After the fall, Yoga Journal gets it right! #Bikram #abuse #healing

YJ_June15Cover_PaulaI was approached in January 2015 by seasoned journalist, Andrew Tilin. He was in the middle of composing a feature story for the June 2015 issue of Yoga Journal magazine. How did he find me? He found me through my yoga blog and was particularly interested in speaking with me after reading the post Mourning my Bikram Yoga practice in light of rape allegations. After all, the purpose of the feature he was writing was to highlight how the yoga community was reacting to criminal allegations against celebrity yoga teachers, in particular John Friend and Bikram Choudhury, and I seemed like someone with an opinion to share. He emailed me and asked if I’d be interested in speaking with him; I responded with a big fat YES!

We spoke over the phone the first time for almost two hours. He contacted me a few weeks later, and we talked for two more hours. On both occasions, Tilin asked me lots and lots of questions about yoga and later about my experiences with abuse. I freely answered all of his questions without hesitation (but with a few tears occasionally). I don’t think he was expecting me to be so talkative and so candid. He often asked, “Are you comfortable sharing this?” And each time, I thought to myself, He must not have read any of my other posts. Of course, I’m comfortable sharing.

I don’t think the editors at the magazine expected me to share as much as I did either, because before they approved the final version of Tilin’s feature, a member of the editorial staff called me to do some fact checking and to verify that everything I shared was okay to print. In addition to the four hours I had already spent with Tilin, I spent close to two more hours talking with the editor. Needless to say, I exerted a lot of energy talking about stuff that I’m more comfortable writing about. If you’re an introvert, you understand how draining that is, but I feel like the investment was worth it. The published article unfolded beautifully! Yoga Journal and Tilin got it right! I have deep respect for, gratitude to and appreciation of the thoughtful and professional attention the journalist and the Yoga Journal staff took with my story.

The article isn’t about me. It’s not even about abusive yoga gurus, although Tilin pulls in data and a few experts to explain why and how abuse at the community level often goes unnoticed until it’s too late. This article, at its core, is about the capacity of the human spirit to overcome and let the light outshine the dark and it reinforces the power of going within to find peace.

Follow this link to After the Fall: The Ripple Effect from Accusations Against Bikram and Friend or pick up the June 2015 issue of Yoga Journal magazine and turn to page 80.

Namaste!
Paula Carrasquillo
Yogi. Author. Advocate.
http://www.paulacarrasquillo.com

©Paula Carrasquillo and Love. Life. Om. 2015

Enter the Transformation Giveaway to win 3 FREE months of Health Coaching!

Paula Carrasquillo - yoga teacher and health coach

Are you ready to transform your life from the inside out? Enter the  Transformation Giveaway today!

I want to be your health coach. Tell me why you are ready and committed to take on a 3-month transformational journey, personalized to meet your specific needs. Even if you don’t win the grand prize, I’m also offering everyone who enters a 20% discount on my 3-month and 6-month programs.

The deadline to enter is April 3, 2015. Enter here. I’ll announce the winner on April 7, 2015. Good luck, and I can’t wait to work with you!

Paula Carrasquillo
Yoga Teacher & Health Coach

Believing in your abilities = a meaningful life + meaningful work

Three years ago, I began actively writing and purging myself of my story (which even I found hard to believe at times) on this blog. My healing journey has brought amazing new friendships and passions into my life, from becoming a yoga teacher and health coach to connecting with men and women across the United States to men and women in the UK, Canada, Australia and other continents. I wouldn’t wish changing anything about my story if it meant losing all of the knowledge and friendships I’ve gained in these few short years.

Today, I find myself at a major crossroads. The Universe has presented me with many, many options – all of which have the potential to fulfill my life. Unfortunately, I am finding it difficult to make a decision about where I best belong and how to get there.

I am connecting with more and more passionate advocates and light workers than ever before. There is so much work we can accomplish in partnership. And now is a pivotal time to speak out, because it seems those in power are listening.

I want to join forces with others and write another book, open a wellness center, facilitate community nutrition workshops, bring more yoga to those in need, host weekend retreats and create educational material we can distribute for free in different languages.

As the collective energy and vision of the awareness movement expands, my career opportunities are also expanding. I’m being called upon to teach more yoga classes (both at the salt cave and at corporate HQ) and to contribute more to my day job as a web content developer.

Although I seem to be juggling everything with relative ease, I’m not. There are never enough hours in the day to do everything I set out to do. Plus, I want to spend more time with my family. I want to spend more time taking care of myself. I also want to spend more time doing meaningful work.

But I understand explicitly how the real world works and doing meaningful work doesn’t exactly pay the mortgage, the insurance and the food tab. At least not immediately. Making a living doing meaningful work sadly seems outside of my grasp today, but that hasn’t stopped me from considering how to make the transition gradually over time.

I can’t just throw caution to the wind and quit my day job today to pursue my dream of creating a wellness center for survivors of abuse and trauma. I must be realistic. This doesn’t mean abandoning my dreams. It simply means slowing down, prioritizing my time and creating an action plan.

Three years ago, I would have been frustrated being faced with such uncertainty and being without immediate solutions and answers. Instead, I feel blessed today, because not knowing the solution or absolute outcome is okay. I’m surrounded by people who love, respect and honor me and who won’t judge me or attempt to sabotage my progress. My mistakes are my mistakes; my success is my success. No one is standing over me waiting to attack me or shame me or tell me my ideas will never work. Does it matter if they might not work? No, of course not. What matters is that I believe in my abilities to make my ideas work…eventually.

Here’s to you believing in your abilities and being okay with not having all of the answers before setting out on your transformational journey of healing and creation.

You are destined to heal. All you have to do is believe.

Namaste!
Paula Carrasquillo
http://www.paulacarrasquillo.com

Letting Go of Perfect

Letting go of perfect ~Paula Carrasquillo

source: Creative Commons by gnuckx

After posting Sociopaths, Approval and Victim Perfectionism yesterday, I thought I’d share how I discovered the root cause of my perfectionism, which I believe primed me for being a perfect target for the sociopath from my past.


Most of my adult life I was a perfectionist. I allowed myself very little wiggle room when it came to making mistakes. My perfectionism led to little mistakes becoming huge mistakes and little victories becoming completely diminished in my mind. I beat myself up over bad stuff and never gave myself any credit for the good stuff I created. Thankfully, I now understand the source of my destructive perfectionist thinking, and it has made all of the difference in finding my path in life.

As a child, I was a carefree and happy person. Despite my parents’ divorce and a few moves in elementary school, I was always able to push through the little and the big things with relative ease. I bounced back from change and disappointments like a spring.

At the age of 12 (puberty actually), my spring broke. One day I had an itchy and flaking scalp; the next I was being dragged to the doctor feeling completely ashamed. Psoriasis! Even the name sounds gross, huh?

I hated being associated with this condition. I hated when my friends would see my scaly elbows and say, “Ooh! What is THAT?! What’s wrong with you?!!” I had never gelt like such an outcast; it was crushing. I hated being preoccupied with hiding my little scaly patches on my knees, elbows, back and hairline. I hated avoiding activities like dancing for fear the costume would fail to cover me “just right.” I hated that my freedom seemed to be taken from me.

Early in my treatment, I knew that there was really nothing the dermatologist could do to help me. Sure, there was always a new lotion or cream to try. But they were just band-aids. And some of this crap stunk! I got so sick of it all. I stopped all prescription lotions and creams sometime in my early 20s. I became a Palmer’s cocoa butter girl. It helped to a degree, but because I felt helpless and like I had zero control over my skin, I pressured myself to expect nothing but the best in every other area of my life.

I had to get the best grades. I had to have the cleanest room. (If you had as many sisters as I do, you’d understand this one.) I had to have the best job. I had to be the perfect weight. I had to be the perfect wife. I had to be the perfect mother. I had to be perfect.

Period.

Being a perfectionist can lead a person to behave self-destructively. Perfectionists can suffer from a multitude of conditions including anorexia, bulimia, drug or alcohol abuse, binge drinking, obsessive compulsive disorder, and/or depression.

In two words: perfectionism sucks!

Why and how did I figure out that my inability to overcome my troubles stemmed from trying to be perfect? Like most people in denial about bad habits and addictions, I had to hit rock bottom. Once I did, I was finally determined to change and to never put my life and future at risk again. To accomplish this, I had to take a good hard look at myself in order to fix myself.

I inventoried my entire past, beginning with my childhood. I created a timeline of my happiest years and my most depressed periods. During happy times, my psoriasis flair ups were few. During unhappy times, my psoriasis flair ups could be best described as volcanoes, which left me feeling out-of-control, which led to me trying to fix myself with perfectionist thinking, which always failed, which led to extreme feelings of worthlessness and self-hatred, which led to self-destructive behaviors.

What a vicious cycle.

I soon realized that I had to shift my perception of the disease or continue being controled by it. I had to embrace my psoriasis (I’d be lying if I said I fell in love with psoriasis, but I have gotten as close to “being in love” as possible).  More importantly, I had to become dedicated to learning as much as possible about what psoriasis really is and how flair ups can be prevented in the first place.

While educating myself, I discovered and embraced mindful techniques and approaches to managing my condition. Yoga helps. Meditation and manifestation help. Sticking to a vegan/plant-based diet helps. Eliminating alcohol and sodas helps. Writing  helps. Talking about it helps. And the best part? Although I still have psoriasis (there is no cure), I do not allow the appearance of my skin to control me anymore. Flair ups happen, and that’s okay.

Through practicing simple acts of self-awareness, self-acceptance and self-love, I have been miraculously cured of my perfectionism and all of the distasteful side-effects related to that disease.

If you are a perfectionist and are tired of never reaching the peak of your potential, find out the source of your perfectionist thinking. Taking a good hard look at the source is the best way to eliminate this toxic thinking from your life and to start living more joyfully.

Namaste!
Paula Carrasquillo
yogi. author. advocate.

Survivor stories 25, 26, 27 and 28: Zoe, Alice, Beverly and Christina #SeeDV #abuse

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October 25, 2014 – Zoe’s story: “The relationship absorbed me; I was hypnotised by it.”*

October 26, 2014- Alice’s story: Leave abuse; it is not worth the anguish and loss of yourself

October 27, 2014 – Beverly’s story: Lies, manipulation and emotional abuse

October 28, 2014 – Christina’s story: Building up after being broken down by abuse


Each day during the month of October, column author Paula Carrasquillo will feature a story written by a survivor of domestic violence. At the end of October, a compilation of all stories will be available for free as an e-book.

*All names have been changed to protect the survivor and the survivor’s family and friends.

Survivor stories 18, 19 and 20 – Rachel, Sofia and Teresa #DVawareness @commdiginews

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October 18, 2014 – Rachel’s story: Betrayal, abuse at the hands of a narcissist*

October 19, 2014 – Sofia’s advice on domestic violence: “Take off the blindfold. Knowledge is power.”

October 19, 2014 – Teresa’s story: He was a sociopath, not a good guy with a few bad demons


Each day during the month of October, column author Paula Carrasquillo will feature a story written by a survivor of domestic violence. At the end of October, a compilation of all stories will be available for free as an e-book.

*All names have been changed to protect the survivor and the survivor’s family and friends.

Breaking free and finally teaching!

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I’m an introvert, an intuitive, feeling and judging introvert (INFJ) according to Meyers-Briggs.

Therefore, it should come as no surprise that hiding behind a keyboard and writing my story as opposed to standing up in front of a public crowd is my preferred venue.

Being behind the screen is a safe and comfortable place for me. I find courage and strength in composing and editing and only sharing my words when I think they are “just right”.

For the past year, I have been studying to become a yoga teacher. Being a yoga teacher requires one to be in front of a crowd, talking and instructing students into poses using specific verbal cues to guide them safely and with ease.

These cues are verbal, did I mention? I can’t hold up a sign and expect students to read my words. They must hear my words.

Needless to say, I’ve struggled getting in front of students and have only found the courage to teach my fellow yoga teacher trainees…until today!!

With butterflies in my throat feeling like I was going to suffocate and run away to catch my breath, I broke through and taught my very first 60-minute class to a bunch of folks I did not know.

I’d be lying if I said I enjoyed those 60 minutes. To be honest, I was terrified. I stuttered many times and found it difficult to clear my throat.

I had students hold poses, not deliberately, but because my mind simply went blank!

At about the 40-minute mark, something clicked inside my head, and I decided to break free from the chains of trying to be something I wasn’t.

I’m not a veteran teacher; I’m green. So I switched things up. Stopped looking at my cheat sheet and moved the students through poses that came to me naturally.

I think I finally cracked a smile at the 45-minute mark and gave them 10 full minutes in savasana.

I’m sure they needed a break from me as much as I needed a break from me.

I guess I’m sharing this, mostly because I know for a very certain fact that if it had not been for my experiences with abuse in my life and my desire to give back the gift of yoga that has healed me in the aftermath of that abuse, I would not have ventured out of my comfort zone to face and shatter my fear of being in front of people–talking, hearing myself talk and not worrying about being judged in the present.

If I can do it, a person who has suffered panic attacks in public places when I have felt eyes upon me, so can you, so can anyone!!

What are you terrified of doing outside of your comfort zone but would love to have the courage to finally do?

Namaste!
~Paula

Freedom is key: Reaching a place of strength and acceptance in order to let go #personalstory #healing #yoga

Nicole opening her heart in Dwi Pada Viparita Dandasana.

Nicole opening her heart in Dwi Pada Viparita Dandasana.

(The following was written by Nicole Polizois and is shared on this blog with her permission.)

FREEDOM IS KEY

This is a story about domestic violence, not the type on the news in recent days, not flashy sexy TMZ worthy blows to the face, and not the COPS version assuring braless hysteria.

This is a story borne out of an early childhood fantasy, one that lingers with me even now– about appearing perfect so I could be rescued by a man.

I found many men, but I married George. An abusive man, in other words, but not just any abusive man. George was the handsome, charming and successful man who declared his love for me on our first date. He always called, sometimes 35 times a day.

A child of Greek immigrants, abandoned at age ten by his abusive father, leaving George and his brother alone with a depressed and helpless mother. His childhood memories blank, too brutal to recollect. He grew up on food stamps and worked as a busboy. He had a paper route. He went to college on a full tennis scholarship.

He didn’t knock me unconscious in an elevator like Ray Rice did to his fiancé. However, he did spit on me in an elevator while I was eight months pregnant with his son on our way to Lamaze class (a waste of his time).

He spat in my face and then came the usual rhetoric:  “You’re a waste product.” You’re a shitty wife.” “You’re a piece of shit.” “Aren’t you embarrassed to go out in public looking like that?” “You look disgusting.”

Nothing I didn’t already feel.

No blow up preceded this incident. No alcohol or drug use. This was just George with no cameras to see, I had no evidence. No one would believe me. George kept his demons for only those who could never leave him. Everyone loved George, including my father.

The story is textbook. It escalated from there as it always does. It doesn’t ever get better. It doesn’t go away.

George would say, “I don’t have to OJ you, I’m going to get you to kill yourself.” I heard this so many times, as if recited out of a manual he carried along with his secret cell phone. His threat, if I voiced thoughts of leaving him.

I know why women “don’t just leave.” He picked me because I needed him like a drunk needs a drink. I needed him to take care of me. I believed him when he said, ”no one else would ever want you.” “You are going to be homeless.” “I’m going to take your son away from you.”

I am a statuesque blonde. I am educated and cultured. I have traveled. I speak languages. I roam with the best breed of cattle.  I have appeared on the cover of magazines.  We lived in a home overlooking the Pacific. I practiced yoga. The Harbor Day room mom. Stella McCartney’s top client. I drove an oversized black Benz. I helped raise millions for Oceana. I attended the lunches and Galas for Human Options. It didn’t matter.

There are few resources available. The law enforcement officers explained, “The Burden of Proof”–so unless the abuser is foolish enough to leave his handprints or is video taped, there is nothing they can or will do. Restraining orders are tough to get, and even when I had one, and he violated it, I was the one who begged the officer not to do anything. The last thing I wanted was to get him in deeper trouble. I still wanted to protect him. Attorneys, even the ones that advertise to be experts on Domestic Violence, will do nothing without a large retainer. They don’t, or won’t understand that the abuser has the financial power. The only accounts my name appeared on were the one checking account I had before our marriage and the $1 Million line of credit he extracted from our house.

His threat to leave me destitute was carried out, and no one could stop him. Forensic Accountants are a joke. The Family Court system is a dog and pony show.

FREEDOM IS KEY.

The moment I let that seep in, I really started to let it all go. I sold my belongings. I ached for the loss of my Mercedes, I still cannot drive by my former home. I remind myself it’s okay. It’s only stuff.

FREEDOM IS KEY.

I have discovered who I am without all of the things that hid or I thought was my identity. I became more than a fancy address and apparel. I stayed on my yoga mat even on the days I thought I couldn’t breathe. I started teaching again.

“Always fall in with what you’re asked to accept. Take what is given, and make it over your way. My aim in life has always been to hold my own with whatever’s going on. Not against: with.” ~ Robert Frost

While I practiced my yoga on a hot September morning two years ago, George lay on a garage floor. He shot himself in the head.

It isn’t the typical ending of a fairy tale, but my son and I are at peace. I am proud of my life now. I have a story I feel obligated to share. I held on in order to let go.

FREEDOM IS KEY.

by Nicole Polizois

Yoga as therapy for victims of all types of abuse

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 physical bodies…in their muscles…in their connective tissues. The combination of focused breathing and movement that yoga requires has been proven to release that internal tension and “free” a patient slowly and gradually over time.

To add to its credibility as an effective tool, yoga is gaining the spotlight in the integrative health field. Non-profits like Boulevard Zen and Yoga Hope have provided yoga as therapy to DV survivors and to survivors of the Boston Marathon bombing respectively. Many survivors of cancer also have yoga as part of their recovery programs in hospitals and institutes. In addition, med students are even being encouraged to become yoga practitioners and teachers, so they understand the power of yoga in order to recommend yoga therapy to their future patients.

If I had not seen and experienced the positive results in myself and in others whom I have personally met and been in contact, I would not feel confident enough to share and encourage others to give yoga and meditation a try. To just consider it.

But it does require a commitment of at least several weeks of consistent practice. Recent studies conducted with older generation veterans concluded that after just 8 weeks of a regular and consistent practice of transcendental meditation (TM), vets with PTSD experienced a 50% decrease in their symptoms and triggers. That’s huge to me, considering TM requires zero movement of the physical body beyond the rise and fall of the lungs, pumping of the heart, and the flow of oxygenated blood to all our organs.

So I feel internally motivated to make an effort to influence and persuade folks who happen to find this blog to try yoga. I am starting to put together Introduction to Yoga and Meditation videos to share on this site very soon. I can’t wait to offer these to you.

For now, check out Yoga and Meditation Therapy for Survivors of Sociopath Abuse on this site.

Namaste!
~Paula

“The Eagle” – a film about surviving domestic violence through the empowerment of yoga

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I was contacted today by Veronica of Odyssey Film, Ltd out of the UK. She found a link to my site as a result of the OM Yoga magazine story “Fighting Back” that featured a blurb about me and my book.

Odyssey Films, Ltd’s first film project, The Eagle, sets out to shine a light on surviving domestic violence through the empowerment of yoga. Odyssey Films is creating this short film to help raise awareness, not to make a profit:

Short films are completely non-profit, no money is made; we are doing this for the experience, we are doing this to lay a foundation to build our company; WE ARE DOING THIS BECAUSE WE LOVE IT.”

Please consider “liking” their page on Facebook and donating to their fund to see this project become a reality!

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