I have just finished taking an exam that I spent many hours preparing for. I felt reasonably confident this morning as I sat down to begin the exam. 90 minutes later my hand was aching, I still felt confident that I understood the material, but had to turn the exam in with two uncompleted pages. I had a fleeting moment of anger, but knew that feeling angry would do nothing but make me feel worse. Not being able to complete the exam was already making me feel bad enough.

Well, I called my husband and told him what had happened and then decided to move on with the rest of my day.  I believed that I was OK with the situation….I did the best that I could. After about 30 minutes in the library I realized I was still experiencing the effects of the exam. Everything and everyone was irritating me. My normal level of tolerance was absent. The printers were churning out papers nonstop, the person next to me was slurping a Frappuccino, my chair would not adjust properly, my back ached and I wanted to hush everyone….for heavens sake it is a library!

OK, time to reevaluate my relationship with the present moment. Take a few deep breaths, remind myself that I did my best, get off the computer, find a quite place, read my new Yoga Journal and get my own Frappuccino! I feel lucky that I have these choices, OK ….life is pretty good. Maybe I will be really bad and get whipped cream!

Published in: on September 30, 2010 at 7:13 pm  Comments (5)  
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Free Yoga Class

Hello Everyone,

Heads up there is a free yoga class on Sat, Oct 2 from 1:30 – 3. It will be held at the Yoga Tree of Boise on the corner of Fort Street and Washington Street. Hope to see a bunch of you there.

For more info visit their website at

Published in: on September 28, 2010 at 6:20 pm  Comments (2)  
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National Alliance on Mental Illness

I have been asked a number of questions about my current volunteer activity. Below are the three most common questions and my answers. Feel free to ask any more and I will do my best to answer them. Thank you everyone for your interest. Maybe some of you would like to also get involved with NAMI, if so check out

What is your involvement with the National Alliance on Mental Illness?

I have been working with NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) now for six months. I have been trained to do public speaking on mental health advocacy, have attended one of their 11 week programs, attend board meetings and meet/communicate regularly with Paula Campbell, my NAMI mentor. In addition to these involvements I have developed and I am teaching a seven week emotional yoga program. The program is designed to teach people better stress coping and self care skills through yoga.

NAMI  has provided encouragement, direction, advice, office volunteer help and general mentoring. This endeavor has been quite absorbing and exhausting at times, but has been very positive. NAMI has been a great agency to work with.  It is my hope that I learn the ‘ins-and-outs’ of working within a large non-profit and get a better idea of where I would like to focus my energy upon my graduation from BSU and Shanti Yoga School 500 hour program.

Do you have any hesitations about working with people with mental illness?

In the beginning I was concerned about the effect that the clientele might have on my emotional health. I am not doing counseling, but a lot of people share their stories and challenges. I was concerned that it might contribute to my own struggles with mental illness. My bi-polar can sometimes make it extra challenging to handle emotional stress. I was unsure about my ability to stay strong in the support role and provide a sense of safety and security for those opening up. Luckily, I have found it less draining than I anticipated and a lot more rewarding. It is exhilarating to be able to help someone make a difference in their life and grasp a little more happiness.

How do you do so much and stay healthy?

I find that it is very important to have strong boundaries and be willing to say ‘no’ when you are feeling overwhelmed. It is important to not take on more responsibilities than you can handle. I know that if I am not healthy I will not be able to continue to help. The key to sustainable activism is to make your well-being as important as those you are helping!

Published in: on September 27, 2010 at 7:42 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Life Plans

Yesterday I was talking with an amazing friend. She is so inspiring. On the rare occasions that we get a quiet moment to talk I always leave feeling rejuvenated and smiling.

We agreed that some of the  best parts of life are unplanned. This lead us to recall something John Lennon said, “Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans.”

In short, I believe it is important to be organized and aware, but not at the expense of experiencing life.

As another friend puts it, “live while living”.

Stu in the moment!

Published in: on September 26, 2010 at 8:09 pm  Comments (2)  
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In response to yesterday’s post I received a request for “affirmations to contradict the negative self-talk”.  I thought I would list some  affirmations from Ananda Yoga. They were designed to be thought or said out loud during asana practice, but I believe they work well at any time one needs inspiration. Here are a few of my favorites (there are many more):

Tree Pose – “I am calm, I am poised.”

Cobra Pose – “I rise joyfully to meet each new opportunity.”

Hero’s Pose – “In stillness I touch my inner strength.”

Eagle Pose – “At the center of life’s storms I stand serene.”

Standing Backbend – “I am free, I am free.”

Published in: on September 24, 2010 at 8:46 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Why did I give you all a list of cognitive distortions yesterday? I wanted to get you started thinking about how you talk with yourself. Our thoughts directly relate not only to our actions, but also to how we feel and experience life. Disciplining our thoughts is a great technique for creating more relaxation and less anxiety in our lives. This can be a very unpopular method because we tend to be very attached to the stories we tell ourselves. Unfortunately some of the stories we repeat to ourselves can be the very thoughts that are undercutting our self-esteem and creating a string of negative anxiety causing thoughts.  Changing some of our automatic thought processes is a difficult but worthwhile undertaking.

The first step is always the hardest. We must identify our automatic thoughts before we can begin to work with them. Try noticing what internal comments you repeat about yourself. When you do or do not accomplish a task what does your inner voice say? Do you call yourself stupid or lazy? Or maybe you blame others from keeping you from getting something done? Or if you succeed it is due to luck? Do you have to complete something 100% perfect to feel good about it?

The possible questions we can ask ourselves are endless, but the point is not to become overwhelmed and create more anxiety. The point is to become more intimately familiar with your own unique self talk. This brings us back to the importance of the cognitive distortions from yesterday’s post. Using that list can help us to understand some of our repeated stories and self talk. When we regularly have cognitive distortions it becomes difficult to have a clear picture of who we are and how we relate to ourselves and the world around us.

Next post we will tackle some ideas around how to address these cognitive distortions and the problems they create for us in our journey toward happiness.

Published in: on September 23, 2010 at 3:55 pm  Comments (4)  
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Cognitive Distortions

Cognitive distortions are habitual thought processes that we all experience at least once in a while.  Many people are influenced daily by cognitive distortions. They can cause a lot of unnecessary stress and really hinder our ability to have healthy relationships. Read through the following  list. Do any jump out at you? You might even recognize ones that you weren’t previously aware of. What do you think would be some way to tackle the vicious cycle of cognitive distortions? Are there other cognitive distortions you believe should be on the list?

Classic Cognitive Distortions or Assumptions

All or Nothing Thinking: think of things in “black or white”, “right or wrong”, “all or nothing” categories.

Over Generalizing: think of a single negative event as a never-ending pattern.

Mental Filtering: dwell on a single negative detail, and ignore moderate or positive things that may occur. Reject positive experiences… “They don’t count”.

Mind Reading: arbitrarily conclude that someone is reacting negatively to you, & don’t check this out with them.

Fortune Telling: anticipate that things will turn out badly, and feel convinced that your prediction is a fact.

Catastrophizing: believe the worst-case scenario will definitely happen.

Magnifying or Minimizing: exaggerate the importance of certain things (e.g. your mistakes or other’s successes) and minimize other things (e.g. your own desirable qualities or other’s imperfections).

Emotional Reasoning: assume that the way you feel reflects the way things are.  “I feel it, therefore it must be true.”

Shoulds: believe you must live up to excessively high standards, & may also have excessively high expectations of others.  You believe you should have known/done better, even when that would have been impossible.

Labeling/Mislabeling: instead of describing an error, you put a negative label on yourself/others.  e.g. Instead acknowledging your small error, you label yourself a “Loser”.

Personalization: see yourself as responsible for events around you that had little/no responsibility for.
e.g. Your friend is sad b/c her boyfriend left her, and you criticize yourself for having a boyfriend.

Jumping To Conclusions: conclude that something is a fact without enough evidence.

Probability Overestimation: overestimate the likelihood that something negative or dangerous will occur.

Compensatory Misconceptions: believe that you must inflate your achievements to be socially successful.

Adapted from: Cognitive Distortions (1999). The Shyness Institute, Portola Valley, CA

Published in: on September 23, 2010 at 1:26 am  Leave a Comment  
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My Story

Heart of the Treasure Valley: Angela Rockefeller Bryson works as an advocate and activist for people with mental illness

Read more:

Katherine Jones / Idaho Statesman

Having found her way through the tangle of emotions caused by her mental illness, Angela Rockefeller Bryson is committed to living her life with light and awareness. “Being bipolar means being extra-aware of responding to life stresses,” she says. “The gift of mental illness is to know yourself. It’s a lifelong journey. You can’t be in a hurry to make the future better.”

Published in: on September 19, 2010 at 5:52 pm  Comments (6)  
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Belly Breathing FAQs

Yesterday I posted a simple diaphragmatic/belly breathing technique. Hopefully some of you have tried it and those of you who already practice pranayama are sharing your discoveries. For beginners to pranayama (breath control) there can often be many questions. Here are the questions I get asked the most:

What if I get dizzy or feel panicky? If at any point during an exercise you feel dizzy or panicky, return to your accustomed breathing. It is not unusual to experience a mild sense of panic when first learning to manipulate the breath. This exercise is for you and it is important to listen to your body and it’s response to your breathing practice. After several seconds, try returning to your practice. If you continue to have this problem you may want to discuss it in more detail with your yoga teacher and doctor.

How often should I practice? At first, practice this exercise several minutes at least once per day. Many people find it comforting to start or end their day with breathing exercises. Gradually increase the amount of time you spend doing this exercise as your strength and comfort increases.

Why does this feel so awkward? Babies are born naturally breathing with full usage of their diaphragms. As we grow and develop many factors contribute to our breathing habits becoming shallower. Just as it feels awkward the first time you play a sport or return to the gym after a long absence, it will also take practice and time to rebuild strength in the diaphragm. At first, you’ll probably get tired while doing this exercise. But keep at it, because with continued practice, diaphragmatic breathing will become easy and automatic.

Published in: on September 15, 2010 at 8:36 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Belly Breathing

Belly Breathing – Diaphragmatic Breathing

First of all what is the diaphragm? The diaphragm is a large muscle that runs horizontally across the base of the ribcage. Through contraction and relaxation the diaphragm controls our lungs, either allowing air in or pushing air out. Just like other muscles, by working them in intentional ways they grow stronger. As we become more used to engaging and working our diaphragm we can increase the quality of our breath. Increasing the strength and stamina of the diaphragm is the first step to not only increasing breath quality, but also to easing our introduction to other breathing exercises. The following steps will guide you through a simple diaphragmatic breathing exercise.

Simple Diaphragmatic breathing technique:

Breathing exercises can be practiced lying down, sitting in a chair or seated on the floor. The important part is that you are comfortable and able to maintain good posture.

1.     Place one hand on your upper chest and the other just below your rib cage. This will allow you to feel your diaphragm move as you breathe.

2.     Keep your shoulders, head and neck relaxed.

3.     Breathe in slowly through your nose so that your stomach moves out against your hand.

4.     As you exhale let your stomach muscles fall inward and upward.

5.     Repeat for three breaths then return to your accustomed breathing for several cycles of breath. When you are ready draw your attention again to your hands and your breath.

Published in: on September 14, 2010 at 3:06 pm  Leave a Comment  
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