Tag: ritual

daily rituals for 2021

I will give this year a chance to be a great one by indulging in the parts of life I enjoy most. I’m finding happiness amidst this chaos. Here are the new rituals I’m incorporating into my daily life to get this decade off to a positive start.

  1. Use the sun to help wake up. I set an alarm for about half an hour before I need to get up, slide out of bed and open my curtain, and let the light gradually ease me from sleep.
  2. Start with a stretch. I like to stretch in my bed as I wake up. A great one to begin the day with is tedaka mudra, or pencil stretch. I intertwine my thumbs and stretch my arms and legs long, then relax into the covers.
  3. Do a quick body scan. I notice my feet, toes, ankles, shins, calves, knees, thighs, butt, pelvis, hips, belly, breasts, arm pits, back, arms, elbows, wrists, neck, face, head.
  4. Pet a friend. If you have a human in your house, you can pet them with their consent. But I don’t, so I start my morning by giving love to my kitties and pup. Ahhhh, oxytocin.
  5. Do something productive. Make the first thing you do when you get out of bed something that makes you feel productive and capable. I make my bed and clean the litter box.
  6. Open to the day. I draw back the curtains to fill the house with light, light a candle or some incense, and perhaps play some music that makes me enjoy life just a little bit more.
  7. Meditate and pray. Each day, I make time to sit quietly, at least for a few minutes.
  8. Prepare a warm beverage. My favorite morning beverages are black coffee, peppermint tea, and hot lemon water. Whatever I drink, I try to make preparation an enjoyable ritual instead of an annoying task.
  9. Journal. I like to enjoy my warm beverage while I journal about my feelings, dreams, or whatever comes up.
  10. Brush teeth thoroughly. I like Trader Joe’s toothpaste and enjoy the feeling of the spinning bristles on my teeth and gums.
  11. Hot/cold shower. I invigorate my body with a shower that’s very hot and very cold.
  12. Read from core. This year, I’m developing a group of books that form the core of my personal ideology and taking the time to study them more deeply.
  13. Practice yoga. Before I read new material, I use asana practice to prepare my body for stillness and concentration.
  14. Read new books. I take time each day to read books I haven’t read before.
  15. Avoid phone. My smartphone won’t be the first thing I touch in the morning.
  16. Drink kombucha. My gut thanks me, profoundly.
  17. Nightly restorative yoga. My dreams and sleep thank me, profoundly.
  18. Make the room a little more wonderful. I look around whatever room I’m in and try to think of a quick way to improve it. Little changes add up.
  19. Let go. Only objects that serve me may remain, the rest will be thanked and sent along.

What are you doing differently in 2021?

love always,

amanda

practicing yoga for PTSD recovery

Have you ever surprised yourself by how much change you were capable of? For me, practicing yoga didn’t come easily. In fact, when I tried my first yoga class at age 16, I remember being entirely miserable the entire time. My body was not meant to take these shapes, I remember thinking. How can she possibly be breathing this slowly and doing these motions? When will this be over? The next day, I experienced a soreness unlike anything I had ever felt.

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Self portrait

I want to tell you my yoga story because it is testimony to the fact that yoga is not for the flexible, but the willing. And yes, I totally stole that from a studio’s sign board. But it’s true. If you are willing to keep trying yoga, it will mold you and shift your life in unexpected ways. Let’s be clear, yoga is more than just the athletic component or twisting into a pretzel. It’s not the exercise class you might imagine. In fact, it is a multi limb practice filled with rich teachings and attention to control of the breath, body, and mind.

Although it was frustrating, yoga was somehow intriguing. Interesting enough to keep coming back to, I decided. And for several years, I practiced yoga about once a month, learning vinyasa flow sequences and then finding a “half and half” class that began with a steady flow and ended with restorative yoga. (I loved that class and Arielle as a teacher. RIP Mudra.) When I moved to Salem the next year, I found an amazing kundalini teacher in the yoga desert (Salem has one yoga studio, and is the same size as Eugene, which has…30?) and delved deeper into my practice, then met a hatha instructor whose exuberant joy felt contagious. But still, I was only practicing in group settings, and only once or twice every month.

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Practicing hatha yoga in Salem

My relationship to yoga changed drastically when I became a law student. My first year of law school was an extraordinary challenge due to my unstable and quickly deteriorating mental health. I was suffering from severe, complex PTSD, and it was inducing depression, dissociation, anxiety, panic attacks, and even psychosis. I was actively suicidal for months on end. It felt like I couldn’t escape my trauma, my sadness, myself, despite the fact that I was taking medication and receiving professional help.

One day after seeing my psychiatrist in Portland, I found myself in a TJ Maxx parking lot. I have no idea why, but I suddenly wanted nothing more than to take a yoga class. So, I booted up Mindbody on my phone and searched for classes nearby. There was a hot yoga class in half an hour. I’d always been curious about hot yoga, but had never been brave enough to try it. Luckily, that day I felt courageous. I went into that TJ Maxx and bought a hot yoga towel and a sports bra, bought a 30-day unlimited pass for $40, and took my anxious, depressed self to Pure 8.

The studio wasn’t much different than a regular yoga studio. I’ve never been one to love the heat and I had never been flexible, but I am not exaggerating when I tell you that my first hot yoga class changed my life. The heat and the asana (postures) and the pranayama (breath) as a trio really forced me to be present and engage with the challenge in front of me.

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Practicing standing splits not long after starting hot yoga

After only one class, I was hooked. I drove to Beaverton from Salem just to take hot yoga classes because it felt like the only reprieve I had. At that point, I’d found neither a good med regime nor a therapist whose style served me, and I was in an enormous amount of pain. PTSD is often seen as just a psychological disorder, but it takes an enormous toll on your body. The body stores trauma and it can manifest as all sorts of health problems, and night terrors and flashbacks brutalize the body and prevent it from getting the rest it needs to heal. It’s a double whammy that feels like getting knocked on your ass, and it’s hard to recover from.

When my unlimited month at Pure 8 was up, I decided to find a studio in Eugene, because I was planning to move back home. I showed up to Balanced Hot Yoga on a Monday afternoon in the spring and met Libby. I don’t even know how to explain Libby to you, so let me tell you how being in her presence feels: like suddenly you are a little more sparkly, like pop rocks exploding on your tongue, like you let the butterflies in your stomach out to fill the room with color and joy. I was enchanted by her energy, and then she opened her mouth and French came out and I was entirely enamored. During class, she focused more on the internal aspects of the practice and didn’t worry about her body looking like a Yoga Journal cover. It felt like I was at the most amazing church service I could imagine. I loved to hear Libby chant and watch her adjust her students lovingly. In her class, I felt a connection to my body I had never known before. In that tiny little studio with its charming, quirky touches, I knew I had found some kind of home.

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A drawing I made of the wall at Balanced

Frankly, Balanced and its wonderful instructors got me through my divorce. There’s a mural on the wall that reads “what you feed grows,” and I did my best to feed my yoga practice. I went nearly every day that summer, sometimes twice a day. Hot yoga consumed my worry, helped me process my feelings. Sometimes I’d go to Wild Light too, but Balanced really felt like home. Even though I didn’t know most people by name, being with them in such an intimate space gave me the community I desperately needed. The solidity of that community enabled me to begin a home practice as well. Eventually, I decided to become a yoga teacher at Balanced’s sister business, Two Birds Yoga Training. (I’m going to write another post later about becoming a yoga teacher and its effect on my practice. Stay tuned!)

When I stopped seeing yoga as exercise and started embracing it as a healing practice, as a guide by which to live my life, everything changed. As excited as I was to become more flexible and bend myself into postures I never imagined I could practice, the inner change was so much grander. To be clear, you cannot yoga everything away, and there are many other components to healing from mental health struggles and trauma. But yoga permeates those components, and saturates my life with a richness I never imagined possible.

I want to share that with you, too, and that’s why I would love for you to attend my hatha basics class. It is my belief that yoga is for everybody, regardless of their body type, ability, or experience. I hope that my class will provide an opportunity for you to experience yoga as something more significant than exercise. If you feel uncomfortable in a group, I am happy to offer affordable, sliding scale private lessons to help you start establishing a yoga practice in your life. The change you will observe in yourself if you commit to a regular practice will be undeniable.

Love always,

amanda