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.

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.

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?

Building a Support Group 2: Telling your family

Having the support of your parents.

This can mean everything. I mentioned before the need to have someone in your life who will support you unconditionally. Telling my closest girlfriend was one thing. But telling my family was an entirely different experience. In a previous blog (click here for link), I mentioned that I even lied to my family at first.

I didn’t want to worry them or upset them. I was scared they wouldn’t care. Scared they wouldn’t believe me. And part of me still wonders whether or not, if my sister had not opened up, they ever would have listened. Getting up the courage to talk to you family is no laughing matter. But, at least for me, this was an essential part of the healing process.

A week after I lied to my mom, I called her back on the phone. She answered. “Mom,” I said. “It did happen to me also.” My mom broke. She and I have not always had the best relationship, I’ll admit it. And about a decade ago, it’s doubtful that she ever would’ve listened to what I had to say regarding this. But times change, people soften, and my mother (through much hardship, tears and apologies) has transformed into a rock for me. An anchor that holds me fast. Opening up to her about everything has brought to light how she experienced the same thing when she was younger. My mom, my sister, and I have formed our own support group, one of mutual experience and understanding, that has been invaluable to my healing process.

I was lucky to have such supportive parents in this. It made my healing process much easier. However, I also know that several victims, especially those whose parents were the perpetrators, never know that peace. It can be hard when that is the case. I have a friend who found herself in that exact situation and it has certainly affected her life. But in general, I view her as a very happy and fulfilled woman. One of those I look up to as my healing progresses. However, that is not my story to share, and not the path that this blog will take. Though there are many people, blogs, sites, etc., that you may visit if that is your particular situation. And I strongly encourage you to do so if that fits you.

That is why it is important to seek support outside of the family as well. Because, even if they don’t support you. Someone will. Someone will believe you, and sympathize, and understand. Someone will love you, and take your cares to heart, and make your worries their own.

My parents severed all contact between me and the perpetrator, someone who was very close to us. It was my move, my choice, my decision about everything. That is something I am very grateful for. And also, that is the way I think it should be. It is all right to take some space, to remove yourself from a dangerous situation. You don’t have to pretend like everything is okay when it’s not. Telling the family is just another way of building your support system. They can be an invaluable resource, and a rock. Even if they cannot DO anything to “fix” the problem. They can listen and care for you while you find your own path to healing.

It can be terrifying to open up, to share a secret that makes you feel so ashamed, so dirty, so guilty. But, and I have to remind myself of this all the time, it’s not your guilt, it’s not my guilt, it’s someone’s who was supposed to know better and chose not to act decently.

Ultimately, I believe the path to healing lies on the road to being honest with yourself, being honest with others, accepting what happened, and then learning to move beyond it. In my experience, without one of those steps, the process can never truly be complete. And it is better to just know. To truly know how people will react, how your family will take things, if they will support you or not. It is better to know for sure, one way or the other, rather than spend your entire life wondering, worrying, having it hang in the background of your mind. The lingering “what-if.”

Defining Abuse: Recognizing the signs

Before anyone can have that “aha!” moment, that realization of what happened and what it means, the justification of understanding it’s not your fault, it is necessary to first go through the doubting phase.  Before even believing myself, I asked some of the following questions:

Did it really happen?  Or am I just making it all up?

Is that really abuse?  I thought it was just normal.

Will people still love me if I tell the truth?  Will anyone believe me?

And many, many more.

You are not alone.  I was not alone.  That is why I am writing this blog.  To remind myself and others that there is hope.

The first and most important step to healing from abuse is to recognize the signs.  According to safeplace.org, an organization that helps men and women seek shelter/healing from abuse and violence, the definition of Sexual Abuse/Assault is:

“any unwanted sexual act a person is forced to perform or receive that includes touching of the genitals or breasts. This includes rape, sodomy, touching or oral sex where the victim is unwilling or unable to give verbal consent — including being under 16 years old, intoxicated, drugged or unconscious.”

Whether it is childhood sexual abuse, rape, etc., it is abuse.  Men can experience it too, it is not a phenomena that happens only to women.

Domestic Violence is defined as:

“a pattern of behavior used to gain or maintain power and control over an intimate partner. Domestic violence can happen to anyone regardless of gender, ethnicity, age, education, religion, disability status, or sexual orientation. It can happen to couples who are married, living together or in a dating relationship.”

Some signs for domestic violence include: your partner forcing you to engage in sex, blaming you for his/her behavior, humiliating/criticizing you, constantly checking up on you and more.  For a complete list of Domestic Violence Red Flags, or to seek professional help from Safeplace, see their website: http://www.safeplace.org/page.aspx?pid=183

If any of these signs sound familiar, you are in the right place.  Sometimes, and I know my case was one of them, it took looking at those checklists and definitions, for me to fully understand and accept what happened to me.  There it was, cold hard words, staring me right in the face, refusing to let me hide from myself any longer.

Still not enough for you?  Try talking to a counselor and hear a professional opinion.  Safeplace has 24-hour phone counseling available for anyone who needs it: 512.267.SAFE