Emotional Yoga Graduates!

Yesterday was the last class for our first NAMI-Yoga program, a seven week Emotional Yoga workshop series. The program has been a dream of mine for years. I am so excited to say that the first series went wonderfully. We had a great time and learned a ton. The next series will be even better!

I could not have seen this dream come to fruition without a huge support team and I want to thank everyone involved. In particular I want to recognize:

  • Ann Kirkwood – for introducing me to NAMI in the first place.
  • Paula Campbell – for being inspired by the  idea and mentoring the process.
  • Debbie Murphy – for teaching me the power of yoga and always providing rock solid support.
  • Hala Khouri – for inspiring me with her work in yoga, psychology & activism. No matter how busy her schedule, she was always willing to provide advice and direction.
  • Ann and Cynthia – for being the women behind the NAMI machine. They are the ones who always made sure we had what we needed for each workshop.
  • Stu Bryson – my husband, who put up with my obsessively single focused mind for the last year!
  • Jennifer Schlechte – my right hand yogi and partner in crime. Jen donated more than 50 hours of her time to teaching, compiling music and anything else I needed help with. She has been the best partner I could have asked for and I am so excited to have the privilege to continue to work with her.
  • Dan, Joel, Rea, Julia, Yang and (not pictured) Lorraine and Val – the 2010 graduates, for being open minded, supportive, giving and committed. You all made this possible. Best Wishes.

Emotional Yoga Graduates 2010

If you would like to know more about:

Useful Friend!

I wish Jesse was my friend 🙂




Published in: on October 29, 2010 at 4:41 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Looking for a Man?


Happy Russ = Being on the Mat


Although male yogis are the norm in other parts of the world, that is not the case here in the western US. There are a number of qualified men teaching yoga here in Boise, but the numbers are few. I wanted to take this opportunity to tell you about a good friend of mine, Russ Christensen. He is a fellow graduate of Shanti Yoga School and is teaching a class in the Eagle area.

Tues/Thurs at 5:30-6:30. Its $10 drop in or 5 class punch card for $30. First class is free.

Russ added:

“……more times at Shokra…
Tues/Thurs Vinyasa : 5:45-6:45pm and 7-8pm
Saturday Vinyasa: 9-10:30 (taught by Kimberlyn)
Sunday Yin Yoga : 10-11:30
And a $40 monthly unlimited is also available.”

Shockra Salon & Studio

3777 N. Eagle Rd.
Boise , ID 83713

Published in: on October 26, 2010 at 2:33 pm  Comments (3)  
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All for Yoga & Yoga for All

Thank you to The Idaho Council on Developmental Disabilities and The Idaho Self-Advocate Leadership Network! I am proud to say that I was given the opportunity to be a presenter at the Self-Advocacy, it’s all about WE conference (October 21-23). I met some amazingly strong resilient people who welcomed me with hugs, smiles and open minds. The room radiated with positive energy. The conference offered the opportunity to ‘meet self-advocates from all over the state, learn about self-advocacy, and learn how to be a part of the Idaho self-advocacy movement’.

The following is just a sampling of the workshops offered:

  • The Power of Self-Advocacy
  • Assistive Technology and Community Living
  • Getting Hired and Working
  • Tips on Public Speaking
  • Setting Goals and Achieving Dreams
  • Yoga for All
  • Dating, Relationships and Sex
  • Parenting with a Disability
  • Go Vote!
  • My Voice My Choice – Self-Directing Your Services

If you would like more information about ICDD or ISALN please check out their websites below:



Published in: on October 24, 2010 at 6:05 pm  Leave a Comment  
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In the End

‘It’s good to have an end to journey towards, but it’s the journey that matters, in the end.’ ~Ursula K. Leguin


Published in: on October 23, 2010 at 5:09 am  Leave a Comment  
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A Super Simple Intro to Meditation

What is Meditation?

It means many different things to most people. One eloquent definition of meditation by Pema Chodron states, “…by learning to peacefully abide in sitting meditation: (we are) creating the space for our garden to grow. Then we can cultivate qualities that will allow us to live our lives in full bloom.” (Turning the Mind Into an Ally, p#7) Mary NurrieStearns, LCSW, RYT, clearly defines meditation as, “…taking some time to sit; focus your attention on your breath, mantra or stillness; and witness your thoughts.” (Yoga for Anxiety, p#176)

What does meditation mean to you?

How do I Meditate?

Some people spend their whole life in pursuit of this answer, but we aren’t going to make it that complicated. To begin your meditation practice you just need to find a way to be physically comfortable, keep a high quality of breathe, and find as much mental stillness as possible. Some people never sit or find physical stillness during meditation, but it is commonly believed that the stiller the body the greater ease with which you will find mental stillness. There is no right or wrong way to meditate. The important thing is to find what works for you.  Let us explore some helpful meditation techniques.  What are some techniques you use?

  • Moving Mindfulness – walking, hiking, yoga asana and other deep awareness movement
  • Rhythmic Movement – swaying, ‘mudra tapping’, muscle tension & release
  • Sound Vibrations – chanting, mantra repetition, kirtan, singing/relaxing music, ‘om’ing
  • Withdrawal of Senses – ear plugs, eyes closed
  • Single Mental Focus – scents, candle flame, breath, mantra
  • Thought Detachment – non-judgmental thought labeling, non-identification with thought

How does meditating help me?

According to Psychology Today, “Neuroscientists have found that meditators shift their brain activity to different areas of the cortex – brain waves in the stress-prone right frontal cortex move to the calmer left frontal cortex. This mental shift decreases the negative effects of stress, mild depression and anxiety. There is also less activity in the amygdala, where the brain processes fear.”

Meditating can be challenging and sometimes very frustrating, but science has proven it to be a practice of uncountable positive effects. With regular practice you can expect to be calmer, think more clearly, sleep better, and so much more.

I would love to hear how meditation has helped or challenged you? Share what has or has not worked for you.

Serotonin in the Gut

Gut Feelings: System Acts as Second Brain
By Harriet Brown

Two brains are better than one. At least that is the rationale for the close – sometimes too close – relationship between the human body’s two brains, the one at the top of the spinal cord and the hidden but powerful brain in the gut known as the enteric nervous system.

For Dr. Michael D. Gershon, the author of “The Second Brain” and the chairman of the department of anatomy and cell biology at Columbia, the connection between the two can be unpleasantly clear. “Every time I call the National Institutes of Health to check on a grant proposal,” Gershon said, “I become painfully aware of the influence the brain has on the gut.”

In fact, anyone who has ever felt butterflies in the stomach before giving a speech, a gut feeling that flies in the face of fact or a bout of intestinal urgency before an examination has experienced the actions of the dual nervous systems.

The connection between the brains lies at the heart of many woes, physical and psychiatric. Ailments like anxiety, depression, irritable bowel syndrome, ulcers and Parkinson’s disease manifest symptoms at the brain and the gut level.

“The majority of patients with anxiety and depression will also have alterations of their GI function,” said Dr. Emeran Mayer, professor of medicine, physiology and psychiatry at UCLA.

A study in 1902 showed changes in the movement of food through the gastrointestinal tract in cats confronted by growling dogs.

One system’s symptoms – and cures – may affect the other. Antidepressants, for example, cause gastric distress in up to a quarter of the people who take them. Butterflies in the stomach are caused by a surge of stress hormones released in a “fight or flight” situation. Stress can also overstimulate nerves in the esophagus, causing a feeling of choking.

Gershon, who coined the term “second brain” in 1996, is one of a number of researchers who are studying brain-gut connections in the relatively new field of neurogastroenterology. New understandings of the way the second brain works, and the interactions between the two, are helping to treat disorders like constipation, ulcers and Hirschprung’s disease.

Digestive brain

The role of the enteric nervous system is to manage every aspect of digestion, from the esophagus to the stomach, small intestine and colon. The second brain, or little brain, accomplishes all that with the same tools as the big brain, a sophisticated, nearly self-contained network of neural circuitry, neurotransmitters and proteins.

The independence is a function of the enteric nervous system’s complexity.

“Rather than Mother Nature’s trying to pack 100 million neurons someplace in the brain or spinal cord and then sending long connections to the GI tract, the circuitry is right next to the systems that require control,” said Jackie D. Wood, professor of physiology, cell biology and internal medicine at Ohio State.

Two brains may seem like the stuff of science fiction, but they make literal and evolutionary sense.

“What brains do is control behavior,” Wood said. “The brain in your gut has stored within its neural networks a variety of behavioral programs, like a library. The digestive state determines which program your gut calls up from its library and runs.”

When someone skips lunch, the gut is more or less silent. Eat a pastrami sandwich, and contractions all along the small intestines mix the food with enzymes and move it toward the lining for absorption to begin. If the pastrami is rotten, reverse contractions will force it – and everything else in the gut – into the stomach and back out through the esophagus.

In each situation, the gut must assess conditions, decide on a course of action and initiate a reflex.

“The gut monitors pressure,” Gershon said. “It monitors the progress of digestion. It detects nutrients, and it measures acid and salts. It’s a little chemical lab.”

The enteric system does this on its own, with little help from the central nervous system.

GI disorders

It is no surprise that there is a direct relationship between emotional stress and physical distress. “Clinicians are finally acknowledging that a lot of dysfunction in GI disorders involves changes in the central nervous system,” said Gary M. Mawe, a professor of anatomy and neurobiology at the University of Vermont.

The big question is which comes first, physiology or psychology?

The enteric and central nervous systems use the same hardware, as it were, to run two very different programs. Serotonin, for instance, is crucial to feelings of well-being. Hence the success of the antidepressants known as SSRIs that raise the level of serotonin available to the brain.

But 95 percent of the body’s serotonin is housed in the gut, where it acts as a neurotransmitter and a signaling mechanism. The digestive process begins when a specialized cell, an enterochromaffin, squirts serotonin into the wall of the gut, which has at least seven types of serotonin receptors. The receptors, in turn, communicate with nerve cells to start digestive enzymes flowing or to start things moving through the intestines.

Serotonin also acts as a go-between, keeping the brain in the skull up to date with what is happening in the brain below. Such communication is mostly one way, with 90 percent traveling from the gut to the head.

Many of those messages are unpleasant, and serotonin is involved in sending them. Chemotherapy drugs like doxorubicin, which is used to treat breast cancer, cause serotonin to be released in the gut, leading to nausea and vomiting.

Serotonin is also implicated in one of the most debilitating gut disorders, irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS, which causes abdominal pain and cramping, bloating and, in some patients, alternating diarrhea and constipation.

The default assumption has been that the syndrome is a psychosomatic disease. But it turns out that irritable bowel syndrome, like depression, is at least in part a function of changes in the serotonin system. In this case, it is too much serotonin rather than too little.

In a healthy person, after serotonin is released into the gut and initiates an intestinal reflex, it is whisked out of the bowel by a molecule known as the serotonin transporter, or SERT, found in the cells that line the gut wall.

People with irritable bowel syndrome do not have enough SERT, so they wind up with too much serotonin floating around, causing diarrhea.

The excess serotonin then overwhelms the receptors in the gut, shutting them down and causing constipation.

When Gershon, whose work has been supported by Novartis, studied mice without SERT, he found that they developed a condition very much like IBS in humans.

Several new serotonin-based drugs – intestinal antidepressants, in a way – have brought hope for those with chronic gut disorders.

Published in: on October 17, 2010 at 4:08 pm  Comments (2)  
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Lion’s Breath

This may look very silly, but it is a very simple and powerful breathing exercise. Try it. What is the worst that could happen….you could make yourself giggle?

Lion’s Breath

1.    Scrunch all the muscles in your face and inhale deeply.

2.    Exhale fully, while sticking your tongue out and opening your eyes wide.

3.    Repeat several times and then relax.


Scrunch & Inhale



Exhale Lion's Breath


Published in: on October 16, 2010 at 1:25 am  Comments (2)  
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Living Wabi Sabi

How many of you tend to ‘should’ all over yourself? Always thinking that you should have done better or done something differently? If you remember this was one of the cognitive distortions I listed last month.

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.

Well, this is one I deal with a lot. I have been working hard to quit being my worst enemy and become my own best friend. Letting go of the idea that one has to be perfect to be loved! One of my favorite little inspirational books to counteract a case of the ‘shoulds’ is called Living Wabi Sabi.

“Appreciate this and every moment, no matter how imperfect, for this is your life. When you reject this moment, you reject your life. You don’t have to settle for this moment, you are free to steer a different course, but for now, this moment is yours, so be mindful to make the most of it.” ~Taro Gold from Living Wabi Sabi



Published in: on October 15, 2010 at 12:41 am  Leave a Comment  
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Progressive Muscle Relaxation

Simplified Progressive Muscle Relaxation

1.    Breathe comfortably throughout the Progressive Muscle Relaxation exercise.

2.    Lying on the floor or sitting comfortably, begin by closing your eyes and listening to your breath.

3.    One by one we will be flexing and then relaxing different muscle groups.

4.    Start with your hands and feet, flex and release.

5.    Flex your lower arms and lower legs, then release.

6.    Flex your upper arms and upper legs, then release.

7.    Scrunch up your face muscles and then release.

8.    Tighten all the muscles in your bottom and torso, then release.

9.    Lastly, flex all your muscles at once, hold for a couple of seconds.

10.  Release and relax your whole body. Listen quietly to your body and feel where your body is being supported.   Feel supported and relaxed.

Published in: on October 12, 2010 at 5:25 am  Comments (2)  
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