Finding Confidence

Finding Confidence

Confidence is a tricky thing… too much and we seem fake or rude or self-involved. Too little and we seem weak, childish, and awkward. We want that sweet spot of just enough but it’s hard to find it and to live there. What does it mean exactly to know who we are, be open to evolving and be able to hold appropriate boundaries? It’s a lot to ask of ourselves and to understand about ourselves and it’s exactly the work we should always have been doing to grow into full capacity adults.

Why don’t they teach this stuff in school?!

They really should, but they don’t and often our parents don’t even have this figured out enough for themselves to teach us. We likely experienced them as too clingy or too distant. We probably were on the other end of their guilt and maybe even manipulation. And that’s for folks with great parents. Like I said, this stuff is tricky, and it does get passed down.

The rewards, however, for working on oneself in this way, for investing one’s confidence and relationship to self, are boundless. Just imagine, not a world where you didn’t second guess a decision, but where it didn’t mean you second guessed your value. A world where you never had to play small for sympathy wins or because you were afraid to unleash your largeness. A world where you could own every bit of who you are and know that you are special and so is everyone else… and they could feel that in being with you.

Now that’s a world! It’s a world you can have. 

This is the exact work that I do with my coaching clients. So much is about the feeling and the ways we take up our bodies. I help you explore this, how to fill it out, the ways you deny it and more. You can repattern all of it and watch as the world adjusts to meet you. It’s truly magnificent. I know because I’ve been there.

Learn to own your confidence or work on any of your sticky parts with me this month while I’m offering $500 OFF my 10 session coaching package. Message me here for more details.

Stress Lives in the Body

Stress Lives in the Body

Anyone who has ever worked as a personal trainer, yoga teacher, or even a waiter or waitress at a restaurant, knows that stress lives in the body. You can see it on the folks you serve, burning off them like steam or in their frozen human-like expressions. I first understood that deep muscle release would result in an emotional outpouring during my time studying theater at Boston University where we would stretch our bodies and our release sounds from deep in our guts to get at old wounds and traumas. We probably should have had some boundaries and guidance in trauma sensitivity, but that’s another story. 

I encountered this pattern of emotional release again when I began to work one on one with yoga clients in their homes or in studios, clubs and gyms like the Reebok Club, now Equinox, that were popular at that time. Some similar patterns would happen where clients would start to tell me their personal stories, sometimes interrupting whole sessions to “let stuff out”. It was the body talking. 

In the safety of our established relationship and with the help of a little breathwork and movement they could let go of some things they were holding onto. I was lucky that I had some active listening training and I was also sure I was often outside my scope. Trauma informed yoga teacher, Somatic Experiencing Practitioner, and Therapist, Hala Khouri has a similar story which she shared with me on the first episode of my new podcast, Beyond Trauma.

She blends modalities to best serve all the different nervous systems present in a yoga room. I really appreciated her wisdom in how to show up as a trauma informed yoga teacher and create a space safe as possible for everyone and her clarity around the variety of supports that can work together to promote well-being for an individual. 

All yoga teachers and especially those who seek to be trauma informed will benefit from Hala’s tips around collective care and weaving in more than just yoga asana in the yoga room.

Check out this inaugural episode today on iTunes or Spotify and check out Three and a Half Acres Trauma Informed Yoga Teacher Training here

Unfocused: How zoning out could help you make your next best discovery

Unfocused: How zoning out could help you make your next best discovery

How to focus better and longer is the subject of many conversations in this era of smartphones and other devices stealing our attention every few seconds. We are cautioned, and rightfully so, that we need to turn off devices, silent notifications and learn to concentrate on the task we are engaged in, or problem we are attempting to solve. Many of us, especially folks with trauma, have trouble concentrating for very long. 

It’s parents and teachers’ common concern about their kids, calling on children to “pay attention” when they stare out the window or fidget at their desk. However, as we can see examples of so many times even though we often ignore or override them, our bodies know first and often best what we need to succeed. 

Plugging away at a problem may just be the opposite of what we need to solve it.

Every go to sleep with a problem in mind you need to solve and wake up with it all figured out? Turns out our brains love soft focus and often need us to relax and open up to do what they do best. 

How do we do this?

Taking a thirty minute walk, going to a yoga class or stepping away to read something unrelated from a physical book are all good ways to relax our brains and let the answers flow to us but may sometimes feel too time consuming. 

Here’s another option…Relax your eyes.

They say the eyes are the windows to the soul, but they are probably more likened to the windows to the brain. When we are doing work at a computer or on our phones as so many of us spend most our days doing, they are focused tightly to one spot. This narrow focus has its place but is unnatural in our evolutionary history to hold for so long.

You can switch the state of your mind and body quickly by switching your visual focus to a softer, broader focus. Try it now. Look straight ahead. Now without moving your eyes, relax your gaze and take all of your scope of vision to the ends of your periphery with our moving the eyes or straining. Do this for a few minutes and you will reset your nervous system, engaging its calming parasympathetic branch. 

This wide relaxed gaze is the opposite of tunnel vision. It takes in your whole environment and tells your body you are aware and safe, a perfect exercise for reducing stress and the impacts of trauma. 

This is the place from which we can make better informed decisions and find creative answers to problems we most likely would not have discovered from zoning in. We are, quite literally, taking it all in.

This gaze happens naturally when we are relaxed, but the great thing is we can bring the relaxed state on by taking it purposefully, state shifting into a more open state. Anyone can do this. 

If you are a trauma informed yoga teacher, you may want to use this at some points in your class. Where the eyes are looking in each pose is a central part to our teaching. Considering how you can cue for a softer and wider gaze may just be what’s missing in helping your yoga students to step into that chill, open minded state. 

You might just be helping them to see the big picture and make a real transformation in their lives. 

Healing Trauma with Nature

Healing Trauma with Nature

Many of us have struggled with traumatic stress since the pandemic arrived in 2020 and even before that with our increasingly screen based, sedentary lives, so unnatural to our systems. I, myself, even though I had an over two decade long yoga practice found that I was often at capacity for what my nervous system could handle. 

It was the incorporation of mindful nature immersion that allowed and continues to allow my body to regulate and thrive.

As a start, you can spend more time in nature, by moving your coffee break, a phone call, or any regular activity to the outside. 

Learning how to be with and communicate with nature goes further and is a practice. It’s not just getting outside, but being there, in nature with purpose and practices which open you up to all the benefits it can offer. 

On nature immersion yoga retreats, students are guided through awakening their senses and reconnecting with the earth. Talks and meditations which call us into the elements and heighten the experience of nature so it’s as technicolor as any screen out there and more so. We hold space and allow for the release of stress and calibration we all desire. You will find your sleep is deeper allowing for the healing your body desires. 

The next retreat of this nature is this summer. You can check out the details here

Healing Trauma with Nature - Thimo resting under a tree
How to apologize

How to apologize

One of the things we have to start learning as yoga teachers, trauma informed yoga teachers, and humans is that we don’t know everything. Specifically, we can’t know another’s experience, which means we have to trust them when they tell us how they feel. 

If you are a yoga teacher and especially a trauma informed yoga teacher and a student tells you that something you did offended them it’s important to hear that and repair that even if it was not your intention to do harm.

There are many factors which cause us to explain away, dismiss, and take way too personally feedback from others. For me, it has always been my perfectionism that got in the way. Releasing that need and knowing that it is impossible to get things right all the time has allowed me to become more vulnerable and available to hear when I’ve harmed someone and get invested in how I can make it right. I don’t take it to mean I’m a bad person. I don’t take it to mean anything about me. I immediately look to how I can make things better for them.

Recently I had the opportunity to be on the other side. I was hurt by a friend who made reference to a murderer of my ancestors in a positive way. The incident made me red hot inside and a great wave came up through my body urging me to walk away. Because I’m familiar with my body’s stress response reactions, I was able to feel those sensations and hold enough space for them that I could stay. My ability to remain in the room allowed me to receive the support from other friends who surrounded me and to be present for my embarrassed friend’s apology.

It is not always the case that we should stay when our body is screaming “leave”. Sometimes getting out of a potentially dangerous situation is the absolute right move. I happened to be safe enough and have enough capacity to stay.

How to apologize… If you cause harm, here’s what you can do:

1. Listen carefully and hear what the harmed person is sharing with you. They are giving you an opportunity to understand something you may not have known about.
2. Make sure you get what they are saying. If you don’t, you may want to reflect on and educate yourself on what mistake you have made. Do not ask them to do that for you.
3. Apologize specifically for what you have done and without any excuses.
4. Commit to what you can do to repair the relationship and avoid the same mistake going forward.

Number 5 can be tricky…

5. Be open to the possibility that your apology may not be accepted. 

Part of getting over our perfectionism is getting that that not everything gets resolved or gets forgiven and forgotten in our timeline. A true apology expects nothing in return. As hard as it is, we may need to be okay with open endings.

 

Practice working with feelings of being harmed with this meditation.

Quieting Your Inner Critic

Quieting Your Inner Critic

Your inner critic does not have to win.

I can say that with confidence because mine was the worst. My insecurities got in my way big time. They stopped me from trying things. They caused me to second guess myself. And they but strain on my relationships. 

But they don’t anymore! 

If you have experienced trauma or high levels of stress, it is likely your inner critic is very loud. It can arise in thoughts that say, “You’ll never be good enough,” “You’re so lazy,” “You always self sabotage.” Your inner critic can even look like self improvement or self help. It may say things like “ You shouldn’t let your perfectionism get in the way,” which on first glance may seem helpful but is actually criticizing the part of you that wants to do well.

Sometimes the inner critic does not make itself known in thoughts but shows up in defeatist body language and bodily pain. Other times we may try to get ahead of it by defending ourselves before anyone has attacked us. We accuse folks of thinking a way of us that we are really projecting from the inside.

The most common misconceptions are that talking your inner critic out of its opinion will stop it or that we need a loud inner critic or we wouldn’t get things done.

Our inner critic has a role and that is to protect us. 

The harm comes when we don’t give it its voice fully and in proportion with the other parts of us which want to take risks with our feelings and expressions. All these messages our body gives us are important and desire to be heard. It’s not about having a discussion between them and making some executive decision. It’s about giving each their time to express their needs.

The first step to quieting the critic to a volume which feels healthy and in your capacity to hold, is to acknowledge it.

The best way to do this is by sensing where it is showing up in your body or body’s periphery. When you call her into your awareness what do you feel, see, sense, hear? Stay with those sensations and see if you can gently say hello to them, sit next to them, or acknowledge them in a way which is non threatening. Don’t try to change anything. Instead let the feelings know you see them and you can be with them.

Once you’ve established that connection you may want to ask them to show you more about what they need, what they want or don’t want to happen and the ways and why they are protecting you. You will learn a lot.

This is deep work and a lot can arise. I suggest working, especially, if you have had trauma with a somatic coach or professional who can hold space for you in your process. Check out my guided meditation through this process here

Other parts are likely to come to the surface to argue with your critic and you’ll need your time with them too. 

In time, you will be able to hold more and more of what were seemingly warring parts inside of you in balance and in presence. This alone will lessen the impacts of stress and trauma present in the body and create a life of increased ease.