Start Yoga, Change Your Life

The facts are out there. You can google them, look them up, find them anywhere. The benefits of a yoga practice are powerful and life-changing. Not only does it provide your body with all the benefits of physical exercise, but it can also help calm your mind, body and spirit. It can help soothe depression and calm anxiety.

And most importantly, it can help you to enter into a relationship and conversation with your body after years of ignoring it. Or worse, after years of someone else having power over our bodies. It’s time to reclaim our bodies. Reclaim our lives. Reclaim our own power over our own futures and reclaim our health – both physical and mental.

In case you’re not sure where to start, in case you feel overwhelmed by all the launching pads for yoga out there, I’ve created this easy-to-follow guide for starting a yoga practice.

Want to start a yoga practice but have no idea where to begin? Have you taken a yoga class before and felt lost and confused – like you had no idea what was going on? If you answer “yes” to either of these questions, The Beginner’s Guide to Yoga Basics is the book for you!

Through humor, stories from my own practice, good ole fashioned practical tips, and over 2.5 hours worth of online video guides and content, I guide readers through the fundamentals of a basic yoga practice. In this book geared towards beginner yoga practitioners, learn how to, step by step, set up and practice a set of basic yoga poses.

I have been practicing and teaching yoga for 11 years and have over 500 hours of yoga teaching certifications. Through simple, direct and kind descriptions, I can help guide you to setting up your own, best yoga practice. Start your yoga journey now with this easy-to-follow guide!

Help me help you to reclaim your life.

Because everyone should watch this

I watched this Ted Talks just now and I think the speaker makes some wonderful points. I broke into tears in the middle of this video. In order to end gender violence, we need to change our ideas about some things. As bystanders, we need to speak up every moment we see or hear sexist, racist, or bigoted comments. We can’t just stand up for people in the event of abuse, the development of abusers starts long before that. As a culture, we need to change our attitudes. After all,

“In the end what hurts the most is not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends.”

I don’t think I’ve ever heard a more true statement. What broke me most throughout my struggles with abuse and violence was not the actual abuse itself. It was watching as so many friends turned their backs on me and walked away. Whether they called me crazy or played my story off as me being overdramatic, I felt shattered by their complete disbelief in me and my experience. After my abusive ex, I lost nearly every “friend” I had. Every male friend anyways. I even felt betrayed by my best friend, who continued to hang out with my abuser afterwards. Even she thought that I exaggerated. That I stretched the truth. I sometimes feel like I will never recover from that.

But I can say this much. I never would have spent so many nights completely alone and without company if my story were not true. I could’ve just denied it. Could’ve just assimilated back into my party crowd of friends like nothing ever happened and pretended like everything was okay. Many people do just that.

But my story is true, and I will never deny that again.

I never would have watched as all my so-called friends walked away from me if my story were not true. I would not have spent four straight months of crying every day if my story were not true. I would not have spent months in counseling, years blogging, undergone treatment through yoga therapy, changed my phone number, moved away, cut off all ties with certain people and traveled for months at a time in pursuit of some shred of hope and happiness if my story were not true.

This is not just a woman’s issue, it’s everybody’s issue. Help break the silence:

http://www.ted.com/talks/jackson_katz_violence_against_women_it_s_a_men_s_issue.html

Building your own version of healing

Healing. It means something different to everyone. There are different versions, avatars of the same sentiment if you will. I think we can get lost in the abstract ideal of what it means to be “healed.” The truth is, however, that there is no one way of being healed, or experiencing healing, just as there is no one path to achieve this goal.

The looming goal of healing can seem rather daunting. The key is to bring it down to earth, to bring it to something you understand and can accept for yourself. At this stage, you’ve probably gotten very good at recognizing what you don’t want from life (no abuse, thanks!) and what you don’t want from relationships, etc. And you’ve hopefully removed yourself from these situations. The question now becomes what DO you want?

What you want is something very important to determine in the healing process. It’s okay to set a goal for your healing journey. Think about what being healed means to you. How do you want to feel when you’re healed? How will this affect your personal life? Your relationships? And what do you want your personal life and relationships to look like once you’ve achieved the goal of healing?

Defining what “healed” means to you is very important in working towards it. After all, if you don’t know what you are working towards, how will you ever get there? How will a therapist be able to help you reach that goal?

So take a few moments to think about what it means for you to be healed. Talk to your therapist about your goals, desires in this department, etc. Then go get it! In my opinion, perfection does not exist, because everyone’s version of what it means to be perfect is different. It is the same with healing. But defining what you want gives you a goal, a purpose, and can help immensely on your personal journey towards inner fulfillment and peace.

Acceptance

Acceptance. It’s a funny thing. It can be so hard to accept yourself. To accept who you are. In this day and age, when the ideas of perfection are just a mouse-click away, and you are bombarded with images from the media, movies, etc., it can be so hard to look at life as it really is and say, “this is me.” “This is it.” Simple and unadorned.

With these stories of so-called “perfect” lives abounding around us, it can be so infuriating to look at your life and recognize that it’s not that. A life marred by abuse, by self-loathing, by anxiety, depression, anger, bitterness, hurt. The list could go on forever. And there are times when I’m so angry that my life doesn’t match what I feel like it should. There are times when I’m so upset, because I feel like this shot at perfection; this chance at being popular, having healthy relationships, etc., was taken away from me, or marred by abuse.

If I focus too much on these things I don’t have, it is easy to spiral down into depressive thoughts. Into self-loathing actions. The thing to keep in mind, that I have to keep telling myself, is that perfection does not exist. The idea of perfection is different for everyone. And if you do achieve this vision of “perfection,” then the vision changes to incorporate something else you don’t have/can’t look like/can’t do, or whatever it may be for you.

Acceptance of ourselves is one of the hardest questions life can ask us to solve. And it doesn’t have an easy answer. Especially if you have been trained not to accept yourself by those who have abused you.

But in my opinion, it eventually comes down to this, to a choice. The guts to choose to accept yourself. To accept the battle to accept yourself. Because it can be a battle; every day you might have to remind yourself that you are worth accepting. But God, doesn’t it feel good when you finally reach that state? When you finally say, all right, these are my limitations, these are my hurts, these are my flaws…and that’s okay.

Healing Imagery: Soothing the hurt child

When others don’t believe you, the pain can be real. You can feel lost inside yourself, trapped by a swirl of chaotic emotions that you don’t know how to deal with. In my case, at least, I often feel the need to “fix things.” To find whatever kinks there are in my machine and repair them. To dig through all the layers and analyze, piece by piece, what needs to be done to make things better-to make things perfect-again.

But sometimes we all just need to sit with the pain. We just need to acknowledge that we are hurt, and that we are having these emotions. My counselor gave me an interesting visual exercise to think on today during our session, and it goes a little something like this:

Sometimes, nobody believes you. Sometimes, others can’t give you the justification you feel that you need. Sometimes, and maybe all your life, there is no one who will simply gather you into their arms, hold you close and softly whisper that everything will be okay. Sometimes, nobody will even notice that anything is wrong.

This is when we need to step in and parent/comfort ourselves. My counselor today brought up a very interesting exercise. Imagine a child inside of yourself. Not in a pregnant sort of way, but just imagine the visual image of a hurt child. A little, weak, vulnerable child that has experienced pain- that could possibly be crying, whimpering, etc. Imagine a small, innocent YOU, at your rawest and most base form of emotion, and picture yourself as that hurt child.

Then imagine yourself comforting that child. Say to that hurt child: everything WILL be okay. I believe you. I know you are hurting right now, but it won’t always be that way. I will take care of you. I will listen to you. And everything WILL be okay.

The point here is not to create multiple personalities for yourself, but rather to be in charge of comforting and believing in yourself. To take a moment to feel the hurt, to feel the pain, or whatever you might be feeling at the time, and accept and love yourself for that. Comfort yourself like you would comfort a small child, crying from a scraped knee. And be as gentle towards yourself as towards that small, hurt child. In psychology, this technique is called “reparenting.” Whether you had bad parents, or simply need to retrain how an abuser warped your perspective, this can be a helpful tool for visual/imaginative learners.

As someone once said to me, believe in yourself, because if you don’t do that, who else will believe in you? In my experience, I find that we are often more harsh with ourselves than we are with others. We try to hold ourselves to higher standards than we would ever ask of someone else. The same holds true with how we view our healing process. I try to push it, try to force myself to be better, to deal with a situation, to “fix” the problem and “get over it.” But sometimes, it takes just being that small child, and comforting yourself, with the knowledge that the scrape on your knee (the pain, etc.) will pass eventually.

The effect of abuse on my self-esteem

It is hard enough to recognize and accept the signs of being abused as physical or verbal actions taken by the abuser. However, I think it is even harder to recognize the effects that a person, as a victim, suffers internally.

The way my abusers made me feel was awful, to put it simply. They were both guys and were controlling, overbearing, perfectionistic, manipulative and lying. They both became violent, often physically, when they didn’t get their way. And when I was out-of-line with their wishes, my personal safety would sometimes be threatened.

I didn’t realize any of this until I had my aha! moment and even for sometime afterwards.

Aside from the obvious, what these people did, and the way they treated me, made me feel worthless. They were overly critical, and constantly accused me of not being good enough, not being pretty enough. I didn’t do my hair correctly, dress the right way. And ultimately, they brought me down in any way possible, to a level where they could be in control. If I didn’t feel good about myself, then obviously I didn’t know how to live my life. This made me believe I needed someone to direct me, because I wasn’t good enough to direct myself.

As for my younger years, once the sexual abuse ended, the physical and verbal continued. And I feel like the verbal abuse was the most difficult of all to cope with, and is the most lingering in my healing process.

For me, the hardest part of suffering from abuse is the way it makes you feel about yourself. It made ME feel bad. And for a long time, I never thought that the blame did not lay with me, but with him.

In my mind, that had been warped by the way I was conditioned to view myself, I was not good enough. I couldn’t do anything right. I was a ridiculous, over-exaggerating, clumsy Klutz who was flaky and couldn’t be trusted. I was incapable of taking care of myself. I never felt pretty, or loved, or respected. And what’s worse, I never felt like I SHOULD be any of those things.

This is my battle. This is the hardest part in dealing with what happened. How do I change my mind and see myself as beautiful and wonderful? How do I learn to trust myself and believe that I am worth it?

This is my current struggle, and I open this post to comments, feedback, and advice from any users. What has helped you the most to regain what your abuser took from you? How do you build your self-esteem again once it has been so demolished?

Get Help: Helpful Resources

I’ve mentioned support in your personal life. Now here are some resources, mostly in Austin, Texas, that I have found helpful (and one that I didn’t try that might be of use to you, if you’re a UT student). Even if you do not live in Austin, you could always call some of these organizations and do phone counseling/have them refer you to a place near you.

Safeplace:
Mission: SafePlace exists to end sexual and domestic violence through safety, healing, prevention and social change.
SafePlace… Provides Safety for individuals and families affected by sexual and domestic violence.
Helps victims in their Healing so they can move beyond being defined by the crimes committed against them, and become Survivors.
Promotes safe and healthy relationships for the Prevention of sexual and domestic violence.
Works with others to create Change in attitudes, behaviors and policies that perpetuate the acceptance of, and impact our understanding and responses to, sexual and domestic violence.

Website: http://www.safeplace.org/
Phone: 512.267.SAFE (for 24 counseling/more info)

Voices Against Violence:
CMHC Voices Against Violence (VAV) is a program of the Counseling and Mental Health Center at The University of Texas at Austin. VAV addresses issues of:
Dating/Relationship Violence
Sexual Violence
Stalking
Our programs are designed to serve the needs of the diverse UT population with information, education, training, advocacy, counseling, and referral services.
Services for Survivors and Allies include:
Individual Counseling
Anonymous Telephone Counseling
Group Counseling
Connection to resources in the community
Advocacy services which may include legal, medical, academic, and/or housing support

Website: http://cmhc.utexas.edu/vav.html
Phone: 512-471-CALL (2255) (UT Students Only)

Overcoming Sexual Abuse Website:
Overcoming Sexual Abuse began as a mother & daughter team, Christina Enevoldsen & Bethany Ruck, survivors of childhood sexual abuse. When we looked for an online support group for ourselves, our search turned up two types of groups: The first type was extremely supportive and nurturing, but lacked any belief or commitment to actually getting better. It was merely a place to share struggles, yet without hope of finding a way out. The second type was very uplifting and encouraging, yet gave the impression that healing was a matter of determination and positive attitude. We knew from our own healing journey that all of those were necessary to heal, but we also knew that without practical answers and tools for recovery there would be no permanent improvement. Since we didn’t find what we were looking for, we started our own group and Overcoming Sexual Abuse was born.

Website: http://overcomingsexualabuse.com/

These are some technical tools if you will for the healing process. These are professional resources designed to target and directly assist the victims with many levels of healing. Whether it is home relocation, counseling, group sessions, job searches for victims, or just someone to talk to, these resources can save you in a million ways. Overcoming Sexual Abuse is a website I found that compiles the writings of several people (women mostly) and their personal experiences, struggles, paths to healing, etc. While it doesn’t directly counsel victims, I have found some of the articles to be very encouraging and enlightening, and show my situation from different perspectives, several more forgiving than my own.