The sound of the genuine

When I decided to take a break from writing for a bit, I didn't have a plan for when I'd be back. I'm a somewhat reformed Type A personality, so not having a plan is a big deal (amiright?). However, I did know that the time would present itself, that I'd feel a strong urge to share and write again with renewed purpose even if I wasn't sure when.

I feel it now. I felt it standing on a mountain in Colorado a few days ago. I felt it during a meditation so beautiful that I knew I was lit from within.

***

I'll be honest. My perspective has changed, my direction in business and life is changing. Let me reintroduce what Yoga Dear [Yoga Therapy] is really about, and who these letters are really for.

"There is something in every one of you that waits and listens for the sound of the genuine within yourself." - Howard Thurman


These letters, teachings, and this space known as Yoga Dear is for people who want to get down to real talk, real conversation, and meaningful connection, really quickly.

Eugene, Bodhi, and I hiking on Cheyenne Mountain in Colorado Springs

Eugene, Bodhi, and I hiking on Cheyenne Mountain in Colorado Springs

I have found that one of the reasons we have a hard time finding true connection, friendship, and deep relationships with others, especially into adulthood, is because we're not having the real and honest and sometimes tough conversations early on. We either say nothing or scroll through our phones. We judge viewpoints different than our own, rather than approach them with curiosity. We play it safe by talking about things like the weather, recent news/entertainment, and/or our children's daily habits, rather than looking into another's eyes, seeing them, and sharing truthfully...whatever that truth looks like in the moment and allowing them the ability to do the same. [Note: Conversations about the weather, news/entertainment, and children are welcome here AND I want to create space for self discovery].

But, this requires vulnerability. It requires vulnerability from the individual who is seeking a deeper relationship, a true connection. And, it requires vulnerability from the individual who is sitting across from her. Right? This is the way to find the genuine, to welcome it in all its messy glory.

***

These letters are words directly from the deepest part of my being to you. I am vulnerable. I am honest. I want to hear from you, to connect with you. I want you to feel connected to me and to those who read these messages, too.

I want to teach you more about who you already are, to help you uncover the most beautiful parts of yourself that may have collected dust or been shielded for far too long. I want these letters to spark inspirational, thoughtful, genuine and sometimes tough conversations with your Self and those around you.

I want to teach you about Yoga Therapy, and how it can provide for a life-changing healing process physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually.

I want to create community near and far. A community so strong and real that when you interact with me in one-on-one yoga therapy, come to a class, attend a retreat, sign up for a training, it's like we've known each other for years. I want you to feel like you're always learning something that you can directly apply to your life. A life that has the right to feel joyous, free, creative, and loving.

I sincerely hope this sounds like something you want to be a part of. I'll be writing to you regularly and I encourage you to write back (I respond to every message).

Over the next few weeks, I'm releasing a series to share how I found yoga therapy and why [ahem...anxiety which led to other forms of dis-ease]. I'll share what conditions it can support and how, and I'll share some of my favorite messages EVER that I've written recently about letting go, inner wisdom, and healing. I'm so glad you're here. I've missed you.

** If you're looking forward to receiving these letters, can you hit reply and send me a quick emoji? I'd love to hear from you. **

With love,
Leanne


P.S. If you've been a regular Yoga Dear reader, this series will be spread out over a few weeks. If you're a brand new reader, you'll have already started receiving very similar letters. And, if you're a new mother or expecting mother, please know that Yoga Dear Mama letters will resume soon, too. <3

Why yoga therapy?

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We often come to yoga for more than the movement. We're searching. We want relief from anxiety, depression, loss, overwhelm, pain. We crave purpose. Connection.

When you join, you'll receive regular down to earth and practical guidance to incorporate yoga therapy into your every day. Learn how yoga therapy can transform the way you live in your body, and ultimately your life.

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The body is a gateway towards your healing

Hey there,

I've been thinking a lot about what it means to "heal" lately.

Does it happen just after a trauma? Is it reserved for specific physical circumstances? Does something "big" have to happen in order to validate the healing process? How do you heal the repetitive negative patterns going on in your mind? In your body? Can healing serve as preventative care?

What I do know about the healing process is that it takes TIME. Effort. And, it usually is helpful to have a support system in place. People like therapists, yoga therapists, a trusted friend, a partner, a parent, a doctor, an acupuncturist, a yoga teacher, a spiritual teacher, etc. can be tremendously helpful in facilitating and guiding your healing process.

Emphasis on guides. At some point, YOU have to learn how to listen as your body speaks. YOU have to do the work of learning to go within, slow down, ask yourself the right questions, get still, and listen for the answers.

And, this is in direct opposition to our culture. We often (though not always) want quick fixes and band-aids so that we can go back to “doing” at what we don’t even perceive to be warp speed, avoiding our pain and traumas, and by doing so we never actually heal. We never actually find wellness. We never actually get to the root causes of what made us unwell in the first place, and so the cycle will continue.

***

If I'm honest, I've really opened myself up to the possibilities of what healing is and what it can look like, especially during my training as a yoga therapist. For me, it often starts with the body. Movement has always been a way to connect with my highest self, source, the Divine, whatever you want to call it, and the most beneficial path for me has been yoga (up until 10 years ago, it was modern dance). Although my yoga lately doesn’t always look like the “yoga” you might see on Instagram and YouTube…

And, your variation of yoga doesn’t have to look like Instagram or YouTube either.

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You can practice Restorative Yoga, only doing five poses in an hour with the support of props like pillows, blocks, blankets, bolsters, and neck rolls to allow yourself to really relax. You can put on music and light a candle, roll out your mat, and simply move to the rhythm of your own heartbeat. You can use yoga therapy balls to roll out the fascia and tissue in the arches of your feet, IT bands, shoulders, the upper chest, hips and low back. You can choose a more vigorous practice followed by a 10 minute savasana.

Whatever you do, focus on your healing, rather than your “fitness” if healing is what you need. Focus on what is happening within your body from the inside out. How does it feel? Where is the tightness? Where do you contract? What are you holding on to or guarding? So much is stored in the body. Memories, pain, trauma. I'm learning to move it out and, through my own self study, how to help others move it out, too. But, this won’t happen in a day or even a week. Your healing will likely take time.

I’m still thinking and studying about the questions on healing from above, but I have a few thoughts to bring this full circle.

  1. Trauma is a word with a wide range of differences. What might be “trauma” to one individual may not be to another. And, because of this variability, some of us push aside our experiences as not a trauma, and healing doesn’t begin as early as it could.

  2. Healing isn’t only reserved for the physical body. Your feelings matter. Honoring them matters. And, often those emotions can affect our physical state of well-being. Healing your emotional layer is a recognition that you are NOT broken, but that you’re hitting some bumps along your journey and may need support to remind yourself of your wholeness.

  3. Experiencing our bodies and reconnecting with them is a gateway towards allowing ourselves to heal. Movement (but not always vigorously), breathing, and meditation combined with other modalities (talk therapy, acupuncture, seeing a doctor, getting into nature, etc.) can be wildly effective in your growth and well-being.

I imagine this is the first post of more to come on what it means to heal, and how we can begin to facilitate our own healing process. Try reconnecting with your body as a start. Gather a support system, but know that it’s only YOU who can really know what you need. Your body is a gateway to the answers that are buried within your being. And, it is already speaking to you. Know that this process is not a quick fix, but it’s more sustainable in the long run. Let’s begin our healing journey there. Yes?

With love,
Leanne

P.S. I’d love to hear how this resonates with you, especially as I continue down this path in yoga therapy. I look forward to sharing how we might work together in a yoga therapy capacity, working towards healing using a combination of movement and yoga postures, breathing techniques, meditation, and talking about whatever needs to come up in the moment. And, I’d love to answer your questions about yoga therapy, too.

Abdominal Separation [and what to if you have it or suspect you have it]

Hey there,

There are SO MANY things I wish women knew about pregnancy that simply aren’t talked about nearly enough. Pelvic floor health, the postpartum period, perinatal anxiety, your choices during birth, and perhaps really important [to me as a yoga teacher] is sharing the RIGHT movement for your body.

There’s something called diastasis recti (DR) that occurs for many women [and I might argue all] during pregnancy, especially towards the end of the third trimester. Diastasis recti means “abdominal separation.” It occurs when the connective tissue, known as the linea alba, between the two sides of the rectus abdominis (the “six pack” muscles) is stretched. During pregnancy, our bellies and the linea alba naturally stretches to accommodate a growing baby. See figure below:

diastasis during pregnancy.jpeg

After giving birth, we want to encourage the rectus abdominus to start to knit back towards one another, decreasing the stretch of that linea alba. Some women experience greater degrees of separation during pregnancy and postpartum. While this is a common experience, living with DR is NOT normal and also not healthy. Why? Because you may experience:

  • Chronic low back pain'

  • Incontinence

  • Lack of core strength

  • Lack of stability in your pelvis and pelvic floor

And, because the linea alba is so stretched, there is only stretched connective tissue/skin to protect your internal organs, rather than your core muscles.

While I do believe that most (if not all) women experience some degree of abdominal separation during pregnancy and initially postpartum, there are postures in yoga and physical fitness that can exacerbate it, and ones that can minimize it, too.

During Pregnancy:

  • When your belly starts to become noticeable, STOP the planks, crunches, bicycles, anything that puts pressure on the abdominal wall. You’ll know you’re contributing to DR when your belly “cones” or “shark fins” in the center. That’s skin pushing through the abdominals. Core work is important during pregnancy, so try deep breathing and modified side planks to engage the obliques - not the rectus abdominis muscles.

  • Let go of deep backbends in pregnancy. Heart opening is lovely and stretches the chest and the shoulders, and is especially helpful as the breasts become heavier. However, postures like wheel, full camel, even too much of cat posture (from cat/cow) stretch the belly and linea alba way too much. Protect this area with light heart opening postures - if you can feel a stretch across the top of your belly (and definitely the bottom), you’ve likely gone too far.

During the Postpartum Period:

  • See above! Refrain from “core work” like planks, crunches, etc. and refrain from deep backbends, even if your care provider has confirmed you are ready for “exercise.” Rebuilding core strength slowly and taking into account the massive changes your body has experienced will encourage stable and long lasting healing/strength.

  • A few days postpartum, start practicing belly breathing. While seated on a chair or cushion, or even lying on your back, sit up tall, close your eyes, and place your hands on either side of your abdomen. Inhale to feel the belly expand a bit, and as you exhale gently encourage the rectus abdominis towards one another with your hands. Emphasis on gently. As the weeks go on, start to deepen your breath, taking longer inhales and slower exhales. You’ll start to “turn on” your core muscles slowly. Try for three minutes, five minutes, maybe even 10 if you have it.

  • Six - eight weeks postpartum, try pelvic tilts. While lying on the floor, bend your knees so the soles of the feet are in contact with the floor. Relax. Notice the space in between the low back and the floor. Place your hands at your hip points. Take an inhale, and as you exhale, gently scoop the pelvis up so your low back presses into the floor (do not lift the hips to do so). Inhale to release. Try five times, then 10. Taking breaks and repeating. This should feel subtle, but enough that you start to feel muscles working that had been dormant for awhile!

I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to take it slow postpartum. Prioritizing your healing and a rehabilitation of the core, rather than how quickly to strengthen and tone it, will be much more beneficial for your body. Re-entering into exercise, especially high impact, too quickly can worsen diastasis recti and cause issues like incontinence and prolapse. Think tortoise, rather than the hare, during the postpartum period.

As always, I do love reading your stories. Have you experienced DR? What did you do to heal your abdominal separation? I learn a great deal from you and the students I work with in class. If you’re still seeking support, please find a Pelvic Floor PT to assess your DR, or contact me to create a therapeutic postnatal yoga program. Yes, I am in Rhode Island, but we can also work together via Zoom/Skype! I hope this is helpful to you, dear mama.

With love,
Leanne