re-learn how to respond to stress and trauma from a place of awareness and consciousness. The result is a happier, healthier and more aware you!

One breath technique I learned and practice daily is 4-7-8 breathwork.

4-7-8 Breathwork

Dr. Andrew Weil, 4-7-8 breathing technique advocate and practitioner, believes everyone can benefit from breath work:

“Once you develop this breathing technique by practicing it every day, twice a day, it will be a very useful tool that you will always have with you. Use it whenever anything upsetting happens – before you react. Use it whenever you are aware of internal tension. Use it to help you fall asleep. Use it to deal with food cravings. Great for mild to moderate anxiety, this exercise cannot be recommended too highly. Everyone can benefit from it.”

The Technique

  • Relax your breathing and blow all of the air out through your mouth.
  • 4- Breathe in gently through your nose (with mouth shut) for 4 seconds.
  • 7- Hold the breath for 7 seconds.
  • 8- Push breath out through your mouth for 8 seconds.
  • Repeat 4 times, twice a day, every day. After 1 month, you can repeat 8 times, twice a day but never more than 8 times twice per day.
  • (Watch a demo by Dr. Weil)

Namaste,
Paula Carrasquillo, MA, RYT-200
love. life. om. yoga and health coaching
www.paulacarrasquillo.com

Work with me! There are many other forms of breathwork and exercises you can integrate into your lifestyle to transform your body, mind and spirit and open new pathways to healing and reaching your highest potential self. Contact me to learn more about the programs and services I offer.

*The content of this website is provided for general informational purposes only and is not intended as, nor should it be considered a substitute for, professional medical advice. Do not use the information on this website for diagnosing or treating any medical health condition. If you have or suspect you have a medical health problem, promptly contact your professional healthcare provider.​

Ashtanga and Ayurveda workshop with Mary Flinn – Reflections by Gert McQueen

Satyana Yoga Studio workshop participants

Satyana Yoga Studio workshop participants

What: Ashtanga & Ayurveda workshop with Mary Flinn

When: October 17-19, 2014

Where: Satyana Yoga Studio (Facebook and Website)

by Gert McQueen

Unknown to Kathy Falge, our most excellent Ashtanga instructor, when she set up this weekend of great yoga for us, there also was scheduled, in the building, the annual ‘Haunted House’. Our yoga studio is on the second floor of a ‘historical’ Paddock Arcade building, in Watertown NY.

The first session of our workshop started Friday at 5:30p.m., just as the first group of folks arrived to be ‘scared’ by ghosts, ghouls and other creepy creatures. The ghoul-guides were helpful, in directing, both folks arriving for yoga and those wanting to be scared, in the darken stairs and hallway. The ‘sound effects’ of creepy wind howling actually was a help in keeping me (us?) focused. We were lucky, there wasn’t much screaming or banging around with the haunting as we thought there would be. We yogis were so focused, on our breathing that Dracula could have entered the room and we would not have noticed.

No doubt about it, Friday evening’s energy was quite high. Many of us, who shared last year’s workshop with Mary Flinn, were ready to do it again.

That first evening’s session was concentration on three areas of attention; posture, gaze and breath. The program said ‘1/2 of the primary series’ but that night we did the complete primary series. The natural deep concentration, on all our breathing, created a ‘natural high’. Many of us, not only experienced the high, that night, but marveled about it for a week.

While the weather turned to heavy rain Saturday morning, the session was quite lively as Mary discussed the doshas and other aspects of Ayurveda thought. She also had scheduled individual consultations during the three days. We then moved in our practice trying out various ways we could increase or decrease breath/movement for each of the doshas and for high or low energies and conditions. Before we knew it is was lunch break.

I had brought myself a bag lunch and drove to one of the most beautiful ‘park’ cemeteries we have here. I drove around one of the several ponds that were filled with the local population of ducks and geese as well as those on their migrations. They are beautiful to watch. I found myself in a visual meditation as I watched rain drops slid down the window with leaves flying around as the ducks passively drifted in the pond. Contentment!

Saturday afternoon’s session was focused on techniques used in assisting others. I paired off with Sandy, my once-a-upon-a-time Tai-Chi instructor and sometime yoga instructor. While learning these techniques are interesting and valuable, I would not utilize them myself, that is a personal preference. It is always good to learn more about yoga postures and how to help yourself and others with proper alignments.

Sunday morning’s session started with the complete standing postures of the ‘first’ or primary series, which also is the beginning of the ‘second’ series. The primary series, standing and sitting postures, is called ‘yoga therapy’ because it detoxes the body making it ready for the second series which goes into more advanced twists, backbends and more.

Once finished with the standing postures, we came to sitting on the mat, where we immediately started in on second series postures. Generally speaking, we normally do not get to do many of these postures in our class schedules. So this exploration was very helpful in learning various preparations for backbends — backbends themselves and some arm balances and head stands.

All too quickly the session and workshop ended. As always, everyone learned and shared much together. We all are looking forward to more workshops with Mary. We all thank Kathy and Jeff for all they give to us and for bringing Mary to us. And a great thank you to Mary!

~Gert McQueen

Find Gert on Twitter @gertmcqueen!

Spreading the healing message of yoga! I Hate Yoga now available for pre-order!

ihateyogabook

amazonbookfacebookbanner

Okay, time for some shameless self-promotion. Hey, it happens. I’m getting closer to book launch day, my friends, and I would love your help in spreading the word about “I Hate Yoga.”

http://www.ihateyogabook.com

The mission of this book is simple: get more people doing yoga so that more people can feel its healing benefits.

I Hate Yoga brings everyone in through the back door by dismantling all the bullshit around yoga, taking away the fear factor and making it accessible…to EVERYONE! It’s a hate to love yoga journey with humor being used as a tool of inspiration.

You can help! Just send out an email to all your friends making them aware of the book launch on November 11th. That’s all.

Oh, and if you own a business and want to become a launch partner, even better. Here’s where you can do that. We’ll scratch each other’s backs.

http://www.paulbmcquillan.com/#!launch-partner/c18c9

I…

View original post 33 more words

Side Crow Pose (Parsva Bakasana)

IMG_6722.JPG

Practicing side crow in my dining room – 9/6/2014

Today’s yoga pose: Side Crow Pose (Parsva Bakasana) is an arm-balancing posture that challenges and builds balance, strength and patience. Do not expect to get into this pose the very first time you try it. And expect to be challenged in different ways depending on which side you do.

Getting into the pose (instructions for right side):

  1. Sit comfortably on the floor or mat with your legs extended straight in front of you.
  2. Cross your right leg over top your left knee and place the sole of your right foot firmly on the ground on the outside of your left knee.
  3. Gently bend your left knee and pull your left leg toward your body, rest your left thigh and shin on the ground and your left foot on the outside of your right hip.
  4. Gently twist your upper body to the right and place both hands on the ground on the right side of your body shoulder width apart, palms flat and fingers splayed and grounded.
  5. Keeping your legs crossed in front of you, begin shifting your weight to the right into your shoulders, arms and hands. Your buttocks will natural rise from the floor.
  6. Re-position yourself so your left elbow is pressed against your right knee and your right elbow is pressed against your right hip.
  7. Keep your gaze focused on a spot on the floor just beyond your hands and begin to slowly shift all of your weight into your shoulders, arms and wrists. Your feet will naturally come off the floor the more you shift your weight forward into your arms.
  8. Maintain your gaze, breathe and if it’s available to you, extend your legs straight out to the side. Your elbows maintain contact with your right thigh and hip.
  9. Repeat on the opposite side.


Namaste!

~Paula

Yoga as therapy for victims of all types of abuse

Yoga Therapy for all sufferers of trauma who desire peace and joy once again!

Love. Life. OM. Blog

I don’t compare or put a severity level on trauma. All trauma, regardless of the source, type, or duration, has powerful consequences and impacts a person’s identity and sense of self-worth. Also, I do not believe trauma victims are permanently damaged or destroyed. From those who suffer PTSD and abuse through military service/war to those who suffer from sociopath/narcissistic abuse as children, I absolutely believe recovery is possible.

I have tried lots of traditional methods and approaches to recovery. The one that works for me is yoga, and I started practicing yoga not aware of the impact it would eventually have on my trauma and triggers! I simply stumbled upon the healing and transformational power of yoga.

During a traumatic event and/or periods of perpetual trauma, our ability to physically move and act is hindered. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that everyone who suffers from trauma holds trauma in their…

View original post 323 more words

A little science behind why I recommend yoga to survivors of sociopath abuse

Some people need to be convinced with a little science. I was once a sceptic, too, so I understand!

Love. Life. OM. Blog

If you have been reading and following my blog or Facebook page, you know I love yoga and have a regular practice. As a reader of this blog and others like it, you also understand that the toxic love we experience as a result of sociopath and emotional abuse results in layers of imbalance within our body and our minds. These imbalances are a direct result of the two major players that keep us in the relationship long after the abuse begins: the betrayal/trauma bond and cognitive dissonance.

Unfortunately, these major players don’t magically disappear once we are physically outside the relationship. In many cases, these two players become stronger and more powerful (probably because we expect answers that we never receive), leaving many of us overwhelmed with feelings of hopelessness, depression, and despair.

How do we bring balance back to our lives? How do we align our logic…

View original post 560 more words

To my teacher training class… I love you!

20140609-145152.jpg
For the past 10 months, I have participated in a 200-hour yoga teacher training program. Outside of my day-job responsibilities, my life has been very yoga- centric and yoga-intense.

Although I love everything I have learned and the friendships I have formed, I am ready for a much-needed break once I complete my final test/practicum in two weeks.

The program was not an intense, emersion. Rather, it was a weekend-formatted program designed for busy folks like myself, people who have families and career responsibilities. My fellow yoga trainees come from varying backgrounds and cultures, range in age, and vary in gender. There are men, women, fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, wives, husbands, scientists, college students, college professors, engineers, poets, musicians, photographers, web developers, and world travelers.

For the past 10 months, one weekend per month (sometimes two weekends),
we were dedicated to practicing and training. Training weekends began with a 90-minute, Saturday-morning practice at 10:45 a.m. and ended with a 30-minute meditation on Sunday at 7:00 p.m.

In preparation for these weekends, we read yoga books, practiced yoga, read
some more yoga books, and did some more practice. From books on breathing, anatomy, history, and Ayurveda to practices of restorative, yin, vinyasa, and prenatal yoga, we consumed and digested a plethora of information both on and off the mat.

Once certified later this summer, some of us will go on to teach; some of us
won’t. But all of us, I suspect, will take what we’ve learned and deepen our
practices and continue journeying into ourselves.

This post is simply to thank my fellow trainees for their inspiration, dedication,
and motivation. I learned something from each and every member of my class and will never forget my experience and how it has changed me, my yoga practice, and my approach to teaching new students.

Thank you! I love you. Namaste!
~Paula

“What the heck does she mean by MINDFUL, anyhow?”

Mindfulness, to me, in a nutshell… ❤

Love. Life. OM. Blog

I am in the middle of writing “Embracing Your Light: Mindful Healing and Recovery from Sociopath Abuse” and am defining the idea of mindfulness in hopes of dispelling any misinformation, prejudices, or negative connotations, so you’re not asking, “What in the heck does she mean by mindful, anyhow!?”

Below is mindfulness to me:

Mindfulness doesn’t mean you have to do yoga or meditate or eat tree bark.

Mindfulness simply means you live your life fully aware of yourself, your surroundings, and how you and your surroundings affect and impact each other.

Mindfulness is compassion for yourself and all living things surrounding you.

Mindfulness is not prescribing to any particular religion or faith. The faith required to be mindful is a faith in oneself.

Mindfulness is a state of being and knowing, knowing you are perfect in your imperfections. Mindfulness is accepting your imperfections and understanding that they are not permanent…

View original post 54 more words

Article share: 7 Scientific Examples of When Yoga is the Best Medicine

20140425-214902.jpg
Victims of domestic violence, war veterans, children with autism, caregivers…all proven to benefit from a therapeutic yoga practice.

It’s amazing to find this information in one place. I have experienced many of these benefits personally.

7 Scientific Examples of When Yoga is the Best Medicine:

Yoga helped me calm my mind long enough to allow my old habits to be broken and for my brain to get rewired toward focusing on life-preserving behaviors, thoughts and actions.

Yoga is amazing! I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t experienced it myself to be honest. 🙂

Namaste!
~Paula

(Image source: http://pinterest.com/pin/235031674273329001/)

%d bloggers like this: