food addiction and eating disorders are some of the most complicated imbalances that we deal with today, because we need food to live, yet the wrong type and/or the wrong amount can be devastating to our health. As a society we still have a very unhealthy relationship to food, including everything from how the media spurs us towards junk food as comfort and how fad diets are irresponsibly recommended to all. Stabilizing a healthy weight requires a lot of self-knowledge and self-care. Firstly, we must understand our particular dietary and exercise needs and how they change from season to season and year to year, and then we must cultivate enough self-love to carve out the time and attention it takes to create a lifestyle that would support such inner wisdom. I highly suggest that you seek out professional help from a licensed nutritionist as well as a psychotherapist to work on the inner issues that keep many of us stuck seeking comfort and validation from outside sources. It’s important that you know that you are not alone and that what you are going through is all too familiar for many women in this day and age. Get the support of others and most importantly be kind to yourself in this process. I wish you much ease in discovering the true beauty of your soul.
Yes, those feelings are to be expected and are currently shared by millions across the planet which heightens your personal experience every time it is reflected back at you through the speech of another, social media or any other medium that expresses this collective sentiment. Rather than responding to those feelings with further doubt and negative thoughts, impulsive decision making and/or destructive behaviors, try instead to work on your capacity to just feel them, which will benefit you by building your emotional resiliency. Then, try to work on cultivating strength, love and compassion through self-care, yoga, exercise and other ways to contact our ever-determined human spirit. This will more likely spur you towards positive efforts that will benefit your life and the planet. While we cannot always control the results of our actions, taking them with the very best of ourselves will always ensure that we will never have regrets and that we'll plant the seeds for our finest future.
While there is a lot of upset regarding the new president elect the most important factor (no matter if you voted for or against him) is that we don’t allow these results to further divide us from our fellow human. More than anything this election has reminded me how critical it is to accept and love everyone equally and that there are many more qualities that we each share than which separate us, for example, the desire for safety, security, jobs and other basic human rights. If you are deeply triggered by this election be sure to take care of yourself, seek out community and engage in body/mind practice to help reconnect to your strength, love and purpose. Then be sure to put your positive energy to good use by actively and intelligently standing up for what you believe in. As Gandhi said, “Be the change that you wish to see in the world”. At the very least, this election is mobilizing forces inside many of us to a degree which we had never accessed before. Let’s just be sure to use them in a loving, respectful and humanizing way. At the end of the day, we are all in this together.
When consumption becomes an automatic and compulsive behavior, believe it or not, it wreaks the same havoc on our psyche as what we typically consider to be worse addictive behaviors! Through blind consumption we are sending a message to the universe that we are not satisfied by its intelligent and natural design and require daily Starbucks, new jeans, a new car or the newest iPhone to get in touch with the inherent pleasure and joy of this precious life. My invitation to you is that each time you are about to reach for the next external attempt at fulfillment, close your eyes, gently breathe at your belly and try to feel your life force traveling through your body. If that is too subtle for you try Bhastrika breath (learned from a properly trained yoga teacher) and that will certainly reconnect you to Source. This is not to say that we shouldn’t enjoy what life has to offer to its fullest, but when it becomes a replacement for deeply connecting to Self we are setting up a vicious cycle that can only lead to more and more constitutional imbalance and suffering. When we are truly aware of our nature, unconscious consumption simply falls away, so to permanently ward off its insidious manner a daily, psycho-spiritual practice is required.
Unfortunately self-harming behaviors have become a standard response to the modern stressors of daily life. They include (but are not limited to) - cutting, abusive use of alcohol and drugs, risky sexual behavior, unhealthy use of food, starvation and much more. Firstly, please get help. Self-harming activities are a way for your subconscious to let you know that you need more support in life and as these actions are often done in secrecy, reaching out is the first step to healing - so congrats on doing so, even just in this forum. You don’t have to go it alone! The antidote for self-harm is self-care. There are a myriad of ways to implement such practices, for example - going to a nourishing yoga class, spending time with loved ones, breathing practices, dry brushing, self-massage, eating home-cooked meals, reading inspirational material, guided meditations, naps and basically any activity that brings relaxation to the body, peace to your mind and warmth to your heart. The road to self-love is a long one, but the most important journey of your life. Please do let me know if I can do anything further to support you.
Since change is the nature of most things in this world, the more we value something the more we can fear losing it. It can be very upsetting to realize that even the people whom we hold most sacred will eventually vanish. Thoughts and feelings of insecurity typically arise as a precursor to forceful control with the intention to limit change and loss, yet these very actions can sometimes spur on the process of manifesting the loss that we are so desperately trying to avoid. It is important to recognize that these feelings are normal, yet unproductive and take action to work directly with their energy in order to build strength and resiliency. This can be done through yoga and other mind/body therapies and meditation/contemplation on attachment, suffering and the impermanence of all things. It is important not to allow these feelings to fester in order to avoid unhealthy dependency on the relationship and a good opportunity to work on these themes within the self and spend time cultivating other sacred activities to maximize one’s feeling of connection to life in all of its splendor.
We often see how chronic illness can lead to intense loneliness, which in your case sounds compounded by the other factors that you mentioned in your question. While self-care is always at the top of my list of tools for wellbeing (and I’m glad to hear that you have some in place), I might also suggest prioritizing connection and intimacy above anything else. In Ayurveda we talk about a very refined substance called Ojas. It is responsible not only for our immunity and overall wellbeing, but also for our joy and happiness. Ojas is a very subtle essence and difficult to produce, so we are taught to guard it by practicing a balanced lifestyle. One interesting way that we can cultivate Ojas is through touch and connection to other good people. This can come in many forms: receiving a massage, talking to a close friend, sitting amongst a group of likeminded/hearted individuals, looking lovingly into the eyes of another, taking a group class like gentle yoga, holding a baby, interpersonal laughter and pretty much anything that brings us closer to the loving essence of another. So perhaps you could start thinking outside of the box for different ways to establish satisfying and reciprocal moments of relating? Then, beyond these connections you could also protect and increase Ojas by working on excellent digestion, spending time in nature, continuing to move gently inwards towards the body/heart/mind, reducing stress and tension in any way possible and letting go of everything that’s hindering lasting inner peace. Your situation is difficult indeed, but I believe that at the base of our nature is wisdom and love and I’m so happy to hear that you continue to seek out ways to realize that.
Panic and anxiety are normal responses to the stressors of the 21st century, yet can be very scary occurrences particularly during an initial panic attack, which can send sufferers to the hospital when mistaken for a heart attack. With proper guidance not only can one implement effective coping mechanisms for when the panic arises, but one can eventually learn how to minimize or eradicate the attacks all together. It is crucial when treating anxiety to involve the body (Ayurvedic diet, exercise and yoga), mind (cognitive therapy and meditation) and heart (breathing practices and emotional regulation therapy) in order to gain the quickest and most lasting results and not just the mind (as in Western talk therapy), which can often make an anxious mind worse. Let your friend know that he is not alone nor does he have to deal with his panic alone and help him to find the proper therapy providers.
We all experience periods of overwhelm and during the fall (vata season) we are particularly prone to doing so. It is critical during these times to prioritize self-care, slow down and allow the autumn winds to settle. My preferred ways of doing this are by increasing time in meditation, including yoga nidra, moving slower and more deeply into yoga practice, eating kitchari and other warm foods and sitting with a good book and a cup of tea or a good friend and a glass of wine. When we focus on our healthiest selves the externals of life (work, relationships, etc.) start to fall into their correct place and we feel much more empowered to manage how that looks. If these concepts are new to you, seek advice from holistic healthcare practitioners. As the fall gives way to winter we hope to establish a slow, internal, yet inspiring routine to softly carry us through the long dark days.
There has always been suffering in the world, but with faster and broader access to information we are bombarded with it to a degree never seen before. As a result, some people can only stick their heads in the sand, while others meet it with great courage and compassion (here’s looking at you Amal Clooney) and while the former is certainly an understandable reaction, to be able to healthily integrate this planet’s pain means to acknowledge, accept and respond with compassionate action, rather than turning a blind eye. We must be willing to feel each other’s pain (along with our own) and seek out community and support in order to host it. It is very important to voice our hurt, sadness and fears and be received by like-hearted individuals. From a yogic perspective the first step to alleviating the world's suffering is to address our own, as Gandhi said, “be the change you wish to see in the world”. In my opinion the best way to both tolerate and heal suffering is to work on one’s own capacity for patience, non-judgement, kindness and compassion. In just one person’s lifetime this can spread far and wide and inspire others to be the same. Responding to our actual situation (personally, globally and everything in between) with love and wisdom teaches us to accept things as they are while always working towards better.
In Nondual Shaiva Tantra there are two categories of meditation: meditation with form (sapekṣa dhyānam) and meditation without form (nirapekṣa dhyānam). The first category includes thousands of techniques that involve doing something, like watching the breath, counting, gazing at smoke arising from incense, tracking thoughts and sensations, reciting mantra and many, many more. The latter contains only one: a non-conceptual meditation that invites us only to directly experience reality precisely as it is; the pithy instructions for which were put forth by the great yogic saint Abhinavagupta: “Take nothing, leave nothing, be with everything as it is”. For beginners (and even intermediates) having some kind of anchor to come back to each time we lose presence can be very helpful in learning how to meditate and so meditation with form is usually suggested. Any meditation that one chooses will eventually calm the mind and so it is only necessary to choose a practice that you resonate with and can commit to with daily regularity (even if just for 10 mins.) Meditation has a cumulative effect, so it’s critical to create a routine that slowly builds over time, rather than to sit irregularly for longer periods. If you are a true beginner I would recommend sitting with a straight spine and simply watching the rising and falling of the breath at your belly while you consciously relax tension in the body. Each time you notice that you have become distracted gently bring your attention back to the practice.
Without a doubt the most important element to healthy relating is the ability to express kindness and compassion under all circumstances. Typically when couples suffer it is due to their insistence upon pushing their own agendas rather than showing each other love and understanding. As a culture we are far too concerned with being “right” and not nearly considerate enough of other people's feelings and perspectives. When romantic partners look out for each other then trust and intimacy grow and the relationship elevates to great heights. In this dynamic it is possible for both people to truly be themselves and get many of their needs met in a respectful manner. In order to succeed at this type of relationship each partner must become responsible for their own emotions and know how to stay centered when triggers arise (this is a worthwhile practice no matter one’s relationship status). It is important to understand our motivation for love and then to ask ourselves whether our thoughts, words and actions are in alignment with our goals. Let’s love well!
For starters let’s agree that there is no such thing as the “One”. Thank goodness there are many thousands of beings who we would each be well-suited for (insert all single people’s collective sigh of relief). What we are looking for in another we should also possess in ourselves: the maturity to commit, the willingness to own our relationship triggers and the ability to work on them when they arise. This is the basic formulation for a successful relationship. Then of course we all have preferences and it’s nice when our partners can compliment them emotionally, sexually and materially. Do they like to travel? Are they planning for children? Where do they wish to live? Do they enjoy our kinks? Finally (and this is a personal preference) are you excited to see them after a long day and do they still give you butterflies? While relationships don't necessarily require passion for a healthy partnership, I would rather sacrifice companionship for the possibility. Long-term relationships are not for the feint at heart. Love hard and love well.
Panic attacks are a result of a misfiring in the brain, interpreting high intensity, but safe events as a matter of life or death. Over time we can learn to anticipate and manage these uncomfortable moments and eventually rewire the brain by responding to the panic with conscious effort to stay centered and grounded. It is much easier to manage a panic attack as it is ramping up, rather than once it is full blown so the first step is to learn about your triggers so that you can begin to anticipate when they might arise. Then, once you feel the difficult sensations coming on you must work with the body, mind and energy to resolve them (and while this may take a bit of time at first, as you flex these muscles you will learn to manage them much more swiftly and effectively). Body: Feel your feet connected to the earth and have a sense of your strength and embodiment, i.e. don’t fly away with the fears and sensations. Mind: Accurately assess your situation and question any thoughts that are trying to convince you of life-threatening danger. Energy: BREATHE!!! But rather than try to control your breath (which can sometimes make things worse), try to let it relax and feel it’s natural regulation by simply watching it slow as you become more settled into your environment. Once it slows you can begin to perform a very easy, natural breath at the belly - expanding on the inhale and emptying out on the exhale. Managing panic attacks is best treated in two ways: Practicing to conquer the symptoms (as directed above) and building strength and resiliency on the inside through proper diet, exercise and sleep routines. Anxiety and panic attacks are both very treatable, but do take time and effort to building the strength and vitality needed to do so.
It is true that luck plays a role in life (and I’m sorry that yours has been difficult). In the yoga tradition it is believed that life is a combination of fate and freewill (aka karma), and that we can increase our good luck through sadhana (spiritual practice). Personally, I wouldn’t take this lying down. And while a certain degree of acceptance is required to digest negative experiences, it is important to feel that we can take action to better ourselves and our situation, and not remain at the mercy of “horrible luck”. Sometimes misfortune is contained to a certain time period or cycle of our lives (and yes, they can be long ones of many years), but then can turn around on a dime. If you have any interest in astrology, I would certainly recommend visiting a vedic astrologer to gain some insight into this. Then cultivate the power of self by focusing on physical, mental, emotional and spiritual strength through yoga and meditation and/or other mind/body/spirit practices. Finally, ensure that you have a team of support around you to keep you motivated when the chips are down. Sometimes when it’s hard to feel inspired, others can provide us with some energy while we work to cultivate it in ourselves. Luck CAN turn with some trust and effort; Here’s wishing you all of the GOOD luck in the world!
Whether it’s a new relationship, career change, travel plans or any endeavor that will encourage a fuller expression of our authentic nature - we all need to up our game from time to time. When we are overwhelmed by life’s responsibilities it can seem impossible to find the time to do so. Yoga Psychotherapy maintains that when we focus on internal transformation through health, yogic, shamanic and other spiritual practices our external life begins to express those changes we desire. Therefore, what we should prioritize is the time for personal alchemy at the level of our energy body, as working only with the mind and/or body is typically a very slow and sometimes ineffective process. This could be any spiritual practice that understands the system of channels and chakras that form the blueprint of our being, like Tantrik Kundalini Yoga, Daoism and Vajryana Buddhism. These spiritual practices both harmonize our anxieties while ushering us towards a more fulfilling life. There are many ways to integrate these practices into our daily routine and all require trustworthy teachers to illuminate the methods. Of course there are also ways to make changes by shifting priorities in our external life, but in my experience there is nothing more powerful than working on our inner states of consciousness and seeing how that flows effortlessly into our reality.
It’s terribly difficult to find good health in today’s sick society and so many are suffering with multiple imbalances after years of poor living in body, heart and mind. While anxiety, depression and addiction may also be born from chemical imbalances in the brain, for a much larger population it is a reflection of the current set of public values and practices that we are largely conditioned into. Ayurveda provides effective and systematic protocols for rebalancing our constitutions, and provides an excellent base for deep, psycho-spiritual healing. We begin with dinacarya (a daily routine) of good lifestyle habits that can be easily integrated into a person’s busy life that includes things like exercise, good diet, sleep hygiene, meditation, and other ayurvedic rituals. Then as the physical constitution starts to strengthen we delve into the mind and emotions with talk therapy and psycho-spiritual practices to heal the heart/mind. While it’s never easy to face the tough stuff, the relief that we feel as we start to grow is immeasurable - this can often give us the determination that we need to succeed as our paths of healing are never linear and ultimately require a strong commitment to change, and the conviction that life can (and should) be better. My best advice to you is to find a group of people who can support your wish to heal, including 2 or 3 professionals with an Ayurvedic or Chinese medicine background who understand how to assist you in rebalancing your deepest layers. I'm always happy to give referrals in the NYC and Bay Areas.
Yoga Psychotherapy does not pathologize or cast judgment on those with eating disorders and seeks to remedy the root causes with patience, compassion, awareness and acceptance. This group combats the shame and isolation that many people with eating disorders battle and is affordable among a marketplace of typically expensive treatment. What really differentiates us is the yogic tools that clients will learn in order to regulate their emotions (like breathing and meditation) along with the Ayurvedic wisdom and practices that can help create a new relationship with food. While not easy, Yoga Psychotherapy believes that unhealthy patterns of behavior can be healed and looks to the body, mind and spirit in order to do so. For more information about this group, please follow the profile link to contact us or visit suzydaren.com.
Typically, by the time we start asking ourselves whether we should let go of another, pretty significant issues and events have already arisen. When relationships are healthy and hard times arise good communication, personal responsibility and mutual effort can help us to grow both individually and as a couple - these kinds of partnerships are very much worth cultivating and then fighting like hell to maintain. When relationships are unhealthy they can become a source of depletion, by robbing of us of our precious time and energy without any benefit or possibility for change. It’s wonderful to be loved and cared for, but if this were really the case, it’s hard to imagine that you would be asking this question since most of us happily thrive under these conditions. We must seek positive relationships (and not necessarily romantic), since none of us can go-it-alone without great loneliness and isolation, but when relationships get stuck in unhealthy grooves it is time to separate, understand our own mistakes, find strength and wellbeing and move on.
These senseless and hateful killings are absolutely agonizing as is all racism and bigotry that still flourishes in 2016. As a white woman, I believe that it’s important to learn to empathically listen to the black voices of America and allow their collective soul to be heard. There is always a deeper understanding that I can cultivate towards those who have walked a different path than me. Secondly, I believe that we should all communicate our anger and demand for quick and effective change on a national level. In the wise words of Elie Wiesel, "Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.” Finally, as a yogi I use each of these horrific events as a trigger to go deeper within myself and examine any remaining judgements and criticisms that I ignorantly possess towards others. For while I view all life as equally precious I am always able to find ever more subtle remnants of ideas and beliefs that create some kind of personal sense of superiority and entitlement. I believe that it is important to acknowledge and respond to our reactions so that these wasted lives can count for something. May all beings be free and may the black people of America find peace, justice and prosperity.