Monday, April 14, 2014

bedroom remodel

Nothing like a total disaster to prompt unplanned home renovations! One random Tuesday in October, our bedroom ceiling caved in. Believe it or not, our insurance didn't cover this, so it ended up being our biggest DIY project yet.

Thanks to my handyman Dad and some help from friends and family, we were able to do the work ourselves. We created my dream bedroom and got a little creative with bead-board and trim work. 

 The process took a until spring because I basically shut the door and avoided thinking about it till after the holidays, but it was WELL worth the work and the wait!
 I love how the wall color turned out against the white.
 Even Bishop got a new space! :)
 Love this beachy look.

Hope you enjoyed this or got some inspiration!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

6 tips - overcome savasana anxiety

overcome savasana anxiety : wholehearterSavasana is hands-down (well, palms-up, I guess) the most challenging part of yoga. Everyone struggles in different ways, but many struggle with severe anxiety. Though there's not much information out there on it, I assure you, you're not alone and I'm tired of savasana anxiety being a joke, a secret or some sort of yoga taboo. Meditation anxiety is a very real challenge for LOTS of yogis, so much so, that some hurry out of the studio just before savasana to avoid discomfort.

Being still, quiet and vulnerable is NOT easy. Stationary meditation can be a very emotional and challenging experience especially if you're naturally high-strung, new to yoga or aren't sure exactly what to do. You might experience stress, shortness of breath, racing thoughts, anxiety and/or chest tightness during savasana. The more you practice savasana in a negative light, the more the stress can manifest.
"Thought alone can facilitate the secretion of hormones and chemicals into the bloodstream that provoke a mental or physical reaction. The heart rate may rise, blood pressure become elevated, (hypertension), stomach may secrete acid, the muscles may tighten, etc... So within this corpse pose there is a practice happening..." - Bryan Kest
But "meditation helps with anxiety," right? So why are some experiencing anxiety FROM meditation? The answer is that the anxiety is often aggravated because we're so unaccustomed to living in the present moment that when that's all we have (no other distractions), our subconscious freaks out. This, in turn, can elevate the heart rate and cause panic attack symptoms. It's not that the anxiety is non-existant when we're not meditating, but that anxiety is just often easier to repress or ignore in daily life. When we meditate, we're at our most vulnerable to emotion, so our subconscious fear of facing the anxiety triggers the "fight or flight" response in our body. This is why most savasana-haters can still feel peaceful during their whole yoga practice, but not once the body settles to stillness. The mind has no escape.

It may be difficult to open up about savasana anxiety because many other yogis experience such relaxation and restoration from savasana.  Don't let their post-savasana bliss get you down...all you need to do is come at your anxious feelings from a different angle to work toward that awesome savasana you've always wanted.

1) Start with other types of meditation. The most helpful tip I know of is to start a regular practice with other types of meditation outside of your yoga. 
A) Mantra meditation is an easy way to customize your practice for whatever you need that day. Just one word or phrase repeated in your head or outloud can be a powerful way to start creating new pathways in your mind and body.
B) Guided meditation is also often helpful because your mind is staying active focusing on the words, rather than trying to be totally quiet.
C) Walking meditation is a great option because it's another type of gentle movement meditation (in the same way that yoga asana practice is a movement meditation). But unlike yoga in the studio, you are alone in nature, there is less stimulation, no instructor and less direction. You might even choose to sit quietly during your walk, observing nature. It's a great step toward being okay with yourself.
D) Mandala meditation is just the act of coloring in a mandala. There are no other specific instructions for this one, it's just meant to be a relaxing, creative and quiet activity. Some of my more anxious students have had great luck with mandala meditation.
2) Try a different savasana position. Please don't be shy about the position you choose for your meditation!  If you only seem to experience anxiety lying down in savasana, try it on your side or seated. Maybe you feel self-conscious about doing something different when your teacher doesn't cue it, but remember that your instructor can only offer suggestions. He or she doesn't know what you need and it's YOUR practice. I'm sure that your yoga instructor would much rather see you enjoying a seated meditation than struggling through or leaving before savasana.

3) Focus on something else. The act of trying to focus on "the present" can be a little too subtle sometimes. It might help to open the eyes and focus on a drishti or "look" at the shapes behind your inner eyelids while keeping them closed. Focusing on a sound (such as the ticking of a clock) or counting may also help to get you out of your own head.

4) Allow and observe your thoughts. Once you begin to get comfortable with some form of mindfulness meditation, "observe" might be a helpful mantra. If you find you're experiencing discomfort, physically during yoga or mentally during savasana, notice it, allow it and move on. Thoughts cannot ever be stopped completely, but you must allow yourself to surrender to that fact.

A helpful metaphor I like to use for meditation is to picture your thoughts as clouds in a sky or fish in the ocean. They come in, you observe them, they float away. Each one, one at a time.

5)  Pay attention to your diet. Nobody wants to hear a self-righteous yogi on a high-horse lamenting the dangers of caffeine and sugar, but it's something to consider. Caffeine and sugar (even natural sugars from fruit) are both adrenal suppressants and since the adrenal gland is responsible for the secretion of stress hormones...I'm just saying. (Here's a great explanation of the relationship between these foods and your body.)

6) Do. Not. Give. Up. Whatever you do, please don't give up. The fact that you're struggling with mindfulness meditation is your body telling you that there is an underlying issue or something you need to work through. Savasana is important and it is beneficial, but if you never face your anxiety to work toward that place of safety and comfort with your own mind, you can expect your stress level to stay the same or elevate. 

One way or another, it's important to remember that you're always practicing something. If savasana in the traditional sense doesn't work for you right now, that's okay. Come at it from a different angle to trick your subconscious into loving it. :) Namaste

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

winter perspective

Image courtesy of the talented Etsy artist, Charlene Freeman
I get it. It's snowing, icing, freezing, cloudy...etc. Everybody knows it, nobody has time for it and everybody is commuting in it, shoveling it or worrying about it. But for some of us, it's practically become an idol: you just LOVE to hate it. Even those who aren't naturally whiney are turning into miserable company...every year. For like 5 months.  

Allow me to help you get a grip. I know it's not always the winter wonderland you hear of in Christmas songs, but there really is a better way to live your winter life.

1) Put the whole "inconvenience" factor in perspective. You think shoveling your driveway is inconvenient? It's exercise. Hiking 10 miles to retrieve fresh water is inconvenient. Is your little commute messy and inconvenient? How about not having a job to commute to? That's inconvenient.

2) Look at it. I mean really look at it, the way you used to when you were 5. Go somewhere quiet and watch the snow. Winter is one of my absolute favorite times to be in the woods because it's SO quiet and no one else seems to get it, so I'm usually quite alone.

3) Dress appropriately. It's natural to be cold and frustrated when your wardrobe is in more denial than you are about the weather. You'll be happier if you worry less about looking fashionable and more about being warm and practical. Especially if you're spending any time outside to shovel or walk, invest in a good waterproof pair of boots, snow pants and don't forget a hat.

4) Do something fun in it. Winter sports aren't for everyone, but even if you're too crabby to ski or go sled-riding, build a little snowman! (Be sure to refer to #3)

5) Allow extra time for everything. This is a given, but often neglected aspect of those who hate winter. Don't expect your commute to take the same amount of time when you have to dig out, defrost and drive safely. Pop in a nice audio book and slooooooow dooooown.

6) Live in the moment. Everyone has a favorite season, but it's called a "season" because it is temporary. Remember that and savor all 4. 

Also remember: most of us have at least some control over where we live. If you truly can't get over the fact that you live in a temperate zone, then maybe it's time to consider relocating. Or, if you can't move, for the love of your own sanity and everyone around you: suck it up. :) Namaste!