Undoing Our Fears and Triggers Lying Down

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While exposed to the sociopath’s crazy-making highs and lows, we compromised our intuition and ability to instinctively distinguish right action from wrong action.

One day, the sociopath declared that right action was wrong action, and the next day, the sociopath declared that wrong action was right action.

No amount of logic or deep thought could bring us clarity and focus to the life we were being conned and controlled into living and accepting under the sociopath’s spell.

Many refer to this as cognitive dissonance, living in the fog and/or being emotionally unstable. Much of what we experience in the aftermath through triggers and anxiety was born from this place of uncertainty and fear about ourselves and our surroundings. This fear and uncertainty, which the sociopath manifested in us, rendered us dependent and reliant upon the sociopath for clarity and approval.

Even outside the toxic relationship, we find ourselves frozen and in search of outside validity and approval. The fear of being judged and not accepted and viewed as unworthy is very real and keeps us from expanding and growing.

Regardless of how deep and for how long we were in this state of paralysis, I believe we can repair what was damaged and improve how we relate to ourselves and others moving forward.

It’s no secret that yoga and meditation have helped me find myself these past 3 years. One meditation technique I believe has been most profound for me is Yoga Nidra.

During the practice of Yoga Nidra, you relax in a quiet space either reclined and outstretched on the floor or mat or in a comfortable seated position.

A Yoga Nidra instructor guides you into a quiet and relaxed state in which you are guided through sensing your body to sensing your feelings and emotions to sensing your thoughts and beliefs and finally to sensing your natural state of being.

Yoga Nidra does not require you to move your body or to be flexible. It’s not a religion but is a profound spiritual experience. Many practice Yoga Nidra to release stress and anxiety and to improve sleep patterns and fight restlessness.

The following excerpt taken from the book “Yoga Nidra: A Meditation Practice for Deep Relaxation and Healing” by Richard Miller, PhD, sums up why I practice and teach Yoga Nidra to others:

“You possess an innate intelligence that knows exactly what to do in every situation that life brings to your table. When you are wiling to be with “this” moment “now,” your intrinsic resources are always nearby, ready to acknowledge and engage right action. Fear is always about the future, and reactivity is about the past. Right action resides in the “now.” Yoga Nidra is a practice that reveals and teaches you how to live in the now so that you can access your native intelligence and inborn ability to respond appropriately to every situation.”

If you have questions about Yoga Nidra, please ask in the comment section below.

Namaste!
Paula Carrasquillo
yogi. author. advocate.

I made the funny pages! Well, sort of… #bikramrapecharges

From "Bikram Addict" by Eroyn Franklin, artist and writer

From Bikram Addict by artist and author Eroyn Franklin published to The Nib

A couple of months ago, a graphic artist contacted me asking for an interview. She had stumbled upon my yoga post written back in March 2014 about why I gave up Bikram yoga and thought, perhaps, talking to me would provide her with some insight and possible inspiration for a new piece she was working on related to her experience with Bikram yoga.

Yesterday, the artist, Eroyn Franklin, contacted me and shared her completed yoga-related article published to The Nib. She featured me in part of the piece (detailed above), which I was honored by and thrilled about. (I’ve never been a cartoon before…at least not that I am aware.)

To read the entire work and enjoy all of her graphics, follow this link or click on the post image above. I hope you enjoy her story and find her artwork and writing as unique and creative as I do.

Namaste!
~Paula Carrasquillo

Bikram Addict by Eroyn Franklin: https://medium.com/the-nib/bikram-addict-242333de3483

Yoga heals the body and the mind

Yoga heals the body and the mind.

Yoga heals the body and the mind.

Yoga is not just a passing fad for exercise elitists. Yoga is a safe and highly effective form of therapy for individuals seeking relief from post-traumatic stress, depression and anxiety in the aftermath of abuse and trauma. Do you know how yoga works?

To learn more, read my latest story on CDN:

Yoga therapy for survivors of trauma and abuse

Namaste!
~Paula

Paula Carrasquilo is a certified yoga teacher, health coach and author of Escaping the Boy: My Life with a Sociopath. Follow her on Twitter and on her Love-Life-Om blog.

 

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

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

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 with our hearts? How do we end the ruminations, the blaming, and the shaming and stop allowing the doubts to creep into our conscious thoughts?

I believe yoga and meditation offer the most natural and holistic approach to bringing ourselves back into the balance we desperately need and deserve.

Yoga helps to align our conscious proprioception (body alignment and awareness of our physical bodies within our surroundings) and our unconscious proprioception (those conditioned patterns of thinking that we’re often too busy to observe also called “samskaras” in yoga philosophy).

When we practice yoga, the skeletal/muscular/neuro proprioceptors (sensory nerve endings throughout our bodies that naturally ignite when imbalance is sensed) are activated and nurtured. This concurrent activation of proprioceptors in our body and mind silently work to bring us back into balance.

Poses like tree pose and warrior 3 and twists and lunges…really all of the postures/asanas, because they all require us to pay attention to our body balance and alignment…work to balance both our conscious and unconscious proprioceptions.

Do you find that as amazing as I find it?

So committing to a regular yoga practice can naturally cure our addiction and our cognitive dissonance. Other ways yoga tackles imbalances and disease:

>>Internal organs are massaged

>>Nerves are toned

>>Respiration, energy, and vitality are restored

>>Mind relaxes and anxieties are released

>>Self-acceptance is encouraged

>>Body is purified from the inside

But you worry. You have fears. You’ve never tried yoga. You aren’t flexible. You think you’re too fat or too short or too uncoordinated to do yoga. Many believe yoga is just about moving our bodies and being flexible in our joints and in our limbs.

I’m here to tell you that none of those things matter once you’re on the mat.

First, yoga isn’t a sport or a competition of any kind. If you fear doing yoga because you think you won’t be good at it, ask yourself this:

“Can I breathe and move at the same time?”

If you answered “Yes” to this questions, then you will be fantastic at yoga.

At the heart of yoga is breath awareness. Yoga requires that we come into total and complete awareness of how we breathe, when we breathe, and when and if we stop breathing. Combine this mental and thoughtful awareness of our breath with movement of our limbs and core and one is doing yoga.

It’s that easy.

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.

For me, yoga is not a passing fad. I become certified as a yoga teacher later this summer. I love all of the gifts yoga has given to me and have a deep desire to bring those gifts to others.

To learn more about proprioception, read this!

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

Why I’m Doing Another 30-day Bikram Yoga Challenge and How I Prepare and Remain Motivated

I am embarking on my second Bikram Yoga challenge. The first challenge was almost two years ago in February 2012, just a few months after I started my yoga practice.

Me in Bikram Triangle

Me in Bikram Triangle

To be honest, I never imagined I would be motivated to do another challenge. The first challenge was very beneficial but also tough on my body, mind, spirit and family life. Although I felt accomplished in a mindful and self-aware sort of way upon completing the first challenge, my ego also said, “Well, you did it. You proved you could do it. No need to do that again.”

So I held fast to that egocentric attitude until recently when I started feeling defeated by life and overwhelmed by my responsibilities.

You see, in addition to having a regular 9 to 5 job, I have been writing non-stop on my other blog for 21 months. Over 320 blog posts in 90 weeks. That’s almost an average of 4 blog posts per week.

What I write on my other blog does not result in any sort of financial compensation. None. My compensation comes from the comments and messages I receive from readers who have been positively affected by the message I attempt to share and disseminate, a message related to an understanding of what domestic violence and intimate partner abuse looks like when perpetrated by emotional abusers. Sociopaths and narcissists.

Yeah, it may sound dramatic if you aren’t already familiar with my other blog. And you would be correct. Abuse and control is all about drama. My postings and writings are filled with reactions to that drama, and composing those reactions have been 100% draining. So when October began, I wasn’t surprised when I found myself in need of a break from my other blog and the emotions and feelings it stirred in me.

But a funny thing happened after I made the conscious decision to take a break from writing: I started to feel guilty!

I felt guilty for leaving people hanging. I felt guilty for not being as active as I once was. I have made some incredible friendships through my other blog and value all of the feedback I receive. Actively responding to comments and e-mails was never something I had to struggle with doing. But I found myself struggling, and that made me feel guilty.

Fortunately, I had enough humility (Thank you, yoga!) to reach out to my friends for support. Repeatedly, I received the same message: “Paula, take care of yourself. Put yourself first.”

It took a while for that message to sink in, but once it did, I immediately thought another Bikram Yoga challenge would be just the thing to get me out of my self-imposed slump. I was thinking about doing a challenge on my own but was thrilled to discover the studio where I practice is facilitating a challenge between now and Thanksgiving! (There are no coincidences, I’ve learned.)

I started my second challenge at Bikram Yoga Rockville on Wednesday, October 23 which ends the day before Thanksgiving. (The studio’s challenge actually started on Monday, October 21, so I have two doubles to look forward to completely. I’ll save those for the end.)

Like my first challenge, I had to prepare. Currently, my office is in my home with a more open and flexible schedule than I had during my first challenge. This simply means I have more options for which times I can attend class: mornings, afternoons or evenings. But a more flexible schedule doesn’t mean finding and maintaining my motivation is any less challenging.

Below are some ways I prepared and remain motivated.

In preparation:

  1. Setup a calendar reminder for each day, so I remember to eat. (I sometimes get really busy during the day and forget to eat lunch. If I wait too long, I can’t eat until after yoga. (Bikram instructors recommend that you eat a light meal 2-4 hours prior to your daily practice.)
  2. Get a pedicure. (Hey, it’s important to have clean and polished feet to present to your fellow yogis. Plus, it helps to keep your mat fresh.)
  3. Bathe my mat. (It’s kind of like a clean sheet thing–it just feels good and it’s healthy, for you and your mat.)
  4. Buy tea tree oil and a spray bottle. (A tea tree oil and water concoction will be sprayed on my mat after each use; it’s a green and friendly solution to keeping your mat fresh.)
  5. Pack a clean change of yoga clothes and towel in my car for spur-of-the-moment decisions to go to the yoga studio.

To remain motivated:

  1. Let as many people know your intention to complete the challenge.
    The more people who know, the more people will be asking you every day, “So, how many days are left?” You don’t want to answer, “Oh, I quit.” Do you?
  2. Get a challenge buddy (or 2 or 3).
    This can be done directly or indirectly. If you are new or simply don’t have friends at the studio, pick someone’s name off the board and follow/stalk his/her progress. It’s definitely psychological but effective.
  3. Don’t neglect your family.
    If you are married, in a partnership, or have children, they’re probably your biggest supporters. So, even when you are feeling tired or overwhelmed by the yoga, do things with and for your family. They’ll be more inclined to maintain their support throughout the 30 days. And remember to say, “Thank you, Baby, for respecting how much this means to me.”
  4. Keep talking about how the challenge is making you feel.
    Even if you feel like crap some days, share it. You would be surprised by how many people will tell you, “Well, just don’t stop. You’re so close.”
  5. Be lazy, eat right, drink lots of water, and sleep when you can.
    Do I need to explain this one? :)
  6. Encourage other yogis in the challenge.
    Through encouraging others, you encourage yourself and the entire room.
  7. Keep smiling.

Namaste!
~Paula

© 2013 Paula Carrasquillo and A Yogini Transformed.


Paula Carrasquillo is an active yogi, author, and advocate who has lived in numerous watersheds throughout the United States, including Colorado, Maine, Maryland and New Mexico. She currently lives in the Washington, D.C. metro area. Paula is passionate about her family, friends and the motivational and brave people she meets daily through her online writing and social media exchanges. To Paula, every person, place, thing, idea and feeling she encounters is significant and meaningful, even those which she most wants to forget. Follow Paula on Twitter and check out her other blog.

Patience now and “before yoga”

20121129-161000.jpgMy patience was tested this morning at the bus stop.

Last night, I discovered a “Notice to Parents” in my son’s backpack. The note reminded parents that on Thursday, November 29, all 2nd graders would be going on a field trip to The Strathmore for the holiday concert. Each student needed to bring a packed lunch and dress appropriately for the event. The note mentioned that, in the past, girls have worn dresses and boys have worn button-up collared shirts and dress slacks.

I began to panic a bit. The lunch was not the problem. We had lots of goodies to pack. It was the dress slacks that were the problem.

My son has been growing like a weed this past fall. I buy him jeans, and in a few weeks they’re already too short! I had been meaning for the past few weeks to run to Target or The Children’s Place to buy him new khakis for the holidays, but I kept putting it off. There was never any pressing reason. Until yesterday!

I raced up to his room and after much searching, located a single pair of slacks that still fit. I was off the hook. I could postpone that trip to Target once again!

After he ate his breakfast this morning, we went upstairs, and I helped him get dressed. I turned to grab a collared shirt from his closet as he put on the slacks. I turned back to see a huge gaping hole in the knee of his pants!! I was crushed. I asked him to take them off, and I handed him a pair of clean Levi’s. He hesitated and said he can fix the hole with staples. I laughed and explained that it’s not the end of the world, and I’m sorry but he can’t wear pants with holes in them to The Strathmore. Clean jeans will have to do.

We finish with our morning routine and then head to the bus stop. There was a little girl in a pretty pink dress and coat in line and I asked her if she was in 2nd grade and going to the concert today. She sure was. Then from further ahead in line, one of the mothers asked me:

“Is Armando only in 1st grade?”

“No. He’s in 2nd.” I flash a big grin his way. I was worried where this was going.

The woman’s daughter chimes in, “Well, he’s supposed to wear a collared shirt.”

“He has one on. See.” I unzip his coat a bit at the top so the little girl could see.

“Oh, okay,” she says.

“But he’s also supposed to be wearing dress slacks,” spews the same woman, the mother of the little girl who asked about his shirt.

“Well, he’s wearing his clean jeans which will be fine. He doesn’t have any dress slacks,” I say looking at Armando to make sure she hadn’t crushed his entire day with her insensitive remark.

“I’ll just tell Ms. Shevitz (his teacher) that I didn’t forget; I just don’t have any. Right, Mom?” my son asks.

“Right, Baby,” I say and give him a kiss on the cheek.

The bus arrives, and I walk off to tell my husband about THAT woman!

After telling him the story, he says, “Wow! You’re losing your edge, Baby. Before yoga you would have punched that b&@#h in the face!”

I chuckle at his exaggeration. If this same encounter had happened a year ago (before yoga), I might have waited until the bus pulled away and told THAT woman how unnecessary her comment to my son was, especially in front of the other children at the bus stop. Today, the thought never crossed my mind.

I was surprised by my own patience and ability to “let go” of what she said and instead focus on remaining positive for my son.

I kept thinking about it today, too. Not because I am angry, but because I am dying to know how my son’s day was and if he enjoyed the music. I hope so.

Namaste!

#3 Bikram Yoga: Awkward Pose (Utkatasana)

From http://aoinspiration.com/mind-body/30-day-yoga-challenge-day-3-utkatasana-awkward-poseEnglish (Sanskrit): Awkward Pose (Utkatasana)
And it’s still not me in these images. One day I’ll lose that fear and model the poses myself but not today. 🙂

As mentioned in my #1 Bikram Yoga post, all of the poses are easy as long as you breathe!

Touted Benefits

  • Helps to tone and shape your legs.
  • Heals chronically cold feet.
  • Relieves rheumatism and arthritis in the legs.
  • Helps to cure slipped discs and other problems in the lower spine.
  • Aligns skeletal system.
  • Relieves menstrual cramping.
  • Relieves sciatica.
  • Improves flexibility in toes and ankles.
  • Exercises liver, intestines, and pancreas.

Actual Experience

This posture has three parts corresponding to the images above.

Throughout the posture, the yogi’s heels stay behind the toes invisible in the front mirror. Heels do not turn in or out but remain in perfect alignment. The yogi extends his arms out and holds them up for the duration of the pose, never dropping his arms. The yogi breathes out on the way down and in on the way up for each part.

First part (far left)

The yogi separates his feet so they are shoulder-width apart or roughly 6 inches between them. (The best way to measure this is to bend down with both fists side-by-side between your feet.)

Maintaining a straight back and keeping the abdominals tight, the yogi begins to sit deep, bending his knees as if he is going to sit in a chair directly behind him. Once the yogi thinks he’s going to fall back, the pose is held for a few seconds.Then the yogi pushes back up through his feet, breathing out through his nose.

This position is like taking a giant squat and holding it longer than you think you can or want to. (Women do this when we use public toilets. It’s easy for us but still VERY effective for toning our thighs and buttocks.)

Second part (middle)

The yogi comes up high on his toes, holding this position for a few seconds. With a completely straight spine, the yogi begins to bend and lift his knees at the same time as if he’s sliding down a wall. Once the yogi’s thighs are parallel to the floor, the pose is held with the knees and thighs never collapsing on each other. The yogi then uses his abdominal strength to push back up to a standing position, while continuously lifting through the spine, chest, head, and knees.

I feel my thighs shaking and burning EVERY time I do this pose, contributing to increased thigh strength. My ankles are much stronger today and DO NOT crack like they once did. I think it’s because of this pose.

Third part (far right)

The yogi comes up slightly on his toes, pulling the inner thighs together and then slowly sliding down the imaginary wall once again. The yogi goes as far as he can (as far as just 6 inches off the ground) without separating his knees and without pain. The position is held and then the yogi uses his abdominasl to push back up to the standing position.

Because I have an injured knee, I can’t go as far as my fellow yogis. I may look like a cheater, but I feel my inner thighs working regardless of how low I can go.

Namaste!

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