Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Getting Focused, with Intention

Focus isn't about tuning out distractions, it's about engaging in the object or activity of your intent. When you get there, the distractions soften or lose focus, as in the photo. They are still there, but your mind is not attending clearly to them. In yoga, we call this Drishti.  It is the intention of the practice.

How does it work?  If you set an intention to get healthy, where is your focus?  Is it on what you can not eat?  Or, is it focused on the delicious freshness, texture, color, of what you are eating and what you can eat?  We focus on the wrong thing!  

When trying to make improvements in our lives, we are stuck on the negative - what I don't like about this new habit, what isn't going well, what doesn't work, what I'm not good at.  The brain is good at this stuff!  We have to be purposeful and intentional about training the brain toward the positive, the healthy, the new.  It will hold on tightly to the old ways, because patterns are what it does best.  It will hold on to the cheapest, easiest rewards (like fatty chips and sweet donuts).  But, you can train it, with focus and intent, to like the healthy stuff!

Here are some ways:

1.  Pick one sense.  Smell, sight, sound?  Then, settle comfortably into a position where you can fully be absorbed by that sense.  Examples are to lie down with aromatherapy oils in a diffuser or carefully placed just under your nose.  Another is to sit back with music playing.  Or, try lighting a candle and watching the flame intently.  Every time your mind thinks about something else or engages in some other sense (AND IT WILL!) just settle back into your chosen sense.  This can be done with taste and touch as well.

2.  Wear a rubber band or watch on one wrist.  Get specific about the negative thought pattern you want to change.  Remember, you have to train your mind to pay attention to what you now want and not what you are changing away from.  Let's say you intend to be more positive about how you think about yourself.  Every time you think a negative thought about yourself, change the wrist you are wearing the watch or band on and say a positive thought about yourself.  Your first goal will be to get through a day without the negative thought.  Then, expand that to a week, then a month.

Remember, your brain is a patterned entity.  Your conscious thoughts are not in charge, the trained patterns located in the unconscious part of the brain are really what's in charge of most of what we do and think all day.  You have to train your brain to focus on new patterns with intention and purpose!

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

How Does Gratitude Heal? Here are 7 Ways...

It's everywhere right now - be grateful!  It might be overused, but the reason for the ubiquitousness of a simple practice such as gratitude is that there is research behind it.  So, pay attention!  Also, if you are just plain sick of the word gratitude, then use something else - awesome, love, happy, good, great, connected, etc.  If you are a regular reader, then we have talked about this before, but if not or you need a refresher, listen up:  the brain is super good at negativity!  Super good.  It is an evolutionary thing - the brain thinks its job is survival.  And, it is.  However, the job description in the past century has changed,  No longer need to look out for the dangers of the wilderness, do we?  And, I hate to be critical, but the brain's evolutionary abilities are really, really, slow.  So, it is paying attention to a whole lot of scary, negative stuff and that stuff is really not helping us live healthier and longer.

What that means is that if you have negativity swirling around up there most of the time - critical thoughts, judgement, patterns of detrimental thinking, (need I go on?), then you need to retrain your brain toward positivity.  Your brain is up there paying attention to what sucks about your day and it is getting better and better at it each day, because you are literally practicing negativity.  Again, if you read my blog often, you know this: the brain gets better at whatever it is you practice and do.  The more you do it, the better the brain gets at it.  A gratitude practice is training the brain to get better at paying attention to and thinking about the good stuff.

So, let's get started:

Breathe:  Lie on a roller, as in the photo.  If you don't have a roller, you can roll up an extra yoga mat or a
blanket, or some pillows and create a position like in the photo.  Knees are together and feet are wider than the hips.  This position relaxes the hip area and the psoas muscle.  Let you arms rest with your palms up.  Inhale and fill the chest with the breath.  Exhale and relax into the shoulder blades - opening the front of the body.  This is one of those exercises I call an "anti-slumper."  Good for breathing, good for posture, good for feeling more positive.  Slumping actually makes us feel less positive.  Try it.  Slump, then stand tall and see how each feels.

Meditate:  You can do this meditation in the above position or any comfortable position.  I think it is a great meditation to do right before sleep, while lying in bed.  We often lie in bed thinking of things we regret about the day or all of the things we have to do the following day.  How about going to bed with a positive mindset?  First off, you have to decide:  Is this a gratitude practice?  Or, maybe it is about love or happiness or something else.  Bring to mind something or some things or someone that makes you feel the feeling.  Play it like a movie in your mind.  Let the feeling grow and stay with it as long as you like.  Your mind will wander, maybe even get critical.  Don't react, don't get frustrated, just come back to your movie, come back to your feeling of gratitude (or other).  If it is before bed, you will fall asleep to positive thoughts!

Relax:  Progressive relaxation is the most common method of relaxation.  It is easy to do and requires no guidance, but if you really want to be guided or get a better idea of what it is, here is a video.  Lie down and go through each part of your body, either toes up or head down and make sure each part is relaxed.  You could tighten and release the muscles in each area or just give them a shake or a wiggle to relax.  Inhale to tighten, exhale to release.  In this version, however, add gratitude or appreciation.  Say, "I am grateful" for each area of the body.  And be grateful!  Might seem weird to send gratitude to your toes, but I guarantee, if you hurt your toe or lose your toe, it will not be pleasant.  So, let's not take anything for granted!

Cognitive Behavior Therapy:  Cognitive therapies are all about changing your thinking.  I already covered the need for the change and how the brain does that negative thing above.  Moving on..... get a journal or some paper for this exercise.  The reason is that writing is a whole different part of the brain than thinking or talking.  Writing is the motor part of the brain,  If we get multiple areas of the brain involved in a practice, it sticks!  So, daily get out your journal or your paper and write down what you are grateful for (see photo).  Or, write "this is what I loved about today..." Or, "What was amazing today?" Or, "What went well today?"  Your question, your words, your focus - just make it positive!  Could be one thing or 20 things, just write.

Power Pose:  Warrior I pose is a favorite pose of mine and this photo by Candace is full of great cues to get it right.  Hold your hands at your heart to feel gratitude expand with the power of the pose!

Affirmation:  You gotta do it.  People feel awkward, silly, and even resistant to affirmations.  Really?  If you can't affirm yourself, then you will be looking around outside yourself for validation and I promise you, that is not the best source.  Plus, it is totally exhausting to do so.  Write this affirmation down and put it somewhere that you will see regularly.  Say it out loud regularly.  Look at yourself in the mirror and say it to yourself regularly.  Is the regularly part clear? It's important - see above for that whole bit about practice.  Choose an affirmation from this list or make one up yourself.

Chant: Ommmmm.... is a very powerful chant for bringing all creatures and beings into a mindset of love and acceptance.  This is a variation on Om that makes for more space within, because the tone and the feeling it creates in the body changes as the sound and tone changes.  Make Om into 3 syllables or tones:  AhhhhhhOhhhhhhMmmmmmmmm.........repeat.

Find positivity by practicing the above 7 skills as often as possible.  You have to train the mind and body into new patterns!  Contact me with comments or questions:  tammysytsma@circleofstoneswellness.com OR check out the services on my website for info. about individual sessions and group sessions offered.  circleofstoneswellness.com

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Feeling Lonely, Unfulfilled in Your Relationships? Ways to Deepen Your Connection to Others

In a world of billions, many of us feel lonely.  In our own households and work places, surrounded by people, we feel separate and removed.  The social part of us is now believed to be an innate, survival mechanism that is incredibly important in mental health and physical health.  Yes, it is true that people with good social connections and enough intimacy and support, get sick less.  Mainly because it is
stressful to feel alone.  It is stressful to feel like there is no one at your side, supporting you, comforting you, laughing and sharing with you.  Stress equates to lower immune system function among many other systems that get turned down when stress hormones are floating around in our bodies.  So, it is in our best interests to cultivate stronger connections with others for both physical and mental health reasons.

While it is true that others in our world can cause feelings that contribute to our feeling lonely and unsupported, loneliness is basically an internal concept that requires internal work and healing.  Some of the work might be external, but the internal work is most important for feeling connected to others, because asking for, no, requiring what you need in relationships and being vulnerable emotionally is your job.  And, being strong enough to be vulnerable and be strong means you need to start with self.  Here's how:

Breathe:  If you visualize someone who is disconnected, alone, standing off as a wallflower in a crowded room, notice the posture.  The posture is closed, hunched forward.  This kind of posture limits the breath, because the muscles and structures that allow us to breathe are squashed by the closed off posture.
Try it.  Hunch over, breathe as full a breath as possible and exhale it out.  Now, sit upright and breathe as full a breath as possible.  Much better!  Pay attention to your breathing posture throughout the day.  Improved breath will link to improved mood, improved mood will link to improved breath and both will mean more confidence and self-assurance! This is your first step in creating the internal change needed for your external connections.

Meditate:  Loving-kindness meditation can take many forms as far as words go.  The true Buddhist wording of the script can be intimidating to those not studying Buddhism.  However, there are other more secular phrases available as in this example and guide:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=77MgkADxcyk  The benefit of choosing this meditation is that it begins with self, before moving on to others.  The compassion and love begins with self.  If you can create a strong, compassionate connection to self, then moving on to others is less daunting and more genuine.  The connections you create with others are real and fulfilling when you begin with self.

Relax:  When you settle in to relax, how about adding some compassion?  Lie down comfortably in a relaxed pose. Then, as you relax each area of the body, say, "I love and appreciate this area of my body."  If this feels weird, do it anyway!  We are very capable of sending messages of disgust, rejection, and displeasure to parts of our bodies.  Time to improve on the positive side, with feelings of appreciation and acceptance.

Cognitive Behavior Therapy:  What messages are sending in your mind throughout the day?  Are they encouraging you to make connections?  Are these messages empowering?  Are the messages kind?  If the patterns of thought you engage in during the day continue to make you feel lonely and disconnected from others, or make you feel unable to set the boundaries and requirements for more fulfilling relationships, then it is time to change them.

Think of these discouraging and disempowering thoughts as recordings that have power behind them.  Each time one comes up, disempower it by creating good posture, take a good breath (see above) and say a new message/thought.  Every time you do this, you begin the process of weakening those recorded thoughts and you change them to healthier thoughts that will help you to create better connections with those around you.

Power Pose:  Goddess pose is a variation on Temple pose.  The power of the pose
is very evident.  Start with the legs and add the arms last.  Your feet are turned out about 45 degrees.  Your knees are going to be bent directly over your ankles, so place your feet at a width that feels do-able.  Hold your pelvis straight up and down.  You do this by tilting the tailbone straight to the floor.  Now, lift the low abdominal muscles.  This lift feels like what you do when you have to urinate (lovely yoga language, eh?), but you stop the flow of urine and hold.  This muscle is your power source!  Now. place your hands palms together in front of your heart and slowly open them out to the position pictured, still holding strong in the lower abdominal region.  As you hold, add the affirmation given below.

Affirmation:  "I am strongly connected to and compassionate with myself and with others."

Chant:  Use this chant to deepen your connection to all - self and others.  "Ham-sa" Pronounced as "Hum-sah"  It is not always necessary to say it out loud, but the benefits of sound make it worthwhile to so.

Find deeper connections by practicing the above 7 skills as often as possible.  You have to train the mind and body into new patterns!  Contact me with comments or questions: tammysytsma@circleofstoneswellness.com  OR check out the services on my website for info. about individual sessions and group sessions offered.  circleofstoneswellness.com

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Fully Aware = Fully Happy! Here's How to Use Awareness for Good Mental Health

Many times when life is difficult, we disconnect, we avoid, we become less aware.  Because, difficulties are painful, uncomfortable, and not at all enjoyable.  It makes sense.  However, the best way for difficult situations and emotions to become easier is not through avoidance.  It is by leaning in, fully aware and fully invested.  Because so many of us avoid and disconnect, we go through our days completely unaware of many aspects of what is going on in the body and in the mind and in the communication the two are having.  We eat, even if we're not hungry.  We put things in our bodies, even though they make us feel awful later.  We spend time on screens that result in terrible sleep patterns.  We walk through the day thirsty and have no idea what that feeling of malaise is caused by.  We allow thoughts that are detrimental and exhausting to go through our heads willy nilly with no regulation.  And, we stuff emotions deep down and distract ourselves with busy tasks, so they stay down there.

Avoiding, stuffing, and disconnecting create unhealthy patterns that the brain and the body begin to follow until you feel overwhelmed by poor mental health and/or physical health symptoms and have to face them. This can all be remedied early on with awareness.  Leaning in to whatever you are feeling when things are great, when things are neutral and especially when things are difficult, is the best way to regulate the processes of the mind and body AND create more contentment, pleasure and joy in your life.

1.  Breathe:  Awareness of the breath is a powerful tool, easily at the ready anytime, anywhere.  Think about the unconscious space the breath is usually in - you don't think about it, it just happens.  Often that means the breath is shallow.  Very few of us unconsciously breathe deep, full breaths.  This is a problem, because the deep, full breath is the breath that communicates relaxing and releasing.  So, we need to make the breath more conscious.  Stop regularly throughout your day and breathe full breaths into the belly, exhaling out long and slow for at least 4 rounds, it takes about 1 minute to do this.  Try a minimum of twice a day, but do more, if possible.

2.  Meditate:  Meditation is awareness - awareness of the present.  Awareness of this moment in time and not the past and not the future.  A really lovely and easy way to connect to the present moment is to sit comfortably, relax into the rhythm of the breath, and as you breathe, say these words:  "I breathe in present moment, I breathe out this is a wonderful moment."  Allow a slight smile to form on your face.  This smile is the most relaxing muscular position for the face, but it also signals to the brain to send out a wave of contentment to the body.  When your mind wanders off to some future worry or task, some thought or story, some past regret or sorrow, come back to "present moment, wonderful moment."

3.  Relax:  Progressive relaxation is a very common exercise that teaches awareness of the tension held in the body.  We all have habitual muscle tension - a shoulder that creeps up, shoulder and neck muscles that become hard as rock, low back aches due to tension in hips, etc.  We aren't even aware it is there until it is so uncomfortable, it can no longer be ignored.  The tension in the body communicates to the brain that something is not ok and the brain communicates to the body to be on alert.  Back and forth go these messages and soon it is just a pattern and the question which came first -the thought or the tension no longer matters.  This exercise takes us through the muscle groups of the body, creating tension, then releasing it.  Try it anytime, but it is especially helpful before sleep.  This video guide will take you through just 7 1/2 minutes of the yoga practice Savasana, which commonly uses the progressive relaxation technique.

4.  Cognitive Behavior Therapy:  For this exercise, you will need a rubber band, a hair band, or a watch or bracelet that can be easily moved from one wrist to the other.  As mentioned earlier, we often go through the day unaware of the thinking patterns that are running around in our minds willy nilly.  When we do become aware, we are uncomfortable or even made miserable by their detrimental effects.  In an effort to create awareness AND change, we will begin the day with the band on the right wrist.  Each time you catch yourself having a negative or unwanted thought, move the band to the other wrist.  Target which thoughts you want to be aware of.  For example, you might want to be aware of thoughts that are critical of self.  When you catch a critical thought, move the band to the other wrist and say something either to oppose the thought or to let go of it. Keep going back and forth whenever you are aware of the negative thinking.  Continue for days, weeks, months, until you have eliminated the thought.

5.  Power Pose:  Mountain pose does not look like much is going on, but that is what is so important this guide to be aware of the points in the body that allow for a strong, balanced standing position.
about it.  Just standing is never just standing - we want to stand with strength, balance, and ease.   Use this guide to learn the cues for mountain pose.

6.  Affirm:  Since awareness means being present and knowing what is happening right now, we really need to understand why that has power.  Yes, it is important to understand and study the past for insight and learning.  Yes, it is important to plan for the future to set goals and dream.  Being present does not negate these.  When you set aside time to look at the past, then look at the past.  Don't let thoughts about the past take over when you are in the middle of other tasks.  When you set aside time to look at your dreams and set goals, that is the time to let those dreams come to mind, not when you are busy with current activities.  The reason is that it makes for poor effort in the present and the present is what actually creates the future.  Example, the present is unpleasant.  Life just is not what you would like it to be, so you spend time dreaming about the future and ways things could be better.  And, you spend time looking back with sadness and regret at the past.  Now, you are better at regret and you are better at dreaming.  But, you are not better at acting on what needs getting done right now.  What you practice, your brain gets better at doing!  So, affirm:  "All that I desire in my life is created in my actions and thoughts right now.  In the present, I create my future and I release my past."

7.  Chant:  We all know how to hum, right?  Who knew humming was also healing?  In today's exercise, hum at various keys.  You don't have to know what those keys are, just start low, hum, breathe in, hum a bit higher, breathe in, hum a bit higher, keep going.  As you are humming, feel the vibration inside you, where is it?  It will change as you change your pitch.  You might even find the perfect pitch for your peace of mind!

Change your life by practicing the above 7 skills - every day!  Contact me with comments or questions:  tammysytsma@circleofstoneswellness.com  OR check out the services on my website - there might be something there perfect for your needs!  circleofstoneswellness.com

Tammy is a Licensed Professional Counselor and Certified Yoga Therapist.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Need to Clear Out Old Patterns and Start New? Try These Practices!

In yoga we talk about Samskara as actions taken to clear out the old and bring in the new.  Sometimes we say we want something in our lives to change, but there is actually not space for that to happen.  Maybe there needs to be physical space, mental space, emotional space, or all three in order to get something new in place.  Think of the goal of getting in better health:  make space in the pantry for healthy choices, make space in the schedule for exercise, and make space in your mind for a new routine and a new way of approaching meals, the body, and daily life.  That is what a renewal practice is all about.

The body and the mind are set up to follow patterns.  Everything we do in a day is a pattern the mind and the body have been trained to do.  Don't take this amazing fact for granted!  How hard would it be to brush your teeth if you had to think about every movement, if you had to calculate the aim of the brush getting to your mouth, even all the actions needed to spit?  The brain and the body have memories that keep all of this so easy for us.  But, these same patterned ways are sometimes detrimental.  In these instances it is really hard to change the pattern.  The first step, however, is to make space - clear out the old and make space for the new!  It is a process.  It takes patience and time to retrain the patterns, so be kind, be aware, and be persistent.

1)  Breathe:  The breath is always a great tool for change, because the automatic processes of the system are called into conscious thought.  In other words, they become less automatic.  Use the breath to be aware of the processes you want to bring in and those you want to release.  Inhale through the nose, thinking of what you want to bring in as a pattern/habit.  Exhale loudly through the mouth "haaaaaa" thinking of what you want to release.  For example, "breathing in, I bring in patience and compassion, breathing out, I release frustration and impatience."

2)  Meditate:  A great way to make a habit become active is to get the brain ready.  Get the pattern set in the brain and your actions and behaviors will then more easily follow.  Sports psychologists use this all the time:  http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/23/sports/olympics/olympians-use-imagery-as-mental-training.html?_r=0  The brain changes to accommodate the imagery you create.  We will take it further with this meditation.  We will use imagery, words, and feelings to change your brain in the direction of your new pattern.  In this meditation, you imagine your new way of being.  Then, you feel what it would feel like.  Then, you create words to match and encourage the feeling.  Try it with help from this video.

3)  Relax:  Patterns are not just what we think and how the nervous system reacts.  We have muscle and structural patterns.  We have temperature and other regulation patterns in the body.  The brain and the body and all of these systems are continually communicating about these patterned processes.  Brain/body communication is just beginning to be an area of research.  We don't know a whole lot.  But, we do know that the bio-chemicals and neuro-transmitters in the body are doing alot of the communication.  We can affect some of these communicators!

Lie down and get comfortable and decide how you want to feel.  Maybe today's pattern has been to run around from one busy task to the next.  Maybe you woke up feeling anxious and that anxiety has not left. The communication so far has been cortisol, epinephrine, adrenaline.  Choose a new feeling.  Think of things, places, people that make you feel what you are choosing to feel.  Then, imagine those neuro-transmitters flowing through your body (this really does happen!).  Imagine each cell from the tips of your toes to the top of your head feeling this new feeling.  You are changing the communicators from cortisol and his friends to maybe a nice mix of serotonin and dopamine or a bit of oxytocin.

4)  Cognitive Behavior Therapy:  Thought patterns are really strong.  People tend to give up on changing them pretty quickly.  We have this deep belief in free will - if I decide to change, I should
change.  If I can't, then it must be that my willpower is not strong enough.  This belief makes change incredibly hard.  The decision to change is really important, but then the efforts toward actually making the change need to be routine and regular, patient and persistent.  Not because you don't have free will, but because the brain and the body need you to train them into the new pattern!  It's not just a decision, it's a process.

Begin by being aware of what you are saying to yourself now.  Take one or two negative things you are saying and begin to make the effort to change those to something more encouraging.  For example, "I am just _____________ (fill it in) and I will always be _______________"  Not helping and not true.  You have no idea what you will be in the future, but certainly your actions will follow your thoughts and if your thoughts are saying you will always be ______________, then, yep, you probably will.  Change the negative thoughts as often as you catch them in your head throughout the day,  Do this for months.  Yes, months.  That is how long it will take to change the persistent strength of brain patterns.  Be patient.  Be persistent.

5)  Power Pose:  Let's go back to the research on power posing.  Yes, there are questions about it's efficacy.  I'm willing to wait the researchers out, because Power Posing is so darn easy and takes so little time and because it seems so plausible.
 If I want to feel really confident, I tend to wear what makes me feel confident in myself.  If I need to feel comfortable, I do the same.  Not to mention that the idea of "fake it 'til you make it" is a real thing.  Go back to patterns.  How you stand reflects how you feel.  So, practice standing strong, confident or whatever it is you are trying to feel.  Do "as if" until you DO.

6)  Affirm:  Repeat, hang it somewhere easily read, say it out loud to yourself in the mirror (really!), and respond to denials in your thinking with this:  "Today I choose to believe in and experience my strong, motivated, and capable Self."

7)  Chant:  This chant has a lot of syllables.  Syllables that are not familiar to many of those reading.  But, it is worth the effort to learn.  It is a mantra for new beginnings.  Om Vinayakaya Namaha (Om Vee-nah-yah Kah-yah Nah-mah-hah).

Put your practice into place regularly and you'll soon feel that clearing out of old patterns.  Then, you have room for those new patterns of thought and behavior.  Contact me at: tammysytsma@circleofstoneswellness.com  OR check out my website or Facebook page for more information and guidance!  circleofstoneswellness.com

Friday, October 14, 2016

Get Centered!

"Go in and in.  Be the space between two cells. The vast, resounding silence in which spirit dwells."
 This is an excerpt from a poem by Danna Faulds.  It is hard to explain what it means to be centered.  Yes, maybe it is about spirit.  Maybe it is about space.  The benefit for mental health is that it is certainly a way to be disconnected from the external world and reconnected with the internal.  It feels less chaotic, less splintered and more complete, whole.  It feels stable, controlled, while at the same time ethereal.  In the poem, she uses the words, ecstatic, infinite, essence.  Yes, all of those.  Want to experience it?  Here's how:

1) Breathe:  The breath is a great tool for centering.  It is necessary to begin the process of centering.  Begin at the tip of your nose.  Here you can feel the breath go in, cool and dry.  Follow the breath through the nasal passages, down the wind pipe to your center space.  Repeat as many times as necessary.  Let the breath travel deeper and deeper until you feel connected to your center.

2)  Meditate:  The meditation and the breath go together.  Once you get to center through the breathing, stay there.  Wherever you imagine your center to be, stay there after however many breaths it takes.  When your mind wanders away, and it will, bring it back by following the breath inward once again.  Then, stay centered, disconnected from the busy-ness of the brain, the noise and activity of the external world.

3)  Relax:  The relaxation exercise combines the breath and the meditation.  Lie down comfortably with arms at your sides - in savasana pose, as in the picture.  Now breathe in toward center as
described above and get settled in your center space.  Stay there.  As you keep your awareness on this spiritual center, let go of your physical awareness.  So, your extremities begin to fade from your awareness and the power of center grows and expands, like the core of a bright star.  Let that energy radiate outward.

4)  Cognitive Behavior Therapy:  We tend to connect strongly to our thoughts.  Every thought, no matter how silly it might be, no matter how lacking in reality, has power, just because it is in the mind.  We give credence to our thoughts rather than treating them as what they are - patterns, recordings that have been put there.  The mind is not a truth creator.  It is a pattern maker and follower.  If your thoughts are causing you pain, then you need to change the patterns of your thoughts.  Practicing the centering meditation, decreases the power of our thoughts.  We disconnect from them and place our focus and therefore our power in center.  If you practice this exercise regularly, you will gradually find that when a painful thought pops into mind, you can place it aside.  Our thoughts should not control us, but we control the thoughts.

5)  Power Pose:  The power of temple pose comes from center.  In this pose, you need to think of
internal muscles in the lower abdomen.  These muscles are neglected, but incredibly important to structural physical health.  Lift the pelvic floor - think of needing to urinate and stop it - that's the muscle.  Additionally, get the transversus abdominus involved by pushing the space between the hip bones and lower back toward your tail bone.  This strong center space is your strong physical center. Once it is engaged, move your arms - left and stretch, but keep the lower abdominal area strong. Use this strength from now on throughout the day.

6)  Affirmation:  Start your day with this affirmation.  Write it down and carry it with you as a reminder not to let the storm clouds take over.  "When I seek what I think I want and need outside myself, my days are fog and storminess; when I sit in my center, my days are clear and calm."

7) Chant:  The most centering chant is "Om"  Say the chant as "Ahhhhhh....ohhhhhhh....mmmmmm"  These sounds are very calming and make us feel connected to spirit - to center.

Practice the above 7 skills as often as possible to change the patterns of your mind, body, and spirit and support good mental health.  Contact me with comments or questions: tammysytsma@circleofstoneswellness.com  OR check out the services on my website for info. about individual sessions and group sessions offered.  circleofstoneswellness.com

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Feeling Powerless? Your Inner Power is There! 7 Ways to Find Your Inner Power Source

Empowerment can be a societal and cultural process.  But, without personal empowerment, all the cultural and societal efforts we can muster will be meaningless.  Feeling personally empowered
means to have trust and faith in your own abilities to regulate your emotions, choose your reactions to the world around you, and find ways to create the life you want to create for yourself.  Personal power creates resiliency.  With a sense of personal power and some societal and/or cultural supports in place, success, happiness, and community are possible!

Empowerment does not mean the kind of dictatorship-like power we often see exemplified in society.  This is not real internal power. It is a forced, tyrannical power that benefits no one.  Internal power has trust, faith, empathy, and knowledge of self.  This, in turn, creates benefit to all.  Time to get in touch with your internal power source!

1)  Breathe:  The 3 part breath is the best breath for many learning and using self-regulation successfully.  In this breath, you first breathe fully into the belly which is also known as belly breathing or diaphragmatic breathing.  Then, expand the breath into the lower part of the lungs and then up to the collar bones.  The most challenging part is to get used to releasing the breath from the top down - collar bones, rib cage, belly.  Here is a guide:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ohoW8mdi07w&feature=youtu.be

2)  Meditate:  Jon Kabat-Zinn included this meditation in his book Wherever You Go There You
Are.  It is meant to create a sense of inner power.  It is a short 5 minutes and once you practice it for - 5-7 days, you can then invoke the feeling it creates at anytime.  The goal is to train your brain, your nervous system and your body to connect to this feeling and the more you connect, the more powerful you feel!  Here is your guide:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qTKY2BWV05Y

3)  Relax:  Circle of power relaxation: This technique can be used from a seated position or lying down.  Imagine a circle drawn around you.  When I am seated I refer to this as my hula hoop space.  Within this circle you are in charge of the energy - nothing comes in and nothing goes out, unless you allow it.  Fill the circle with calm, relaxing energy.  Fill the circle with peace.  Imagine that as you breathe, you are breathing in the peace.  Also, your skin is soaking in the peace.  Every cell in your body is filling with calm relaxing energy.  Stay with this for as long as you want.

4)  Cognitive Behavior Therapy:  Use the above skill set - imagine yourself in a circle of power - or within your hula hoop space.  Remember, you are in charge of what you allow in or out from that space.  Decide what energy to fill it with - confidence, strength, joy, faith.  Anything you choose can fill the circle.  Then, breathe in the energy and soak in the energy.  Do this often and train your systems to feel the way you are choosing to feel.

5)  Power Pose:  Warrior poses are good poses for connecting to inner strength.  In this series, 3 warrior poses are combined in a strong flow sequence.  It is short, but powerful, so try it!

6)  Affirm:  Combine this affirmation with the above breathing technique and/or the meditation for an even more powerful practice!  "I am strong and powerful.  I am confident and capable.  I have an infinite source of power within."

7)  Chant:  The 2 chants ham-sa and so-ham both mean "I am."  But, they work in different energetic directions.  So-ham (pronounced so-hum) is relaxing while ham-sa (hum-sah) is energizing.  For a greater sense of power and strength, practice ham-sa.

Find your inner power source by practicing the above 7 skills as often as possible.  You have to train the mind and body into new patterns!  Contact me with comments or questions: tammysytsma@circleofstoneswellness.com  OR check out the services on my website for info. about individual sessions and group sessions offered.  circleofstoneswellness.com