6. YOGA THERAPY FOR MENTAL CLARITY

6. YOGA THERAPY FOR MENTAL CLARITY

The minds original state is called Buddhi in Sanskrit. Its inherent quality is clear, deep, reflective and still like a mountain lake. Each impression can be seen as a causing ripples, distorting the image of what is actually infront of us. Learning the tools and steps involved in using those tools adjusted to the individuals’ needs is the science of yoga therapy.

Yoga therapy is based on scientific and medical evidence integrating the lastest western findings with ancient eastern practices. It combines the best of both worlds and is specific in it’s aims of health development. Whether physical, physiological, neural, or psychological, when east meets west, we can move mountains and return to the pure lake of Buddhi.

That said, for many of us who’ve tried everything in the books, on the net and from specialists and well meaning individuals, we can still feel like we’re going round in circles.

WHY MENTAL CALM CAN SEEM IMPOSSIBLE

Mental calm is cultivated through withdrawing the senses from the outer world to the inner experience. Stopping the incoming flow of information is the first step. Allowing us to process, mentally digest, all we’ve already taken in. The input also needs and output. If there’s not enough time for output we end up with mental and psychological constipation.

Mindfulness, breath awareness, concentration and meditation are the most common practices used acting as the conscious output of mental impressions.

But when our nervous system is on high alert and hormones with messages of threat or excitement course between systems, these tools can fail us. Sitting with our feelings of wired restlessness and nervous states can make us feel even more out of control. That’s why specific trainings or a therapist guiding the process are so essential in healing from complex conditions such as burnout, anxiety, addiction and obsession, which involve many different systems as well as different bodies, koshas.

GETTING SPECIFIC HELP PREVENTS FURTHER LACK OF CONFIDENCE

Therapists specializing in, or trainings specifically aimed at, calming the nervous system through evidence based research, enables us to more effectively access a state of mental tranquility. Having a spillover effect on hormones, which in turn affect every other system within the body, from digestion to sleep to immunity and brain health.

The quicker we get out of the exhaustion and disconnection cycle, the less it eats away at our self confidence and esteem. Preventing the associated wiring and mindset of inability to cope, confusion and lack of energy. Knowing why and how we are to move out, and feeling not alone in our situation, removes the shame, guilt and stigma. Again, essential to reclaiming our mental health.

MENTAL HEALTH IS THE BASIS OF MOVING THROUGH & FORWARD

One reason mental calm and clarity evade us might be the unconscious habit of not expressing clearly what we perceive, feel and see as the right approach, steps or actions to take. Swallowing our knowledge and views, we people please, holding back for fear of… fill the blank, and therefore unintentionally, and mostly well-intentionally, create distortion overwhelm. Muddying the lake.

Mental health equals mental digestion. Mental health is the state where what comes in also has enough mental space to be digested, assimilated, integrated and eliminated. Creating projects, trainings, communication or other action based steps that express our minds’ perception and recreation from those experiences, is how we eliminate mental build up.

The extreme mental overwhelm during burnout is alleviated by mental distancing and disconnection. Re-creating the mental space to digest. Moving through the mire in our minds’ contents allows it to rise to the surface of consciousness. And overtime slowly sink to clarity.

Mental clarity leads to calm and self-agency. Good planning and clear overview of issues helps us rise above the challenges and remember what life is really about- relating and living well.

BASIC TOOLS TO ENHANCE MENTAL DIGESTION

A busy mind is either in the past or the future. Being embodied brings us back to the present moment and relieves mental wandering. To be embodied we can use yogic tools to enhance vagal tone. To set the stage for a smoother path to moving out of burnout we can again rely on western science and eastern tools. We work in these three steps;

  • Vagal activation to move us into rest and digest, yogic breath and body practices create present embodied awareness, a prerequisite for mental digestion and clarity
  • Once we create a habit of vagal activation of PNS, we calm and clarify the mind and feel more capable and confident to deal with change
  • Mental wellbeing is further improved by mental output; journaling, meditation and planning how to deal with set backs, which will happen

Impressions are food for thoughts. Media, films, marketing, books, conversations, ads, ad infinitum. Information and education are forms of mental input. Eat all day and what’s the outcome? Exactly!! Setting ourselves up for mental health success is just as important, if not more so, as work and relationship success. You can only work and relate well when your mental being is well.

RETRUNING TO THE MOUNTAIN LAKE

Mental clarity is reachable with daily moments of mental rest from information and impressions. We have self-agency when we choose our life habits, not when our habits guide our choices and influence our lives. Journaling, breath awareness, conscious movement, sensual experiences, meditation and mindfulness bring us back in our own bodies, minds and values. It’s the exercise and output of our conscious mind and thoughts.

Just 5 mins of PNS activation plus 5-10 mins a day of meditation, creates the mental calm to choose habits wisely. This will give back hours of your day to feel clear and connected to self. And it can be as easy as going for a walk, run or swim in nature, WITHOUT ANY INPUT.

Much Love,

Shira

5. EMOTIONAL EXPRESSION FOR HORMONAL BALANCE

5. EMOTIONAL EXPRESSION FOR HORMONAL BALANCE

In this article we look at why emotional expression is vital to reclaiming wellbeing. The first step, self-knowledge, is the foundation of all the other steps. So, knowing more about our emotions and how they affect our hormones and nervous system; physiology, is key to undoing a vicious burnout cycle.

The next three steps;

  • self-care
  • strength
  • adaptibility, all work on physical and vagal nerve health, indirectly affecting physiology and hormonal balance. This short article looks at our how we can affect our hormonal and physiological health. And why they’re influenced by breath, energy and emotions.

HORMONES THE CHEMICAL EXPRESSION OF EMOTIONS

Hormones are complex. And for women even more1 so because not only do we cycle each month between fertile, full, falling and fallow, we also cycle through a lifetime of complex and wonderful changes that enable us to create an INCREDIBLE NEW LIFE. Fully intelligent, able to grow and evolve on it’s own. Something no science or tech will ever be able to achieve no matter how wealthy and powerful a man becomes. Sorry guys. It’s the one power women will always have till the end of time ;).

It’s also the reason women suffer more often from burnout2; 60%3. because this complexity makes balance a much more precise art of scienctific and chemical self-regulation. Medicine either gives you the chemicals your body isn’t creating, or represses the production of certain chemicals, both due to an underlying imbalance.

These chemicals, Candace Pert PhD., a phenomenally passionate neuroscientist and pharmacologist called the molecules of emotions. These molecules of information are our neurotransmitters and hormones. There’s no difference between them, only that their effect happens in a different part of the body; brain or organs and tissues, and therefore their effects either rapid, seconds, or long lasting, hours.

Hormone means setting in motion. Emotional expression ensures hormonal balance. Emotions are energy in motion and need to move through and out of the bodymind by expression, to avoid build up.

EMOTIONAL EXPRESSION PREVENTS CHEMICAL BUILDUP

They trigger a cascade of chemicals to connect different systems within the entire organism; endocrine, nervous, muscular, organs, respiratory, cardiovascular, lymph and immune, to name a few. Enabling communication of what is going on and which joint effort the organism is to orchestrate; jump up, dance, dive and hold the breath.

When we think, say or do something, we create a feeling within ourselves, which our vagus translates to the brain; visceral/afferent information. The brain responds/emotes to this stimulus with emotions, causing us to act, feel, think and interact in return. It’s the input and output of the chemical charge within our body.

This is healthy.

Anyone who disagrees still believes that we need to supress or manage emotions. Yet it’s not by supressing or managing that we co-create a better world. It’s through emotional awareness and literacy. Being able to discern our emotions and know what prompted them and what steps they want us to take.

Emotions also hold a great deal of energy and charge behind them once they’re released. We need to understand they’re innate message and move with them, rather than repress our body’s inherent wisdom, which leads to hormonal and chemical buildup in the tissues.

HOW EMOTIONS AFFECT HORMONES, MOOD & ENERGY

These curious chemicals are received by the receptors of a cell. The cell starts vibrating with and from this information4, opening up to the orchestrated joint effort, like bees dancing to pass on information of a new nectar source.

Every cell in your body has receptors for every hormone and chemical cocktail our body can make when it has the right building blocks. And we can naturally make all these hormones ourselves. The fact that our endocrine system is both responsive and receptive, to our external as well as internal environment, it needs sufficient rest, intense exercise, healthy whole foods and according to the cycles of the day and year; biorhythms. Affecting our bio-energy, inturn affecting our biochemicals.

Our bio-energy and biochemicals is the basis of our ability to build the blocks of our cells, tissues and more complex systems such as organs and nerves. All chronic disease is due to a chronic chemical imbalance5, which over decades goes on to create dis-organised tissues and organs, unable to communicate, receive or respond well.

We can can reverse this cycle by increasing our ability to absorb, integrate and use these building blocks through improving diet, exercise6 and activities7, both the doing ones, active and productive, and the being ones, reflective; yoga, meditation, mindfullness, gratitude and prayer.

Part of reversing the cycle is listening to what we feel and want to emote and do so in a beneficial way for all involved, we turn the current of energy and hormones from detrimental to beneficial.

Clear, healthy emoting leads to long-term physiological and psychological wellbeing, and inadvertently affects our vagus, brain and nervous health too.

EMOTIONAL CONNECTION IMPROVES RELATIONSHIPS

All this to say, by honouring our own emotional need for expression we allow ourselves and others to truly connect, feel good and therefore allow our receptors to open up to the chemical information our body is communicating. Opening up is a huge part of our bodymind being able to heal.

Relating and relationships, personal and professional, are built on emotions. Living well depends on our emotional literacy and awareness. Helping us distinguish who is sending which energies in any given space, and deciding which steps are set in motion for a healthy outcome, is possible with the first four steps of safety, calm, resilience and adaptibility.

Clearly communicating our feelings and emotions sets healthy boundaries, clears misunderstandings before they mount and prevents psychological overwhelm.

  • Self-expression of emotions leads to physiological homeostasis within mins-hours
  • Emotions are the expression of our subjective feelings. They are not right nor wrong, but personal and meaningful to us. 
  • Emotional literacy enables voicing our feelings beneficially

Life is relating. Emoting is output, feeling is input.

PRACTICE

Because breath affects our physiology and vagus nerve, it influences our hormones too. We can use breath and gestures, which also affect how we feel through neural wiring and the spillover effect to our hormones,

Feel any emotion that’s present right now in your body. Feel its temperature, quality, movement direction and maybe any associated colour. Then strength on a scale from 1-10 of this current. 

  • What event or circumstance is this emotion related to?
  • What is it trying to set in motion?

Now imagine befriending it. Breathe into it and out of it until it starts to open up and move through you. See if you can follow its movement, what is it saying? Can you guide the energy into a direction that benefits you? A poem, a song, dance or bodily movement? Maybe a constructive conversation, change of plan, new project or relationship that honours what you feel about any given situation.

Know it’s ok to feel what you feel, even if it’s not the same as others. It’s subjective and relevant to you. Relating them as a personal is asserting emotional experience without fear of rejection or shame. Enabling you relate issues with confidence as they arise. Changing how you feel, wake up and live each moment is reclaiming wellbeing.

Lack of communication an emoting creates a build-up of electric charge and eventually bogs us down. A healthy sense of self is found when the energetic charge behind the emotion needs is released and directed in an assertive and clear channel; creativity, self-expressive communication, dance, sing and other inventive channels of output.

And we can be creative, benefit ourselves and others while enjoy doing it! Eventually.

Much Love,

Shira


1 https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25273522/

2 https://www.bbc.com/worklife/article/20210928-why-women-are-more-burned-out-than-men?at_medium=custom7&at_custom4=3992428A-389B-11EC-BB6D-CD200EDC252D&at_custom2=facebook_page&at_custom1=%5Bpost+type%5D&at_campaign=64

3 https://barendspsychology.com/burnout-facts/

4 Candace Pert, Molecules of Emotion, Scribner, 1997.

5 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4241367/

6 https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16380698/

7 https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22773769/

4. OPENNESS AND ADAPTABILTY IN RELATING

4. OPENNESS AND ADAPTABILTY IN RELATING

Imagine that no matter how challenging a situation, or how someone presses your buttons, you meet it with grace and clear equanimity. Imagine how great you’d feel. You radiate confidence and self-love, and therefore easily accept and accomodate others.

Rigidity and the habitual are the opposite of adaptibility and acceptance.

Over the last three weeks we’ve looked at how we can reclaim self-knowledge, self-esteem and self-confidence before, during or after, burnout. Once these three steps are integrated in body, mind and psyche, the next step is flexibility and adaptibility, leading to self-acceptance. Because mindful yoga practice is reflective; connects the dots between body, mind and psyche, through physical flexibility we discover mental and emotional adaptability.

How?

PHYSICAL FLEXIBILITY EQUALS PSYCHOLOGICAL ADAPTABILITY

Our physical body is like a map, a template, for our mental and emotional bodies. When it’s flexible and able to move into different spaces and places without too much resistance and friction, it relates this to our mental body through how we feel as we accomodate new dynamics and forms. Take for example nimbly running with your child in the forest, dodging branches and jumping over fallen trees. Your ability to quickly change speed and shape enables you to move with grace, possible when your joints have mobility and muscles flexibility.

Flexibility gives flow to the many physical movements, changes and taking up space in new places. Because Yoga reflects different facets of self, flexibility in body equals adaptibilty of mind. Adaptability gives flow to your relationships and vitality to our sense of self in social interactions. Your body reflects your mind and energetic stance in life. Flexibility equals dynamism to lifes’ challenges and changes.

3 KEYS TO ENHANCE ADAPTIBILTY

  • Self-acceptance and adaptability go hand in hand
  • Grief, sadness and an unwillingness to let go and accept changes; external or internal, withhold your natural ability and receptivity to give and take; stopping flow and flexibility
  • Accepting the changes; personal, professional, relational, creates space for growth and finding peace with our new self

Accepting our self means accepting all of it; the great, bad and utterly ugly. It’s holding space for whatever comes up within ourselves, but also outside of ourselves, and remaining emotionally present, or connected to self and other. And learning to let go of ingrained habits and beliefs is key to mental and emotional self-acceptance and adaptibility. What helped us in the past, but may not serve us any longer, is outgrown; what got you here, won’t get you there.

LETTING GO TO GROW

Sadness and grief are emotions that ask us to let go. To release, the familiar, the unseen, the unaccepted, unappreciated, unforgotten and unnecessary.

If we fear letting go, maybe because subconsciously we believe we can’t deal with the consequneces of releasing a habit, no matter how detrimental it is, can result in depression. A coping mechanism to prevent change; supression of other emotions such as anxiety, shame, guilt and denial, which are associated with the sadness or grief, are held at bay in this way. This holding on is strength, but it also prevents growth.

TO GROW WE NEED TO LET GO!

Adapting is stretching into the new of self and life. Reaching into the unknown with light-heartedness, a willingness to open up and see. Closing off is a great way to avoid possible pain, but it also stops newness coming in. New experiences stretch our awareness, open up new ideas and inspire us. Revitalising our mind, opening our emotional self to possibility and promise.

And sure there’ll be more bumps in the road- such is life- but we’ll be carrying less baggage.

PRACTICE

Now feel your heart and distinguish how open you are to new experiences, is there a flow of incoming and outgoing? How does it feel if you were to see it as a stream? Now using safety, rest and strength feel that you are resilient enough to open up a little. See how that feels, breath in and out from your heart. Can you hold whatever arises with lightness, strength and trust? What happens to your mind, energy and body?

Strength, rest and safety enable us to soften and open up, allowing a sense of flow back into our lives. Knowing we can connect as participants of life again gives hope and revitalises us.

The body becomes an entry point, or map, to create flexibility in mind and psyche so we open up to new capabilities.

Holding back, resisting change and not letting go because we fear the unknown, is keeping life from flowing through us and us from flowing through life. Accepting our self and the changes we return with dynamism more quickly.

Much Love,

Shira

“Working with Shira has taught me I have the capacity to uplift myself and there’s a sense of coming home”. – Nelleke Scharroo

Want to know more about the Yoga Wellness & Resilience Course? Click here.

3. YOGA, PHYSICAL STRENGTH & MENTAL RESILIENCE

3. YOGA, PHYSICAL STRENGTH & MENTAL RESILIENCE

Whether we’re slipping into a burn out, are on the edge of one or are in the midst trying to scramble out, often we’re faced with overwhelming fatigue and muscle weakness. Yet letting go of physical strength adversely affects our physiology. This changes our hormonal balance, impacting energy, mood, emotions and mental health. Self-esteem, confidence and acceptance can be affected by this complex circuitry.

So we often feel like we’re stuck in a vicious cycle. And no one seems to have all the answers; something works for a while but then a few weeks later it’s no longer effective. For two years I was in this situation.

That’s why I’ve created these six steps to ensure we include all the aspects of self and each pillars to support healing and growth.

PHYSICAL STRENGTH & MENTAL RESILIENCE

It’s a fine line between growth and regression. So it’s vital to increase physical strength incrementally and improve physiology and bounce back without wearing ourselves out more. Nor allowing our physicality to whither away. We want to create a point of resistance in our physical body, a strong charge. This physical body map translates to mental and emotional bodies.

Physical strength makes us feel capable of meeting the demands of our physical interactions. Leading to self-confidence and lending itself to mental resilience. Knowing our needs, desires and abilities, discussed in step 1 on burnout, and how to relax deeply shared in step 2, creates a reservoir enabling us to build strength; step 3. One that resists external pressures, so we set up healthy boundaries, physical, psychological and professional, to further ensure wellbeing.

3 THINGS THAT AFFECT OUR RESILIENCE

  • Resilience depends on our autonomy; whether physical, emotional or mental, affecting our sense of self. Building any of these up affects our other layers. Leading to willpower, ability and confidence both mentally and emotionally.
  • People pleasing, perfectionism, overachieving, overdoing and burnout go hand in hand. These defence mechanisms to avoid facing our unconscious lack of confidence or self-worth, or maybe unacknowledged shame and low self-image, drain mental, emotional and physiological energy, making us reactive, irritated and exhausted instead of receptive.
  • Core strength rebuilds a strong centre from which we can see if we’re honouring our own worth or that of others. When we work with our physical body, the one we can easily study, see and experience with our five senses, it become a template to better understanding our subtler bodies of energy, mind and psyche. Which also have ‘limbs and organs’; diverse functions and abilities, as well as needs and desires; SWOTs.

RESILIENCE AS SELF-CONFIDENCE

Physical strength and physiological resistance are the solid container upholding our boundaries. The psychological bounce back to life’s challenges affect mood, energy and emotions. It’s our autonomous juice. This resilience gives us a physical and psychological sense of response-ability and with it returns our self-confidence.

EXERCISE: Now without changing your present posture in the slightest –

Feel your posture; become aware of your core strength, feel your energetic stance. Notice your emotional charge and perceive your mental space. Now become aware of your heart and deeper consciousness. Notice the qualities of each layer. Ask yourself, “What are the dynamics, movement and textures I find in each layer? Is it solid, fluid, full, spacious, heavy, light, vague, open, flowing, stagnant, numb, scattered?” Use descriptive words to name what you feel and experience.

Now for a few moments sit with energy, certainty and embody strength and concentrated emotional charge. Imagine being a solid mountain or very magnetic person. Now feel and note any difference in your centre. What kind of qualities do you experience different from before? Is there some form of resistance and containment? Where is it coming from and how did you create that? Allow that charge to sink in, absorb and embody it.

Now, imagine someone asks, or pressures, you to do something you really don’t want to do, how would you respond when feeling strong from within and embodying that posture?

STRENGTH IS THE GATEWAY TO SELF-CONFIDENCE

Building strength is the gateway to resilience. And strength requires us to resist. To push back and create a core centre of self.

You build strength and resilience incrementally with body-awareness, honesty and by adapt practices to present needs and abilities. The first two steps of trust in self and enjoyment in life are the building blocks to reclaim self-worth. They give us the juice and safety to dare and take up space, to walk out when someone steps over our boundaries. 

Shame and boundary invasion, the opposite of confidence, are patterns we perpetuate when we have self-worth issues. Making us do things we probably don’t actually want to do, if we’d listen to our inner wisdom; visceral cues.

Resisting what feels wrong is a sign of inner strength. Honouring that inner wisdom is a sign of psychological integrity and autonomy. Cultivating your sensitivity to what is healthy for you will rebuild a strong self-worth and mental and emotional resilience.

Dare to speak up, to feel bold and brave. People will respect you for it and you’ll feel alive and embody well-being. Being from our inner resource, not from outer approval and acknowledgement, we reclaim wellbeing.

Join the YOGA WELLNESS & RESILIENCE COURSE here.

Much Love,

Shira

Please leave your insights below and add to the conversation.

2. SELF-ESTEEM & EMOTIONAL WELLBEING

2. SELF-ESTEEM & EMOTIONAL WELLBEING

Energy is the juice of life, Rasa in Sanskrit. When our energy current is unreliable it can make us feel as if we have no control over our lives. That’s just not true.

WE ACTUALLY HAVE A VERY BIG SAY OVER OUR LIVES, ONCE WE UNDERSTAND OUR HORMONES, EMOTIONS AND ASSOCIATED ENERGY DIRECTIONS AS A CURRENCY WE CAN INFLUENCE.

Seeing relationships are built on emotions, and our energy levels influence how we feel and therefore emote, working with our energy states according to our needs, abilities and the time of day, and changing its direction when necessary, will change how we feel and relate.

Health is returning to wholeness. Burnout recovery and prevention is small steps to wholeness, starting with last weeks blog on self-knowledge. Knowing our Ayurvedic type and personality type, as well as our fears, needs, and emotional repetoire, begin the journey back to wholeness..

ENKINDLE SELF-ESTEEM THROUGH NURTURING DEEP RELAXATION

Knowing our self better, we also know what help us feel safe and nourished enabling deep relaxation. That’s when we start enjoying life again. Enjoyment and nourishment are the basis of self-esteem and leads to self-confidence. Just as it’s vital for a business to know their clients wants and needs to thrive, we need to know what we want and need to flourish ourselves.

Relaxation occurs when our vagus nerve moves into Prarsympathetic Nervous System activity, PNS. PNS activity positively affects our hormones, mood, energy, immunity and all the rest that we associate with health and wellbeing. Because it moves the blood from the muscles and brain back to digestion and restoration of tissues, organs and our entire system, it rebalances the chemistry caused by changes.

So vagal tone and the ability to switch well between PNS and sympathetic SNS, is key. Yoga therapy being especially very effective.

Three things are essential for deep relaxation to occur;

  • Switching from fight/flight sympathetic vagal activation to parasympathetic activity, rest and digest/tend and befriend  
  • Social interaction, connection and activity
  • Rebuilding our wiring for pleasure and enjoyment through self-care

3 WAYS TO ENGAGE REST AND DIGEST VAGAL ACTIVITY

Rest and digest activation of our vagus nerve enables digestion, restoration and socialisation. Chronic stress creates breakdown of cell juncture cohesion leading to digestive, immune and blood-brain barrier issues, further resulting in brain fog and hormonal imbalance

SENSES Seeing facial muscles, hearing a familiar or gentle voice, and sweet smells and tastes all promote vagal tone and PNS activation.The speed of neural connectivity of physical contact and emotional connection is the same, 60-70m per second. So we also allow the emotions of contentment, pleasure and joy to arise.

PHSYICAL Physical contact, touch, massage and hugs or hand holding is another very effective and sure way to increase the hormones of oxytocin, vasopressin and relaxin in small amounts. Which naturally reduces the effects of adrenalin and cortisol.[i]

SOCIAL When we interact socially, we activate the vagus nerv, sending messages of safety to the brain. Connecting with others, seeing another persons facial expressions as we interact, mirroring ours send visceral cues of safety and allows our nervous system to relax.

Supportive social engagement, being present in the moment by being embodied, sensing and feeling bodily sensations as we move, breathe and intergarte our body with mind and emotions. And our spine, that magnificent house of our nerves, also thrives when we move it in its full capacity, translated into our full capacity of being and therefore living well. Setting off a cascade of pleasant hormones.

EMOTIONS & HORMONES

As the quality of your rest is key to you reclaiming wellbeing, doing less and enjoying being more is the essence of restoration and enjoyment. Enjoyment is essential because it allows us to rest deeply and therefore truly relax. Which is when the body and mind can and will restore and heal.

Rest is not buildt in or considered worthy in our culture. Either we are go getters or people pleasers. On the treadmill long enough makes relaxation a hard art to come by because we’re wired, neurologically and hormonally to do, act and do some more.

Why? Guilt makes others comply and an excellent motivator for doing more.

Guilt and enjoyment are opposites of the emotional and chemical spectrum. Chronic guilt makes us rigid, emotionally, mentally and socially. Less adaptable to stressors prevents relaxation and our ability to restore so we keep doing, going and hoping to find what we seek through external approval.

Restoration happens when our vagal activation moves from fight/flight to rest/diges, and the hormones of adrenalin and cortisol are reduced by serotonin, GABA, DHEA, oxytocin and dopamine flowing through our system, enabled by mindful, breath centred, yoga practice to the sound of a gentle voice.

SHIFTING FROM FIGHT/FLIGHT TO REST/DIGEST

Stress moves blood and nutrients to the muscles and brain for quick action, away from mouth, digestion and metabolism; healing. A good way to know if you’re in SNS or PNS is to notice if you have a dry mouth. If so it signifies SNS activation; fight/flight.

What you can do right now is breathe in for the count of 4, exhaling for the count of 8 while humming. Do that up to 5 rounds or more until you notice more saliva in your mouth. Now you have switched to rest and digest. Now choose another activity – bath, foot massage, walk in nature, yoga, yoga nidra or meditation to take that relaxation a little deeper and make it last longer.

Yoga therapy works directly with vagal activation of PNS. Gentle touch, speech, extended exhale, spinal movement, all activate the vagus nerve toning it, leading to improved stress resiliency, emotional and relational adaptability

So we can self-regulate your nervous system! Feeling safe; week 1, is the first step to encouraging vagal PNS activation. Rest and relaxation are the second steps. Benefitting digestion, restoration, healing and growth, relaxation can half recovery time, improving psychological wellbeing through self-agency.

Reclaiming ourwellbeing and self-esteem as we start to enjoy the smaller things in life for a while.

Much Love,

Shira.


[i] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15834840/

1. BURNOUT & RE-EVALUATING NEEDS THROUGH SELF-KNOWLEDGE

1. BURNOUT & RE-EVALUATING NEEDS THROUGH SELF-KNOWLEDGE

Knowing ourselves and listening to our bodies cues, we understand our needs, abilities, weaknesses, boundaries and goals, both personal and professional. Boundaries require a healthy sense of self from which to feel our emotions and distinguish them from others. Enabling us to discern our needs, wants and abilities for physical, physiological and psychological. 

We re-discover who we are through journaling about our present thoughts, fears, needs and dreams. As well as doing fun activities such as personality tests, Ayurvedic contitution tests or an Ikigai. These help us re-evaluate who we are now, compared to who we were 5-25yrs ago when we last check in with what we really want, know and value.

There are three key aspects we need to consider and re-evalute to regain and reclaim our wellbeing.

  • Emotions and their effects on hormones- therefore our energy, mind states and even physical health
  • Our biorhythm cycles affect
  • Vagus nerves activation

EMOTIONS OF SAFETY & TRUST ENABLE RESTORATION & HEALING

Saftey and trust rest on the bedrock of feeling like we belong, have something of value to offer and a sense of worthiness. Lack of self-knowledge contributes to distabilising our esteem and confidence. Knowing who we are, what we’re good at, what we value and love, and what we really don’t want, like or even hate, is essential to mental and emotional health.

Fear and distrust are factors that contribute to burnout. The normal baseline for the brain when we are not doing, is to seek for possible threats. When we learn to pause and act appropriately we’ll rediscover our energy. 

Often for those of us who burn out, we are either high achievers, people pleasers and very motivated persons wanting to create big shifts and cahnges in our world. Underlying most people pleasing, perfectionism and overachieving is a stress factor of fear of not being accepted, or lacking of sense of self; we overdo to be accepted to create a sense of safety.

Your first relationship is to yourself, understanding yourself and your needs, relating becomes easy, fulfilling and even fun. And as we change so do our needs and desires. Burnout is an opportunity to re-evaluate why we do what we do, and how to change it if we’ve outgrown

Example: Imagine for a moment there’s a wonderful person you want to talk to. Imagine also that you have a very solid sense of self, knowing and accepting all your qualities; the good, the bad and the ugly, fully. Imagine we all walked around in full honesty of ourselves. Feeling your full integrity imagine how you would feel to walk up to that person. How would you feel different?

With body awareness and self-knowledge you too will learn to gauge when to rest and allow your your body and mind to heal, and when and to what extent, you can rebuild strength to reclaim wellbeing, both physiologically and psychologically.

WELLBEING NEEDS REGULAR BIORHYTHMS

Self-knowledge and awareness lead to self-care, resilience, adaptability, mental clarity and clear emotional expression naturally. Not knowing our specific needs, desires and abilities, nor how our nervous and hormonal system works and how we can affect it, is the only thing in the way of reclaiming wellbeing.

Learning our unique and diverse needs for healthy sleep, exercise, work, food habits and relationships, is part of self-knowledge; WE ARE NOT AN ISLAND. We are always in relationship with all the above. And what might be healthy for your partner or child, may not work well for you. Figuring out your Ayurvedic constitution and specific needs according to present abilities, needs, goals and resources, is part of re-evaluting what will get you back on track.

Our physical needs, which are real and worthy, affect our physiology; energy and biorhythms, which in turn affect mental health through setting up healthy boundaries to ensure we take care of our self well.

VAGAL TONE & PHYSIOLOGICAL

The last point to work on in self-knowledge is knowing what activates your autonomic nervous system from rest and digest to fight flight and back again. The fight/flight sympathetic nervous system is needed in the morning; when we need cortisol levels to rise so we feel awake and ready. And the rest and digest, parasympathetic nervous activation, in the afternoon/evening, for winding down.

The thing with burnout is that our adrenals are incapable of providing sufficient hormones, because they are- Burned out- the medical term being adrenal insufficiency. The adrenals are part of the HPA axis of the endocrine system, responsible for regulating the body’s entire systems and biorhythms. So we wake up feeling groggy, foggy, listless and unable to do much of anything. Which can trigger guilt, shame and fear again.

The most important thing to do is to slowly and safely build up strength whilst also ensuring deep relaxation to restore the adrenals and our endocrine system. A maximum of strenuous exercise in the morning, (without causing muscle shakes, which means we’ve gone past our present abilities), even just 1 minute, and slowly build up strength and stamina overtime, whilst also building in 10-40 minutes of restorative practices.

Restorative yoga, taichi, Yin yoga, meditation, yoga nidra, mindful walking or resting, iRest or guided practices. Voice is very soothing for the nervous system. Make sure to choose a voice you actually like listening to, to mitigate stress through parasympathetic vagal activation. Touch and social connection is also essential to vagal rest and digest activity. Massage, hugs, hand holding, intimacy and gentle touch are great for adrenal restoration. 

Take the 3min burnout Survey and help create an azmaing training to overcome fatigue, weakness and mental and emotional overwhelm.

YOGA THERAPY – TOP DOWN & BOTTOM UP

The way yoga therapy works is both bottoms up and top down. Meaning we work with the tools and body, bottom up, and knowledge and scientific understanding of psychoneurology affecting nervous activation, top down. So we support and care for ourselves from both ends, to create a solid container of physiological safety and stability, enabling deeper restoration and healing, with longer lasting effects.

The 6 week Yoga Wellness & Resilience Training will help you re-evaluate your present needs through self-knowledge. It’s not just knowledge and tools, you’ll learn how to adapt them according to changing needs and abilities. Resulting in specific and direct physiological self-regulation and self-agency. Helping you feel better, have more mental clarity and restore quicker. Checking chronic burnout prevents us developing chronic anxiety and depression. 

Knowing what you want, need and are capable of doing in each given moment gives freedom and a sense of agency. Learning to pause and be a little more, and do a little, or a lot, less ;), is what the body’s way to ask you to re-evaluate which habits no longer serve you.

So join me in the next 5 weeks with more understanding of how to heal deeply and prevent it recurring or prolonging.

Much Love,

Shira.

Testimonials: 

“Shira helped me understand how to listen to my body’s needs so I know when to pause, act or build strength. In my body, mind and in relationships. Moving me out of my depression, lack of confidence and energy and back into a vibrant person” – Kristen Schultz

“I was overworked, physically, emotionally and mentally drained, lacking confidence in myself and body. Learning to relax, feel and see differences in my body and mind invited more focus, acceptance and energy. Shira as a professional therapist teaches to inform and adapts to the individual.” – Nazia Mangal

YOGA THERAPY FOR BURNOUT PREVENTION & RECOVERY

YOGA THERAPY FOR BURNOUT PREVENTION & RECOVERY

Burnout is often a slow slide of unconsciously neglecting ourselves. To tend to our wellbeing and health is as essential as any other aspect. Within us the aspects of self-knowledge, self-care, building strength and adaptability through self-acceptance and expression, all need a little TLC daily. Just as we tend to the gardens of our career and relationships, learning to tend to ourselves is fulfilling, rewarding and deeply nourishing not only for ourselves but for all those we love and look after. And essential to living well and reclaiming the wellbeing we so desire. Download PDF for easy tips.

Our present stress epidemic results in 80% of doctor visits. 52% of professionals are at risk of burnout. And 80% report that their stress is work related. Burnout affects two thirds of employees mental, emotional and physical health[1]. Burnout prevention prevents employee absenteeism.

Burnout that is left untreated can lead to chronic depression, anxiety attacks, a loss of control and self-confidence, as well as heart disease and high cholesterol. Worldwide 615 million suffer from depression and anxiety, costing US$1trillion each year in productivity[2]. Both yoga therapy and cognitive behavioural therapy are equally effective, and even complementary, in prevention and recovery of burnout,[3][4] because we work top-down and bottomup; meaning we use cognitive as well as somatic and sensory restoration and reintegration to heal deeply and allow the calm to move through our many layers.

Symptoms

  • Extreme fatigue
  • Disturbed sleep and biorhythms
  • Low immunity and confidence
  • Digestive issues and lack of appetite
  • Shortness of breath
  • Emotional exhaustion
  • Irritability
  • Social withdrawal
  • Mental distancing and skin problems
  • Lack of focus and decision making
  • Chronic fatigue and depression
  • Darkening of skin pigmentation of face, especially around the eyes

Causes

  • Long work hours, excessive work, workplace politics, perfectionism, job insecurity[5]
  • People pleasing, our own sense of never being good enough or doing enough
  • Too many responsibilities, choices, roles, expectations
  • Insufficient rest, family time and time management

Excessive intake is a major culprit to mental and emotional overwhelm- We take in more information in one day than someone did in a lifetime 150yrs ago![6]

Treatment & Strategies

  • Social support
  • Yoga Wellness & Resilience Training[7] that includes
  • Rest and relaxation techniques
  • Physical strength building
  • Physiological regulation
  • Hormonal homeostasis
  • Vagal tone
  • Mindfulness 
  • Emotional literacy training
  • Recognising and creating boundaries

Taking time to process the INTAKE; information, media, conversations, social interactions is done via OUTPUT; rest, pause, physical activities, yoga, meditation and creative work or journaling.

Yoga Therapy Wellness & Resilience Training

Yoga therapy wellness trainings use both the body and the mind; top down and bottom-up approach, creating an integrative and effective strategy. Reclaiming overall wellbeing with longer lasting benefits due to body awareness and self-knowledge, allowing continual self-regulation long after the training or therapy is finished.

In the next 6 weeks I’m going to share with you the six steps to a quicker recovery, a better prevention techniques and results based steps needed to ensure we don’t slide into the old habits that brought it about in the first place. These help us gain body-awareness, effective self-care, emotional agency, mental clarity and enable physiological self-regulation.

Knowing ourselves and listening to our bodies cues, we understand our needs, abilities, weaknesses, boundaries and goals, both personal and professional. Boundaries require a healthy sense of self from which to feel our emotions and distinguish them from others. Enabling us to discern our needs, wants and abilities for physical, physiological and psychological. 

6 Weeks to Reclaim Wellbeing

Week 1 Self-knowledge Understand your personal health needs, abilities, boundaries, weaknesses and goals. Re-evaluate.

Week 2 Self-care Learn how to move from fight/flight mode into rest/digest to heal and restore. Relax.

Week 3 Strength & Resilience Build physical strength to improve physiological homeostasis; mood, energy and bounce back. Resist.

Week 4 Adaptability & Flexibility Physical, emotional and mental flexibility equals adaptability to life’s changes and challenges. Revitalise.

Week 5 Emotion & Expression Clear emotional expression affects physiological and hormonal health beneficially. Reclaim.

Week 6 Mental Clarity Vagus nerve activation improves mental calm and clarity ensuring wellbeing and self-agency. Reintegrate.

Benefits of Yoga Wellness & Resilience Training

  • Learn techniques to access vagal parasympathetic activation for rest/ digest, tend and befriend
  • Gain self-awareness, mindfulness and associated mental calm, focus, solution identity and clarity
  • Improves physical strength, biorhythms and diaphragmatic breathing
  • Increases physiological homeostasis, energy levels, self-regulation and agency
  • Decreases sense of loss of control, emotional reactivity and exhaustion
  • Improves Sleep health, Digestion, Breath capacity, Energy levels, Sense of connection

Immunity & Sense of Self, Mental focus, Mental clarity, Adaptability, Ability to relax, Emotional availability, Mental presence 

Be Moved Feel alive & Move Into Living Well with and through your own effort, knowledge and some very simple and effective tools.


[1] https://www.actec.com/2018/09/17/how-to-prevent-employee-burnout-absenteeism-and-turnover/

[2] https://everyonesocial.com/blog/employee-burnout-statistics/

[3] https://bmccomplementmedtherapies.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12906-018-2141-9

[4] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32805013/

[1] https://barendspsychology.com/burnout-facts/

[1] Fiona Agombar, Yoga Therapy for Stress, Burnout & Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, 2021, Singing Dragon.

[2] https://hbr.org/2019/12/burnout-is-about-your-workplace-not-your-people

BURNOUT, ADRENAL FATIGUE AND DEPRESSION

BURNOUT, ADRENAL FATIGUE AND DEPRESSION

Our light diminishes into a blanket of darkness, an all encompassing heavy fatigue that obscures. When we accept this phase of life, it brings with it the most profound wisdom and understanding of our human experiences and way of living. With the right knowledge and tools we enkindle the beauty that is us once more.

Burnout, Adrenal Fatigue and Depression

For many of us chronic burnout is often misdiagnosed as depression. Yes, it looks and feels similar. The levels of anxiety we experience during burnout; physiological adrenal dysregulation and fatigue, can be so overwhelming we shut down emotionally and mentally to prevent further exhaustion. 

Long-term fatigue and the accompanying changing physiological symptoms, affect every level of our being, and leads to feelings of unhappiness, guilt and worthlessness. Unhappiness culturally seen as a sign of failure. And unkindly dismissed as wallowing in our own self-pity, also leaves us isolated. Further dysregulating our system from healing and restoration and connection. 

Accompanying symptoms
  • Slow in the morning, fatigue in the afternoon, second wind in the evening
  • Fatigue and disturbed sleep
  • Listless and feeling physically heavy
  • Crave salty and sugary foods
  • Dizziness and blood sugar issues
  • Weight gain or loss
  • Moodiness, brain fog
  • Afternoon headaches
  • Chronic inflammation, low immunity to infections, digestive issues
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Low libido
  • Dark skin around eyes and skin discoloration
  • Hair loss and brittle hair
  • Weak nails 

So we walk into the doctor’s office looking for answers, for a way back to our old self, or something resembling that state. Only to walk away with the distinct message that it’s all in our head and our only option is to swallow a pill that further disempowers and dis-associates us from our self and health. 

Burnout is highest amongst health care professions, teachers, single parents, traders, managers, bankers and entrepreneurs. Studies show women are 20-60% more likely to suffer from burnout. Women report suffering from emotional exhaustion, while men often suffer from depersonalization. And people who’ve experienced trauma at some point are more likely to experience burnout,[1] because their resilience to stress is lower.

Is Burnout Adrenal Fatigue?

Adrenal fatigue leads to chronically elevated cortisol, causing adrenalin, noradrenalin and DHEA dysregulation. This has a cascade effect on all our other endocrine glands; pineal, pituitary, hypothalamus, thyroid, thymus, pancreas, ovaries and testes. Affecting their respective hormones and the cycles they regulate within our body systems.

Our cycles of sleep and waking, digestion, restoration and healing, get up and go and allowing ourselves to relax, are all thrown off track. This plays out as mood and energy fluctuations, metabolic imbalance, sleep disturbances, fatigue and boosts of energy at unwanted and unnatural times. Common derangements of adrenal fatigue are hypoglycaemic symptoms; low blood sugar, chronic fatigue syndrome.[2]

Adrenal fatigue isn’t an accepted medical diagnosis[3] as a disease, rather reffered to as adrenal insufficiency. But if we would realise imbalance leads to dis-ease, and burnout a protective mechanism; trying to forewarn us to slow down and make certain vital changes to our lifestyle, or disease will develop, we can prevent much suffering and shame.

Adrenal Fatigue Research Facts

Burnout studies are under-researched. One meta study; which most other burnout research articles refer to; used the data of 25 studies done on individuals with burnout and 33 studies on healthy subjects! This study states because there’s a lack of substantial evidence due to inconsistency in analysis and data research[4], we can’t call it adrenal fatigue. All 58 studies focused on cortisol levels, not taking into account other hormones, nor DHEA, which lowers cortisol levels. 

Not forgetting that study subjects are often only caucasian men of 70kg of body weight, between the ages of 25-35 years of age, leaves a lot to be desired when we’re in our 40’s, women, and overwhelmed by our many roles, responsibilities and tasks. Setting these studies up for insufficient evidence.

What Excacerbates Burnout?

Burnout is further impacted by work-related stressors; perfectionism, workload, work hours, increased responsibilities and tasks, lack of autonomy or control, financial stress, career stage, loss of meaning and joy in work, having children at home, work-life integration, decreased support, real or perceived lack of fairness in promotion and compensation, gender bias, discrimination and sexual harassment. Both an organisational and a personal problem, a one size fits all approach isn’t enough when dealing with something as complex as our endocrine system.

Other Causes & Contributing Factors 

Therefore, knowledge and owning the part that is ours to reclaim; our physical, physiological, emotional and psychological needs, we see what disrupts our health, what we need to remove from our lives to move into living well. Knowing that adrenal fatigue is a physiological imbalance, we can support ourselves through physical, physiological, emotional, mental and psychological changes with tools.

Overcoming Burnout

Physical Needs

Get tests done- at a functional medical doctor see what causes physical and biological imbalance. 

Healthy fats- olive oil, coconut oil, ghee and avocados

Supplements & Herbs- Zinc, vit D, C, chamomile, ashwagandha, liquorice, rhadiola 

Physiological Needs

Eat protein rich foods- adrenals need protein to convert into hormones aiding healthy endocrine function, relieving anxiety, insomnia and mental fatigue.

Decrease inflammation- depression strongly correlates with systemic inflammation, addressing our physiological imbalance through food; curcuma, bitter and astringent foods bring down the acidity, caused by excess sweet, sour and salty foods, can relieve any inflammation cuased by biology. Leafy greens for HPA axis health.

Mental Needs 

Strengthen mindfulness– Meditation 10-20 mins a day, Sama vritti; breathing in for a count of 5 and out for a count of 5 for 2-5 minutes, Bumble Bee breath, with an exhale hum in a low tone, allow the in breath to come naturally, repeat 10 rounds.

Emotional and Psychological Needs 

Minimise stress– see which cause most mental and psychological stress on a scale from one to ten- work, family, home, personal. Create a schedule to minimize stress and find more rest in each of those areas. This PDF with tools will help you get clarity, set boundaries and find more space in your day to day living.

Because knowledge, self-acceptance and these tools allow us to listen to our body’s natural wisdom and urgings, we can let that tiny flame within us become a healthy fire once more. One that gives light and glows with wisdom. 

Much Love,

Shira.


[1] https://barendspsychology.com/burnout-facts/

[2] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15058215/

[3] https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/addisons-disease/expert-answers/adrenal-fatigue/faq-20057906

[4] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27557747/

FROM GUILT TO PLEASURE

FROM GUILT TO PLEASURE

Playfulness, our ability to go with the flow, reflects our feelings about our relationship with the world. Pleasure is the emotional charge of a playful bodymind. Guilt or severity its opposites. Do we feel free to have fun and enjoy, do we always need to control otherwise we feel guilty, or do we just let it all go whatever direction?

Pleasure, like water, seeks movement and the easiest course, finding joy and play in whatever arises. It accepts and lets go of the illusion of mastery and control, willing to see where experiences take us, without holding back or resistance. Water, like our senses, are meeting points for our inner and outer worlds and the enjoyment from that volantary sensual exchange.

When we resist pleasure, either because of a sense of guilt, lack of playfullness and curiosity, or our seriousness, we resist prosperity. Guilt restricts, closes down our sensual joy channels. Because our original emotion is bliss, our movement or lack of it, determines the how this emotion transforms into another expression.

To flow fully the banks of our joy need to be both firm and free, just like our tissues, mind and psyche.

Energetic Holding Patterns 

Excessive stress causes unnecessary tightening. Blocking ease and our ability to flow, physically, energetically and mentally. Chronic holding patterns might express themselves as guilt, rigidity, controlling, critical, too serious, self-conscious, or lacking spontaneity and playfulness. The river of abundance, prosperity and possibilities dry up, along with our creative and joyful juices. 

Not enough stressors can leave us with excessive emotions as our energy reserve overflows. Without containment, we may feel overly emotional, watery, let our energy gush from us without discernment and end up feeling drained, lacking, down, lost; our energy and emotions directionless. 

We might have a combination of both holding patterns simultaneously. 

Translated to our energy body, we might not feel contained and able to respond with integrity to a given situation. Resulting in further controlling or flooding. Unconscious guilt might then drive our relationships, projects and beliefs. And emotions are energy in motion, holding the energy or leting it gush, wastes immense, enjoyable energy, and we don’t even notice it.

Hiranyagharbha, our Golden Womb needs to be honoured and felt. 

Pelvic Flow is the Key to Pleasure  

Releasing tension and creating integrity of our sense of self in relation to the world, feels like flow, fun, pleasure and prosperity naturally arising like a bubbling spring.

The key to pleasure is movement and pelvic health. Like water, the pelvis loves to flow and move. To play out the constant ebb and flow, give and take. This ensures and allows us to contain our sense of delight and joy. It enlivens our abundance.

As babies, this abode of joy and delight is with what we began to crawl. We use our pelvis to propel us forward and move into the world. This exploration of feeling for ourselves creates pleasure. When my toddler first moved herself toward that which she wanted to experience, there was sheer joy, wonder and excitement all rolled into the propelling motion of the pelvis. This is essence of moving into bliss. This endeavour to sense the world also created our lumbar curve. Our ability to relate, connect and withdraw. And our first impressions of sensual experiences, plus the first arising emotions, are all contained here. 

Create Pelvic Integrity to Enjoy Life More

To create pelvic integrity and enjoy life fully we need to get to know this area. We need curiosity and playful minds to move past our guilt and expertise. Body awareness and self-knowledge leads to self-esteem. Begin to strengthen and relax this area, until all the tissues and energy flows freely and feels firm, simultaneously. This is how we transform guilt into pleasure. Holding both simultaneously.

Ask yourself in difficult areas of your body, What holding patterns do I have here?

Are some muscles really tight and resist letting go?

Are there parts that let it all gush out, leaving me drained? 

After you feel if you hold or release excessively, you can build back the integrity of this area by doing strengthening movement that warms up this area, and slow soft, stretching to open and release the tissues.   Create firm freedom. 

Be present with sensations in our pelvic area. Think of it’s ability to create another life, and all our projects and creations begin in the Golden Womb. The potential combinations of the inner and outer world coming together in countless ways. The pure potential alive here. It’s time we enjoyed what is instead of thinking what isn’t. It’s time to drop our uncertainty and walk into the world with a sense of certain delight, no matter what circumstances we find ourselves in.

Life is amzingly wonderful and AWEsome first and foremost.

Joyous and prosperous in each moment, as water moves, content and playful, our Golden Womb contains the feeling of all I need to fulfil me is within me and in each and every moment.

In what ways can you feel more curious, playful and joyous?

With Love,

Shira.

YOGA FOR BETTER SLEEP

YOGA FOR BETTER SLEEP

Waking up in the middle of the night and trying to fall back asleep, often, seems like an eternity. (Especially when we know we need to be fresh next morning for that VIProject!) You’re not alone. Worldwide 51% of us have sleep woes. And it’s not just adults, more and more kids struggle with sleep issues. Practicing Yoga for better sleep improves our sleep and ensures we feel fresh when we wake up.

Sleep issues include trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, not refreshed upon waking, or insufficient sleep. Yoga for better sleep can relief or completely alleviate all these issues. Yoga for better sleep uses simple practices to calm the nervous system, integrate our body, mind and emotions to ensure we sleep soundly.  Here are some funny facts of common places we fall asleep during the day due to lack of sleep- -10% of people fall asleep while at work -7% while driving- OMG can you imagine!  -7% in church  -6% on public transport  -and 1 % on the toilet, oops On a more serious note, let’s look at our sleep woes and the havoc it can wreak for body, mind and emotions.

Sleep, our Foundation of Vitality

We all know sleep is vital to our physical and mental health but very few know how really important it is to our quality of life.[1] Continued insufficient sleep disrupts all our bodily systems. Causing energy levels to swoon and soar, cascading into fatigue, brain fog, depression, anxiety, nervousness, accidents, mood swings, hormonal changes and other physiological shifts. Inflammation increases, immune function becomes impaired, and inhibits muscle, organ and tissue repair and recovery from trauma, injury or stress.[2] Chronic sleep deprivation leads to deep seated physiological changes such as; obesity, diabetes mellitus, septicaemia, hypertension, heart conditions and vascular changes leading to strokes. Let’s look at our human sleep history and understand what constitutes healthy sleep in reality.

Sleep History & Reality

So, what’s healthy sleep and how can we contribute to creating better sleep patterns to not fall asleep on the toilet?  A million years ago, every night our foremother naturally woke up just before the dawn, between 3-5am, when the air was at its’ coldest, to tend the fire, check everyone’s still alive and well enough, before getting back into the warmth of her bed. We rarely slept much more than 6-7 hours at a stretch in our short human history.  That might come as a surprise with the constant myth of 8 holy hours.  News flash- We’ve had this pattern till the arrival of electricity and artificial light… No wonder some of us more sensitive souls still wake up between 3-5am. In Yoga we call this the hour of the Creator, or Brahma Muruhta, 90 mins before sunrise. It’s the best time to practice meditation, Yoga and contemplation on our existence.  So, the next time you wake early in the morning, or in ‘middle of the night’,  know that you’re completely healthy. It’s a totally natural rhythm. Waking up in the wee hours of morning actually means your still in-tune with nature and our old cycles.  And one of our worst sleep thieves are thoughts like, “I’m not getting enough sleep.”

So, What’s Healthy Sleep?

Really, it depends!  Healthy sleep and sufficient sleep depends on many things. Your goals, your present health, your age and responsibilities, your levels of stress, and your physical and mental constitution or nature. Long before becoming a mother and having adult responsibilities, I spent 10 days at a Vipassana meditation centre. For the life of me, I couldn’t sleep more than 4 hours a night. While awake I just lay there bringing my awareness back to breath again and again and again, thousands of times. And I got up feeling as great as a Gladiator ready for my next day of mental demons.  The reason was because I wasn’t physically very active, and mentally I was focusing and then calming the mind; not ingesting lots of mental impressions. This meant very little exertion of mind and body, and therefore needing less sleep. Since having a child and running my own business, I definitely need 7 and a half hours. And when I do it in one go, which isn’t often, I’m healthy as a hummingbird amongst the flowers all day. If not, I come back to my breath again and again. And most mornings, even if I only get a few hours of broken sleep, I still feel refreshed because I didn’t stress out about being awake. Now we know we don’t need those holy 8 hours let’s look at some Fascinating Falling Sleep Facts. Reminding yourself of these when awake next time will ease your mind.

  • 6-7 hours sleep a night ensures longevity, more so than 8hrs!
  • Most of us wake up 6 times a night but just don’t remember! 
  • Don’t count sheep, it activates the Left-brain hemisphere = wakefulness. Instead, imagine you feel the sheep’s soft wool, it activates the Right brain hemisphere = rest
  • It’s very natural to wake up between 3-5 AM, think cave-mum/dad
  • Our circadian rhythm determines our sleep pattern, and is controlled by the stress and sleep hormones, adrenalin and melatonin. These both respond to daylight and darkness, levels of stress during the day and moments we allowed ourselves to de-stress through yoga, meditation, prayer, journaling or contemplation
  • Every 90 minutes we’ve been through a complete sleep cycle of sleep, dream sleep and deep sleep. Between these cycles and during dreams we tend to turn and wake up

So, don’t get your knickers in a knot if you ‘only’ get 7 or 6. Maybe that’s all you need. Some people live their whole lives with just 5 hours and feel fresh, alive and fit, when they get up.  So, the most important is how you feel upon waking.

4 Sleep Robbers

So what steals your sleep?  1. Irregularity causes our nervous system to be active until there is some form of routine. Check your schedule, eating habits, sleeping habits, and daily routine for irregularity, if more than 2 are irregular, start creating more routine and rhythm will bring calm to your nerves 2. Poorly timed activities & exercise will raise the heart rate, release adrenaline and disturb sleep. Spicy food, coffee, sugar, intense exercise. Remember the adrenaline and melatonin. Stressful events in the early part of the day gives us time to rid our body of excessive adrenaline by moving it out of the body. If we don’t have that time to be physically active in the afternoon, Yoga can really help. But doing an intense Yoga practice will only increase adrenaline.  3. Technological stimulation before sleep disturbs our melatonin release. Strong lights, sounds, or screen before bed. Best to avoid any screens 90 mins before sleep. Artificial light and not honouring our body’s natural cycle of melatonin and adrenalin, sleeping and waking, is a huge contributing factor. Excessive screen time, and/or being exposed to the screen too soon before going bed, exacerbates our woes. Add to that our present sedentary lives, now you understand why your body is a all of tension when you go to sleep. You already were, but you might not have noticed with all the days busy-ness. 4. It’s worth repeating, the worst thief of our sleep is the thought, “I’m not getting enough sleep.” 

Simple Yoga Steps for Better Sleep

First, be happy when you wake up after 6 hours and forget fretting!  Even if you only sleep 3 or 4 hours and feel you need more rest, just remain in bed, don’t turn the light on. Feel your body lying there. Let go of that tyranical ideal of 8 hours and ‘I must sleep more’.

  • Begin to feel a soft, slow, belly breath, for about 2 minutes. Then tell yourself it’s completely natural to wake up and allow yourself to let go of any tension you might be holding onto in the back body. 
  • Do some soft gentle movement of the pelvis and hips with pelvic tilts, until you feel more embodied. 
  • Then roll the shoulders gently, calmly in circles 3 times one direction, then 3 times the other direction, release any tension from neck shoulder and head.
  • Then slowly lift the hips up of the bed coming into a bridge, and roll them back down. Do that very slowly and smoothly like waves rolling your body up and back down for 1-2 minutes.
  • Then allow your body to become soft and heavy. Release any tension and come back to the slow belly breaths for another minute.
  • Let the mind become calm.

Let your mind rest in the body. Even if you wake up in the middle of the night. Don’t worry, don’t even try to get back to sleep.  Just say to yourself you’re ok, in rhythm and restoring by not doing anything.  Just be. And know that by not doing any activity your body, mind and soul are getting the rest and integration they need. In my Yoga for Better Sleep I teach you body awareness and effective, specific and simple yoga sequence to ensure a deep letting go of any unconscious holding. You learn to turn of the active Nervous System, NS, and moving our physiology into the restorative NS, the parasympathetic NS. We release excess stress from the back body, which often holds all our unconscious stress of the day, preventing us from going into a deeper state of rest. When you learn to work in tune with your natural cycle, your body, mind and emotions, you can use Yoga as a tool to regulate and integrate your day, your tensions and even your stress. In my classes and Courses, I teach you to feel what your body, mind and emotions need, and how to use Yoga’s practices and teachings as tools. I would love to hear from you. Please share your experiences in the comments below. With rhythmic love,

Shira.

 



[1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6473877/


[2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6473877/

YOGA THERAPY FOR BURNOUT

YOGA THERAPY FOR BURNOUT

Burnout is way too common. Many struggle with burnout, or are on the brink, but often don’t dare speak about it. The shame and guilt isolates us even more, ingrains our sense of overwhelm and feeling of being alone. 

Yoga, wellness and health care practitioners and professionals, with our knowledge, practice and skill in destressing, detaching and knowing our greater Self, we often feel we should be immune, more resilient. And that’s why there’s so much stigma attached to health experts with burnout. We should know better. People believe we’ve got such a relaxed and easy life. Couldn’t be more wrong.


We’re in the industry of creating, caring, learning, exploring, branding, marketing, networking, providing and embodying what we preach. And that’s only the work section of our lives. No wonder we burn out. 
As I get more seasoned, I realise no one is immune. Life happens, and if we listen, we learn. Wisdom comes from wounds. And wounds don’t make us lesser. Yes we have weaknesses, and these are just potential places to grow, learn and become a beginner again. Enjoy, explore and embody. We can prevent or recover from burnout better knowing some key points. But first let’s understand what’s actually going on physiologically.


A practitioner since 3 decades and still I’ve burnout twice in my life. It’s a devastating, frightening, depressing and painful, especially as you watch your passion become a prison.


Close to burnout, I had many days, months even, coming home from teaching and wanting to crash on the floor, just go to sleep there and then. Even when I did, my body was so tense, I couldn’t rest.
The thing that gets you up and out of bed with joy, turns into something you feel you have to do. The insights, releases and love you felt in your practice are gone.


The body feels heavy, tired, shaky and weak. The mind is scattered, flitting and restless. And to practice feeling the body, being mindful and going within, is no longer a source of joy, but a painful realisation you’re nervous, unsettled and so uncomfortable in it. You’ve lost some deep connection.

Burnout can make us feel fearful and powerlessness.

What Is & Causes Burnout?

Burnout, medically known as adrenal fatigue, is due to constant physical, psychological or emotional stress. Our adrenal glands make us more alert and active by releasing the hormones cortisol, adreniline and noradreniline. Normally our body and hormonal system regulate, within minutes to hours, when stress stops.

When chronically under stress, our adrenals become overactive, continue this too long and they become fatigued. 

This can be due to small but consistent stresses such as not having a regular income and ability to pay the bills, being spread to thin on too many projects constantly to try and get more reach, exposure etc., not enough feedback, support, payment and acknowledgement from clients, students, colleagues or mentors. These small but significant stressors add up. Especially when we’re empathetic, caring and social individuals, which most healthcare practitioners are.  


So triggers causing fear, distrust and generally feeling not supported in an area of our lives, overactivate our adrenals.
Think irregular work, irregular schedule, irregular income. Any uncertainty. And a big issue in service industry, uncertainty about our worth in monetary value. It eventually erodes our self worth and confidence, compounding feelings of inability and insecurity.  
Competitiveness between ‘yoga’, health and wellness industries leads me to ask whose wellbeing are we actually interested in? Our connection, community and common goal; a healthy world, is destroyed as soon as we see another’s wealth and win as our loss or lack. This scarcity mentality undermines our wellbeing and adrenals. Seeing connection and community is the very essence of health as a social species, competitiveness goes against why we fell in love with Yoga, wellness and healthcare, in the first place. 


Add to this the fact that most women in the service industry, want to give their utter best to create a better world. Working hard to self educate, develop and self regulate, teaching others to create amazingly nourishing and fullfilling services and meaningful lives, we forget to nourish ourselves. We strive to be the best, but shy away from asking our colleagues, community and leaders to return the same investment with effort, soul and love.


Service, when taken out of context, and milked for the profit of large organisations, leaves those not well versed in business, value and industry, high and dry. This imbalance tips the scales of confidence, self worth, and wealth. Detrimental to our wellbeing and all those dependent on us. This domino effect lets some schmucks, with no empathy or sense of unity, profit from our squables.
Eventually those who care burn out.


We need to stick together as sisters, and family, to co-create a great world for our kids. We need to say F… off to manipulators and denigrators of our common goal. By working toward making business a more sustainable way of serving the world, and create better living for all. 

Prevent & Recover More Gracefully

We can prevent burnout by setting ourselves up for success by self care. Feeling safe, supported, strong and steady.
Most important is create balance between what we actually want, need, and the resources; time, energy, money, we have to offer, only once we’ve nourished ourselves with loving time, vitality, volition, joy, vocation, finances.
Switching from sympathetic to parasympathetic; from fun, fight, flight and freeze, to rest, digest and destress. Using different aspects of our lives; mood, energy, emotions and thoughts, to reflect back to us where we need some TLC. And how we can value ourselves by honouring our needs, desires and feelings, greatly enhances our recovery after burnout. Or prevent it when we feel exhausted most of the time.


Physically we’ve evolved to run, dance, dive, climb and swim. We’re meant to feel alive. I used to teach that Yoga practice shouldn’t raise the heart rate too much. But now I’ve come full circle and realise it’s all healthy, as long as we check in with our energetic and emotional states and regulate according to what we find. To get activate and raise our heart rate so our body’s natural biorhythm and bodily systems are switched on helps balance our hormonal system. Adrenal glands are a very vital part of the hormonal system. They’re the backbone for all the other hormones of metabolism and energy. Regulate adrenal hormones within weeks by going jogging or swimming 2-3 times a week.


Emotionally, feelings reveal our values, needs and desires, pushing us to act upon our inner guidance. Educating ourselves through books about different emotions or a trainings in emotional literacy and empowerment are great to prevent burnout. Emotional awareness ensures we know and honour our needs, desires and values, so we can reclaim our wellbeing, passion and purpose.
Psychologically we’re meant to feel accepted, connected and be part of a larger whole, feeling our lives and contribution to others have meaning, are valued and appreciated fully. To initiate this level of exchange, we need to know our values, worth, and what we can bring to the table.


Once we state it and hold our community accountable for equal value in return, we start to tip the scales back to balance. Not just preventing personal burnout, but planetary burnout too. We’re a reflection of the greater goings on in life. What happens in the microcosm is happening in the macrocosm too.


All parts work together equally. No slacking at the expense of another.
We need reach out.
We need to know what, where, who and how we can help, and also ask for support, help and guidance for our own journey. Download From Burnout to Brilliance to recover and restore adrenal health and move out of burnout syndrome.
Which can be so hard for those of us used to being the rescuer.

The Wisdom of Burnout

Through this deep transformation I have learned to really listen to minute changes, nuances and honour them fully. I take things slowly, fInd beauty and joy in the little things. I hear my emotional messages and developed an understanding of my body’s innate wisdom, mind’s creative ability to find solutions and see opportunities of growth in psychological knots.


Our beautiful body is different every day. Honour it! Celebrate it! Once we learn to work with what is, instead of what we want, there is such a solid connection and love for self and other. Instead of overwhelm, it’s overflow of a full cup. My boat can’t be rocked. I hit rock bottom and I have found a more fluid and vulnerable and real ME. One that doesn’t need to hide or pretend at any level.


I thought I was pretty transparent, but there’s always room for improvement. This is liberation. As long as we hold onto any image, no matter how pure, or well intended, we’re suseptable to falling. Once we fall and know our weaknesses, see them and laugh at our whole self, illusions and all, we are free to BE.

Much Love,

Shira

ONE NERVE TO EASE OR DIS-EASE

ONE NERVE TO EASE OR DIS-EASE

The Vagus Nerve

A hype in Yoga therapy circles, adamant I wasn’t joining in, for years, it sat on the shelf. Then Ganesh Mohan mentioned Stephen Porges’ Polyvagal Theory at the Yoga therapy training, thrice. Finally, I dove in… 

Why hadn’t I done so earlier?!

Mindset, fear, limiting beliefs, lack of self confidence, resistance, procrastination, lethargy. Take your pick. If you ask me, a little of each. 

The vagus nerve affects all of these, and so much more, for better or for worse, depending on which pathway our vagus activates easier.

Two paths, two very different outcomes

The Vagus nerve has two pathways one to excite, sympathetic, and the other to relax and rebalance, parasympathetic. Yoga-based practices intrinsically promote vagal tone and decrease the wear and tear of the body. Yoga practiced intentionally, with slow rhythmic breathing during the physical, emotional and mental challenges of practice, allows us to exercise non-reactiveness in stressful situations. It increases parasympathetic vagal tone.

So you might ask, “What does that mean for me?”

Well, the tone of our vagus nerve directly impacts our wellbeing and physiology. If we work more in the activated and excited state,that most of us are in daily, we strengthen the tone and circuitry of sympathetic- fight or flight response. and if we are great at relaxing, allow our bodies to rest and restore when it asks for it, we increase parasympathetic- rest and digest response circuitry.  

This impacts everything from our weight, sleep, immunity, inflammation of organs and tissues, stress response, general wellbeing, to our ability to relax, the shine of our hair, the health of our skin, our energy levels, which affect depression and anxiety are affected by vagal tone!

How it Works its Wonders through Wandering 

Its name comes from the Latin vagus,means wandering. And like a vagabond it’s dedicated to travelling from all the organs to communicate our organic state. Our perception of it’s value is vague because it moves so subtly. 

If we wander with the longest cranial nerve in the body on a journey from brainstem, striated muscles in the face, head, neck, back of the tongue, ears, down the throat to the lungs, heart, and deep down into the gut, we touch all feeling tissues. The vagus nerve connects skin, muscles and our entire visceral body. Viscera means deeply feeling. Its our innate organ sensing and communicates with our brain how we feel. Basically, its our emotional pathway.

Most nerves are either able to sense or enable us to move, the vagal does both. It controls sense and motor communication between feeling and acting. It’s importance as pathway of bodily intelligence, is finally beginning to surface in modern medicine. Physiologically interwoven throughout our entire system, Yoga benefits the vagal nerve. Vagal tone is strongly impacted by slow rhythmic breathing of Yoga, and movement enhances our sensitivity to our inner states.[i]

Pretty influential, when you feel it.

Visceral messages like gut feelings, butterflies, instinct, intuition, are all initiated by this amazingly wondrous nerve. Called Neuroception, this perception of the body’s neurons without awareness of the mind instinctively sense our environment and another’s neural signals. These feelings draw our awareness and attention within the body. These sensations tell us we need to make some changes. Either in the lifestyle or dietary habits, or our environment, the people we hang out with or the work we do. 

When we ignore the body’s intelligence that something’s wrong, again and again, we’ll develop dis-ease. This is just the body’s way to say, “Hello, you’re not listening! Hey, you up there, you need to make some changes!”. Continue to ignore the cues, due to insensitivity, lack of will, or ignorance, and it builds up into deep seated dis-ease. Ayurveda calls this process Samprapti. It becomes chronic. 

What You can do to Tone that Wandering Nerve  

1. Feel Safe and Welcome

One of the most important things for our vagus nerve is feel safe. Feeling safe is the precursor of healing and thriving. That bodily sensation of safety, when we relax, rest and digest. When the nervous system rests, the vagal nerve switches from sympathetic mode, meaning active, ready to run, escape or fight, to parasympathetic, meaning passive, ready to restore, absorb and enjoy. 


Our organs of digestion, reparation and growth, are only nourished when we’re relaxed. Feeling safe is basis for a healthy relationships, social engagement and play. Safety is the foundation for higher brain function and higher states of awareness, which gives way to our creative, intuitive and joyous nature.  

2. Slow Rhythmic Breathing

The wandering nerve will wander less aimlessly if we breathe slowly and with the intention to breathe rhythmically. Especially the out breath will enhance the parasympathetic nervous system. If you find it hard to relax, then breathing out slower then in will bring the ralation mode into play. Breathe out for 8 seconds and in for 4-6, as you feel comfortable. Do this for at least 10 rounds. But the more the merrier 🙂

3. Practice Yoga with Slow Rhythmic Movement

Yoga movement practiced slow and with rhythmic intention deepens the breath, strengthening core muscles and enhances our baroreceptor sensitivity. [i]  It also makes sure our awareness is switched on. This in and of itself assures calming the nervous system, stilling the mind and regulates emotions and energy levels because we’re more attuned. 


We can use the body to engage the relaxation part of the Vagus by doing simple movements such as cat cow, or gentle or modified sun salutations.

4. Use a Positive Affirmation that Creates a Sense of Welcome

Whatever fear comes up, ask what the thought is behind that fear, hear the words and then find the exact opposite words to strengthen your positive intention to feel safe, welcome and accepted. The Vagus works both top down and bottoms up. Meaning we can override it from our bodily sensations, or with thoughts.

So we want to create a smooth slow and rhythmic practice, both of the breath, the movement and mental patterns.

The intention and the intensity will also benefit your Wandering nerve, the wandering mind and our sometimes wandering health, while we wonder where in heavens it went this time…. 

Know you have the power in your hands, body and mind, when You educate yourself and apply that knowledge!! Begin to move with your Wandering Nerve. Start that journey of wondering with life, it’s complexity, it’s completeness and your capabilities.


Namaste, much love, safety and nourishment to Your Soul,

Shira.

 
 
[i]Sat Bir Singh Khalsa, Lorenzo Cohen, Timothy McCall, Shirley Telles- The Principles and Practice of Yoga in Health Care