How yoga and meditation specifically helped me in my recovery from sociopath abuse

It’s been 32 months since I first stepped onto a yoga mat. I began my practice 8 months after I escaped the sociopath and a few months shy of my 40th birthday. These are just a few of the benefits I directly attribute to my regular, on-going yoga practice:

>>Within 3 days of beginning my yoga practice, I stopped taking my daily over-the-counter pain relief pill for a knee injuring I had sustained 10 years prior. I am able to walk, skip, climb stairs, and carry my son with ease.

>>Within 3 weeks, I stopped binging and purging. I had been suffering from bouts of bulimia for nearly 20 years following struggles overcoming teenage dating violence/abuse at 18.

>>Within 2 months, my blood pressure (BP) became normal and stable. During my pregnancy in 2005, I suffered from preeclampsia despite the fact my BP was historically low all of my life. For the 7 years that followed my son’s birth, I struggled to maintain consistent and healthy BP levels. Not anymore.

>>Within 4 months, I lost weight and no longer suffered from daily bloating and monthly menstrual cramps.

>>Within 4 months, I was able to successfully quit drinking, which was my number #1 self-soothing “solution” in the aftermath of sociopath abuse. I have been sober for over 2 years as of June 2014.

>>Within 6 months, I quit my antidepressants and my anxiety levels decreased. It’s been 2 years, and I remain my normal, moody self. 🙂

>>Within 12 months, I stopped using topical remedies or injections to control my psoriasis outbreaks. Psoriasis is an auto-immune condition that manifests on the skin as a result of internal inflammation (often due to anxiety). I was first diagnosed with psoriasis at age 11. I haven’t had a severe outbreak in over 18 months nor do I sense any onset of psoriatic arthritis, a common secondary condition for individuals who have experienced chronic psoriasis outbreaks over the course of several years.

>>Within 12 months I noticed a considerable reduction in my PTSD triggers. My self-assessment is that I became 90% trigger-free after 24 months of consistent practice.

You can surely see that with each consecutive “cure” and relief of one ailment above, a new door was opened to address another area of health concerns in my body, mind, and spirit. A true domino effect of healing at every level of consciousness and awareness from the first day I stepped on to my mat to the present.

More importantly, yoga gifted me with the tools to maintain my current healthy and mindful state of being with increased self-esteem, self-love, self-respect, and self-compassion.

How did yoga do all of these things for me where traditional medical and mental healthcare options and therapies failed me?

I believe yoga has been so effective for me, because yoga works from the inside out to re-wire, re-program, and undo all of the conditioning I have subjected my body and mind to over the years, the least of which was the conditioning of my body, mind and spirit in the aftermath of sociopath abuse.

Yoga and meditation may be a great fit for you, too, if you are open to alternative and integrative solutions to healing, recovery, and/or management of a number of other co-occurring conditions and ailments.

Regardless of how flexible your body is when you begin practicing yoga, the healing benefits begin with your first practice as long as you do two things:

1. Focus on your breathing by paying attention to your inhales, your exhales, and when and if you stop breathing.

2. Maintain proper alignment of each pose by following the teacher’s cues and only going as deep as your body permits you to go…today.

Restorative yoga, Kripalu, Iyangar, or viniyoga styles are great options for anyone suffering from fibromyalgia, trauma, cognitive dissonance, and/or addiction. Beginner classes of most styles are also good options. Ideally, find a teacher who understands trauma and/or has yoga as therapy training.

If you have more questions about the types of yoga to try, feel free to contact me directly.

Namaste!
~Paula

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

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 and do not define you.

Mindfulness is knowing that life is in a constant state of change and flux and that you are part of that change and flux.

You are who you are today. Tomorrow, you will be who you are tomorrow.

Accepting this and being patient in knowing is mindfulness.

Namaste!
~Paula

Cry with me

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I’ve cried a lot in my life. Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve cried: for myself, for my sisters, for my parents, for my friends and even for people I don’t know.

I used to be extremely affected when I was accused of being too emotional.

(Go figure, right!? Haha!)

But now, understanding what I know about being a highly emotional person, I embrace my emotions…my tears, my joy, my anger and my frustrations.

I imagine most who come here are highly emotional, highly sensitive and deep feelers.

You’ve probably been called emotionally unstable a few times in your life, too.

I want you to know that this sadness you feel and the tears you cry are not indicative of some type of clinical depression, especially when these tears flood out of you in moments of quiet thought and pondering.

It’s normal and necessary for us to release our emotions. When we don’t, tension and stress build.

I know some may be skeptical of all my talk of yoga and meditation. But wouldn’t it be a blessing to be in a room with a bunch of highly emotional survivors who experienced what you’ve experienced? All of us meditating quietly and releasing those tears to make room for our joy?

I envision it quite often…We have smiles on our faces as the tears roll down our cheeks.

I don’t call that unstable. I call that being perfectly in tune with our emotions with the freedom to express them without shame or judgement.

Namaste!
~Paula

How I became a yoga snob

Armando meditating in Central Park

Armando meditating in Central Park

Yoga. I was introduced to the idea of yoga when I was a freshman in college living in the dorms. Although I checked the “non-smoking” preference when filling out my on-campus living application, I somehow landed on the only smoking floor next to the  smoking lounge of Cumberland Hall. (This ages me, I know.) A few of the cigarette-smoking (and pot-smoking) ladies on my floor talked about yoga between inhales and practiced it in their rooms. Needless to say, I was immediately turned off by what seemed to me a new-age, hippie-inspired form of meditation. Not only did it seem anti-spiritual, I knew I was too high-energy to think it would be enjoyable for me. That was 22 years ago. My attitude toward yoga has made a dramatic shift since then.

For years, I found relief from stress through running. I ran along the C&O Canal. I ran the streets of Frostburg. I ran in the mornings. I ran in the evenings. I ran on a treadmill and even tried running on an elliptical. I ran to feel my heart pounding in my chest. I ran to remind myself that I was alive. Running felt so good.

In the summer of 2002, I stupidly got behind the wheel of my car after a night of drinking white Russians. Luckily, I was alone. My car rolled several times (according to reports; I remember nothing) and landed on its top. I landed in the ICU for three days with a collapsed lung, a fractured c-5, several cuts and bruises, and a torn medial meniscus in my right knee. I spent months in a neck brace and with a physical therapists. My neck healed; my knee would never be the same. I could not longer run.

I believed it was Karma. I believed the universe was punishing me for being irresponsible and stupid. It made sense to me, so I didn’t complain about my knee or ever say, “Why me?” because I knew why. But it didn’t stop me from hurting and plummeting slowly into a quiet depression.

I kept myself busy for years after the accident: I planned my wedding, I went back to school, I volunteered, I read more, but I could never find an activity that made me feel as alive as running did. I left my husband, had an affair, tried finding that “thing” that gave me faith and courage in myself. It wasn’t around any of the corners I looked. Every where was a dead end. I became more and more complacent with the idea that life was just life. I became fatalistic to a degree. I somehow lost my fire, so to say. I was waste high in in self-doubt and very depressed but felt there was nothing I could do about it.

In the fall of 2011, I started looking into finding an orthopedic surgeon that could possibly “fix” my knee so I could run again. While surfing the internet, I stumbled upon some testimonials from yoga practitioners who claimed to have been healed physically and emotionally by yoga. Being the cynic I can sometimes be, I highly doubted what I was reading. But after reading more and more about yoga and its benefits, I decided to shed myself of my bias and prejudice and began searching for a studio in my neighborhood.

I found Bikram Yoga Rockville. My first day practicing yoga was October 15, 2011. I have not been the same since:

  • After my first 90-minute practice, I felt something happening to my knee, something good.
  • I started feeling alive again within 3 practices.
  • I could walk down steps without holding onto the railing after a week of practices.
  • I learned patience.
  • I felt the flame returning to my heart.
  • I found myself again!

And with finding myself, I hope to give of myself more. I want to give more to my husband, my son, my mother, my sisters, my family, my friends, and every person I encounter in my life. I call myself a yoga snob, because I can’t stop talking about it as if it were a part of me. But, I guess, it IS a part of me. Namaste.

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