Yoga-works

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I have been spending a lot of time at my beloved Beloved Yoga studio recently.  A true enticer for me of late has been the warm toasty yoga room on these very cold mornings.  I have been doing yoga on and off for a decade; this spring I started up again and I always wonder “why would I ever stop?”

The teachers are fabulous; they are so well educated and proficient at their skill.  I have learned so much about the body, the mind, my own strength and potential.  I love realizing how I struggled with a certain pose back in the summer that comes so easily to me now and seeing how my endurance has really improved from these months of practicing yoga.

The typical class is ninety minutes.  The teachers often give a message in the beginning of class about balance, being in the present or any number of possibilities essential to both being on the yoga mat and living our daily lives.  We then warm up, progress into a pretty intense flow workout where I love to really get my sweat on. The class  then cools  down a bit where we do a variety of still poses and balances. At the end we settle in to shavasana  where we lie still for about five minutes and relax.

This ‘relax’ thing is harder than one might think.  When they say relax, they really mean relax; not plan your grocery list, itemize your work to-do tasks or think about calling your mother-in-law.  One of my favorite teachers encouraged me to try to feel my heart beat while in this pose.   When I am struggling to still my mind, I often focus on his suggestion and am able to slow down and focus on, well, just nothing, which is the intended goal.

As I get in my car to drive home, I always feel really great.  Each muscle has had a chance to be stretched or worked so my whole body feels wrung out.   And, my mind is always  usually perfectly still and calm as well (last week during shavasana, I did have a panic moment when I remembered that my quarterly taxes were due, but otherwise, I tend to achieve a very calm state).

One day the week  before Christmas I had gone to one of my favorite  morning classes before a client.  I rushed home, showered and got to the office while still maintaining my post-yoga calm.

My client arrived in the throes of the pre-Christmas frenzy.  There was talk of wrapping and shopping and cooking and extended family.  She was feeling anxious and stirred up and I listened.  I was still and slow, I responded calmly and from a very grounded spot.  As the session progressed, my client began to slow down.  She became more calm and peaceful;  her speaking slowed and her anxiety decreased.

At the end she said “and this is why I scheduled a pre-Christmas Laurie appointment” (she may have even blurted out “you are a genius” at one point)(to which I just laughed and thanked the yoga teacher).

After the session, us both feeling very peaceful, I shared my “genius” with her.

I told her about my yoga class and my enhanced calm during this particular therapy  session.  I have known her for years; her sessions are generally on a different day when yoga is not part of my morning.  We were both aware and impressed with how the yoga effected not just my state of being, but also my therapy presence and ultimately her state of being.

I have been very conscious of this in my subsequent sessions with all of my clients.  I am really aware of channeling this inner yoga calm into the therapy room.   What an amazing tool and quite the testament to mindfulness and the calm that is yoga; it does work!


The pain AND the ache

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Who remembers when I was going to physical therapy?  My wonderful physical therapist, Andre Heletsi, healed my pains and tingles like a champ.

Andre has now opened Missing Link Physical Therapy in Loudon County.  It is a unique  physical therapy practice that addresses not only traditional physical therapy needs, but also those of athletes and dancers.  The team includes physical therapists, personal trainers, massage therapists and a performing arts specialist.    Their philosophy is to provide an in-depth assessment and treatment of their patients.  Missing Link is a fee-for-service practice so that each patient receives more personal time and attention with their therapist than at an insurance based clinic.  Andre’s vision is to treat the whole patient – mind, body and soul.

That is where I come in.  Andre has invited me to help with the mental health piece.  He and I have talked at length about the mind-body connection and how intertwined they are.  He is viscerally aware when his patients’ physical ailments go beyond the body.  Often trauma and stress can contribute to a chronic pain issue or to prolonged recovery from surgery or an injury.

My daughter was asking how my work and his were connected.  I explained to her that “he can take away their pain” and she finished my sentence beautifully with “but not all of their ache.”

I am currently creating a workshop for Mind Link Physical Therapy; I plan to facilitate a discussion on the tools we can all implement to decrease both our pain and our ache.  The date has yet to be decided (which is fine since the workshop is still in its early stages)(get to work, Laurie!), but it will be a free event at the beautiful Mind Link Physical Therapy facility.

I promise to keep you posted.


Another rant

Note to self: LET IT GO

Note to self: LET IT GO

Allow me a rant, I’m good at it, I’ve done it before, and well, it just needs to come out so I can it get out of my head space.

This winter it was cold, really cold.  Our kids missed some school because it was cold. Then it snowed and iced and once again, school was cancelled, we had the joy of sleeping in, shoveling driveways and drinking hot cocoa.

Somewhere between then and now Fairfax County Schools decided to extend the school year due to the amount of school days missed.  I heard the hemming and hawing and went about my business because June felt like it was far away.  It is now June and Fairfax County Schools are not officially over until tomorrow;  tomorrow as in they attend school for about 6 minutes, I guess just to call it a “school day” for the books.

I don’t know many students that are attending this week.  Mine are home, their friends are home and many of the neighbors are home.  The middle school is having field day today;  my daughter’s friend just texted her a picture of them watching ‘Frozen’ in class.  I don’t feel badly about her missing it, she’s seen the movie a million times.

A dear friend of mine has a beach house rented for this week.  They booked it eons ago before the Winter of 2014 pounced on Northern Virginia.  My friend’s husband is a teacher.  Do you see where this is going?  My friend drove herself and her two kids to the beach house without her husband so that he could stay behind and press the play button on the ‘Frozen’ DVD for his high school students.  He will join them on Wednesday after the school day where the kids go to each class for 15 minutes to say their good-byes and sign yearbooks.

I understand the need for education.  I am all for education and learning.  NO ONE IS LEARNING THIS WEEK. They are biding time to say they met their school requirements.  And, hard working teachers who did teach and educate throughout the year are missing family vacations etc. because of these added days where no one is teaching.

I don’t get it – if you do, please fill me in.

 

 


The physical therapy way

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Until last year, I had never been acquainted with physical therapy.  My only brush with it was when I would tell a passerby I was a therapist and they would ask “physical therapist?”, or when people I knew would be going off to PT several times a week.  Last spring, my daughter began having some hip/foot issues from her dancing and the pediatrician sent us marching to this “PT” thing.   Once we got settled in at  Bodies in Motion, she and I were both hooked.  She for the individual attention and kindness of the therapists and me because it was so very fasciniating.

What was I fascinated by?  First there is a big room of tables with multiple therapists and multiple patients doing all sorts of body work together.  Bending, stretching, pushing, pulling, there are even people getting needles in their bodies right there in the middle of everything. Therapists and patients all chit chat amongst one another; be it type of injury, latest snow storm or lunch cravings – chatter and laughter abounds.

My mental health therapist head is thinking HIPAA?  We operate under strict  ethical codes highlighting all manners of confidentiality, conduct and boundaries;  I get antsy when one of my clients happen to bump into another in the waiting room and here we have the PT patients being assessed,  worked on and massaged in front of the entire patient population.

The other intriguing thing for me is the toys.  Not only are there stationary bikes and treadmills, there are bands and balls and gadgets for every last muscle.  My daughter was picking up marbles with her toes and placing them in a bucket.   I was struck by the creativity of it all.  I discussed it with her therapist and was amazed by all of the engineering technology involved in their “toys”.

Now it’s my turn.  I’ve been having a shoulder/arm issue that just won’t quit.  It started with pain and over the duration of the winter has turned into a nerve thing with tingling up and down my arm.  When I walked back into the ‘toy’ room for my first appointment, I was warmly greeted by the two PT’s that had worked with my daughter. How is she,  how is her dancing, let me see pictures etc.

One of these  kind gentleman was assigned to my tingling.   He took my history,  asked about the initial injury and then began touching my arm, shoulder and hand.  (Another bizarre thing for this mental health therapist, touching a client? If a client asks for a hug every clinical nerve in my brain is on “alert” due to our very rigid boundaries).

Push, pull, resist, stretch, turn, shrug – my PT is beginning to assess the tingle.  He checked mobility, range of motion and who knows what? The good thing is HE knows what he is doing, I am just the body on which he does his work.   And this is where my “aha” moment struck.  He is looking for the cause of the tingle;  by pushing and prodding at my muscles, assessing  where I am tight and when I loosen up, subtleties of  which I  am barely aware, but he understands the body and can figure out what is going on with my nerve.  He constantly asks me if I notice any difference, is the tingling more or less, rate it on a scale of 1-10.  The tingle can’t speak to him, thus he must rely on my evaluation.

The ‘tingle’ doesn’t talk; I feel it, it is uncomfortable and irritating, but I’m not sure of its source. It is inconsistent;  fingers, hand and arm depending on the moment or my movement.  How is this similar or not to the mental health therapy that I do? Sometimes I see a client that knows exactly what is going on.   “My mother died, I am heavily grieving and am having trouble getting my work done.”  PT patients can know the root cause; many of them are there for rehabilitation following surgery,  have specific injuries or various medical needs.

Often I get the ‘tingle’ clients.  “I’ve been feeling depressed”, “my daughter is cutting herself “, “our teenager is self-medicating with drugs”.  These symptoms have less of a clear source.  Sometimes they can be an offshoot of a trauma, root from a deeper depression or can be the beginnings of a chronic mental illness.  These symptoms, as the ‘tingle’, can be a mystery.  Like my PT, I begin to push and prod at the emotional muscles; I assess and ask and maneuver.  Unlike my PT, who can push a muscle really hard (AND hurt my inner arm like nobody’s business), I need to approach more gently.  If I push too hard, I may cause my client to shut down or even worse, scare him away. (Of course the PT could push the limit, but based on my first two appointments, he has more wiggle room with the idea of gentle).

Over time, building rapport and trust, my clients and I dig together towards the source of their symptoms.  Often, they too, find that their ‘tingle’ doesn’t speak.  Many of my clients struggle with identifying their emotions; they aren’t familiar with them,  can’t discern between sadness or anger, or just can’t find them.  I slow things down and help them to build an emotional vocabulary and learn to identify emotional triggers via body sensations.  Where do you feel it in your body? What does it feel like? Pressure/pain/shaky? All of these prompts help people to get in touch with their emotional temperature.

The word therapy, meaning curing or healing, comes in many forms.  While I am doing talk therapy, there are so many ways to heal us humans.  I am glad to know that both our bodies and our souls lend  to pushing, prodding and healing so that we can all achieve the mental, physical and spiritual peace that enable our days to be filled with  joy.


For old time’s sake: STAY SAFE and WARM

With another storm on the way, I was thinking about the derecho almost two years ago.  I thought I’d re-share with the hope that every one is safe and warm, able to charge and re-charge both their electronics and their relationships:

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Let’s have a look back at 2013

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We all love the annual In/Out list in our local newspaper every New Year’s Day.  At my house we fight over who gets it first, read it out loud, laugh and depending on the item either the younger or the older generation will not understand either a political reference (younger) or newest twerk or band (older).

I thought I would have a look back at this blog over the last year. What have I written about? What have been common themes? What has been fun and funny or sad and painful?,  and what has just been a dud of  a post?

I began the year talking about reflections (not resolutions) and self-care, especially for overdone moms that rarely have time for themselves.  I posted one of my favorite ditties from my website to share my view of the therapeutic experience and finished up January posting about a presentation I did.

During my own  walk down memory lane  I wrote about parenting, both younger and older children and how things change so much over time. Posts on snow days and spring break  allowed us all plenty of family time. And, I enjoyed many a post or more pontificating about my work, my progress and how much I love my job.

Throughout the year a common subject that has recurred is one of cancer.  This both saddens me and inspires me.  I completed my third Avon Breast Cancer Walk, I volunteer for a wonderful group, Bite Me Cancer, and, tragically a little girl in our community lost her battle with cancer in October.  Another vile recurrent theme has had to do with violence; this leaves me feeling furious and powerless and yet we continue to encounter cruelty on a much to regular basis.

A few posts stood out as just plain fun and positive.  I love Mother’s Day, a highlight of the year was filling up my Bucket List, and for some reason summer often wins out as having the most fun posts.

There have been more than my average posts about launching a child to college as I have suddenly found myself knee-deep in the parenting-a-college-kid experience.

And, as for duds: I just re-read this one and finished wondering what in the world I was talking about.

I feel like the narrator of one of the Christmas specials.  He sums up the hour long animated show with tales of the reindeer, the snowman and the furry squirrels turning in for the night.  As we prepare to bid goodbye to 2013, may we have less sadness, depression, cancer and violence and much much more joy and rich experiences in the year to come….”and to all a good-night!”

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A little hello

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It’s been a little quiet over here in blog-land.  I’ve started a few posts and they sit waiting in my cue for the final editing etc.  My posts tend to go better when they fly off my fingers onto the screen.  I know then that I have something important to say.  Not that the ones awaiting perfection aren’t important,  sometimes the words just flow easier (remember,  a writer, I am not).

I have nothing to say, but I get anxious when a random site emails me and says “we’ve missed your blogs”.   Why?  I don’t know – a job for my own inner anxiety reducer.

I had a lovely vacation over July 4th and plunged back in to heavy client days only to have a little reprieve for hump day today before more busy-ness for the end of the week.  Summer is tricky for the solo therapist, it is actually tricky for most businesses  unless you rent boats or manage camps.

Vacations, camps, well-behaved children who don’t have homework, happier families due to less stressful daily life; the need for therapy is down.  Honestly, that makes me happy, other than the need to pay  my bills.  I like that people can find their joy; I like that people are free from worries and feel lighter; I like that people are less troubled and distressed during these lazy summer months.

May you find some joy be it on the beach, at an air conditioned summer movie or just lounging around with no homework, tests or frenzied weeks.  We know they are all around the corner, and when the crazy hits, I am here if you need me.